I owe Amory Lovins an apology

Amory Lovins gave a talk at the Three Mile Island 35th Anniversary Symposium: The Past, Present, and Future of Nuclear Energy hosted by the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.

As part of his talk he pointed to Denmark as a prime example of a country that has successfully integrated a large portion of renewable energy. I interrupted him and said that sure, but Denmark also has the most expensive electricity in Europe. He informed me that it is because the country has a high tax rate on electricity, not because its generation is especially expensive.

I said that was not true.

According to the table titled Composition of electricity prices for household consumers second half 2011 from Eurostat, he was right, I was wrong.

The table indicates that Denmark’s total electricity price was 0.298 euros per kilowatt hour, which includes 0.068 for energy, 0.064 for network costs, and 0.166 for “Non-recoverable taxes and levies.”

I apologize for contradicting him about the impact of high taxes on the consumer prices for Danish electricity.

About Rod Adams

114 Responses to “I owe Amory Lovins an apology”

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  1. Daniel says:

    Amory still can’t do basic math on energy density and entropy. He should be the one giving apologies for pushing an energy source that is being more and more contested in Denmark for its sizeable negative effects on house value, sleep disorders etc.

    To admit being wrong in these often emotional debates still takes courage. I just hope the antis would admit to their mistakes once in a while. Especially Bradford and Cooper from Vermont who are erring most of the time but pushing their agenda shamelessly.

    • PissedOffAmerican says:

      “To admit being wrong in these often emotional debates still takes courage”

      Then perhaps you should revisit your insinuation about fracking having something to do with the Oso mudslide.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        Darn, Rod, I was kinda digging that exchange.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @POA – Maybe I’ll put up a post with a topic closer to what you want to argue about. :-)

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            I don’t know, man, the laughing might just be a bit more fun than the arguing.

            Thanks for the chuckle.

          • John T Tucker says:

            I was looking for a few things in that exchange I feel need to be investigated/resolved/corrected.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “I was looking for a few things in that exchange I feel need to be investigated/resolved/corrected”

            Lighten up, John.

            You wanna use your brain to continue the exchange.

            Actually, all you really need to employ is your nose.

            Smile, man.

    • Atomikrabbit says:

      Apologize, then ask, “Mr. Lovins, on page 19 of the RMI fiscal year 2013 IRS tax return, you list five donors each contributing multi-million dollar sums, yet do not identify them in the spaces provided. Is this an oversight, does it comply with IRS regulations for non-profits such as RMI, and will you tell us who are these extremely generous persons, corporations, or foundations?”

      http://www.rmi.org/Content/Files/FY%202013%20990%20ending%20063013%20PDC.pdf

  2. Anon says:

    But what do such high taxes pay for? Is it a coincidence that countries like Denmark and Germany have the highest taxes or is something else going on?

    • Jose A. says:

      That’s the thing, renewable surcharges are included as taxes and not as “energy and supply”.

    • Daniel says:

      You might be right. The high taxes could be hiding something directly related to financing wind indirectly.

      • jmdesp says:

        A thing to know is that Denmark has a completely oversized grid. Denmark is a relatively small country, with not such a high local electricity consumption. The total capacity of it’s export / import is many GW, probably in total more than what it’s usual consumption is. And the actually used part is most of the time a significant part of consumption, as can be seen with the real time data : http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html

        On a yearly assessment for 2013, the result is that consumption was 32 TWh, imports 11,5 TWh, exports 11,2TWh. This is proportionally much larger than France, the largest electricity exporter in the world (at a national level). They are both some month with a very large deficit, and some other with a very large export, so the balance at end of year does not mean an seasonal balance also.

  3. John T Tucker says:

    Yea Rod its very nice but I don’t think its really necessary.

    DENMARK

    + Combustible Fuels 21 508 14.3%
    + Hydro 14 -22.2%
    + Geoth./Wind/Solar/Other 11 126 8.3%
    = Indigenous Production 32 648 12.2%
    ( http://www.iea.org/stats/surveys/mes.pdf )

    They dont produce much energy comparability AND :

    Denmark is the largest importer of wood pellets in the world, with imports expected to increase from 2 million metric tons in 2012 to 3 million metric tons in 2020. ( http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/9656/pellet-consumption-in-denmark-projected-to-grow )

    God knows they are counting the pellets as “renewable.” I dont think that is anything to be proud of.

  4. John ONeill says:

    If you’d tackled him on grams of CO2 per kilowatt/hour you’d have had him over a barrel. Economics is a dark art. I notice in the table you link to France doesn’t give a breakdown on cost, and nor does Hungary, which also gets a healthy proportion of its power from nukes. The countries listed with the highest numbers for ‘ energy and supply ‘ are all islands – Malta, Cyprus, even the United Kingdom and Eire.

    • simple touriste says:

      France has more and more useless so-called “renewable”. We pay a price for that, hidden as “CSPE” in our bills: “contribution au service public de l’électricité”

      Here is the breakdown by inefficient energy sources Détail des charges de service public dues aux Énergies Renouvelables (EnR).

      This is in French but I believe fairly transparent (éolien = wind).

      There is also a “social” component in CSPE for people who cannot pay their bills. Of course, with higher prices, more people cannot pay, then CSPE will increase, with higher electricity price etc.

      The European Commission has a crazy dogma that monopolies are inherently bad, so that we in France have to pay higher prices to EDF so that other producers can break the monopoly, so that prices can remain low. I am NOT making this up.

      Apparently, according to some people, EDF have been selling us energy at a ridiculously low price for years, by government fiat. Of course EDF at the same time has been making money all these years, so the energy price for consumers was not that low.

      This is a somewhat crazy state of affairs.

      If it was just me, we would say “thanks, but no thanks” to the European Commission, the “regulator”, etc.

      France is a net contributor to Europe budget (yes, even with all the agriculture money coming back to French agriculture). I don’t feel France should fear Europe.

      • Ed Leaver says:

        Thank you for your discussion and links, both now and earlier. Google translate does a good job on this one, which helps explain the Public Service Obligation discussed by P.F. Bach in Skyrocketing Electricity Cost in Denmark.

        Here we see taxes more than double the retail cost of Danish electricity, also that wind contributes an impressive 33% to Danish load. Several U.S. studies (Budischak et al., NREL and friends, both discussed here) suggest that well-managed renewables should not significantly increase electric power cost at this level. It also bears mention that this 33% level is still woefully inadequate to arrest global warming, and that costs to achieve 90+% emissions reduction via renewables (if possible) are a bit more… sobering.

        • jmdesp says:

          Yeah, but it just happens that the yearly electricity export volume is also an impressive 33% to Danish load. Could it be that Danish wind electricity is pure export product ?
          Form the anecdotal data we have, I really doubt that 30% wind does not significantly increase electric power cost. I rather think that above 30% it completely obvious why the increase will be there, but under 30%, what rises the prices is more subtle.

          • robjoh says:

            @jmdesp
            Yeah, but it just happens that the yearly electricity export volume is also an impressive 33% to Danish load. Could it be that Danish wind electricity is pure export product ?

            It is not a pure export product but as soon as their wind farms produce more than 2000 MW most of it is exported. As Sweden also is investing a lot in wind farms the problem is enhanced. The Swedish and Danish wind farms usually produce a lot of electricity at the same time. A good windy day the total production of wind electricity can be close to 7000 MW in the nordic system, mostly the total production is around 1000-2000 MW.

            Some of the overproduction can be controlled by the Swedish and Norwegian hydro power throttling down. But mostly it is exported out from the Nordic electrical system.

  5. Scott Luft says:

    I don’t think it’s harmful to apologize when you can’t fully explain your statement Rod, but I suspect you were far more correct than you indicate here.
    I ignore the question of what is a tax and what isn’t, particularly for Europe.
    We tend to see more about Germany and the EEG surcharge – which I think is defined as a tax – is a large part of their costs. If it’s a tax (from your EU stats link I think it must be), it’s a tax dedicated primarily to paying the costs of contracted supply.
    The EU stats link you provide figure is for “Non-recoverable taxes and levies.” I think a more thorough analysis, using this page, http://energinet.dk/EN/El/Engrosmarked/Tariffer-og-priser/Sider/Aktuelle-tariffer-og-gebyrer.aspx ,from energinet.dk, the “non-profit enterprise owned by the Danish Climate and Energy Ministry” responsible for supplying Denmark with electricity, indicates the majority of the “levies” are a “PSO” tariff and that, “PSO tariff covers Energinet.dk’s costs relating to public service obligations as laid down in the Danish Electricity Supply Act.”
    In my opinion it’s expensive electricity, and the rest is meaningless semantics.

    • Ed Leaver says:

      I agree that European tax structures lie a bit beyond mere mortal ken — at least overnight. The Bach piece linked above suggests PSO is but a small part of Danish power taxes. One might also observe that government has to get its money from somewhere, and that power taxes are an efficient way to encourage conservation.

  6. Meredith Angwin says:

    I agree completely with Scott. Good of you to apologize, but this is almost certainly just “standard obfuscation.” Let me refer to a post by Guy Page of VTEP, posted about a year ago.

    Guy notes that Vermont electricity prices rose by about 7% in 2012, while most places prices fell that year.
    http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2013/01/energy-policy-is-key-to-vermonts-future.html#.Uza4UyiTR2M

    Looking at my post the day after VY announced its closing, you can see that wholesale electricity prices dropped like a rock in 2012, which is one of the reasons Entergy decided to close VY. The average price on the grid dropped from $46 per MWh in 2011 to $36 is 2012.
    http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2013/08/questions-i-frequently-ask-myself-about.html#.Uza5OCiTR2M

    The average home price for electricity in Vermont is about 17 cents/kWh, and rising, as it is for most of New England.

    People always ask me: if the price of electricity is so low, why is my bill going up? That is a hard question because the government has made it hard to answer it. The power companies have similar costs for billing and so forth, but the difference between the grid price and the retail price is just plain soaring. The answer is that hidden costs for subsidies, mandates, taxes and so forth are soaring. But this is very hard to untangle…deliberately hard to untangle.

    Which gives Mr. Lovins his chance to say: it’s not the cost of power…it’s TAXES.

    Yes. He is right. The cost is mostly taxes to support uneconomic power sources.

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      FWIW, the electricity *price* in Denmark (and Germany) is low, but the *cost* is high. It’s a matter an engineered market distortion. The cashflows are increasingly moved out of the marketplace and into a monstrous tax/subsidy-merry-go-round, muddying the picture and allowing people like Lovins to proclaim “cost is low in Denmark (when you exclude taxes)”.

      In a fully ‘sustainable’ (Lovins-style) energy system, the price of electricity would presumably be zero much of the time, but the increased tax pressure would make up for that in spades. The incentive to use energy efficiently would be dented as well.

      For a example, consider the following development in residential sector sustainability and energy pricing. In The Netherlands, we have a new sustainability concept launched by a home-construction company. They call it “zero energy bill homes”. In this concept, new homes are constructed with very large amounts of subsidized PV cells. So much PV that the entire electricity demand of the home is produced by the PV system on an annual basis.

      Because home owners in The Netherlands have a “sustainable” right to “credit electricity on the grid for later use” such homes can actually have an electricity bill of zero. When the sun shines, these homes ‘supply electricity to the grid’, for which by law they receive payment equal to their consumption electric rate including taxes(!), but only as long as their total electricity production does not exceed their total annual electricity consumption. Then, when there are clouds or it is night, the home owners ‘buy back their electricity’ from the grid at the same *price*. In effect, on average, their electricity bill is zero! Perfect! “Free electricity”!

      Problem is of course that:

      1. PV panels produce electricity mostly in summer, while residential homes (in The Netherlands) use most electricity during the winter. The winter electric supply remains fossil fuels, even while the home-owner is led to believe he is ‘buying back’ his own solar electricity.
      2. The incentive to save electricity is minimized, because solar electricity in excess of what the home owner uses on an annual basis does not receive full payment. So the homeowner is in effect incentivized to use all the electricity that he produces, which tends to exacerbate problem 1.
      3. Solar capacity factor in the Netherlands is about 10%, so such ‘zero energy bill’ homes will regularly supply electricity to the grid at ten times their average power demand. When a whole region homes is supplied with this ‘zero energy bill’ concept, the local grid will (and does in fact) get overloaded at the sub-station level at any time the sun comes out. The cost of required upgrades to the distribution grid and substations are spread across *all* ratepayers, not just the ‘zero energy bill’ homes.

      So in summary, you can have a high-cost electricity system which does not incentivize energy efficiency even while homeowners have an energy bill of zero. The costs of the system are magicked away and ignored.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Joris Van Dorp

        Thank you for the insights. Can you make any supportable generalizations about the average cost of “zero energy” homes and the socio-economic bracket of most purchasers of those homes?

        It certainly seems to me that the concept is quite dependent on rewarding those home purchasers at the expense of all others on the grid.

      • Joris van Dorp says:

        Oops Meredith, my post was not meant to be a reply to your comment but a general comment on Rod’s apology, sorry.

      • donb says:

        Joris van Dorp wrote:
        3. Solar capacity factor in the Netherlands is about 10%, so such ‘zero energy bill’ homes will regularly supply electricity to the grid at ten times their average power demand. When a whole region homes is supplied with this ‘zero energy bill’ concept, the local grid will (and does in fact) get overloaded at the sub-station level at any time the sun comes out. The cost of required upgrades to the distribution grid and substations are spread across *all* ratepayers, not just the ‘zero energy bill’ homes.

        Point #3 hints at the heart of the problem. Those homeowners who have the “zero energy bill homes” get to use the grid as a giant energy storage battery. This cost is passed on (nominally) to all the rate payers. But those with “zero energy homes” pay little of the costs. In fact, if they can manage to exactly balance their energy consumption to their energy generation (perhaps by wasting energy as needed to achieve this balance), they can escape the costs totally.

        Costs to these home owners would be a lot different if they were forced to abide by more practical rules — e.g., be paid the wholesale price of power when generating, pay the retail price of power when consuming.

  7. Meredith Angwin says:

    I submitted a comment, but it seems to have disappeared.

    Basically, I want to say that I agree with Scott Luft. In Vermont, the New England grid price fell to $36 per MWh (from $46) last year while retail prices to the home rose about 7%. The home price now is $17MWh (17 cents KWh). Most of the difference is costs that support renewables, either directly or by various transmission buildouts and so forth. (My previous post had lots of links…I hope it shows up.)

    In short, the high cost of electricity in Denmark is almost certainly due to renewable costs. These costs are hidden as taxes and fees and whatnot, both in Denmark and in Vermont, giving the odd impression that “grid prices are cheap.” Well, yes, but you have to look at the actual all-in price of electricity with the fees and tariffs and so forth included.

    Electricity costs are not cheap, and their sources are not transparent, either.

    • Daniel says:

      Rod,

      Do not apologize ever again before clearing this with the board !!!!

    • Joel Riddle says:

      Meredith,

      I think Rod has the comments set up such that a post with 1 link can post immediately, but anything beyond a single link requires moderated approval before it shows up. I bet your first post will show up after Rod blesses it off.

      -Joel

    • Meredith Angwin says:

      I meant home price is $170/MWh, or 17 cents/kWh. I wrote $17/MWh by mistake.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Meredith – something in your first comment triggered the spam filter. I found it and approved it. (After I returned home from a wonderful visit to Vermont.)

  8. Daniel says:

    About those airplane black box batteries be powered with some kind of radio active decay source ?

    30 days is a joke in this day and age.

  9. Mitch says:

    About those airplane black box batteries be powered with some kind of radio active decay source ?

    30 days is a joke in this day and age.

    That came up a long time ago but the Greens shot it down along with the SST.

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Rod….I’m amazed at seeing you being taken to task here for offering your apology to Lovins. The kind of proffessional humility displayed by such an apology only increases your credibility, and deserves our respect.

    I understand that Daniel’s “Do not apologize ever again before clearing this with the board !!!!” was made tongue in cheek, (at least I hope it was), but such an admonission displays a remarkable lack of understanding about how credibility is acquired, and maintained.

    A sincere apology comes from within, and is by its very nature extremely personal. The only person who can judge the veracity of an apology is the individual offering it. I commend you, and hope you offered Lovins an apology directly, other than just here on this blog. It is that kind of engagement that builds bridges instead of walls.

    • Joel Riddle says:

      POA,

      The longer you hang around here, I have a feeling that you’re very close to coming around in a manner similar to Robert Stone, Michael Schellenberger, Stewart Brand, etc. as featured in Pandora’s Promise.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        Joel…..

        Perhaps. I don’t know, though. Its hard to actually jump on board when the science might as well be zwahili to me. I simply don’t get it. I’m not stupid, I’m just uninformed, and under too much time constraint with my other pursuits to devote the time it would take to gather an understanding of the science.

        I am impressed with Rod’s apology on a number of fronts.To the forefront, though, is my belief that nuclear advocates will never gain ground for thier favored technology if they continue to present all other energy advocates as foes. It is a self-fulfilling and counter productive strategy, and a self-imposed roadblock. Actions such as Rod’s apology opens the door to constructive discourse. The animous often displayed here towards those that advocate for other than nuclear sources of energy distresses me. I know many windfarm workers, and many believe, and pride themselves, that they are making a difference, and participating in an industry that bodes well for the future of our planet. These are not “foes” of the nuclear crowd. They are simply people who are as concerned about the environment, and mankind’s future within it, as you are. And they share your concern about fossil fuel usage, and could be helpful compatriots if constructive channels of communication can be opened up between “you” and “them”. The abject disdain with which many here spit the term “greens” while offering pro-nuclear argument can only serve to further alienate potential allies. Lately, much has been discussed here as far as being able to successfully market nuclear energy. Well, the employment of animosity, insult, and derision doesn’t really constitute a very effective marketing campaign. To read the comments of some here, there seems to be this over-riding belief that you can simply bully and insult your way into favor with John Q Public by pushing everyone else off the energy sidewalk. Seems to me thats a pretty surefire and direct path to failure.

        • Anon says:

          But all other energy sources are foes for they would not exist if the anti-nuclear movement were to be defeated because no matter how much we may say that a combination of nuclear with INSERT OTHER ENERGY SOURCE would be an improvement over INSERT OTHER ENERGY SOURCE on its own you could further improve it by just getting rid of INSERT OTHER ENERGY SOURCE and using nuclear alone.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Anon

            I am a pretty creative, aggressive and well-informed nuke. I cannot see a path forward that provides the flexible and highly capable transportation system we have today without using liquid hydrocarbons.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            I cannot see a path forward that provides the flexible and highly capable transportation system we have today without using liquid hydrocarbons.

            I can, but I’m more of a generalist.  Siemens has demonstrated power delivery to on-road trucks via overhead wire, and batteries are already good enough for local driving.  If we can get 80% of motor fuel consumption that way, it’s good enough for now.

          • Anon says:

            I was talking more about electricity than transport fuels though nuclear could make those liquid hydrocarbons.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @POA – I have not yet offered the apology directly; I was on the road and did not have any contact information with me. I have some tools here that I don’t carry with me.

  11. Wayne SW says:

    Nothing wrong with admitting a mistake if you got your facts wrong. That happens to all of us at one time or another. Nobody’s perfect.

    That said, did Lovins expand any on the Denmark energy situation? First of all, it kind of a false analogy because Denmark is a small country that does not have the broad-based energy needs of larger countries. I mean, the current incarnation of Danes aren’t exactly world beaters when it comes to being a worldwide military or economic power.

    But more crucially, from the studies I’ve read, what really makes the Denmark energy model even marginally sustainable (which is what it is) is the access to Norwegian hydropower. When the wind isn’t blowing and the Danish windmills can’t carry the load, they fall back on imported hydropower from the Scandinavian Peninsula. If there is excess wind power available, the Norwegians will take it and simply dump less water through the penstocks and spillways. Not every country has that available. Spain, for example, which has gone all-in on wind power, is basically an energy and economic basket case.

  12. Keith Pickering says:

    Just in case anyone is interested, EuroStat data for electricity cost and breakdowns can be found here:
    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/data/database

    This includes more up-to-date data than in the table above.

  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Rod….curious. I haven’t seen anything from EL or Brian Mays lately. Its my hope they haven’t been banished.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @POA

      Neither one has been banished. I’m not sure about Brian, but I seem to recall that EL’s last comment said something about a vacation. I happen to know he likes to go to places that have no wires or towers.

    • John T Tucker says:

      Yes as they are recording near record profit from their Nuclear sector, have signed deals with China recently and embarked on a campaign to extend the lives of nearly all existing reactors by about 40 years.

    • Cory Stansbury says:

      Brian’s been pretty busy recently. At least part of the time his wife was away and he was juggling the kids by himself.

  14. John T Tucker says:

    When subsidies/tariffs are applied to counter market forces then taxes are levied to offset/recover these as well as open bidding market and infrastructure costs ? – should that be referred to in the same way as a arbitrary tax/fee ?

    I mean here saying that prices are higher because of taxes/fees is very misleading. Especially as without the finance and planning gymnastics that are part of those taxes/fees prices would probably be much higher.

    ( http://greenoffshore.dk/wp-content/uploads/Introducing-the-Danish-Wind-Industry-Danish-Wind-Industry-Association.pdf )

  15. Dogmug says:

    Class act, Mr. Adams. Bravo!

    And, I hope everybody realizes that gracious behavior greatly increases one’s credibility. I admit to having had many lapses of conduct myself, but that’s from my own stupidity. (I encourage all activists of any stripe to read Aristotle’s *Rhetoric*.)

    There’s way too much hostility among the anti-nuclear people, and the same problem is getting established in our own camp. Yet the chances are that Mr. Lovins will be featured in *Pandora’s Promise II* … or maybe not. But I’m convinced that the change is coming, and that many more anti-nukes will be changing their minds and hearts in the next decade. We should make that process as easy as possible for them.

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      I agree, but in the case of the nuclear/anti-nuclear debate there is *reality* which has a bearing. The *reality* is that anti-nuclear folks are inadvertently undermining civilisation and destroying the planet. Besides that, they support their arguments with patent nonsense and falsehood. So while humility is a virtue, it should be the anti-nukes who need to up their game. And while anger is not a virtue, the nuclear side has a lot of reasons to be very, very angry.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Joris van Dorp

        And while anger is not a virtue, the nuclear side has a lot of reasons to be very, very angry.

        Anger is also not terribly productive. You can nurse it, or you can overcome it and be more successful in changing the current situation. Your choice.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        “The *reality* is that anti-nuclear folks are inadvertently undermining civilisation and destroying the planet”

        Trouble is, they make the same argument about YOUR technology and efforts. And events such as Fukushima, Chernobyl, and TMI only buttress thier assertions in the mind of the public.

        There are no calamities due to wind or solar that you can point at to drive home your argument. But they have powerful ammunition for thier arsenal of negative rebuttals to your advocations.

        Without an equally powerful narrative, you’re losing the race before you even get out of the gate. You better turn up the volume on your mic, or you’re never going to get anywhere.

        • Anon says:

          The public largely forgets about nuclear accidents pretty soon after they happen, it’s pretty much only the activists who keep going on about them.

          As for no calamities due to wind and solar, more people have died per TWh from wind than nuclear and I would say Denmark having such high per capita CO₂ emissions is a bit of a calamity itself.

          But the problem isn’t public attitudes, but that nuclear regulators have been captured by the fossil fuel industry.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Anon

            Please choose a unique alias if you wish to remain anonymous. As moderator, I will no longer accept contributions from random people. I accept the fact that some people have professional or personal reasons for not using their real names, but conversations are impossible if there are numerous entities claiming the same name.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “The public largely forgets about nuclear accidents pretty soon after they happen”

            Perhaps in a dream world…….

      • John T Tucker says:

        We hear – “There are no calamities due to wind or solar”

        We all know there is also little basis for direct comparison. The environmental calamities for unreliables are in their land use and development requirements, not to mention people’s electric bills and not least of all in the regular loss of life and horrific environmental degradation from the hydro, coal and gas that supplement and provide the majority of the power for renewables rated capacity.

        • PissedOffAmerican says:

          My comment regards those “calamities” that are recognizable to the public, to the degree that they can succesfully be used as propaganda leverage.

          But you know that. It seems you enjoy an argument as much as I do, John. But hey man, can we keep it pertaining to points worth arguing about? Surely we don’t have to base our spats on shallow premise?

          For instance, (perhaps worth an argument), the “land use” issue you are so fond of raising. I’m pretty sure its a valid argument in some locales, where perhaps the land could be put to better use. But here around Tehachapi and Mojave, the land being utilized is high desert, (the Mojave/Willow Springs side of the Tehachapi Mountain Range) that has very little utility, and grazing land (the Tehachapi side of the Tehachapi range). I am hard pressed to imagine the high desert area of the wind farms serving any industrial, agricultural, or residential utility. And as far as the cattle grazing utility on the Tehachapi side, it has been maintained despite the presence of hundreds upon hundreds of wind turbine towers. No deforestation has occurred, as the oaks are sparce, and for the scale of the windfarms, there is very little footprint.

          On the other side of the Hwy. 58, the Sand Canyon/Sky Rivers side, again, it is grazing and high chapparrel. And extremely remote. So much so that there are deer sub-species (types?) that are exclusively indigenous to the Sky Rivers locale. The robust health of the deer herds back in there, and the plentitude of the black bear population, tends to support the idea that these remotely located windfarms have little impact on the indigenous fauna.

          And the bird thing? I have never lived in an area that has such a plentiful and varied bird of prey population as the Tehachapi area. Sharpshins, Peregrins, Redtails, Coopers hawks, Kestrals, Bald Eagles, numerous owl varieties……the list goes on and on citing examples of daily sightings. And, questioning the actual windfarm workers, none of them site the kind of bird carnage that is so often used as an argument against wind farms.

          Seems to me, if we are going to have these huge windfarms, areas such as the Mojave desert, or the hills/mountains around places such as Tehachapi are EXCELLENT examples of productive use of land that would otherwise be industrially and agriculturally fallow, and unsuitable for residential use.

          Tell me, John, are there any nuclear power plant grounds supporting a dual usage, such as the cattle/windfarm example?

          • John T Tucker says:

            Dual usage? You mean as in total incursion into a very large habitat on all layers?

            Its kinda like comparing a postage stamp to a tablecloth so I dont know what to say here other than nuclear power is so dense such a situation is not economical or needed environmentally.

            Im curious as to why you are so willing to disrupt even a desert habitat for a unreliable power source that incidentally cannot go just anywhere and expect some degree of success anyway.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “Im curious as to why you are so willing to disrupt even a desert habitat for a unreliable power source that incidentally cannot go just anywhere and expect some degree of success anyway”

            Well, because I don’t believe that the employment of wind power is the useless endeavor you claim it is. The scale of wind energy production portends an evolution of the process. I believe that the “degree of success” will evolve along with the technology.

            We don’t drive Model T’s anymore. Why is that?

            My background in enjoying our natural environment is extensive. As a lad, my dad was a business partner in the Selway Lodge, a hunting/dude ranch smack dab in the middle of the Selway Bitteroot Federal Wilderness Area. This enabled me to spend my summers in an area that could only be reached via foot, horse, or aircraft. Add my seventeen years in N.Idaho, and I am no stranger to the appreciation of the “great outdoors”. It was one of the driving factors that led me to eventually land here in Tehachapi, which is truly an amazing area of geological, floral, and faunal (is that a word?) diversity. I have found the windfarms to be no spoiler of the overall ambience of the Tehachapi area, and a welcome addition to the economy when considering jobs and retail.

            Thats why.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “Im curious as to why you are so willing to disrupt even a desert habitat for a unreliable power source that incidentally cannot go just anywhere and expect some degree of success anyway”

            Well, because I don’t believe the pursuit of wind energy is the useless endeavor you seem to believe it is. Personally, I believe the increasing scale of the wind energy industry portends an evolution in the technology that will create an evolution in the “degree of success”.

            We don’t drive Model T’s anymore, do we? How come?

            Thats why.

            You should come to understand that a pro-wind stance is not necessarily an anti-nuke stance, John. It might just be one of the keys to success in realizing that we all aren’t your enemy. Such a realization just might channel the way you communicate your advocacy in a more positive direction. Because, (trust me man), your standard hostility ain’t doing the trick.

          • John T Tucker says:

            I went from hard core advocacy to total disdain in the last few years. But I had to scale back recently on the criticism to generally disagreeable as wind doesn’t seem to have as high integration costs as I expected and it does perhaps reduce carbon to some extent. The costs run around somewhere between 2.5 to 15 and up percent of real capacity (on top of low capacity factors) Im thinking now. If properly managed (which is itself another infrastructure cost headache).

            Who knows what maintenance costs in cash and carbon really are. Wind energy’s carbon footprint was initially calculated based on US/European manufacture. It has not been updated to reflect reality.

          • Anon says:

            If you want to support wind power as anything serious (so supporting it for off the grid or running pumps in third world villages doesn’t count here) you will have to oppose nuclear because if you have nuclear then there is no point in building wind turbines as wind simply can not contribute anything to a grid that is mostly nuclear.

            With fossil fuels you can at least claim that wind reduces the amount of CO₂ emitted and expensive fuel burned due to allowing the plant to throttle down (there’s some valid skepticism as to whether it actually does reduce fuel use due to the rapid power changes and often need for less efficient faster responding generators) when the wind is blowing but those are irrelevant if it instead supplements nuclear which doesn’t emit CO₂ and has fuel costs so low as to be almost unnoticeable.

            Simple fact of the matter is that power companies wouldn’t be building wind turbines if they could build nuclear power plants under a sane regulatory system.

  16. Mitch says:

    >>> Dogmug
    featured in *Pandora’s Promise II* <<<

    I hope that comes out way before Xmas!

  17. robjoh says:

    I fail to understand why you should apologize when:
    1, The taxes that Denmark pays is to support the wind industry
    2, The reason for the low electrical sale price is not the wind industry in Denmark as much as the Hydro and Nuclear power in Sweden and Norway.
    3, When I write this all the wind turbines in Denmark is only producing 47 MW, the electrical price is still low due to surplus production in Sweden and Norway.

    http://www.svk.se/Drift-och-marknad/Kraftsystemet/Aktuell-driftsituation/

    • Ed Leaver says:

      That’s one waaaaay kool graphic, robjoh. Google translate does well on the text, but doesn’t touch the tables. Could you please translate the first column of the final table? I got as far as karnskraft => nuclear, and guess “vind” might be wind, but I’ve to get out of this office for a few hours. Thanks!

    • Ed Leaver says:

      Okay:
      Karnkraft => Nuclear
      Vatten => Hydro
      Varme => DIstrict heating, CHP — but appears to include all fossil generation.
      Vind => Wind
      Ospecificerat => Unspecified (“other”)
      FÖRBRUKNING => Net Consumption = (Production – exports) or (Production + imports)

      John O’Neil suggested looking at emissions density: kg C02e/MWh. As very rough estimate, coal plants emit about 1000kg/MWh (1tonne/MWh) or 1kg/kWh. Neglecting fugitive methane, natural gas is about one half that. (On shore wind is about 4.6g/kWh, nuclear between 3 and 11 g/kWh depending on whether uranium mining and fuel fabrication is powered by nuclear or fossils.) For purpose of discussion I’ll use the bottom row of Electricity Sector in Denmark, conceding at the outset that while the entries could add up, they don’t. We see that in 2012 Denmark produced 3472+6796+4583+13752 = 28,603 GWh and imported 5,214 GWh for 33,817 GWh consumed. Without hard numbers, assume the 5,214 GWh imported was evenly split between Swedish hydro (no emissions) and German coal (1 tonne/MWh) for 2.6 million tonnes from import. There was 13752 GWh fossil generation, assumed coal for 13.752 million tonnes or 16.36 million tonnes CO2 total from 33818 GWh or 484 g CO2/kWh. (The cited table gives 458 g CO2/kWh, so they aren’t too far off.)

      The 13,752 GWh/yr fossils-assumed-coal divided by 8760 h/yr = 1.57 GW avg, conveniently close to an EPR’s rated 1.6 GW capacity. (But Denmark deploys a fair bit of CHP, so they would not likely build just one reactor even if they were to go that route.) Whatever, knocking 13.75 million tonnes from Denmark’s yearly emissions would give 2607 million tonnes CO2 (from imports) / 3818 GWh consumed for 77 g CO2 / kWh, alarmingly close to the emission factor realized by… France.

      • robjoh says:

        @Ed Leaver
        Sorry for the late answer, yesterday it was a beautiful sunny day here in Göteborg (Sweden) so I spent some time outdoors.

        You have got the translation correct. The reason why heat is all fossil generation is that it is a Swedish graph you are looking at. We really do not have any large fossil plants.

        If you want the Danish CO2 emissions per produced kWh. I recommend:
        http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html

        When I write this it is around 390 g/kWh.

        • Ed Leaver says:

          Thanks robjoh. I’d actually seen the same Danish 375 g/kWh figure in a comprehensive world-wide comparison table listed at Econometrica. I chose to go with the higher Wikipedia/Nordpool/Nortel numbers not to slight Denmark, but to use their tabulated breakdown by source for pedagogical purpose. That is, to show the cost of replacing baseload coal with baseload nuclear is very straightforward estimate, and the benefits very significant and immediate. (Credits to Peter Lang and Martin Nicholson.)

          Yea, it was a brisk sunny day here in Colorado as well, and Bill Hannahan (below) suggests we weren’t the only ones out enjoying it.

  18. David Walters says:

    I like Rod’s apology. Totally supportive of acknowledging mistakes. More importantly, Rod mad a mistake that we all, at times, make by confusing ‘cost’ and ‘price’ for electricity especially with regards to the cost of the unreliables like solar and wind. Everyone assumes that the price people pay on Germany or Denmark is the cost, when it’s nice. As one anti-nuke from Germany responded on the Daily Kos a year or so ago “Our prices are high because we WANT to tax ourselves to pay for more renewables”. Taxes, not costs, are the main reason prices per kwHr are so high in northern non-Nuclear Europe.

    This of course is only part of the higher discussion and some of the comments here shed light on the real ‘dark arts’ of economics as someone noted.

    David Walters

  19. Amory Lovins says:

    Rod, this thread was just called to my attention by another participant at the Dartmouth meeting. Thank you for your gracious apology, which I accept and appreciate.

    It’s also useful to look at non-household sectors, such as industry, where Danish prices are generally below the European average. However, tariff structures, definitions of various charges, tax policies, and the effects of electricity trade are very complex in Europe, so it’s generally best to use the data of the national energy agencies (which Denmark’s Energistyrelsen won’t publish for 2013 until this autumn) to avoid misunderstandings caused by less specialized organizations’ selection or aggregation of sometimes incommensurable data. — Amory

  20. Bill Hannahan says:

    I recently spent 2 days camping near the Pawnee Buttes in the Pawnee National Grasslands in northern Colorado. Much of the land is privately owned and subject to development.

    Indians who spent their lives there in the past would be saddened to see it now. The horizonal view is filled with windmills. There are oil/gas wells being drilled everywhere. The air is filled with the irregular sound of fracking pumps 24/7, like giant jack hammers. Oil and gas trucks raise constant streams of dust and pound the roads into washboards and potholes.

    At night you might find it pretty, with the flashing red lights on each windmill and 20 to 50 foot towers of fire flaring off at the gas wells, but the noise is still there. Like it or not, it is no longer a natural experience.

    To say that a wind kWh can be bought for for 4 or 5 cents does not include the much greater cost to make it reliable and dispatchable.

    An all nuclear grid powered by inexpensive mass produced reactors would allow us to restore our grasslands forests rivers and deserts to their natural state so that future generations can have abundant affordable reliable energy and a natural experience when they want one.

    • Ed Leaver says:

      An all nuclear grid is (more than) a few decades off. The NREL numbers are sobering. In their 2012 Renewable Energy Futures study, their low-demand bau baseline in 2050 consisted of 57GW nuclear, 300GW coal, 395GW gas, 79GW hydro, 83GW wind, and 28GW storage. Our current U.S. nuclear capacity is 99 GW — REF assumed nuclear plant would be retired at normal end-of-life and not replaced. Coal was being burnt at 85% capacity factor (baseload), gas at 20% (variable load/load following), and nuclear at 90%. Our current nuclear capacity factor is 93% and its hard to see much improvement from LWR’s. If we wish to replace just the baseload coal with baseload nuclear by 2050, we will need 300 * 85/93 = 275 GW new nuclear capacity installed over 30 (if we start in 2020) or 35 years if we start in 2015, or 9GW each year. That’s 7.5 AP1000, 6.4 AP1400, or 5.3 AP1700 coming online each and every year for 30 years. Sure its doable, but at ~6 times our current build rate its a very tall order and Westinghouse will benefit from as much friendly competition from GEH ABWR and ESBWR and any SMRs as possible. That’s just to replace baseload coal, which must be satisfied before tackling variable load gas.

      The good news is just replacing baseload coal with nuclear and leaving gas alone will reduce the 2050 CO2 emissions by 85%, which is better than the 80% reduction of the NREL ITI low-demand scenario and (very) roughly $600 billion cheaper. Increased wind+solar — and they will increase — can reduce the gas bill and its emissions still further, although gas will still be fracked and burnt. But at a progressively reduced rate. At least we’d get away from our present lunacy of burning the stuff for baseload.

      Now, if you wish to advocate a comprehensive National Energy Plan that will result in mass-produced SMR’s and a market therefor that will bring capital cost of nuclear beneath that of coal, fine. I’m all in. Because if such a comprehensive NEP does not happen and capex nuclear remains higher than coal without CCS, then coal is what the developing world will continue to deploy and we’re all toast.

      (Comprehensive means comprehensive. For example, its hard to see a way to coal+CCS cheaper than coal without, but it would be really great if there were.)

  21. David Walters says:

    Ed, thanks for posting this. So….removal of coal from the grid will require to increase our build rate 6 times. Considering there are only about 4 under construction now in the U.S. it IS doable. I have long maintained that for the U.S. to repeat what it did in the 70s is *easier* now than it was then for two reasons:

    1. The price of commercial paper to finance projects is much, much lower.
    2. The standardization of all nuclear plants is now de jure for the entire industry world wide.

    The goal of “300 new nukes” is a meme I can go with and support. The issue then, is not technological at all, or even financial, it’s political and strictly a political question.

    We should be aiming to bring on a new plant every month. For 1/4 fo the cost of our defense budget, this could easily be done…and such financing for say only 2 to 3 years…a nuclear development bank financed out to $600 billion could replace coal and, very importantly, make money for the treasury at the end of the process where it becomes self-financing. That’s why in Europe economics is called political-economy.

    David

    • Engineer-Poet says:

      Nuclear base load pretty much gets coal, but there’s a lot more.  If we’re going to de-carbonize the entire economy and not just the electric grid, we’re going to need a lot more juice to deliver energy currently supplied by petroleum and natural gas (electrifying transport and space heat, to name two).

      We really do need a Manhattan project for new reactor technologies.  Multiple technologies.  The selections should be biased to ones which can supply high-temperature process heat for industry, including thermochemical processes.

      • simple touriste says:

        Can small reactors inject as much MW/h as dams?

        • Engineer-Poet says:

          First, do you really mean “MW/h” (megawatts per hour) which is a ramp rate, or “MWh” (megawatt-hours), which is a unit of energy?

          If the latter, it depends how many of them you’re willing to build.

  22. David Walters says:

    I would add that building only “brownfield” sites…that is, builds of new reactors at existing coal facilities would save, again, tons of money based on incorporating all sorts of existing transpiration, land, grid, licensing and human resources. Just say’n, it CAN be done.

    David

  23. Sean McKinnon says:

    Rod,

    I think that credibility is a vastly important (and sometimes lost) personal attribute. I respect and admire you for your credibility.

  24. Bill Hannahan says:

    @ Ed

    ” Now, if you wish to advocate a comprehensive National Energy Plan that will result in mass-produced SMR’s…”

    That is what I advocate. France went to 90% nuclear in 20 years using primitive expensive complex designs, hand built on site.

    When cars were hand built only the rich could afford them. Mass production of floating plants using the simplest MSR design allows inexpensive plants to be built while the site is being prepared.

    Such plants would produce cheaper kWh’s than any other source, and they would be profitable at capacity factors down to perhaps 60%, so peaking fossil plants or massive storage such as Denmark buys from its neighbors would not be required.

    When nuclear kWh’s are the cheapest and easiest kWh’s to install the game changes dramatically. The transition will move very fast.

    This requires a common sense regulatory environment and a focused Apollo moon shot style development program. I don’t see it happening in the USA, perhaps China. I would rather buy floating plants from China than watch people suffer from spiraling energy prices.

    • Ed Leaver says:

      Actually, the French nuclear build-out was based upon 3 standardized designs of 900, 1300, and 1450 MWe that allowed measured build from standardized parts and construction technique — a model France has thus far been singularly unable to replicate with EPR. (We all hope EdF can turn this around – more here.)

  25. jtlien says:

    I saw a report just recently that said because of a mild winter and deregulation that the average cost of electricity this winter in Sweden was 3.6 cents / kwHr. Sweden still gets a lot of power from nuclear and hydro power. And of course it helps to be next to hydro rich Norway. I wish I had deregulation in my state…

  26. Benjamin Sovacool says:

    Hi Rod, just one additional note that may be of interest. As I now live in Denmark, I can tell you that while electricity is obscenely expensive here, my overall bill is less than what it was in Vermont. Why? Because the high electricity prices convince everybody to install hyper-efficient equipment in their homes and offices. So my consumption per month is something like 150 kWh, a fraction of what I consumed in the USA. Higher prices do not always mean higher energy bills.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Benjamin Sovacool

      That’s good to know.

      However, I’m still a little confused. If wind-generated electricity has essentially no marginal cost and does not produce any emissions, why would you want people to waste time and money — both items in short supply — figuring out ways to use less of it? Why not encourage people to use all they want, after all, there’s always more wind, isn’t there?

    • jmdesp says:

      Is this hyper-efficient equipment really for free ? And does even the poorest part of Danish population have enough money to invest in it ?

      Because from what I’ve heard in Germany, there’s on one side the one who have invested in LED lamp and in a highly efficient wood heater (no, it’s neither CO2, nor pollution free), and on the other side those who barely put the light on and keep wearing thick clothing inside their home.

      BTW if you had not left, I would have made further comment on the nuke’s birds kill. The data is quite clear that from 1979 on, thanks to the installation of powerful high-pressure sodium-vapor lights, birds kill at Davis-Besse have been much lower, which led NRC to discontinue monitoring of bird collisions in 1981, since it wasn’t needed anymore given the reduced kills (Amendment no. 133). And your data on Limerick comes from before completing of the built. After completion, none of the environmental report finds any bird kills and the opponents to the renewable of it’s license did not identify any either. What’s more the value you gave for Limerick was anyway an obvious calculation error, actual number should have been 0.029 and not 0.261. I get your value if I’m wrong by a factor 10, but also do not include the 90% load factor.

      • EL says:

        @jmdesp

        “No report” is not the same as “zero reported deaths.” Regarding your follow up to the bird mortality thread, some of your comments are addressed here:

        http://atomicinsights.com/open-letter-antinuclear-groups-claiming-environmental/#comment-74324

        • Rod Adams says:

          @EL

          I followed your link back to the prior conversation. Your interaction with Engineer-Poet reminded me of a video someone shared with me yesterday. It made me laugh out loud. I hope you and E-P enjoy it.

          http://laughingsquid.com/the-expert-a-hilarious-sketch-about-the-pain-of-being-the-only-engineer-in-a-business-meeting/

        • jmdesp says:

          There’s nothing there that truly addresses my comments, that’s exactly pseudoskepticism as defined by Marcello Truzzi, see :
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoskepticism#Truzzi

          You’re saying you’re still doubting, and claiming I must prove more. I investigated Sovacool claims, and found almost all of them incorrect, the few one staying being the ones with very little bird death impact. You are instead just trying to discredit why I say, using FUD against it, doing no counter-investigation. If you say that the nuclear plants cause bird deaths, you must find documents that allows to make a realistic evaluation of them, you can’t just say that maybe they are some where there hasn’t been measurement. Stop pretending I instead should be able to prove a negative beyond even unreasonable doubt.

          There’s a list of document that show it’s very unlikely they are significant bird death around nuclear plants. A very interesting one is this one “ORDER (Denying Petition for Waiver of 10 C.F.R. § 51.53(c)(3)(ii)(L) and Referring this Decision to the Commission)” : http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1303/ML13037A477.pdf

          Here the NRC is explicitly telling NRDC that if they were to prove Limerick has a negative impact on birds, there’s a real possibility it’s license could be canceled. Does the NRDC want Limerick dead ? Very much. Did they come back with any document showing birds impact ? Not.

          If you read an Applicant’s Environmental Report required for Operating License Renewal http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/licensing/renewal/applications/limerick/lgs-er-web.pdf , there’s one section specifically dedicated to bird collision, where the applicant must convince the NRC that there’s no significant collision. Which is what Limerick did, hiring the Wildlife Habitat Council to make a report about that, every other plant that had it’s license renewed has to do similar investigations. Opponents found nothing on that point they could use to oppose those renewals.

          So all of these show there has been some very significant work to make sure of how many bird kills there could be, and nothing has been found.

  27. Benjamin Sovacool says:

    Well, the wind energy companies and electric utilities may like that, but I don’t. Even wind energy has its own externalities, and while I believe it is better than fossil fuels (and even nuclear reactors in most cases), I am not one for the profligate consumption of energy. Even if wind electricity was generated for free there would still be costs on the transmission and distribution network. I know you and I differ on the topic of energy efficiency (given our earlier posts about the rebound effect and all), but I still maintain we should always use energy and electricity as efficiently as possible. If that means we have a surplus of supply in Demark, then let’s just send it into Germany and onto Europe where it’s definitely needed.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Benjamin Sovacool

      I’m all for a “waste not, want not” strategy, but my point is that there are many different competing choices in living one’s life. Nearly all of our activities have externalities. Do you eat as little as you can so that your food consumption related impacts are minimized? Do you watch as little entertainment as possible? Do you wear as few clothes as the season will allow? Do you have only two or three pairs of shoes?

      Why is “saving energy” so important to you?

      • Benjamin Sovacool says:

        @Rod, as a professor I probably haven’t changed my wardrobe in over a decade, and yes, I think I only have three pairs of shoes. But more to the point, Denmark and many other European countries have the same quality of life as the USA, maybe even better. And they are able to do this by consuming far less energy. People in Denmark are not generally forgoing nice clothes, eating out, and other luxuries. I was surprised that many of them, at least in Jutland, have their own car. The point about energy efficiency is that it enables societies to accomplish an enjoyable life with minimal energy inputs. That’s good for the country, the environment, and the pocketbook.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Benjamin Sovacool

          Having a car and using a car are two entirely different things. For example, I recently took two enjoyable and informative trips to meetings about nuclear energy, one to your former residence state of Vermont, and one to Charlotte, NC. Traveling by air from Lynchburg to another small town area is not only expensive, but it is slow, often requiring two connections, both of which increase the risk of delays due to weather.

          The railroad option from Lynchburg to DC is kind of neat – leaving here at a civilized hour of 7:00 am and arriving in DC by 10:30. The only problem is that the train that goes to the Northeast leaves DC at 8:00 am. That makes for a rather long stopover and an overnight in a hotel.

          In other words, the best option is to drive on our reasonably efficient interstate highway system. I own a car that gets about 43-46 MPG on the highway, so that helps to keep my costs under control. However, in just a 7 day period, I put about 2300 miles on that car. How would a European have made that kind of trip and obtained that kind of enjoyment and professionally valuable information?

          I live on a fairly modest income, but am able to afford a comfortable home that is large enough to host my children and grandchildren during the holidays and other visits throughout the year. The back of our house has numerous uncovered windows exposing an inspiring view of the Blue Ridge mountains. I know that I am “wasting” energy by not having thick curtains drawn to cover those windows in the winter and summer, but saving energy would require me to forgo the ever changing vista that led me to by the house in the first place.

          Fortunately for my modest budget, electricity costs less than 1/3 as much in south central VA than it does in Denmark, yet 40% of our state’s electricity is emission free. (It should be more like 60-80%, but four reactors that were planned and started in the 1970s were never built and recent plans for a big expansion at North Anna keep running into challenges.)

  28. Bill Chaffee says:

    What is the context of the encounter that you’re apologizing for, if I may ask?

  29. Bill Chaffee says:

    Pardon my poor reading comprehension. I should have reread it before asking. Technical problems with an ipad 2 may be a factor also.