Mark Z. Jacobson is proud that his models disagree with IPCC (and almost everyone else)
The following clip comes from POWERING EARTH 2050: Is California’s 100% Renewable Strategy Globally Viable?. The speakers are Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson of the Stanford University Precourt Institute for Energy and Oliver Morton, Briefings Editor for The Economist.
This a brief sample of why more people need to question Mark Z. Jacobson as a source of reliable information about electrical power sources and electricity transmission and distribution systems.
I cannot understand why his work has been so heavily promoted by the prestigious university where he works. I also don’t comprehend why his colleagues seem reluctant to express the same doubts about his assumptions, methods and results in public that they do in private conversations.
Aside: I might buy an argument about professional courtesy, but during my professional career, I worked in an environment where respectful deference goes both ways. Once someone drops the gloves and attacks the credibility of others, it’s open season. Professional courtesy is also not an excuse for avoiding forceful backup when someone is steering the ship directly towards shoal water at a high rate of speed. End Aside.
Here is a full transcript of the above clip.
Mark Jacobson: The Arctic ice is disappearing so rapidly that it may be gone entirely in 15-20 years. So they want us to wait around and hopefully develop some miracle technology that’s going to come around and save us when the Arctic is disappearing below our feet and we have solar and wind that can be deployed…
Oliver Morton: Okay Mark. Can I just come in on that? Do you really think that there’s a deployment pathway that can do anything in a 15 year time scale to things like this? I mean you’re just talking about the ice; that there’s not enough time. My understanding, and I know there are people more expert than me on the panel, is that there’s a fair amount of inertia in the system and stuff that you do now is not going to change something in 10, 15, 20 years.
Jacobson: Well, this is why we need aggressive policy measures. Certainly last year in Europe 100% of all new electric power was wind, water and solar. In the United States, 70% was. Wind is the cheapest form of electricity right now and solar is the second — utility scale solar and onshore wind — are the cheapest form of electricity in the United States today, despite these claims about their subsidies.
The unsubsidized cost of wind is 3.6 cents per kilowatt hour, the subsidized cost is around 2 cents a kilowatt hour. Nuclear, the unsubsidized cost is 12.4 cents per kilowatt hour according to Lazard 9.0 — its 2015 cost of energy. Everybody can look it up; these are the cost of energy.
So we definitely think that we can, if we have aggressive policies. Otherwise, yeah, it’s going to take forever. So we need…
Morton: Because with aggressive policies you can change the climate in 15 years?
Jacobson: No. Not the climate. We can change the energy… The climate will lag, but we’ll start to get there by doing the best we can. You can only do the best you can. I mean you can’t…
Morton: And how do you feel about the other approaches to modeling? There’s a paper by Kevin Anderson recently in Nature Climate Change saying that the only ways to get well below 2 ℃ are to either have negative emissions or to have a time machine and go back in time to get… The integrated assessment modeling community seems to have a very different view than what you put forward on what’s possible. Can you just explain why those views are so different?
Jacobson: Yeah. Because I’ve built, for the last 26 years my career is climate modeling. I built from scratch a climate model and air pollution health model at UCLA, right here, starting here. So we simulate with this model, we actually put in all… We developed plans for 139 countries; wind and solar, existing water and other technologies. We put them in the model. Accounts for the feedback of two wind turbines, changes of kinetic energy due to the extraction of power and extraction of solar energy. We develop time series of wind and solar resources and then we look at the CO2 resources that come out of the atmosphere due to the shutting down of all these plants. And I have the simulation, I have a plot I can show you up here of all the IPCC scenarios and our scenarios with 80% conversion by 2030 and 100% by 2050 we get down to 250 parts per million by 2100 using our scenarios.
Nobody else has looked at these scenarios. Except there are studies that do just cutting off all emissions, and they agree, you do decrease your CO2 in the atmosphere. Whether that translates into temperature is a different issue because there are aerosols as well.
But these models that are used for the IPCC scenarios, the problem with them is in order to run for thousands of years they are so simplified they take out most of the physics and the chemistry and the cloud microphysics that are included in the model that I developed over 26 years.
Morton: Did you say down to 250 parts per million?
Jacobson: Sorry, 350. [laughter]
In combination with his opening statement from the same debate, this short clip reveals why Dr. Jacobson’s models produce such wildly absurd proposals as his plan to supply Finland with sufficient “wind, water, and solar” to provide 100% of its power needs.
As a backbone of our energy system Mark Jacobson and his accomplices grant Finland 29 GW capacity of onshore windpower, 27 GW offshore, and almost 50 GW of photovoltaics. For reference notice that our maximum electricity demand is around 14GW in the winter and 9 GW in the summer. Total energy consumption is somewhat less than 400 TWh. In size we are about 1% of EU which has around 90GW of photovoltaics installed. So according to Mark on a windy sunny day production could be more than 10 times our demand and around 7 times the maximum (winter) demand. Our installed PV capacity would be comparable to whole PV capacity in EU today which has, after all, spent around 10 years constructing it. This all seems a bit intimidating.
(Source: Part 1: Why does Mark Jacobson hate Finland?
The root cause of the problem is that Jacobson relies on a detailed, creatively original climate model that he has been refining for the past 26 years, apparently without too much input or agreement from people that disagree with him. “Nobody else has looked at these scenarios.”
He then uses his climate model to determine how a mixture of wind, water and solar energy collectors can, in total, produce 40% less energy each hour than the conservatively estimated power demand in 2050 published by the Energy Information Agency. His explanation for producing less energy than the EIA expects society will need is that electrical machinery is that much more efficient than combustion machinery.
The reason for emphasizing that Dr. Jacobson describes his model as a climate model is that it is not an energy production system model, not an economic model, and not a production scheduling model. The characteristics of power system components like generators, transformers, HVDC conversion stations, transmission lines, transmission towers, network operating centers, and numerous less visible but no less important components are treated in generalized, almost cartoon form.
His cost and schedule estimates are substantially less credible than hand waving; they amount to something like the following: “I have no earthly idea what my ideas are going to cost and how they are going to be planned, scheduled and implemented, but trust me, I know this will be cheaper. All we need to do for comparison is to include all of the invisible gains society will receive when we stop burning fossil fuels and biomass.”
Here are some additional specific issues from the above debate clip, where Dr. Jacobson makes several inaccurate, defensive, or deceptive statements.
The Arctic ice is disappearing so rapidly that it may be gone entirely in 15-20 years.
Among estimates of when the Arctic will be ice free, this is one of the shortest, but Jacobson is not completely alone.
So they want us to wait around and hopefully develop some miracle technology that’s going to come around and save us when the Arctic is disappearing below our feet and we have solar and wind that can be deployed…
No one in the debate suggested waiting or developing some miracle technology. Shellenberger and Caldeira advocated a path forward that does not exclude any existing technologies, especially nuclear energy.
Of the available ultra-low carbon dioxide emitting technologies, it is the one that least needs a miracle in order to deploy and decarbonise substantial portions of the existing energy system. No one in the debate argued against deploying wind and solar, although there were some suggestions that it’s time for them to prove they can be deployed even without large direct subsidy payments from taxpayers or ratepayers.
Certainly last year in Europe 100% of all new electric power was wind, water and solar.
That statement is not true. Here is a quote from page 6 of European wind energy Association (EWEA) report titled Wind in Power: 2015 European statistics
In 2015, 28.9 GW of new power generating capacity was installed in the EU, 2.4 GW more than in 2014. Wind power was the energy technology with the highest installation rate in 2015: 12.8 GW, accounting for 44% of all new installations. Solar PV came second with 8.5 GW (29% of 2015 installations) and coal third with 4.7 GW (16%).
Gas installed 1.9 GW (6.4 % of total installations), CSP 370 MW (1.3%), hydro 238.5 MW (0.8%), biomass 232.4 MW (0.8%), waste 118.5 MW, nuclear 100 MW, geothermal 4.3 MW and ocean 4.1 MW. Peat and fuel oil did not install any capacity in 2015.
Dr. Jacobson then made the following statement.
Wind is the cheapest form of electricity right now and solar is the second — utility scale solar and onshore wind — are the cheapest form of electricity in the United States today, despite these claims about their subsidies.
The unsubsidized cost of wind is 3.6 cents per kilowatt hour, the subsidized cost is around 2 cents a kilowatt hour. Nuclear, the unsubsidized cost is 12.4 cents per kilowatt hour according to Lazard 9.0 — its 2015 cost of energy. Everybody can look it up; these are the cost of energy.
Jacobson is right; we can all look up the study/brief that he referenced during the debate. The chart on page 2 of that document suggests that Jacobson is correct — if you are like me and do not count energy efficiency as a source of energy. The items with costs farthest to the left (cheapest) are onshore wind and utility scale solar (both crystalline and thin film.)
Jacobson does not mention that the range for onshore wind is from 3.2 cents to 7.7 cents; there is a wide variation and no indication that 3.6 cents is a weighted average. It seems to be a conveniently chosen number at the low end of the range.
However, Jacobson’s state and country plans do not limit themselves to onshore wind turbines; they include a substantial contribution from offshore installations. According to the chart on page 2 of Jacobson’s own source, the weighted average cost for that power source is 15.2 cents per kilowatt hour, more than 4 times the attractive number he used during the debate.
It’s also worth remembering that these clips of Jacobson’s statements and responses to questions came from a debate at UCLA, in Southern California. Though he limited his claim about the low cost of solar to utility scale installations, he must have known that his audience believes that solar is something that everyone should have on their rooftops and that those who do install it are doing their part to save our planet’s atmosphere from CO2 dumping as a result of burning somewhat less fossil fuel.
According to Lazard 9.0, rooftop residential solar systems have an unsubsidized cost range of 18.4 to 30.0 cents per kilowatt hour. Rooftop commercial systems have an unsubsidized cost range of 10.9 to 19.3 cents per kilowatt hour. Even community scale solar has a range of 7.8 to 13.6 cents per kilowatt hour.
In all cases of wind, water and solar resources, Lazard provides the following warnings on page 1:
Other factors would also have a potentially significant effect on the results contained herein, but have not been examined in the scope of thi current analysis. These additional factors, among others, could include: capacity value vs. energy value; stranded costs related to distributed generation or otherwise; network upgrade, transmission or congestion costs; integration costs; and costs of complying with various environmental regulations (e.g., carbon emissions offsets, emissions control systems). The analysis also does not address potential social and environmental externalities, including, for example, the social costs and rate consequences for those who cannot afford distribution generation solutions, as well as the long-term residual and societal consequences of various conventional generation technologies that are difficult to measure (e.g., nuclear waste disposal, environmental impacts, etc.)
He remembered the number printed for nuclear accurately, though the chart illustrates a range of values, it has a diamond at the 12.4 cents per kilowatt-hour number that he cited indicating that it represents the current levelized cost of the Votle project, which is the first AP1000 project anywhere in the US.
That cost estimate, by the way, includes the transmission upgrades that are a part of the complete project.
Aside: I’m not sure why Lazard did not include the V.C. Summer project in its calculation of the cost of nuclear energy; it’s on virtually the same development timeline and has nearly the same quality of publicly available cost information. It it, after all, a project being done under the close supervision of a public utility regulator that represents the customers’ interests. End Aside.
After listening closely to Jacobson and reading a number of blogs that are critical of his work, I’ve begun to suspect that he is being held up as the next Lovins by those who advocate for massive deployment of renewable energy. The true believers might want to look carefully for indications that might be being set up for a fall.
Jacobson’s plans are so weak and so heavily promoted or referenced that he makes a good strawman for those who want to discredit everyone that is concerned about global climate change.
Skeptics can create some really nasty and quite realistic scenarios of economic collapse if we follow Jacobson’s 100% WWS prescriptions. Those dire predictions might then be used to encourage the public to resist effective efforts to address the harm resulting from dumping 36 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.
Series of articles published in January 2016 by Jani-Petri Martikainen, a Finnish physicist with a strong interest in energy and the environment.
- Part 1: Why does Mark Jacobson hate Finland?
- Part 2: He also hates Ethiopians?
- Part 3: Jacobson and weirdness with storage
From Barry Brook’s Brave New Climate
November 2009 – Critique of ‘A path to sustainable energy by 2030’
Articles from Charles Barton’s Nuclear Green
February 23, 2010 Mark Z. Jacobson is Credible as a Scientist?
October 31, 2009 The Jacobson-Delucchi plan revealed
The Real Cost of Wind Energy – This is a series of critiques and rebuttals of a commentary published in the August 24, 2001 issue of Science titled Exploiting Wind Versus Coal by Mark Z. Jacobson and Gilbert M. Masters.
(Note: One of Jacobson’s colleagues provided this link as an example of the way he staunchly defends his work against published critiques to the point where he wears down his critics.)
I see an opportunity for Nevada in California’s failure to build nuclear power plants.
High temperature gas cooled reactors along Nevada’s western border.
Lots of them. Selling “zero-carbon” electricity to California for a fraction of the cost of wind or solar.
I’ve noted before the issues with MZJ using the Lazard LCOE numbers and no others, but here’s another take on the issue: Lazard version 9, which MZJ cites in the video above, also says that offshore wind ($152/MWh) is more expensive than nuclear ($124/MWh); and MZJ’s plan has the Northeast US getting about half its electricity from offshore wind.
So, if we were to substitute nuclear for offshore wind in MZJ’s plan, we could achieve the same result for billions less — according to MZJ’s own sources.
“…a mixture of wind, water and solar energy collectors can, in total, produce 40% less energy each hour than the conservatively estimated power demand in 2050 published by the Energy Information Agency. His explanation for producing less energy than the EIA expects society will need is that electrical machinery is that much more efficient than combustion machinery.”
And how much would world energy production have to increase to do the work of mining, manufacturing, and installing his all-electric, “more efficient” infrastructure for every application in the world? We can’t assume a project this massive is trivial. If he’s proposing we massively increase world energy consumption for a couple of decades (10%? 50%? Double?) just for this project, even as he’s saying we can be cutting production, how will such a transition work?
Because when we talk about the astronomical cost of his proposal (totally setting aside whether it would even work at all), doesn’t that cost fundamentally reflect the amount of energy required to do it? And if part of this plan is to be *reducing* energy production/availability at the same time, energy demand and cost are going to shoot even higher than otherwise–making this plan, if implemented in whole, seem like a death spiral that will ever more rapidly consume and constrain an energy supply that he’ll be shrinking by closing nuclear, hydrocarbon, and hydro dam power production far faster than any replacements–since that’s already what he’s advocating, right now.
If he’s serious about technological innovation on this scale, shouldn’t he be advocating for immediate, rapid *increases* in energy production, however it’s possible with current technology, until his vision is attained…so that there’s a chance of the scale of innovation and production he’s asking for?
This is a very interesting take on the problem which had not occurred to me earlier, namely the EROI issues with wind and solar. The study of Weissbach 2013 concentrated on the economic aspects of EROI, but considering Ed Leaver’s comment below, I’m wondering about the carbon-budget aspect, i.e., how much energy (and carbon) will it take to produce all those turbines and solar panels and powerlines and UTES storage systems, vs. the same question for nuclear (or any other non-fossil source), and how much that will (or won’t) drive us over our carbon budget,
There might be a paper in there somewhere, if I can find the data.
Once again, Prof Jacobson addresses the wrong question.
To remain beneath the 2 C upper limit, the globe is in a budget of between 1.3 and 1.6 trillion tons emitted CO2. Ken Calderia types lean toward the low end. Asking how rapidly we can build out WWS is the wrong question. More appropriately, “How can we most quickly limit the emission of carbon dioxide in such a way as to not bust the carbon budget.”
Certainly in the country (US), the fastest way to reduce near-term emissions is to put all our monetary resources into fracked gas and CCGT. Think about that when advocating WWS.
Mid and long term, replacing our remaining coal with fracked gas isn’t going to be sufficient. Fracked gas with WWS and CCS might be, were CCS a thing and one really wanted to frack gas.
WWS are intermittent: WWS generation does not displace base load coal. WWS generation displaces gas. As Joe Wheatley has shown, without storage as in Ireland, WWS does not displace gas nearly as effectively on a cost per ton avoided CO2 as proponents (or anyone else) might hope. At risk of cross-posting a result from elsewhere, in his 2012 Quantifying CO2 savings from wind power: Ireland
Journal of Energy Policy Volume 63 December 2013, Pages 89-96 (doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2013.07.12), Wheatley found the following real-world emissions on the Irish grid:
peat: 1.19 tCO2 / MWh (similar to lignite)
coal: 0.89 tCO2 / MWh
OCGT: 0.57 tCO2 / MWh
CCGT: 0.35 tCO2 / MWh (calm day)
CCGT: 0.40 tCO2 / MWh (windy day)
.. and broke CCGT into with-and-without wind because he found that in actual operation the combined-cycle gas plants were those that were cycled when wind showed up. And like most thermal plants, they lose efficiency when rapidly changing output. The result was that the effective CO2 abatement was only 0.28 tCO2 per MWh generated by wind.
Ideally, one would wish wind to displace peat and coal, but that is not the case. Unlike here in the US, gas in Ireland is more expansive than domestic peat and coal, so since the grid operator is only required to accept wind generation while keeping the lights on, and cost CO2 emissions isn’t really an issue but electric cost to consumer is, its expensive gas that gets displaced first.
Those more familiar than I with the vagaries of thermal generation might wish to visit some of Wheatley’s fascinating illustrations: there may be reasons to switch combined cycle gas turbines to wind-following open cycle peaking mode, rather than attempt to follow wind with peat or coal, beyond mere cost of fuel.
Be that as it may, Wheatley’s Irish study suggests that when it blows, wind displaces CCGT, the most efficient (both thermally and emissions) generator on the grid, and that at but 0.28 tCO2 avoided on the generated MWh. On a generation basis, CCGT avoids (1.19 – 0.35) = 0.84 tCO2/MWh for peat (or lignite…) and (0.89 – 0.35) = 0.64 tCO2/MWh for coal: on a grid generation basis one gets over twice the emissions reduction by replacing coal with CCGT (and over 3 times for lignite or peat) than one gets by adding an “equivalent” amount of wind generation.
It isn’t “equivalent” of course, as wind is intermittent and unreliable, while CCGT is about as dispatchable as it gets (after OCCT, which is what CCGT becomes on a windy day).
So your CO2 avoidance dollar goes twice as far with gas as it does on wind, and you get some particulate and mercury reductions in on the bargain. Plus dispatchability.
Then there’s nuclear. For an initial estimate we’ll assume nuclear and CCGT are both drop-in replacements for baseload coal, and that nuclear ghg emissions are effectively zero. We’ll also assume the above EIA reference’s nuclear LCOE estimate of $95.2 / MWh. Relative to baseload coal, nuclear avoids 0.89 tCO2 per MWh generated.
Cost of new generation for avoiding 1 t CO2 emitted from coal :
Wind: $73/MWh / 0.28 tCO2 avoided per MWh wind = $261 / t CO2 avoided.
Wind: $36/MWh / 0.28 tCO2 avoided per MWH wind = $128 / t CO2 avoided
CCGT: $73/MWh / 0.64 tCO2 avoided per MWh gas = $114 / t CO2 avoided
Nuclear: $95/MWh / 0.89 tCO2 avoided per MWh uranium = $106 / t CO2 avoided
Nuclear: $125/MWh / 0.89 tCO2 avoided per MWh uranium = $140 / t CO2 avoided
Cost of new generation for avoiding 1 t CO2 emitted from lignite or peat (at 1.19 t CO2 / MWh lignite or peat):
Wind: same as above as its actually CCGT emissions that wind avoids: $261 / t CO2 avoided,
or $128 / t CO2 avoided depending on whose lcoe one believes.
CCGT: $73/MWh / 0.84 tCO2 avoided per MWh = $87 / t CO2 avoided
Nuclear: $95/MWh / 1.19 tCO2 avoided per MWh = $80 / t CO2 avoided.
Nuclear: $125/MWh / 1.19 tCO2 avoided per MWh = $105 / t CO2 avoided.
EIA’s $95/MWh nuclear lcoe assumes capital cost of $5.50 / watt, current Vogtle projection is around $8.50/watt and it ain’t done yet. Whether follow-on builds can reduce that back to the originally projected $5.50 is TBD. On the other hand, the $5.50/watt range is what Rosatom pulls them in at, and KNHP has bid that as well.
But lcoe is an almost (but not quite) totally meaningless metric of unreliable generation, and EIA warns against making a direct comparison with the lcoe of reliable (thermal and hydro) generation. Renewable advocates like to do so anyway ‘cuz the numbers look so good.
In the above comparison, wind lcoe does not incorporate the capital and operating cost of all those CCGT’s, upon which Irish grid generation is totally dependent and without which there would be no basis for wind. Lcoe is at best a marginal metric.
Added up into an actual workable (?) 80% or 90% carbon reduction nationwide reliable generation grid, as done by two different studies by two different National Labs, studies that actually did incorporate believable levels of co-generation and backup and storage, total cost of “renewables only” generation is not so favorable, even incorporating existing baseload nuclear capacity.
I’ve run numbers on NREL’s Renewable Electricity Futures Study 2012 here, and excepted LBNL / PNL’s Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States 2050 Report here. Both studies are for domestic consumption; neither consider how their solutions might scale globally.
The question is how to avoid CO2 emissions, on a cost effective global basis. Any solution we might implement here in North America and OECD is meaningless if it does not scale globally.
Your arguments with Marc Jacobson are lame, at best. He uses his own model because nobody else who creates models for energy and climate science is as detailed as he is. They leave out important considerations to please the nuclear industry.
The nitpicking at the costs of offshore vs onshore wind power is not important for the point being made. Wind, as you admitted, is still half the price of nuclear, at the highest rate imaginable. It also leaves one sixth the total carbon footprint and I have never heard a case where a spent wind turbine leaks radioactivity and gives local kids leukemia at a high enough rate to declare a cancer cluster. Let go of your nuclear industry aspirstions and do something productive for a living. Instead of trying to rip apart Marc Jacobson for not being an economics major with a nuclear funded DOE approved university, why not take what knowledge you claim to have about powerlines and which transmission lines need updating in the World Nuclear Association’s playbook and help Marc Jacobsen bring his amazing work to life? The power companies are lazy and the only reason they love nuclear is because of the ridiculous subsidies offered to local utility companies to accept this plutonium generating filthy technology in their states. But these subsidies are not going to last indefinitely. The tide of public opinion about nuclear is turning, and politicians will either catch up or be voted out and replaced with people who care about the future of the human race.
If there is a smart ex utility executive out there who wants to make a difference and help lead a clean energy revolution, they would be helping Marc Jacobson bring his plans to market rather than try to discredit this man, who obviously did his homework and knows his stuff.
Based on previous experience with other commenters who have begun their visits to Atomic Insights with arguments similar to the ones you have made, I suspect your stay here will be quite brief. It is a warm and welcoming place for people who want to learn from some of the experts who have assembled here over the last 20 years, but it can be a rather rough and tumble place for people who call the factor of four difference in costs between onshore and offshore wind projects “nitpicking” or who cannot understand that a climate model is not an energy system model.
Jacobson is a tenured Stanford University professor who garners a great deal of press within the energy field. In spite of that privileged position he complains that no one else is doing the kind of work that he is doing. Perhaps that is because he and the group he leads are loners with theories that are outside of the margins where others work because they are so wrong that no one else is interested in trying to replicate their work.
There is no such thing as a nuclear-funded, DOE-approved university. In fact, the DOE’s tiny Integrated University Program has been zeroed out in the FY2017 budget proposal. The DOE is led by people who rotate through the revolving door from and into positions associated with promoting the natural gas industry. It’s little wonder their proposed budget for advanced nuclear energy development for FY2017 has shrunk by about 30% from FY2016 appropriations.
That cut came even though the President of the United States promised the rest of the world leaders that the US would double funding for clean energy research within the next five years.
In contrast, the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford is generously funded by alumni of the schools highly respected petroleum engineering program. Those men earned their wealth in the oil and gas industry. Is it possible that funding is the reason that people like Mark Jacobson and his friends at the “Solutions Project” that is associated with Precourt are so adamantly opposed to using clean, reliable, affordable nuclear energy?
The oil and gas business right now is in a rather dire financial predicament. They have over produced their product from the limited resources remaining, so they are experiencing a temporary glut and unsustainably low prices. They need to drive others out of the market so that they can increase sales and drive prices back up to a level where they can keep their heads above water.
I agree that the tide of public opinion about nuclear energy is turning. It is moving from a position of mild, but not terribly active or vocal support, to one where people are calling their representatives demanding to know why it is so hard to develop innovative nuclear in America. Having one of the richest men in the world publicly claim it is so hard that he is taking his nuclear innovations to China so he can take advantage of their political support is pretty damning.
That’s enough from me for now. I’ll let some others have fun with your rather amusing diatribe.
One more thing – It would make your arguments slightly more credible if you would learn how to spell Mark Z. Jacobson’s name.
They leave out important considerations to please the nuclear industry.
One could just as easily say (and with just as great accuracy) that Jacobson’s models leave out nuclear power to please the RE industry.
Wind, as you admitted, is still half the price of nuclear, at the highest rate imaginable
I haven’t admitted anything of the kind. In fact, the EIA’s LCOE numbers, which are quite a bit more realistic than Lazard’s, put wind and nuclear on a near par for cost, and that’s not including the higher systems cost for wind at high grid penetration, and not including the extra cost for wind due to the short lifetime of wind turbines. If you account for both of those factors, EIA’s LCOE would make nuclear cheaper even than onshore wind, much less offshore.
It also leaves one sixth the total carbon footprint
That’s simply false. The National Renewable Energy Lab gives the following for lifecycle emissions of energy technologies, in gCO2e/kWh:
PV (CdTe): 14
PV (a-Si): 20
In other words, nuclear is comparable to wind and better than solar. IPCC agrees with that overall assessment, although their numbers are a bit different.
I have never heard a case where a spent wind turbine leaks radioactivity and gives local kids leukemia at a high enough rate to declare a cancer cluster.
And I’ve never heard of a similar case for nuclear power, either, that was anything more than a statistical fluke. Perhaps you can enlighten us.
The power companies are lazy and the only reason they love nuclear is because of the ridiculous subsidies offered to local utility companies to accept this plutonium generating filthy technology in their states.
You have again been misinformed. For FY2013 (most recent data available) total direct and indirect federal subsidies for power technologies are as follows (in US $ per MWh generated):
There are a lot of us here, including me, who are very pro-wind, and pro-solar. In fact, I support all non-fossil technologies, and I believe that given the current climate crisis it’s simply immoral not to do so. But if you have an anti-nuclear case to make, you’re not making it, and it would certainly help if you got your facts right,. Otherwise, you just come off looking like someone with a political axe to grind, and are too easily ignored.
First, yes there are a number of highly detailed energy production/generation plans that have been developed which push a higher penetration of wind and solar. One plan would be the NREL plan. I disagree with their plan as well since it minimizes nuclear generation but it is more realistic then anything Mark Jacobson and his grad students have produced. So Mark Jacobson’s claim that he and he alone has created this type of plan is just wrong and factually incorrect. His claim is that he has created the only 100% WWS plan and there is a reason no one else has. A 100% WWS is unworkable and does not account for the engineering, legal and financial realities of today’s world.
NREL has this as their mission statement: we focus on creative answers to today’s energy challenges. From breakthroughs in fundamental science to new clean technologies to integrated energy systems that power our lives, NREL researchers are transforming the way the nation and the world use energy.
In other words, NREL’s focus is on how we generate and use energy in an attempt to reduce our footprint on the earth, not on one specific path. So whether I agree with NREL or not (and many times I disagree since they base their estimates on wind and solar while burying the amount of natural gas required), I will lean towards NREL’s veiwpoint on the world long before I accept anything Mark Jacobson and his group of faithful grad students produce.
Second point from one who has debated Mark Jacobson online. His plan does not account for the necessary time for licensing and engineering design that would be required to build out more dams or repurpose existing non-power generation dams. He magically assumes since there was a vague plan in the past for an existing facility or new pumped hydro facility that that plan is fully developed and ready to be implemented. He has never considered in his timelines that FERC can take as long as the NRC to license a new hydro facility. That would be up to 10 years in some cases where the local residents do not want to lose their land to Mark Jacobson’s plan for more pumped hydro.
IOW, just because there was a plan in place for a specific hydro facility that was developed decades ago does not mean it is shovel ready in today’s world. So Mark Jacobson’s timelines are completely wrong since he has never worked in the energy development field. His plan fails on this one point alone.
Finally, (since this comment is becoming quite long) you need to educate yourself on energy generation subsidies instead of spouting the standard anti-nuclear subsidy diatribes. Wind and solar receive generous monetary subsidies that outstrip anything nuclear receives. This is a proven point and has been beaten to death. Wind and solar also receive legal support in the form of the RPS laws- Renewable Portfolio Standards – that have been enacted by 29 states. Many of those states also have nuclear power generation.
The RPS laws require utilities to have a specified amount of wind and solar generation by a certain date, usually 2020. This Act legally props up the wind and solar generators over all other generation (for the most part) and provides the sales and marketing teams of AWEA and various solar groups a short list on who is not in compliance allowing focused PR efforts against those utilities.
Several crazy things about most RPS plans. Wind facilities are typically built upwards of 350 MW total nameplate generation for the entire facility that is spread over square miles of land. However, since each individual windmill generates less then 5 MW, the entire facility qualifies as meeting that states’ RPS plans. IOW, the RPS laws were written to favor wind and solar over every other possible low or non-emitting CO2 emitting power generation source, especially since the RPS laws limit new generation sources to under 30 MW.
Another fail on Mark Jacobson’s part is that he did not recognize that the majority of the states’ RPS plans do not allow new hydro of over 30 MW to qualify for the credits. So IOW the RPS laws would need to change to allow utilities to adopt Jacobson’s plan for new pumped storage or repurposed water facilities. A point that he has also dismissed when pointed out to him by those who have spent their careers in the energy generation field, not in the classroom developing unworkable plans.
Bottom line is that his claims of being ignored by “everyone” are self-induced. He is being sidelined by energy professionals because he refuses to acknowledge the existing legal framework that has developed over decades partly in response to lawsuit after lawsuit that were typically filed by environmental groups such as Sierra Club or FOE. Once his plan takes into account engineering, financial and licensing realities of the US then he might get some more traction for his ideas in the energy generation field. From my position, it is ironic that the very groups who support his plan had a hand in creating laws that now prevent his plan from every reaching 100% WWS.
Laurel, I don’t know what your background is but Mark Jacobson has a tendency to speak only half-truths to promote his agenda as if he speaks the whole truth he will invalidate his own arguments. I know this because I posted critical comments on his interview with David Letterman and he started responding and insulting me on the youTube comment-site until the whole comments were yanked off the web site. Below, I will briefly say what I posted on Letterman website.
Mr. Jacobson you claim that the cost of wind is lower than both fossil fuel and nuclear, yet your numbers come from a few wind farms where a few strategically cited wind mills provide only a few percent of the energy demand. The real question to address here is how much would it cost if wind is to provide more than 50% of the energy demand like nuclear and fossil fuel can. In other words, the cost for fossil fuel or nuclear is pretty much fixed whether they provide 2% or over 50% of the energy, whereas the cost of the wind is quite different if it goes from supplying 2% as compared to 50% of the energy demand. The reason has to do with energy density. For example, New Jersey gets more than 50% of its energy demand from just 3 nuclear power plants at a reasonable cost. Your plan plan for New Jersey is to eliminate nuclear power plants in lieu of wind mills. To do that, the wind energy cost will take an astronomical hike because the wind will not be cheaper than coal and nuclear once it becomes a major player in the energy mix. In other words, Mr. Jacobson, you cannot use the energy cost for wind from its current usage to what this cost will be when wind becomes a major source. In fact, some studies in Germany have shown that the cost when wind become a major source is about 8 to 15 times higher than fossil fuel.
To address your comment, Laurel, Jacobson’s cost analysis are completely inaccurate because one cannot linearly extrapolate the current cost of a low density energy source, like wind or solar, into a complicated energy future plans as he does. Such extrapolations may be more accurate for high density fuels like fossil fuel or nuclear, but even for those a linear extrapolation is not the best way to do future cost analysis. And, yes, it is highly advisable for Jacobson to work with leading economists because they will be able to assist him to revise his future energy cost calculations that are deeply flawed. I hope this helps!!!
Rod (and Laurel),
I found Mark’s comments about his climate modelling efforts to be troubling, to say the least.
I have never actually associated him with climate change science; have never seen his name in this literature or field but he does, indeed, appear to be qualified.
I’m not expert enough to comment on the way he describes his work but I know people who are. I sent this link and some quotes to one such person, an internationally recognised climate scientist. The first thing he pointed out is that he is not familiar with Jacobson’s work and thus is not in a position to critique it specifically. However he said this:
“I can say that to the best of my knowledge, every national or international modeling group has allowed its climate model to be subjected to rigorous external scientific scrutiny, has performed standard “benchmark” simulations (like AMIP and CMIP), and has permitted results from those simulations to be used in model intercomparison exercises.
If you want to have credibility in the climate modeling arena, you compare the performance of your model – across a range of different space and timescales, and for many different variables of interest – with the performance of models developed by other research groups. It’s not justifiable to claim that “my model is demonstrably superior” if you have not completed “benchmarking” tests, and have not made your model’s simulation output available for independent evaluation. I do not know whether Mark has done that. I’ve never seen how his model performs in large-scale model intercomparison exercises”.
Fact remains I can’t make a smoking gun point here, however based on Mark’s comments and the feedback above, I increasingly suspect his regard for his climate work is similar to the rest of his work: he thinks he’s the only real game in town. I have genuine doubt as to whether his work has been subject to the global standard of rigour as described by my contact that would be needed to make the sorts of claims he makes.
That said he has an impressive publication record in climate science (based on my review at Scopus) including a few sole-author 2004 papers that would appear to be his own modelling work.
He strikes me overall as an intelligent, well-qualified, hard-working academic with blind-spots a mile wide and an ego a mile-high who has retained a position against the use of nuclear technology that has no compelling basis in evidence.
“Jacobson’s plans are so weak and so heavily promoted or referenced that he makes a good strawman for those who want to discredit everyone that is concerned about global climate change.”
And that is indeed what has been happening already, for years. There are many climate ‘skeptics’ I talk to who after some discussion turn out and admit to basically being little more than 100% RE skeptics when it comes down to it, who have simply become so disgusted with the incessant and devious 100% RE propaganda that they (mistakenly) believe that mainstream climate science is all a part of the scam. Such people typically tell me things like:
“You trust the IPCC? You believe that CO2 is warming the planet? Really? Well, then tell me how solar PV will provide power at night! Tell me how a wind turbine provides power when there is no wind! It’s all a big scam!”
All the more reason IMO for people like Naomi Oreskes to call people like *Jacobson* the real “Deniers”. It is people like Jacobson who are hurting the development of rational climate policy. Not people like James Hansen.
One word: politics.
It’s the same reason that the same prestigious university keeps promoting the work of another of its professors, Paul Ehrlich, who has been making wrong predictions for about a half a century now.
Rod – Don’t believe that being proved absolutely, unconditionally, categorically wrong is going to matter or change things for these people. They’re immune to facts and reason.
Why would social democrats (which Americans inexplicably call “liberals” even though they have no more in common with classical liberalism than contemporary “conservatives” do) promote a professor who spreads a neo-Malthusian message, when one would logically expect that such a worldview would be espoused mainly by fascists seeking to justify their genocidal ambitions?
@ George Carty:
The short answer to your question seems to be that a substantial percentage of those American “liberals” are more “socialist” than “social democrat.”
Thus, the “opportunity” seen in a neo-Malthusian message is the “moral equivalent of war” and the concomitant impetus for centralized planning and the growth of the government and political class.
That doesn’t make sense — didn’t social democrats (and Marxist socialists, in a more radical way) advocate for greater state intervention in the economy because they believed it could provide the common man with a higher standard of living than possible under free-market capitalism?
Key there is the word “didn’t” — as in that is historically what was sought, but times have changed.
Look at an old IWW poster (“The Capitalist Pyramid”). That pyramid had the “workers” at the bottom of the pyramid — doing all of the work, with the next level being those who “eat for” the workers. With the establishment of the welfare state, the “workers” support those “on the dole” a whole lot more than they support the “bourgeoisie.” The goal that remains for socialists is to attain political power — and a “moral equivalent of war” is always a good way of getting that.
Here is an image of the “pyramid” — note the absence of any welfare recipients.
I’ve seen that poster before, but I can’t abide people who deny the existence of involuntary unemployment. During the mid-19th century thousands of people actually starved to death in English industrial towns because there was no work available for them!
You may want to check out the Pieria article “Why labour markets don’t clear“.
You do have a point though in that plutocrats have very successfully played divide-and-rule between the working poor and non-working poor, especially when poverty is concentrated among minority ethnicities (think Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens in Cadillacs” trope).
Inequality has become a serious problem again the last 30 years, and I can’t help but wondering if the environmentalist takeover of left-of-centre politics has not played a part in this, as many groups of rentiers benefit from policies promoted by environmentalists. Oil and gas companies benefit from anti-nuclear and pro-“renewables” activism, mortgage lenders and owners of prime city centre land benefit from “smart growth” anti-sprawl activism, and campaigns against GMOs in the Third World suit American agribusiness and neocolonialist politicians which seek to keep those countries dependent on imported food.
But socialists and their more extreme communist cousins have generally been genocidal throughout history. Can you name one important communist country that hasn’t engaged in a genocidal campaign at one time or another?
In the case of college professors, the reasons have to do with their inherent elitism. William Tucker explained it pretty well a couple of years ago when he talked about the “Five Classes” in American society:
1. Old wealth, the moneyed aristocracy, living off trust funds.
2. The business elite [i.e., the “nouveau riche”]
3. The educated upper-middle class [academics fall in this category]
4. The less educated working class and small entrepreneurs . 5. The poor
“As often happens, people see their immediate neighbors as rivals but look for allies on the far side of the fence. Thus, the blue-collar class feels very uncomfortable living next to the poor and doesn’t much like the upper middle class. The upper middle class feels very comfortable patronizing the poor but disparages the lower middle class — the ‘guns and religion’ people — and resents the richer business elite as well. The guns-and-religion people, on the other hand, tend to idealize the business elite and embrace its cause more openly than businesses dare do themselves.”
That last part sort of explains what is currently going on with Donald Trump.
But getting back to the point, most of the third class (and certainly almost all of the faculty at schools like Stanford) are those “social democrats” that you’re talking about. They believe in “social justice,” but only in an abstract sense. They see it as helping the poor, but who are they helping the poor against? Certainly not themselves. I’ve never known any of these people to make a genuine sacrifice by giving up their perks and privileges for “social justice.” To them, doing their part means buying a new toy like a Prius, so that they can have the satisfaction of looking down their noses at people driving SUV’s.
To these people, “social justice” is about the struggle of the fifth class against the second and fourth classes. So when they talk about “population control,” they don’t mean that there should be less college professors, nor do they mean that there should be less poor people (whom they are trying to “help”). What they really mean is there should be less of the “guns and religion” people, who are crass enough to shop at Walmart instead of Whole Foods and who enjoy such vulgar stuff as NASCAR and Professional Wrestling. There should also be less people in the second class (the business class), who are “raping the environment” providing the “guns and religion” people with all of this stuff.
The only thing left to add is that the “intelligentsia” in the third class think that they know more than any of the other classes as well. Simply put, they believe that they know what’s good for you, and you don’t. So if their studies say that the US or the world can get all of its electricity from WWS, who are you to argue with that?
While communist regimes are certainly totalitarian dictatorships willing to use mass murder to enforce their rule, AFAIK the Khmer Rouge was the only one which committed genocide for the explicit purpose of population reduction (and they were arguably a special case, because they were both rabidly xenophobic — thus unwilling to ask for aid from the outside world — and in charge of a country ravaged by American bombing).
Didn’t Marxists traditionally demonize Malthus as the symbol of aristocratic contempt for the poor?
They may have, back in the heady days were some of them actually believed that communism could deliver prosperity and welfare. Now that they know for a certain fact that communism can only deliver piles of dead bodies, slavery and miserable grinding poverty, they have to promote dead bodies as a good thing, grinding poverty as good for the environment etc.
Way too many people equate communism with Soviet style oligarchy. They also confuse socialism with centrally planned communism. Both Sweden and France are two examples that indicate socialist governments can work and are not synonymous with cruel dictatorship.
No, I’d say that the purpose behind Stalin’s brutal treatment of the Ukraine in the early 1930’s was to rid the place of Ukrainians. He was quite successful too, managing to starve to death millions of people (somewhere between 2 and 7 million, nobody knows for sure exactly how many) over just a couple of years.
The Khmer Rouge was not a special case either. All of Pol Pot’s actions came straight out of Mao’s playbook.
“The Khmer Rouge was not a special case either. All of Pol Pot’s actions came straight out of Mao’s playbook.”
AFAIK the Khmer Rouge were the only Communist regime to commit mass murder for the purpose of reducing population. Mao’s own atrocities certainly weren’t so motivated (in fact IIRC most of the deaths weren’t even intended — rather they were caused by local governors starving their people to meet over-ambitious quotas, because they didn’t dare tell Mao how poor their agricultural yields really were).
Mao actually encouraged large families during most of his years of rule — China’s famous one-child policy was only introduced in 1978 after his death.
“Can you name one important communist country that hasn’t engaged in a genocidal campaign at one time or another?”
And where did the native americans go, Brian? And perhaps religion, rather than government, should be discussed if one is going to have a complete conversation about historical genocide.
Are you saying that they were killed by Communists?
These days, “native americans” usually go by the terms “Mexican” or “Pit Boss.” 😉
What you choose to call “politics,” I choose to recognize as economically motivated propaganda pushed mainly by “intellectuals” heavily supported by grants from people who were born into the upper classes.
Several members of the Rockefeller family, including John D. Jr, Laurence, and John D. III were heavily involved in the population control movement starting in the 1890s when Junior was a student at Brown University.
There’s something ironically elitist with “Population Bomb” supporters having families as large as Junior’s 6 children.
It’s just as ideologically motivated as economically motivated. You cite examples from the US, where the aristocrats come from wealth made from modern industry. In the UK, some of the staunchest “environmentalists” come from the nobility and the “old money,” land baron upper crust — folks who are generally considered to be “conservative.” These are the people who are descendants of those who worried about the railroads, because “why would any of the common people ever need to go anywhere outside of their own village?” Prince Charles is a prime example of the type.
There is some additional explanation of this in my comment that is still stuck in moderation.
The excessive influence of the British aristocracy (who largely suborned Britain’s industrial capitalists ideologically via the English “public school” system) is probably the biggest factor in Britain’s economic underperformance since World War II, as strict urban containment policies (starting with the Town and Country Planning Act 1947) caused urban land prices to rocket and made British industry uncompetitive. The British people mostly fail to see this, as the aristocracy has waged a successful propaganda campaign through their “Campaign for the Protection of Rural England” which has persuaded most Britons that they live in a desperately overpopulated island where every bit of undeveloped land must be protected at all costs.
The Act in its original form allowed the government to appropriate the “planning gain” for itself (which can be huge — gaining planning permission for housing on an acre of land in South-East England can increase its price from £20,000 to £2,000,000) but lobbying by the landed interests caused this to be overturned. In the pre-Thatcher era most poorer Britons lived in “council” (public) housing — about a third of the British population at its peak in the 1970s — but when Margaret Thatcher sold off most of the council housing to its tenants (at heavily subsidized prices!) she turned Britain’s economy into a bubble factory. And now any reform is almost impossible because a majority of voters are homeowners who will fight tooth and nail to defend their paper capital gains.
I wonder if this is the reason for the massive amounts of land held by the federal government in the western states? The NYT claims over 47% of the land in the west (basically a line north to south along the western border of N & S Dakota.)
I really don’t think so. Nearly half the Western U.S. was bought by the federal government from France in 1803 at 3 cents/acre. Most of the rest — save for Oregon Country (present day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) was obtained — again by the federal government — under equally favorable terms from Mexico forty-five years later.
In contrast, essentially all UK land has been privately owned — save for some crown reserves — for nearly half a millennium.
So our traditions are a bit different.
Further, there was a matter of access and scale. The British Isles have been settled essentially forever (by our reckoning), and access across the entire interior routine well before Roman times. In contrast the sheer expanse of the American West (and a few natural obstacles) impeded settlement from the east — apart from the Pacific Coast accessible by ship — until railroads brought the requisite man (and fire) power after the Civil War. The best farmland was then parceled out to the public in (occasionally) orderly fashion by the various Homestead Acts. But much of the rest remained held by the federal government, as well as by other peoples (sometimes) protected by treaties that were (eventually) upheld by federal courts and exist (somewhat diminished) to this day.
But along with the requirement that the government uphold and (sometimes) defend these territorial rights in the name of “those people” came the idea that the federal lands — or much of them — remain held as a common good for “the rest of us.” As result we have a distinction between surface rights — much of which actually has been sold to cities and individual farmers — and subsurface mineral rights which usually is not perpetual. And a great deal of open range land remains held by the federal government: grazing and some water rights being administered by the BLM (the remaining water rights being firmly set by treaty).
In these respects Britain and the United States are two very different countries with very different histories and traditions, divided forever by a common language.
Truth? What is truth these days in the USA? Who is tasked to protect the truth. The media? Like the CEO OF CBS, Les Moonves? Here is an example of the degree of integrity we can expect from our media…..
Early this week, CBS CEO Les Moonves came out and said it: Profiting from hate is not only more important to him than the good of the country — he wants to do more of it.
Speaking on a panel in San Francisco, Moonves said Trump’s campaign “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS” and that “The money’s rolling in, this is fun.” He went on to say, “it’s a terrible thing to say, but bring it on, Donald, go ahead, keep going.”
So, who is going to counter Jacobson’s claims? Who is going to spread your message, Rod? I will not meet, speak to, or encounter a single human being today, not one John Q, who even has a clue who Jacobson is, much less what the debate is all about. People are informed by the media. They don’t go to these events, seminars, and conferences where your debate is waged. And you have powerful and despicable adversaries. Just note this clown posting now under various psuedonyms. Sometimes a spade is a spade, and Brian’s steady stream of paranoia about “trolls” is justified. This guy ain’t some John Q posting misconceptions with conviction. He’s a prevaricator, a propagandist, a proffessional with no ethical agenda. Noting the typical level of character Moonves gloating demonstrates, and the counter message this troll, (yes brian, sometimes a horseshoe IS just a horseshoe), and Jacobson deliver, you guys have a mountain to climb. And you ain’t got any sherpas that will carry your gear to the top.
In addition, I am amazed by trolls such as the one haunting these last couple of threads. Don’t they see how such blatantly obvious attempts at trying to appear to be more than one person shreds their credibility? Its a wormy smarmy kinda tactic, that garners disgust. You really gotta be a low life dirtbag to attempt such a deception. Pretty scummy
Thumper!!! You make assumptions, and casting aspersions, that are neither called for, nor helpful.
Ed, you have been following this site for quite a while, right?
There is a very old expression (from the 1700’s): “He’s not worth the powder.”
As in: “Don’t bother shooting your gun in this instance.”
Think about it.
BTW: What does “Thumper” mean in the context of your comment?
An obscure cinematographic reference.
OK, got it.
You two certainly don’t react that way when Brian launches into his “You’re a paid troll” rants. Funny, that.
Perhaps its the Trump portion of the post that has your panties bunched. These candidates are changing the term “red neck” to “red face”, because if you’re on the right side of the aisle, and you ain’t embarrassed, theres something seriously wrong with you.
Whattaya tell your kids? “Hey, you can be anything you want to be! Perhaps, someday, you too can run for president and joke about your genitals on national TV!”
This country is in deep trouble.
Well! After that firestorm of blowback, I doubt that Laurel is going to show here again. My efforts would be redundant.
I’m more curious about what’s technically feasible, because any actual solution has to some out of the short list of things which are. Specifically, I’m pondering the Shippingport LWBE as a model for a NuScale derivative. Supposedly the availability of uranium limits the total deployment of nuclear power, but we have the LWBE (which ran 4 full-power reactor years on its single core) as an example of what thorium can do to stretch uranium. Does anyone know if the reactivity of the LWBE core was still increasing at the time of shutdown, or had it peaked?
A world full of NuScale-level modules would look very different from Jacobson’s scheme. Gone would be all the continental-scale HVDC lines and the wind farms dwarfing the former herds of buffalo covering the plains. Instead, power would be local and (given accident boundaries at the building level or smaller) so would steam heat. A module comes in and cranks out electricity and steam for half a decade, then another takes over for it while it is refueled and refurbished. With thorium, each used core would have nearly as much fissiles as it started; it could be reclaimed and start over again, possibly by methods as simple as baking off less-refractory fission products.
Add metallic fuel, and I bet it would be even better. (I assume that Shippingport used oxide)
Aye E-P. Xenophobic little clique, aren’t we?
I’m not particularly worried about Uranium resources, so long as we don’t safeguard our lightly-used LWR fuel resource in an irretrievable way. See Nuclear fuel resources: Enough to last? by R. Price and J.R. Blaise, NEA News 2002: Table 3 (page 13) suggests nuclear energy of all forms could supply roughly 300,000 years of electricity at 1999 world nuclear generation rate.
In 1999 nuclear supplied 12% of world electricity, for which demand will at least double by the end of this century. By this estimate nuclear can meet double the world’s 1999 electricity consumption for 18,000 years — highly conservative as it assumes “no further discoveries of thorium.”
From the same table and recoverable resource estimate, our present LWR uranium-only fuel cycle could supply double 1999 electricity needs for 500 years, certainly enough to get us through this century’s climate crunch, and far enough into the future that even our descendants might have gained better technical and social insight than we have at present.
But we do have fast reactor technology. China for example expects to switch over to FNRs for all major builds sometime in the 2040’s.
Other estimates place eventual recoverable fission resources well beyond a million years. Doesn’t matter, not our problem. Important thing is to give the species time to develop fusion or whatever, or peacefully reduce population 80% – 90% so current WWS is workable, or whatever. Our problem is to get the CO2 problem under control and save the planet this century. Save some of the fun for the kids. 😉
Attack dogs are hardly “phobic”. This crowd rips into nonsense with a vengeance, so I’d call us “anti-moronic”.
That’s the long term. We have 15-20 years to get carbon emissions way down, so I’m concerned about the short-term requirements to get a truly large energy system up to speed. LWBRs would reduce the pressure on LEU supplies as little as one fuel-swap past startup, depending on how much extra enrichment was required for the thorium-based core. The core dimensions of the LWBE are very similar to NuScale.
Something I’ve never seen is a projected lifespan for the LWBE core if it was run to exhaustion. I’m sure someone has done this.
Current human energy consumption is equivalent to fission of ~5000 tons of actinides per year. Rivers dump ~32,000 tons of uranium into the oceans every year.
We need an answer to the WWS camp claiming that nuclear has both construction and fuel-supply limitations that prevent it from playing any real role in solving that problem. NuScale’s plant-built scheme looks like an answer to construction. Is LWBE an answer to fuel? Someone with more knowledge than I has to answer that one.
Attack dogs are hardly “phobic”.
Debatable. They certainly are not educators.
The willfully ignorant cannot be helped. Molly coddling and not daring to correct or criticize them will only embolden them.
If the person wants to come here to be educated then I would expect a questioning mindset or attitude. To which several of us have responded accordingly based our personal time to respond. There is a long track record here where people have changed viewpoints over the years due to Rod maintaining this space as am open forum with some limited rules.
The individual above came here into this space to throw out standard anti-nuclear talking points. Not to be educated. Therefore a forceful push back is required, at least from my perspective.
For example, a forceful pushback by a number of people on a recent Fortune article written by one Dr. David Z. Morris regarding the minor tritium leak at Indian Point had a positive effect. The Fortune editors pulled the article back and stripped out a number of inflammatory comments. It still is not to my liking but the majority of the fear-inducing comments were removed.
Years ago there would have been polite letters written to Fortune by NEI and other noted nuclear support groups as well as some individuals about the content with the end result being no changes would have occurred. IOW an attempt to “educate” would taken place but the article would have remained out there as originally written thereby available to the anti-nuclear groups to use as an “example” of the dangers of nuclear power.
The topic of how to debate about nuclear energy has been debated itself in a multitude of forums. I am in the camp of pushing back hard on the fear mongering and the talking points that are devoid of actual facts. The anti-nuclear side has had over 30 years of spouting FUD. The nuclear power sector needs to own it’s mistakes but not fall on the sword everytime a minor problem occurs. That attitude needs to stop. The stakes are too high.
You made an observation that Jacobson is asking the wrong question. Not really from his anti-nuclear power viewpoint. His history reeks of the likes of Caldicott, Gundersen, Greenpeace and the FOE talking points. His strategy has evolved into an asymmetrical attack against nuclear energy. He has backed off many of the factually incorrect, flammatory commentary in his presentations due to being challenged on his version of the facts. If many of us had not challenged him then he would still be spouting the garbage about Chernobyl killing millions, plumes from Fukushima hitting the West Coast or including the carbon from a nuclear war in his carbon emissions calculations.
Jacobson’s overall goal is to try to eliminate nuclear power by attempting to prove his 100% WWS plan is workable. That is his goal. He and his followers need to be forcefully challenged to defend their assertions at every opportunity.
“We need an answer to the WWS camp claiming that nuclear…”
Are there any formal proposals from the national labs/universities that model a domestic build out of nuclear generation – similar to what MZJ or the NOAA review has recently done? A detail white paper that explains the costs, pros and cons of the various Gen III+ & IV designs (both large and modular) and how they could be integrated into the grid, while phasing out fossil generation, at various geographic regions (limited access to water, large cities, rural areas ect.) would make for a nice bookmark.
Additionally, have grid engineers or planners drafted formal plans on how the rejected heat from reactors could be diverted (heating, synfuel production, desalinate water ect.) and integrated in to such a large system build out? Or do such ideas only exist on the back of envelopes of creative energy bloggers?
I’ve a brief write-up on DOE’s U.S. Deep Decarbonization Pathways Report. It actually does quite a bit of what you would like, holding back only on Gen-IV and really deep nuclear penetration: their “High Nuclear” scenario models only 40% nuclear by 2050. But considering the age of our present reactor fleet and the presumed need to double electricity generation, perhaps that was best they reasonably thought we could do. By then.
Someone above has raised the issue of denialism, in the context of Naomi Oreskes’ bizarre claim that supporters of both renewable and nuclear energy are somehow denialist. It is the anti-nuclear movement who is in fact denialist, essentially their behaviour mirrors the denialism of climate-change-denialists, holocaust-deniers, flat-earthers, alien-abduction-believers, Obama-birthers and those who believe Elvis is still alive.
Any denialist idea has its “fake experts” and Mark Jacobson certainly qualifies as a “fake expert”.
But the more easily understood feature of denialism is the CONSPIRACY. Every denialist idea has its Conspiracy Theory which explains the fact that the mainstream evidence does not support the denialist belief. Climate-change-denialists claim that the IPCC reports are the result of a CONSPIRACY, and in a case of “Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” the anti-nukes do exactly the same thing with the Chernobyl Forum.
In my view the anti-nuclear movement is just another wacky conspiracy theory. I have addressed this on page 41 of my submission to the SA Royal Commission. This is another of many ways to attack this deluded and dangerous movement.
I’m the kind of critical thinker who likes to dig to find reasons why organizations take and stubbornly hold positions about certain technologies that are illogical or inconsistent with their expressed core beliefs. In many such situations, key participants and funding sources share common economic interests in slowing the development of a competitive technology.
My musings are often dismissed as “Conspiracy theories.” It’s an accusation that can be difficult to deflect, often because the accuser has no real interest in doing anything other that discrediting me and the tale of connections that I have uncovered.
The consistently funded, skilled propagandists in the antinuclear movement are working for the people who would be harmed by the economic revolution that will happen as society moves its power base from hydrocarbon combustion to actinide fission. Some of the troops in the movement, like the troops in any fighting organization often have no idea what or who they are really fighting for.
They have been effectively inducted and indoctrinated, often by dehumanizing ghost stories that describe anyone who favor nuclear energy as being part of a controlling, wealthy alliance between government and “the nuclear industry.”
Thanks for the reply Rod. I guess there conspiracies and there are conspiracies. The idea that fossil-fuel interests are giving large amounts of money to Mark Jacobson may or may not be true. But it doesn’t require a conspiracy, it only requires them to act in what they see as their own interest. If Jacobson were aware that he was receiving funds in such a manner, and chose to keep it a secret, again, he would be acting in his own interest. It doesn’t require the parties to sit down at the table and actively conspire, but even if it did, it’s plausible because it’s just a handful of individuals.
I do not believe that Jacobson’s recent publication would have been printed if it had been objectively peer-reviewed, and I assume that the reviewers were all doctrinaire anti-nukes, but this doesn’t require an active conspiracy because there is almost certainly a reliable group which can be called upon.
On the other hand, large international collaborations such as the IPCC reports, or the Chernobyl Forum, either represent the consensus view of large numbers of eminent international experts, OR, the report is the consequence of a large conspiracy. This would require a truly massive conspiracy and I cannot imagine such a conspiracy could possibly remain secret.
Given the choice of accepting the scientific consensus behind the Chernobyl Forum or inventing a conspiracy, the anti-nukes will do the latter.
Caldicott The World Health Organization is now part of the conspiracy & the cover-up. This is the biggest medical conspiracy & cover-up in the history of medicine.
Gundersen World governments continue to cover-up the true magnitude of this disaster, and the mainstream media ignores it.
Folkers uncovered a deliberate conspiracy on the part of the government and nuclear industry to intentionally poison the public with radioactive food with the goal of making contaminated food acceptable.
Busby the Japanese government is deliberately spreading radioactive material from Fukushima all over Japan.
I advocate applying Occam’s razor to the 2 alternatives.
1. Caldicott, Gundersen, Folkers and Busby are correct, there is a mass conspiracy in regard to nuclear energy and Rod Adams, Hansen, Caldeira, Emanuel & Wigley, Brook, Bradshaw and 75 others,, I and many others are part of this conspiracy
2. Caldicott, Gundersen, Folkers and Busby are wrong.
While I see your point, it appears that you might be a relatively new reader hear.
There is clear, documented proof that Jacobson is a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute of Energy at Stanford University and that Jay Precourt, the man whose name is on that Institute, made his money in the oil and gas business.
That fact isn’t a secret, but it’s rarely mentioned in the ad-supported media.
The idea that there is no safe dose of radiation is the basis for the very special regulatory treatment applied to nuclear energy. That notion was invented by the Genetics sub committee of the National Academy of Sciences committee on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation during its meetings in 1954-1956. It has been steadily promoted to the public around the world ever since that committee issued its report on June 12, 1956 and that report was published — in full — in the June 13, 1956 issue of the New York Times.
See, for example
In coordination, a similar report was issued on the same day by a similar body in the UK. (For some reason, my site search isn’t responding, but I’ll find and post the like later.)
Do these assertions of a long known “open secret” of cooperation to exaggerate the risk of low dose radiation constitue a wide and deep conspiracy, a case of well-planted propaganda combined with groupthink, or am I simply a nutter in the same category as Busby, Caldicott and Gundersen?
I’ll let others decide.
Nobody is in the same category as Busby.
“Specifically, I’m pondering the Shippingport LWBE as a model for a NuScale derivative.”
I’m not sure what you specifically mean by a NuScale derivative, but a direct comparison of the Shippingport LWBR core to the NuScale LWR core for extending a core life would require wholesale redesign of the NuScale system. It’s not just a matter of changing the FA type/load. The Shippingport LWBR core reactivity was controlled by movable FAs, not control rods. In fact it had no control rods, and was scrammed by dropping the FAs. The NuScale SMR is controlled by movable CRs.
Some of the other advantages of a SMR would potentially apply, but you would be starting at square one on the engineering. However Shippingport actually demonstrated the actual proof of concept of the LWBR core, including its ability to either base load or load follow. So that provides another example of a proven reactor technology that is known to work, but has never been followed up. It’s probably worth a look, but who will do it?
Same thermosiphon cooling, same outside dimensions, same protection systems, similar output power. Essentially, a drop-in replacement NSS system.
Yet Shippingport was switched from one to the other without major changes to the RPV. I suspect that this is much less difficult than some people think it might be, especially given that a business model that assumes mass production will allow some units to be diverted for testing of variant concepts.
Smells like opportunity, doesn’t it?
@mjd and E-P
I’m with E-P on this one. The core is only a small part of what makes NuScale so intriguing to me. As long as an LBWR core can be designed with the same flow characteristics as the current core, the vast majority of the engineering, tooling, etc. should be reusable in a NuScale plant if the current core configuration is replaced by one with movable fuel element controls and a U-233/Th-232 fuel cycle.
The modifications would not be trivial, but they also would not be as extensive as starting at “square one of engineering.”
@ Rod and E-P.
I agree with both of you in concept. And the fact the original Shippingport core was in fact modified AND demonstrated is really note worthy, as we are not talking about a “paper reactor” here, but rather a concept that was actually demonstrated. By “square one” I’m thinking more along the lines of what would have to be done to transition the NuScale work to a Design Certification Submittal of its own that would be acceptable to the NRC. That paperwork alone would likely exceed the actual effort to change the original Shippingport core!
But I have to wonder why no one has picked up on this idea; is there a hidden drawback?
E-P, the way I read that DOE report I sent, that particular core was in fact run to exhaustion, which should answer your earlier question. It doesn’t however answer just how far one might be pushed with a different fuel loading.
A significant advantage the NuScale design has in this scheme is its lack of RCPs, which affected the response time of reactor scram via dropping the movable fuel assemblies. This had to be accounted for by engineering and hardware changes at Shippingport. Probably not necessary in a core with a low delta P, because it has no RCPs.
So, where do we start?
IIUC, it’s not hidden at all; the NRC has never certified thorium as a fuel for commercial reactors. Fort St. Vrain was approved under the AEC.
I have dug down to the relevant sections and that is indeed what it says. My hopes that it could have provided a 6, 8 or 10-year core are utterly dashed; I must content myself with a 4-year core. Woe is… oh, wait, that’s twice what today’s LWR fuel makers are shooting for.
You probably want to give the RPV internals a thorough checkout after 4 years of operation, and I don’t see the overhead in swapping fuel if it’s been taken out anyway.
Beats me, I’m just a double-E with a pile of other courses under my belt and a bunch of experience working with mechanicals, hydraulics and software. But knowing what’s possible is the beginning of engineering.
@mjd and E-P
“Where do we start?”
First of all, we cheer NuScale on so that they continue to make good progress on their current path. None of the improvements we’ve discussed here should distract from the more immediate issue of licensing, building and operating the selected version 1.0.
I don’t think any of us are directly involved in that project, but it appears to be progressing reasonably well and can use all of the friends it can get. Nukes have a habit of nitpicking other nuclear ideas and innovations so much that they help the opposition in its mission of adding sufficient delays and costly “improvements” to force customers to back off due to cost and schedule uncertainty.
Besides, the LBWR concept does not address any near-term “big noise.” Fuel availability is not going to be an issue for a very long time; the waste production per unit of power for version 1.0 of NuScale is going to be as small as current commercial plants. For all of the hype and hand wringing, the quantity of used nuclear fuel is well within our collective ability to manage affordably. Even the NRC has said that fuel pools and dry casks work fine, last a long time.
One more thing – I’m not sure what DOE document you two are referring to, but the program documents that I have indicate that the core was nowhere near its end of life. Operations halted on October 1, 1982 for a variety of reasons, mostly related to Rickover’s retirement. The core had been operated long enough that the post-mortem destructive testing of the fuel assemblies would provide useful results. Unfortunately, that analysis took four years.
The results came soon after interest in nuclear energy innovation received major setbacks in the form of very low fossil fuel prices AND the Chernobyl accident. Coincidentally enough, one of the more important summary reports from Bettis (WAPD-TM-1542 titled Shippingport Operations with the Light Water Breeder Reactor Core LBWR Development Program) is dated March 1986.
I’m not so sure about that. Converting the USA to 100% nuclear electricity would roughly double world uranium demand. If the USA did it, other countries would no doubt follow suit. We need an answer to the Greens who say “there’s only X years of uranium left”. Converting everything to light-water breeders is a pretty good answer; there’s a heaping buttload of thorium out there, and 99+% of it is potentially usable compared to perhaps 1% of uranium in LWRs.
Since I’m not involved in any of that, can I have permission to think 20-50 years ahead? Pretty please?
I think the reprocessing and other dirty words involved would keep the Greens from insisting that NuScale not run until it’s ready to go LWBR.
Here’s what I have from the document (p. 27):
The moveable “seeds” were lowered to reduce reactivity by increasing neutron leakage, so fully up means no reactivity left to add. Operation in equilibrium xenon mode means, IIUC, that the power level cannot be increased because the higher xenon concentration would bring the reactor sub-critical.
If that’s not what it means, do elucidate.
I’m not so sure about that. Converting the USA to 100% nuclear electricity would roughly double world uranium demand.
And what is the timeline required to convert the USA to 100% nuclear electricity? What is the likelihood that would happen using just light water reactors? If that was actually happening, it would indicate a substantial amount of changes had happened. Heck, we might even be opening up uranium mines in Virginia if we were moving towards 100% nuclear.
Feel free to think as far into the future as you wish, but please don’t imply that there is any urgency associated with the uranium fuel supply. Prices of that commodity are at painfully low levels; they were higher in 1974 than they are today. That statement is comparing nominal, not inflation adjusted dollars. ($40 per pound in 1974, ~$31 per pound last week.)
I stand corrected regarding the Shippingport LBWR core end of life for the specific conditions of temperature, pressure and power level. There was some consideration of operating longer by lowering the operating temperature again. It started at 531 ℉, was lowered to 521 ℉, and provisions had been made to allow for it to be lowered to as low as 480 ℉ as an alternative to shutting down the plant at the end of FY1982.
Without a lot more information and access to the core physics model, I cannot hazard a guess about the additional operating time that lowered temperature would have allowed.
The more important question is why would anyone want that to happen? Is there something so wrong with the existing hydroelectric infrastructure that it needs to be replaced entirely? I could ask the same thing about opportunistic co-generation provided by various industries. Would we want that to go away?
The more important question is why would anyone want that to happen? Is there something so wrong with the existing hydroelectric infrastructure that it needs to be replaced entirely? I could ask the same thing about opportunistic co-generation provided by various industries. Would we want that to go away?
You’re nitpicking. Hydro represents about 6-7% of US electricity production each year, cogeneration by industries like paper production provides perhaps 3-4%.
The difference between quantity of uranium needed to completely replace all electricity production NOT provided by those sources and the amount needed for 100% is a rounding error.
Besides, I hope it’s an ever expanding target. Electricity is a terrific product whose uses should be expanding to take over other fuel markets and even to find new uses.
Here’s wild idea – what if someone figured out an effective way to use electricity to keep downtown city streets and sidewalks snow and ice free?
Quite right, it would. It would mean we’d gotten really serious about the matter.
A short timeline doesn’t seem the least bit impractical to me. At the peak, shipyards cranked out 3 Liberty Ships per day. Cranking out 2 NuScale cans per day (about 700 tons each, compared to several times that for a ship) seems rather unambitious. 2 units per day, 95 MW(e) per day, 250 days/year = ~24 GW(e) per year. This would more or less replace the non-nuclear base load generation of the USA in about 10 years and start chewing into the rest. Air emissions of all kinds would drop like a rock.
LWRs are the only thing the NRC is prepared to certify, so anything more exotic wouldn’t arrive until perhaps 2030. If we got serious about small LWRs we ought to be able to get busy by 2020 and have the bulk of the job completed by 2030. Other technologies can take over for non-electric applications and as the LWRs retire.
That sense of seriousness… it’s waiting on 2 things. The pseudo-environmentalists must be discredited to take their anti-nuclearism out of play, and the climate-change deniers ditto to remove the other pier of support for the gas lobby. That will break the dam.
The only urgent thing is to discredit the nay-sayers. A demo which runs twice the core life and produces a core which can’t only be 95% recycled into a new core but fuel part of another would be just about the worst news they could possibly receive.
Rod – No, it’s not nit-picking. These are serious issues.
Even as I write this, “nuclear-heavy” France is generating only 70% of its electricity with nuclear. Meanwhile, it’s generating 12% from hydro and 9% from wind/solar.
Now consider what France has to do to achieve even with this level of generation, which is far from 100%. They have to do a certain amount of load following. They have reactors that they shut down over the weekend when demand is lower. All of this impacts fuel efficiency. You can’t run reactors like this and expect to achieve the same burnups that the US fleet of reactors currently achieves.
Can you quantify the effect on burn-up from the kinds of load following performed in France? It is not something I understand very well. My first approximation is that there would not be much effect at all if the reactors used for varying loads were those in the early part of their refueling cycle, while those nearing an outage would be operated in the more normal “as much output as possible” coastdown modes.
What a waste that would be, converting zero-entropy energy directly to low-grade heat. If space heat is provided by district-level SMRs, use the still-warm water coming from the building radiators to do the de-icing; you have a lot more available BTUs that way.
Imagine the improvement in pavement lifespan if it’s never allowed to freeze.
It’s quite interesting to see that roughly a repeat is developing of the discussions that occurred in Germany two decades ago (during the nineties).
Lazard has been doing whatever it does for a while now. I notice “integration costs” in the list of factors they haven’t bothered trying to model. There’s years of serious research on this at the Potsdam Institute, maybe they should look up Hirth’s crew for the 2016 edition.
The Potsdam institute & Hirth are not taken serious in Germany as they are paid by Vattenfall, the Swedisch (nuclear) utility, which is also one of the four big incumbent utilities in Germany.
Hirth is a full employee of Vattenfall. So his results support the Vattenfal portfolio.
Far better scientific institutes study the Energiewende including the integration of more wind and solar. E.g. Fraunhofer and think tank Agora. Those have quite different results.
Those have important influence on the policy of the Energiewende authorities. Those authorities also commission frequently research assignments.
Angora are cheerleaders for Energiewende. So not surprised you are pointing to them.
I read a recent report of theirs. A lot of what-ifs and best case scenarios for wind and solar. They appear to avoid the issue and effects of the German government reducing subsides. A lot of discussion about wholesale rates while minimizing discussion about high retail rates to consumers
Head in the sand about the long-term effects of subsides indicates to me they are working very hard to justify Energiewende not an objective source. And now that you recommended them I am convinced they are not an objective source of information regarding Energiewende.
Angora and Craig Morris are equivalent in my book. Both are Energiewende cheerleaders who refuse to listen to other viewpoints.
It’s Agora. Not Angora.
Graig Morris is a journalist who reports about the Energiewende.
The Agora think tank involves top (mostly German) scientists to do all kind of studies regarding the best path to realize the targets of the Energiewende.
Often requested by the Energiewende authorities, but also on their own initiative.
Furthermore Agora organizes discussions & conferences around the Energiewende.
Anybody can put forward himself and will then get invitations, etc (I get them too).
“They appear to avoid the issue and effects of the German government reducing subsides.”
Of course, as those reductions are according to the decided (at several conferences) and published scenario of the Energiewende.
E.g. the projected installation rate for solar is 2.5GW/a. But far more was installed in the past. In line with the published schedule, the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) decrease became bigger. If the solar installation rate stays substantial below target, the FiT’s won’t decrease anymore. The installation rate will then recover/increase as solar costs continue to decrease. If the solar installation rate in past 12months is far below target, the FiT’s will increase… Etc.
The FiT’s are kind of subsidy paid from the Energiewende levy. As the costs of wind and solar decrease, it’s widely expected that the Energiewende levy will gradually go down after 2022.
German government (Merkel) promised that the Energiewende levy would stay insignificant. Important as a significant levy may erode the support of the population (now ~90%) for the Energiewende.
Nowadays much (research) money is spent for Power-to-Gas and other (seasonal) storage technologies, as those become important in the 2030 period when renewable share is >60%.
So I don’t see your “Head in the sand about the long-term effects …”?
I stand corrected on the name of the think tank. The official name is: Agora Energiewende.
However, look at that name. It just advertises support for Energiewende. Why not Agora Energy Council or Agora Institute of Energy Policy?
No, they chose a name that speaks to their focus by using a Greek word for a gathering place combined with the name of the transition plan, i.e., an assembly place to discuss the goals required to achieve the Energiewende transition. Their own mission statement states as much: Agora Energiewende develops scientifically based and politically feasible approaches for ensuring the success of the Energiewende. (emphasis is mine)
Not much different than NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute) which is an industry group/think tank supporting nuclear energy or AGA (American Gas Association) which is a lobbying group for the natural gas industry or AWEA which is a lobbying group for the wind industry. When a think tank has the name Energiewende in their name it is a big HINT as to the position they are going to support.
However, to provide some observations to back up my previous post:
Agora Energiewende produced a report in January that is making the rounds in the wind and solar circles. Actually it is a powerpoint slide presentation, so not sure why people are calling it a report.
Key points from the Agora powerpoint presentation:
1. Renewable energies are at a record level.
So Agora starts off with the “good” news. Yea!!! Which is not a surprise considering their focus.
Here I have to admit I am quite surprised at the longevity and depth of this wind and solar penetration. I was on record that this would have imploded some time ago and it has not. I am surprised as are many other individuals who are even more tuned into the data based on what I have read. However, I have seen some indications that things are slowly coming to an end due to the pullback on subsidies which is NOT mentioned in this presentation:
So subsides are going to be cut as more wind capacity is put onto the European grid. I misread this change as I had originally read articles that indicated the subsidies were going to be eliminated, not a plan to scale-back where the subsidies are pulled when new wind capacity exceeds a set cap. Strange pullback. More of a reverse removal of the subsidy, not an elimination. So by maintaining a cap of 2.6 GW of wind installations per year, then the German citizens will still be paying the fees, at least up until 2020.
However, the article does indicate that solar experienced a severe reduction due to the changes in the EEC. Not a surprise since there is a growing body of evidence supporting the position that many of us have said here, which is that wind and solar live and die by the subsidy gravy train. One just needs to look at what occurred in Spain.
Or the claims from AWEA every time their gravy train is threatened:
How many more decades are we, the taxpayers here in the US, going to be forced to prop up wind power? Never mind… rhetorical question.
2. Coal power exports have reached an all-time high.
Say what? When did increasing the amount of coal exports to other countries become a goal of Energiewende? Wasn’t the goal of Energiewende to first shut down nuclear power plants then the goal morphed into reducing CO2 emissions? So how is trumpeting and applauding higher coal exports a good thing? Enough said on this PR spin of a talking point.
3. The decarbonisation of the energy system is stagnating.
Oops…major goal of Energiewende is not being met. And while it is point #3 on the list indicating Agora is working to be truthful, it is still lower on the list then high renewable output and coal exports. Strange place to discuss this key point if the goal of Energiewende was to reduce CO2 emissions. This would seem to be a fail in my book since coal power has been relatively constant for several years while renewables were hitting all-time highs.
So if the revised metric for measuring the success of the Energiewende transition was to reduce CO2 emissions except over 10 years later emissions are stagnating, it then would be appear something isn’t working with the transition plan. Could just be me though……
4. The market power price remains in free-fall.
Um yeah, not a good thing long-term which is maybe why Agora listed this one last. Sounds good to some but for long term infrastructure upkeep, not so good. Nor are the negative wholesale prices reflected in the bank accounts of the people who are paying for the transition, i.e., the German citizens.
Not an economist but if the paid price of a delivered good is below its total cost of production, then how long can that system survive without additional intervention?
How long until the companies running the German T&D backbone come to the Bundestag asking for money to repair T&D infrastructure? Or another question, could the new T&D infrastructure that is required to transmit off-shore wind power from the North Sea to the southern regions of Germany have been self-funded if wholesale power prices were not so low?
A point buried in the presentation:
While the federal government’s energy concept envisions a decline in power usage of 10 percent by 2020 over 2008, usage was only down 3.4 percent in 2015.
Quite a ways to go in less than five years since it took 7 years to decrease usage by 3.4%. Somehow the German citizens had better find a way to lower their consumption by another 7% to meet that artificial goal imposed on them by their government. Will Germany impose blackouts as did China in order to meet the efficiency numbers?
Several items missing from Agora’s key points:
1. Second highest retail electricity prices behind Denmark.
I would expect nothing less from a Energiewende cheerleader then to leave out the economic impact to the very people who are paying for the transition. The other option for Agora would have been spin the retail price issue by suggesting that German citizens are doing their duty to protect the Earth by paying higher retail prices.
2. Forcing power surges onto neighboring countries when wind and solar are producing more than needed within the German borders.
Ok not quite missing from the presentation since Agora spins this one by saying German power exports to their neighbors are at an all-time high because of those low, low, low wholesale prices. That’s the way, turn a long-term negative into a short-term positive. Agora is earning their paycheck with that spin. Subsidies are forcing overbuilding such that wholesale prices are now so low that utilities in neighboring countries are feeling the economic pain, but no money from the Bundestag is flowing to those utilities.
But hey Agora wraps up their spiffy presentation by saying this plan is at an all-time high in the area of public support. For some reason every time I hear how popular Energiewende is with the Germany citizens as proof the transition is working, I am reminded of that metaphor of the frog in hot water. Frog doesn’t realize it is boiling until too late.
Final point to make on this post since I have gone incredibly long (and thank you to those who have made it this far):
Agora’s outlook for 2016 closes with this statement: Despite the decline in market power prices, household power prices are likely to rise slightly due to higher levies and fees, nearing the 2014 level.
Gotta admire their truthfulness but ….. Ouch, that’s going to hurt the wallet.
“So subsides are going to be cut as more wind capacity is put onto the European grid.
When the targets can be reached with lower FiT’s or other means (auctions) government is “obliged” to do that, so the Energiewnede levy can be lowered and/or more money for new developments such as the subsidized home battery program, Power-to-Gas, etc.
And wind surpassed the targets last year greatly!
When you drill down into their archive then you see that the idea of auctions (to lower the costs) was discussed at Agora long ago.
After the unexpected solar boom in 2010-2012 due to cost decrease, the FiT is adjusted every 3 months based on the installation rate of past 12 months. So a repeat is nearly impossible (the solar boom created the situation that owners of PV-solar make great profits because they have FiT’s which are too high. So citizens money is spent unnecessary. Minister Altmaier’s slow reaction to the boom did cost him the job).
German citizens will continue to pay an Energiewende levy (now 6cnt/KWh, will go down after 2022) for at least the next 20years. But it will stay insignificant for German citizens, as agreed by all parties (though English journals cry about the absurd high level). Also becasue the targeted transition speed won’t decrease. Renewable yearly increase target will stay 1.5% of total consumption. There is only some chance that they increase that target.
Solar is at a long term target of 2.5GW/a. So due to the automatic FiT adaptation mechanism the installation rate will return to that level.
I don’t think that more coal power is applauded. The Germans want to end that too after finishing nuclear first, as they consider nuclear to be far more dangerous.
– The prime goal of the Energiewende was and is to end all nuclear.
– Second goal is to democratize (electric) energy (~50% of renewable is owned by citizens).
– Third goal is 100% renewable, or >80% in 2050 as stated in present law.
– Fourth goal is reducing CO2. There is debate to give that higher priority, but Gabriel refuses stating that the present Energiewende is already so expensive.
Nobody dares to change the speed of all nuclear out after the disastrous defeat of FDP (who suggest a lower speed) in last elections.
Power prices are expected to continue to decrease until ~2.5cent/Kwh.
So the biggest utilities (RWE, E.ON) are now trying to get rid of their classic central power plants.
Also because new developments, such as distributed virtual power plants made with many (thousands) small renewable generators, indicate that the price may not recover as the cost price of those plants is very low (Sonnenbatterie is one of the leading companies).
Note that Agora study (executed by Fraunhofer a.o.) predicted that the un-subsidized cost price of PV-solar will be 2-3cent/KWh in 2050…
So how can a ‘normal’ power plant survive as the price decreases for storage are similar (~10%/a)?
Note that the grid is fully separated off from utilities. So power supply is not in danger, also due to regulations.
Utilities can (and did) brake down. Germany’s biggest utilities made big losses last years. Also because consumers now prefer to buy electricity from 100% renewable utilities. Sure not from utilities that operate NPP’s, so the utilities offered all NPP’s for free to government (offer flatly refused).
As with car fuel, consumer power prices are mainly taxes here in NW-EU. We in NL pay ~22cnt/KWh without Energiewende.
The average German household (while they pay 28-29cnt/KWh) spends a lower % of its income for electricity than the av. US household!
Household electricity prices decreased past year as the Energiewende levy went down. Now it’s rising slightly.
Support by the population, the most critical success factor, has to continue for at least the next 35years (when 80% renewable is reached). So they ask themselves always how the population will think about measures.
Also because the Energiewende movement was initiated by the population (farmers, and well educated citizens of Freiburg).
Because it occasionally amuses me to engage with someone whose positions are so fundamentally inconsistent, I’ll endure your absurdly long comments — and the often longer comments required to respond to each ill-conceived point — for a little while longer.
Buried in the above is a gem.
Renewable yearly increase target will stay 1.5% of total consumption. There is only some chance that they increase that target.
Have the Energiwende fans computed how long it is going to take at that rate to provide enough renewable energy to make up for the 90 TW-hrs per year that nuclear continues to provide and still make a significant reduction in the 275 TW-hrs produced each year by burning coal?
Do they make it clear to the public that the transition is both costly and ineffective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
Thank you, for the opportunity to post my comments!
Sorry for the length of my comment, but Bill made a careful comment, so I felt obliged to react to his points.
Compensate renewable additions the nuclear decrease?
I calculated that ~ a year ago.
Taken over the period of 2014 – end 2022 (when all nuclear is off) renewable additions are slightly more (~20-30%) than nuclear decrease. Though the balance will be negative in some years (e.g. 2022), when several NPP’s are closed in a year.
The cost (~6cent/KWh) are considered to be insignificant by most of the population. There was some worry when it grew fast from 3 towards 6 cent a few years ago.
But that was stopped when Merkel promised that the costs wouldn’t increase much anymore, and decrease after ~2022.
She could do that as Agora study showed it.
Recently Gabriel stated somewhat exaggerated costs as an argument to defend against green pressure to add also a program to move coal out, which would increase the cost of the Energiewende (all nuclear out asap is above any discussion since last elections).
English journals used that, to portray the Energiewende as extremely expensive.
Energiewende effective for GHG emission reduction?
The convincing idea is that near 100% renewable implies almost no new GHG emissions. As there is little doubt that near 100% renewable will be reached, the discussion concerns only the question whether the reduction is fast enough.
Partly due to the weather and the booming German economy, the CO2 emissions do not reduce in recent years.
As most GHG is generated by non-electricity related things (transport, heating, etc). Merkel started recently a program to increase building isolation, etc. As she wants to reach the 40% reduction in 2020 compared to 1990 Kyoto level.
I estimate that Germany will end at ~36% reduction in 2020, which is still more than two times better than UK and France (and 3-4 times better than Netherlands).
Please do us all a favor – stop providing your guesses in percent. Your shifting baselines make them meaningless. How many terawatt hours will wind an solar provide to grid in 2022? Will those come at the desired time or at the whim of the weather?
It might also be helpful if you drop the fiction that burning biomass (carbohydrate combustion) is magically CO2 free. That’s chemically impossible.
You are a one-man lügenpreße. Even if Germany reduced its per-capita emissions by 36% from its 2011-2015 average, it would still be emitting 10% more per capita (5.7 tons) than France (5.2 tons). Further, Germany’s emissions figures don’t include the old-growth forests burned up and spewed into the atmosphere, to reside for tens or hundreds of years before re-uptake.
Had Germany kept its nuclear plants running it would have a chance to rival France in absolute terms. (For that matter, had Germany not counted E. Germany’s emissions in its baseline it never could have met its Kyoto targets.)
Germany would indeed have far less CO2 emissions if:
1. they kept all nuclear up and running;
2. they would have started same Energiewende.
But all nuclear out was by far the main motive of the hot debate in the nineties, and to develop the Energiewende scenario.
So your scenario wouldn’t have become reality.
The priorities of the Energiewende in order of importance:
1. all nuclear out;
2. democratize (electric) energy
3. generation only with renewable (in the law >80% renewable in 2050)
4. less GHG
~80MW wind+solar provided ~124TWh in 2015
In 2022 ~120MW of wind+solar will provide ~180TWh.
Burning biomass is of course not CO2 free. But the Kyoto climate conference concluded that, taking the whole life cycle of biomass into account, it’s renewable / CO2 free.
So unless a next global climate conference declares otherwise, it will stay classified as renewable / CO2 free.
Btw The increase of biomass is reduced to 100MW/a in Germany. So ~2% of wind+solar increase which is >5GW/a.
#4 is the only goal that matters to the planet, and should be #1. #2 is silly and costly. #3 is impossible with any quality of service, and #1 makes #4 impossible except trivially; there is no end in sight to lignite consumption.
So far as 2050-2100 CO2 concentrations go, it’s no better than fossil. Replacing the fixed carbon in centuries-old forests will take centuries, and the lower NPP of the new growth starts hurting immediately. Then there is the dramatic loss in biodiversity due to clearcuts….
These are reasons why Greens should be considered environmental criminals.
Agree lignite will last long as the cost-price is very low.
As Rod stated below:”It’s not the slam-dunk “gas is greener”…”, especially since German utilities are moving old lignite power plants out.
Closing lignite plants against the will of the owner is impossible. EU rules forbid that.
There is broad agreement that nuclear is far more dangerous. While >1000miles away Germans experience(d) health effects of Chernobyl.
#2 became important as utilities ignored population’s opinion in last century. That created also EWS, etc.
#3 Experience shows that 100% renewable deliver reliable electricity.
No “centuries-old forests”, but trees from production forests; ~20-40 years old.
While >1000miles away Germans experience(d) health effects of Chernobyl.
Baloney, otherwise known as a bald faced lie. Do it again and you’ll be banned — again.
Your comment regarding on what is the correct order of priorities is dead-on. Phase out of nuclear should not be #1. The overall health of the planet is the issue.
First, after reading your comments in reply to mine, I stand by my assessment of the Agora presentation. You have provided a number of estimations. I heard a number of estimations years ago. Data is finally catching up with those prognostications and it isn’t looking good for the goals other then elimination of nuclear power. Once Merkel retires, question is if the policy will be able to continue. Have no idea, just speculation on my part.
Secondly, where is there experience with 100% renewable energy? No industrialized or non-industrialized country is fully dependent on renewables. There are places that are heavily reliant on wind and solar with hydro with outside grid connections as a backup but there are no countries 100% reliant on WWS.
Even the wikipedia entry above, which appears to have be written by adoring fans of Jacobson and Lovins, doesn’t claim any country is 100% renewables unless “biorenewables are included.
However, I do not count “biorenewables” in the renewable energy category. The timeline is too long for reproduction of the native trees or foliage that were originally harvested. The timeline is being shortened by to several decades through changes to which types of trees or crops are being grown. This is potentially not a good thing long-term and is just another way that humans are experimenting with the biosphere.
Years ago the very groups who are now advocating “biorenweables” were against the mega-farm complexes. Somehow though those people are now okay with mega-farms that produce crops for burning. That is just a crazy position to hold. They don’t like crops for food or GMO crops but they are okay with crops for burning which requires a human induced reduction in biodiversity to meet human needs. Crazy flip-flop of position.
Which is another way of my bringing this back to the topic at hand which is that Jacobson’s position of 100% WWS will not work without fossil fuels as a backup.
Thanks for your comment!
As population support and support for the Energiewende in parliament is overwhelming, I estimate that the successors of Merkel will continue.
Time will learn.
With the wind+solar expansion path (>5GW/a) the capacity of wind+solar will be >260GW in 2050 (Germany will consume ~60GW on av. in 2050).
To handle the then frequent overproduction major “Power-to-Gas/fuel” plants are in development (~30 pilots at MW scale using different technologies already).
Assume that you do count bio-fuel/gas made by “Power-to-Gas” plants as renewable if the power comes from wind+solar.
You’re assuming that the Energiewende is not publicly recognized as a devastatingly expensive failure. Or perhaps the government just keeps the public occupied with more immediate threats, like invading rape gangs invited by Mutti Merkel herself. I wouldn’t be surprised if that little mistake leads quite directly to her enjoying a retirement like a certain Italian pol named Benito and some folks named Ceaucescu. Her successors are unlikely to want to be associated with any of her policies.
With the lifespan of wind farms being perhaps 20 years, 5 GW/a construction rate tops out at about 100 GW. Suppose you can install 100 GW of PV. At 11% capacity factor, you only average 11 GW; if you have to store 80% of your power at 50% round-trip efficiency (not out of the question, given seasonal imbalances), that drops to 6.6 GW.
Nuclear power looks pretty good when its competition is renewables+storage at costs on the order of €15 per average watt.
Wind turbines are simple machines. Especially the new direct drive wind turbines. Those have no gearbox (the part most subject to wear).
For the Danish wind turbines think in the range of 100years. Replacement occurred only for economic reasons; more profit if an old 100KW wind turbine is replaced by a 5MW (except few production misfits).
Even offshore wind turbines. The first offshore wind park started in Denmark in 1991. Now, after 25years, all wind turbines continue to operate. No date at which they are expected to fail/stop.
I know that those (especially old ones) in USA are more vulnerable and have a much shorter lifespan. The rumor is that those were designed by university people without input from farmers which have long practical experience with wind turbines.
Lincs offshore wind farm: turbines and electrical gear replaced after 20 years, complete farm decommissioned after 40 years.
Siemens turbines: design lifespan just 25 years.
Historic performance of UK wind farms much shorter than the specified lifespan (Denmark much better but far from 100 years).
In truth, the Vindeby wind farm is scheduled to be dismantled.
Such BS has no place anywhere, and I can’t wait until Rod bans your incorrigible self permanently.
Your first link refers to a new offshore wind farm in UK with expected lifespan of 40years.
That, as well as the design lifespan, tell little about the real lifespan.
The NPP in NL had a design and expected lifespan of 30years and is now expected to run 60years.
The Telegraph article in your third link states:
“…routine wear and tear will more than double the cost of electricity being produced by wind farms in the next decade.”
but doesn’t explain that it will not affect citizens as the owners cannot increase the price of produced electricity due to the auction rules.
Regarding Vindeby: Sorry!
I got the, apparently obsolete, info from Siemens (though no decommission date yet; and they still do run all).
Agree that a single modern wind turbine produces more than this 25years old wind farm.
On page 41 of the above Agora document the graph shows Germany’s electricity CO2 emissions reducing just marginally from 326M tonnes to 313M tonnes in 2015 despite installing an impressive 80GW of renewable energy generation in 15 years.
And also in 2015 electricity production was 647TWh (see page 13) calculating as CO2 emissions of 484g/kWh.
By comparison in just 20 years France made almost a complete transition from fossil carbon to nuclear by installing 63GW of nuclear reactors and today French CO2 emissions are just 44g/kWh.
Another CO2 emissions reduction success story is the State of Ontario which has phased out its last coal burning power station and now uses mainly nuclear and hydro and has electricity CO2 emissions also of just 44g/kWh in 2015.
Hansen continually warns that we must reduce our reliance on coal for electricity and heat as this is the largest source of global CO2 emissions. In the attached paper he discusses energy misconceptions and the need to use nuclear power to mitigate emissions (see pages 10 to 14).
The bottom line from Hansen is that the known risks of climate change are much greater than the perceived risks of nuclear.
As you can see at sheet 26-28 of the PPT you linked, Germany’s net export is now substantial more (8% of production). When you compensate for that, the CO2 decrease is higher.
France has a warmer climate, so doesn’t need to heat much, etc.
Note also that France made a reversal.
The new law, installed last autumn, targets a reduction of nuclear from 75% share now towards 50% in 2025. A transition of 2.5%/a which is much faster than the German Energiewende which targets 1.5%/a.
So I doubt whether they will succeed.
The scenario studies of Ademe contributed to that reversal. One of their reports shows that the cheapest scenario for 2050 would be 80% renewable.
Production from unreliable generators does not translate 1:1 to emissions cuts from other generators. The experience of Ireland at 17% penetration is that the reduction is a bit over half, and obviously falls as the unreliable fraction increases.
When a coal-fired base load plant is replaced by nuclear, the emissions reduction is 100%.
@ Bas Gresnigt
Regarding your assertion, in reply to E-P on March 8: “No ‘centuries-old forests’, but trees from production forests; ~20-40 years old.”
You seem to have a Eurocentric perspective on that matter.
Below, please find part of a story that appeared on April 16, 2015 in “Climate Progress”:
In late March, a loosely affiliated coalition of southerners gathered outside of the British Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia with an unusual concern: wood pellets. The group, primarily made up of outdoors enthusiasts and conservationists, had traveled from multiple states to British Consul General Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford’s doorstep. Chief on their minds was the rapidly increasing use of the pellets, a form of woody biomass harvested from forests throughout the southeastern U.S. and burned for renewable electricity in Europe. According to the group, what started as a minor section of Europe’s renewable energy law has now burgeoned into a major climate and environmental headache.
“We were trying to elevate the profile of what exactly is going on on the ground here in the U.S.,” Shelby White, who helped organize the event, told ThinkProgress. “And also how it conflicts with the intentions of the policies that are driving the massive explosion of the industry.”
White said that the surge in demand fueled by Europe has caused “the clearcutting of wetlands and bottomlands on a massive scale,” and that Georgia now finds itself in the crosshairs of the industry.
I don’t think policymakers were able to see in advance that this would drive the entire destruction of Southeastern forests for wood pellets.
The expansive forests of the Carolinas, Georgia, and other nearby states have survived many human threats over the last few centuries, but the latest is one of the most unexpected. The rapid growth of Europe’s biomass industry, driven by the region’s renewable energy targets, is chipping away at southeastern forests.
It’s not just the southeast where pelletizing wood for “renewable” energy is chipping away at the forest.
This is purely anecdotal, but I met a guy at the TMI 35 year commemoration held at Dartmouth in 2014. He entered the timber business after leaving the Navy. He told me that the market was becoming depressing. If he comes to town with a load of prime hardwood, he can sell it to a lumber mill for $800 and that mill will produce materials that can be turned into furniture, flooring, etc. He can also sell it to the pellet factory for use as fuel in wood stoves and certain power plants. That factory was paying $1000 for the same truckload.
What’s depressing is how much of the $1000 price is the result of government subsidies of one kind or another.
At last revision of the Energiewende the expansion of biomass (wood+waste) was curtailed a factor 10 or so (to 100MW/a).
Let’s hope that next revision conference (2017/18) will decide towards zero expansion. And the conference thereafter towards a substantial decrease of biomass.
Good chance as biomass is more expensive than wind+solar+storage (incl. long term storage via P2G for e.g. harsh winters).
“He can also sell it to the pellet factory for use as fuel in wood stoves and certain power plants. That factory was paying $1000 for the same truckload”
Its not just biofuel usage that gobbles up our forests. In the mid eighties, in N. Idaho, pulp mills were paying more for prime White Pine than the stud mills were. When construction is down, so too, of course, is lumber. But the loggers need to keep logging, so the timber simply goes to the highest bidder. Its called “business”.
Hmmm . . . I don’t recall a federal subsidy in the mid eighties for paper production. So, yeah — that WAS simply a matter of business.
on the more general debate about the most cost ant time efficient way to reduce the worlds carbon footprint would surely be re-powering existing coal plants with nuclear. Gas cooled, liquid metal and molten salt reactors would be very well suited to this due to their steam conditons being similar to conventional coal. the advantages would be significant and are as follows:
Ancilliary buildings, rail rad and port links well established with no additional infrastructure needed
Transmission lines and grid connection established
Power conversion machinery and buildings already constructed
Existing revenue supply whilst nuclear island is being built reducing financial risk
cooling water extraction permits and infrastructure already in place
Is there a reason why reactor vendors are not chasing this market with looming coal plant closures for emission reasons only? From a pure capital cost viewpoint surly repowering a coal plant with nuclear would be cheaper than building a whole new power plant (even fossil fuel plant) to replace the coal plant. Modular reactors would be well suited as the coal plant could be repowered in stages.
only nuclear island to be built (50% or greater cost reduction already)
Most coal plants that are retiring are on their last legs. One is not going to simply plug into the existing turbine and run it for 60 years (not to mention that old turbine is likely behind the times on design/efficiency). Furthermore, doing a pile of design work to fit to every different BoP, including controls work, coupled seismic, hazard analysis etc is not a winning proposition. It’s cheaper to tear it all down and start from scratch.
You’ve accurately described the US situation.
China, on the other hand, has hundreds of almost new coal plants with modern, standardized steam plants. They also have a demonstration plant called HTR-PM that will be starting before the end of next year. It will show how well HTR modules can replace the function of coal furnaces and associated boilers.
The aforementioned Lazard 9.0 report obtains its favorable CO2 avoidance cost for wind by assuming wind generation can directly displace coal generation — specifically super-critical pulverized coal. Such plants do exist; we completed a brand new one just six years ago here in Colorado. But do you know how many such plants exist worldwide, and whether India and China coal power utilizes supercritical pulverized technology?
Why the push to get rid of the USC coal? I hear the latest generation has CO2 emission in the same range as the best NG CCTG.
My understanding is that USC coal hits 45% efficiency LHV, while CCGT tops 60% with a fuel that’s less carbon-intensive to start with. Coal can’t get close without carbon capture.
If fugitive methane and transportation CO2 (especially LNG delivered methane) are included, the winner in the coal vs gas comparison becomes more location dependent. It’s not the slam-dunk “gas is greener” that the McClendon et. al.–sponsored propaganda claims.
The World Resources Institute article on fugitive methane emissions estimates that if the quantity of methane released in fugitive emissions exceeds three percent of total natural gas production, it fully negates the climate advantage of NG vs. coal over a 20-year timeline. The 20-year timeline is important because the is the span over which methane in the atmosphere does about 70 times more damage than an equivalent amount of CO2.
PNAS had an article that looked at the issue of fugitive emissions from vehicles as a result of fuel-switching and the conclusions were that from an environmental viewpoint it was pretty much a wash when NG leakage was matched against diesel combustion. I always wondered about that. In my town the city buses were switched from diesel to compressed NG some time ago. I always smell a gas odor when I’m trapped behind one. I read in the local papers that it cost something like $100,000 for an EPA-certified shop to do the mechanical work to switch a bus from diesel to CNG. But the switch was made purely from a cost viewpoint. Diesel was running close to $4/gallon and an equivalent amount of CNG to get the same mileage was about 80 cents.
Good points Cory,
On the other hand, the grid is already designed for a node at that location. It would not take much to upgrade the power lines. A major cost of integrating large amounts of renewables is the creation of new power lines to insert new nodes into an existing grid (especially DC lines).
You also have a brown field that can be put to good use, and likely a source of coolant water hat was already being used.
“Is there a reason why reactor vendors are not chasing this market with looming coal plant closures for emission reasons only?”
About 6 miles away from where I am living, they are shutting down the local coal plant and installing a natural gas fired facility. I’ve seen the steel rising. The low price of natural gas, the lessened regulatory structure to natural gas plants, the lower capital cost and the small labor force to operate natural gas plants has been discussed on this site before. Natural gas is not emissions free, but is known as a very clean burning fuel.
How would you sell a small nuclear facility to the public in lieu of a natural gas facility? Diversification of energy sources is a strong argument that I would accept. The recent rises in gasoline prices hints to me that the price of natural gas will follow and this will mean higher operating costs for these many new facilities. It will be a tough sell to hard nosed customers that have been brain washed for years into accepting the free market as a holy grail.
Keep in mind that despite the undisputed fact that any gas plant will murder and sicken hundreds of its neighours every year it is in operation, it requires only a few months to obtain the permits from the local politicians A nuke plant replacing a filthy deadly coal plant will require in the order of ten years, despite the fact that that nuke power has never hurt a soul.
In regulated markets the dirt cheap air pollution spewing monstrosity, routinely gets approval to pass on any fuel cost increases without issue to its customers.
Shows you what Big Oil money can buy.
My concern is that the average consumer tends to think along a short timeline. For electricity, it is the monthly bill. If they see a cheaper price that is immediately available (e.g., natural gas plant) they will go for that over a long-term consideration (stable prices from a nuke plant) or even more arcane (for the average consumer) arguments, like capacity factors, grid reliability, and fuel supply diversification. Those things will only become salient in the public mind in the event of catastrophe (i.e., interrupted service). The fossil industry understands and exploits this. They are overproducing their product at the risk of short-term losses for the opportunity to drive competitors out of business, after which they will have a free hand to manipulate prices even more to their advantage. Just look at the situation in New England and New York State. The gas suppliers have exploited this tendency, and found allies in political figures who further their own political ambitions by driving nuclear plants out of the region with lawsuits, harassment, regulatory ploys, and targeted tax increases. Throw in temporarily low gas prices and it is little wonder that the nuclear plants are falling like dominoes.
This chicanery on the part of the gas interests is only possible though because the NRC has mad it impossible to mothball a nuclear power plant.
I wouldn’t call it the NRC’s fault. There have been nuclear plants “mothballed” and later restored to service, both after operating and after a long hiatus during initial construction. The process exists, but the key is that the owner has to maintain the operating license. There is a certain amount of cost associated with that requirement, but it’s actually pretty cheap given the “optionality” it provides.
My prediction is that we will not see any early nuclear plant retirements in traditional, rate-regulated, vertically integrated electric utility markets. Even if the utility owner decided they needed to shut down a facility they would not immediately move to decommission it.
It’s my current belief that there are just too many incentives in the differently regulated markets that reward plant owners for permanently closing selected nuclear plants. Those incentives fall into a pattern that seems purposely aimed at creating ever higher retail electricity prices and increased rewards for suppliers of unreliable or natural gas fired wholesale power.
Meredith Angwin has recently been writing some insightful articles about what she calls the The Oddness at the Heart of RTO. I highly recommend reading them.
See also ‘Pay for Performance’ and the US grid.
I found this brief article this morning.
It says the natural gas rig count has fallen to a record low. When they make money, they drill. Looks like the price is down too low to make money. Then they don’t look for gas, the supply goes down and the price goes up. Seems like much industry is shifting to natural gas, even big trucks. Hmmmm,……bigger demand and lower supply.
This normally means one thing unless you are dealing with the bizarre German energy economics I’ve been reading about on this site.
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