Amory Lovins – that “Oxford educated physicist” – continues to confuse me with his mathematical manipulations. (If you want to understand the reasons for the quotes around the description, see Amory Lovins’s Academic Career.)
According to an October 22nd article in the Toronto Star titled Lovins Q&A , Lovins has claimed that 16 percent is four times as much as 16 percent. Here is the quote:
But more interesting is market share — micropower provided a sixth of the world’s total electricity last year. Micropower last year provided 32 per cent of the world’s new electricity and 16 per cent of the world’s total electricity; nuclear last year provided respectively 8 per cent of the new and 16 per cent of the total. In terms of electricity generated, micropower last year had four times nuclear’s market share, and it added 11-times as much capacity as nuclear, or 8 times as much if you don’t count standby and peaking units, but you should.
That kind of statement makes my head hurt.
According to Lovins “micropower” is the second best type of power. His favorite source of power is no power at all – something he has called “negawatts”, which is the power freed up by conservation. Here are the boundaries of “micropower” according to Lovins:
There are two kinds of micropower. One is co-gen and combined heat and power. That was about two-thirds of the new capacity and three-quarters of the new electricity last year. The rest was distributed or decentralized renewables, which was a $38 billion U.S. global market last year for selling equipment. That’s wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro and biomass.
Reluctantly, Lovins admits that almost all co-gen and combined heat and power plants are fueled by fossil fuels, mostly natural gas, but he waves his hands mightily with math again to “prove” that these plants are actually reduce carbon emissions. (Aside: If you are curious and like numbers, you can use the above figures plus a comment made earlier in the article that the total capacity of “micropower” built last year was 41 GW to determine that the average capital (equipment) cost of “wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro and biomass” is about $2,790 per kilowatt. Hmmm!)
Lovins makes a big deal about the choices made by investors and makes the following statement about nuclear investments. “I can’t find a single new nuclear project on earth that has a penny of private capital at risk.” I personally have a lot more than a penny at risk in new nuclear projects, and it sure seems like companies like Toshiba, BWXT, Shaw, MHI, and Thorium Power have put a good deal of money behind their projects. Perhaps Lovins is simply not looking to find those private dollars in nuclear power.
Once again, Lovins has proven to me that he is a fan of the fossil fuel industry, that he thinks that private capitalists always make choices that are in the best long term interest of their customers, and that he believes that turning off a water heater in a situation where you do not notice it actually saves energy.
(Think about that. Your water heater is an insulated tank with a thermostatically controlled heater element. If you are not using hot water, the tank will reach the desired temperature and the thermostat will turn off the heat. The temperature will slowly drift down until it gets cool enough to cause the heater to kick in. If you use hot water, that cooling will happen a lot more rapidly. If you actually turn off the power for 15 minutes or so when you are not using hot water, you will probably never notice the difference. In contrast, if you turn off the power when you are using hot water and want to take the second or third shower of the morning, you will definitely notice the difference. Of course, if you turn off the power when the thermostat has already turned off the heaters, you will NOT SAVE ANY ENERGY either.)