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A Common Goal for All Sustainability Advocates

Highlights:

  • Continued wind/solar/BEV technology-forcing is the best possible outcome for fossil fuel interests in the 21st  century.
  • These green technologies cannot reduce total fossil fuel consumption at this time when most of the global economy is yet to be built.
  • In addition, technology-forcing has a large divisive influence, hampering the effectiveness of the sustainability movement.
  • Technology-neutral policies internalizing externalities is the only viable method to reduce unabated fossil fuel combustion, while meeting the economic development needs of 5 billion (and counting) developing world citizens.
  • Establishing such policies is a truly worthwhile goal for all sustainability advocates.

Introduction

The two previous articles outlined the dangers of current technology-forcing of wind/solar power and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and discussed the wide range of available alternatives that will flourish under more intelligent technology-neutral policies. Even so, technology-forcing policies have already redirected trillions of dollars against natural market forces, while technology-neutral policies are still struggling to get off the ground.

The world has committed over $3 trillion to wind and solar technology-forcing (source). Additional indirect subsidies such as artificially low interest rates, underutilization of dispatchable plants and large transmission buildouts should be of a similar magnitude.

This article is a call to all sustainability advocates to work together towards a common goal instead of perpetuating stalemated arguments about preferred technologies (e.g. wind/solar vs. nuclear). Consistent advocacy for technology neutrality combined with strong opposition to any kind of technology-forcing is a much more productive use of the time and initiative of sustainability advocates. This article will strive to clearly justify this statement.

Technology-forcing is great for fossil fuels

If I was the CEO of a fossil fuel company today, I’d be very happy with the current policy landscape. Everyone knows that fossil fuel use must start declining in the medium-term future, but wind/solar/BEV technology-forcing policies will ensure that this inevitable decline is delayed as long as possible.

As an example, current BEV technology-forcing policies in the US cover the entire cost of a Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model 3 battery pack. As a result, about 0.1% of passenger cars are now BEVs, displacing about 0.03% of oil consumption. But the very low US gasoline taxes (lack of technology-neutral policies) means that the recent oil price crash caused a large relative reduction in gasoline prices, prompting people to buy large trucks and SUVs and drive more. As a result, US oil consumption has jumped a full 5% since the oil price crash, dwarfing the small reduction from BEV technology-forcing.

Indeed, after a single year of pain in a golden decade for oil & gas companies, the fossil fuel profit machine is again leaving clean energy companies behind. As shown below, the billions in profits from the two largest US oil & gas companies is matched only by the similarly large losses from prominent US clean energy players, both of which have benefited enormously from over a decade of strong technology-forcing policies and very generous capital markets.

While green advocates celebrated solar PV’s first 100 GW year, fossil fuels quietly accounted for 70% of energy growth in 2017. Oil and gas both made significant gains, with even much maligned coal registering a significant uptick. Over the next decade or two, even a full commitment to all clean technology-forcing plans will not stop fossil fuel growth, leading to rapidly widening emissions gaps.

Illustration of rapidly growing emission gaps (source).

No amount of technology-forcing can change the fact that fossil fuels are perfect for industrialization (simple, low up-front costs, and directly applicable to all sectors of the economy), or that most of the world still needs to industrialize. No amount of technology-forcing will change the fact that some OPEC nations make 500% operating profit at a moderate oil price of $60/bbl.

And no amount of technology-forcing will change our wasteful and unhealthy consumerist culture. (In fact, a significant part of the appeal of companies like Tesla is the false promise that exponential material consumption growth can continue uninterrupted without fossil fuels, that excessive consumption can be guilt-free.)

Displacing unabated fossil fuel combustion at the rate recommended by climate science will require the absolute maximum out of every one of the sustainable development pathways discussed in the previous article. And this can only be done through technology-neutral policies.

Technology-forcing is a great distraction

If humans were rational creatures, we would have had technology-neutral policies addressing all major externalized costs long ago. Almost everyone agrees that such policies are the most efficient way to address undesired effects that are not directly accounted for in current price signals. In addition, the scientific literature has already quantified these externalized costs to a sufficient degree of accuracy to initiate meaningful policies.

Unfortunately, most sustainability advocates are totally distracted by the emotionally charged wind/solar power and BEV growth story. They spend a lot of time and effort tracking every new deployment, building 100% renewable energy scenarios, campaigning for continued or even stronger technology-forcing policies, and arguing how much better these technologies are than dirty fossil fuels or dangerous and expensive nuclear. In other words, an enormous amount of effort and initiative is being invested in promoting one sustainability pathway over all others.

As outlined in the previous section, fossil fuel interests simply need to sit back and allow these sustainability advocates to do their work for them. Since the rate and extent of wind/solar/BEV growth is fundamentally limited and the majority of the global economy is yet to be built, these trends offer no material threat.

Technology-neutral policy and the wide range of sustainable development trends it will unleash is the only thing that can halt and reverse global fossil fuel growth, but sustainability advocates are too distracted by wind/solar/BEV developments to recognize this key truth.

Technology-forcing is divisive

Clean energy technologies evoke a surprisingly large amount of emotion. Anyone who has spent some time on energy and climate discussion forums will know how emotional the debate can become. Predictably, the most common outcome of such debates is that both parties just become even more entrenched in their beliefs.

Wind/solar power and BEVs are capable of inducing an especially strong emotional response. The ideological attractiveness of a world powered entirely by sun and wind combined with the promise that rapid cost reductions will soon overthrow the dirty fossil fuel establishment has gathered a broad global fan-base. Nuclear energy also has a passionate following, with other technologies like biofuels and the hydrogen economy enjoying notable support.

This formation of distinct and opposing technology-forcing camps within the sustainability movement (wind/solar vs. nuclear being the most prominent example) is the best possible outcome for fossil fuel interests. In any conflict, getting your opposition to fight among themselves is the easiest road to victory. Unfortunately, this is what is happening at the moment.

Difficult, but mandatory

So there it is: fossil fuels are invincible without technology-neutral policies, but the current commitment to wind/solar/BEV technology forcing will delay the onset of such policies for as long as possible. As clearly illustrated in earlier articles, continued evolutionary improvement in wind, solar and battery technology is not going to achieve some magical tipping point beyond which fossil fuels will be unceremoniously swept aside by market forces.

Seven years of stagnant clean energy investment (source).

These technologies face various fundamental headwinds that will increase with deployment at least as quickly as costs come down. This is especially true in the developing world where discount rates are high, making strategies with high up-front costs and low capacity utilization economically uncompetitive.

The levelized cost of $1000/kW solar PV can vary over an order of magnitude depending on the capacity factor (CF) and discount rate.

In addition, there is a distinct possibility that green technology-forcing can do more harm than good. Technology-forcing is inherently economically inefficient and, in the developing world, economic inefficiency slows the rate of improvement in quality and quantity of life, climate change resilience, and the productivity required to pull off a rapid future decarbonization effort. In short, economic inefficiency costs many more lives than coal power plants or internal combustion engines.

It is therefore crucial that we change the clean energy and climate discussion from an argument about which technology is best to consistent advocacy for the most efficient solution: technology-neutral policies. Not only does technology-forcing of certain ideologically attractive technologies have no chance of toppling fossil fuels, but it may even be more harmful than doing nothing.

Technology neutrality, on the other hand, has been proven to work. As a simple example, Europe imposes much higher energy taxes than the US, mostly to improve energy security and to minimize pollution and congestion. As a result, the EU produces an enormous 50% more GDP (PPP) per unit primary energy consumed and an even greater 65% more GDP per unit CO2 emitted than the US. Despite its relatively low energy consumption, the EU achieves significantly higher life expectancy and similar life satisfaction to the US.

Data sources for GDP and energy/CO2.

Final word

In closing, I want to repeat: This article is a call to all sustainability advocates to work together towards a common goal instead of perpetuating stalemated arguments about preferred technologies (e.g. wind/solar vs. nuclear). Consistent advocacy for technology neutrality combined with strong opposition to any kind of technology-forcing is a much more productive use of the time and initiative of sustainability advocates.

Continuing on the current path will surely allow clean energy to win several battles to great fanfare from wind, solar and BEV advocates, but ultimately fossil fuels will win the war. We really need to open our eyes to the bigger picture. And we need to do so very soon.

Schalk Cloete's picture

Thank Schalk for the Post!

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Discussions

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 21, 2018 4:25 pm GMT

Schalk, I’m having a hard time understanding why any sustainable energy policy should be technology-neutral – why cost should be the sole criterion for selecting among different technologies of varying potential. Wouldn’t “merit-weighted” be a more productive strategy?

They [sustainability advocates] spend a lot of time and effort tracking every new deployment, building 100% renewable energy scenarios…arguing how much better these technologies are than dirty fossil fuels or dangerous and expensive nuclear.

Nuclear energy is indisputably the safest and least-expensive way to generate dispatchable grid electricity, and is arguably more sustainable than any other technology capable of meeting future energy demand.

We can start by assigning merit based on science rather than irrational fear. No doubt fire was once a horrifying prospect for primitive peoples. They got over it, and we can too.

Jim Baird's picture
Jim Baird on May 21, 2018 4:30 pm GMT

Since the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, allow me to suggest something different, 30 Terawatts, 3250 Years, 13.7 Degrees Surface Temperature.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 21, 2018 7:42 pm GMT

The problem starts with the fact that technologies, like nuclear are highly subsidized via a.o. liability limitation laws.

So much that owners will stop the operation of nuclear power plants immediately once those subsidies are retracted…

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on May 21, 2018 8:10 pm GMT

fossil fuels are invincible without technology-neutral policies, but the current commitment to wind/solar/BEV technology forcing will delay the onset of such policies for as long as possible. As clearly illustrated in earlier articles, continued evolutionary improvement in wind, solar and battery technology is not going to achieve some magical tipping point beyond which fossil fuels will be unceremoniously swept aside by market forces.

China, the new solar, wind and EV champion, is increasing its oil consumption:

CNPC forecasts Chinese 2018 oil demand to grow 5% to 12 million b/d
https://www.platts.com/latest-news/oil/singapore/cnpc-forecasts-chinese-...

Witness how the German government is squirming about the proposed coal exit. And supporting North Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.

Ex-politicians from coal-mining states NRW, Saxony, Brandenburg
Commission to be led by energy ministry with focus on jobs
Germany targets to halve coal-fired power output by 2030
https://www.platts.com.es/latest-news/coal/london/germany-to-name-three-...

At least Germans are honest about their goals: 80% of electricity generated by renewables by 2050. The rest with fossil fuels.

Leo Klisch's picture
Leo Klisch on May 21, 2018 9:00 pm GMT

As your graph on Exon and Mobil show, they have huge sums of money to put into our democracy/oligarchy. Unless we get the massive amount of lobby money from FF companies out of politics through repealing CITIZENS UNITED via the courts or through a state by state approval of the 28th amendment via AMERICAN PROMISE
organization, there’s not much hope.
Saudi Arabia and other countries like them use their FF money to influence the politics in other countries globally.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 22, 2018 6:02 am GMT

The whole idea of technology-neutral policies is to send market signals not only based on current (internalized) costs, but also externalized costs.

As you know I am also positive about next-gen nuclear that will directly address the safety, proliferation and waste concerns holding back current reactors. Until such reactors are fully demonstrated and proven to be cost effective, however, nuclear will not have a chance to reach its potential.

Successful implementation of technology-neutral policies will certainly accelerate investment into the development of such next-gen reactors and also accelerate the deployment of currently available technologies in countries that are open to them.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 22, 2018 6:04 am GMT

If OTEC is a viable solution, it will certainly see significant deployment in a technology-neutral policy framework. Let’s get these policies in place and see how the technology-mix evolves.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 22, 2018 6:22 am GMT

Most forecasts nowadays agree that natural gas will be the big winner in the near to medium-term future. China is also growing its natural gas consumption rapidly and is investing heavily in shale gas exploration.

The increasing European natural gas dependence is quite concerning. Slashing coal and nuclear and depending more on wind and solar creates a perfect scenario for natural gas. Plans for fracking are gaining momentum in the UK. Others may follow.

Overall, the future for oil & gas companies looks (worryingly) bright.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 22, 2018 6:40 am GMT

It is true that oil & gas companies have a lot of influence they can use to protect their future profits. I think, however, that the number of people concerned about sustainability has now become large enough to make sufficient noise to counteract oil & gas company lobbying and instate proper technology-neutral policies.

As I tried to describe in this article, the biggest problem is that most sustainability advocates have bought into the idea that it is only a matter of time before wind/solar/battery cost reductions totally overthrow the fossil fuel establishment. This focuses most of their attention on promoting these technologies, which, in my opinion, is a waste of time because of several fundamental headwinds that will increase rapidly with increased deployment of wind/solar power and electric cars, combined with the simple fact that most of the global economy still needs to be built.

If all sustainability advocates could unanimously lobby for technology-neutral policies, we would have a much better chance of successfully navigating this critical time in human history.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on May 22, 2018 1:33 pm GMT

Schalk,

China is on a nuclear build-out trajectory to 100,000 MW by about 2035
China builds these plants at about $4000/kW in about 4 years in China and at about $5000/kW in about 5 – 6 years elsewhere. Russia’s Rosatom does the same.

China and Russia are doing what France, the US, Europe, Japan, etc., did some decades ago, but with plants that are much more safe/efficient, just as to-day’s cars are much more safe/efficient.

If spreadsheet analyses were performed using Chinese/Russian numbers and realistic 60 year lives, the economics of nuclear would be much less costly than highly subsidized, variable, intermittent wind and solar, that are over-hyped by the media and RE proponents, and are made to APPEAR less costly than traditional because of:

1) High subsidies charged to ratepayers, and taxpayers, and added to national and state debts, and causing increases of the prices of goods and services, there being no free lunch, per Economics 101.
2) Historically low interest rates.
3) Below market loans and government loan guarantees.
4) Peaking, filling-in and balancing (especially with solar-induced DUCK CURVES) imposed onto traditional, DISPATCHABLE generators, which end up being underutilized and uneconomic; 100% RE aficionados, who likely never analyzed or designed any energy system, are gloating about this: “Just shut them down”. What, pray tell, would perform the peaking, filling-in and balancing when wind and solar are minimal?
5) Huge build-outs of underutilized transmission systems.

The idiocy of the present approach, which DOES NOT reduce world CO2, is far beyond rational.
See URL
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-hype-versus-r...

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on May 22, 2018 3:36 pm GMT

Hi Bob,

China is on a nuclear build-out trajectory to 100,000 MW by about 2035. China builds these plants at about $4000/kW in about 4 years in China, and at about $5000/kW in about 5 – 6 years elsewhere. Russia’s Rosatom does the same.

China and Russia are doing what France, the US, Europe, Japan, etc., did some decades ago, but with plants that are much more safe/efficient, just as to-day’s cars are much more safe/efficient.

If spreadsheet analyses were performed using Chinese/Russian numbers and realistic 60 year lives, the economics of nuclear would be much less costly than highly subsidized, variable, intermittent wind and solar, that are over-hyped by the media and RE proponents, and are made to APPEAR less costly than traditional plants because of:

1) High subsidies charged to ratepayers, and taxpayers, and added to national and state debts, and causing increases of the prices of goods and services; there is no free lunch, per Economics 101.
2) Historically low interest rates.
3) Below market loans and government loan guarantees.
4) Peaking, filling-in and balancing (especially with solar-induced DUCK CURVES) imposed onto traditional, DISPATCHABLE generators, which end up being underutilized and uneconomic; 100% RE aficionados, who likely never analyzed or designed any energy system, are gloating about this: “Just shut them down”. What, pray tell, would perform the peaking, filling-in and balancing when wind and solar are minimal? Batteries?
5) Huge build-outs of underutilized transmission systems.

The idiocy of the present approach, which DOES NOT reduce world CO2, is far beyond rational.
See URL
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-hype-versus-r...

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on May 22, 2018 4:11 pm GMT

I totally agree. But Germany especially has no other choice but switch a coal dependency to a Russian gas dependency. Nuclear and coal account for half of their electricity generation today.

Rex Berglund's picture
Rex Berglund on May 22, 2018 5:49 pm GMT

Berkeley Lab has released a study which finds that 40-50% use of VRE would lower wholesale electric costs by .5 to 1.5 cents/kWh:

https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/news/vre_ima...

The team modeled four 2030 scenarios: a baseline, with VRE shares frozen at 2016 levels, and three high-VRE scenarios, one that’s wind at 30 percent share and solar at 10 percent, one that’s the reverse, and a “balanced” 20-20 scenario. They ran these four scenarios for each of four energy markets in the US: the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) covering Kansas, Oklahoma, and portions of surrounding states; the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

The study finds that VRE reduces the amount of energy generated from fossil fuels faster than it reduces capacity, anywhere from 25 to 50 percent (the most in NYISO).

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on May 22, 2018 8:59 pm GMT

Rex Berglund,
These studies typically do not include the costs of the wind and solar subsidies, and the adverse cost impacts of wind and solar on grid costs, and on the viability of other generators, and the need for storage, and the need for robust connections to nearby grids, when wind and solar have higher percentages on the grid.

See my other comment on this subject and the referenced URL

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 23, 2018 5:48 am GMT

Schalk, I think maybe our disagreement lies in whether there’s any hope of building consensus on externalized cost among different groups with different preconceptions or financial interests.

The choice of words here was intentional: no one likely knows better than you the challenges of building consensus on external costs. A noble effort it is – but do you feel any of your columns has been successful at building consensus? It’s seems to me they predictably devolve into the same partisan bickering, with each group assigning weight to the fractal slivers of cost which best match their preconceptions.

An example might be your concern about the safety of current reactors. It’s not difficult to show operating Gen II nuclear plants (1980-2010) have been responsible for an infinitesimal fraction of the mortality, per unit of energy, than have coal, gas, oil, or any other dispatchable source of grid generation. It’s not difficult to show nuclear waste has not a single recorded death or injury to its discredit, or show there’s no instance of any entity building a bomb from nuclear fuel (it would be a very wasteful, expensive, and roundabout way of doing it).

Thus like many others, your safety concerns are based upon irrational fear, upon runaway imagination, upon inflated media portrayals. Will it possible for the next (or any) generation of reactors to address irrational fear of nuclear energy? How do we go about selecting an appropriately-irrational weapon to slay an irrational enemy? Fear can be a very real and powerful psychological impediment. But with the challenge of climate change before us, if we choose to allow fear to dictate our policy choices we will truly deserve credit for destroying the environment we’ve inherited – not out of lack of resolve, or commitment, but sheer idiocy.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 23, 2018 6:27 am GMT

Indeed, it is very well established that average wholesale electricity prices reduce substantially when more wind/solar is forced into the system. Germany is probably the most prominent real-world example of this phenomenon.

As far as I can see, this study did not attempt to quantify whether wind/solar generators in this system will be able to recover their costs (at a reasonable discount rate). The best I could find on this topic is the following statement on page 22: “Perhaps the most significant impact of overall reductions in average annual energy prices would be the reduced profitability of inflexible generators that are fully exposed to those prices, including solar, wind, and nuclear plants in particular.”

Generally, wind & solar have three “hidden” costs: balancing, transmission and profile. Balancing costs would include the large increase in ancillary service cost detailed in the report, transmission costs would account for the fact that wind/solar power often have to be transmitted over long distances and that the transmission line is used at a low capacity factor (similar to the wind/solar generator’s capacity factor), and profile costs account for the self-cannibalization effect of wind/solar that strongly reduces their value with increasing market share. As far as I can see, the study did not attempt to properly account for these hidden costs of wind & solar.

That being said, I should repeat my usual US wind/solar pitch here: The US may be the best country in the world for deploying wind & solar power and these technologies should do very well here, even under a proper technology-neutral policy framework. The US has great wind/solar resources, lots of wide open spaces to build wind/solar farms and long distance transmission lines, lots of cheap natural gas for balancing, and access to low-cost financing for these capital-intensive technologies.

Contrast this to the situation in China: Much poorer wind/solar resources (e.g. China has almost twice the installed wind capacity of the US to generate similar output), much less open space (especially in the east where almost all electricity demand is concentrated), dependence on less flexible and more capital-intensive coal plants for balancing, and exposed to much higher discount rates (making capital-intensive wind/solar power much more expensive).

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 23, 2018 6:41 am GMT

Indeed, China can build nuclear at lower costs and faster rates than most other places. Actually, the cost estimate I generally use is below $3000/kW, although it increases above $5000/kW when adjusting for PPP to properly account for the economic effort required.

It should be noted, however, that a 60 year plant lifetime is not much use in a developing nation like China. Developing nations need power today to drive their rapid development, not 50 years in the future when the economy will already be developed. Hence, one has to use a high discount rate when assessing energy costs. At a 10% discount rate, the reduction in LCOE for a plant with 60 year lifetime relative to a plant with 30 year lifetime is only 4%.

I agree on all the hidden costs of wind/solar technology-forcing. A proper technology-neutral policy overhaul is urgently needed.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 23, 2018 4:20 pm GMT

It should be noted, however, that a 60 year plant lifetime is not much use in a developing nation like China. Developing nations need power today to drive their rapid development, not 50 years in the future when the economy will already be developed.

Do you have some basis for your theory energy comsumption decreases with economic development?

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on May 23, 2018 7:08 pm GMT

Developing nations need power today to drive their rapid development, not 50 years in the future

France. 10 years.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 24, 2018 4:26 am GMT

In NL the new policy is to reduce gas consumption towards a very low amount. E.g.
Improved isolation and heat pumps are to replace present gas boilers which everybody has in his house now.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 24, 2018 4:41 am GMT

Any new generator in the grid affects the viability of existing generators. That’s normal in a competitive market.
It’s called progress.

The grid costs which are usually not billed to the new generator…

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 24, 2018 5:22 am GMT

All I’m saying is that a kWh of electricity from a power plant today is worth much more to a developing nation than a kWh of electricity from that same power plant 50 years from now. This is where the discount rate comes into play (future energy is discounted because it is valued much less than energy that can drive economic development today). Because of the discount rate, the levelized cost of a plant with a 60 year lifetime is essentially the same as that of a plant with a 30 year lifetime in the developing world.

The discount rate accounts primarily for opportunity costs, risk, equipment degradation, technological improvements, and financing costs. When adding all these elements together, the 10% discount rate I used in the example above is quite conservative.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on May 24, 2018 5:40 am GMT

True, getting technology-neutral policies like a carbon tax in place will be very difficult. I am 100% sure, however, that it will happen eventually when climate effects become large enough to impact the lives of a sizable portion of the electorate. All I’m trying to do is to pull forward this day by a couple of years. This can save millions of lives.

As such, I’m not really trying to establish a consensus on the quantitative value of certain externalized costs. I know this is impossible given all the uncertainties involved, especially when it comes to climate change. All I’m trying to do is to get a consensus that these costs are large enough to internalize, even just through some initial low-ball estimate. Even a small CO2 price of $20/ton will still do a lot more good than all the technology-forcing policies in force today.

When looking at technology-forcing vs. technology neutrality, the biggest argument for technology neutrality is that it will automatically activate a very broad range of sustainability channels (some of which were covered in my previous article). Thus, even though establishing such policies will be difficult, once it is established, the effect will be at least 10x greater than technology-forcing.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on May 24, 2018 8:27 am GMT

Two main remarks: two alternative technologies – beside nuclear are mentioned as “not being supported” in the article: biomass and hydrogen.
Biomass receives a higher support than wind or solar in germany, but has severe physical limits to grow further. Hydrogen is not a source, but just a storage for energy, as such it receives a lot of support for decades without making much progress. Missing are geothermie, and some other technologies which did not have much success in MArket, even with support. (and some without support too)

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on May 24, 2018 12:26 pm GMT

The Netherlands fossil fuel dependency is even worse than Germany’s (80 % vs 90 %)so such policies are welcome.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 24, 2018 12:58 pm GMT

Willem,
China didn’t start the construction of a nuclear plant in past two years (except a small experimental high temperature gas reactor). They will miss the 2020 expansion target greatly.
It’s highly likely their nuclear fleet will never surpass 60GW..

The major delays of KEPCO’s new nuclear plant in the Arabian, demonstrate that your assumption that those companies can build much faster and cheaper is probably wrong too.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 24, 2018 1:03 pm GMT

Bob,
There is too much scientific evidence for the millions of deaths & serious genetic damage nuclear power caused, to ignore.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on May 24, 2018 1:38 pm GMT

Bas,

Cost Shifting is the Name of the Game
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-hype-versus-r...

Here is a list of the costs that shifted, i.e., not charged to wind and solar owners, which make wind and solar appear to be much less costly, than in reality.

Those costs, as c/kWh, could be quantified, but it is politically convenient to charge them to: 1) ratepayers via rate schedules (taxes, fees and surcharges), 2) taxpayers, and 3) to federal and state debts.

1) The various forms of inertia (presently provided by gas, coal, oil, nuclear, bio and hydro plants).
2) The filling-in, peaking and balancing by traditional generators due to wind and solar variability/intermittency.
3) Any battery systems to stabilize distribution grids with many solar systems.
4) Any measures to deal with DUCK curves, such as utility-scale storage and demand management
5) Grid-related, such as grid extensions and augmentations to connect and deal with wind and solar. See note.
6) Utility-scale electricity storage (presently provided by the world’s fuel supply system).
https://www.neon-energie.de/Hirth-2013-Market-Value-Renewables-Solar-Win...

Those items are separate from the high levels of subsidies, which also make wind and solar appear to be much less costly, than in reality. See appendix.

All that enables RE aficionados to endlessly proclaim: “Wind and solar are competitive with fossil and nuclear”.

NOTE: For example, to bring wind electricity from the Panhandle in west Texas to population centers in east Texas, $7 billion of transmission was built. The entire cost was “socialized”, i.e., a surcharge on residential electric bills.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on May 24, 2018 7:53 pm GMT

Go to world nuclear association China.
At the beginning
58,000 MW by 2030 with 30,000 MW under construction.
Further down, the numbers go over 100,000 MW

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 24, 2018 8:45 pm GMT

Willem,
Your points show thinking as if electricity is a regulated market while it’s a free market. KWh prices decrease/increase when wind & solar produce/don’t produce.

Hence even households will adapt their consumption accordingly (especially with the coming smart metering).
And peakers as well as storage facilities will spring up as money can be earned with the price differences.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 25, 2018 7:15 am GMT

Schalk,
Yes, in general wind & solar now need subsidies to recover their costs. Especially since their introduction in the market often implies overcapacity, so much lower whole sale prices.

However, wind & solar are on a long term cost decrease trajectory due to technology improvements and increasing mass production. Such that new wind & solar in areas with “average” wind & solar, won’t need subsidies in the future (2022 – 2035 depending on place & technology) while whole sale prices continue their low price levels or become even lower.

The first signs are visible with the recent unsubsidized N.Sea offshore wind projects (to be running in 2022 and 2024*), low prices for onshore wind & solar (~4.5cnt/KWh – ~7cnt/KWh) in recent German auctions, etc.

The future is shown by the <2cnt/KWh unsubsidized prices in areas with good wind and solar. Those will expand over the globe with the continued cost price decreases of wind & solar.

Note that with av. whole sale prices of ~3cnt/KWh, wind & solar generators with cost prices <2cnt/KWh can afford to deliver for 1cnt/KWh during substantial part of the time as their marginal costs are near zero.

That also implies that PtG converters can produce H² against cheaper prices than the usual steam reform process. So those may take the H² market which benefits the climate. Especially once the costs of CO² emissions (steam reform emit substantial CO²) become substantial.

The variable power consumption of PtG will also put a soft price bottom for electricity. Especially since the price for PtG installations is decreasing too.
I'm looking forward for micro PtG converters which produce H² for my car during the day when my solar panels are overproducing. Especially since H² is easy to store nowadays.

Note that wind & solar are only becoming highly competitive due to technology forcing. These two technologies, together with storage (batteries, PtG), are the most viable candidates to move near all fossil as well as nuclear off the market in coming decades.

______
*) Bidders at Dutch offshore wind auctions have to deliver:
– their business plan. The business plan is judged on viability by govt accountants, engineers, etc. (of course all confidential).
– the project implementation plan with detailed schedules, etc.
– bank guarantees regarding installation and decommissioning after 30years.

Dutch govt doesn’t want to license a bidder which makes losses, as that may result in an half functioning wind farm occupying part of our precious part of the busy N.Sea (57,000 km²)…

The responsible minister said that at next offshore wind auction (Dec/Jan), bidders are invited to pay for the right to use the designated part of the N.Sea for a wind farm… (similar as with oil/gas concessions).

Note that bidders have to agree with substantial penalties if the wind farm isn’t operating fully at the deadline set in the auction rules (EU bidding rules apply).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 25, 2018 8:40 am GMT

Willem,
WNA updated the China page this May.
It now states for construction starts:
2015: 6.7 GW
2016: 2.2 GW
2017: 600 MW (December)
2018: 0
So I was wrong. Sorry.

WNA states as 2020 target 58GW (5yrs plan).
Also 35GW operating nuclear now.
And <12GW realistically to be realized before 2021.
So nuclear may be 47GW at the end of 2020. Hence will miss its target greatly.

Though WNA sticks to exceptional short construction periods (<8years) the page indicates also (following the WISE report) that such short construction periods for Chinese nuclear is no longer true since safety demands were increased after Fukushima.

Of course pro-nuclear WNA has gathered all possibilities about planned nuclear in China in order to sketch an unrealistic fast expansion as they did in the past.

Note that wind and solar surpassed their 2020 targets already several times. So wind is now substantial bigger than nuclear and solar will surpass nuclear in 2020 – 2022.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 25, 2018 3:21 pm GMT

Bas, your evidence is not accepted by the world’s experts. And now more than ever, when everyone can contribute to a global dialogue, we have to trust the word of experts.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 25, 2018 7:41 pm GMT

The Linear No Threshold (LNT) hypothesis regarding increased radiation health damage at very low increases of radiation is accepted by the US National Academy of Sciences in a.o. its authoritative BEIR reports.

The empirical findings of a.o. German authoritative Helmhotz institute are in line with LNT and published in different well-known scientific journals. E.g.
– highly significant increases of stillbirth and major birth defects in areas 1000 miles away from Chernobyl while nearby similar areas didn’t suffer because they didn’t get fall-out.
– highly significant increases of perinatal deaths in 9 prefectures (affecting ~15millon people) after Fukushima.

Note that those increases last many years as the fall-out concern mainly radio-active Cs-137 and Sr-90 with a half-life of ~30 years and it’s stuff which the body absorbs.

– significant increased genetic damage to newborn in the surroundings of NPP’s up to 40 km away.

It’s confirmed by research in other countries, such as UK where scientists found significant increased genetic damage to newborn of male workers at Sellafield whose children also suffer from significant increased stillbirth rates as well as significant increased cancer risks.

The millions of deaths due to Chernobyl are also stated in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

German govt closed its prime nuclear waste (in dry casks) store, Gorleben, prematurely while the huge building (see picture below; the M points are the not well placed permanent radiation measurement stations) was still for 70% empty due to the shown increased genetic damage it caused to new born up to 40km away!
Etc. etc.

Your statement of hardly any radiation health damage is only accepted by pro-nuclear people without any evidence. It reminds me of statements of the tobacco industry who during many decades stated that one cigarette a day wouldn’t harm.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on May 26, 2018 2:41 am GMT

Your statement of hardly any radiation health damage is only accepted by pro-nuclear people without any evidence.

We have massive evidence from both lab data and epidemiological data that LNT is backwards at low doses.  Free-radical damage from normal metabolism is orders of magnitude greater than doses of a few hundred mSv/yr, and people living on uranium-rich granite in high-radiation Colorado have lower rates of cancer and other radiation-associated diseases than people living at sea level on sedimentary rocks.  We even have evidence from the least-exposed hibakusha, who have lower rates of many cancers than unexposed contemporary Japanese.

The millions of deaths due to Chernobyl are also stated in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

The Yablokov book was never peer-reviewed and the NYAS has repudiated it and returned the license to the authors.  From a review:

… quite accurate data of the Russian national registry suggest that mortality rates of the Chernobyl workers standardized by age and sex are not higher but lower than the one for the population of Russia (Ivanov et al. 2004). Yablokov’s assessment for the mortality from Chernobyl fallout of about one million (!) before 2004 (Subsection 7.7) puts this book in a range of rather science fiction than science.

But evidence and proper evidentiary review were never on your list of priorities.

German govt closed its prime nuclear waste (in dry casks) store, Gorleben, prematurely while the huge building (see picture below; the M points are the not well placed permanent radiation measurement stations) was still for 70% empty due to the shown increased genetic damage it caused to new born up to 40km away!

Which violates all principles of dose/response relationships, and there is no such damage occurring from much higher radon, “groundshine” and cosmic-ray exposure for people living on mountains than at sea level.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 27, 2018 12:47 am GMT

@EP,
You show zero evidence that LNT is backwards.
Not strange as there is no such good evidence.

NYAS
The info in the concerned Annals of NYAS is open source. Hence no license was returned to the authors, being three radiation professors, members of academy of sciences in Russia and Belarus.

The concerned Annals are still available at the NYAS site, despite threats and actions of pro-nuclear members (part terminated their membership).

The review
Of course pro-nuclear people try to declass the concerned Annals as much as possible. They also demanded that NYAS would retract the concerned Annals, which NYAS refused. They only added a precautionary statement on their site.

dose/response relationships
The premature closing of Germany’s prime nuclear waste dry cask store is in line with LNT; the dominant and under experts widely accepted theory regarding the health harming effects of low level radiation.

Of course there are increased health and genetic damage effects to people living in surroundings with increased natural background radiation as shown by several authors. E.g:
Significant increased levels of chromosome aberrations.
Significant increased health damage.

People in Colorado may have lower rates of cancer (is that true?) because e.g. air quality is so much better than in Los Angeles (PM’s in air also cause cancers, etc.)…

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on May 27, 2018 7:50 pm GMT

doseinfo-radar.com/LNT.html

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4917595/

researchgate.net/publication/273984292_Coping_with_Low-Dose_Radiation_in_Fukushima

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 29, 2018 7:21 am GMT

Mark,
Sorry, but none of the 3 articles which you link show that there is a threshold.

1- Those articles concern adults while theory and research (that I linked) concern newborn. Newborn are roughly 1000 times more sensitive for (increased) nuclear radiation.

Because at cell division DNA is single stranded, so it cannot be repaired if a radiation particle damages part of it, as the cell has no reference. And cell division rates increase highly the younger people are.
Elderly have lowest rate of cell division, fetuses >100 times more, but sperm at production >1000 times more.

As male DNA is smaller, it has less chance to be hit and killed under increased radiation. Hence the m/f ratio of new born will increase when radiation increases. Even UNSCEAR confirms this in its 1958 report and states that such increase of the sex ratio of newborn can be used as a sensitive instrument to signal increased radiation.

2- The authors of your links even misread decent research results, or put up arguments without underlying research results. E.g.

The articles in the first and third link use a fluctuation from the 2012 report regarding the atomic bomb survivors to argue that there is a threshold.
While the authors state in the abstract:

The estimated lowest dose range with a significant ERR for all solid cancer was 0 to 0.20 Gy, and a formal dose-threshold analysis indicated no threshold…

*) ERR = Extra Relative Risk.

Your second link states:

Radiation science is dominated by a paradigm based on an assumption without empirical foundation. Known as the linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis, it holds that all ionizing radiation is harmful no matter how low the dose or dose rate.

And then tries to attack it, without research showing that studies which demonstrated significant harmful effects to newborn and their genes (check my links) are not correct.

Note that he wrongly states that LNT is still based on an assumption while research under newborn proved that even increases of 20% compared to local background radiation, create already highly significant damaging health effects (more stillborn, Down syndrome, serious abnormal limbs, etc)!

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