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Energy Wonks Have a Meltdown Over the U.S. Going 100% Renewable. Why?

Hoover Dam

In the U.S. a furious debate has erupted among academic energy experts about whether the country could run 100% on renewable energy. Joshua D. Rhodes, Postdoctoral Researcher of Energy at the University of Texas, Austin, explains what is going on and offers some thoughts of his own. Courtesy The Conversation.

Science is messy, but it doesn’t have to be dirty.

On June 19, a group of respected energy researchers released a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that critiqued a widely cited studyon how to power the U.S. using only renewable energy sources. This new paper, authored by former NOAA researcher Christopher Clack and a small army of academics, said that the initial 2015 study had “errors, inappropriate methods and implausible assumptions,” about using only the sun, wind and water to fuel the U.S.

What followed was a storm of debate as energy wonks of all stripes weighed in on the merits of the PNAS analysis. Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University professor who was the lead author of the 2015 study, shot back with detailed rebuttals, in one calling his fellow researchers “fossil fuel and nuclear supporters.”

I recently took a tour of Hoover Dam. One of the first things they tell you is that the dam was built for irrigation and flood control, and that electricity production is a nice side product

Why the big kerfuffle? As an energy researcher who studies the technologies and policies for modernizing our energy system, I will try to explain.

In general, getting to a clean energy system – even if it’s 80 percent renewable – is a well agreed-upon goal and one that can be achieved; it’s that last 20 percent – and how to get there – that forms the main point of contention here.

‘Energy Twitter’ on fire

Jacobson’s seminal paper, which was also published in PNAS, tied together a significant amount of work of his own and others showing that all energy used for all purposes in the U.S. could come from wind, water and solar (WWS) by 2050.

What about when the sun doesn’t shine, the wind doesn’t blow or water is unavailable? His findings postulated that significant amounts of energy storage would be needed, mostly in the form of heat and hydrogen, to meet energy demand when there isn’t enough renewable energy and to store it when there’s too much. They also concluded this scenario would be cheaper than a world that relies on other technologies such as nuclear, carbon capture and other methods of reducing carbon emissions.

The Clack rebuttal was blunt and cut deep at the assumptions that underlie the work of Jacobson and colleagues. The same PNAS issue also included a counter-rebuttal to Clack from Jacobson.

Energy Twitter – that is, energy wonks like me on Twitter – exploded.

So why all the fuss?

Much of the heat from this debate seems to stem from Jacobson making some pretty bold claims in and about his paper, going so far as to tell MIT Technology Review that “there is not a single error in our paper.” That is a very, very bold claim and, depending on how it is interpreted, could be read to say that the study authors’ model is perfect, which of course it is not, as none are.

This debate may seem arcane, but it has significant political and societal implications.

Some celebrities have signed on to Jacobson’s vision and have pressed for policies formed around his analyses of the feasibility of an entire energy system that runs 100 percent off of wind, water and solar. If policymakers buy into the technical and economic assumptions in the paper, it has big implications for the direction of state, local and national policies.

Detractors, meanwhile, have raised a number of concerns. In particular, they argue that decisions made based on Jacobson’s analyses alone could lead to serious overinvestment in only the technologies considered, which could possibly backfire if the costs turn out to be higher than expected.

The nitty-gritty

To make projections around how the future energy system will work, researchers create computer-based models, input assumptions and then run simulations.

The rebuttal from Clack and co-authors focused on four major issues they saw with the WWS paper: 1) modeling errors, 2) implausible assumptions, 3) insufficient power system modeling and 4) inadequate scrutiny of the input climate model, which informs how much solar and wind power are available for power generation. Here are some highlights with my own thoughts sprinkled in.

Having worked in residential energy use, and energy retrofits in particular, I find the amount of geothermal energy storage retrofits for heating and air-conditioning in buildings Jacobson assumed hard to fathom

Clack takes issue with the amount of hydroelectric power that Jacobson assumes is available. In their rebuttals, they spar over the exact numbers, but Jacobson assumes there is about the same amount of total energy produced from hydropower in 2050 as today, although when, and at what rate, that energy is produced is a crucial question.

In Jacobson’s model, there is a significant increase in hydropower capacity – up to 1,300 gigawatts (or about 10 times current capacity), which appears to run for at least 12 hours straight in some days of the model output. Jacobson says this is possible by installing more turbines and generators at existing dams, just not using them very often.

But dams are built with specific maximum flow rates because if you let too much water flow through a dam, you can flood areas downriver. Jacobson has since admitted that providing this much extra power from existing dams would be hard.

I recently took a tour of Hoover Dam. One of the first things they tell you is that the dam was built for irrigation and flood control, and that electricity production is a nice side product. So expecting that dams in the country could boost their output might be harder than the analysis implies.

Implausible assumptions

Clack questions a long list of input assumptions of Jacobson’s model. A number are related to how quickly technologies can mature and be used at large scale, including underground thermal energy storage, phase change materials to store solar thermal energy, and hydrogen as a usable fuel. Other critiques focus on assumptions around how flexible the demand for energy can be – a key consideration when dealing with variable sun and wind power. Then there’s the amount of electric transmission power infrastructure needed, the costs of all the capital required, the pace of investment needed and land use issues.

If Jacobson’s work can survive this challenge, I figure it will stand the test of time

Some criticisms are probably fair. I tend to be bullish on the potential of technology to advance rapidly, but having worked in residential energy use, and energy retrofits in particular, I find the amount of geothermal energy storage retrofits for heating and air-conditioning in buildings Jacobson assumed hard to fathom.

I have some reservations on the ability of 67 percent of demand to be flexible. I also have some questions on the pace of investment required in Jacobson’s scenario.

Insufficient power system modeling

Clack attacks LOADMATCH, the power system model in Jacobson’s analysis, as being too simplistic. The main criticism of LOADMATCH is that it does not consider frequency regulation – the need to keep the frequency of the power grid steady at 60 Hz, which is a very important aspect of keeping the power supply reliable.

One piece of anecdotal information: Jacobson states in the paper Supplementary Information that it takes LOADMATCH about three to four minutes to simulate an entire year. Our simulations of just the Texas electricity market can take hours to run, and can take significantly longer for simulations of high levels of renewables.

After reading both papers, both supplementary information sections, the counter-rebuttal, a lot of news articles and tweetstorms (from other energy folks I trust), I find myself thinking that the burden of proof is still in Jacobson’s court. There are many lessons to learn here.

But, in the end, my view is that the body of scientific understanding will be stronger for it. The peer review process is slow, uses imperfect human volunteers and doesn’t always get it exactly right the first time. The list of authors on the Clack rebuttal is impressive, and should be paid attention to. However, if Jacobson’s work can survive this challenge, I figure it will stand the test of time.

Editor’s Note

This article was first published on the website of The Conversation and is republished here with permission from the author and under the Creative Commons licence of The Conversation.

Joshua D. Rhodes (@joshdr83) is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in The Webber Energy Group and the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. His current research is in the area of smart grid and the bulk electricity system, including spatial system-level applications and impacts of energy efficiency, resource planning, distributed generation, and storage. He is also interested in policy and the impacts that good policy can have on the efficiency of the micro and macro economy, especially policy that utilizes market forces to increase efficiencies.

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Content Discussion

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on July 3, 2017

Germany aims at 80 % renewable energy.
Already now in the beginning of the ambitious Energiewende, the results are not that promising.
See http://wp.me/p1RKWc-11F and http://wp.me/s1RKWc-90
It is easy to see that Germany is working hard to destroy the climate in order to save it.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on July 3, 2017

Compared with the Energiewende, Jacobson over-estimates the role of hydro.
Hydro requires long lead times to construct and is relative expensive (German pumped storage facilities all make losses).

Power-to-Gas with storage in deep earth cavities is cheaper, more flexible and faster to implement (a.o. little NIMBY). Especially since US has more than enough deep earth cavities to store many months of energy consumption.

Apparently the Germans concluded similar and are developing Power-to-Gas fast.
They will have 2GW pilot capacity in 2022 and start full scale roll-out in 2024. That schedule implies they have enough time to absorb up to a 10years delay, as it won’t be needed until renewable share is at ~70%.

This page gives an overview.
This page contains info regarding the projects, etc.

Though the move towards 100% renewable concerns primarily electricity here, it concerns in 2050 nearly all electricity as then near all heating & transport will be electric (using heat pumps, etc).

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on July 3, 2017

Jacobson is in good company:

French scientific govt institute ADEME concluded regarding 2050, that 100% renewable would be only 4% more expensive than the cheapest situation, being 80% renewable: https://goo.gl/CGQjuS

German think tank Agora concluded similar.

Denmark targets 100% renewable regarding electricity in 2040 and regarding all energy consumption in 2050.
Denmark is now at ~60%, most (~70%) being wind.

There is little doubt here whether 100% renewable regarding all energy is possible against reasonable costs.
Especially since:
– recent (April) offshore wind tenders (1280MW) concerning German part of the North Sea, showed that offshore wind will be below the ~3cent/KWh German whole sale prices in 2024/5.
– experts expect that the price reductions for wind, solar and storage will continue during next decade.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on July 3, 2017

After reading both papers, both supplementary information sections, the counter-rebuttal, a lot of news articles and tweetstorms (from other energy folks I trust), I find myself thinking that the burden of proof is still in Jacobson’s court. There are many lessons to learn here.

That is putting it mildly.  The immediate and most important lesson to learn is that the “100% RE” scenario has NEVER been seen with wind and solar.  Never.  Only impoundment-fed hydro is remotely capable of such reliability of supply;  Jacobson’s claims are obviously unsupported… no, that is far too mild.  They are fabulous, fantastic.  Just as obviously, they are what one would expect for a crypto-supporter of the natural gas industry.  Unless and until the RE systems and demand response can step up, trying to implement Jacobson’s scenario forces reliance on natural gas.

Guess where Jacobson’s support comes from?  The Precourt Institute… an oil (natural gas) interest.

my view is that the body of scientific understanding will be stronger for it. The peer review process is slow, uses imperfect human volunteers and doesn’t always get it exactly right the first time. The list of authors on the Clack rebuttal is impressive, and should be paid attention to.

It should, and eventually it will.  However, the damage done in the mean time will be devastating.  It already includes the Vermont Yankee and Fort Calhoun plants, and the scheduled deaths of Indian Point and Diablo Canyon.  The four units being built at Vogtle and Summer may also be casualties, plus many plants with permits but no contracts for construction.

if Jacobson’s work can survive this challenge, I figure it will stand the test of time.

Jacobson’s work was ridiculous on its face, merely from the blatant lack of existence proofs.  I’ve been asking RE advocates to show me a grid of any significant size anywhere on earth that decarbonized on only wind and solar.  Nobody can show me one, because no such grid exists.  Nor can it exist; intermittency is crippling and storage is prohibitive.

Until an industrial-scale all-WWS grid with no more than 2% hydro (about what an all-RE US grid would support) has been demonstrated ANYWHERE, Jacobson must be considered a candidate for elimination from the academy on grounds of fraud.  Give him 5 years, max.

When (not if) he fails, revoke his degrees, eliminate his endowed chair and confiscate the endowment to retire the student loans of American students of physics and engineering.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on July 4, 2017

Joshua, only an ideologue and charlatan would proclaim his own paper is perfect and respond to his critics with ad hominems – so there’s at least one solid conclusion one can draw from Jacobson’s work.

To call this a “debate” is giving Jacobson far too much credit, and it’s been going on far too long. He’s an antinuclear activist who, soon after receiving a fellowship from Stanford’s Natural Gas Initiative, published an article titled “A Plan to Power 100% of the Planet with Renewables” in that bastion of tabloid science, Scientific American. Other activists, citing his Stanford pedigree, made it their bible – while engineers and climatologists laughed. No one could be stupid enough to believe this nonsense, could they?

They could. And suddenly, it was necessary to explain why assigning smoke from cities incinerated in a nuclear holocaust to nuclear energy’s carbon footprint was um, unsupportable. But it was more: it was inane, it was amateurish. Worst of all, nuclear activists were using it to close nuclear plants like California’s San Onofre; Stephanie Pincetl, of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, was using it as a template for the Institute’s own antinuclear focus, while being promised $25 million in a secret deal between Southern California Edison and the Chairman of the California Public Utility Commission.

The result of this palace intrigue was the permanent shutdown of San Onofre in 2013, with 98% of its generation replaced by fossil fuel methane (aka “natural gas”). Jacobson can certainly be credited with taking the initiative on behalf of Stanford’s Natural Gas Initiative, and at least partial credit for adding 8 million tons of CO2 to California’s annual emissions – all in the name of “renewables”.

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on July 4, 2017

“So expecting that dams in the country could boost their output might be harder than the analysis implies.”

One thing you could do would be to cover the reservoir in floating solar panels, which would generate a lot of power and also reduce loss to evaporation. And the grid connection is already in place.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on July 4, 2017

Blocking sunlight to a reservoir kills its plant life, and probably its fish.  Not a good thing.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on July 4, 2017

Science is messy, but it doesn’t have to be dirty.

Joshua, it gets dirty when someone is pushing bad solutions for problems with grave consequences.

But, in the end, my view is that the body of scientific understanding will be stronger for it. The peer review process is slow, uses imperfect human volunteers and doesn’t always get it exactly right the first time.

With climate change we have to get it right the first time. A slow peer review process will not suffice, and there is no second chance.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on July 4, 2017

The Gish Gallop is the fallacious debate tactic of drowning your opponent in a flood of individually-weak arguments in order to prevent rebuttal of the whole argument collection without great effort.

Einstein found himself a target of this tactic before it had a name: in response to a book challenging challenging relativity titled 100 Authors Against Einstein he said, “If I were wrong, then one would have been enough.”

Bas, your unending stream of argument supported by statements like “there is little doubt here”, “experts expect”; by qualifiers like “reasonable”, by assigning fundamental weaknesses solutions far into the future – together qualify you as a master of the technique.

Conclusions come after the evidence, not before.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on July 4, 2017

@Bob,
Sorry, but the reasons behind the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) premature closure are different.
SONGS was killed by its top-management who decided to circumvent the NRC test procedure when they wanted to install new designed steam generators. They lied to the NRC that the new steam generators were one-to-one replacements, so they could avoid the expensive real life test procedure for new designs.

When the plant was restarted the tubes in the untested new designed steam generators vibrated so much that they had to stop >1000 tubes in the first year and got a radio-active leakage in ~2 years.

So they had to replace those faulty steam generators, again a major investment of a few billion. Then it was decided that the plant didn’t generated enough revenue to justify another risky investment…

Other than in e.g. S. Korea where the responsible managers for a nuclear fraud were convicted to years in prison, SONGS top-management was never prosecuted.
So we should expect a next such nuclear fraud in USA.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on July 5, 2017

Actually, it is 80% renewable electricity and 60% renewable energy. Which will be largely achieved by cutting total energy consumption from the current level radically.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on July 5, 2017

Bas, where to begin?

Southern California Edison wanted to install newly-designed Mitsubishi turbines so they wouldn’t break. It wouldn’t make much sense to re-install a faulty design, would it?

Steam generator replacement was estimated to cost $680 milion, with the cost of hardware covered under a Mitsubishi warranty. Not “a few billion.”

The volume of leakage from faulty steam tubes was 87 gal/day, just more than half of the 150 gal/day required for shutdown. Unit 2 was shut down out of an overabundance of caution.

Water leaking from the secondary loop was measured at .00000005 mSv, 97 million times less radioactive than that deemed by the International Society of Radiology to pose “a significant hazard to human health.” It was never a hazard to anyone working in the turbine room, much less local residents.

SONGS was shut down because Southern California Edison decided it could make more money burning natural gas. 98.6% of San Onofre’s carbon-free generation was replaced by burning natural gas.

Please don’t lecture me on San Onofre, I’ve toured the plant, I know engineers who worked there. I’m a party to California Public Utility Commission Investigation 12-10-013 protesting the Settlement of Southern California Edison’s application for recovery of $4.7 billion in capital costs from ratepayers.

Whether SCE’s actions represent fraud is debatable; not debatable is the fraud of misinformed anti-nukes blathering on a subject about which they know nothing.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on July 5, 2017

Joshua,

The Jacobson Plan aims to use energy sources with low- to medium Energy Return/Energy Invested ratios, with relatively short lives and wear out quickly, i.e., high replacement/refurbishing rates, compared to traditional near-CO2-free energy sources, such as hydro and nuclear.

Millions of additional people would have to be employed in the “distributed-everywhere” energy sector. It would be as if highly efficient, industrial farming, employing relatively few people, were replaced by millions of family farms. This likely would portend an uneconomic energy future for the US.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/review-of-the-100-re-by-2050-plan-for-the-us-by-the-jacobson

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on July 5, 2017

Thorkil,

Germany’s CO2 emissions are about the same as in 2009. The increase in RE over this period did not have the desired effect. The electricity sector contributes only about 45% of Germany’s total emissions. The 100% decarbonizing of the electricity sector, which is already about 45% decarbonized, if we add nuclear, would reduce total emissions by about another 25%. Yet Germany’s efforts to cut emissions continue to concentrate on the electricity sector. Germany likely will not meet its 2020 and 2030 emissions reduction targets.

http://euanmearns.com/an-update-on-the-energiewende/
http://www.ag-energiebilanzen.de

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-energy-lulls-energy-storage-in-germany

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on July 6, 2017

I don’t disagree with the gist of what you’ve said, EP, but one could argue that there are any number of “existence proofs” that people can live on 100% RE. The examples are just rather small, or a bit too spartan for most of us.

On the “small” end of the scale, I’m thinking of off-grid homes or even a few off-grid communities for individuals wealthy enough to afford the wind turbines, solar panels, and battery storage to live reasonably comfortably without ever having to burn fossil fuels. Though in most cases the owners probably still have generators around and stored fuel to run them, “just in case”.

On the “too spartan” end, I’m thinking of the scattering of primitive communities where the people manage to live entirely off the land. I understand there are a few still around in the Amazon jungle, and probably in New Guinea. I doubt that there are many 100% RE fans who favor going quite that far, but you never know.

It’s the nominally self-sufficient, net-zero eco-palaces of a few well-heeled enthusiasts that inspire the WWS dreamers. If net-zero can work for the occupants of these green mansions, why shouldn’t it work for everyone? Sustainability, brother!

Of course the question carries the seeds of its answer, which in this case is simply cost and human nature. If I approach it as an engineering challenge and have funding to develop a few innovations, I think I could make 100% RE feasible for large communities. It would be expensive though.

I don’t see any way I could make 100% RE cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels. Not so long as fossil fuels are unburdened with the external costs of CO2 emissions. So the residents of my hypothetical 100% RE community would have to be idealistic altruists. They’d have to be willing to live simply and / or accept a higher cost of living for the same lifestyle they might enjoy elsewhere.

The Amish notwithstanding, that’s not how people in this culture tend to operate.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on July 6, 2017

The best tracker of the Energiewende I know of is here: https://www.mckinsey.de/energiewendeindex#umweltschutz

Several targets are being missed, but there are also several that are on track. The ones that are being missed are arguably the more important ones though.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on July 6, 2017

Sounds like they did want to install a new and not approved design because the approved design didn’t wor?
And they had to add 680 million$ on top of the warranty of mitsubishi – or get the money from the warranty and not spend any own money when closing the plant? then economic difference eceeds 680 millions.
And when the overall economy of running the plant was already bad (which can be concluded if gas fired new plants were cheeper than to continue) So someone decided not to throw more good money after bad one.. Not surprising to me. Classical failed investment.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on July 6, 2017

… “100% RE” scenario has NEVER been seen with wind and solar.

For two reasons:
1. There is always hydro, waste, some bio-mass/-fuel. storage (PtG, batteries)
So the lowest costs solution is a combination of those as one can read at the German and French simulation studies regarding 100% renewable.

2. The paradigm change: “from central (base-load) power plants as the main generators, towards small generators distributed all over the country often at consumer sites”
is still in the starting phase.
Because wind & solar only recently are becoming so cheap that they can compete those central power plants off the market.

Jacobson study results are in line with those in Germany and France. His results are not doubted by mainstream science & politicians here in NW-continental Europe, in countries such as NL, Germany, DK, France, etc.
Because simulation studies done here long ago, delivered similar results as those of Jacobson.

Note that USA may lag behind even more in the future as:
– solar, being already more expensive than elsewhere, may get higher import tariffs;
– wind developments, bigger turbines = cheaper KWh (up to ~20MW) seem to get more and more behind those in leading countries such as Denmark.
A pity for USA.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on July 6, 2017

Bob, thanks for confirming that your statement
“…nuclear activists were using it to close nuclear plants like California’s San Onofre…” in your previous comment was a fantasy.

The $680milion for the steam generator replacements by Mitsubishi doesn’t fit with the investment recovery claim of $4.7B.
Neither with the figures one can read elsewhere.

SCE did not install Mitsubishi turbines according to relevant literature.
So the word turbines was a typo and should be Steam Generator (SG).

The decision for new designed SG’s was motivated by the idea that they would allow the plant to increase load following capabilities.
A good idea considering the increase of wind & solar.

So the new SG’s had more thinner walled tubes. As they needed more space, designers even thought (wrongly) they could do without a central tube support structure, which the old SG’s had,
Both the thinner walls and the missing support structure, set the stage for the massive vibrations which killed the SG’s in a few years.

If SONGS had followed the required NRC test procedure for new designs, it all wouldn’t have occurred and SONGS would still operate.
It’s amazing that the responsible came away with such expensive violation of NRC rules, endangering the public, without any punishment.

Does it demonstrate the (semi-corrupt) state of the nuclear industry?

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on July 6, 2017

The off-grid homes do not support any industrial capacity and cannot generate enough energy cheaply enough to replace themselves.  They are a dead end.  Even the off-grid communities in places like India have had their expectations dashed; everywhere Greenpeace installs some trivial wattage of PV panels and batteries, the locals start clamoring for “real electricity”.

I’m not sure even the Amish can make it on their own.  Where do they get their steel?

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on July 6, 2017

Schalk,

Do you have an English URL for that site?
The data is semi-clear to engineers, but hopelessly opaque for lay people.

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/german-renewable-energy-generation

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-energy-lulls-energy-storage-in-germany

Jacobson, just as Germany, is another 100% RE proponent, promises to do it on the cheap, which is not the case, if realism in assumptions is introduced.

Germany has PROVEN it cannot be done on the cheap.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/review-of-the-100-re-by-2050-plan-for-the-us-by-the-jacobson

Germany is not meeting its RE targets and its CO2 targets.

RE
Germany’s consumption of electricity from renewables has increased from 30.8%, 32.7%, and 35.1% in the first half of 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively.

But regarding the consumption of thermal energy for buildings, industry and commerce, and fuels for transportation, there has been so little change that the overall energy consumption from renewables has increased from 14.7%, 14.8% and 15.2% in the first half of 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively, which means rich Germany will not meet its 18% goal in 2020.
http://www.dw.com/en/german…

CO2
Germany’s CO2 emissions (from all sources) are about the same as in 2009. There is no way Germany, a big industrial nation, will meet its 2020 and 2030 targets. German households paid a MINIMUM of about 8 x 25 billion euro = 200 billion euro in subsidies during these 8 years to gain a ZERO CO2 emission reduction.
http://www.climatechangenew…
http://www.windtaskforce.or…

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on July 6, 2017

And when the overall economy of running the plant was already bad (which can be concluded if gas fired new plants were cheeper than to continue)

It works in the opposite way. In a regulated environment, as utilities are allowed to extract their costs from the rate payers, +10% profit. So if they can get actions that drive up costs approved by the regulators, the 10% will be larger. Your “conclusion” that gas is cheaper is invalid.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on July 6, 2017

Complain @ Bob.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on July 6, 2017

wind developments, bigger turbines = cheaper KWh (up to ~20MW)

You can’t move the towers or blades for such turbines on roads and highways.  The only way such high-power wind machinery will ever get to the US midwest will be if it’s delivered by air or uses physically compact turbines in very fast winds, e.g. gyromills.

1. There is always hydro, waste, some bio-mass/-fuel. storage (PtG, batteries)

Waste and biomass are usually operated as base load.  They do not do demand response.  We’ve seen the fraud behind the claims for hydro.  Your storage will never amount to anything; it costs far too much.

2. The paradigm change

From nuclear to fluid-bed coal burners.  This is a giant step backward by any measure of environmental responsibility.

Jacobson study results are in line with those in Germany and France.

And now we have a detailed exposure of his frauds, which the German and French studies almost certainly share.  Perhaps it is not too much to hope that all of their authors are properly disciplined for academic misconduct, stripped of their positions and degrees, and then prosecuted for fraud.

douglas card's picture
douglas card on July 6, 2017

Hydro required long lead times”
Compared to what? Certainly not Nukes or coal plants.

douglas card's picture
douglas card on July 6, 2017

Short term solutions are boring. By 2030 we will no longer be discussing fission.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on July 6, 2017

In the USA, the problem isn’t the permits or schedule to build hydro plants.

It’s avoiding a court order to remove it.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on July 6, 2017

Willem,
The low marginal costs of PV-solar and modern wind together with the long life span of PV-solar panels (>100years) and modern wind turbines (>30years), contradict your statement that those have a low/medium Energy Return/Energy Invested ratio!

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on July 7, 2017

So all scientific research, studies and simulations are wrong if they don’t have the outcome which you find acceptable: more nuclear.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on July 7, 2017

“Research” and simulations based on fraud, such as Jacobson’s assumptions that transmission is free and he can make hydro capacity out of thin air, are wrong period.  Just as obviously, the failed claims for cheap, clean energy from wind and solar in northern Europe were based on error at least, if not deliberate fraud.  What aims the evaluation towards fraud today is the refusal of anyone in authority to admit that this bet was bad and the policy must be reconsidered.

It’s got to hurt you to see the precious Energiewende you’re paid to defend fail year after year to meet its essential environmental targets.  This wakes people up and even drives them into the climate denier camp.  I just hope that it forces the ruinables interests and environmentalists apart, as it becomes undeniable that the former do not actually serve or even care about the environment.  The future is with Environmental Progress, not you.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on July 9, 2017

Thank you Schalk.

From the google translation of the overview section:

..The current development of the Energiewende index shows: Of the 15 key figures, ten have deteriorated since the previous survey in autumn 2016, only one has improved….
The conclusion: Many previous successes of the Energiewende have mainly come about through subsidies. This applies in particular to the expansion of wind and photovoltaic plants. At the same time, targets which do not receive direct financial support to achieve them are becoming increasingly unrealistic – above all the CO2e emissions. …

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on July 9, 2017

On the “small” end of the scale, I’m thinking of off-grid homes or even a few off-grid communities for individuals wealthy enough to afford the wind turbines, solar panels, and battery storage to live reasonably comfortably without ever having to burn fossil fuels

Please point one out. For what’s it is worth, I’ve looked in detail and not found one. That is, a reasonably sized, continually occupied home (no woodland or beach shack) in the continental US that runs both i) off grid and ii) without a fossil generator behind the curtain.

…I think I could make 100% RE feasible for large communities. It would be expensive though.

A bold claim. I think you may be pinning most of what you would call ‘excess’ energy use on lifestyle, and missing the high energy infrastructure such as water and sewer distribution, hospitals, factories, schools, transportation, clothes washers. Chip away at these in a large community, making it operate more like Haiti, and the environment suffers like Haiti with its denuded countryside.

The Amish are not disconnected from US manufacturers likes tribes in the Amazon. Those horse drawn carriages use (or have used) brake linings make in a factory in Ohio.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on July 10, 2017

No authority in N-Europe claimed that wind & solar were cheap already.
German authorities claimed that mass-production would bring the high costs of those down. And they were right!
E.g. the PV-solar Feed-in-Tariff decreased a factor 10 since 2003!

And experts claim that those price decreases will continue during next decade….

The Energiewende will reach its major targets, being (in order of priority):
1. All nuclear out before 2022;
2. 80% renewable in 2050. They are now at 37% renewable, more than 3yrs ahead of their scenario.

Sorry, but you cite Jacobson wrongly.