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Flat Investment Levels: End to RE Cost Reductions?

A view from the stratosphere:

A few weeks ago, Ed Kelly posted a new blog entry at Stratosolar. He reviewed the latest Bloomberg report on global clean energy financing. As Ed sees it, the figures reported spell trouble for conventional views of RE. Anyone counting on wind and solar alone to cut carbon emissions in time to avoid the worst effects of climate change may be sadly disappointed.

The numbers that Bloomberg reports are quarterly RE investments, broken down by global region. The key bar chart is shown below.

As one would expect, there’s a lot of variability quarter to quarter, year to year, across different regions. While open to interpretation — the uptick starting in 4Q 2016 could be taken as the start of a new growth phase — the moving average looks roughly flat since 2011. As Ed points out, that is not the sign of the booming market we’d expect if RE resources were truly competitive with fossil fuels. If something doesn’t change, RE will not grow fast enough for us to hold a 2℃ line on global warming.

Subsidies still rule

Despite impressive reductions in the specific cost of solar panels and wind turbines, it seems that investment is still heavily dependent on subsidies. The type and size of subsidies vary across regions, but whether they be feed-in tariffs, investment tax credits, accelerated depreciation allowances, renewable portfolio standards, or whatever, the pattern looks the same: cut back on subsidies and investment drops.

The pattern is not so evident if one looks only at quarterly installed capacity. Globally, that’s been rising pretty consistently. But the rise over the last six years seems due almost entirely to cost reductions. Each investment dollar is buying more installed capacity than it did earlier. That’s encouraging, but is it enough? Can reductions in the cost per kWh for RE resources alone get us to where we need to be while monetary investment levels remain flat?

In theory they could, if prices continued an exponential decline and if costs for the components declining in price remained dominant for the systems as a whole. But both predicates are problematic.

Basic problem #1

There are two basic problems here. The first is rooted in the fact that the RE cost reductions, though impressive, still follow the scaling pattern characteristic of industrial learning curves. Each doubling of production volume tends to bring some percentage of cost reduction. For a surprising range of products, it’s roughly a 20% drop in the cost per unit of production. That’s only a rule of thumb, and there are factors beyond production volume that affect costs. But a 20% reduction in unit cost seems to be the typical return on the capital spending associated with a doubling of production volume.

The point to understand is that cost reductions of this sort depend on a growing market — or on a growing market share for the most efficient manufacturers in the case of market supplied by a number of competing vendors. The cost reductions are the result of increased productivity after investment in new equipment, new designs, and new, more efficient processes. Manufacturers have to expect that the investment will pay off in increased sales revenue. Otherwise it’s a losing proposition and won’t happen.

A consequence of that dynamic is that if the market stops growing, these “learning curve” type cost reductions taper off. There can still be “collateral” cost reductions due to spillover from other still-advancing technologies that play a role in production. The cost of factory robots is an example. But unless they affect the cost of inputs, collateral cost reductions still require capital investment in new equipment. Capital investment in new equipment becomes hard to raise in a market that isn’t growing in monetary terms. So it’s a general rule of manufacturing that when the market stops growing, cost of product stops dropping. It may even begin to rise.

For the last six years, the overall global market that manufacturers see — i.e., the monetary revenue they receive from sales of new RE capacity — has been relatively flat. Market share for efficient producers, however, has been growing as vulnerable competitors are squeezed out. But for PV panels, that process seems largely played out. The market has become dominated by a small handful of large super-efficient producers who have little to gain from undercutting each other’s margins. Hence the long term outlook for PV panel prices would appear stable to rising. A similar situation likely applies to wind turbines, though it’s a different set of players.

I should note that this is by no means a consensus view. The overall BNEF report itself, of which the cited clean energy investment report is a chapter, projects a continuation of price declines. But the basis is not clear. If it’s merely a forward extrapolation of trend lines for the last two decade without recognizing the role of market dynamics, it doesn’t inspire confidence.

Basic problem #2

The second problem is that the elements that have been falling in price — wind turbines and PV panels — have fallen so far that they’re no longer the dominant elements in the systems required to deploy them. Not, at least, if one honestly considers the full extent of those systems. In fact it’s not clear that the rate of deployment would be much accelerated if the cost of PV panels and wind turbines per se fell to zero. Other factors have become limiting.

Some of those other factors are obvious and non-controversial. For grid-scale PV, there’s land acquisition and the permitting process, plus site preparation, installation, and grid connection. Similar considerations apply for wind farms as well. But the biggest cost factors beyond solar panels and wind turbines are indirect. They relate to intermittency, and are more controversial.

The issue with intermittency — and the reason, IMO, that RE deployment remains tied to subsidies — is that there is no established market for energy “as and when it happens to be available”. The market that exists is for energy on demand. Wind and solar don’t deliver that. On their own, they can’t. They can only be elements within a larger system that is able to address the market that actually exists.

Grid-connected wind and solar systems are currently parasitic, in the sense that they exist on top of and depend on a host system from which they siphon resources. Specifically, the revenue they generate is diverted from revenues that would otherwise go to the owners and operators of the host system. So long as the host system’s generation capacity is still required to meet demand when the RE resources are not delivering, the total system cost is raised. The result is that the cost of electricity rises — a giant indirect subsidy to renewables at the expense of ratepayers.

Toward market-based RE deployment

For success in the electricity market, it’s the overall cost of full solutions that matter, not the cost of as-available kilowatt-hours. A “full solution” is one able to reconcile available supply with demand. There are three avenues of approach: energy storage, long distance transmission, and demand side management. They aren’t mutually exclusive; competitive solutions will involve mixes of all three. But however the reconciliation is achieved, the cost of doing so must be considered as part of the cost of intermittent RE. When that’s done, wind and solar are still not competitive with untaxed fossil fuels.

Advocates for intermittent RE would prefer to dismiss or play down those costs. Many contend that the required pieces are already in place, needing only modest upgrades to accommodate high levels of RE penetration. The data in Bloomberg’s global investment report suggest otherwise. So too does the way regional investment levels drop when subsidies are cut back.

Of the three approaches for reconciling electricity supply and demand, energy storage gets the most attention. And most of that attention is focused on batteries. The electric vehicle market has led to sharp gains in cost-performance of battery systems — a trend expected to continue. That should be of major benefit for RE systems. However, there’s a lot of confusion about how much storage capacity is actually needed, and what cost targets the storage must meet.

The confusion is understandable when one considers that there is no single market for energy storage. There are different application domains within the overall storage market. There’s a degree of overlap, but overall the capacity and cost requirements span orders of magnitude. Different technologies are likely needed. Let’s take a quick look.

Domains for energy storage

There are four application domains for energy storage that I find useful to distinguish. They’re based on cycling times and capacity:

  • At the low end is peak shaving and supply firming. Cycle time is minutes to at most about an hour. This level is enough to keep the output from wind or solar farms smooth and predictable. It avoids bumps in the curve of demand that other generators must supply. That in turn reduces forced cycling of those other generators on short notice. It doesn’t, however, eliminate the need for those generators to be available.
  • An order of magnitude above that is the storage capacity needed to accommodate the regular diurnal cycle of solar power. The cycle time is one day. If storage at this level is available, it can reduce the need for peaking generators. It also establishes a floor on hourly wholesale prices of otherwise surplus power. When there’s no other demand for it, the as-available energy can be stored.
  • Above that is the storage capacity needed to bridge extended periods of adverse weather — dunkelflaute as Germans now refer to periods of dark overcast skies with little to no wind. The storage required for this is many times the requirement for diurnal cycling. The fact that it may only be tapped a few times per year makes the economics particularly challenging.
  • The highest and most demanding level of storage would be for addressing seasonal variation. Here the issue isn’t a few days of near-zero output during adverse weather, it’s a whole season of substantially reduced RE output that has to be covered.

Electric vehicles have pushed down the cost of battery storage a long way, but batteries are still only cheap enough to address the first of these application domains at a cost that’s competitive with dispatched generation from untaxed fossil fuels.

Diurnal cycle buffering requires several kWh per kW of RE capacity. It’s the minimum level of storage needed to break intermittent RE free from its “as available” trap. Consequently there’s a lot of interest in it. However the battery technologies currently available are still too expensive. There’s hope that continued growth in the EV market will change that, but it remains to be seen. It may be that other technologies will prove more suitable.

The next level, bridging for extended periods of adverse weather, requires yet another order of magnitude capacity increase and cost reduction. That’s if it’s to be accomplished from storage. There’s no prospect that conventional storage batteries will ever become cheap enough to address this segment of the storage market. New types of flow batteries might possibly manage it, but presently, generation from stored fuel is the only economically viable option.

Harder still is sufficient storage to address seasonal variation in supply. Seasonal variation is a non-issue for nuclear power, but for high penetration RE scenarios excluding nuclear, the only 100% RE solutions would involve mixes of seasonal industries, heavy overbuilding of capacity, and curtailment.

One scalable possibility for a seasonal industry is fuel synthesis. It’s a popular idea among RE advocates. The problems are low efficiency and cost of capital. At best only around 40% of energy input to the process can later be recovered. And even if the fuel produced is simply hydrogen from electrolysis, the capital cost of the plant is high enough to make intermittent seasonal operation problematic. Against untaxed fossil fuels, it’s very hard for synthetic fuels to compete.

Stratosolar’s logic

The unfortunate reality is that it’s very challenging to bridge between “as available” energy resources and the “energy on demand” model on which developed economies have long relied. Not technically challenging; there are any number of workable approaches if cost is no object. The problem is economic viability. Economic viability is signalled by a self-sustaining spiral of rising investment and market size with declining prices. As the Bloomberg report makes clear, that has yet to happen. Dispatched generation from untaxed fossil fuels sets a high bar for clean energy solutions to clear — or one could say a low bar, cost-wise, under which they must limbo.

That, of course, is no news to advocates of nuclear power. That message is central to their advocacy. It may well be that one or more of the next generation nuclear technologies now under development will succeed. If so, it will ultimately leave our present obsession with wind and solar looking quaint.

Or not. With the world ecosphere and future climate at stake, it’s important to hedge our bets. Though support for “100% renewables” and opposition to nuclear seems more ideological than rational, I’m not prepared to dismiss the “100% renewables” vision entirely. It has mainstream momentum, and there are technical approaches to it that could prove economically viable. Leading the pack, in my view, is the approach laid out in the Stratosolar site I mentioned in the opening.

The logic of deploying PV capacity in the stratosphere on tethered platforms is simple enough. The low temperatures and more intense sunlight improve panel efficiency, and the absence of high winds, rain, or hail, and the bone dry atmosphere, could ultimately reduce the cost of the panels deployed. But those are not actually the major benefits. The major benefits relate to taming of intermittency issues.

The Stratosolar approach could, in principle, provide the kind of complete systems solution that would enable a market-based exponential growth in investment levels and capacity. It could support (in this case, literally “support”) sufficient integrated gravity-power storage to cover the diurnal cycle. With conditions in the stratosphere unaffected by cloud cover and weather, PV deployment there would eliminate issues of extended periods of adverse weather. And while it couldn’t eliminate the problem of seasonal variation entirely, it would reduce it.

At the latitude of London, for example, winter sunrise 12 miles above the surface occurs almost 45 minutes earlier, and sunset 45 minutes later, than it does on the surface. More importantly, sunlight reaches the panels with nearly full intensity whenever the sun is above the horizon. As a result, the difference between summer and winter PV production would be much smaller than at ground level. It would be easier to bridge via seasonal industries and generation from fuel.

Policy Implications

The Stratosolar approach remains speculative. Tethering of large lighter-than-air platforms floating in the stratosphere has never been demonstrated, and many assume that it is not possible. Calculations based on fluid dynamics and strength of materials say that it should be, but doubts will remain until the concept is physically demonstrated. However, Stratosloar is only one possible approach for taming intermittency. There are many technically feasible ways to do so without resort to dispatched generation from fossil fuels. It’s a matter of finding one or more that can be economically viable against stiff competition from untaxed fossil fuels.

Whatever technology or combination of technologies ultimately get us rolling toward net zero carbon emissions, it’s clear that change is needed. The course that we’re on will not get us where we need to be quickly enough to prevent sea level rise — as one example — from submerging southern Florida.

The current regime of RE subsidies has done what it was intended to do. It has brought the LCOE for as-available RE down to levels that in favorable locations would be quite competitive with electricity from fossil fuels. “Would be”, that is, if LCOE for as-available energy, rather than on-demand power, were the basis for competition. But it isn’t.

The market appears to have limited appetite for as-available energy, even at bargain prices. What’s needed now to advance RE are systems and infrastructure that increase its utility. The approaches, as already noted, are cheap long-distance transmission, cheap energy storage that scales to terawatt-hours, and commercial applications heavily dominated by the cost of energy and able to operate intermittently. Those are now the areas in need of policy support.

Content Discussion

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on January 11, 2018

Roger, you do an admirable job of explaining in detail the law of diminishing returns, as it applies to both manufacturing and efficiency. I’ll disagree with two of your conclusions, one implied, the other explicit:

It may well be that one or more of the next generation nuclear technologies now under development will succeed. If so, it will ultimately leave our present obsession with wind and solar looking quaint.

Here, you imply the current generation of nuclear technology hasn’t been successful.

Diablo Canyon Power Plant, to be relegated to the dustbin by the California Public Utility Commission in a few hours, has for 32 years generated 18 trillion watthours of carbon-free energy without any significant mishaps or failures – through rainy and windless weather, through storms and earthquakes. Even that unparalleled achievement is no match for a determined fossil fuel industry with unlimited money to spend in shutting it down. If anything, nuclear has been too successful.

The market appears to have limited appetite for as-available energy,
even at bargain prices. What’s needed now to advance RE are systems and infrastructure that increase its utility. The approaches, as already noted, are cheap long-distance transmission, cheap energy storage that scales to terawatt-hours, and commercial applications heavily dominated by the cost of energy and able to operate intermittently. Those are now the areas in need of policy support.

To clarify: what the market has limited appetite for is un-available electricity, whether it’s un-generated by nuclear power plants, by solar, by wind, by hamster wheels.

Electricity, in practical terms, must be generated as needed. Will marginally-increased utility for RE ever match the utility and cost/benefit of dispatchable energy? Of course not – making the enduring obsession with wind and solar not look quaint, but like A) a hideous misstep, of incalculable detriment to the environment, or B) a brilliant swindle, executed by an industry unsurpassed in resources and swindling know-how for over 150 years. Or both.

What’s needed now is to end the charade RE is advancing either the interests of the public or preservation of the environment, before it’s too late to matter.

Walter Runte's picture
Walter Runte on January 11, 2018

Perhaps now that there is a slightly more level playing field and economices of scale cost reductions, the future growth rates for RE are simply calming down to the level of other energy commodities, driven more by demand and as replacements for retirements. But RE isn’t going to become the sole solution for quite some time, if ever. While one could interpret the global numbers as flattening out, it’s not at all clear that’s the case in the US. See: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=34472 Couldn’t agree more with your final two sentences, although there are not high expectations for such policy initiatives in this country under the Trump regime. At least FERC is still appears to be exercising rational judgment.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on January 11, 2018

The market appears to have limited appetite for as-available energy, even at bargain prices. What’s needed now to advance RE are systems and infrastructure that increase its utility. The approaches, as already noted, are cheap long-distance transmission, cheap energy storage that scales to terawatt-hours, and commercial applications heavily dominated by the cost of energy and able to operate intermittently.

You are really going to love what I have in the pipeline.  Getting ready to file.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on January 11, 2018

Hey Bob. Rather thought you’d be raising some of these points. Your comments are welcome. At the least, they give me a chance to expand on what I could say within the 3000 word practical limit to a blog-style posting.

I’m 100% with you on the insanity of prematurely closing existing nuclear plants. I’m dismayed by the decision on Diablo Canyon, and I applaud the diligent efforts that you and others put in to trying to avert that outcome.

Here, you imply the current generation of nuclear technology hasn’t been successful.

I did not intend any such implication. But since you raise the point, I’ll say that there are multiple criteria one could apply for defining “success”. In terms of safety and reliability, there’s no question at all: current generation nuclear technology has been extremely successful. But it hasn’t been a market success.

The anti-nuclear movement was able to kill construction of new plants in the U.S. in the late ’70s. Hysteria around the dangers of ionizing radiation and the threat of core meltdowns has raised regulatory hurdles and inflated operating expenses to the point that in the West, the industry is moribund. The percentage of electricity delivered by nuclear hasn’t increased for 30 years, and more recently has been falling. That’s not what success looks like.

But that’s history. The past is sunk; nothing we can do about it. It has given rise to the present, and understanding how it did so is helpful for understanding the present. But the real question is always “where do we go from here?”

Attempting to revive the industry and rekindle construction of current generation nuclear plants is one option. But is it the right option? I know you favor it. You see it as a way to move forward quickly on decarbonization, bypassing the lengthy development and regulatory approval process for next generation technologies. You’ve gone so far as to suggest that development of next generation technologies is supported by fossil fuel interests as a way to divert us from putting resources into construction of current generation reactors. A case of the best being enemy of the good.

A problem with that view is that building more current generation reactors isn’t really something we can proceed with quickly. There’s a converse to the industrial “learning curve” that I wrote about. It’s the “forgetting curve”, and it’s just as real. When abilities aren’t exercised and honed, they deteriorate. Our ability to build nuclear power plants has deteriorated badly over the last 30 years. There’s no getting around the fact that current generation nuclear reactors are extremely large and complex construction projects. The people who were experienced have mostly retired. Supply lines have eroded or vanished. The horrendous delays and cost overruns on recent projects are what one should expect, when you have big, complex projects carried out by contractors who are all learning on the job.

If resurrecting our ability to build current style nuclear reactors were our only option for achieving practical zero-carbon electricity, we could do it. In 15 – 20 years working on it, we might get good at it. The learning curve for a series of 5 – 10 year projects will be very slow. But it’s not our only option.

The difference between current and next generation nuclear technologies is hardly minor. We’re talking about a 100:1 difference in energy delivered per ton of raw ore, and probably a 10:1 difference in steel and concrete per megawatt of capacity. Plus the potential of factory-produced SMRs is hard to understate. If we’d have to wait decades for the fruits of a resurrected nuclear industry to be realized, shouldn’t we be directing our efforts to the most productive options?

Electricity, in practical terms, must be generated as needed.

Sort of. In this context, discharge from storage counts as “generation”. And it’s certainly dispatchable. So intermittent RE + adequate storage is technically viable. It comes down to economics.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on January 11, 2018

Roger,
There are numerous storage projects popping up so we’ll have a better understanding of the economics there shortly.

Xcel RFP, PNM RFP, NV RFP
and todays CPUC ruling on replacing NG plants in CA.

The main driver for battery prices however continues to be the EV market. For the next few years battery factory capacity will be struggling to keep up with demand.

As evidenced by numerous recents PPAs, solar and wind prices continue to drop across the US,Canada and Mexico(I’m sticking with North America). No end in sight for price drops.

In the meantime we had a decent 70-80 MMT drop in CO2 emissions for the electric sector in 2017 and it appears that 2018 will be a record year for coal plant
closures
– 16-20 GW of coal closing. No end in sight for coal plant closings.

More wind, solar and NG are destroying the economics for coal across the US. Because of that, CO2 emissions will continue to drop in the US into the foreseaable future.

I agree that investment could be higher but inertia is not always easy to overcome. That said, there are many signs that the times they are a changin.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on January 12, 2018

Roger, so many good points here. I will quibble with a few because that’s what I do best.

The first is that discharge from “storage counts as generation”. One is limited by capacity. The other is only limited by available fuel, and thus is (in practical terms) unlimited. When we have enough energy storage to ensure it will never empty, that the lights can’t possibly go out for millions, then storage will count as generation. That will never happen.

There seems to be a misperception nuclear reactor designs, including ones characterized as “Gen 3”, have only become more complicated. Yet the AP-1000, for example, may be the simplest, safest nuclear reactor ever designed (that was the goal). It uses

50% fewer safety-related valves
35% fewer pumps
80% less safety-related piping
85% less control cable
45% less seismic building volume

than earlier Westinghouse designs. Using probabilistic risk assessment, the NRC estimates core damage frequency at once every 50,900,000 years.

Two are being built in the U.S. (Vogtle) and four are under construction in China. The first, at Sanmen, is expected to start generating electricity in 2018. Construction will have taken ten years and cost $6 billion, roughly the schedule and cost of a gigawatt-scale nuke plant in the U.S. thirty years ago. Now remember, the Chinese have never built one of these things either – so how does it take three years longer and cost three times as much to build one in the U.S.?

Maybe the Chinese are willing to risk a core meltdown every 10,000 years, and are carelessly slapping them together to save money. Or maybe, a tolerant U.S. policy which permits Greenpeace, Arnie Gundersen, and the Union of Concerned Bachelor-of-Science Majors to file legal challenges, resulting in delays costing $1,000,000/day, is to blame. What are the chances?

Dozens more AP-1000s are planned to be built worldwide. I think once Sanmen goes live we will see a precipitous drop in construction costs and times as the bugs get worked out. And we’ll find that building safe, gigawatt-scale, Gen 3 modular reactors is actually less of a challenge than building ones three times smaller.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 12, 2018

Many comments from my side.
Point 1 – as always – the influence of grids, especially large grids, is missing
Point 2 – there is a market for “as produced” power, it was created for off peak consumption to keep nuclear and slow reacting coal fired plants buisy during nights and weekends. This naturally also works for renewable power generation, often even more easy. e.g. for solar power during the day.
Point 3 – the market is in a transstition from being subsidised to being non subsidised. So there are factors which press to increase the market – due to being ever more competitive, and factors which decrease the market – the reduction of subsidies per unit of power produced. The latter is not a sign for limits of use of renewable power, its a sign of financial contribution from public sources getting smaller and from market sources getting bigger.
Point 4 – the amout of wind and solar power being tendered at and below wholesale market prices is growing fast. There is also a share where tenders result in prices for renewables below fuel and wear and tear costs of the conventional power generation. In this case keeping the old fleet and adding renewables on top makes the whole system CHEAPER, not more expensive. I would say this is one mayor cause why india expands the amount of tenders so fast. In a second effect, this makes generation with higher fuel and lower capital and standby costs more competitive among the conventional fleet, which means shifts from baseload coal and similar plants to fast reacting gas and also diesel motor generator plants. Which again makes it more interesting to get more renewables in the grid because the difference betweeen renewable power costs and fuel costs will be rising then. Thel lowest cost per capacity at the moment are diesel generator (0,5MW and bigger) with around 150€/kWp costs for capacity all in, and extremely low maintenence costs in standby.
Rising cost differences between renewable power costs and fuel costs will also rais the economy of transferring more power over longer distances in the grids, again reducing the length of times when residual pwoer generation is needed. Which will initialise grid expansions based on earnings on price differences, not for grid stability.
Point 4 even where fuel prices will not be undercut by prices or renewables, they usually now undercut the LCOE costs for baseload generators. Which makes it uneconomic to build new baseload generation, and also males it uneconomic to invest in mayor upgrades for existing baseload generators. Investing in lower capacity cost generators which deliver residual load will be more economic. Which will mean that baseload generators with low fuel and high capacity costs will slowly vanish from the market due to age. Which also will give room for more renwable additions and more transportation of power over longer distances fromplaces where power is cheap at the moment.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on January 12, 2018

Gerry, glad to see a reference from a source which doesn’t stand to profit, directly or indirectly, from the sale of solar farms and wind turbines. Here’s a projection from the same source, which shows fossil fuel “natural gas” generating three times as much energy as renewables through 2040 (even outpacing it, slightly):

https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383(2017).pdf (pg. 7)

Nuclear remains flat. With the severe impacts of climate change only starting to reat their ugly heads, what is remotely responsible / sustainable about that scenario?

By the way – with four out of five FERC commissioners appointed by Donald Trump, what might induce you to believe they are not foot soldiers for “the Trump regime”? What might induce you to believe “storage”, combined with the renewable energy necessary to charge it, and keep it charged – might become more affordable than nuclear in the foreseeable future?

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 12, 2018

These are great points. In Germany, PV-generated electricity fetched 4% less value per kWh in the spot markets for every increased percentage point of penetration (even though Germany exports a lot of its solar production to neighbors sporting lower penetration).

I don’t think most people appreciate how the industrial learning is predicated on fairly low investment volumes and how the value proposition is based on an electricity pricing structure that has been mostly unaffected by the low volumes of solar. As solar is now starting to attain decent volumes, these things are about to change pretty dramatically.

Today, global PV stands at some 2% of electricity production.
First doubling (to 4% penetration): 80% cost, 92% value.
Second doubling (to 8% penetration): 64% cost, 76% value.
Third doubling (to 16% penetration): 51% cost, 36% value

So, at 16% penetration, value in the spot markets could be as low as 36% of average wholesale value per kWh. Additional solar panels would bring in very little extra revenue and the drop in revenue would far outpace the cost declines. Already at 6% penetration, incremental cost declines will be dominated by value declines, so at that point, solar economics will worsen by the day. At 13.6% penetration, the cost/value ratio would be back at where it is today.

Also, as the cost decline is only 20% for a doubling, sustaining exponential growth requires ever-higher annual investments.

Walter Runte's picture
Walter Runte on January 12, 2018

Bob- I never supported the notion that any forecasts of huge RE penetrations in the short term have any validity – what I expect is steady growth, albeit perhaps greater than EIA forecasts. Frack gas is cheap and will be around for a while. However I also do not buy these arguments that RE can never achieve more than a minority percentage of total generation – it will, indeed, become the majority source.
As to nuclear, the only economic factor that can help it overcome its unaffordability would be for there to be a real valuing of carbon in this country. What is mystifying, however, is that many of the chief advocates of nuclear also tend to be against any federal policies that would put a price on carbon because that would acknowledge carbon is a problem, contrary to their ideologically driven science.
I have no illusions as to what mayhem the new FERC may do in the future but was quite pleased (and very surprised) that they rejected the DOE NOPR.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 12, 2018

A few comments, Helmut:
* The market is not in transition from subsidised to unsubsidised. Builds are going on where subsidies are in place, and in other places (like for all European solar pioneers), there’s virtual standstill.
* The tenders that come in below wholesale costs are based on subsidies, AND on speculation in further cost declines as projects are not supposed to come online until a few years out. So the tenders are not for real, they’re kindof futures contracts.
* Renewables and fast-reacting, less efficient, gas/diesel plants is indeed collaborating to eat baseload coal/nuclear. The increased expense of gas/diesel will ensure that average kWh costs, including subsidies, increase rather than decline.
* The reduction of nuclear will offset much of the CO2 gains that could have been had if RE/gas had just eaten coal.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 12, 2018

Nope, in India Mexico etc. there are no subsidies outside the tender. Ther might be speculation on falling costs in some cases, but it is a broad field of offers below wholesale costs there. Assuming that a big share of power companies in the world are speculating is a speculation that needs some proof.
I would not describe the construction of renewables in India as a standstill. And Construction of solar on the iberian peninsular seems to start again without subsidies.
Renewables below fuel costs of coal, Plus a bit of gas or diesel with same or higher efficiency of coal Power stations will in sum not be more expensive than coal power generation today.
I know that unsubsidised renewable power generation is some kind of horror for you, which is not alloed to happen anywhere.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on January 12, 2018

Gerry, though I respect your acknowledgement of the potential for short-term RE penetration, we have no time to waste. None. If it takes longer than 30-40 years to wean society from natural gas-fired electricity, it will take three times that to wean it from oil.

Accompanying the imperative of climate change is the unpleasant reality one-sixth of all species alive today will be rendered extinct if humanity can’t eliminate the consumption of fossil fuel from its energy diet. Though I think we share the same values on that topic, I’m unwilling to accept RE “will, indeed, become the majority source” of our electrictiy just because millions of people want it to be that way.

When physics is at odds with good intentions, physics always wins.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 12, 2018

How do you get the 4% of less value per 5 of penetration, and which effect should guarantee that it goes on like this?

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 12, 2018

More wind, solar and NG are destroying the economics for coal across the US.

Mostly a switch to NG, which comes with GHG methane leaks.

https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/images/2014.10.23/main.png

Wind is not a factor in the southeast US, where nine states have zero wind capacity.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 12, 2018

…The market is not in transition from subsidised to unsubsidised. Builds are going on where subsidies are in place, and in other places (like for all European solar pioneers), there’s virtual standstill

An absolute standstill in generation share. Utility scale subsidies have ceased throughout western europe, so too new utility scale solar. From IEA data through 2016 (plotted by a GTM poster):

https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c642254ac63158554e7a743ef38b86bbc9c33b979d9f2829990ca67593ad14dd.jpg

The German solar data is available now for 2017, a tenth point below 2015.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 12, 2018

It’s a result of Hirth (2016). You can download it here (fig 3):
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2724826

The effect that guarantees that this continues is called supply and demand.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 12, 2018

As to nuclear, the only economic factor that can help it overcome its unaffordability would be for there to be a real valuing of carbon in this country

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7b/Electricity_production_by_sources_in_France.png/330px-Electricity_production_by_sources_in_France.png

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 12, 2018

Value decline of PV with increasing generation share is not the only part of its impact on system cost. The dispatchable thermal fleet capacity, which must be maintained and remain mostly in place as VRE increases share, becomes more expensive per kWh. Then there is the cost of additional transmission.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 12, 2018

Roger – Recall the French built out their gen 2 fleet to 75% share in 10-12 years.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 12, 2018

Nope, in India Mexico etc. there are no subsidies outside the tender.

Tenders are subsidies (guaranteed remuneration is worth a lot), and they always include a lot of subsidies, such as free grid connection.

Ther might be speculation on falling costs in some cases

Everybody knows there is major such speculation.

Assuming that a big share of power companies in the world are speculating is a speculation that needs some proof.

Not at all. It’s obvious. There’s no way to get such LCOEs with current system costs.

I would not describe the construction of renewables in India as a standstill.

It’s fairly close to, despite subsidies. India is huge and always post huge plans, but does very, very little.

And Construction of solar on the iberian peninsular seems to start again without subsidies.

No, with subsidies.

I know that unsubsidised renewable power generation is some kind of horror for you, which is not alloed to happen anywhere.

Wind can probably be built profitably to save some natgas in certain circumstances, and solar might be close to that too in the best markets. So I think it could happen, but it doesn’t yet, to any significant degree. I know, however, that to you, it’s extremely attractive to pretend that subsidised generation is unsubsidised.

Walter Runte's picture
Walter Runte on January 12, 2018

The best technology does not always win in a public market , however. See betamax v VHS.

Walter Runte's picture
Walter Runte on January 12, 2018

If the implication is that nuclear is economic in France, then understand the only proper comparison between French nuclear economic and the US is the debacle of Flamenville. As to their existing fleet, perhaps if the US fleet had been operated by one government owned utility using one common reactor vendor with small iterative design improvements over time with one “PUC” and one regulator a comparison might be apt. But it isn’t.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on January 12, 2018

Looking forward to it!

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on January 12, 2018

Gerry, so I understand: in your opinion, the solution to the problem of global climate change relies on “the public market”, or self-interest: whatever makes individuals the most money, improves their lives etc.
vs.
what’s best for the environment millions will inhabit when they’re dead and gone? I think most would consider such an attitude irresponsible.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 12, 2018

In most places, the conventional power stations also get the free grid connection. So where is the subsidy?
And no in Portugal wher most solar is planned there are no subsidies. And the speculation a “everybody knows” point – any proof for that that most do so?
And what prices do you expect with system costs of around 600€/kWp and interest rates close to zero?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 12, 2018

Did you read the document? It assumes a linear merit order curve (which does not exist), Apendix A shows some literature research which show declines of -0.7- -3,5% , and none seems to consider the grid effects which allows higher local supplies of renewable power to reach demand rising roughly by square with the difference of average wholesale market price and actual local market price depressed by feed in of renewable power. Things are a bit more complex.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 12, 2018

In most places, the conventional power stations also get the free grid connection.

Hardly. And if they do, the high capacity factor makes the grid far cheaper for conventional power.

And no in Portugal wher most solar is planned there are no subsidies

I’ve heard that tune so many times for different countries, only to discover there are, in fact, subsidies.

And what prices do you expect with system costs of around 600€/kWp and interest rates close to zero?

First, I don’t believe that’s a true system cost including land and grid. Second, interest rates close to zero points to subsidies, often in the form of guaranteed tariffs. Building a solar plant is risky business, if nothing else then because wholesale electricity prices in sunny hours will plummet in a few years due to more solar.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on January 12, 2018

Define “best” technology in this context.  Betamax could not contain one full movie on a single casette.  VHS could deal with longer content even at lower quality, which consumers found preferable.

Sony chose, and the consumers chose differently.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 12, 2018

Why would Flamenville be the only ‘proper’ comparison for nuclear power economics? Flamanville is a new design, the EPR, the first build in the French queue in years.

The point of the earlier French build out is empirical: a national nuclear build out *can* be done economically, because, whatever the conditions, it has been done. French electricity prices are well below the EU average.

Perhaps a common vendor and nuclear design is required. If so, let it be done. The US has a single regulator. If the US regulator is malevolent, let it be reformed.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on January 12, 2018

This is a good discussion. Helmut’s points are well taken, but so are Jesper’s counter-points. I’ll jump in here with a few more comments of my own.

Point 1 – as always – the influence of grids, especially large grids, is missing

An earlier draft of this article had an entire section about transmission. But that draft was too long. The transmission section didn’t survive the cut. I can summarize the gist of it, however.

The cost of long distance transmission capacity varies widely across different countries and different geographical regions. RE advocates tend to base their projections on best-case instances like Australia, where permitting, acquisition of right-of-way, and construction across a couple of thousand kilometers of mostly flat, uninhabited desert make long distance transmission projects relatively easy. In places like the U.S. and most of Europe, however, acquiring right of way, overcoming NIMBY opposition from the hundreds of jurisdictions the transmission lines must cross, and securing the required permits can make the project as drawn out, difficult, and expensive as building a new nuclear plant.

A more practical alternative would be to upgrade existing AC transmission lines to HVDC. That’s a major undertaking and problematic in that the AC transmission line would have to be taken out of service before the upgrading could even start. Anything the AC line had fed would have to be supplied some other way. We should probably be working on something like that anyway, but so far all the talk about “rebuilding our infrastructure” has remained only that — talk.

In any case, converting existing HVAC lines to HVDC would not be enough to create the kind of continental scale balancing region that RE advocates suggest as a way to slash storage requirements and the need for fossil fueled backup for renewables. HVDC is only a factor of 2 better than HVAC, in terms of cost per mile per kilowatt of capacity. That would be enough to raise the level of penetration that intermittent renewables could achieve before undercutting their value, but it wouldn’t be a dramatic increase. FWIW, my own estimate of what would be needed to make routine delivery of power from several thousand kilometers practical is at least a 5x improvement. With natural gas cheap and untaxed, it’s simply easier and cheaper to build a local gas turbine power.

Point 2 – there is a market for “as produced” power, it was created for off peak consumption to keep nuclear and slow reacting coal fired plants buisy during nights and weekends.

Yes, on the wholesale markets, industrial users have long been able to bid for blocks of power at low off-peak rates for specific applications. And I gather that Germany has supported aluminum smelters that can operate intermittently on cheap surplus power.

The problem is that existing applications are too small to move the needle very far on the amount of intermittent RE that can be accommodated. The capital cost of equipment must be very low to make operation at a very low CF in return for cheap electricity an attractive proposition. Suitable applications do exist though, and more could be developed. Providing an attractive incentive environment for them is one of the policy directions I strongly favor. It doesn’t matter whether we end up hewing to the RE path or switch to nuclear; a good supply of discretionary loads benefits both.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on January 12, 2018

Indeed, and bravo for them. They proved in the most direct way possible that it could be done. But the workers and engineers behind that build-out have nearly all retired. Their successors who are struggling to bring in the EPR reactors in today’s safety and regulatory environment are having difficulties.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on January 12, 2018

… the “100% renewables” vision …. It has mainstream momentum …

I’d say it is really only the ideology of 100% renewables that has momentum.

The details that are necessary to make the renewable vision a reality are not really discussed much and are certainly not acceptable.

For example, power-to-fuel (where the fuel is high-value transportation fuel, not a replacement for cheap pipeline fossil gas) seems like a necessary part of supply-demand balancing in any 100% renewable grid. But ammonia/hydrogen economy concepts received hardly any public support before the latest generation of BEVs, and get even less now.

In a PV-rich grid (which imply low wholesale electricity cost on sunny days), it is hard to see how residential PV could continue to receive the economic benefit of net-metering. But advocates think of it as a birth-right.

A related problem will effect would-be renewable energy producers in high-cost and resource-poor regions. The uneven geographic distribution of renewable resources and increasing amounts of long-distance power transmission implies that there will be winners and looser.

Just compare the winter-time solar potential of Europe versus the Sahara desert; why not put all the solar collectors in the desert?

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on January 12, 2018

I think most would consider such an attitude irresponsible.

I think responsible vs. irresponsible is irrelevant. What you’re describing is simply the way things work in this culture. Would it be better if we could shift the culture toward more enlightened views? No doubt. But how to accomplish that?

Mostly, we’re left to figuring out how to make things work as well as possible under the constraints we’re handed. That’s what engineers do, is it not?

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on January 12, 2018

Dozens more AP-1000s are planned to be built worldwide.

I suspect that most of those will be replaced by China’s Hualong 1 reactor, especially those planned for Chinese sites. It has about the same capacity, it also uses Gen III+ technology, plus neither of the two vendors which are producing it are bankrupt like Westinghouse Nuclear.

Also, remember that as part of the deal for the first four AP-1000s in China, Westinghouse sold the rights for derivative designs. China is already building the first CAP-1400, which has all the same great AP-1000 technology.

The most likely way that big US companies like GE, Westinghouse, and B&W will return to the reactor business is by buying successful startup companies. NuScale will likely be the only Gen III+ startup to reach the market; most other are Gen IV (i.e. Kairos, Terrestrial, X-energy to name a few).

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on January 12, 2018

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on January 13, 2018

I think responsible vs. irresponsible is irrelevant. What you’re describing is simply the way things work in this culture.

Roger, that’s where we disagree. Your comment could have been made about slavery, about suffrage, about any number of other societal ills. Yet some refused to settle for what’s “simply the way things work in this culture”, or the constraints they’re handed – because they understood status quo wasn’t good enough.

I don’t know many engineers, but the ones I do (who work in aerospace) don’t think in terms of making things work as well as possible. They’ve been hired to solve problems, even if it requires re-defining the task before them, and submitting work which is “good enough” would cost them their jobs. That, by definition, is responsibility.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on January 13, 2018

It doesn’t matter whether we end up hewing to the RE path or switch to nuclear; a good supply of discretionary loads benefits both.

The irony is that it benefits nuclear more and sooner, because the ratio of average to peak is higher for nuclear and the capacity factor of discretionary loads is higher, making them economic at higher capital cost.

One of the things I expect to see early on when such things are developed is the elimination of negative wholesale prices in deregulated markets with high nuclear penetration.  The discretionary loads will bid in for however much power anyone wants to supply at some price at or near zero.  The phenomenon of paying to put power on the grid will simply disappear.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 13, 2018

This is somewhat of a chicken and egg problem. If you want to build non-subsidised generation, you need high-value applications. That somebody is willing to use almost free power doesn’t help the generating asset pull in substantial revenue.

That means, even if you find some use of excess energy, you still need subsidies. And with subsidies, what do you do? You raise the overall energy consumption to artificially high levels, and you might lower carbon emissions per CO2, but will total CO2 emissions budge? Hardly. Possibly the opposite. And what will we gain? Pool heating in Europe, excessive airconditioning or bitcoin mining?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 13, 2018

Well you can keep voltage and mast size but increase wires and currents, especially with HVDC. This can be added on top of the factor two, making it 2*n. there is no physical upper limit for wire diameters and currents. The masts will need to be replaced with ones looking the same but made of thicker steel. But since most masts are aging some replacement will have to happen anyway, but also often it is not a real problem to replace the masts with bigger ones, so increasing voltage and numberr of circuits.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 13, 2018

At point 2 – as far as I can observe, demand is about 10 GW higher at days with high renewable supply than at the same kind of day with low renewable supply – even withous significant action in this direction. (most custemers don’t get off peak rates in this situation). So it is not the silver bullet which solves all things alone, but it makes a significant contribution.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 13, 2018

yes, self consumption which goes unmeasured is still rising, but you will likely see the numbers rising again from next year with rising installation numbers. With the solar supply today it is no real problem to double it in the german grid.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on January 13, 2018

the price per kWh residual power generation rises if the fleet is not adopted to the new operating modes, but oveall costs fall.
Also there is a systematic market failure which will need a new market design sometimes in the future. market prices accordin to fuel prices do not work in a environment where no supplyer has fuel costs. Imagine Jesper would develop the ideal nuslear power station wich could turn dirt into power according to e=mc² without wastes and without losses, and any amout of it from a sinfgle plant. so he would be able to supply the whole ecanomy with any amout of power needed, but would not get a dime for it, because the perfectly dispatchable power would be considered worthless by todays market rules. So changes are neccesary.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on January 13, 2018

Roger,
“Anyone counting on wind and solar alone to cut carbon emissions in time to avoid the worst effects of climate change may be sadly disappointed”

The level of investment is at least 4-5 times less than required. Here are some IPCC data and estimated capital costs required to achieve 2.0 C or 1.5 C by 2100.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cop21-ipcc-co2-emission-reduction-goals-and-required-annual

1) The world CO2eq, all sources, including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), are on a “business as usual” trajectory to become about 64.7 b Mt by 2030. If so, the increase above pre-industrial would be about 4.3 C by 2100.

There has been a reduction in the rate of increase of emissions during the past few years. The IPCC BAU CO2eq projection for 2030 is based on a higher CO2eq growth rate than the actual growth rates in 2015 and 2016. However, a greater growth rate is expected in 2017. See URL.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/summary-of-world-co2eq-emissions-all-sources-and-energy-related

World investments in RE systems have averaged about $280 b/y for the 2011 – 2016 period (6 years). That level likely would lead to CO2eq emissions of about 64.7 b Mt by 2030. China has spent about $80 b/y during the past 3 years to finally deal with its horrendous pollution problems.

2) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 58.9 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of all policies and pledges made prior to COP21. If so, the increase would be about 3.7 C by 2100. Investments of at least $600 b/y, starting immediately, would be required to achieve the IPCC trajectory of 58.9 b Mt by 2030. See note 1.

3) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 55.2 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of UNCONDITIONAL COP21 pledges by 2030, per IPCC. If so, the increase would be about 3.2 C by 2100.

4) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 52.8 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of CONDITIONAL COP21 pledges by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 3.0 C by 2100.

5) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 41.8 b Mt by 2030, with an ADDITIONAL 52.8 – 41.8 = 11.0 b Mt of CO2eq emissions reduction by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 2.0 C by 2100. That additional reduction is not trivial, as it is equivalent to about 11 times the total annual emissions of the entire EU28 transportation sector.

6) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 36.5 b Mt by 2030, with an ADDITIONAL 52.8 – 36.5 = 16.3 b Mt of CO2eq emissions reduction by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 1.5 C by 2100. Investments of at least $1.5 trillion/y, starting immediately, would be required to achieve the IPCC trajectory of 36.5 b Mt by 2030.

NOTE 1: Item 2 is a big if, because since COP1 (Kyoto-1990), all major developed nations have failed to fully implement all policies and pledges to decrease CO2eq emissions.
http://www.nature.com/news/prove-paris-was-more-than-paper-promises-1.22378

.

Walter Runte's picture
Walter Runte on January 13, 2018

Bob- no, that is not my opinion. I agree that there is little time left to do anything effective, if, indeed, it is not already too late. It’s pretty clear that achieving the goal of limiting the temperature rise to 2 degrees is pure fiction already and that in many places we are into accomodation strategies rather than mitigation. The energy markets simply need to begin to function on the basis of real rather than artificial costs and part of the real costs is the cost of carbon emissions. In the US, however, we are still talking about whether carbon is an issue at all, rather than effective means to incorporate its costs into our system. The pathetic cast of characters that are now in control of that destiny are not going to acknowledge the problem, much less do anything about it. Natural gas (or any other single technology) is not the long term answer. For the short term however, it is a necessary evil. I think the bottom line is that we’re stuck with a global patchwork quilt that, taken together, is not going to cut it. And the US has abdicated any role in influencing that future to others, at least for the next 3 years.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on January 13, 2018

Looking forward to the updated version of this chart with 2017 data.
2013 was 300 MMT of CO2 ago. We are at 1,750 MMT now.

What will this chart look like in 2020 – when we will be down a further 150MMT for a total of 1,600 MMT of CO2?

That said – your regional point is valid. In some regions/states wind is destroying coal. In some regions/states solar is destroying coal. In other regions/states NG is destroying coal.

More coal closures being announced weekly – latest is in FL. Coal in FL is mostly being replaced by NG – but solar is finally start to show up as well.

1800 MW Big Bend coal plant to convert to NG.

FPL closes coal and brings on Solar

2018 is gonna be a huge year for coal plant closures. No CPP needed.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on January 13, 2018

I read the document and understand it. The 4% value drop is an empirical finding. The assumption of linear merit order curve is for some modeling that makes it likely the drop will continue to be linear, however, that the merit order curve is convex might not be to your advantage, actually.

Btw, Appendix A has ONLY wind power studies, so you’re wrong about that too. However, in the paper, he reference a slightly older study of his: “For solar power, Hirth reports a drop of 5.5% based on market data; 3.6% based on meta-analysis of published studies; 4.6% based on numerical simulations with a power market mode.”

Your square-of-differences sounds a bit nonsensical, so I think you should do what I did (link the source).

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on January 13, 2018

If it were know going in that the EPR build queue were 20-30 deep instead of this handful, as was the gen 2 build decades ago, then the EPR might also be a success, unlike Flamenville.

Rudolf Huber's picture
Rudolf Huber on January 13, 2018

And we have not even started to factor in the cost of decommissioning large wind parks or solar arrays once they are at the end of their lifetime – which comes quicker than expected (in winds case at least). When talking to engineers at Austria’s largest wind park in Burgenland, they speak of enormous rates of breakage and wear and tear. Much more than expected which means that windmills must be refurbished long before their book life putting further strain on the balance sheet. Not a pretty picture.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on January 13, 2018

Once wind+solar share reach 50%, there will be only space for flexible generators with low fixed costs…

Agreed.

However, because hydrogen production has non-negligible capital cost, operation at low capacity factor produces expensive fuel: even the most optimistic targets call for a price/Btu somewhere around that of gasoline (i.e. much higher than the cost of frac’ed fossil gas or coal). This means that those flexible generators will be powered with fossil methane gas, not renewable hydrogen (at least in the US).

In many locations, such as Germany, India, and China, gas is in short supply, and/or is imported from countries (e.g. Russian and Iran) that lead to security/political/trade-balance problems. The results will be that people will happily pay the extra capital cost of coal-burning plants instead of gas.

In other words, solar+wind as a climate solution is nearly guaranteed to fail.

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