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CEO: Xcel will likely need gas or nuclear power to reach carbon-free goals

Source: 
Star Tribune

May 22--While Xcel Energy aims to produce 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, renewable energy alone will not meet that goal.

“The grid can’t be 100% renewable,” Xcel CEO Ben Fowke told state public utility regulators Wednesday. “That last 20% [from 80% to 100%] has to be carbon-free and it has to be dispatchable.”

Dispatchable refers to electricity that can be brought onto the grid on demand -- and it comes primarily from “baseload” power plants, which today burn fossil fuels or produce nuclear energy. Wind and solar power, given their variability, cannot provide constant power and thus can’t be dispatched at all times.

“If we don’t have [grid] reliability, then the clean energy transformation comes to a screeching halt,” Fowke said.

Fowke spoke before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on the heels of Xcel’s announcement Monday that it would exit coal-fired power by 2030, a decade ahead of schedule. The utility also wants to extend the life of its Monticello nuclear plant by at least 10 years and more than triple its solar power capacity.

Those are the highlights of Xcel’s long-term resource plan, which will be formally filed with the PUC in July. All investor-owned utilities in Minnesota file such plans every few years.

Fowke occasionally addresses the PUC to update Minneapolis-based Xcel’s big-picture plans, with his last appearance in October 2017.

Xcel, Minnesota’s largest electricity provider, has set some of the most ambitious decarbonization goals of any U.S. utility. The company has acknowledged that the last stretch of total decarbonization -- getting from 80% to 100% -- will require technologies that haven’t yet been developed.

Nuclear power is the only well-established form of carbon-free, baseload electricity. Xcel’s three nuclear generators in Minnesota -- the one in Monticello and two at Prairie Island near Red Wing -- provide 29% of the electricity in Xcel’s Upper Midwest region, which primarily covers Minnesota, but also includes western Wisconsin and parts of the Dakotas.

The federal licenses of Monticello and the Prairie Island reactors expire in 2030 and 2033 and 2034, respectively -- well before Xcel’s carbon-free zero hour of 2050. Xcel wants to re-license Monticello to extend its life to 2040, with an option for it to run until 2050.

Such an extension requires state and federal approval, and the federal re-licensing process takes many years. Monticello and Prairie Island were built in the early 1970s and each was initially licensed for 30 years, and later re-licensed for another 20 years.

With its proposed Monticello extension, Xcel would be one of only a handful of U.S. power companies that have so far asked federal regulators for a third round of re-licensing.

The electricity industry has soured on building new conventional nuclear plants given their huge costs. However, smaller reactors are being developed that eventually may be deployable at far lower costs -- possible “next generation” technology that Fowke noted at Wednesday’s PUC meeting.

Large batteries that store renewable power are seen by environmentalists and clean energy advocates as important in decarbonizing electricity production.

Xcel’s clean energy plan for Colorado -- its other main market besides Minnesota -- includes a healthy battery component over the next few years. However, battery storage projects were absent from the utility’s Minnesota resource plan unveiled this week.

The financials don’t work as well yet in Minnesota, Fowke told the PUC. “We are very interested in nurturing batteries, but today batteries with storage don’t quite meet the economic (test). But in five years, they might.”

Fowke told the PUC the company plans over the next decade to add smaller gas-fired generators known as “peaker” plants. They essentially operate as a reserve, dispatching power when demand is high, particularly in the summer.

In an interview, Fowke said that new gas peaking plants “right now are probably a better bet than batteries.”

Natural gas currently accounts for 12%of Xcel’s power generation in the Upper Midwest, while coal accounts for 30% and wind 18%. Xcel is counting on natural gas, which emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal, to play an important role in supplying dispatchable power as the company exits coal and increases renewables production.

Xcel plans to build a large natural gas plant in Becker, which would open in the 2020s as the three large coal generators there begin closing.

The Becker gas plant -- if it’s to live up to Xcel’s 2050 no-carbon goal -- must eventually adopt some sort of carbon capture technology to store its green house gas emissions. Carbon capture is still a relatively nascent technology. Fowke has said Xcel is open to it -- if it becomes cost-effective.

“If we achieve our 2050 vision, we can’t be using natural gas the way we are today,” Fowke told the PUC.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

___

(c)2019 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Discussions

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 25, 2019

Mike, thanks for sharing Ben Fowke's voice of experience (sanity?):

"'The grid can’t be 100% renewable,' Xcel CEO Ben Fowke told state public utility regulators Wednesday. 'That last 20% [from 80% to 100%] has to be carbon-free and it has to be dispatchable.'"

but you're wrong here:

"The company has acknowledged that the last stretch of total decarbonization -- getting from 80% to 100% -- will require technologies that haven’t yet been developed."

The company has done no such thing, Mike, because nuclear is 100% carbon-free, and Ben knows it. Somehow, by associating nuclear with coal, renewables evangelists and their partners in Big Gas have managed to create the impression somehow nuclear is capable of generating carbon emissions. It's not. Once more, for the record: nuclear is 100% carbon-free, and the technology to bridge the last stretch of total decarbonization has been available for three decades or more.

Ben Fowke's is a voice of experience in not only energy, but economics. He speaks from a position of responsibility for bringing value to his shareholders, and reality when it comes to solving climate change. His exact words are important:

"The grid can't be 100% renewable."

it can be 100% carbon-free, however, and due to the variable nature of solar and wind gas will be necessary to balance supply and maintain reliability. Thus, the only way to achieve a 100%, reliable, affordable carbon-free grid is with unscalable, dispatchable natural sources of energy (geothermal/hydropower), or nuclear energy, or some combination of the two.

I welcome all challenges from wind and solar proponents - bring it on. You will lose.

 

 

Ned Ford's picture
Ned Ford on May 24, 2019

I'm pleased to see that Xcel believes as I do that the crunch point for "nothing but wind and solar" comes about 80% of the way to 100%.   Consider this though:

Three years ago it would have been absurd to suggest that hydrogen could be a factor.   The cost of electricity to hydrolize water has been running about 5 to 5.5 cents at wholesale, and the cheapest resources were over 3.5 cents in all but a very few special cases.

Today we have new wind and solar contracts coming on line fast under 2.5 cents, with the lowest wind contract I know of being Xcel's 1.5 cents.

At 1.5 cents, wind electricity to produce hydrogen is competitive with today's natural gas prices.   It is cheap and easy to convert natural gas plants to hydrogen.   The existing natural gas storage infrastructure is equivalent to about three to four months total U.S. electric supply, which of course is far more than we would actually need.

A lot has been written about the dangers of hydrogen, but this strategy eliminates most of them by keeping the hydrogen out of consumer hands.  Further, if hydrogen can be competitive with natural gas today we are likely to see a near term future where hydrogen can be converted to liquid or gas hydrocarbons with a moderate added cost.

Here's the real kicker:  If we have a contract today for wind at 1.5 cents per KWh, we can expect a massive conversion - something like 110% of today's supply coming from wind and another 50% of today's supply coming from solar (my working theory for 2040), we will have a good twenty percent of our power being generated above local grid consumption.   That power can be sold at discount without harming the overall economics - maybe actually improving them depending on who owns what and how they own it when.

So this isn't just a reasonable speculation.  In my view it is the front runner technology for storage.  It preserves the value of some of the existing natural gas generators, makes the infrastructure valuable as well, and involves just about nothing we don't already need to know.

Maybe batteries will be cheaper.  Nuclear power will not.  And we have to end all fossil fuel consumption, not just most of it.  Climate doesn't allow us to bargain.   It is a natural process we either change or stop changing.

There are other candidates for that last 20%.  Pumped hydro, compressed air, dispatchable loads, other less well known systems which provide the grid reliability and dispatchability that is being considered here.   The best way to figure this out is to get from here to the point where 80% of our electricity is coming from wind and solar and anything else that is competitive at the time, and see what looks like the best choice then.

If we work at a reasonable pace that will be around 2026.   I'm not going to spell out the timeframe here, but we need 6% new clean energy every year for about 30 years.  We can't diddle about now and catch up later.  Climate also doesn't work like that, and neither does the electric generation business.  6% is less than U.S. construction of coal from 1940 to 1970, and less than China construction of coal for about 15 years ending about five years ago.  We have three technology groups (efficiency, wind and utility scale solar) which are cheaper than anything we are doing today.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 25, 2019

"The cost of electricity to hydrolize water has been running about 5 to 5.5 cents at wholesale..."

95%+ of industrial hydrogen is produced by steam-reforming methane, and there are good reasons for that - it's far more efficient than electrolysis, and predictable. Unless you have a specific source for this claim, the idea a wholesale market even exists for renewables-sourced hydrogen, available only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, is absurd.

"It is cheap and easy to convert natural gas plants to hydrogen..."

Can you identify one gas-fired electricity plant which has been converted to burning hydrogen?

"The existing natural gas storage infrastructure is equivalent to about three to four months total U.S. electric supply, which of course is far more than we would actually need."

Nonsense. 2017 U.S. gas consumption was 27,100 bcf, total current gas in storage for all purposes - not just electricity - is 1,795 bcf (5/24/19). Starting today, we could get by for 24 days on gas in storage, or 8 days of hydrogen in storage at the same pressure. Of course, we will never need hydrogen gas stored at pressure because it will never be used to generate grid electricity or heat homes (there are good reasons for that, too).

"We have three technology groups (efficiency, wind and utility scale solar) which are cheaper than anything we are doing today."

"We" have no such thing, Ned. Two of your arbitrary technology groups are sources of energy. Energy is a precisely-defined scalar quantity; efficiency is a ratio. As such, it can as much be considered a source of energy as pixie dust (i.e., with even less credibility than solar and wind).

 

Kenneth Gibson's picture
Kenneth Gibson on May 26, 2019

It is amazing that there is still argument about our ability to survive without the combustion of hydrocarbons. Even the utility CEO says that batteries could bridge his 20% gap, it's just more expensive. So what! Is it better to invest in peakers with a useful life of 40 years so you can write them off in 20 or invest in expensive battery systems that can take you into the 100% carbon free era? That is the question. And of course it makes sense to favor the long term investment even if it seems to cost more. Particularly since the cost of funds is more likely to be higher than lower in 20 years.

Hydrogen. The water utility serving us in Oakland CA is also the operator of the wastewater treatment plant here. Methane is a by-product of wastewater processing. They breakdown the methane to produce hydrogen which is used to generate electricity to power the plant. This reduces the global warming impacts of methane releases or flaring to release carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is being produced from water as a vehicle fuel for sale along roadsides in Germany. It costs more than diesel fuel - unless you tax the diesel fuel. The purpose of government, for the people, is to adjust the economic strings so that corporations do what we need them to do. Governments of politicians paid for with corporate campaign funds aren't "for the people." This is just a matter of basic economics. It is not even a question of "new technology" anymore.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 27, 2019

Kenneth, Oakland isn't making hydrogen from the methane released in sewage processing - they're burning the methane (exactly the same as flaring) but using the heat it releases to generate electricity, to operate the plant.

https://www.hcn.org/issues/46.1/oakland-transforms-waste-to-renewable-energy

Yes, the burning methane generates CO2. But unlike flaring from an oil well, generating electricity this way adds no fossil fuel carbon to the Earth's atmosphere.

The plant also needs to truck in biowaste from other sources (organic waste, cooking oil, etc) to be able to generate enough electricity. What the city isn't accounting for is the fossil fuel footprint of the dump trucks required to collect and transport this waste to Oakland's water facility. With all inputs added together, the city could be generating more carbon emissions than if it just used piped-in, fossil fuel gas to accomplish the same thing.

Ned Ford's picture
Ned Ford on May 29, 2019

So if electricity for hydrolysis is running at 5 to 5.5 cents wholesale (which is exactly what I agree wholesale electricity from coal, natural gas and nuclear averages), what happens when new wind can produce electricity for 1.5 cents (see Xcel's purchase in Colorado last Winter, or any of a dozen similar announcements around the country and around the world)?  I didn't say renewable electricity was available today at that price for hydrolysis.  What I thought you might understand was that as we build a large wind and solar resource hydrolysis will become a large and important dispatchable load, simultaneously solving part of the problem with dispatchability of renewables, and creating a storable fuel very inexpensively.

At the end of this year the wind tax credit will go away (unless wiser heads extend it a few more years).  The current tax credit is 1.4 cents per KWh or thereabouts (there seems to be a range that different sources quote, including the Federal government's own page on this).  So wind might cost 3 cents per KWh next year, compared to that 5 to 5.5 cents I think we agree on.  More to the point though, if hydrolysis needs electricity at 1.5 cents and can absorb a huge amount of electricity in a short period it will be in the generator's interest to sell discounted power from wind and solar during peak times, in order to subsidize a larger total investment in plants to cover more off-peak hours.    That's assuming wind suddenly stops getting cheaper.  I don't know what the bottom is for wind or solar.  I was told many years ago that solar had a lower floor than wind, but both technologies have gone below what people imagined was possible that long ago.

You need to go online and look for natural gas storage capacity, not the amount of gas presently in storage.  EIA has that.

Your distinction between efficiency and the two renewables is irrelevant to the question of solving climate change.   https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&ved=2ahUKEwiL3uGK9sHiAhU2CjQIHTHbCPwQFjAIegQIBxAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.energy.senate.gov%2Fpublic%2Findex.cfm%2Ffiles%2Fserve%3FFile_id%3D50B64549-CAE7-2D29-AE37-6CB56F7424BF&usg=AOvVaw2CqqjhfY_ObqjsrfW9EkxU

Sorry about the link, but it might impress you.  76% of all new energy resource added to the U.S. economy from 1970 to 2005 was efficiency.   And unlike nuclear, it is actually too cheap to meter.

I don't really care if you don't care to do the math, or study the effectiveness of efficiency or the delivery approaches.  They still matter a lot, since we are cutting carbon faster with efficiency today than we are with wind plus solar combined.   I hope to see wind and solar exceed efficiency soon, but it hasn't happened yet.

As far as converting a natural gas plant to hydrogen, there is no reason to do so today.   But any engineer should be able to explain to you how it is done.  When the economics justify it, it will happen.  If the economics of other forms of storage make a better choice available, it won't happen.   I'd be shocked if someone doesn't experiment with it, and there may be such experimentation today.  

This discussion is about what happens when we have all the wind and solar that can be used without storage.  It's a pleasure to see someone like Xcel's Fowke agreeing with other less prestigious folks that that will be when wind and solar (and the other smaller renewables) provide about 80% of total supply.   You should bear that in mind, since it isn't possible to see a future solution in existence today.  Today is today, not the future.  Iowa generated 43% of their total electricity from wind in 2018 and 2018.  They didn't stop adding wind either, their generation just expanded by the same percentage as their wind generation did in 2018.  I believe they are actively planning to add 50% more wind generation in the next several years.

This is without storage, without hydropower, without much natural gas (they added some in 2017 and 2018, and we could speculate about why, but the point I'm making is that the natural gas was not needed to reach this level of wind generation.  Almost the entire United States and most of the rest of the world is at the position Iowa was about ten years ago in terms of the economics of wind, because the cost of wind has fallen so much.  It's going to take a few more years for a lot of other utilities to figure out what Xcel has, but there's no turning back. 

The good thing to do is to understand this and promote it.   The next few years will be the hardest.  The more wind and solar we get the easier it will be to show people how good it is for all of us.

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 30, 2019

"What I thought you might understand was that as we build a large wind and solar resource hydrolysis will become a large and important dispatchable load, simultaneously solving part of the problem with dispatchability of renewables, and creating a storable fuel very inexpensively...we are likely to see...we can expect a massive conversion...it will happen...it will be in the generator's interest..."

What I understand, Ned, is you're making the same quasi-religious prophecies, without basis in physics or economics, which have plagued renewables advocacy from its start: "this will do this, then this will do that...". Every one, with more predictability than the sun or wind, has fallen flat on its face. Bill Gates: "The idea we can just power society with the sun, the wind, and storage is more of a block to solving climate change than denial."

"As far as converting a natural gas plant to hydrogen, there is no reason to do so today.   But any engineer should be able to explain to you how it is done.  When the economics justify it, it will happen."

But what you wrote was: "It is cheap and easy to convert natural gas plants to hydrogen," and now you have no evidence to support that claim. Is that correct?

"76% of all new energy resource added to the U.S. economy from 1970 to 2005 was efficiency.   And unlike nuclear, it is actually too cheap to meter."

No matter how many times you read it on awea.com, utilitydive.com, or any of the other renewables echo chambers, efficiency is not a resource, Ned. Efficiency is a ratio: output/input. A resource is "n. a stock or supply of something." How anyone might have a stock or supply of a ratio, or attempt to meter one, is unworthy of comment.

I'm calling you out because words matter, and with the din of nonsensical rambling coming from renewables quarters, innocent bystanders might be tempted to associate volume with legitimacy.

"Today is today, not the future."

But today once was the future. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter prophesized 20% of U.S. energy would come from the sun by the year 2000. If progress on sun and wind proceeds at the dismal pace it has since, Carter's dream will come true 830 years too late.

Renewables have failed us, Ned - no more time to waste.

 

Ned Ford's picture
Ned Ford on May 30, 2019

Bob, I do wish you would do your own internet searching.

Convert Combined Cycle to hydrogen https://www.powermag.com/mhps-will-convert-dutch-ccgt-to-run-on-hydrogen/

If you read this section and the following one you will learn that combined cycle gassification is actually a hydrogen process.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combined_cycle_power_plant#Natural_gas_integrated_power_and_syngas_(hydrogen)_generation_cycle

I don't have much use for Forbes, but I expect you love them.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mitsubishiheavyindustries/2019/04/09/the-energy-industrys-new-focus-on-lng-hydrogen-and-renewable-technology-is-already-enabling-a-change-in-power/#6e38ff604198

Words matter and that's why I respond to you.  If we need to invest $1 trillion in new wind and solar over the next couple of decades (all of it profitable and all of it lowering the cost of electricity to consumers, and we can simultaneously make our end-use consumption 1% more efficient each year (the current rate is about 1.5%) that saves $200 billion.  Please don't trivialize an $8 billion industry you obviously know nothing about.  Especially not an $8 billion industry which produces $30 billion worth of value added every year.

One thing I agree with you on is that the current rate of renewables development is too slow.   You haven't suggested how you think new nuclear power can come on line before we have rendered it un-useful.  They did it in Georgia by stifling efficiency and solar development, and now wind is so cheap it probably can be built profitably in Georgia too, just in the time between when they started the Vogtle plant and today.  They expect to finish it in a couple more years, a mere $22 billion over the original pricetag. 

But you are wrong about the 830 years.   The current rate of fossil fuel decline in the U.S. eliminates fossil generation of electricity around 2048.   Assuming no change in the current rate, that would provide enough electricity to eliminate all fossil fuel consumption beyond the electric sector in about 20 more years.  The trick to understanding this is easiest to reveal if you examine the electric car.  Gasoline is 40% of U.S. petroleum.  Diesel fuel for transportation is about another 20% of total U.S. petroleum.  Because electric motors are so much more efficient than the internal combustion engine, it takes only 20% more electricity than we use today to eliminate 40% of our petroleum - all the gasoline.  That is a very conservative estimate based on the current range of efficiencies demonstrated in electric vehicles on the road today.   The high end of the range will only require about 12 - 14% of current electricity, but I dont' need to know the exact amount.

The same is true of natural gas in those technologies which are cheaper with electricity.  Air to air heat pumps crossed paths with natural gas furnaces about five years ago.    The industries haven't figured it out yet, but it is a tidal wave just over the horizon.

And the same is true of a lot of other things.  9% of U.S. natural gas is used to make fertilizer.  At 5 cents per KWh, hydrolizing water to make hydrogen is a bad idea.  At 18 cents for nuclear power it is inexplicable idiocy.  But at 1.5 cents per KWh, wind and solar beat natural gas for making fertilizer.

You can find all of this with careful reading.

I often speak about a scenario which produces 160% of U.S. electricity, 90% new wind and solar and 10% existing hydro, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal, by 2040.  It's just a scenario, but it requires only that we build wind and solar at about five times the current rate, and only about 3 times the current rate if we raise 44 state efficiency programs to the level of the best six states today.   Less still, if some of the existing nuclear plants are still running in 2040.   This rate of new wind and solar (about 60,000 MW's of wind per year and 34,000 MW's of solar eliminates 70% of U.S. greenhouse gases by 2040, saving money every single step of the way.   You don't have to believe it, but it will happen unless something cheaper comes along.  The ratio of wind to solar is likely to change as price relationships shift. 

This is about a 6% total new generation per year scenario.   The U.S. built coal above that rate from 1940 to 1970 and China did so as well from about 2002 to 2014.   Since we have three technology groups ( efficiency matters, whether or not you want to try to understand it, since it is at present eliminating what would otherwise be 1.5% annual new growth in consumption of electricity) the requirement is a very modest 2% of total current generation per year to be replaced with new wind and solar and efficiency.   Or it could be 1% efficiency, 2% solar and 3% wind.   I'm a free marketeer.  I don't believe in socialized subsidies to fracking and coal, or to aging nuclear plants and I think the people of this nation will not accept a dictatorship that wants to force new nuclear plants on us.   I think Georgia will be a new Democratic star in the celestial banner in about three more years, by the way.  

And I think that as much as I want to advocate a rapid carbon response, the real work is being done by the people who have made new wind and solar so cheap.   It's a lot easier to triple wind and solar construction rates or increase them five times if every dollar invested produces a healthy return.  Didn't Forbes also say that no one is making any money fracking?

Words matter.   So does performance.   You have no evidence to back up your implications, and I note that you don't really bother making any claims.  So I'll respond to you.  But I hope that the people who read this take more heart, and perhaps more substance that you seem to have done.

 

 

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on June 6, 2019

"If you read this section and the following one you will learn that combined cycle gassification is actually a hydrogen process."

Ned, can you give me a breakdown of your "combined cycle hydrogen gasification process? Is it endothermic or exothermic? What happens to the carbon atom in CH4 - is it expelled to the atmosphere to form CO/CO2? What are the chemical reactions, and their thermodynamic efficiencies? It sounds like you really don't know what you're talking about.

Ned Ford's picture
Ned Ford on May 28, 2019

Bob, I'm going to let your views on the role of efficiency, wind and solar fail the test of time.  But I'd love to know how you explain the role for nuclear power that you imagine in facilitating a share of the market which MUST be dispatchable. 

Wind isn't dispatchable, but it is eminently curtailable.  That flexibility will become more appreciated for the value it offers as we get more wind up and running.  

Nuclear comes in two categories:  existing, which is fine until the plant starts needing retrofits at which time the plant bursts above the market and becomes a liability.  Nuclear owners with dignity close their plants.  Nuclear owners without dignity seek subsidies, bailouts, welfare or theft by deception.

The joke about the new generation of nuclear varieties is that the developers are eager to compete against the existing nuclear plants, when ALL the other alternatives are a third or less as expensive per KWH.  Okay, geothermal is not a third as expensive, nor is solar thermal, much to the dismay of some people I respect.   And certainly, new coal would not be a third as expensive if anyone wanted to build it.  

A lot has happened in the last decade.  No one, including me would have stated as a fact ten years ago that the auto industry would be committed to 100% electric fleets by now (not all automakers, but enough of them that the difference isn't important).  No one, including me would have predicted that air to air heat pumps would be so efficient that natural gas furnaces with their extremely high efficiencies would be too expensive to compete.  I wouldn't have assumed that LED's would have literally taken CFL's off the shelf in most markets.

Certainly no one was predicting wind would be delivering new KWh's in most markets under 4 cents per KWh, and solar with subsidies under 3 cents in many markets. 

So I'll make an assertion that I believe that innovation isn't going to stop in 2019.  I don't know what that innovation will be, and I don't really care as long as it is a least cost method of filling that gap we agree is about 20% of total supply.   When I talk about storage, I assume we will be storing electricity generated by wind and solar.  Anyone is free to make their assumptions and in a fair and open debate, they are free to defend them and others are free to raise challenges.

My assumptions are based on current trends.  I assume an urgency for climate response will NOT be felt by a sufficient majority of the people on this planet unless it is also less expensive than what we do today.  It is, and I'll spend all my time teaching people that until something better comes along.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 29, 2019

Ned, my views on solar haven't changed in 45 years. As a budding engineer in the 1970s, I recognized it would never make up a significant share of U.S. electricity - not that it was a particularly astute observation, but correct nonetheless. It has nothing to do with the price of panels - they could be free.

I will admit I did not expect the success of wind in the Great Plains. Earlier this week I returned from a trip to Denmark, where turbines and an occasional coal plant are omnipresent. Where the wind blows all the time they do a pretty good imitation of "dispatchable". Now, the trick will be convincing residents of Ghana to move to Denmark or Nebraska.

I have no idea what a nuclear "retrofit" is, but can only assume it's another fatal flaw invented by the renewables crowd (like "ALL the other alternatives are a third or less as expensive per KWH" - where, oh where do these fantasies originate?). Pressurized-water nuclear, not unlike other technologies using balance-of-plant steam equipment to generate electricity, has a lot of moving parts and requires periodic maintenance. Things need replacing - like the precision-engineered turbine rotors (below) being installed at Diablo Canyon in 2012. To homeowners with solar arrays $100 million probably seems like a lot of money to spend on maintenance. To ratepayers who get 40 years of service and 300 trillion watthours of reliable, dispatchable electricity out of each rotor, they're a bargain (the marginal cost of nuclear electricity is 24% lower than gas turbine + solar PV or wind -  yes, they're a package).

Tomorrow, we'll see if Ohio legislators offer the same renewables bailout/welfare/theft by deception you describe to nuclear too. Of course, nuclear has never needed the obscene subsidies solar has received (since 2011, 27 times those of nuclear) but at least offering a zero-emission credit (ZEC) to match the state renewable energy credit (REC) would help level the playing field, don't you think?

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