More renewables? Watch out for the Duck Curve

by Planning Engineer

It can be very misleading to compare the energy costs for wind and solar to the energy costs for more conventional generation technology and assume the difference is the cost of providing for “clean” energy.

The power grid requires so much more support than the injection of energy. Unfortunately wind and solar do not provide support “services” as well as many other generation resources do. Accounting and providing for these extra “services” should be part of any comparison of resource types and inform any directives or plans impacting the provision of electric power.     To the degree that wind and solar resources make up a larger portion of the supply mix, significant costs will be incurred to maintain system functionality and reliability. This posting is focuses solely on how various resources impact just one of these “services”, the balancing of system loads and resources.

Background

In a power grid load and generation must be carefully balanced instant by instant. While there are energy storage technologies, the grid demands alternating power that must be generated in real time. Thus pumped storage energy must physically turn a turbine and battery storage must be converted to alternating current when needed. Thus all technologies (including storage) transform some form of energy (fuel, potential energy, electrical storage) to AC power in real time. Their combined contributions much match the system load demand on a near instantaneous basis.

On a power system when a load is added, the system frequency slows down slightly. This signals some generators to ramp up their output. When loads decrease, the frequency increases and this signals generators to back down. The system sees bumps when a generator is removed from or added to the system, loads change or when equipment is outaged. During system disturbances, large amounts of load or generation may be lost and the system must respond quickly and effectively to maintain balance and avoid further problems.  Frequency continually shifts to signal generation changes, hovering very closely to a frequency of 60 cycles per second in North America.

Since the grid is interconnected and electricity flows at nearly the speed of light, when the system sees frequency departures available units across the system help somewhat regardless of who is responsible for the need. The grid is subdivided into control areas. Control areas try to ensure that generation and loads within their control are balanced at zero (or match total imports or exports).   When a frequency disturbance hits one area – other control areas will help briefly, but then over a longer time period as the frequency disturbance is resolved the systems will correct for the oversupply of energy to keep everyone whole.

The flatter and smoother the load shape and the less steep the departures, the easier it is manage the system. In addition to minor and major perturbations system load can change dramatically over the course of the day.   In the summer most areas see very low load levels at night rising during the day with temperature but continuing on until late in the evening due to people returning home from work. In the winter many areas see peaks before sunrise and then again in the evening. Loads and resources have to be balanced so new generation is brought on and taken off not only to provide balance. Generation must match load but with enough surplus to ensure the system can operate reliably should potential disturbances occur.   Differing resource types vary in their ability to follow the system loads and provide a surplus.

Hydro

Generally hydro plants with the ability to store water have excellent characteristics for load following. They can ramp up or down quickly when system loads change. They are easily started and shut down and can be kept spinning in no load conditions ready to provide near instantaneous support to the system. As part of a pumped storage system they can even provide load if generation levels are too high. They work well with renewables as water can be held back when the sun is shining or the wind blowing and released quickly whenever those conditions change. Abundant levels of hydro generation make it easier to add wind and solar to a system.

Gas Combustion Turbines and Combined Cycle Units

Gas based resources are good at following load. They can be kept in standby mode when needed and they generally have good ramping capability. There are consequences from starting and stopping these units however, showing up in extra maintenance requirements and refurbishment costs. When these resources spin to back wind and solar facilitates there are system costs and plant emissions. The simple combustion turbines are more nimble, but the combined cycle units are more efficient.

Coal Plants

Coal plants generally can operate anywhere between their full load and half load capability. They can ramp up and down in that range depending on system needs and economics. However they have limited ramp rates (how fast they can go up or down) and if shut down they have minimum down times before they can be restarted. More so than with gas plants, shutting down and restarting is more costly and cumbersome. Coal plants operating between their peak and minimum values can provide load following capability to the system.

Nuclear Plants

Due to economic, safety and regulatory concerns nuclear plants are set to run pretty much full out except during maintenance outages.  For older plants this was a necessity as they could not be ramped up or down without significant risks. Newer plants have the capability to ramp, but I don’t think anyone is seriously considering significant ramping of Nuclear plants at this time in the US. It may be necessary at times in some locations where nuclear makes up a large part of the power supply portfolio. Further this capability is being looked at for the purpose of integrating renewables.

Operating the System

The tools for following load consist mostly of the above resources. For increasing load levels, just before a plant is brought on line, other resources are taken near their maximums so they can be quickly backed down when the new unit is added. As loads decline, plants are run nearer their minimums and then rapidly increase output as plants are taken off. The steeper the ramping rates, the greater the challenge in varying generation back and forth to add or subtract units. In addition to meeting system loads, operators need to have a set amount of generation on quick standby (spinning reserve). These are units (or spare generation capability from an operating unit) that can be counted on (and are already online and already operating synchronously with the grid) to provide generation very quickly. Additionally other dependable resources need to be available that can be counted on within ten minutes (non-spinning reserves). Beyond that there are planning reserves which are extra generation needed for plant outages.

Operators must plan ahead for generation needs. For example, if coal plants are needed the next day, they can’t be taken off at night when the load drops. Their goal is to come up with a transitioning of resources that reliably serves the load in an economic manner. Because of unpredictability’s associated with loads and generation it is a challenge to bring in and remove resources from the system as demands ramp up or down.

For completeness it should be noted that to achieve balance operators sometimes have control of system loads as well. Utilities have some portion of their load tied to under frequency load shedding (UFLS)programs, to drop load when the frequency is sufficiently low such that generator ramping capability alone may be ineffective. Under frequency load shedding is rightfully a rare event that should occur only in very limited conditions when multiple things go simultaneously wrong.   In addition to emergency load shedding some customers have time of use rates or special interruptible rates.   Operators may be able to switch off air-conditioning, water heaters or industrial loads as well as employ other load modifying schemes such as voltage reduction. Non-emergency load reductions programs are not implemented to help follow loads, but rather to reduce peak demands to for limited generation and transmission capacity.

Wind and Solar

Wind and solar cannot be counted on to help with load following, in fact they work to make the load-generation balance more unpredictable. There can be a lot of fluctuations in MW output from wind and solar which other resources must balance when cloud cover rolls in or the winds change. This is true in the short term as well as on hour by hour basis.   It’s hoped with enough resources the intermittent effects will tend to cancel out, but that often does not appear to work as optimistically as might be hoped.

Slide1

It is often said the solar is good because it produces power during periods of peak demand. This is somewhat true, but not strictly true. For many winter morning peaks, solar is absent and begins to ramp up as the operators are beginning to ramp down the system. They typically do not give full output at evening peaks. For economic reasons (related to maximizing solar output, not grid operation) solar panels are oriented to catch the most sun midday. As the peak builds, solar tends to ramp down increasing challenges for operators. While the additional energy during the day has value, solar often ramps on and off opposite to the system needs.

Wind cannot be counted on. It can be zero during times of maximum demand. It often reaches maximum output level when system demands are minimal. Significant problems with wind may occur at night when winds are high. In some regions there is an oversupply of power at night. To prevent over-generation, penalties (costs) are imposed for adding power to the grid during minimum load hours. In some cases (for example in the high wind areas of Texas) utilities are penalized for generating at night (even though their plants need to be kept on line for tomorrows load) while wind energy (which could be removed with no operational consequences) adds to a generation surplus in order for their developers to collect a guaranteed rate for their generation.

A similar balancing problem can be attributed largely to solar as illustrated by the “California Duck Curve”. The curve below shows that the projected growth for residential solar power will have a limited impact upon the system peak but a huge impact on mid-day loads. This introduces the risk of over-generation during the afternoon and increased need for ramping as solar drops off.   If solar is also part of the bulk generation supply, the stress on remaining generation as it works to meet the steep increase from afternoon to evening loads will be increased further.

Slide2

High Renewable Future?

To integrate large amounts of wind and solar into the grid you will need some form of backup generation. Mixed solar, wind and hydro systems with adequate hydro capacity and storage well located relative to loads, could function well. Unfortunately, few areas have an abundance of hydro or the potential to develop such. Conceivably extensive use of pumped storage technology might enable such a future, but would involve high costs.

Backing up intermittent energy with nuclear power seems highly counterproductive. (Please provide comments if I am missing something here.) The incremental costs and burdens of up and running nuclear generation is small enough that displacing nuclear generation with intermittent generation seems nearly pointless.

Backing up intermittent resources with gas turbines and combined cycle units would work. The cost comparisons for such a system should not be based on the difference between average solar or wind energy cost and the average cost of gas generation. Rather the proper cost comparison is the average cost of solar and wind plus the backup costs of gas generation, compared to just gas generation. Numbers such as these are rarely shared and are probably would not be politically feasible if they were well understood. The key to this understanding is that a high penetration of renewables will only reduce the fixed costs of needed gas generation resources by a small amount. While the reduction is gas fuel use may be moderate, the additional fixed cost of the renewables will be very high.

Lastly renewables could be supported with batteries, other stored energy resources and technologies allowing advanced control of load demand. This may well be the grid of the future, but would have extremely high costs based on today’s projections. These costs should be well understood and shared before embarking upon such a future. Certainly we should be adding wind and solar whenever it can be justified and also for research benefits, but becoming too ambitious could have dire consequences for system reliability, cost and performance.

Concluding Comments

As with all “engineering” decisions there are tradeoffs. Resources that do not help with load balancing may be a good selection at times and have a place in the generation mix if they have other positive characteristics.  A system mix that primarily employs conventional synchronous generation technology will generally have load following capability in excess of needs, accommodating some level of penetration for intermittent resources. When there is sufficient hydro, gas and coal resources higher levels of renewables can be backed up at moderate costs. However when renewables are increased dramatically or the resource mix is altered to remove significant amounts of conventional technology, the additional costs needed to support wind and solar generation can be extreme.

This discussion has just focused on load balancing or matching generated MWs to load MWs.   From this consideration alone we see that it is inappropriate to compare solar and wind to more conventional power sources by looking at energy costs alone. In terms of the critical task of balancing the system, wind and solar load do not help, but rather instead impose significant burdens. These burdens cannot be ignored as increasing levels of such intermittent generation are added to the system.   Certainly we should be adding wind and solar whenever it can be justified and also for research benefits, but becoming too ambitious could have dire consequences for system reliability, cost and performance.

JC note:  This is a follow on to Planning Engineer’s previous post Myths and realities of renewable energy.  As with all guest posts, keep your comments civil and relevant.

 

 

462 responses to “More renewables? Watch out for the Duck Curve

  1. Speaking of myths and realities:

    “For older plants this was a necessity as they could not be ramped up or down without significant risks.”

    No, no, NO! This is not true at all. The older plants were designed from the beginning to follow load, as it was seen as an essential feature for a plant on the power grid at the time. In fact, one of the distinguishing features of Babcock and Wilcox nuclear plants at the time (60’s and 70’s) was its superior load-following capabilities that were made possible by its unique steam-generator design.

    It was only later — when the utilities finally learned how to operate these plants well and realized that they could be run flat out for 18-months at a time — that things changed. The marginal costs of running the plant (mostly fuel and maintenance) were so low that it no longer made economic sense to try to load follow. It was (and still is) best for a nuclear plant to get paid for every kilowatt-hour that it can produce.

    As a result, the regulatory rules for running the plant (called “Technical Specifications” in the industry jargon) were modified to optimize base-load, full-out operation at the expense of reducing the plant’s ability to load follow. Originally, however, the plants could ramp up-and-down without problems, and there’s no reason, other than economic, why the plants couldn’t be run this way again.

    • Planning Engineer

      Brian – no problem with your clarification as I am working to say a lot in a limited space and necessarily deal with some generalizations. My reference was to older plants as opposed to newer plants. You are perhaps taking about the “oldest” plants.

    • I would not characterize B&W plants, with their once-thru steam generators, as “superior” load-followers. An integrated control system is required due to the very sensitive nature of the plant (minimal water in the steam generators). Subjecting the plants to rapid power changes is the last thing you would want to do, as you are just asking for trouble. The various transients throughout the plant (including the nuclear fuel) are unhelpful.

      “Ramp-up-and-down without problems” is not accurate from an operational standpoint.

      • That’s one of the reason’s I like the boiling water reactor design, yeah the reactor vessel is larger but you have no steam generators and no pressurizer, and all that extra water in the downcomers is useful in emergencies.

        Clinton had a plan to run 50% power at night and 100% during the day but I cant remember if they actually did that.

        A 5 billion plant ran at 100% with 18 month refuel cycles or a load following one with a 2 year cycle, doesn’t much matter IMHO, the most important thing affecting cost is that you operate safely and manage to follow your plan. Unplanned outages and NRC forced shutdowns being big drivers to the bottom line.

      • I’ll bet modern Navy nuclear generators in submarine and aircraft carriers have good load following ability.

      • I’ll bet modern Navy nuclear generators in submarine and aircraft carriers have good load following ability.

        Reminds me of somethign a nuclear engineer who worked on Hanford B once said. He was responding to some who said “nuclear reactors can’t load-follow”. he responded

        ” how embarrassing for the captains of the nuclear powered subs and icebreakers to be told they have no sped control and must dock at full speed”.

    • It’s just a design problem easily overcome, just a problem of scale.

      The small nuclear plants used in submarines could follow the load as fast as the throttle man could open and close the throttle. It’s called temperature control deviation.

      And we could bounce rods like Jordan could dribble a basketball.

    • Nuclear variable operating costs are so low that load following makes little sense. They are near the top of the dispatch sheet, and since their fixed cost are so high it makes no economic sense to build a nuclear plant to load follow.

      • That’s true for the large nuclear plants. For smaller one, however, they can be designed to automatically load follow.

      • Jim2,

        I understand the 1600 MW EPR is designed to operate between 25% and 100% of capacity and ramp rate is 5% of capacity per minute between 50% and 100% power. That’s 80 MW per minute ramp rate.

      • It is an issue of economics not design. Is it possible that the levelized capital costs could be reduced? Sure, but until they are it makes little sense to build a nuclear plant to load follow.

    • This matches my understanding of nuclear plant capabilities. I recall our load following ability to have been excellent.

    • From the business planning perspective (in a previous life), it was strictly the fuel costs that determined who would de-rate (among the base load units). That almost always favored the nukes.

      But from an operator’s perspective, you just don’t want to be changing power levels frequently on a nuke – there are so many more automatic trip/SCRAM signals on a nuke that you run a greater risk of dropping a unit off line.

    • John DeFayette

      What a breath of fresh air. It’s a joy to see a post that involves the real world and how we go about making that world work for its inhabitants. There’s just so little of that going around in climate talk circles.

  2. To integrate large amounts of wind and solar into the grid you will need some form of backup generation. Mixed solar, wind and hydro systems with adequate hydro capacity and storage well located relative to loads, could function well. Unfortunately, few areas have an abundance of hydro or the potential to develop such. Conceivably extensive use of pumped storage technology might enable such a future, but would involve high costs.

    I’m highly skeptical of the “high costs” for future pumped storage technology. By using sea water and low “turkey nest” dams built with existing levee technology, I suspect the cost could be brought way down. It could be done nearby to the optimum (land) location for the US (deep southwest, near to the Colorado River Valley) or in the areas along the California coast nearby to the major urban customer base. As well as many other locations.

    Of course, there would have to be some changes in environmental policy…

    • And a strong focus on prototyping and “proof-of-concept” projects for a diverse range to approaches to pumped sea-water storage would also be compatible (AFAIK) with just about any strategic mix of solar and other nuclear. Meaning it could be started without waiting to see how those other options shake out.

    • AI, I assume this is a joke post, like my article about Obama’s speech at the UN?

  3. Everyone who picks a wind energy company to provide their power should be required to read this and be tested to see if they understand it.

    They sell wind power outside of the grocery stores.

    I usually stop by and tell them why I don’t sign up.

  4. Fascinating article.

  5. Yes, that is an important part of the problem: “Wind and solar . . . work to make the load-generation balance more unpredictable.”

  6. Human slavery, there’s the solution. Energy on demand.
    ============

  7. Wind and solar only helps those who put the money in their banks.
    It does not help the consumer or the taxpayer.
    It does nothing for mother earth, it kills creatures.

    • When significant energy is taken out of Nature’s climate management system, the wind the water and the sun, then local, thus regional & cet. climate will be affected.

      As a class, we’re all downrange from the effect.
      ========================

    • There’s truth in what you say. I watched in dismay a news report about how bats cannot see moving blades. This was minimized by saying that bats don’t fly on windy days but I was not really satisfied with that answer.

    • Consider the Boedele. Had there been reason to fill the mountain gap to its East with wind energy turbines, then the dust which fertilizes the Amazon Basin would not be stirred into the atmosphere.

      And that’s a long way downwind.
      ==================================

    • Brazil threatens to poison the wind thieves with some dread Amazonian agent and China intervenes by cutting off the supply of rare earths.

      Peace on Earth rains.
      ===================

    • Everybody knows
      the way the wind blows,
      everybody knows,
      that’s how it goes …

  8. Ludington Pumped Storage (built 1969-1973)
    One of the world’s biggest electric “batteries”, Ludington can provide energy at a moment’s notice. Its ability lies in its 27-billion gallon reservoir and a set of six turbines that drive electric generators. Those same turbines double as giant water pumps to fill the reservoir with water from Lake Michigan.

    Ludington’s relatively simple technology enables the plant to respond quickly to the daily, weekly and seasonal highs and lows of Michigan’s energy demand. The plant also saves customers money by enabling Consumers Energy to avoid the expensive spot market when customer demand exceeds the capacity of the company’s baseload plants. The immense size of Ludington and its six-unit design offers flexibility in balancing customer demand with electric output on a moment’s notice.
    http://www.consumersenergy.com/content.aspx?id=6985

    Lake Winds Energy Park (completed 2012)
    Consumers Energy’s Lake Winds Energy Park in Mason County brings employment, economic and tax benefits to the area.

    Mason County is already home to the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant, which is operated by Consumers Energy.

    Lake Winds Energy park, a 100-megawatt facility, makes Mason County the place where “energy and the environment meet.”
    http://www.lakewindsenergypark.com/default.aspx?id=32

    • Luddington was incredibly expensive. i suggest you get real.

      • Perhaps you’re confused. I was writing about Ludington, Michigan where there is a wind farm built near an existing pumped storage project. I have no cost information or other knowledge of “Luddington.” If you have any financial data about either, I would be interested.

      • From the article:

        A plan to address excessive noise issues at a Northern Michigan wind plant won’t work, a sound expert said.

        Additionally, he said he thinks Consumers Energy, which has offered the plan, knows it won’t work.

        On Feb. 7, Consumers Energy submitted a mitigation plan to address noise levels at its Lake Winds Energy Plant, located south of Ludington in Mason County. The submission of this plan was ordered by the 51st Circuit Court, where the utility is contesting the county’s ruling (the first of its kind in Michigan) that the $250 million, 56-turbine wind plant is in violation of its noise ordinance.

        http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/19764

    • Ludington cost 315M in 1970 or roughly 2B today.

      • Ludington. Trying my best here. Capacity of 1,900,000 kilowatt hours. The page says kilowatts, but think they mean kilowatt hours. With a 5 cent/kW peak trough differential profit (assumed), and 100% efficiency that’s $95,000/day. Assuming 300 perfect days/year, that’s a differential profit of $28,500,000/year. Backing this number down with 75% efficiency that’s $21,375,000/year. There are other costs as well.

      • I wrote about the energy storage issue in August 2014 in “Green Self Deception”. I have looked at this from quite a few angles (I sure wish this solution would work, so I keep plugging different ideas into spreadsheets, but I run into very high costs).

        Ludington´s capacity is 27 million KWH, 1.87 Gigawatts is the maximum output rate. Thus 27EE6/1.87EE6 yields about 14 hours´ worth of capacity. The $2 billion inflated cost appears reasonable. The cost per kwh is $2 billion/27 million, $74 per kwh of storage capacity. So far so good?

        Here´s a plot of wind power intermittency in Germany (taken from an MIT white paper written by Professor Ignacio Perez-Arriaga.

        http://21stcenturysocialcritic.blogspot.com.es/p/intermittency.html

        Let´s keep things simple. Based on the data available it´s fairly easy to state a wind/solar power generation kit requires AT LEAST 7 days storage.

        So now we match (7 times 24 hours per day) 168 hours per week to the 14 hours and we get 12. The cost to back up a 1.87 GW renewable kit is $24 billion USD. And I won´t even get into the fact that if we are storing energy then we have to downgrade the “renewable kit generation capacity” by X %.

        Well, you guys can do the numbers. There are quite a few ways to model this topic. When I wrote “Green Self Deception” I tried to keep it really simple, as Planning Engineer and others on this thread have indicated, the engineering required to get this done right is incredibly complex. There are ways to develop a preliminary or conceptual model to deliver back up to a US wide renewables driven power generation kit. A reasonable cost for such a model and the associated reviews, reports, and publication would be about $50 million USD.

        So why hasn´t this work been done by the Obama administration? Simply because it doesn´t make any sense. Those of us who can do very rough preliminary numbers realize the whole idea is crazy at this point in time, with existing technology we run into a brick wall. And this is why I consider the whole issue more one of “Green Self Deception”. Those who propose these changovers just lack the know how to understand AT THIS POINT IN TIME we just can´t do it. We need to focus on research and see if we can develop something better. I don´t have any idea of what that may be.

      • Even if your numbers are correct – the levelized capital cost is such that it would take hundreds of years to pay back. Also, what is the maintenance cost for this facility? As is being increasingly documented – while hydro maintenance costs are well understood and low, with pumped hydro being significantly less well understood and higher, the maintenance costs of wind turbines has been far, far higher than touted.

      • Fernando Leanme
        Thank you for pointing out my mistake on the capacity. I should have read more about the facility. I too wish PSH(pumped hydro storage) worked better.
        “$74 per kwh of storage capacity…”
        To look at this another way. Assuming a 5 cent peak/trough rate differential profit, we might make .05/day to recover the 74.00. That’s 1480 perfect days to make our investment back. Let’s add a 1/3 to that to account for a 75% efficiency of moving water. That brings it to about 2000 days. There’s still all the other operating costs to consider. Part of my thoughts are that PHS is not renewable dependent. The older facilities went forward many years ago before renewables were much of a factor. We are also going to get renewables. http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=MN14R
        Unless we don’t. Unless the politicians change their mind. If we do get them, that should increase the value of PSH investments. It’s a difficult situation to judge. The worse the situation we get from renewables, the more valuable PHS becomes.

    • Ludington Pumped Storage facility is a brilliant piece of engineering. I have toured the facility. It cost $317 million and produces 1872 MW – the equivalent of a large nuclear power plant.

      Putting windmills next to the facility is an act of genius. It is one of the few places Windpower (in theory) can be fully utilized to the benefit of the power grid, and the Lake Michigan shoreline is pretty dependably windy.

      • This comment is an excellent example of what we could call “Green Self Deception”. Did the readers note how a 14 hour storage system is naively equated to a nuclear power plant?

      • I don’t get called a green self-deceiver very often. Thank you.

        I actually like the facility, it is a smoothing facility and 1870 MW is a lot of smoothing. The nearest nuclear plant is the Palisades Power Plant, a twin 800 MW, or 1600 mw facility. During peak periods when the pumped storage produces power it is the roughly equivalent of having a nuclear power plant for peaking purposes only and is preferable to coal fired or gas fired peaking generation.

        Using wind to help recharge the facility is a perfect fit.

      • PA, at $2B in today’s $s you think Ludington was a smart investment?

      • Ludington Pumped Storage was a cost effective way to supply customer demand without building a new coal or nuclear plant. In 1970.

        Consumer’s Power has been forced to build “renewable” power generation and knows it is foolish. But … at least they put the windmills near existing pumped storage to make the best of a bad situation. Cost effective? I doubt it. Minimizing the negative return on an investment in renewables? Yes.

        The fishing is great around the penstocks.

      • Fernando Leanme is right of course. Pumped storage overall doesn’t generate a watt, in fact it uses watts. What it does is smooth out the generation curves of the other interconnected suppliers. That makes money if the other suppliers can therefore operate more efficiently.

    • The humorous part is that the modern elite, litigation-happy American environmental movement, per William Tucker, began with the rebellion of wealthy homeowners against the Storm King pumped storage project in New York back in the 1960s. Apparently the tower would have ruined some people’s views over a river.

  9. I’d like to add a bit of clarification to this article. It is easy to misjudge the complexity of load balancing in the US grid. Load balancing is an art. It is not merely moment by moment load matching and frequency control. It involves both short and long term planning. Generation unit maintenance outages must be scheduled across multiple generation companies. Weather conditions and forecasts must be monitored and factored into both short and long term planning. Low winter snow fall may reduces summer hydro generation capacity requiring adjusting equipment maintenance schedules to maintain summer generation capacity. Fuel cost change estimates may indicate a change in generation unit selection to minimize overall operating cost. Power handling capacity of each segment of transmission line must be factored in to selection of generation units to supply adequate power to load areas. These are just a few of the things that must be factored into load balancing.

    • Planning Engineer

      No disagreement here. More devils await in the details.

    • GaryW You say that “Weather conditions and forecast” are necessary. But I just read an article (I think NYTimes) where the US weather service was in big trouble regarding qualified workers and good equipment. Do you think that the climate debate has a negative influence on the funding of weather forecasting?
      Does Congress (or other political bodies around the world) associate efficient energy production with knowledge about the weather and climate?

    • Maybe the wind and solar systems should be connected to a direct current grid which converts to alternating current at locations where gas turbines and/or pumped storage can keep things from cratering?

  10. Excellent article! Thanks PE and Ms. Curry for posting it. Perhaps future discussions might include Economic Dispatch and Stranded Generation as potential topics. Educating the public is the perhaps the best means by which better decisions might be had. Thank you very much for your informative, timely, and kind, article.

  11. One of the problems with ‘renewables’ is the legal mandate, put on the books by (who else) progressives, that private owners of renewable generators be allowed to connect their systems to the grid and ‘sell’ excess electricity to the power company at guaranteed prices to recoup the costs of their systems.

    This is NOT helpful in maintaining grid stability.

    I am all for encouraging private individuals to provide for their own energy needs, as they see fit (I may want to install a system of my own sometime.), but not at the expense of destabilizing the grid at large.

    Renewables are fine, as long as they provide a negligible portion of our base load OR are completely ‘low pass filtered’ by some sort of storage that ensures that they can provide their long term average output 24/7/365, with planned outages for maintenance, just like fossil fuel/nuclear plants. Likewise with electric vehicles. As long as they make up a negligible portion of our privately owned vehicles, all is well, and their owners can pat themselves on the back and paint their houses green. All is not so well if they begin to make up a significant portion of our POV’s and a few million of their owners come home from their daily commute and plug in their chargers essentially simultaneously. The grid operators will not be happy. Nor will those who depend on reliable grid power.

    • All is not so well if they begin to make up a significant portion of our POV’s and a few million of their owners come home from their daily commute and plug in their chargers essentially simultaneously. The grid operators will not be happy. Nor will those who depend on reliable grid power.

      When a significant portion of POV’s are electric, people will recharge while at work or even while driving using induction chargers. Or, take most of the batteries out and use induction to power the vehicles. Electric trains do not run on battery power. Electric cars would not always need to either.

      If we stop doing stupid stuff, we will build the power plants and grid to keep up with growing demand and margin.

      The grid operators will then be happy and so will all those who depend on reliable power and the investors.

      • @ popesclimatetheory

        “If we stop doing stupid stuff, we will build the power plants and grid to keep up with growing demand and margin.”

        I agree, of course, but in the world we live in it comes under the generic category of ‘If a toad had wings……….’.

        In the real world, while we are shutting down coal plants, with no replacements, destroying water reservoirs, with no replacements, protesting and regulating pipe lines into oblivion, protesting and regulating long haul power lines into oblivion, the same folks responsible for all the above are simultaneously demanding that we eliminate the IC engine and run our transportation system on battery power.

        Given that it appears that the chances that we will ‘stop doing stupid stuff’ are down to slim and none, with my money on none.

        By the way, I like your Climate Theory. Whether it is correct or incorrect, it at least has the advantage over the official dogma of being consistent with long term observations of actual climate behavior.

      • The good Alex’s climate theory is simple enough to hone Ockham’s suspicions. Can a machine of such complexity be sliced so thinly?
        =======================

      • I’ve always wondered about induction. Do electric trains not have an electrical contact via a third rail? My e&m is a distant memory…

      • Induction chargers – really? I’d love to see how that affects the environment – not to mention just how much “charge” can realistically be passed on via induction safely.
        If we can’t even charge a cell phone easily with induction – it boggles my mind to think a 1000 or 2000 lb vehicle could be charged without wires.
        There are also the fundamental issues with electric cars and cold climates…

      • c1ue, Induction seems to be great for cooking so if nothing else it would be entertaining.

    • Bob, I am not criticizing your post, it was good.

      If we stop passing stupid laws and rules, all will be ok.

      • > If we stop passing stupid laws and rules, all will be ok

        Who is this “we”, please ?

      • Why not pass a law to make politicians smarter? They seem to think there are legal solutions to all other problems. While they are at it, maybe pass a law making us all richer as well.

    • An electric vehicle is ok. for people who have two or three more, gas powered, vehicles in their garages. They can feel good for saving the planet, and also get anywhere whenever they need to.

    • In Netherlands one HAS to put their solar panels on the grid. It is not a choice. I have to become a business because I am “selling” electricity. Having solar panels reduces the amount of electricity that a home owner would use. Less electricity use means lower electricity bills. But if I put too many panels on my house and generate too much electricity, then I will be taxed as an energy supplier. I don’t think that this is a left or right issue. I still have not had them installed because I just wanted to be independent of the grid. But (I have been told) that this makes sense only if one has a solitary unit away from the grid.
      Rose

  12. In event of a grid failure, local, regional, or national, the alternative energy resources lose the utility synchronization pulse and will, by default, disconnect from the grid. Thus, alternative energy sources will be of zero value in a black restart scenario. Yet another complication to what is already a complicated issue.

  13. Re: pumped storage. It is not going to happen for environmental reasons. Atlanta has been desperate to build more reservoirs, but the only suitable valleys go off into Alabama or Tennessee, and neither state will cooperate. Even farm ponds get EPA all worked up and they would ban them if they could. No large reservoirs have been built in US for decades and are not likely to be.
    California has been very self-satisfied about their energy generation for decades, but get their “no coal in Cali” merit badge by importing coal generated electricity from 4 corners power plants in Ariz/NM and by importing PNW hydro power.
    Denmark is proud of their huge wind generation but it only works because they export most of it to their neighbors who are then the ones faced with load balancing problems. Germany is having huge problems with their grid as a result.

    • Svend Ferdinandsen

      Hi Craig.
      Denmark is rather special with all our wind power that seems to go well except for what we must pay.
      This link could show you how generation and load varies nearly real time and for some weeks back.
      http://www.emd.dk/el/
      It gives a good view of how a smaller area can vary and how it is managed with ramping up and down and export/import.
      This link gives other information on the production and connections to surrounding countries. http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/index.html
      Some of our electricity productionn is furthermore bound to combined heat also, meaning they mostly produce when price is high and the customers need heat. The hot water gives some reservoir, but when it is filled/empty they have to reduce/increase the production to what the heating demand requires.
      Private customers for this district heating pays around 800DKK($150)/MWh heat and the general electricity cost is 2.3DKK($0.43)/kWh.

      • The normalized capacity factor for UK onshore wind farms declines from a peak of about 24% at age 1 to 15% at age 10 and 11% at age 15. The decline in the normalized capacity factor for Danish onshore wind farms is slower but still significant with a fall from a peak of 22% to 18% at age 15. On the other hand for offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalized capacity factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10. The reasons for the observed declines in normalized capacity factors cannot be fully assessed using the data available but outages due to mechanical breakdowns appear to be a contributory factor. A 2009 study reported by CEPOS, a Danish think tank, found that while wind provided 19% of the country’s electricity generation, it only met an average 9.7% of the demand over a five year period, and a mere 5% during 2006. This referred to as Demand Capacity.

      • Alpha2Actual,

        Thanks you for your interesting comment. I have the 2009 CEPOS report (it’s excellent) but can you please give me a link to the report of the declining wind farm capacity factors.

      • I think it is great that there are real world examples and a civiized discussion of what works and does not work.

      • Svend, the Danish system wouldn’t work if it was isolated. It relies on outside help from coal, hydro and natural gas powered systems. And the first link you provide is meaningless in an engineering context. European renewables other than hydro are heavily subsidized parasites at this time.

      • Peter Lang @ 7.41 pm

        Alpha2Actual,
        Thanks you for your interesting comment. I have the 2009 CEPOS report (it’s excellent) but can you please give me a link to the report of the declining wind farm capacity factors.
        ———————-

        I assume alpha2actual quoted from this 2012 paper;

        http://www.ref.org.uk/attachments/article/280/ref.hughes.19.12.12.pdf

        “The Performance of Wind Farms in the United Kingdom and Denmark”

        Executive Summary ;
        1. Onshore wind turbines represent a relatively mature technology, which ought to have achieved a satisfactory level of reliability in operation as plants age.
        Unfortunately, detailed analysis of the relationship between age and performance gives a rather different picture for both the United Kingdom and Denmark with a significant decline in the average load factor of onshore wind farms adjusted for wind availability as they get older.
        An even more dramatic decline is observed for offshore wind farms in Denmark, but this may be a reflection of the immaturity of the technology.

        2. The study has used data on the monthly output of wind farms in the UK and Denmark reported under regulatory arrangements and schemes for subsidising renewable energy. Normalised age-performance curves have been estimated using standard statistical techniques which allow for differences between sites and over time in wind resources and other factors.

        3. The normalised load factor for UK onshore wind farms declines from a peak of about 24% at age 1 to 15% at age 10 and 11% at age 15.
        The decline in the normalised load factor for Danish onshore wind farms is slower but still significant with a fall from a peak of 22% to 18% at age 15.
        On the other hand for offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalised load factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10.
        The reasons for the observed declines in normalised load factors
        cannot be fully assessed using the data available but outages due to mechanical breakdowns appear to be a contributory factor.

        4. Analysis of site-specific performance reveals that the average ormalised load factor of new UK onshore wind farms at age 1 (the peak year of operation) declined significantly from 2000 to
        2011.
        In addition, larger wind farms have systematically worse performance than smaller wind farms. Adjusted for age and wind availability the overall performance of wind farms in the UK has deteriorated markedly since the beginning of the century.

        5. These findings have important implications for policy towards wind generation in the UK.
        First, they suggest that the subsidy regime is extremely generous if investment in new wind farms is profitable despite the decline in erformance due to age and over time.
        Second, meeting the UK Government’s targets for wind generation will require a much higher level of wind capacity – and, thus, capital nvestment – than current projections imply.
        Third, the structure of contracts offered to wind generators under the proposed reform of the electricity market should be modified since few wind farms will operate for more than 12–15 years.

      • ROM,

        Thansk you. Yes, I realised that later. I read the report when it was published and have it linked. Many thanks.

        P.S. Your comments are interesting and excellent.

      • ROM,

        Thank you. Yes, I realised that later. I read the report when it was published and have it linked. Many thanks.

        P.S. Your comments are interesting and excellent.

    • John Vonderlin

      Hi Craig,
      Never say never. Last night, here in California, we passed a huge water bond, one feature of which is building increased water storage infrastructure. Until the recent historic drought here, I would have rated the likelihood of that in the “cows flying” portion of the spectrum of probability. (The last state-built dam was in 1959) Whether it actually ever happens remains to be seen, but it is a powerful sign that the intransigence of environmental idealogues will be pushed aside by the public when things get bad enough.

      • Actually, Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District built the 800,000 acre-foot Diamond Valley Reservoir near Hemet, with construction completed in 1999 and filling completed in 2003.

      • John Vonderlin

        As a fellow Californian, I hope the money will be put to good use. However, I fear the money will be subject to political patronage. Think train to nowhere. It will be nothing more than a political slush fund.

  14. OT, oil production has been propping up the US economy for years, using massive amounts of high interest debt. Low prices are putting investment on hold and junk bonds at risk as earnings:debt plunge.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2014/11/05/as-oil-plunges-further-why-it-might-be-game-over-for-the-fracking-boom/

    • Study the economics more. Higher oil production in the US lessens the outflow of US capital to other countries (which is a good thing). Fracking will continue over the long term and will continue to impact the market.

      • Yep. Anything that takes money out of the Middle East countries that host militants is a good thing.

        Here in the US, the lower oil price will stimulate demand and force producers to tighten up their game. It will be a good thing in the long term and in next year or two, oil prices will trend up again.

        In the meantime, the Republican’s win has boosted my coal stocks even more and the shale oil basket of stocks is also positive.

      • The article is about the low price of oil putting this in danger.

      • jim2

        it is foolish to finance people who don’t like us. If we could generate our own power -or in conjunction with trusted friends-we can cut out those who use money we give them against our interests

        however, many countries can not do this cost effectively as they don’t have coal/oil/shale gas, or they refuse to use them.

        Countries need to be more pragmatic as regards the energy they use-including the dreaded coal-whilst working towards using cost effective and reliable renewables, which I suspect are some decades down the road.

        However, in view of the security implications perhaps we all need to accept that some power sources might be undesirable (coal) as well as costly or ineffective,(wind/solar) but we still need to use them

        tonyb

      • I think oil’s days are numbered. I hope that Lockheed-Martin actually does have a viable fusion device. There are a couple of other fusion devices under development, but this is one of those things you have to see to believe. There have been too many empty promises made in the fusion arena.

        If we don’t find a really reliable, dense, 24/7 energy source, we might well have to turn to coal in a big way once again. I’m skeptical that solar and wind will do the job.

      • Although I should add, I’m quite happy with nuclear fission as an energy source. If we can ever rid ourselves of the leftist, “green” ijdits, we could have reliable power in relatively short order.

      • arron – obviously, i don’t agree with the Forbes article.

      • What we should do is buy the now cheaper Saudi oil, then resell it to their customers. If we can so that for a profit for a while, it would put a stop to it.

      • arron – I selected shale stocks based on the highest inverse current ratio, having in mind the stress lower oil prices would put to bear on them.

      • Someday, we may really run out of oil and gas. Burn foreign oil first. Don’t let them burn most of our oil and gas.

      • I’m skeptical that solar and wind will do the job.

        Not me, I know that solar and wind will not do the job.
        Not wind for sure. Not ground located solar for sure.
        I have not decided against space based solar, yet.

      • @ popesclimatetheory

        “I have not decided against space based solar, yet.”

        If you would like to discuss the viability of SSP off line, tell Dr. Curry that I said that it is OK to provide you with my private email address.

        Bob Ludwick

      • Jim, good to hear.

        I don’t think oil is likely to get dangerously low, there is cause for concern though. Futures contracts are trading low several years out.

        The concern is default risk.

        http://jeffcnyc.tumblr.com/post/99326925067/crisis-2-0

  15. Solar powered turkey roaster for sale, cheap — only $179 after the $250 federal tax credit (note: credits may soon be terminated). Simply replace the roaster’s lid with tinfoil (not included) to use any conventional oven as a convenient backup.

  16. When fussing over the energy menu, over what’s nice and what’s not etc, it always helps to remember that away from inner-urban Western sensibilities there are energy wars going on. And pipeline wars. Most are cold wars, and involve political power balances in troubled places. (There’s also a vast commercial struggle between coal and Big Oil which involves green posturing by Big Oil which likes the idea of its products “supplementing” and helping with “transitions” – but we’ll stick with the geo-politics for now.)

    For example, an agreed Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline which bypasses Turkey has changed the politics between hot-spot Syria and emerging regional super-power Turkey. Turkey was already not happy with former ally Syria over Assad’s refusal of a Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline which would make Iran and Russia less than happy.

    Of course, that’s just one tiny piece of the energy puzzle. We could talk about possible friends with energy benefits like Israel and a theoretical Kurdistan; or China and Russia, of all people; or Saudi Arabia and China; or Israel and its new gas customer, Jordan. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a “political, economic and military cooperation. It currently has 6 full member states, namely Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are observing states, and Turkmenistan is a guest state”. Notice any of that?

    Then there’s South America, Nigeria, Chinese south sea claims or Russia/Ukraine/Europe gas spats…

    Well, you catch my drift.

    Now, are people seriously proposing that the stable West stifle, in any way, its domestic energy supply? That’s exactly what’s proposed and even what’s happening, in spite of the hard lessons of the 1970s. Woodchips to Drax! It’s like the world doesn’t exist and we just have this “planet” thingy. The West has a long and less than proud tradition of making hard calls in Asia and the Middle East based on its oil interests. That won’t stop and we are never going to be nice guys, but wouldn’t it be prudent to take the urgency out of oil? Let Putin and Exxon continue their bromance – but let them be stuck with an oil lake while we frack domestically and use up vast coal reserves.

    Wouldn’t you think we would want – as an urgent priority – to use our own coal and hydrocarbons when they are in super-abundance? It wouldn’t fix the world or even ourselves, but it would be a first rational step. We could go back to speaking softly and carrying that big stick, maybe.

    Right now we are shouting and waving a twig.

    • Mosomoso

      I think we should burn bamboo fr energy and be willing to pay any price named to suppliers who put themselves forward

      Tonyb

      • Mosomoso

        I would like to refine my reply to you and offer you a contract for bamboo wood chips for Drax. Name your price

        Tonyb

      • My bamboo won’t ferment like those woodchips. Save nitrogen and weight! (Don’t buy the cheap Fujian moso. My stuff is organic because I can’t afford to treat it.)

    • We should also consider that we should be producing these resources now while the prices are still high, before alternatives become economical and they become worthless.

      • Of course, they’re only for now. That they may one day run low or peak does not matter, any more than peak latex or peak whale oil ever mattered. And it is more likely that in a society which keeps its dynamism that hydrocarbons will lie about unused because something more effective has come along. The problem is that sucky alternatives are killing the market for potential new tech which doesn’t suck.

        Like Bismarck said: Why suicide for fear of death?

      • The doomsaying Malthusians would consider it both moral and rational. You’ve fiercely gripped the plug of the matter.
        =============

  17. Isn’t the solar power curve misleading? It looks like the curve for a single panel that gets intermittently covered by clouds in the afternoon but when you have many panels spread over a larger area it gets averaged out. The smoothness of the duck curve seems more appropriate.

    • Planning Engineer

      Paul – I grabbed that plot because it was publically available and looked very similar to what I typically see for small solar installations in the 2-5 MW range (10 to 30 acres).

      That particular plot shows about 600 Watts of solar or a little more than a half of a MW. This would came from a solar site that consists of a few acres. .

      • 500W is half a kW not half a MW. It is not even a single house solar unit. I do agree that clouds can cover many acres at a time but meaningful solar production would be spatially diverse by necessity.
        My question to you as an energy engineer is does small local variations such loss of production of ~100 kW from a town block affect the local block or does the variation have to be bigger?

      • Planning Engineer

        Paul – my mistake. I should not be multi-tasking and I should have looked at that plot more closely when I grabbed it from Google images. Double bad on my part. It looked like what I typically see for mid size solar installations so I went with it. Very sloppy on my part.

        To your question as to 100 kW. It would be more a function of percentage of that departure relative to the other generation on line rather than an absolute value. But 100kW would likely not be a lot.

        See my note below on the time period for recording output. It applies to load as well. Load fluctuates quite a bit on the small time scales but averages out over minutes. The variability of load and generation compounds the problem.

      • Planning Engineer

        Plot I should have selected.

    • The claim that “spreading out solar panels over a region” will smooth supply (and likewise wind) is only true for spotty clouds. Here in the Midwest, when the weather changes the whole Midwest gets covered with clouds. In winter when the Brits could really use their wind turbines the most, the entire isles can be becalmed for days. Absolutely no wind power then.

      • Plus you have to have full needed capacity at each of the spread out locations, plus lots of transmission capacity in all directions. Very expensive redundancy.

      • Yes, and yes also to David W

        Comments from people such as Paul (very common for wind/solar advocates) just demonstrate that they have absolutely no idea of scale

    • Planning Engineer

      Here’s a link that would be a better accompaniment to my words to better make the case.

  18. John Smith (it's my real name)

    in my area, there is a forced campaign to make all accept “smart meters”
    one reason is the power company would more easily manage load by cutting off specific customers or areas during peaks
    doubtless the least of us
    this strikes me as a bit of prepping of the public to stop expecting reliable round the clock power
    (apologize for tendency to look for ulterior motives)
    I think for many in the climate advocacy community, the occasional loss of access to electricity is something we should all get used to
    by all, I mean just the ordinary folk
    therefore, the problems with renewable energy sources are not really problems
    great post about a fundamental issue

    • John Smith (it's my real name)

      Planning Engineer
      I would just add
      some of us would consider wider and more reliable access to power to be progress
      “progressives” likely consider it regressive
      :)

    • John Smith wrote, “I think for many in the climate advocacy community, the occasional loss of access to electricity is something we should all get used to
      by all, I mean just the ordinary folk”

      Just wait until the internet and cable stops working. “I can live without air conditioning for a couple of hours but don’t you dare mess with my Downton Abbey.”

      • John Smith (it's my real name)

        roving
        I never miss “Downton Abbey”
        as to understand British culture
        promotes understanding of Tonyb and some of the other limey suspects
        I’m not sure if it helps with the Scots
        :)

  19. Great post, power engineer.
    This duck curve is why California’s renewable mandate is nuts. The system imbalance is already so bad that both major utilities foresee probable rolling blackouts starting next year. So late in 2013 CPUC mandated 1.3 GW of energy storage. They did so in a way that expressly does not include the proposed and already provisionally federally permitted Eagle Crest pumped storage facility, which would be 1.3GWx18.5hours. It would use two abandoned Kaiser iron ore mines for upper and lower reservoirs, located just ten miles from an existing transmission corredor, costing just $55/kwh since everthing except the reservoir connection tunnel and pump/turbine units already exist. No environmental impact.
    Instead, CPUC are subsidizing untried grid scale mostly new flow battery technologies from startups wiith no track record and no previous installations, at costs ranging from $625 to $1190/kwh. Completely nuts.
    Details in essay California Dreaming in Blowing Smoke. Apt titles, both.

    • Rud

      They would be rolling green outs, not blackouts, so that would make them politically and morally acceptable.
      Tonyb

      • Great pun, Tony. Greenouts may be politically and morally acceptable, but lets see what California voters think when greenouts start happening.
        The 2012 CPUC hearings and 2013 storage mandate were pretty much before the drought. I haven’t read all the transcripts, but the mandate wording also ruled out additional hydro as a solution, not just pumped hydo. Existing California hydo is now also way down in its ability to flex and buffer compared to before. They have to save the water for consumption rather than use it to produce electricity.

      • Greenouts. I like it!
        Let’s keep that one.

    • Just read “California Dreaming” this afternoon.

      Your new book, “Blowing Smoke” is a real gem.

      It’s truly astounding how awful energy policy is. Especially on the left coast.

    • @ Rud Isvan

      “Instead, CPUC are subsidizing untried grid scale mostly new flow battery technologies from startups wiith no track record and no previous installations, at costs ranging from $625 to $1190/kwh. Completely nuts.”

      The Greenunists are demanding that we replace at least 50% of our fossil fuel consumption with ‘renewables’.

      Our current generator capacity is around a terawatt, with around 80% of it supplied by fossil fuels.

      I would like to see the environmental impact statement for 400 one gigawatt wind/solar farms (average output over a calendar year) and the lead/acid battery production facilities necessary to back each of them up over all anticipated combinations of overcast/calm/darkness to ensure that the 400 gigawatt baseload capacity was available with a reliability equal to or superior to that of the fossil fuel plants that they replaced.

    • Curious George

      I could not believe my eyes, but it id true: the California Public Utilities Commission mandated 1.3 GW of energy storage. Why gigawatts and not miles per hour escapes me.

      • @ Curious George

        Why gigawatts?

        Because gigawatts of storage are small, cheap, and available off the shelf.

        Take this from General Atomics for example:

        Model: 37634
        Capacitance (microfarads): 0.0125
        Size (inches): 2.3 x 5.9 x 4.0
        Weight (lb.): 2.5

        At its rated voltage, 50 kV, and its rated discharge rate, 25 kA, it could do the job all by itself. But not for long.

        Now when they start talking gigawatt-hours, they got a whole nother problem. Not small, not cheap, and definitely not off the shelf.

        For example, a typical car battery is good for around 0.5 kW-hr. So you would need 2,000,000 of them, containing around 30-40 lbs of lead, each, per gigawatt-hour. Say 60,000,000 pounds, or 30,000 tons of lead per giga-watt hour. 40,000 tons for every hour at a 1.3 gigawatt discharge rate. Wonder how many hours they want their battery to back up their 1.3 gigawatt generator?

        PS: The above figures are only ballpark, using typical car batteries. They may be able to do better. Quoted energy density for lead-acid is 30-50 w-hr/kg. But we are still talking a LOT of lead to back up a 1.3 gW plant for any meaningful time.

      • Bob Ludwick and other readers, you may be interested in this calculation I did a few years ago http://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/peter-lang-solar-realities.pdf. I estimate the cost and land area that would have to be inundated by pairs of hydro reservoirs, with 150 m average elevation difference, to store sufficient energy to power Australia’s eastern electricity system (NEM), if all electricity was generated by PV panels at a single location. I compared the costs for pumped hydro and NAS batteries.

        With 30 days storage, the capital cost for pumped hydro, solar PV and transmission was estimated at $3 trillion, and $9 trillion if NAS batteries were used instead of pumped hydro.

        The area of pumped hydro reservoirs plus PV panels is estimated at 11,000 km2 for 30 days storage or 30,000 km2 for 1 day storage (because a much larger area of PV panels is required with less storage)

  20. Planning Engineer

    I have averaged solar plants that are miles apart together and you still see a lot of noise.

    I would not make anything of the smoothness of the “duck curve”. It’s not meant to be accurate about “noise” fluctuation. It is not described as a plot of actual values for a specific day, but likely an averaged “typical day”. In any case the forecast years are for average expected values and it is very unlikely they would add in any expected noise.

    If you do look at actual data for wind and solar, be careful how you interpret that. Plant output has to be averaged over some time period. The amount of noise you see will be a function of the recording period. If you don’t know what the period is you might presume that the resources are much smoother than they are in reality. That time period could be anywhere from a fraction of a second to an hour. If daily load shapes are shown with values averaged over 15 minutes you will get a much smoother curve from four points per hour than if it’s averaged over a minute with a curve made of 60 points. A curve made from 60 points per hour will be smoother than a curve made from 2400 points per hour. The generators will be responding to fluctuations in the 60 cycle per second range.

    • If the PV output noise is an issue wouldn’t a small backup on site (20-30 minutes at rated capacity) provide significant smoothing?

  21. Yea for micro-grids:

    http://phys.org/news/2014-11-ornl-microgrid-standardize-small-self-sustaining.html

    Small is beautiful. So many win-win reasons why small smart-grids will come to dominate the energy landscape. Some of the old-school engineers are seeing the beauty of this, and others…well, retirement is not far off.

  22. Matthew R Marler

    Planning Engineer, thank you for a good post.

    • Planning Engineer,

      Thank you. I support tne view that the Devil’s in the detail, and add that if the detail doesn’t derail you, the maintenance often will.

      You provide a rare flash of sanity.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

  23. Interesting and (ready drumsticks) enlightening, thanks.

  24. For the 1.8 billion people who live on < $1/day, for these people to receive electric power, does this require an electrical grid at all? As I understand it, an electrical grid is required for large power plants, economy of scale and all that. If on the other hand, regional power is sufficient; i.e. in the 30 N to 30 S latitudes, solar may be sufficient in the microcosm; i.e., the small village, even within the boundaries of a large city already a long way from traditional power sources.
    What I suggest, is to build small regional solar power sources, no back-up, power used when the sun shines. Cooking with electricity during the day. Refrigeration with battery storage. Internet for teaching during the day. At night, traditional lead-acid batteries for light to read, and learn, and socialize by. Obviously, no air conditioning.
    Solar alone, no grid, no balancing act, and, in particular, no pirating of electricity by locals from distant sources. Electricity generation built by locals, priced by locals, managed by locals does not seem to need a broader connectivity.

    • I think that would be great for such people.

    • RINO, I suggest you go to Africa with a poster proposing they stay poor forever so they can be happy living in early Neolithic nirvana.

    • Planning Engineer

      RiHoO8 – The fixed cost (and total costs) for small amounts of electric use will be lower with solar power and batteries as you suggest. As you say “economy of scale and all that” come with a bigger grid. If the electric needs are simple and the area is best served by keeping it simple – that’s the way to go. If the area would benefit from things like air conditioning, labor saving devices, jobs, manufacturing, tourism, hospitals and such, the a grid with traditional power sources would enable broader access to energy and it’s ability to change lives. Electricity can replace a lot of human labor, and where electricity is expensive labor is usually very cheap. Conversely cheap electricity increases the value of labor and gives people a chance to escape poverty.

      • Well said

      • Planning Engineer

        To me the baby step is to first address desperation. Daylight energy seems to me to be a baby step in alleviating such desperation. Moving onto a much larger picture that would include regional power generation and electrical grids seem to require many more small steps in the future.

        I guess I am reflecting on the not so successful “big” projects in under-developed countries like hydroelectric in trying to provide country wide electricity. In Burma (Myanmar) which I visited this spring, the Soviets had built oil fired electric power plants and when they ran out of other people’s money, they left the Burmese to figure things out on their own. It seems that the Burmese are still figuring.

      • Planning Engineer

        Fair enough RiHoO8. Some people want Africa to meet higher renewable targets than advanced nations do. I was thinking you were in that camp and disappointed by your first response. But small steps are good if they don’t preclude bigger ones and they may be better than large ill-conceived efforts.

      • Planning Engineer

        “Some people want Africa to meet higher renewable targets than advanced nations do.” “Meeting higher renewable targets” sounds to me like something out of a Greenpeace or World Wildlife Federation Madison Avenue produced brochure; i.e., CO2 mania.

        What I had in mind, was Fernando Leanme’s remark about keeping African’s in a Neolithic Nirvana.

        A portion of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo has two hydroelectric dams: Inga l and Inga ll located just 140 miles from Kinshasa. They suffer low and intermittent output due to neglect, corruption, Government debt, and an unenthusiastic group of risk finance takers. The plan for yet a third hydroelectric dam which could supply most of Africa’s needs is still in “negotiations.” Meanwhile, DRC’s largest cities: Kinshasa has a poor to non-functioning infrastructure including an electric grid. Goms has cratered and washed out roads and no functioning infrastructure at all.

        In Burma, the Chinese have offered to build a hydroelectric dam across the upper reaches of the Irrawaddy River, that is, if the astrology dominated military leaders will sell the electric power to…China.

        Big ideas attracts sticky fingers, sabotaging what might have been.

        Oil, gas and coal are fossil fuel resources found in many under-developed areas of the world and can be used for electric power generation.

        “…cheap electricity increases the value of labor and gives people a chance to escape poverty.” of which I agree whole-heartedly.

        For me the issue is how to start: possibly begin in the village with local generation and control. It’s hard for the sticky fingers from afar to bother with small potatoes. The next step, fossil fuel electric generation that does not require transport across ill maintained roads seems to me to be the hardest to develop, negotiated and maintain. These I would think, would require an electric grid.

        Just saying. I’m always in the market for ideas. Generally, not Green ones.

  25. Stephen Segrest

    Planning Engineer — thanks for a great post!

    I’m not trying to jump too far ahead in your great (and needed) educational series of posts — but, I do have a beginning question in trying to better understand the topic of Renewables’ intermittency and grid reliability.

    My question is about the metric of System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI). The E.U. and especially Germany are quite adamant that (per the metric of SAIDI), their reliability is the highest in the World — and significantly greater than the U.S. (and probably a gazillion times greater than Texas/ERCOT).

    In trying to better understand the topic of itermittency/reliability — do you believe that there is a better metric that should be used? If so, what is it and can you provide a link that has this information for the U.S. and Europe?

    My current opinion would be that the use of SAIDI is just fine — and that the issue of Renewables is about finding the Right Fit based on engineering economics (and clearly not one-size-fits-all Federal mandates like a national portfolio standard).

    A “Right Fit”, say for a New England electric utility with access to existing Canadian hydro and that has a fleet of new shinny natural gas combined cycle units (load tracking ability) would be very different than say, a Utility in Mississippi that has a large percentage of existing pulverized coal units.

    Thanks

    • Planning Engineer

      Stephen here’s a stab at shining some light around SAIDI. Probably there are others here who can add more and say it better. SAIDI is the average outage duration per customer. It’s a good measure for the reliability an average customer on any given system might expect, but it does not tell you much about the comparative risks of a major blackout for diverse areas.

      The biggest concern for system reliability is avoiding major blackouts to the bulk power system. When large parts of the system are down – it’s hard to recover and this can create huge regional problems. Smaller outages are not the same type of problem generally of shorter duration over smaller areas and with lower consequences. It’s inconvenient for the impacted customers, but not a huge social problem. The SAIDI index is overwhelming composed of small local outages, abd really is not a good indicator as to the risk of a major blackout. (The operators ability to shed load when needed helps the bulk system reliability.)

      For example a grid serving a lower density population will have more radial loads. This will tend to increase system SAIDI, but not the risk of a major blackout. A denser population will support a networked grid, which all else equal will have lower SADI, but not necessarily a lower risk of blackout.

      Major blackouts are rare events that are few and far between. No good index for that. They are typically caused by an unpredictable set of multiple contingencies. When I have expressed concerns about the impacts of renewable generation upon the grid, my major focus has been on the bulk system. The type events that make up the majority of SAIDI events have little to do with generation outages or system stability, but rather are attributable to line and substation problems.

      I would expect that the German grid (because of population density) has a great amount of transmission and distribution redundancy through networked lines. This will work to limit the outages customer see. This does not mean that given a confluences of high loads and unexpected contingencies concurrent with a lack of conventional generations, that they will be less likely to have a blackout than a grid serving a much less dense area where the networked grid is supplemented by many radial lines which go out at a higher frequency.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Planning Engineer — If not SAIDI then what? Without some quantifiable metric (based on engineering standards which at least SAIDI does follow) all we have are “opinions” and “anecdotal evidence” — both pro and con.

      • Planning Engineer

        I don’t have an easy answer. Maybe someone else does. Not all problems have solutions.

        Detailed modelling might help. To me it seems obvious though that if you model a conventional system with more certainty as to resource location and availability and more inertial mass that system will do better than the system with more wind and solar and regards cascading outages, voltage drop and stability. If over many years you don’t observe that to be the case, then I’d question the assumptions.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Planning Engineer — The SAIDI data from Germany has been around for about a decade. Based on this metric (using internationally accepted engineering standards), the German Government says (rightly or wrongly) the data is a good proxy for Grid Reliability. I don’t know of any other “alternative” metric of transparent U.S. or European data to go to.

        About 10 years of transparent SAIDI data shows that as a tremendous amounts of Renewables have been added, that Reliability has increased year after year.

        Every engineer involved in System Planning and/or Operations knows, and agrees, of intermittency concerns/problems of Renewables.

        So if one is inquisitive, a reasonable question is how are the German’s doing what they are doing?

        I know almost zero of what Germany is doing. But, I do read reports by the U.S. Department of Energy (and its Labs), EPRI, etc. which do discuss how the intermittency problems/concerns of Renewable are being and have been addressed (which usually includes collaboration with Industry and Utilities).

        While many here at CE disagree, a reasonable point to bring into this dialogue is: Are the Germans implementing many of things on integration that folks like NREL, EPRI, etc. are talking about?

      • Segrest, Germany’s electricity prices and CO2 emissions intensity are both increasing, Why?

        Germany is currently building 10 new large coal fired power stations, many of them brown coal with high CO2 emissions intensity. Why?

        France’s CO2 emissions intensity from electricity is about 15% of Germany’s. Why?

      • Re PL @ 3.03am wondering why Germany, France… Peter’s
        paper on renewables and nuclear energy costs.
        https://www.google.com.au/?gws_rd=ssl#q=Papers+on+Energy+Geologist+Peter+Lang+%27Renewables+vs+Nuclear+Electricity+fot+Australia+-+the+Costs
        ‘The nuclear scenario with 73% of electricity generated by
        nuclear is estimated at 1/4 the capital cost, 1/3 to 1/2 the
        cost of electricity and about 1/3 the CO2 abatement cost of
        the renewable energy scenarios.’

      • Thanks Beth, :)

      • A few publications like Climate Spectator fantasise that the Energiewende is going forward; Spiegel and most others have at least managed to notice that Germany’s coal power output is getting back to reunification levels. Maybe it has to do with all those new coal power plants and mines that are popping up in the middle of Europe, especially Poland. Because it’s either that or buy from that nice Mr Putin. As it is, Germany managed to export 33 billion kilowatt hours last year.

        Yes, there are plenty of renewables in the German mix, but, with the average household having to find 220 euros annually at the currently depressed CO2 price, people are concluding that renewables must suck. Also, there is no great willingness to calculate how much fossil fuel energy is thrown away on the sly to keep the renewables looking renewable from a funding point of view. I can understand their embarrassment.

        You’d think these things would be easy to determine. But when there’s no will there’s no way. Germany is meant to prove a point about renewables so reality is suspended for purpose of making that preachy point. It’s a bit like that one day when wind was so perfect that a trickle of power went north over the Pyrenees from Spain. You just talk about that day and ignore all the other days, and the corrupt, expensive mess which is Spanish wind.

        This is faith-based stuff we’re dealing with.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Hi Peter — I’m no expert on Germany (but neither are you). I do read German push-back on the claims you (and others) make though. The German government says their coal policies are totally transparent, and one can go back about 10 years to see their National Plan on coal (and how their actions are consistent in following this Plan).

        The new coal plants (per the German government) have been long planned to replace very old and low efficiency units with new coal units which are approaching ~50% efficiency.

        Per what the German government says on their Plan (which is ~10 years old now) — their stated objective is to achieve close to a 2 to 1 ratio on coal unit retirements versus installing new high efficiency coal units. The link I saw was 18.5 GW of coal units to be retired and 11.3 GW of coal capacity added by 2020.

      • How the Energiewende got wended back.

        http://lh3.ggpht.com/-Q0SQGa12hOk/UuKEqDGMZcI/AAAAAAAAYEQ/8Ahgv84PO5o/image%25255B5%25255D.png?imgmax=800

        Brussels and Strasbourg can do appropriate magic when the survival of the EU depends on a flush Germany. Who else will buy the drinks? I just hope all those extra certificates were electronic and that no trees were harmed in the production.

        By the way, you do good work, Planning Engineer. It’s so good when a writer states his case without the loops and hoops of “science communication”.

        Great stuff, PE.

      • Segrest,

        I didn’t claim to be an expert. Just quoting from authoritative sources such as IEA. However, your answers are just dodges. Didn’t ask the straight answers with straight questions.

        You could have answered, for example: “because nuclear is a reliable, cheaper source of power and it cuts emissions as demonstrated by France. Renewables are unreliable, high cost, require fossil fuel back up to achieve reliable power supply. back, and are ineffective at cutting emissions as demonstrated by Germany and Denmark.”

        Pretty simple and obvious\ really.

      • Planning Engineer

        Stephen, I think we should look more at the experiences of other countries but we tend not to. I used Google to find something on SAIDI and Germany and found this: http://breakingenergy.com/2014/10/21/germanys-energiewende-proves-electricity-can-be-clean-and-reliable/

        I am afraid that the article and those touting that renewables do not pose a reliability risk by citing SAIDI are confusing the difference between short outages and bulk system collapse. (They report on 200,000 blackouts exceeding 3 minutes – I’d just call those local outages.) In any case those minor events are entirely different as to root cause and effect. Note- minor outages often trigger a big event. You could say the less triggers you have the less likely a big outage and that’s true. But the bigger event is really due to the underlying system strength. It’s just the match that lights the fire, not the pile of combustibles which are really the accident waiting to happen.

        You can improve SAIDI and small outages by investing in the grid and local distribution networks. However those investments generally do not improve bulk system reliability but in fact they can degrade it. We have to balance what we do to reduce SAIDI with the impact of those measures on the bulk system. For example automatic reclosing schemes for distribution outages help reduce SAIDI. When a circuit is blocked, an alternate path is quickly switched in automatically. That reduces the outage time for a particular customer and improves SAIDI. From the bulk perspective when the system is stressed or weakened, it’s usually helpful to reduce load a bit and be slow to add it back in. Automatic reclosing schemes put the load back on quickly. It’s an engineering tradeoff at times how much do you value bringing load on quickly versus the risks of causing a bigger problem. We make these kind of tradeoffs all the time. You can go overboard in reducing SAIDI. Skewing the system to reduce temporary outages at the cost of system bulk reliability is not a good idea. I worry that over-reliance on SAIDI as a single indicator of system health might push in that direction.

        Whenever I have spoken about reliability risk I have intended to refer to the bulk system risk as regards avoiding voltage collapse and system instability. The question as to whether there are more or less local outages with greater penetration of renewables is not something I feel qualified to comment on. At the end of the day if they caused more local outages, to me that would not be that big a deal anyway. There are local options for backup. t I would guess that if the backbone grid is strong – renewables would not offer any significant negative impacts to SAIDI and with increased transmission expenditures you could reduce SAIDI concurrent with increasing renewable penetration. The concern again is for the bulk grid and talking about SAIDI as a proxy is like saying since you’re lawn is well maintained your roof won’t leak. Their may be a correlation because people who care (or who are careless) about one thing care (or careless) about the other, but …

      • For years I’ve thought that the biggest problem with intermittent sources was that they drive dispatchers mad. It’s only been the during the last thread by Planning Engineer that I’ve realized that it is machines, not humans, who we are driving mad with intermittent renewables.
        ==========================

      • Rx: Carrington Lobotomy.
        ===================

      • Stephen Segrest

        Peter Lang — Your continued refusal to acknowledge how System Planners do their job is just baffling. While the need for nuclear power is absolutely critical in meeting our base load requirements (and reducing CO2 emissions, and reducing fuel risk by having a diversified generation portfolio of power plants) — peaking load and generation options to meet this load (which solar currently fits into) is important also.

        When this comes directly from the “horses mouth” from Georgia Power and the Georgia PSC on their 500 MW solar decision — why doesn’t this mean anything to you?

      • Segrest,

        Peter Lang — Your continued refusal to acknowledge how System Planners do their job is just baffling.

        Another strawman argument. Your frequent intellectual dishonesty is baffling. I said nothing about how system engineers do their job.

        I said you waffle, avoid the issue raised, and don’t understand what is relevant for policy analysis,

      • Segrest,

        peaking load and generation options to meet this load (which solar currently fits into) is important also.

        Hydro and gas are the least cost way to meet peak load, not solar and wind.

        For 30 years France has demonstrated the least cost way to reduce the emissions intensity of the electricity system and provide cheap reliable power that meets customers’ requirements – as demonstrated by the fact they are exporting the equivalent of the capacity of about 10 nuclear power stations to ten neighboring countries.

        Why cant you recognise the blindingly obvious?

      • Stephen – you’re willingness to accept, apparently at face value, what those with strong, vested interests (governments, Georgia Power, Georgia PSC, etc.) say is, IMO, naive.

        Dig deeper and you might find that distorted incentives are what are driving many of these decisions.

        Oh, and ask this question relative to solar and wind: if they are so good, why haven’t they caught on like smartphones, in spite of all the tax incentives in place?

      • Stephen Segrest

        Planning Engineer — You made a very important following statement:

        Whenever I have spoken about reliability risk I have intended to refer to the bulk system risk as regards avoiding voltage collapse and system instability.

        When knowledgeable engineers (like you) here at CE discuss topics, its really important to make any key qualifying statements (like above) to frame something in an appropriate context.

        As you browse CE comments, certainly you see most are extremely negative. Routinely I see folks (mostly non-engineers) taking statements you made as justification for very broad negative conclusion(s) they make on Renewables — which I know are either incorrect or highly misleading.

        Take short intermittency issues as an example. I know of tons of reports from folks like DOE (and their Labs), EPRI, etc. where tremendous advancements have, and are being made by Utilities and Industry to address short intermittency concerns/problems.

        Question: As we more forward in discussing this very important topic of Renewables, should the Big Picture context be what you stated above in your clarifying statement?

        Thanks! (and again, you’re doing a great job).

      • Steven Segrest, “As you browse CE comments, certainly you see most are extremely negative. Routinely I see folks (mostly non-engineers) taking statements you made as justification for very broad negative conclusion(s) they make on Renewables — which I know are either incorrect or highly misleading.”

        I think you are missing what is being discussed negatively. Various types of renewable energy have appropriate fits and inappropriate fits. In the US many are negative about trying to integrate too much solar and too much wind without considering a ton of factors related to the existing infrastructure.

        The not all that well named “smart grid” is in a developmental stage similar to solar pv. There will be major improvements in cost and reliability which makes it a great R&D opportunity but not a great build out opportunity. So when you communicate that there should be increased build out, you get a negative response, which I think is appropriate. .

        Areas that don’t have extensive existing infrastructure and a need for more energy are better suited to roll the dice on a renewables intensive infrastructure.

        Here is a telling statement from an IEEE paper on HVDC transmission,
        “Recent developments in energy policies and stronger environmental lobbies could make HVDC transmission attractive for many more applications. This paper reviews technical issues faced by users of HVDC transmission and discusses how HVDC could be made more generally acceptable as a transmission solution.”

        Most here are not too keen on special interest motivated energy policy.

  26. @ Judith C

    Thank you and PE for the posts here. I’ve been intermittently requesting such a series – very informative (particularly the responses)

    It’s quite obvious that when confronted with the choice of renewabubbles and lowering living standards or staying with civilisation and its’ emissions, AGW advocates much prefer to stay silent

  27. Planning Engineer,

    Thank you for another excellent post. Very clear, concise, well written and explains the issues brilliantly for non-specialists (like me).

    Judith, thank you too for inviting these excellent posts. IMO, this sort of information is enormously important to get across to those who are concerned about CAGW and advocating for policy responses that can succeed in the real world.

  28. I have yet to read an article discussing the deployment of utility scale wind or solar projects in the U.S. that includes an assessment of Europe’s almost 30 year experience which has been less than stellar. “Analysis of Wind Farm Performance in UK and Denmark” by Dr Gordon Hughes, is a Professor of Economics at the University of Edinburgh where he teaches courses in the Economics of Natural Resources and Public Economics. He was a senior adviser on energy and environmental policy at the World Bank until 2001. He has advised governments on the design and implementation of environmental policies and was responsible for some of the World Bank’s most important environmental guidelines.

    The study has used data on the monthly output of wind farms in the UK and Denmark reported under regulatory arrangements and schemes for subsidizing renewable energy. Normalized age-performance curves have been estimated using standard statistical techniques which allow for differences between sites and over time in wind resources and other factors.
    The normalized load factor for UK onshore wind farms declines from a peak of about 24% at age 1 to 15% at age 10 and 11% at age 15. The decline in the normalized load factor for Danish onshore wind farms is slower but still significant with a fall from a peak of 22% to 18% at age 15. On the other hand for offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalized load factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10. The reasons for the observed declines in normalized load factors cannot be fully assessed using the data available but outages due to mechanical breakdowns appear to be a contributory factor.
    Applying Dr Hughs’ findings to the Cape Wind project Nantucket Sound, slated to begin construction in 2015, a basic Capital Cost /Life Cycle Output calculation generates some interesting numbers.
    Cape Wind. Cost $2.6 Billion, Nameplate 468 Megawatts, Capacity Factor 27%, Life Cycle 10 years, Life Cycle Output 11 Terawatts. Capital Cost per Megawatt $234.89. Cost of Production per Megawatt $70.
    State of the Art GE Flex 50 Combined Cycle Natural Gas Turbine. Cost $450 Million (right to work state), Baseplate 510 Megawatts, Capacity Factor 85%, Life Cycle 40 years, Life Cycle Output 152 Terawatts. Capital Cost per Megawatt, $2.96. Cost of Production per Megawatt $35, $15 of which is fuel cost.
    Bottom line, it takes $36 Billion of Cape Wind to match the output of one $450 Million GE Flex 50 predicated on a Capital Cost/Life Cycle Output calculation.

    The contracted cost of the Cape Wind energy will be 23 cents a kilowatt hour (excluding tax credits, which are unlikely to last the length of the project), which is more than 50% higher than current average electricity prices in Massachusetts. the bay state is already the 4th most expensive state for electricity in the nation. Even if the tax credits are preserved, $940 million of the $1.6 billion contract represents costs above projections for the likely market price of conventional power. moreover, these costs are just the initial costs they are scheduled to rise by 3.5 percent annually for 15 years. by year 15 the rate will be $.38 per Kilowatt. Classic, Federal and State tax dollars from Mass taxpayers for the privilege of having their electricity rates more than treble. The 200 days of fog is problematic for the high speed ferry boats which transit 3 million passengers annually. The three local airports which handle 400,000 flights a year are concerned about radar interference (flutter) caused by the turbines.

  29. The post is impossibly obvious. It complains about the potential over utilization of some energy technologies – and thus cost increases. The interesting question is how to cost effectively integrate diverse supplies – biomass, geothermal, hydro, wind, solar, biogas, etc. into the mix. Diverse supplies are an unmitigated good – as insurance against complete reliance on a limited number of supply technologies.

    Rational planning goes beyond that to systematically identify research needs and commercialization routes. Solar and nuclear come to mind as having especial potential for cost reduction and performance improvement. There are as well substantial global off grid opportunities for a diversity of supply options.

    e.g. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-10-04/news/54626535_1_clean-energy-energy-problems-solutions/2

    Most having a mix of biomass and solar – makes perfect sense.

    • Planning Engineer

      Rob – I strongly agree that: “The interesting question is how to cost effectively integrate diverse supplies – biomass, geothermal, hydro, wind, solar, biogas, etc. into the mix”. I also agree that there is value in having a diverse resource mix. I have meant to be clear on such things.

      I support research into renewables, but not transforming the power grid into a huge experiment.

      • The internal fuel load of a F-18 Super Hornet is 18,800 pounds (2,254 gallons). The Government Accounting Office reported that the DOD purchased $150 per gallon algae derived jet fuel in May of this year at a time when petroleum base jet fuel cost $2.88 per gallon. Do the math, max internal load out $355,000 vs $6,495. Mind boggling, no? Interrogative do you really believe that this algae hydrogen based fuel was funded by private enterprise?
        Here is a listing of Federal subsidies dedicated for electric power production by source, fiscal 2010, dollars per Megawatt. Oil and Gas $0.64, Hydropower $0.82, Coal $0.64, Nuclear $3.14, SOLAR $775.64, WIND $56.29.

    • “The post is impossibly obvious.”
      ______
      Yep. Transparent in both intent and inevitable conclusions.

    • From your link:

      > Advisors also pointed out the inability of off-grid solutions to provide continuous electricity

      I agree with your posts on chaos but I fear you may have become increasingly eccentric over actual power supply solutions

      China has overwhelmingly chosen grid-based coal, hydro, nuclear – with about the same level of population and poverty as India

      In posts such as these, the “silence of the lambs” is very loud indeed. All we really have are a few weak, pointless bleats from Gates

    • pside for solar is not very high – and a lot of the “cost” is subsidized directly by the semiconductor industry on the capital expenditure side.
      As the semiconductor industry matures, this capital subsidy disappears.
      The reason for the low upside is that solar cells inherently are a function of size – you are dealing with power generation, not information processing. There has been a lot of work done with alternate substrate, multiple band gap capture architectures, etc but ultimately we’re looking at a maximum of 4x over average present installed efficiency of 11% (or so). It is likely even with 50% efficient solar cells that the actual efficiencies on the industrial side (i.e. post rectification, transmission, etc) will not exceed 35%.
      There is a time and place for solar, but the concept of using it as a primary electricity source – even in regions where it is theoretically optimal – seem far fetched.
      Subsidies placing obsolete, old solar tech at the 11% level on rooftops all over the world – just insanity.

    • Rob Ellison

      I opened the link which had two short paragraphs. Did you mean this link or did you have another in mind.

  30. rmdobservations (Ben Rose) posted about six comments on PE’s previous post Myths and Realities of renewable energy. Since then, he and I have been discussing renewables v nuclear on Online Opinion, an Australian web site (it allows only four comments in 24 hours and maximum 350 words) http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=16809&page=0 . First we nominated three key criteria each that would change our mind if we were convinced our understanding was wrong.

    There’ve been many posts. However, he’s has just pulled out but without conceding. I find that really frustrating and a clear sign of intellectual dishonesty https://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/ . I’ve just posted the following response (which is relevant to this post by PE):

    Ben Rose,

    I see you have effectively conceded.

    Have you read the latest post by Planning Engineer on Climate Etc. “More renewables? Watch out for the Duck Curve”
    https://judithcurry.com/2014/11/05/more-renewables-watch-out-for-the-duck-curve/
    It begins:

    “It can be very misleading to compare the energy costs for wind and solar to the energy costs for more conventional generation technology and assume the difference is the cost of providing for “clean” energy.”

    You haven’t managed to support any of your assertions or criteria we agreed were the issues to be debated. I suggest, if you are intellectually honest, it’s time to concede.

    Below I summarise the significant relevant points from the debate so far.

    1. Nuclear is the least cost way to make substantial cuts to GHG emissions from electricity generation. That is with all costs included – including decommissioning, waste disposal and accident insurance (for the consequences attributable to the accident as opposed to the irrational response caused by nuclear fear; the latter should be paid for by government from the public purse since it caused it and therefore best managed by it).

    2. Nuclear is about the safest way to generate electricity (LCA with all risks included) so this is not a valid reason for opposing nuclear power

    3. Renewables cannot supply a large proportion of the world’s energy demand so they cannot make the cuts in GHG emissions that the CAGW alarmist say they want. Nuclear can

    4. Only solutions that will improve countries’ economies over the short and medium term have a realistic chance of succeeding.

    5. The impediments imposed on nuclear power as a result of 50 years of scare mongering by anti-nukes (mostly the environmental NGO’s and political Left) have made nuclear far more expensive than it could and should be.

    6. Those who want policies to cut global GHG emissions should advocate to remove the impediments that have been imposed on nuclear power. They need to argue to appropriately deregulate nuclear power and make the regulation properly comparable with all other industries, e.g. on the basis of fatalities per TWh.

    If you are intellectually honest you will concede. Then you’ll reconsider your advocacy of renewable energy and denial that nuclear is the best way to achieve global GHG emissions reductions as well as a sustainable energy supply for the world for the future.

    • Peter Lang

      If nuclear is not expensive enough relative to renew-a-fables the greens will keep suing until it is.

    • Peter Lang The conversation on the previous “Myths” was getting out of hand and neither side was conceding, based on where I left off. I am an unusual environmentalist in that I am not worried about rising temperatures. I do not believe that they will stop rising if we start reducing carbon emissions now. There is too much inertia in the earth’s system to just step on the breaks (in my opinion, I have no model results to back up my guesses). Anyone who thinks they have that much control over the climate is delusional. in my humble opinion.

      I worry about declining rain forests, declining water resources, and the tearing down or digging up of land (e.g. coal and shale). I object to the development of
      big highways and cities near the coasts of the seas and rivers. The Netherlands would be a parking lot if there were not local objections to yet another highway to reduce congestion. Notwithstanding a pretty good train network and millions of bicycles, it is still normal for one person to drive around in a 2 ton car.

      You cannot seem to accept that many here believe that nuclear can be part of the solution but it is not the only solution. The more cheap energy people have, the more energy consuming things they do with it. If they have a “clean” car, they will use it more often (Just watch “SouthPark”. The writers are eerily spot on with many of these issues).

      I kind of like the idea of limiting the number of blog responses per day. It would help me absorb th information and compose a well-thought out response. Or is that restricting freedom?

      Rose

      • rmdobservations

        interesting comment.

        Here in the UK many people can not afford to turn on their heating at all or run it at a much lower level than they would like causing-according to the age concern charities-up to 35000 ‘surplus’ deaths due to cold in a bad winter.

        What in your opinion is the optimum price for energy for heating of homes and fuel for vehicles? Bear in mind that the last affects food prices etc due to it being a major part of transportation costs

        tonyb

      • Rose,

        For an interesting big-picture perspective on energy, entropy, and sustainability see:

        http://phys.org/news/2014-11-sustainability-astrobiology-illuminate-future-life.html

      • rmdobservations (Ben Rose)

        You cannot seem to accept that many here believe that nuclear can be part of the solution but it is not the only solution.

        This is a strawman argument and you know it. Using strawman arguments is one of the 10 signs of intellectual dishonesty.

        I have not said that nuclear is the only solution. However, you advocate 100% renewable solutions. How hypocritical.

        I do not advocate nuclear for Australia unless it is likely to be economically advantageous to do so. I’ve said that several times in replies to your comments elsewhere. You seem to ignore what you don’t want to hear – another sign of intellectual dishonesty. It’s frustrating given you claim to be a scientist. What I’ve said is that a large proportion of nuclear generation is projected to be the least cost and fastest way to reduce emissions from electricity generation. So, those who are concerned about CAGW should be advocating to remove the impediments that prevent the world from having low cost nuclear power instead of advocating for renewable energy and scaremongering about nuclear (as you are doing).

        The more cheap energy people have, the more energy consuming things they do with it. If they have a “clean” car, they will use it more often (Just watch “SouthPark”. The writers are eerily spot on with many of these issues).

        This is irrelevant. Per capita energy consumption will continue to increase as it has done since man was a hunter-gatherer. Do the research. And it must continue to increase to lift people out of poverty, give everyone better health, education, longer life expectancy and everything else. Google GapMinder and have a play with it. Cheap energy is good for mankind. The cheaper the better.

        I kind of like the idea of limiting the number of blog responses per day. It would help me absorb the information and compose a well-thought out response. Or is that restricting freedom?

        There’s no point composing a well thought out response if it is just a carefully worded dodge of the point under discussion. When someone plays games, like you do on Online Opinion, it’s impossible to have a rational discussion. You continually avoid debating the key points we agreed to debate and throw in a whole host of irrelevancies each time. You don’t read the links provided and then dismiss points saying “nonsense and you haven’t provided references or links”. More dishonesty. You dismiss authoritative references and post links to discredited, anti-nuke nonsense. You say you’ve read more widely than me. How would you know? I’ve been reading, analysing, advising on these matters for over 30 years. I’ve read stacks of the anti-nuke stuff. It’s mostly emotive, cherry picked, ideologically motivated reasoning. A researcher learns to work out what to trust and what not to trust.

        Using CSIRO ‘eFuture’ http://efuture.csiro.au/#scenarioswith the default (best estimate) settings, the cost of ‘mostly nuclear’ on the NEM is projected to be about 60% of ‘mostly renewables’, not including transmission costs which are much higher for RE than nuclear.

        Whether you can admit it or not, you’ve lost the debate. You are wrong but apparently don’t have the professional integrity to admit it and concede the point.

        You have questions to answer here: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=16809&page=0

      • [repost to correct format]

        You cannot seem to accept that many here believe that nuclear can be part of the solution but it is not the only solution.

        This is a strawman argument and you know it. Using strawman arguments is one of the 10 signs of intellectual dishonesty.

        I have not said that nuclear is the only solution. However, you advocate 100% renewable solutions. How hypocritical.

        I do not advocate nuclear for Australia unless it is likely to be economically advantageous to do so. I’ve said that several times in replies to your comments elsewhere. You seem to ignore what you don’t want to hear – another sign of intellectual dishonesty. It’s frustrating given you claim to be a scientist. What I’ve said is that a large proportion of nuclear generation is projected to be the least cost and fastest way to reduce emissions from electricity generation. So, those who are concerned about CAGW should be advocating to remove the impediments that prevent the world from having low cost nuclear power instead of advocating for renewable energy and scaremongering about nuclear (as you are doing).

        The more cheap energy people have, the more energy consuming things they do with it. If they have a “clean” car, they will use it more often (Just watch “SouthPark”. The writers are eerily spot on with many of these issues).

        This is irrelevant. Per capita energy consumption will continue to increase as it has done since man was a hunter-gatherer. Do the research. And it must continue to increase to lift people out of poverty, give everyone better health, education, longer life expectancy and everything else. Google GapMinder and have a play with it. Cheap energy is good for mankind. The cheaper the better.

        I kind of like the idea of limiting the number of blog responses per day. It would help me absorb the information and compose a well-thought out response. Or is that restricting freedom?

        There’s no point composing a well thought out response if it is just a carefully worded dodge of the point under discussion. When someone plays games, like you do on Online Opinion, it’s impossible to have a rational discussion. You continually avoid debating the key points we agreed to debate and throw in a whole host of irrelevancies each time. You don’t read the links provided and then dismiss points saying “nonsense and you haven’t provided references or links”. More dishonesty. You dismiss authoritative references and post links to discredited, anti-nuke nonsense. You say you’ve read more widely than me. How would you know? I’ve been reading, analysing, advising on these matters for over 30 years. I’ve read stacks of the anti-nuke stuff. It’s mostly emotive, cherry picked, ideologically motivated reasoning. A researcher learns to work out what to trust and what not to trust.

        Using CSIRO ‘eFuture’ http://efuture.csiro.au/#scenarioswith the default (best estimate) settings, the cost of ‘mostly nuclear’ on the NEM is projected to be about 60% of ‘mostly renewables’, not including transmission costs which are much higher for RE than nuclear.

        Whether you can admit it or not, you’ve lost the debate. You are wrong but apparently don’t have the professional integrity to admit it and concede the point.

        You have questions to answer here: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=16809&page=0

      • @Climatereason I was not thinking of home heating. Of course you are right.
        And high gasoline prices affect the lower-paid as well as housing costs which force them to live far away from where they work. It’s all connected. I think that here in the Netherlands the government subsidizes the energy costs of lower earning families. I don’t call this socialism. It’s helping with basic necessities.

        There are always arguments about what constitutes a basic necessity. But I think my previous post was too long (and a bit unfocused) so I will stop here.

    • Peter Lang,

      My name is Rose at RMDObservations. Ben Rose is another person. I sign with my first name in an attempt to stay friendly and to be sure that there are a few women (with differenet opinions) clearly represented on this blog.
      Rose

      • Rose,

        Really sorry. My misunderstanding. I was confused. I retract any comments of my annoyance directed and Ben Rose.

  31. Assome nations push to lower their carbon footprint with renewables, they forget that generation of electricity isn’t the only issue. During the winter when renewables will be at their lowest output, demand will be at its highest. Energy loads that would have been carried by on-site burning of fossil fuels (heating) would be shifted to the grid, as would charging of electric vehicles. The peak load would likely be over twice as high as it is now.

    Since there is no practical storage system capable of storing seasonal energy shortfalls, there would need to a much higher installed capacity. During the summer energy prices would crash to near (and likely below) zero, providing no return on investment for equipment. During the winter prices of reliable power would skyrocket.

    Even placing that new load (heating/”fuel”) on the grid would require massive upgrades to electrical infrastructure. The “smart grid” people blabber on about for renewable energy sounds like a good fix on the surface. However, such a grid would require at least 3-5X that already massive capacity…the ability to shunt regional loads across whole continents is not cheap or easy.

  32. Planning Engineer – thanks for another great post. What is your view on the “smart” grid? Personally, I don’t want a smart grid, a smart car, or a smart house – if these things are connected to the internet. They will get hacked.

    • Planning Engineer

      The smart grid can mean many different things. The grids we have are excellent but can be enhanced even more with advanced technology. I think your post is concerned with the interconnectivity of the grid and loads and exposure to hacking. Cyber Security is a large and increasing concern for the grid. When the first Cyber Security standards came out requiring significant compliance burdens, the response in some cases was to remove the new technology and install older electromechanical (rather than digital) equipment that could not be hacked. This highlights the conflicts between the “smartgrid” and cyber security.

      There are definitely tradeoffs between having a more interconnections between all elements and loads of the power system and the risk of cyber events. My personal opinion (which I would not weigh to heavy) is that ambitious programs are introducing a lot of complexity and a lot of things that can go wrong in order to chase after small benefits at this time. As I might probably say too often, over time with improvements that might change and the benefits of such programs will outweigh the costs.

  33. Today’s civilisation is an entirely energy based civilisation, the first such energy based civilisation in mankind’s history.

    Humanity needs three essentials to survive.
    We need water.
    We need food
    We need shelter.

    The fourth essential that defines us as Human as distinct from animals is the use and control of Energy.

    With control of energy we have proven that we can generate clean drinkable water
    Using and controlling vast amounts of cheap, reliable, always there energy we can both produce enough high quality food and have by using energy, been able to distribute food from areas of sufficiency or excess to areas of shortage and have thus created the ability to feed all of mankind’s growing numbers where ever they might reside on Earth.

    We have created and have maintained cities and all the supporting energy needs both private and industrial, transport, sewerage, water supplies, food distribution and etc for cities of of tens of millions of humans through the use of immense amounts of energy.

    By contrast Rome in it’s most powerful phase, the then largest city on Earth and only having access to human and animal labour for it’s energy needs probably reached a maximum population of about one million, just a large sized town or very small city by today’s standards for city population sizes.

    It was only with the advent of wide scale coal mining and therefore the beginning of the cheap energy revolution that the British Industrial Revolution starting with the increasing technological advances in the steam engines in the latter half of the 1700’s, allowed cities to grow in size and numbers and created the essential services needed to maintain a large fixed in place human population along with industries and all that entailed to employ the growing population. All of which led to a situation where the global population started to grow and expand from it’s very slow historical growth rate and population levels of perhaps 700 millions in the late 1770’s to today’s 7.3 billions.
    http://www.census.gov/population/international/data/worldpop/table_history.php

    The so called Renewable Energy technologies such as Wind and Solar even if further refined and made more efficient,sought after efficiency increases that are now running into the problems of ever diminishing returns for the investments needed to raise those levels of efficiency, are now just one of the limiting factors in the hope of the so called Renewable Energy systems ever replacing today’s base load coal, gas, oil, nuclear powered generators.

    An excellent insight into the major flaws in the renewable energy technologies and their complete inability to ever power our civilisation to any significant degree due entirely to their unpredictability and their intermittency and therefore their requirements for major energy storage facilities to cover the generation gaps.
    All of which lead to unsustainably low and poor  levels of Energy Return On Investment [ EROI ] leaving almost nothing left over in energy availability to power our civilisation after the energy costs of both building the wind and solar generator systems plus the energy storage systems to smooth out the intermittency of these wind and solar systems is given in an article in the “Brave New Climate” blog.
    _________________________
    “The Catch 22 of Energy Storage”
    By Prof; John Morgan.
    [ http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/#more-6460 ]

    [ selected quotes form the above article ]

    Several recent analyses of the inputs to our energy systems indicate that, against expectations, energy storage cannot solve the problem of intermittency of wind or solar power. Not for reasons of technical performance, cost, or storage capacity, but for something more intractable: there is not enough surplus energy left over after construction of the generators and the storage system to power our present civilization.

    The problem is analysed in an important paper by Weißbach et al.1 in terms of energy returned on energy invested, or EROEI – the ratio of the energy produced over the life of a power plant to the energy that was required to build it. It takes energy to make a power plant – to manufacture its components, mine the fuel, and so on. The power plant needs to make at least this much energy to break even. A break-even powerplant has an EROEI of 1. But such a plant would pointless, as there is no energy surplus to do the useful things we use energy for.

    There is a minimum EROEI, greater than 1, that is required for an energy source to be able to run society. An energy system must produce a surplus large enough to sustain things like food production, hospitals, and universities to train the engineers to build the plant, transport, construction, and all the elements of the civilization in which it is embedded.
    &
    For countries like the US and Germany, Weißbach et al. estimate this minimum viable EROEI to be about 7. An energy source with lower EROEI cannot sustain a society at those levels of complexity, structured along similar lines. If we are to transform our energy system, in particular to one without climate impacts, we need to pay close attention to the EROEI of the end result.

    The EROEI values for various electrical power plants are summarized in the figure. The fossil fuel power sources we’re most accustomed to have a high EROEI of about 30, well above the minimum requirement. Wind power at 16, and concentrating solar power (CSP, or solar thermal power) at 19, are lower, but the energy surplus is still sufficient, in principle, to sustain a developed industrial society. Biomass, and solar photovoltaic (at least in Germany), however, cannot. With an EROEI of only 3.9 and 3.5 respectively, these power sources cannot support with their energy alone both their own fabrication and the societal services we use energy for in a first world country
    &
    This is a rather unsettling conclusion if we are looking to renewable energy for a transition to a low carbon energy system: we cannot use energy storage to overcome the variability of solar and wind power.

    In particular, we can’t use batteries or chemical energy storage systems, as they would lead to much worse figures than those presented by Weißbach et al. Hydroelectricity is the only renewable power source that is unambiguously viable. However, hydroelectric capacity is not readily scaled up as it is restricted by suitable geography, a constraint that also applies to pumped hydro storage.
    [ more ]
    _______________
    We would be far better off socially and economically due to the mal-distribution of wealth and resources from the poorest to the still very heavily subsidised wealthy renewable energy investors even after thirty years of subsidised developments if all attempts to create viable self sustaining renewable energy generating systems were completely abandoned and the political and economic concentration was on developing new versions and new types of nuclear generators.
    Plus Fusion technologies of various types if at all possible and feasible.

    Fusion power generation will happen as the rewards are so high for success as fusion is the key to providing energy for our civilisation into the far future.
    For with energy, always there, always on, cheap readily available energy in abundance there is little to limit mankind’s dreams for the future.
    For even today let alone the future with abundant and cheap energy there is little of practical benefit to our race that is still outside of our abilities to create.

    • @ ROM

      “For with energy, always there, always on, cheap readily available energy in abundance there is little to limit mankind’s dreams for the future.
      For even today let alone the future with abundant and cheap energy there is little of practical benefit to our race that is still outside of our abilities to create.”

      You are correct of course, as was the remainder of your post.

      However, these are the folks who are getting standing ovations at ‘Climate Science’ conferences and who are the architects of our ‘energy policies’:

      “Complex technology of any sort is an assault on the human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it.”
Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute

      “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?”
 Maurice Strong,
Founder of the UN Environmental Program

      “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
 Paul Ehrlich, 
Professor of Population Studies, Author: “Population Bomb”, “Ecoscience”

      “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”
Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation

      Oh, and don’t forget: we need to engage in an all out drive to achieve sustainability. That means:

      “My three goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with its full complement of species, returning throughout the world.”
 David Foreman,
 co-founder of Earth First!


      “A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”
Ted Turner,
 Founder of CNN and major UN donor

      “The big threat to the planet is people: there are too many, doing too well economically and burning too much oil.”
 Sir James Lovelock, BBC Interview

      These are not some anonymous whackos standing on the street corner with signs saying ‘Repent, the end is near!’, but are at the pointy end of the Environmental/Sustainable/Climate Science pyramid. They are the ones who ESTABLISH the consensus.

    • “Today’s civilisation is an entirely energy based civilisation, the first such energy based civilisation in mankind’s history.”
      _____
      Nope. Every human society, no matter how advanced is energy based. The difference is that ancient societies relied on energy that was renewable, whereas modern civilization needs to borrow energy that fell on Earth millions of years ago and was converted to fossil fuels. We are living on ancient sunlight.

      • R. Gates -“We are living on ancient sunlight.”

        True, for now, and not necessarily a bad thing. It’s all part of a bootstrapping process. The machine called the human brain converted plant calories into ideas such as burning wood, which led to coal, then oil, then gas, nuclear, and nobody really knows what will be next nor it’s time of arrival.

        Educate, feed, house, nurse, and equip 9 billion human brains and it will all be ok, though a little crowded.

    • “The fourth essential that defines us as Human as distinct from animals is the use and control of Energy.”
      _____
      Nope. All life forms use and control energy. Energy usage and the subsequent conversion of that energy to waste heat increases entropy in the universe and defines “times arrow”.

      • R. Gates, you must be a denier to makes such a ridiculous comment. Everyone except the obstinately dense knows what ROM was referring to.

      • We can’t repeal the second law, even for a righteous cause?

      • And you can observe in awe and wonder that all multicellular life uses the same mitochondrial machinery to power the job of creating order. Is that not something to ponder?

      • “JustinWonder | November 6, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
        And you can observe in awe and wonder that all multicellular life uses the same mitochondrial machinery to power the job of creating order. Is that not something to ponder?”
        —–
        Highly worth pondering. Life can be thought of as negative entropy, or negentropy. But it only does this at the expense of creating entropy outside itself. Humans are particularly good at creating waste heat, which could be part of the signature of advanced civilizations.

    • ROM,

      I think you should have quoted this part because an ERoI of 7 is enough to power modern society is not the full story. According to this part we need ERoI >14:

      Hall4 breaks it down with the example of oil:

      Think of a society dependent upon one resource: its domestic oil. If the EROI for this oil was 1.1:1 then one could pump the oil out of the ground and look at it. If it were 1.2:1 you could also refine it and look at it, 1.3:1 also distribute it to where you want to use it but all you could do is look at it. Hall et al. 2008 examined the EROI required to actually run a truck and found that if the energy included was enough to build and maintain the truck and the roads and bridges required to use it, one would need at least a 3:1 EROI at the wellhead.

      Now if you wanted to put something in the truck, say some grain, and deliver it, that would require an EROI of, say, 5:1 to grow the grain. If you wanted to include depreciation on the oil field worker, the refinery worker, the truck driver and the farmer you would need an EROI of say 7 or 8:1 to support their families. If the children were to be educated you would need perhaps 9 or 10:1, have health care 12:1, have arts in their life maybe 14:1, and so on. Obviously to have a modern civilization one needs not simply surplus energy but lots of it, and that requires either a high EROI or a massive source of moderate EROI fuels.

      • The EROEI needs to be at least 14 to support modern society. So, only fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear can do it.

        Below are some ERoEI figures for various electricity generation technologies. These include buffering – i.e. energy storage so the unreliable, non dispatchable renewables are properly comparable with the dispatchable technologies.

        Solar PV = 1.6
        Biomass = 3.5
        Wind = 3.9
        Solar CSP (desert) = 9
        Gas (CCGT) = 28
        Coal = 30
        Hydro = 35
        Nuclear = 75
        Source: http://festkoerper-kernphysik.de/Weissbach_EROI_preprint.pdf

      • Peter Lang re: EROEI

        Your point re:EROEI may be one of the most important. Given that, worldwide, most power comes from high-CO2 emitting sources, using too many low EROEI sources would result in higher emissions or lower GDP or both.

  34. And another question I have asked before on various blogs when discussion comes up on wind and solar renewable energy supplanting fossil fuel power generators.
    If wind and solar are so damn good for energy generation then why the hell did those old British industrialists of the 1700’s with their spinning and weaving mills and other developing industrial technologies get the hell out of the 3000 thousand year old technologies of wind and water power just as fast as they could as soon as steam power, crude and dangerous as it was in those very early days, became even remotely reliable?

    The French in fact tried to emulate the British by buying a complete British designed and built spinning mill along with the expert personnel to run it.
    They set the whole thing up in France. It was bankrupt within a couple of years.
    The reason; the French used water wheels as the power source for the mill, not a steam engine that the British used and those spinning and weaving machines had been designed for a steady continuous source of power to operate satisfactorily, something that a water wheel was incapable of ever providing.

  35. Planning Engineer,

    Lastly renewables could be supported with batteries, other stored energy resources and technologies allowing advanced control of load demand. This may well be the grid of the future, but would have extremely high costs based on today’s projections.

    It seems to me renewables with energy storage is not sustainable. It seems the energy return on energy invested (ERoEI) in renewable energy and energy storage is not sufficient to supply the energy needs of a modern society. http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/.

    The EROEI needs to be at least 14 to support modern society. So, only fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear can do it.

    Below are some ERoEI figures for various electricity generation technologies. These include buffering – i.e. energy storage so the unreliable, non dispatchable renewables are properly comparable with the dispatchable technologies.

    Solar PV = 1.6
    Biomass = 3.5
    Wind = 3.9
    Solar CSP (desert) = 9
    Gas (CCGT) = 28
    Coal = 30
    Hydro = 35
    Nuclear = 75
    Source: http://festkoerper-kernphysik.de/Weissbach_EROI_preprint.pdf

    ERoEI has been extensively debated in the litterature and is very sensitive to assumptions inputs and methodology. However, this seems to be an authoritative and widely cited source.

    It seems to me, if this is correct, renewables are not sustainable.

    I’d like to hear what PE and others have to say on this subject.

  36. Outstanding post, PE. Like many long time observers of the debate about energy policy, I had a vague grasp of the fact that renewables on any large scale disrupt the grid, but you have filled in a lot of the blanks in admirably clear and concise prose for a lay audience.

    More, please!

  37. David L. Hagen

    Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)
    Planning Engineer
    Thanks for highlighting the major grid support and varying demand issues. Some idea of the magnitude of the effort required to manage such major disparities is shown by the Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) system being developed for California by Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, Magnum Energy, Dresser-Rand, and Duke-American Transmission Co. See:
    See: $8-billion green energy initiative proposed for Los Angeles.
    Inside The $8 Billion California Wind Energy Project

    I would welcome your perspective on this system.

    • Pumped (high pressure) air is a short term storage method. If you want REAL long term storage capacity, you convert the excess energy to hydrogen and then just burn it in a conventional plant for peaking. Main difference is that you have to line the tunnels you bore with metal so it won’t leak badly. The losses are quite high (about 55-60%), but there’s just aren’t a lot of ways to store weeks worth of energy.

      OR…you could just use nuclear and small amounts (only a fraction of a day’s requirement) of storage for peaking.

      • David L. Hagen

        poitsplace
        Take another look:

        Each cavern would be about a quarter-mile in height, 290 feet in diameter and 41 million cubic feet in volume. The four caverns combined would store the energy equivalent of 60,000 megawatt-hours of electricity.
        60,000/1,200=50 hours storage ~ 8x larger than most 8 hour storage proposals.
        H2 is a technical but not yet economic solution. If it was, large scale H2 would be generated directly by electrolysis.
        Thermal energy storage holds more prospects for longer storage.
        6 mo seasonal storage in sandstone was studied in Minneapolis for space heating in the 70s.
        For high temperature, large size and insulation are key.

    • Planning Engineer

      There is a CAES plant that’s been operating in McIntosh Alabama since the mid 1980s. It had some glitches at first (pipe collapsed) but it has worked out ok. It was built with a mix of dollars from the owner (a Cooperative) and research dollars (EPRI).

      It has operated pretty much like expected, however for most of it’s life the economics between off peak costs (when you pump it up) and on peak costs (when it generates) were not as large as forecast. I once heard that given how it has worked out, the Coop would have rather spent the same amount unsubsidized on a larger amount of pure CT capacity. (With a bigger peak -off peak differential that would not be true)

      I would expect it’s a good technology and will support the grid. In the convoluted economic/regulatory climate that is California I don’t begin to know how to judge how much sense it makes. In an environment where new generation was gas CT’s and CC’s I would guess it would not make sense. It might pair well with nuclear.

      • David L. Hagen

        Planning Engineer
        Thanks for the comments. The project includes a $4 billion 2,100 megawatts of wind power. The storage would give it dispatchable prices. Legislators appear to be effectively mandating that utilities accept such, which I presume will give a price premium.

    • David L. Hagen

      250 MW Battery Storage
      Major batter storage purchase:
      Energy storage enjoys a breakthrough day

      Utility Southern California Edison announced that it will acquire 2200 megawatts (MW) of new power generation assets, of which 250 MW will be energy storage systems. This is the end result of the “Lowest Cost Resource” request for proposals that is designed to eventually replace the generation provided by the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant.

      While the sheer scale of the announcement is staggering (no utility has ever purchased 250 MW of non-pumped-hydro energy storage before), the details of the announcement are even more impactful. Although SCE was expected to use some of this bid for energy storage (it listed energy storage as a “preferred resource” on the RFP), Navigant Research assumed the energy storage part of the purchase would be about 50 MW. By ordering five times that amount of energy storage, SCE is making a very loud statement about how highly it values energy storage as a grid management tool. . . .
      By December 1st, all three of the large investor-owned utilities in the state will introduce a total of more than 200 MW of energy storage purchases. It’s the energy storage industry’s equivalent of the Oklahoma land rush.

  38. The cost comparisons for such a system should not be based on the difference between average solar or wind energy cost and the average cost of gas generation. Rather the proper cost comparison is the average cost of solar and wind plus the backup costs of gas generation, compared to just gas generation.”
    The marginal cost. Change this and what happens to total costs? That additional battery costs of wind and solar should be allocated to wind and solar. Miss-allocated costs if used by management will result in the wrong choices being made. Costs are just a way of saying what is good and not so good. Low costs are good for cheap production. I have to think the utilities are aware of these solar and wind costs and that in their books is a treasure trove of useful cost information. But that type of information is probably not ‘on message’. When the regulators are saying, ‘go green’, that’s pressure to not emphasize it, to give in and build some windmills. Who does miss-allocated costs hurt? The shareholders. Management has a duty to its shareholders. One of them being to provide information that is material to them. They also hurt the consumers. If a company is using the wrong resource mix it can survive with the help of the regulators, but deliver a higher cost product.

    • Ragnaar,

      +1

    • Interesting. Yes, the executives and the boards of directors have fiduciary responsibilities prescribed by law.

      • Yes, and they may find themselves between their regulators and their shareholders with the out that they can ask for a price increase. I am no way suggesting untoward behavior, just conflicting motives and desires. Simply getting a high capacity power line built is expected to cause a pitched battle in Minnesota.

    • Ragnaar, good observation. In the US, the way the systemmis set up, this does not happen. (nor is it in the US government levelized cost estimates.) The Cape wind accounting upthread is an example. The windwarm gets subsidies and tax breaks. It gets by law to sell whatever it produces whenever produced into the New England grid at a guaranteed feedin tariff (IIRC 0.23/kwh, near 3x the wholesale cost of electricity). It has no responsibilty for the resulting grid instability. The costs of the necessay backup for a project of this magnitude are borne by the grid operators, the regional utilities, who have to buy and operate the additional ‘peaker’ capacity since their utility charters include maintaining system stability.
      A double dose of economic distortion.

      • “A double dose of economic distortion” – good one!

      • “It gets by law to sell whatever it produces whenever produced into the New England grid at a guaranteed feedin tariff (IIRC 0.23/kwh, near 3x the wholesale cost of electricity).”
        I can’t imagine how happy our farmers would be selling their ethanol for triple the wholesale price.

    • David L. Hagen

      Good points. The EIA is beginning to address these issues in its 2014 “Overnight Capital Cost” by including “Capacity Factor” and “Transmission Cost”. See Table 1 “Table 1. Estimated levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for new generation resources, 2019” AEO 2014 page 6.

      A related factor is the capacity value, which depends on both the existing capacity mix and load characteristics in a region. Since load must be balanced on a continuous basis, units whose output can be varied to follow demand (dispatchable technologies) generally have more value to a system than less flexible units (non-dispatchable technologies), or those whose operation is tied to the availability of an intermittent resource. The LCOE values for dispatchable and nondispatchable technologies are listed separately in the tables, because caution should be used when comparing them to one another.

      EIA then addresses “Avoided Cost”

      Conceptually, a better assessment of economic competitiveness can be gained through consideration of avoided cost, a measure of what it would cost the grid to generate the electricity that is otherwise displaced by a new generation project, as well as its levelized cost. Avoided cost, which provides a proxy measure for the annual economic value of a candidate project, may be summed over its financial life and converted to a stream of equal annual payments. The avoided cost is divided by average annual output of the project to develop the “levelized” avoided cost of electricity (LACE) for the project.4 The LACE value may then be compared with the LCOE value for the candidate project to provide an indication of whether or not the project’s value exceeds its cost.

      EIA provides further info LACE with a draft paper:
      Assessing the Economic Value of New Utility-Scale Electricity Generation Projects

  39. agricultural economist

    Dear Planning Engineer,
    thank you very much for your competent and insightful essays here, of which I learn a lot!
    However: the text is so laden with typos that it is sometimes difficult to figure out what you want to say. It would really be worthwhile to weed them out.

    • Planning Engineer

      Point taken.

      • Planning Engineer

        Ag Economist – We should learn from you that it’s a great practice to offer something positive before offering even a helpful criticism.
        There are a lot of questions and comments and I have limited time available for replies. As I typical Engineer I’ll have to reconsider the benefit of a lower quality but timely reply, versus a delayed but more carefully worded response. I appreciate your guidance that I am not putting sufficient attention into quality. (I am used to boards where you can delete/edit after posting. But I will work on that itchy send finger.)

      • I don’t recall the typos and I found PE’s two posts some of the very best ever on CE (that’s because they are relevant to my main area of interest of course, which is energy policy)

      • Planning Engineer

        I’m pretty sure he means my “essays” in the comment section.

    • Agricultural economist – I don’t think I have heard an opinion from an agricultural economist on issues like climate change, energy, etc. I bet you have an interesting perspective.

    • Steven Mosher

      Dear Planning Engineer,
      Thank you very much for your competent and insightful essays here from which I learned a lot. However, the text is so laden with typos that it is sometimes difficult to figure out what you want to say. It would really be worthwhile to weed them out.

      There Ag fixed it for you.

      Generally speaking if you want to play copy editor you would do well to start with your own work.

  40. Wind generation in the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM) drops to near zero today:

    An almost weekly reminder of the challenge the NEM faces http://www.wattclarity.com.au/2014/11/an-almost-weekly-reminder-of-the-challenge-the-nem-faces/

    Despite the large aerial extent of the wind farms (over an area 1200 km by 800 km), low generation has lasted a week in the past.

    • Peter Lang:
      I read that esaa pdf you linked to. I see the pricing system as a problem. A good answer would be to tailor everyone’s electricity charges to their situation. The utility should come to the table willfully, not directed by renewable mandates that unjustly transfer costs to others. A utility can be directed by government to perform governmental wealth redistribution policies but we can expect inefficiencies. Politically, that would mean different winners and losers from the ones there are now. Prices are signals, which can be the most valuable information we have. Corrupting that information leads to predictable results. You had asked about peak demand versus average demand to guide pricing. I suppose utilities build to peak demand, not average. Fixing peak supply can be a more urgent concern. Improving peak supply is expensive. Infrastructure costs can be highly sensitive to peak demand. With private solar, it would be nice if it was reliably there to cover peak demand, but it’s not. If we know the ideal system, we can work towards that with our pricing information. An approach to the problems talked about at your esaa link, might be local battery co-ops, paid for by local private solar.

      • Ragnaar,

        Thank you for all that. I agree with all your points.

        I think when I made the original comment I was referring to how best to cost the additional transmission that renewable energy requires. My point is that the transmission line to a remote renewable site (wind farm, solar power station), must be designed to carry the peak output from that site. In the case of soar at 20% capacity factor the line will cost nearly five times more per kilometer than line to a nuclear power station of same nameplate capacity. The line to the remote renewable site will also be much longer. Look at the map in Figure 4 here for example: http://oznucforum.customer.netspace.net.au/TP4PLang.pdf . And look at Figure 7 to see a comparison of the transmission costs for a mostly renewable energy system compared with a mostly renewable system (a every rough estimate – I do not have access to the data nor the capability to do an LOLP analysis).

  41. Perhaps they can save some water in the 100 plus hydro schemes. God knows – it gets dry enough.

    Over reaction much?

  42. There have been various ideas of reducing the problems like that of the duck curve with smarter systems for grids and load control. To reach the full power of that approach the cost of the control units must still come down, but that cost reduction may well be reached fairly soon.

    Another requirement is that the local smart controllers get the right signal from the power system. One possibility is that the price of electricity is allowed to vary to include at full strength the variation in the marginal cost of the kWh for the supplying power system at the point of delivery (or reception of power from distributed generation). The existing tariffs do not follow the marginal costs nearly that well anywhere. In many cases explicit decisions have been made that bring the tariffs further from that ideal.

    The marginal cost cannot be determined uniquely, because a major part of the costs of a power system are fixed, and there many alternative principles that can be used in allocating fixed costs to the customers. The result depends strongly on the time perspective taken and on the assumptions on the future investments needed to maintain the reliability of the power system. In spite of these difficulties it is possible to device tariffs that result in much more optimal incentives than the present tariffs do.

    This kind of ideas are being studied in very many places. I know personally more on two projects in my university, but there must be tens of such projects going on in various countries.

    • > There have been various ideas of reducing the problems like that of the duck curve with smarter systems for grids and load control.

      Here’s what you’re saying when you talk about such things…

      Yes, renewables are CLEARLY INADEQUATE to our energy needs. Therefore in order to make forcing their adoption work, we would need to not only remove choice of source from the consumers and their providers…but also the choice of when and how a consumer may use their power.

      • John Smith (it's my real name)

        thanks poitsplace for restating more eloquently what I said above
        for climate advocates the problems with renewables are not problems at all … air conditioning is a sin of affluence
        but only the peasants sin
        all of Leonardo Di Caprio homes probably have their own independent generators, I’m guessing diesel or gas

      • ‘the Venetian oligarchy of the Whigs.’

        H/t Bennie & the Jet Disraeli.
        ================

      • Kim how can you say that about a guy who believed in never directly facing the queen in subservient honor.

      • Yes, Pirila has waffled with gobbledegook

        He’s done this to avoid saying directly: “In my opinion, to save the planet you must accept a significant cut in living standards”. He fears (probably correctly) that such a direct statement will lose political support – so the gobblededook and obfuscation. On this topic, it has always been so

        Beware “smart” grids. Their major attraction is the ability to cut power remotely from individual consumers when it is considered they have consumed enough

      • Dizzie? But he took the leap in the dark!

      • Smart cars, smart grids, smart houses are all dumb. It places control of ones property in the hands of others. And if the others in question happen not to be the government, the government will bend those others to its will. All to our detriment.

    • Pekka,

      It looks like they already have control systems on the market. I saw technology from two companies namely Siemens and Lockheed Martin.

      • Goggle: smart grid control systems.

      • Ordvic,

        There are control systems, but the costs must come down, the technical development is needed to get the whole consumer system working, and perhaps most importantly the operating environment must be developed to provide incentives that allow for getting all benefits that can be obtained.

    • “The marginal cost cannot be determined uniquely, because a major part of the costs of a power system are fixed, and there many alternative principles that can be used in allocating fixed costs to the customers. The result depends strongly on the time perspective taken and on the assumptions on the future investments needed to maintain the reliability of the power system.”
      Yes. Marginal cost at its most basic asks the question, if I change 1 variable, what happens to total costs? Cost accounting does have to allocate joint fixed costs. Transmission line fixed and maintenance costs could be allocated some to conventional and some to wind. Line construction costs would be a fixed asset. We’d ask how much value do they lose each year? Probably little in most cases. But what about when we build a new one that is 200 miles long? We might say we expect wind generators to pay for 10% of it and conventional the rest. If the reason we build the thing from Southwest Minnesota to the our south metro is because windmills are in one place and consumers are a bit South of the Twin Cities, how do we allocate them then? Since a new line effects the needs of the grid, if the grid is helped, should not all parts of Xcel’s grid pay for it? For instance the new line prevents the need for an upgrade to some other nearby line. It’s been many years since I studied cost accounting and I haven’t had to practice it. Yes. There are many alternate ways to allocate costs. In the end, we are trying to help the company by providing the best information to base their economic decisions on. Management will most likely be subject to political realities. Accountants should not.

      • Raagnar,

        A small point of interest. Should the transmissions line cost be allocated to the generators in proportion to the generators capacity (peak power output) or average power output?

      • Peter Lang:
        “Should the transmissions line cost be allocated to the generators in proportion to the generators capacity (peak power output) or average power output?”
        Not sure, but a good question. I am trying to see the system. Say Xcel builds its own power lines and has its own plants. Some will be in more of a reserve function and some in more of workhorse function. So I think the question is, allocation to others such as private solar. Peak for solar doesn’t seem to match up well enough with transmission line use. Average output would better match with average revenue earned by private solar. But this is only one way of looking at it. A miss-allocation may lead to transmission line bottleneck and it would nice if the allocation tended to prevent those. Does any allocation tell us to do things to keep our most vulnerable points safe enough? What we’re trying to do is charge private solar what they cost us in transmission line costs, and perhaps we should do more than break even with that. Then we can look at private solar and see what it’s doing to Xcel. What we could do with the income statement is break off private solar. It would show what we bought from private solar and what we sold it for. It would have some small portion of many of Xcel’s total costs allocated to it. If Xcel is doing such a thing for its own and private wind turbines, management has an idea of the hurdles they face ahead.

      • Ragnaar,

        Thanks you for your reply on 7 Nov. I’ve only just seen it. Many good points for consideration. Did you see these:

        Electricity Supply Association of Australia – Discussion Paper “Who pays for solar powerhttp://www.esaa.com.au/policy/who_pays_for_solar_energy

        Graham Palmer, 2013, ‘Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power?’ http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/5/4/1406

        Both are good, but especially the second if you are interested in understanding the many hidden costs and cost transfers.

  43. Here is another interesting perspective on the same problem (declining economic value of intermittent energy sources):

    http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/27135/RSCAS_2013_36.pdf?sequence=1

    • The value of VRE decreases as their penetration increases. Many reasons for this:

      1. They become a bigger nuisance – they increase the grid management costs and risk of major outages

      2. they pass more hidden costs on to the reliable generators that they then have to pass on by increasing their prices.

      3. They reduce the annual generation of the reliable generators so this increases their fixed costs per MWh sold; it increases the marginal cost per MWh

      4. Does not significantly change their capacity credit

      5. Their effectiveness at reducing GHG emissions decreases

      Electricity Supply Association of Australia, 2013, Discussion Paper Who pays for solar energy http://www.esaa.com.au/policy/who_pays_for_solar_energy

      Graham Palmer, 2013, Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power? http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/5/4/1406

      Joseph Wheatley, 2013, Quantifying CO2 savings from wind power
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513007829

  44. In UK the Coire Glas pumped storage scheme was approved end of 2013. But it is questionable whether it will ever be built because it is presently not looking economic. Partly this must be because the renewable subsidy regime excludes pumped storage. Coire Glas would have a capacity of 600MW, be able to deliver 30GWh of electricity and has an estimated cost of £800 million.

    An interesting thing about this whole debate is that the public in the UK and the media that serve them are somewhat challenged by the numerical aspect. For instance the piece I got this from said “The force of the water passing through an underground turbine house could then generate up to 30GWh of power over a 50-hour period”.

    But it is in the numbers that the whole issue lies, both for energy and climate change!

  45. Stephen Segrest

    RE: Peter Lang, Beth the Serf, Others Citing Studies: When you cite studies, opinions — I could (if I had the time and energy) cite studies, opinions, field demonstrations, Industry engineering advancements already made, etc. that contradict your citations.

    How does one clearly know what is correct?

    Is the “Game” who can cite the most on CE?

    Is all the DOE work and their Labs (NREL, LLNB, etc.) just part of a “conspiracy plot/theory” following the religion of Al Gore?

    The problem with the conspiracy theory/plot is that almost always, the DOE field work is done in collaboration with hundreds of electric utilities and Industry.

    This is why trying to find transparent data, like SAIDI data on Europe (especially Germany) and the U.S. is so important. One can certainly subjectively argue that the SAIDI data is inappropriate for Grid Reliability — but what transparent source do you replace it with? Without some transparent metric — we are always going to be reduced to opinions and anecdotal evidence — both pro and con.

    • Segrest,

      Your waffling and dodging again, as usual. You can go to a number of authoritative sites and find the data to compare France, Germany and Denmark on the basis of:

      1. electricity generation by nuclear, and non hydro renewables proportion

      2. average electricity prices (wholesale, retail, commercial)

      2. CO2 emissions intensity of electricity generation by country

    • Stephen, I believe the big problem is there isn’t a good metric for indicating the impact of intermittent power sources yet. Power grids tend to evolve instead of follow a rigid engineering protocol. With so much added wind and solar, pooh pooh will occur and changes will be made. Hawaii is one example so far of when limits are reached, but the current best guess is around 20% max for intermittent without a major impact, whatever “major” happens to be.

      There are quite a few options available that would depend on what grid and what portion of that grid the pooh pooh occurs. Theoretically, you could convert to a high voltage DC sub grid for intermittent intensive areas now that there are reliable components for such a grid, that could provide the wide area averaging that looks good on paper but isn’t realistic just yet. That would require considerable prior planning which doesn’t seem to be high on the “sustainable” energy advocate agenda.

      Reducing integration costs and maintaining reliable operation would a function of long term vision/planning with more attention to detail.

      As far as some metric that is used by the EU, specifically Germany, applying to any of the US grids or India or China etc. that wasn’t exactly a priority over the hundred years or so of evolution of each areas cluster of local, regional, private, cooperative, national and international power systems.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Captdallas — I’ll be a broken record. Renewable Energy isn’t the black/white paradigm that many here at CE want to make it. Its about circumstances and finding “right fits”.

        Things like penetration levels (e.g., 5% versus 30%), location (access to massive hydro resources like Germany/Norway or New England/Canada), generation fleet flexibility (e.g., new natural gas combined cycle units to track load) are really important.

        This vast diversity in circumstances should be Exhibit A on why implementing a one-size-fits-all Federal mandate (Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard) is just a bad idea.

        These decisions should be based on engineering and engineering economics — not some mandate by politicians (which throws engineering economics out the window).

      • Stephen

        “These decisions should be based on engineering and engineering economics — not some mandate by politicians (which throws engineering economics out the window).”

        Agree. Also think most on this blog would agree, including those you attack. However, it appears they are sourcing independent engineers whereas you are sourcing politicians, solar and wind advocates, and the media.

        Richard

      • Stephen I agree, but you are looking for something that doesn’t seem to exist. There are only a few HVDC “smart” sub-grids that exist. Renewable energies like solar and wind above ~20% of total capacity are better suited for developing nations that do not have established electrical infrastructure. How much renewable will “fit” an existing system would depend entirely on that system, some could be 5% some could be 40%. So when your local utility says no to spending more on one thing there is a reason. If you want a completely meaningless “universal” number pick one, but it should be better to listen to the local “experts” familiar with the local system.

      • Stephen Segrest

        rls — Richard, I don’t understand your comment on sourcing. If its important, please explain further.

      • Stephen

        It’s not important to me but might be to some. I think your statement “How does one clearly know what is correct?” is relevant. Its a very good question and worthy of discussion. Adults, overtime, learn that not all information is equal. I say adults because children do not have the same ability; it indicates that the ability to distinguish useful information is learned. However, there are some adults who we might describe as naive; those who have a weak ability to learn this. What do they lack? I don’t know but pride myself in distinguishing BS from useful stuff; it was an essential ability in the job I had and I think it was acquired through experience and discussions with coworkers. Basically, I think, it involved a keen sense of logic. However, I also learned very soon that people desiring a certain end could not always be trusted to provide useful information; sometimes distorting the information and sometimes hiding relevant information.

        So, my recommendations regarding your question:

        1. Try to get all relevant information and question everything.

        2. Dig and get opinions on each side

        3. Ask yourself “does this make sense?”

    • To this point the “renewable” advocates have advocated pushing all the grid problems they create onto the dispatchable grid resources or hiding their costs under the umbrella of smart grid Using the dispatchable resources in a non-optimum way (such as forcing baseband resources to load-follow) is a cost that accrues to the renewable resource.

      Not allocating the grid distortions caused by renewable to the renewable resources makes them look more competitve (false economics) and increases power cost.

      It doesn’t take a government mandate and subsidies to increase the amount of renewables used. Renewables simply have to be actually economically competitive..

      We should remove government mandates and just let the grid operators pick resources based on what is economically appropriate.

      It isn’t asking too much of renewable advocates to ask them to be honest.

      • PA

        We should remove government mandates and just let the grid operators pick resources based on what is economically appropriate.

        It isn’t asking too much of renewable advocates to ask them to be honest.

        It isn’t asking to much. But they don’t recognise that they are being dishonest.

        +1

      • A thought experiment that might clarify. Suppose I invented a system for harnessing higher-altitude wind (there are a few groups working on this) which is much steadier and stronger than wind at the height of existing turbines. Should my system not receive credit for its less-intermittent behavior? If the answer is yes, then the intermittent sources we use now ought to be charged for the burden they place on the grid.

      • StevePostrel,

        What;s the insurance cost?

        Do you recall that in WWII cities in UK and Germany used to use tethered balloons to bring down enemy aircraft?

  46. Renewables are going to increase as they become cheaper and more efficient. Arguments on slowness of response of (old) coal fired plants are impressive but with increasing technology surely we can speed up turn off and on and response times. It strikes me that there must be a large element of waste in most of the slower response times of the older power generators that is not mentioned. In Tasmania a large amount of hydro electricity is wasted as there is no infrastructure to use it.
    Hopefully there is more of a middle ground than both sides are currently prepared to admit. When renewables do become cost effective that will be one turning point, hopefully with oil and coal use reduction to where they are the needed backup, not the main supply.

  47. David L. Hagen

    Use factor rules
    In a rational world, costs count and usage factor of capital is very important.

    The study found that new gas powered electricity would cost €55 per megawatt hour, assuming plants operate at full capacity. That would make gas the cheapest power source. But if a power plant operated only half the time like most plants around the EU today, gas gets more expensive, at €95 per megawatt hour.

    Once you take into account the actual amount of time plants will run, coal comes out as the cheapest way to generate electricity, as the chart below shows.

    Five weird things about the EU’s cost of energy study

    Subsidies and costs of EU energy

    • I just glanced at “Five weird things about the EU’s cost of energy study”

      The author makes the error, intentional or otherwise, commonly exploited by greens. Starting here:

      “The study found that new gas powered electricity would cost €55 per megawatt hour, assuming plants operate at full capacity. That would make gas the cheapest power source. But if a power plant operated only half the time like most plants around the EU today, gas gets more expensive, at €95 per megawatt hour.”

      The resulting charts then show the relative cost of renewable (but intermittent) and baseline generation. The error is this: the extra €40 per megawatt marginal cost of gas generation should be totaled x the number of megawatts produced under partial load conditions created during the saddle of the Duck Curve, and then charged back to the intermittent energy sources in a rational and methodical fashion. Only then does the real cost of an intermittent source begin to emerge. Instead, the author would charge the gas generator for inefficiencies caused by the intermittent source.

      The fallacy of the author’s numbers can be easily exposed. Just build a hypothetical system with all of the existing hydro sources (for high-demand topping), all existing nuclear for baseline power, and just enough coal and gas capacity to create a reliable grid. Then compare the total operating and capital costs for generation and distribution with a system wherein 50% of energy comes from wind and solar. Sit down first.

      • “The author makes the error, intentional or otherwise, commonly exploited by greens.” I think I agree with you. We can make natural gas more expensive by putting it into a sub-optimal situation. When we change things, gas doesn’t look so good. So don’t change things. When we subsidize margarine, butter becomes less profitable to sell. Yes.

  48. The vast majority of the cost of nuclear power is sunk capital, much like a solar farm. The nuclear operations and maintenance is about the same if it is operating at 30% or 100% (slightly higher if it is switching between the two). Operating the facility at less than 100% increases the cost of the power produced since the sunk capital is not a performing asset..

    http://www.iaea.org/NuclearPower/Downloadable/Meetings/2013/2013-09-04-09-06-TM-NPE/8.feutry_france.pdf
    http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/111111111/15308/1/reqno_jrc60700_ldna24583enc.pdf%5B1%5D.pdf

    Load following increases operation and maintenance cost and shortens the lifespan of the facility. Throttling a solar facility has no significant maintenance impact. http://solectria.com//site/assets/files/1430/sgi_500xt_manual.pdf
    Soft shutdown of the inverters is a basic function and a solar facility temperature cycles as a matter of course.

    Nuclear power is arguably as clean or cleaner than solar or wind. There is no advantage to throttling nuclear facilities instead of the renewable facilities that are the source of the problem. Throttling baseband nuclear power to accommodate ancillary generation would not be suggested by people with good judgment.

    Baseband coal fired plants and gas turbines are less efficient in load-following mode. However the high fuel cost as percentage of the total operating cost dictates that some accommodation with renewables can be justified economically.

    The smart grid and current practice (Planning Engineer and others may weigh in on this) positions some end users to receive cheaper power if they operate when the grid has an excess of supply. Renewable advocates should be looking potential uses of electric power that require cheap power (like electric car battery charging) and can tolerate demand side throttling.

    Renewables should be used in a way that achieves minimum grid power generation cost and maximum grid stability. This limits the amount of economically usable “renewable” sources as a percentage of grid assets without some form of power storage.

    • Renewables should be used in a way that achieves minimum grid power generation cost and maximum grid stability. This limits the amount of economically usable “renewable” sources as a percentage of grid assets without some form of power storage.

      I agree. I expect the “economically usable “renewable” sources as a percentage of grid assets without some form of power storage” is 0%-5%

  49. Fyi– historic storm with 45′ waves coming this weekend…

    http://www.weather.com/video/historic-storm-on-the-way-55243

    • Summer, 1956.
      ===========

    • The US unclear arsenal averages 250 kt. Given that an average hurricane releases the energy of a 200 kt nuclear weapon (600 terajoules) a second, Nori should have significantly cooled the Pacific and Northern Pacific oceans.

      • Whoop – math err.. 600 Terawatts is a 143 kt weapon.

      • So great is the energy found in a hurricane if it could be harnessed it would power the US for years. Alas most of the energy is used up transferring a huge column of air into the upper atmosphere. Of the energy contained in an average hurricane, 1,500,000,000,000 watts… fully half of the global electrical output, according to an article by PBS’ NOVA, just 0.5% of the energy released is what we see flattening cities in places like Florida. Some 99.5% of the hurricane force cause no harm and is naturally dissipated — every second, some 2 million metric tons of air are circulated in, up, and out of the hurricane — where heat energy is radiated to empty space — which every day equals, the energy released by the fusion of four hundred 20 mega-ton hydrogen bombs (See, Rice University’s Hurricane Trivia at Houston TeacherTECH Archives).

  50. Energy is the first and primary tool that makes us human. We domesticated fire at least 1 million years ago. Every remote tribe ever found on Earth uses fire. We require fire to cook our food (every tribe everywhere). We have used animals as a source of energy to haul, to plow, and to turn grass into meat and milk etc for thousands of years. We have tamed the wind (sailing ships) for at least several thousand years. The impulse to call the use of energy evil is simply baffling. Without external energy we must ourselves haul stuff and live in poverty.

  51. We don’t need more renewables, we need more coal.

    “Coal demand is booming because the fuel is perfectly suited for electricity production, it’s abundant, its reserves are geographically dispersed, prices are not affected by any OPEC-like entities, and — above all — it’s cheap.”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/392167/social-justice-coal-robert-bryce

    • Well Obama did say don’t get me wrong I believe in clean coal. Maybe he’ll subsidize more expensive carbon capturing plants like the one in Mississippi that went 3X over budget.

  52. Another issue: The rapid cycling of thermal power plants up and down, on and off, in response to variable renewable sources, is creating major thermal stresses on them. There is concern that this is creating reliability problems and premature failures in Germany:

    http://irishenergyblog.blogspot.ie/2014/10/news-from-germany-and-uk.html

    • A problem exacerbated by insuffient north south transmission capacity thatnwas suppoed to be part of the Energiewende. Not built because of NIMBY. The German grid operator published a report (NoTricksZone posted in it in English) which had a lot of gloomy instability scenarios for the upcoming winter as a result.

  53. A big picture energy use and sustainability perspective discussed here:

    http://phys.org/news/2014-11-sustainability-astrobiology-illuminate-future-life.html

    At issue is the local increase in entropy, which results in environmental issues and potential collapse versus finding a path to a stable energy use paradigm.

  54. Walt Allensworth

    Planning Engineer – I have a greenulist friend that buys only ‘clean renewable energy’ from the grid. I asked him what he does when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. His glib answer is that “Oh, the wind is always blowing somewhere.” I don’t buy this answer. It’s more complicated than that. I think either he is kidding himself, or his power company is kidding him about this. It’s possible that he’s simply trying to fool me. I am sure there are times that he’s using good old coal-fired electricity and doesn’t know it, or won’t admit it. What are your thoughts on this answer of his?

  55. I have a simple technical question for PE or anyone who knows: When you ramp down a coal plant to 50% – do you “ramp down” also the amount of coal burned = amount of emissions ? I suspect that the amount of fuel saved (and therefore of emissions avoided) is far less than 50%.

    • Planning Engineer

      The most efficient operating point for a plant is usually somewhere between minimum generation and maximum generation. The ratio of Fuel to MW at different operating levels is shown in what’s called a heat rate curve. The maximum efficiency point burns the least fuel per MW so you would expect optimal emissions there as well (though maybe some scrubber systems have optimal operating zones that should be considered-I don’t know). It may vary by plant, but I would think half the emissions of full level at half level is ballpark.

      The good news is the operators desire to limit costs keeps as many plants as possible operating near their most efficient points. As you approach a plants optimal efficiency point from below the incremental cost of generating more is small and for generating more its larger, When you are above that point, the incremental cost for generating less is lower and higher for generating more. So if one plant is above efficiency and one below, the economics say to bring shift load between them. All plants not at max or min (or must run or intermittent) shift up or down so that all plants operate at the same incremental cost level,

  56. “Educate, feed, house, nurse, and equip 9 billion human brains and it will all be ok, though a little crowded.”
    ______
    Only if we find a way of dealing with the local entropy that we create by such a large mass of “9 Billion human brains”. That’s potentially a lot of waste heat (aka pollution), so we’d better figure out how to generate power via green and renewable resources.

  57. Planning Engineer,
    Before this thread grows cold I just wanted your opinion of ONCOR’s decision to install 5,000 megawatts of batteries on the Texas grid. They are asking permission to spend 5.2 billion dollars over the next few years to deploy these batteries and they claim it will actually save consumers money on their electric bills. What I find most interesting about their proposal is that a significant amount storage will be deployed in residential and light industrial settings. Micro grids in Texas? Say it ain’t so!
    Fun Fact: The average Texas residential power bill is $179.66 a month. That sounds a bit high but I wouldn’t know since I haven’t had an electric bill since I installed my solar panels. In fact I have a $380 credit on my electric bill since I have generated over 3 megawatts excess electricity onto the grid so far.

    I guess it’s a safe bet that you don’t work for ONCOR or this would have been rejected based on your outstanding critique of the inefficiencies of renewable energy storage. Perhaps you could offer your analysis and expertise to our elected officials like Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert and they could pass a law to prevent this from happening.
    http://www.dallasnews.com/business/energy/20141108-oncor-proposes-giant-leap-for-grid-batteries.ece

    PS: Be sure to mention Energy Futures Holdings LLC, the 40+ billion dollar bankruptcy of TXU (former parent company of ONCOR) and the utter lack of oversight these politicians demonstrated when they allowed Wall St. to make huge leveraged bets on the Texas electricity consumer.
    http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2014/10/efh_bankruptcy_bonuses.php

    Jack Smith

    • The proof is in the pudding, as they say. The transmission company seems to believe they should get the power to charge the batteries for free. I don’t believe the generators will see it that way.

    • Jack Smith,

      Are you paying your fair share of the costs of transmission, distribution and back up?

      if you think you are, how do you know you are?

      Do you know how much you should be paying for being connected to the grid or even for living in an area where grid power is supplied?

      What are those costs?

      You can get an idea of what they are in Australia and in capital cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane from these:
      http://www.esaa.com.au/policy/who_pays_for_solar_energy
      http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/5/4/1406

      • “Do you know how much you should be paying for being connected to the grid or even for living in an area where grid power is supplied?”
        What’s with this socialist rhetoric? Are you trying to charge me for just living in an area that has an electric grid?
        Why should I have to pay to line to pockets of shysters like Energy Futures Holdings? Since you brought up Australia you should check into the sweet deal we Texas rate payers got when TXU lost billions trying to rig the Australian electricity market back in the 90’s. If Australians are paying high electric bills I sure that past graft and corruption have something to do with it.
        Is it any wonder that freedom loving citizens might just want to go off-grid precisely because of the demonstrated failures of industry and their paid-for politicians?
        Jack Smith

      • Jack Smith,

        I don’t see how my comment has anything to do with promoting socialism. If you’d bothered to read the link I provided you’ve realise that those who want to get off the grid as you do but live in built up residential areas are getting cross subsidised by those who have to pay for their power. If you want to live in built up areas and get all the benefits of it, you should either pay your fair share, or move away to remote areas that have no electricity near by. Do you understand what it means to be a bludger?

      • Peter,
        “If you want to live in built up areas and get all the benefits of it”
        Oh I see this is just another variation on the “You didn’t build that.” meme.
        Let me decode what you and your monopolies really want. You want to raise the cost of having private solar to the point that it can not economically compete with centralized power plants.

        As to paying my fair share, well considering the billions of dollars of debt Energy Futures Holdings (TXU) defaulted on who do you think is going to get stuck paying for that? Wall St. will take those losses and deduct them from their taxes which will just shift the ultimate burden back on to the American tax payer. Last week Bank of America was hit with a fine and legal fees of over 400 million dollars for rigging interest rates. The share price dropped .14 cents and the next day was back up higher than ever. Investors know the game. It’s like writing off gambling losses on your tax return.

        Jack Smith

      • Jack Smith,

        You want to raise the cost of having private solar to the point that it can not economically compete with centralized power plants.

        I just want those with solar power to pay their fare share. It’s clear yolu have no idea what yokur fair share is. It’s clear you don’t even want to know, becausxe if you did you would havbe taken the time to read the papers I linked, consider them carefully, and then make a rational, informed response. I want the subsidies stop and those bludging of the subsidies, which are mostly paid by the less well off, to understand and be willing to pay their fair share. You seem to object to that.

    • Jack Smith

      Do you store and convert your solar generated electricity? Is there zero need to use electricity from the grid? Do you not use natural gas for heating or cooking?

      Richard

      • rls;
        I didn’t buy batteries when I put in my solar panels but I did wire my main service panel for adding them in later. I am waiting for prices to drop to under $200 per KWh and have a minimum useful life of 15 years.
        I figure I will need 40-50 KWh of storage to go completely off-grid, or about 3 straight days with heavy cloud cover. I don’t have natural gas but I do use a very efficient wood burning fireplace insert and my wood is free. I get royalty checks from Chesapeake Energy and they pay out about $150 per year on my 1/3 acre gas lease or about 1/7 what my neighbor’s annual gas bill is.
        Jack Smith

      • Jack

        Thank you for the information. I’m not familiar with gas leases; you sell gas to Chesapeake? Also, it sounds like you both get and give electricity from the grid but give more than get, is that right?

        Thanks again,

        Richard

    • Sparrow – “since I haven’t had an electric bill since I installed my solar panels. In fact I have a $380 credit on my electric bill since I have generated over 3 megawatts excess electricity onto the grid so far.”

      The other ratepayers are probably subsidizing you and you are bragging about it. Disgusting.

    • Sparrow – “… I do use a very efficient wood burning fireplace insert and my wood is free. ”

      I thought it couldn’t get worse but I was wrong. Wood has about 40 times the carbon of natural gas and the wood stoves are operated by amateurs, thus they emit lots of other pollutants.

      • JustinWonder – Gee you sound like a anti-capitalist. You want to fix this? We need to go back to the good old days when only property owners got the right to vote and serve in public office. You own property right?
        And why should I care about CO2 and pollutants? I live in Texas dude! We produce, export and burn more CO2 than anybody.

        Here’s a clue… I didn’t buy solar panels to save the planet.
        Jack Smith

      • Sparrow – “Here’s a clue… I didn’t buy solar panels to save the planet.
        Jack Smith”

        No, you bought them to get into the pockets of your neighbors by using the power of the state. Your post has to be a spoof. I have had many friends from the great state of Texas and none of them were dumb and belligerent.

      • Incurable
        renewables
        squandering,
        (in alphabetical
        order)
        back up energy,
        land use ‘n
        uther people’s
        money.

      • Not OPM famine, UPM familiar.
        ============

      • Did you know that our American ‘neighbors’ steal over $6 billion dollars of electricity from the grid every year? Guess who’s paying for that.
        PS: Smart meters are reducing this number a lot, it used to be much higher.
        Jack Smith

    • Jack
      So you haven’t had to pay an electricity bill since you installed solar panels. Sounds great, a no-brainer.
      Why do you suppose *everyone* isn’t rushing to do it?

      • Bella – Solar is NOT for everyone.
        1) Have to own your own home. Only 62% of population are home owners and at least 20% of them are ‘underwater’ on their mortgage,
        2) Can’t afford the upfront cost or they have bad credit.
        3) Suitable mounting location or zoning issues.
        4) Cost, My DIY cost in Dec. 2011 $2.30 per watt – 2014 avg. retail cost is still well over $3.20/watt. (2014 DIY cost around $1.85).
        5) no brains – can’t plan more than a year or two ahead.
        6) US energy is dirt cheap – less than 10% of average after-tax income.
        7) Some people equate PV with political ideology and wouldn’t use solar unless it was forced on them.

        I bet you, jim2, Peter, rls, JustinWonder and beththeserf could add to this list.

        Jack Smith

      • Yep, I can add to that list. If it is subsidised by others (tax payers and electricity consumers) it is bad for the economy and therefore bad for everyone. I have no objections to solar PV if it is not subsidised in any way, all costs are transparent and everyone is paying their fare share.

      • – Solar is NOT for everyone.

        > 1) Have to own your own home. Only 62% of population are home owners
        So why don’t their landlords get it, to make their properties more competitive and hence a better investment?

        > and at least 20% of them are ‘underwater’ on their mortgage,
        All the more reason to get it, since you maintain it saves money.

        > 2) Can’t afford the upfront cost or they have bad credit.
        OK. What is the upfront lump cost?

        > 3) Suitable mounting location or zoning issues.
        Mounting location : basically, a roof? Ruling out apartments not on the top floor? Surely if it reduces costs as much as you suggest, a group agreement would be feasible?

        4) Cost, My DIY cost in Dec. 2011 $2.30 per watt – 2014 avg. retail cost is still well over $3.20/watt. (2014 DIY cost around $1.85).

        > 5) no brains – can’t plan more than a year or two ahead.
        And yet they buy houses with 20+ year repayments?

        > 6) US energy is dirt cheap – less than 10% of average after-tax income.
        Cheaper than solar??

        > 7) Some people equate PV with political ideology and wouldn’t use solar unless it was forced on them.
        It’s only political if it’s subsidised. Is solar subsidised in some way?

      • > 1) Have to own your own home. Only 62% of population are home owners
        So why don’t their landlords get it, to make their properties more competitive and hence a better investment?
        I am a landlord and my tenants pay their own utility bills. It’s their problem not mine.

        > 2) Can’t afford the upfront cost or they have bad credit.
        OK. What is the upfront lump cost?
        My system is 6.7 KW – you do the math. I didn’t take a penny in tax credits or subsidies either.

        > 3) Suitable mounting location or zoning issues.
        Mounting location : basically, a roof? Ruling out apartments not on the top floor? Surely if it reduces costs as much as you suggest, a group agreement would be feasible?
        I did a ground mount system – it wouldn’t work $$ wise if I installed it on my roof (which was already 10 yrs old). You do realize you won’t see any real savings for at least 8-12 years and at best you get 8-10 years of cheap electricity at the end of their useful lifespan.

        > 5) no brains – can’t plan more than a year or two ahead.
        And yet they buy houses with 20+ year repayments?
        They are not planning ahead – they are part of the ‘how much a mouth club’ and if they loose their job they usually loose the house and auto shortly there after.

        > 6) US energy is dirt cheap – less than 10% of average after-tax income.
        Cheaper than solar??
        Yes for at least 90% of the population. Utility companies will be be biggest users of solar since they can install it for the lowest cost.

        > 7) Some people equate PV with political ideology and wouldn’t use solar unless it was forced on them.
        It’s only political if it’s subsidised. Is solar subsidised in some way?
        Oh Noes!!!! It’s subsidized.
        What do you call the Mortgage Interest Deduction?
        I know this guy, Anthony Watts who installed solar on his house. He took the tax credits, he gets net metering support and he hosts the #1 climate science website in the world. Perhaps you have heard of it? http://wattsupwiththat.com/ Check it out.

        Jack Smith

      • Sparrow – I’m happy you are in a position to benefit from solar without subsidies and I support your right to do it. Of course, you have benefited from the gouging of your fellow tax payers indirectly due to the drop in price due to subsidies.

        Me, I could gouge my fellow taxpayers also, and get solar with subsidies. But I don’t believe solar is a viable solution to a reliable energy supply. Therefore, I forego my fellow taxpayers money in a sort of protest.

        I would rather the power provider in my neck of the woods use nuclear and continue to use the coal plants we already have.

        Finally, with my spare cash, I need to spend it on remodeling the old house I live in, not some lefty fantasy.

      • Jim2,

        Sparrow – I’m happy you are in a position to benefit from solar without subsidies and I support your right to do it.

        Don’t be ridiculous. He’s getting massive subsidies. Look at the links I posted above showing who’s paying for solar power.

      • >> So why don’t their landlords get it, to make their properties more competitive and hence a better investment?
        > I am a landlord and my tenants pay their own utility bills. It’s their problem not mine.

        Doesn’t address the question. Do you not WANT your property to be more competitive and hence be a better investment?

        Or is it because your rental house house falls into the 90% group, you say for whom solar is more expensive, even though it’s subsidised ?

      • Bella –
        I don’t put solar on my rent houses because:
        Renters pay more for better a location in nice neighborhoods and interior improvements, Solar? not so much.

        I like trees and I won’t cut them down just for a solar array.

        And finally, I doubt I could do it even if they were free… ie. Zoning restrictions. After I installed my system in late 2011 the zoning board changed the law so you now have own 10 acres to do a ground mount, they have to be set back at least 10′ from the property line and existing structures and they can’t be mounted where they can’t be seen from adjacent properties or roadways whether they are on the roof or ground.

        jim2 –
        You didn’t take the mortgage interest deduction did you? That’s a huge subsidy you know. Do you think only property owners should have the right to vote and serve in public office, right? Give me a hi-five!

        Jack Smith

      • > I don’t put solar on my rent houses because:
        > Renters pay more for better a location in nice neighborhoods and interior > improvements, Solar? not so much.

        Still doesn’t make sense to me Jack.

        Taking as given your statement that solar is cheaper (eventually), and other things in the houses being equal, then : whatever they are paying now, they could pay less if solar was installed.

        This would make your propery more attractive to renters, making your marketing easier.

        Or, you could charge more, making you richer.

      • Jack, why yes I did take the mortgage deduction. The government did that to promote construction, which is a pillar of the economy. It wasn’t done so that people like you could install a dubious power system and support cronies who started solar power companies that went bankrupt.

        That being said, I would be fine if the mortgage deduction were eliminated if the tax system were converted to something like a negative income tax.

      • jim2 –
        You must be much younger than I thought. The MID was created by the Reagan Administration to offset the elimination of the general interest deduction on all credit debt like personal loans, credit cards and auto loans etc. (the Tax Reform Act of 1986). They also hoped it would spur home ownership in general since it applied to new and existing homes but that was not the reason it was created. For the most part it did very little for new construction until the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 allow tax payers to exclude from income the gain on the sale of a home. The birth of the housing bubble was a direct effect of this change in tax law. Ten years later the economy collapsed, home ownership is down to about where it was in the 70’s and we have a multi-trillion dollar debt burden.
        Some economist think it still inflates housing prices and benefits mostly the rich.
        http://reason.org/news/show/mortgage-interest-deduction-benefit
        “The mortgage interest deduction causes harmful economic distortions and its benefits are concentrated among the wealthy.”
        Jack Smith

      • Introduced along with the income tax in 1913, the mortgage interest tax deduction has since become the favorite tax deduction for millions of U.S. homeowners. Here we look at the existing rules behind this deduction, as well as what its future may be in the face of proposed tax reforms.

        http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/06/mortinttaxdeduct.asp

      • jim2 –
        The link you provided claims the MID was introduced in 1913 but that’s not true. The 1913 income tax law just allowed for interest deduction on debt and was never explicitly identified in the internal revenue laws until 1986.

        Everything you ever wanted to know about the Mortgage Interest Deduction –
        A HISTORY AND CRITIQUE OF THE TAX SUBSIDY FOR MORTGAGE INTEREST
        http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1561&context=lcp
        “Technically, the MID has been part of the federal income tax from the very beginning. But the Revenue Act of 1913 did not include any mention of a deduction for interest paid on owner-occupied residences. Instead, it provided for a general offset for “all interest paid within the year by a taxable person on indebtedness,” a treatment that, at least in
        theory, embodied the principle of a net income tax by allowing an offset to tax owed for costs associated with generating taxable income. At the same time, however, the 1913 income tax law violated this principle by excluding from gross income imputed rent from owner-occupied housing, while also allowing offsets for interest and property taxes on that nontaxable form of income.” <Page 4.
        Jack Smith

      • I’m not sure if you’ve concurred with or disproved the article I linked :)

      • jim2 –
        I disagree with the statement that the MID was part of the 1913 Income Tax law as claimed by investopedia.com. The MID did not legally exist until 1986. There was no line item or tax form to claim mortgage interest deduction until after 1986. Prior to 1986 mortgage interest was no different than any other kind of personal debt like credit cards and auto loans, you just had to have enough taxable income to itemize.
        Jack Smith

      • I’ll leave it to the reader to decide.

      • The mortgage interest deduction is a subsidy. It favors those with bigger mortgages, but check the rules before borrowing more than $1 million. It also favors those with higher taxable incomes as we have progressive tax rates. Rental housing is often subject to a mortgage as well, held by the rental housing owner. That too is deductible subject to a myriad of limits that can defer some of the deduction to later years. This is a rental housing subsidy. I think home buyers are subject to marketing telling them how wonderful the mortgage interest deduction is. Most people are not too far from the 25% bracket. So here’s the deal. Pay $4 in interest. Get $1 back from the Federal government.

  58. I’ve just posted this on the site where I’ve been arguing about the costs of a mostly nuclear v a mostly renewables electricity generation for Australia’s National Electricity Market. http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=16809&page=0

    Ben Rose,

    Since it appears you have difficulty understanding the numbers and keep trying to dismiss the CSIRO calculators’ LCOE figures, I’ll lay it out so just about anyone should be able to follow it.

    I’ll use CSIRO ‘eFuture’ http://efuture.csiro.au/#scenarios projections for this and use the default scenario settings (central estimates for each selectable item) with and without nuclear permitted. I’ll compare the projected emissions and LCOE in 2050 with and without nuclear permitted.

    CO2 emissions for the default scenario (nuclear not permitted) are 80 t/MWh. With nuclear permitted, CO2 emissions are 25 t/MWh. That is, emissions would be 3.2 times higher if nuclear is not permitted.

    The table below shows LCOE (wholesale price) in $/MWh without and with nuclear permitted and the the ratio ‘no nuclear / with nuclear’. Estimates of individual items you have asked about are itemised.

    Item No nuclear With Nuclear No/With
    ‘eFuture’ 130 85 1.5
    Accident insurance 0 0.11
    Decommissioning 2 2
    Waste management 0 1
    Transmission, high penetration 37 4
    Total LCOE 169 92 1.8

    The LCOE for no nuclear is 80% higher than with nuclear. With a higher proportion of renewables than the default (no nuclear), the LCOE would be even higher, probably more than double.
    Sources for the above figures are in previous comments.

    Policy analysts also need to include in policy options analysis an estimate of the risk that renewables will not be able to do the job. We know nuclear can provide around 75% of electricity in an advanced industrial economy because France has been doing it for over 30 years. But renewables have not demonstrated they can or will be able to. Many practitioners think they will not. An order of magnitude estimate for the risk adjusted cost for renewables is 10x the AETA’s LCOE estimate.

    The risk that renewables will not be able to do the job is the major risk you should be questioning!

    • Matthew R Marler

      Peter Lang: We know nuclear can provide around 75% of electricity in an advanced industrial economy because France has been doing it for over 30 years. But renewables have not demonstrated they can or will be able to. Many practitioners think they will not.

      Do you happen to know why this example of success is not given more weight?

      • Matthew R Marler. No. I’ve often wondered that myself. It is frequently mentioned in the circles I discuss policy issues in, but out side the already aware it is dismissed on various gounds. Common reasons for dismissal are:

        1. It’s all due to government subsidies (wrong I understand)

        2. The learning curve has been negative – i.e. capital costs per MW have increased in real terms over time. (I agree but blame that on regulatory ratcheting slowiing, and to the resulting slow down in development and the resulting loss of skills.

        Here are some links on the negative learning rate for nuclear compared with the positive learning rate for all other electricity generation technologies:
        http://www.eprg.group.cam.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/eprg0723.pdf
        http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/04/06/207833/does-nuclear-power-have-a-negative-learning-curve/
        http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/research/researchPrograms/TransitionstoNewTechnologies/06_Grubler_French_Nuclear_WEB.pdf

      • Planning Engineer

        Peter-
        I agree with you that the cost increase is due to regulatory constraints, but wonder if it can be looked at another way. The cost per MW has gone up in real dollars because we are building much “safer” nuclear plants. (Granted a component of regulatory costs may not tie to safety).

        I dint know how safe nuclear plants need to be. I would guess that the current level of safety expectations not only greatly exceeds what was provided by the older nuclear plants, but may be far more excessive that the safety burdens we impose elsewhere. Perhaps if the safety burden does not continue to ratchet up (and the other regulatory components as wel) the cost in real dollars will start to decrease.

      • Planning Engineer,

        I agree ‘safety’ is the explanation for the increasing regulatory ratcheting.

        But I argue the regulatory ratcheting is having the opposite of the desired effect. Therefore it is not justified and it irrational. The increasing costs caused by regulatory ratcheting are increasing the fatalities from electricity generation, not decreasing them. So this is the reverse of what the increasing safety of nuclear power should be delivering. If nuclear power replaced coal fired electricity generation overnight throughout the world, it would avoid over 1 million fatalities per year now, and over 2 million per year in 2050. Clearly, ratcheting up the impediments to the roll out of nuclear power is blocking progress and causing more fatalities than if nuclear was appropriately deregulated.

        There’s an even more important reason for appropriately deregulating nuclear power. If we deregulate so that small modular reactors can be licenced, innovation and competition could do what it does, the costs would come down and the breed would improve faster than with excessive regulation. We can compare with what has happened with passenger air traffic. It has an appropriate level of regulation. This has facilitated competition and the breed has improve faster, safety has improve faster, and aircraft have been built to meet the requirements of many niche markets. Similar would happen with nuclear if it was deregulated. They’d develop to become cheaper, safer and fit for purpose to meet all the niche requirements of the electricity markets. It will happen eventually. All we are doing is delaying progress.

        I advocate the USA takes the lead and appropriately deregulates the nuclear industry in USA, then competes on the world stage to meet the requirements of utilities all over the world – especially Asia, Africa and South America.

      • Planning Engineer

        Peter
        Thanks. So if you raise the cost of nuclear by demanding a high level of safety, that is not required for other technologies, that other less safe, cheaper, technologies will be favored. Since they are less safe, you get more fatalities. Nice observation that lower safety standards for nuclear would tend to save lives overall.

        My mind boggles when I hear what the new nuclear plants can withstand, the training, inspections, and quality requirements. I suspect it’s safety gone past the point of diminishing returns.

        But i think it’s fair to say we have purchased a high (though maybe counterproductive) level of safety and today’s nukes really are a different product than previous nukes. Im thinking we are agreeing that if quality/type of product was the same, that cost would have declined and likely so even with higher and improving safety standards. We did buy something with those extra costs-just may have had a negative value?

      • PE,

        I agree some benefits have been delivered and some level of regulation is required. Everyone agrees on that. However, as my previous post (mistakenly posted at the top level of the nesting) pointed out, the cost is excessive. The history of the passenger aircraft industry provides a useful parallel. Like nuclear, people were concerned about the risks. After the British Comet crashes in the 1950’s the public were growing increasingly concerned. There were indications that if another major aircraft crash occurred it could cause a serious reduction in passenger aircraft travel. The effect could be long lasting – like the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents. The British responded by developing transparent aircraft investigations. The public regained confidence. They generally now accept the level of fatalities of commercial aircraft travel (about 1000 per year) as a reasonable level of risk for the benefits cheap air travel provides. We need to get to that balance with nuclear too.

        Not only has the high cost due to excessive regulation caused more fatalities from electricity generation than would have been the case otherwise, it has had other consequences as well:

        1. Global GHG emissions from electricity are about 10% to 20% higher now than they would have been if the 1970s rollout rate had continued. And we are on a much slower trajectory to reduce emissions by 2050 than we would otherwise be.

        2. Many of the three billion people who do not have electricity would now have had it, saving many additional fatalities per year (not included in the number I gave previously which was only for replacing coal generation with nuclear generation).

        3. The oil used for transporting coal would be reduced by a factor of about 20,000 for every tonne of oil moved because the energy density of nuclear fuel is about 1/20,000 of coal. That means (roughly) 20,000 times less coal ship and coal train movements and correspondingly less fuel used to drive those ships and trains per unit of electricity generated. The CO2 emissions from the oil used for the transport are correspondingly reduced.

        4. Developing countries wouldn’t need the massive investments in shipping, ports, rail, LNG and gas pipelines to get fossil fuels to their power plants.

        5. Energy security. Nuclear fuel is cheap and many years of fuels supply can be stored in a warehouse in a small space. This means countries can store fuel sufficient for many years, perhaps decades at little cost. [You can walk among the fuel rods (hanging from the ceiling) before they’ve been in the reactor. They are not dangerous.]

  59. PE,

    I’d add to the above, Professor Bernard Cohen made a persuasive case in about 1991 that regulatory ratcheting had increased the cost of nuclear power by a factor of 4 by 1990 [1]. I expect it has doubled again since then – so, arguably, regulatory ratcheting has increased the cost of nuclear power by a factor of 8 so far. An’d I’d argue that has the opposite of the desire effects. Nuclear would be safer now if it had been allowed to develop commercially to meet the requirements of the population – like air travel has done.

    A second point I’d make is that the cost and time delay to get an small modular reactor through the US NRC licencing process is more than 10 years and $10 billion dollars. That’s for the 180 MW mPower [2]. And that’s not the end of it. Each time they want to make changes to the design to improve the breed they will have to go through the NRC licencing process. How on earth can the industry justify such an expenditure and how on earth can nuclear progress with such ridiculous constraints and impediments to progress? Where would computers, the internet, mobile phones and cars be now if they’d had to go through equivalent government licencing for every design change?

    [1] Professor Bernard Cohen, ~1991?, ‘Cost of nuclear power plants – what went wrong” http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html

    [2] mPower reactor design overview, 2012 http://www.uxc.com/smr/Library/Design%20Specific/mPower/Presentations/2012%20-%20Reactor%20Design%20Overview.pdf

  60. Imagine what we might expect to happen to the cost, safety and fit-for-purpose of nuclear power if regulations was freed up so it could experience the sort of competition that is delivering the costs reduction in the USA oil and gas industry. See “The driving force behind the US oil boom” http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-Driving-Force-Behind-the-US-Oil-Boom.html

  61. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #155 | Watts Up With That?

  62. A comparison of both the Capital Cost and Energy Producing Effectiveness of the Renewable Energy investments of the USA, Germany and the UK.

    A simple comparison of both the Capital Cost and Energy Producing Effectiveness of the Renewable Energy investments of the USA, Germany and the UK shows that at least ~$0.5trillion in capital costs alone has been spent, (conservatively estimated), to create Renewable Energy electrical generating capacity.

    Nominally, this total nameplate generating capacity at ~153GW should amount to about ~26% of their total electricity generation, were it fully effective. However, because of there is an inevitable ~20% capacity factor applicable across the board for all renewables, the actual cumulative energy output by from these Renewable sources only results in ~5% of the total electricity generation for these nations.

    Across the board overall solar energy is about ~34 times the cost of comparable standard Gas Fired generation and 9 times less effective.
    Wind-Power is only ~12 times the comparable cost and about 4 times less effective.

    The same total electrical energy output could have been produced using conventional natural gas fired electrical generation for ~$31 billion or ~1/16 of the actual capital costs expended on renewable installations. Had conventional Gas Fired technology had been used, the full ~31GW generating capacity would have provided non-intermittent and wholly
    dispatchable electricity production generated as and when needed.

    http://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/renewable-energy-solar-and-wind-power-compared-with-gas-fired-generation-usa-germany-uk/

    For the details and illustrations see:
    http://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/renewable-energy-solar-and-wind-power-compared-with-gas-fired-generation-usa-germany-uk/

  63. Stephen Segrest

    Peter Lang on CSIRO Scenarios: Peter, I ran a high cost scenario and also see a significant use of solar and wind. How is this happening?

    http://efuture.csiro.au/#scenarios

    • Segrest,

      You cherry picked favourable inputs – “high fuel costs” to get the answer you wanted. That;’s why. Why didn’t you also run ‘Low fuel costs” and see what costs and generation mix that gave?

      • Stephen Segrest

        Peter — Why is citing a high cost scenario (of CSIRO) cherry-picking?

      • Clearly because it is not the mostly likely scenario and you didn’t justify why you’d selected that one rather than the central estimates. From my perspective I’d argue the CSIRO figures, which use the AETA report inputs strongly favour reneweables and over estimate the future cost of nuclear. There’s a whole discussion about that elsewhere. You provided no justification for cherry picking numbers that favour your ’cause’. So, you’ve just further damaged your credibility.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Peter — You have previously stated that generation options of hydro and natural gas will always be lower cost (levelized revenue requirements) than wind or solar.

        Recently, you are now saying that Renewables will make up 0 to 5% of the grid’s supply side options (where this comes from who knows).

        When I go to the CSIRO models (per your recommendation), I see Renewables being implemented.

        The CSIRO models appear to be inconsistent with your statements (especially your first one, that natural gas will always be cheaper than wind or solar) — and I’m asking, how is this happening?

      • Segrest,

        You’ve made a statement about what you say I’ve said but haven’t quoted, referenced where you saw them or provided context. I haven’t a clue what you are referring to. It’s just FUD. More intellectual dishonesty on your part: https://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/

        You mention that CSIRO says renewables are being implemented. How is that comment relevant to the argument. So what? How is that relevant to the argument. And, did I ever say they weren’t being implemented. The point is they are insignificant proportion and huge cost. Is that too hard for an engineer to understand?

      • Stephen Segrest

        I left out a word in my post of peaking. You’ve previously stated that peaking generation options of hydro and natural gas will always be lower cost (levelized revenue requirements) than wind or solar.

      • Peaking power is not the main game. It comprised just a few percent of total electricity generation. Therefore, low emissions peaking generation can’t play a major part in reducing GHG emissions, which is the main justification for renewables in the first place. Raising it is a diversion.

        Even so, if you do all the costing properly, I expect that statement is probably correct. I’d be interested to see proper full life cycle costs which show that non-hydro renewables are better able to meet peaking requirements at lower cost than gas and hydro. Show me the numbers from reliable sources with all sources of funding, subsidies,hidden cross subsidies from non-dispatchables to dispatchables and the full effect of relevant regulations that require utilities to buy renewables all clearly shown.

      • Low cost, medium fuel price, medium demand, all technologies, peak backup gives you this:

        http://efuture.csiro.au/zkau/view/z_hn/d4GM1f/4c9/1/c/org.jfree.chart.title.TextTitle@dc8349e8

        I see quotes of storage in the posts as MW and that isn’t useful information. You need MW (grid power available) and MW-H (how long is the backup available). Ludington is 14,976 MW-H (1,872 MW x 8 H).

      • PA. That link didn’t work for me. Perhaps the site is temporarily down or perhaps the link is not correct. Can you give the link to the parent page and tell me what to look for on that page. Or, for the benefit all all CE readers, could you quote the text and clarify the points you are making,

        I hope CSIRO’s proofing is good enough that they haven’t confused or misunderstood the difference between power and energy and the appropriate units.

      • PA,

        The charts don’t come up and I don’t understand your point. If you selected inputs for the chart, can you tell me what inputs you selected and give me the page where i can select the same inputs. You’ll still need to clarify what point you are making because I don’t understand what you are getting at.

      • The costs at the CSIRO site include escalating carbon taxes.

      • Mr. Lang.

        It is a feature of the CSIRO site… I noticed the problem, downloaded the file and was debating uploading it… before SAS (short attention span) interfered. Sorry about that.

        I entered a reasonable scenario:
        medium demand
        medium fuel price
        all technologies
        low cost scenario
        nuclear permitted -> yes
        peak backup

        Power ends up being about 70% nuclear.

      • Ah. Now I understand. Yes, and with medium cost scenario, it ends up at 60% nuclear.
        A pretty clear conclusion, eh?

        BTW, if interested, CSIRO has another calculator that allows the user to select the proportions of coal, gas, CCS, renewables, nuclear and the calculator projects how much prices will change and CO2 emissions will change by 2030 and 2050: http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Energy/MyPower.aspx Click on the ‘i’ to get info for each technology. Click the lock to lock or unlock the proportion for each technology.

        I think the least cost and highest CO2 emissions reductions by 2050 would be achieved with about:

        0% coal
        20% gas
        20% renewables
        70% nuclear

        Nuclear is prohibited in Australia by legislation.

      • Mr. Lang

        Since my laptop can’t tell where the power came from I favor the lowest cost scenario.

        I don’t see any reason to discriminate against coal. Time and technology will reduce its share of the power pool.

        I don’t view low CO2 as a reasonable objective for power planning.

        But yeah, nuclear in some form should be the largest slice of the power resource pie.

      • PA,

        I agree. That’s my position too. My position is that if the CAGW alarmists are concerned about GHG emissions, then it’s up to them to convince their ilk to remove the impediments that are preventing nuclear being by far the cheapest way to generate electricity for pretty well the whole world by 2050.

  64. Stephen Segrest

    Planning Engineer — I posted a comment in one of the threads and you must have not seen it:

    You made a very important following statement:

    Whenever I have spoken about reliability risk I have intended to refer to the bulk system risk as regards avoiding voltage collapse and system instability.

    Question: As we more forward in discussing this very important topic of Renewables intermittency, should the “Big Picture” context be what you stated in your above clarifying statement (and not short intermittency which the SAIDI data addresses)?

    • Segrest,

      The most important big picture requirements are:

      1. Security of supply (long term, years, decades through international conflicts such as trade disruptions, diplomatic and economic disruption and military conflict

      2. reliability of supply

      3. least cost energy

      I am not persuaded that renewables assist the electricity system to deliver on any of these. Nuclear does better at meeting all requirements.

  65. Planning Engineer

    Stephen – I likely did miss it. It takes a lot of vigilance to keep up with the multiple threads.
    For ME, the reliability of the bulk system is a big issue. I see that as an issue of widespread importance. I think any modern (or hopefully modern) society needs to worry about their backbone grid. I don’t know that you can rationally advocate that it’s acceptable to have bulk grid reliability decline in order to integrate renewables. (Either you spend what it takes or slow down the march of renewables)

    People may have differing opinions on local outage performance (SAIDI). What’s feasible and acceptable in rural areas may not be acceptable in dense urban areas. Residential areas may have a different take than hi tech manufacturers. It may make sense to live with some SAIDI type outages for the sake of integrating more renewables. That’s a great discussion for some to have. (But it’s not my issue – I’m a Bulk guy.) For more local type outages, the customer has options to backup, prioritize loads, change their processes, ect. I don’t see that as a one size fits all.

    • Planning Engineer,
      I wondered if you had an opinion on ONCOR’s proposal to install 5,000 megawatts of storage into the Texas grid? This is a very large number, twice what California has announced so far. Their analysis indicated this will actually lower consumer electric bill (by a very tiny amount). Still one has to wonder what 5 Gigawatts will do to a grid that currently has to deal with a highly variable wind component.
      http://www.ercot.com/content/cdr/html/CURRENT_DAYCOP_HSL.html?uniquenessFactor=1415470588310

      http://www.dallasnews.com/business/energy/20141108-oncor-proposes-giant-leap-for-grid-batteries.ece

      Jack Smith

      • Planning Engineer

        Sparrow – This is just opinion and it depends on how you frame the question and how well the facilities perform relative to expectations. 5,000 MW on an 84,000 system is significant. All else equal – They are better off with the storage on their system then without it. It is valuable because of the wind component, as it will help with the intermittency of wind generation.

        I’m a little skeptical as to how cost effective it is. I expect the calculations showing a savings for the batteries, take existing wind resources as “sunk costs” and give all the credit to the batteries for allowing it to become “peaking energy” and have “capacity” benefits. (I would not be surprised to find that the value credited to intermittent wind energy without storage in this study is significantly less than the value of wind energy that was assumed to justify the construction of wind resources.)

        I would expect that comparing the combined wind/battery costs to other resource alternatives – the battery/wind approach would not result in any cost savings but rather greatly increase cost levels. Further the other alternatives would likely provide for a more robust/reliable system as well.

        Overall – I suspect the storage option does not make a bad wind investment good, just somewhat less bad If you have wind for some ill defined reason- storage may improve the situation and hopefully that’s what the consumers in Texas will see.

      • Thank you for your analysis. What they seem to be trying to do is both deal with variable wind resources but also leverage the huge installed base of existing centralized power plants by running them longer at higher levels of efficiency and at the same time distribute these batteries across the grid into residential and light commercial/industrial areas to improve reliability and grid stability. I have two UPS units installed at my house to power my essential electronics and they get called on about twice a month to deal with voltage fluctuations or short black outs so I am happy to see that at least some of the new storage will be used to reduce these annoying disruptions.

        Jack Smith

      • Planning Engineer, suppose we were to use California in an experiment to prove that achieving 50% renewables by 2030 is technically feasible.

        We know right now that the technical success of the experiment would rely upon massive grid-scale storage capacity being available to the extent needed to keep the grid stable and reliable. The storage technology would most likely use large-scale storage batteries of some kind; and the capacity that is required will, of course, be very expensive to acquire and maintain.

        This being so, The Great California 50% Experiment must be paid for through some kind of funding mechanism, and this would be done by restructuring the energy consumption markets in California so that sufficient funding is always made available through use of a state-managed centralized power marketing organization, the California Power Marketing Authority.

        The CPMA would exclusively control the marketing and distribution of all power consumed within the state’s borders. It would buy power from generators/suppliers and resell that power in all of California’s energy markets, setting rates in ways that fairly distribute the economic burdens of The Experiment among all of California’s energy consumers.

        Suppose that all of the renewable-supplied power used in The Experiment is produced in California, and that the CPMA guarantees a rate of return of 15% on a power supplier’s investment in their wind and solar power generating facilities, based upon an annual audit of each power producer’s accounting books.

        OK, Mr. Planning Engineer, suppose we gave you the job of managing the technical side of The Great California 50% Experiment.

        Through the CPMA, you will have direct technical authority over California’s power marketing, generation, and distribution architecture; and you will have a reliable source of funding for pursuing whichever technical approach you may choose to implement in making The Great California 50% Experiment a technical success. Your job is to move decisively forward with the experiment based upon your best technical judgement as to what a 50% renewables grid system should look like if current levels of grid stability and reliability are to be maintained.

        Mr. Planning Engineer, could you do it? From a purely technical perspective, could you get California to 50% renewables by 2030 if you didn’t have to worry about where the money was coming from, or about the economic impacts of The Experiment on California’s energy consumers?

      • Planning Engineer

        Beta Blocker – It’s doable. Engineering problems are said to be a balance between cost, quality and time. 2030 is a long time away if you don’t worry about cost. If we’re earning 15% return – there is a big temptation to spend, spend and spend. Your setup seems to give me a lot of room anyway, so I’ll try to keep costs down and exercise my conscience a little bit.

        I’m thinking 50% of renewables would mean on an energy bases and that you have set this up to exclude nuclear which is sometimes seen as green, but usually not renewable. (If nuclear power is allowed, I would start building nuclear right out of the gate and if politics don’t interfere no real problem at all meeting the mandate.) This approach would reduce carbon and near term be environmentally benign.

        Of course we keep all the hydro we have and build whatever more we can, pumped storage as well. But I’m not optimistic that can be much further exploited in California. (Unless the politics of carbon outweighs the politics of water and land use).

        Shifting the 50% non-renewable portion of energy to gas units would give me a lot of flexibility to schedule around intermittent resources, so I would move in that direction to make the renewables case easier. My 50% non-renewable fleet would be optimized to be nimble and flexible.

        If I’m allowed bio-mass projects – I’d build those for base load. We’d be burning wood chips, switch grass and maybe human waste round the clock (I visited a plant not far from Venice Beach where they burn sewage.) This could get us a long way to meeting the 50% renewable mandate. Biomass typically counts as renewables, but after you get done planting, growing, transporting I wonder how much carbon reduction you get. I think as I got further with my plan which may work for your setup, someone would figure out that they would need to stop me because I’m not doing a lot of net good. At this point I’d argue that I was just trying to meet the mandate and save consumers a ton of money. I’d hope for a golden parachute at that time, but I’ll go on with an alternate plan in case they keep me under the conditions I forget about biomass.

        Nuclear and biomass gone, hydro exhausted – I’d start to tap into wind, solar and geothermal. My limited understanding of California geothermal is the hard part is the corrosive nature of the heat areas makes it so you are continually replacing the plumbing. At 15% return – I may not care too much. Base load geothermal would get my renewable hours up. I’d worry that tapping California geothermal might have some unacceptable environmental consequences down the road. But you haven’t charged me to do anything that makes environmental sense.

        Now we bring in the wind and solar. (Note before that – I’d personally want to work harder on efficiency. But spending money on efficiency might hurt my ability to get a 50% target). Not sure if residential solar counts for my 50% of if like efficiency it hurts me. For me to supply 50% renewable – it seems unfair to have me do it for customers who maybe get 90% of their energy from their own renewable sources and are using me just to control their peaks. It’s very different to have the total energy mix 50/50 in a integrated system, versus having an entity which is just providing backup do a 50/50 mix.

        Going ahead I’d put in wind and solar which would be my bank of energy.
        As we start converting large portions of the desert and mountains, I expect that environmental concerns would start to emerge. If carbon is the only issue, maybe those would be quashed. If we apply the same spirit to meeting 50% renewables that we did to the WWII war effort- we can easily build, maintain and operate the needed facilities.

        To make the power system work I’d have pumped hydro storage, compressed air energy storage and battery storage to spread the energy across the demand periods. To make up for the lost inertia, var control and frequency regulation I’d be helped by the hydro and compressed air storage, but not the batteries. To make up for short comings I’d have converted old power stations to synchronous condensers (they would tie to the system and spin but would not generate any power), add power electronic equipment to provide pseudo support, and possibly install large flywheels.

        We’d get it done. But at what cost in dollars and what cost to the environment? We’d meet the stated goals, but I’m afraid we’d create new monsters. With enough money the reliability would not suffer. I suspect once I started on this path – the dollars would be held up and I’d have to hold the mess together with shoestrings and duct tape.

      • Planning Engineer’s response to Beta Blocker said in last paragraph:

        We’d get it done. But at what cost in dollars and what cost to the environment?

        Short answer: 50% renewable would be about twice the cost of 50% nuclear.

        The CSIRO eFuture calculator can assist to answer such questions. It uses cost and CO2 emissions inputs for each technology from the Australian Government Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE)’s Australian Electricity Technology Assessment Report (AETA). The costs are based on US costs and modified for Australian conditions. The Australian and US costs and emissions intensities are similar enough to give a ‘big picture’ answer to your question. However they do not include the cost of additional transmission, which is a significant additional cost for options with a high proportion of renewables.

        To use the ‘eFuture’ calculator select the inputs from the pull down menu options then click ‘Build charts’; or select ‘Default scenario’. It calculates the least cost proportions of technologies to achieve the demand profile to 2050. It produces charts for generation proportions, wholesale cost and retail price of electricity and total CO2 emissions.

        Compare the default scenario with and without nuclear permitted

        1) default scenario, central estimates (most likely values) for all inputs, nuclear not permitted, in 2050:
        renewables supply about 40% of electricity,
        wholesale cost of electricity (in 2013 $) = $130/MWh
        CO2-e emissions from electricity = 80 Mt/a

        2) With nuclear permitted and all else same as default scenario:
        nuclear supplies about 60% of electricity,
        wholesale cost of electricity (in 2013 $) = $80/MWh
        CO2-e emissions from electricity = 25 Mt/a

        Therefore, for these inputs the wholesale electricity cost is about 1.6 times higher with nuclear not permitted than with nuclear permitted. If renewables supplied 50% of the electricity, the wholesale cost would be around twice what it would be with nuclear permitted.

      • Planning Engineer, thanks for your very informative response.

        The basic point is that if we don’t care about the collateral economic and environmental impacts, because the green objectives are considered paramount, then 50% renewables can be done on schedule by 2030.

        Concerning nuclear power, it could not — and for purposes of managing the experiment, should not — play any significant role in your planning efforts for achieving that 50% renewables goal by 2030.

        Californians don’t like nuclear power; and even if they did, the US Southeast currently has a lock on the available human and material resources needed to properly build large-scale nuclear power plants. The southerners will control those resources for roughly another decade or so.

        Small modular reactors won’t be available for another decade at least, or possibly longer, and so couldn’t play any large role in The Experiment, even if Californians accepted them, which they won’t.

      • Beta Blocker,

        Aren’t you confusing your analysis by mixing rational analysis and irrational constraints. Wouldn’t it be better to do the rational analysis first, and then secondly consider the constraints that are caused by politics, public opinion, public paranoia about nuclear power and catastrophic climate change and irrational beliefs about what is best for the environment?

        For the rational analysis component, I’d suggest we should do our best to estimate what policies are likely to best meet the three key requirements of the electricity system:

        1. energy security (long term)

        2. reliability of supply

        3. Least cost (especially for business and industry)

      • This probably just means more job losses for California.

      • Peter Lang, you are obviously not understanding what it was I asked Mr. Planning Engineer to do.

        The premise of my request to Mr. Planning Engineer was clearly enunciated to him, and he clearly understood what it was I was asking for, and why. Mr. Planning Engineer’s response then went right to heart of the matter in addressing the topics that I wanted addressed.

        The premise I laid out for Mr. Planning Engineer is that we use the entire state of California in a grand experiment in technology application theory and practice to see if a green agenda which strongly pushes the renewables can be successfully implemented from a purely technical perspective. Achieving 50% renewables in the state of California by 2030 is the experiment’s objective.

        The premise states that Californians pay for the cost of this grand experiment in a way which spreads the burden as fairly as possible.

        The Great California 50% Experiment deliberately excludes the use of nuclear power. The majority of Californians don’t like nuclear power, and by not including nuclear, the rest of us non-Californians gain a wealth of useful information concerning how a renewable energy future can be technically implemented in the absence of nuclear.

        Mr. Planning Engineer says that he can get the job done under the constraints and the stipulations that I’ve laid out, with the caveat that if Californians realize what is happening to their costs for energy, and they come to realize how much they will have to pay for this grand experiment, they might well choose to constrain funding for the experiment and he would then be left with the task of holding the whole mess together with shoestrings and duct tape.

        If the experiment commenced in 2016, but the Californians got cold feet after a few years, I have to say that it would surely be most ungenerous of them to end the experiment prematurely, thus robbing the rest of us of an excellent opportunity to see just what does, or does not, work well technically in pursuing a very aggressive program for adopting renewable energy.

      • Beta Blocker, you obviously did not understand my response to Planning Engineer’s point in his final paragraph that I quoted, nor my comment addressed to you. What part did you not understand.

        I didn’t bother pointing out how unrealistic your premise is. Surely you realise that your ‘Grand Experiment’ to destroy California’s electricity system is not going to happen. And you didn’t define who “we” is. So it is all a bit silly unless it is taken as I thought you meant it – a way to consider the consequences of different options to achieve an end – but apparently not.

        As I said, nicely, trying to mix rational analysis with ideological constraints such as nuclear not permitted, is not much use. However, I gave the estimated costs and CO2 emissions for scenarios with nuclear permitted and nuclear not permitted with approximately 50% renewables versus approximately 50% nuclear. The nuclear option would be about half the cost and 3 times as effective at cutting CO2 emissions. That’s the rational part. Send that message to the voters of California and they won’t be favouring renewables over nuclear for long.

        I hope this is clear.

      • Matthew R Marler

        betablocker: Mr. Planning Engineer, could you do it? From a purely technical perspective, could you get California to 50% renewables by 2030 if you didn’t have to worry about where the money was coming from, or about the economic impacts of The Experiment on California’s energy consumers?

        Just because you are not worrying about where the money comes from does not guarantee that it will come. Say for the sake of argument that you plan to take your 15% from California’s profitable businesses — they’ll increase the rate at which they move out of state and hide their incomes out of state, and you won’t have the money. Indeed, the cheapest way to get to 50% of electricity from renewables is to close down enough businesses that the electricity demand declines.

        California is performing an experiment in public, and there is no real need to formulate a thought experiment that has infinite money.

      • Peter Lang, for the last several years, I have been listening to various advocates of the renewables claim they can build a very substantial renewable-powered electric utility infrastructure at costs which are competitive with nuclear.

        On paper, we can estimate the probable costs of their policy vision all day long, but the real proof is in the practice.

        Californians are firm in saying they want a renewable energy future for their state, and that they don’t want nuclear. This makes them ideal candidates for testing the theory that a very substantial portion of a state’s energy consumption requirements can be supplied by the renewables at costs which don’t totally break the bank.

        The costs of nuclear are well documented and can be very precisely estimated for any given nuclear power project.

        If the claims of the renewable advocates are defensible, then the experiment I propose for California shouldn’t raise the price of electricity too far above what might reasonably be expected if the state went 50% nuclear by 2030 rather than 50% renewables by 2030.

        Give the renewable advocates their day in the sun by setting up a renewable-friendly technical and regulatory environment in the state of California. Let’s then see what actually happens as the experiment moves forward.

      • Beta Blocker,

        I’ve read your posts. You don’t need to keep repeating your idea. I didn’t respond and tell you it is not realistic because I presumed you recognised that. You have no hope of getting it seriously considered, let alone implemented. Therefore we have to work with the information we have. And that is pretty clear if you approach it with rational, objective analysis.

      • “Sigh”.

        California imports 30% of their power (2011). NIMBY is the primary reason. In 2013 they imported 33% of their power.

        I’m not sure what the current import power arrangements look like. The obvious play for California is to push the renewable support requirement onto the out-of-state suppliers. The out-of-state suppliers should be required by their state governments to charge California the fully loaded cost, to avoid subsidizing California power consumers.

        There are a number of references to California imports causing the cost of power in the Southwest to rise significantly. Being next to California is like having a vampire for a neighbor.

  66. Pingback: Uusiutuva energia tuo uusia ongelmia | Roskasaitti

  67. Peter Lang, when it comes to renewable energy, do you want something different for California than what a majority of Californians say they want for themselves? If so, how do you justify that position?

    • @ Beta Blocker

      “Peter Lang, when it comes to renewable energy, do you want something different for California than what a majority of Californians say they want for themselves? If so, how do you justify that position?”

      Well, speaking for myself rather than Peter, the majority of Californians can want whatever they choose to want–including a chicken in every pot, free sex, and nickel beer. Or free beer and nickel sex. And if they choose to SUPPLY THEMSELVES with their wants, good for them.

    • Good point Bob. As long as Californians buy there own boondoggles, that’s great. They just need to keep their grubby hands off Federal taxpayer money.

    • Beta Blocker,

      Peter Lang, when it comes to renewable energy, do you want something different for California than what a majority of Californians say they want for themselves?

      What they say they want now is not what they’d say if they understood the facts (i.e. best information available). People’s opinions change and the majority opinion of the electorate changes, and can change rapidly, when they get new information, or get information presented in a way they understand and makes sense to them. Unfortunately the information flow about renewables and nuclear has been overwhelmed by anti nuke and pro renewable activists for 50 years. It’s been largely dishonest, misrepresented, half-truths, etc. And it’s tied up with ideology. That can change.

      Once Californians understand that renewables cannot do the job, present a high risk to energy security and reliablitiy and very high costs, they will change their mind. The facts are that even using optimistic projections of costs of renewables and pessimistic of nuclear like the ones I quoted, electricity in a 50% renewables system would cost twice as much and reduce emissions by 1/3 as much as 50% nuclear, then surely you can understand that Californians would not be asking for renewable energy. The issue is one of understanding, The message will come out eventually. The sooner it does the better. But people like you are not helping Californians and not helping the world.

      I want people like you to act rationally. Get over you hysteria, Learn the facts. Help to educate the public.

      You still haven’t acknowledged that you great idea has no chance of succeeding.

      • @ Peter Lang

        I’m with Beta Blocker on this one.

        Californians say they wish to get their energy from renewables?
        Fine.
        Let them go bankrupt while providing themselves with dark and cold (except in summer, when they switch to dark and hot) and the rest of us can enjoy a real life exemplar of the old caution: ‘Be careful what you wish for.’.

      • Bob I agree. I do understand what Beta Blocker is arguing for. I just don’t understand how it can be done in reality. I took it the I thought he meant it originally – as you have said – i.e if they want to do it let them. But then Beta Blocker seemed to change his approach to wanting to direct them to do it (e.g. his comments about “we” deciding, but not making it clear who “we” is. I assume he means the people of America through the federal Govt. if he means through the California Government, then certainly they already have the power to do it already, so who is “we”?.

        Beta Blocker got a bit defensive and ansi in his reponses to my comments pointing out the huge cost difference between nuclear and renewables to reduce emissions. That’s what made me think he’s not very realistic or practical about the real world.

  68. Peter Lang, there are these people called ‘project managers’ who sometimes develop alternative planning scenarios to determine which optional pathways might be useful in achieving some well-defined set of project objectives.

    Achieving 50% renewables in California by 2030 is an example of a project objective for which a series of alternative planning scenarios might be done. Some people might even choose to label these alternative planning scenarios as “thought experiments.”

    When I look at the feasibility studies done by renewable energy advocates in the academic community; and when I see their graphs and their assumptions and their various technical-economic feasibility discussions, I often come away with a feeling that these people really don’t have a clue as to how they can make all these grand plans work out in practice.

    However, be that as it may, these people do tend to see themselves as being rational thinkers; and they will not be convinced that their thinking about the renewables is wrong unless some series of events along the pathway of moving towards a renewable energy future firmly demonstrates they are wrong.

    The advocates of the renewables now have the ear of the voting public in California, and they will have it for some time to come until some future course of events proves conclusively that their largely academic vision is technically and economically unachievable.

    Your personal definition of what ought to be rational thinking about the renewables will not gain traction among the Californians unless and until the course of future events clearly demonstrates that you are right and they are wrong. In the meantime, don’t worry, be happy.

  69. Beta Blocker

    Peter Lang, there are these people called ‘project managers’ who sometimes develop alternative planning scenarios to determine which optional pathways might be useful in achieving some well-defined set of project objectives.

    Achieving 50% renewables in California by 2030 is an example of a project objective for which a series of alternative planning scenarios might be done.

    Experienced project managers are practical people. They conduct options analysis after realistic terms of reference and requirements have been defined with the client. Your ‘Grand idea’ would be dismissed before it got started. No one would take your idea seriously.

    Furthermore, there are many scenario analyses comparing scenarios and they give you the answers such as the CSIRO calculators give you. You just don’t like facing up to the realities.. So don’t bother trying to talk down to me. Each time you do you reveal more ignorance. You’ve said enough to make me doubt you know much about professional project management, let alone are an experienced, qualified project management professional, right? Project managers are practical people, not fools. They operate in the real world.

    You still haven’t acknowleged that your pie in the sky idea is just plain silly and has no realistic chance of being implemented. Why don’t you respond to that.

    • Peter Lang, perception is reality in California, and President Obama’s climate deal with China ought to give the abvocates of more renewables in California a big boost.

      But here is the problem: What is reality concerning using California as a public policy experiment in strongly pushing the renewables is this: any plan which can get California to 50% renewables by 2030 must properly support the reliability of the grid, and this means two things: 1) Funding constraints must be eliminated as a barrier to implementing a renewable-friendly technology architecture in California; and 2) The technology architecture must be centrally administered by a strong power marketing authority which is funded well enough to implement, to coordinate, and to manage the technologies needed to ensure the project meets all grid reliability performance objectives.

      Why not push strongly for nuclear in California?

      The economic success of nuclear power requires that a nuclear-friendly public policy environment exist, one which allows a good fraction of nuclear’s high capital costs to be covered by energy consumers themselves as the plants are being constructed, the objective being that the energy consuming public will more than recover their upfront investment through nuclear’s substantially lower life-cycle operation and maintenance costs.

      As it regards California specifically, anyone who thinks that in-state nuclear generation will ever play a larger role in California’s energy picture than it does today is living in a dream world. It isn’t going to happen. California’s voters don’t want nuclear in their state, and they are not going to support a nuclear-friendly public policy environment. The Californians are who they are, and America’s own advocates of nuclear power are much better off concentrating their promotional efforts somewhere else. They should focus principally on the US Midwest and on the US Southeast if they want to succeed in keeping the nuclear option alive in this country.

      In my view, the approach most likely to succeed in getting California to 50% renewables by 2030 is to place control of California’s power marketplace into the hands a publicly-owned power marketing authority, one which can integrate the technical and the financial sides of the project so that the technical side of the effort is never starved for the funding it needs to build a reliable grid architecture in which the renewables can play a central role.

      Mr. Planning Engineer has a can-do attitude in supporting this proposed public policy experiment, just what we are looking for if we want to think seriously about achieving 50% renewables in California by 2030. When I read his commentary, it is almost like listening to an inspiring tune from a Broadway musical:


      I’ve got a plan right here,
      the plan is so sincere;
      and there’s a guy who says,
      that my plan can do.

      Can do. Can do.
      He says that my plan can do.

      His name is Engineer,
      he really has our ear;
      and he says right here,
      where we all can hear:

      Can do. Can do.
      He says that my plan can do.

      Can do. Can do.
      He says that my plan can do.

      There’s this guy named Lang,
      he doesn’t give a dang,
      that I think my plan,
      is the best plan here.

      CANDU. CANDU.
      Lang thinks we should do CANDU.

      CANDU. CANDU.
      Lang thinks we should do CANDU.

      • Beta Blocker,

        You’re repeating yourself endlessly. It’s boring.

        Peter Lang, perception is reality in California

        Perceptions change – especially when people realise the cost implications

        You’ve missed or ignored what I’ve been advocating regarding removing the impediments to low cost nuclear.

        As it regards California specifically, anyone who thinks that in-state nuclear generation will ever play a larger role in California’s energy picture than it does today is living in a dream world. It isn’t going to happen.

        Nonsense. It will come eventually everywhere around the world. It has to because there is no other viable option to supply the energy that will be demanded in the future. On the other hand anyone who thinks your ‘Grand Idea’ will ever be implemented is living in a dream world. It isn’t going to happen. Got that?

        I’ve got a plan right here,
        the plan is so sincere;

        Your poem is about your grand plan, not mine. I don’t have one. You do.

  70. Posted to Ben Rose on another web site. This here who advocate renewable energy might like to consider answering these questions:

    Let’s see if we can establish what we agree and disagree on. Could you please answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the questions below. Where you answer ‘No’, please provide your alternative value and the authoritative source for your figure):

    1. eFuture http://efuture.csiro.au/#scenarios LCOE for default values with and without nuclear are: $85/MWh and $130/MWh respectively (i.e. LCOE of renewables 1.6 times higher than nuclear)

    2. Waste disposal and decommissioning costs are relatively trivial

    3. Waste disposal and decommissioning LCOE; (nuclear $1/MWh, renewables, ($0.15/MWh)

    4. Nuclear power is about the safest way to generate electricity (LCA basis, all risks included)

    5. Nuclear accident insurance is relatively trivial compared with LCOE

    6. Nuclear accident insurance is around $0.11/MWh

    7. Transmission cost is not included in the AETA LCOE figures

    8. Transmission costs are much higher for renewables than for nuclear (at high penetration for both).

    9. Nuclear has demonstrated it can supply over 75% of the electricity to a large, industrial economy (e.g. France for 30 years)

    10. Non-hydro renewables have not demonstrated they can supply a large proportion of the electricity to a grid in a large industrial economy

    11. There is a significant risk that renewables will not be able to do the job (meet requirements at economically viable cost)

    12. The ‘expected value’ of this risk, when added to the LCOE, would inflate the LCOE of the mostly-renewables grid by a very significant amount.

  71. Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)

    Judith, permission to repost your essay to another site? (Deviantart. Yes, an art site, but heavily loaded with climate / energy politics.)

  72. Stephen Segrest

    Peter Lang — You’ve made the following statements:

    “Hydro and gas are the least cost way to meet peak load, not solar and wind.”
    https://judithcurry.com/2014/11/05/more-renewables-watch-out-for-the-duck-curve/#comment-645287

    I expect the “economically usable “renewable” sources as a percentage of grid assets without some form of power storage” is 0%-5%.

    https://judithcurry.com/2014/11/05/more-renewables-watch-out-for-the-duck-curve/#comment-645291

    • Segrest,

      Yes, So what”s your point? Why did you start a new sub-thread instead of keeping it together with the rest of the discussion?

      Do you disagree? Do you have authoritative figures to refute these statements?

  73. Stephen Segrest

    The CSIRO models are not consistent with your statements. Why?

    • Why are they not consistent? What are you talking about. Make your questions clear. Quote my statement, the context, what the CSIRO calculator says that’s relevant and and explain what is inconsistent.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Peter Lang — For some time, I’ve been very consistent in saying that decisions on Renewables should be about looking for “Right Fits” based on engineering and engineering economics (and not locked-in-concrete political mandates, e.g., a Federal REPS). I’ve stated that “Right Fits” can and do exist. Solar is an example, where currently solar’s “right fit” is targeted to peaking load (although with a continuance of the Moore’s Law analogy with solar, this could change/expand in the future).

        In tons of your posts, you (and Others) have disagreed with me (I cited just one of your posts above).

        I’ve also talked frequently about uncertainty, and how System Planners approach this problem (especially fuel cost uncertainty) — where because of uncertainty, its critical to have a diversified fleet of supply side options to mitigate fuel risks (not becoming overly dependent on any one fuel source, like natural gas).

        It is this fuel-mix diversification argument that every pro-nuclear U.S. Electric Utility CEO makes “front and center” in their support of developing nuclear generation (base load) resources. Assuming that natural gas prices will always be low would be bad planning and leadership.

        Every utility engineer that I know that supports Renewables (under the right fit based on engineering economics) also supports the need to develop nuclear power. Our basis is totally consistent between Renewables (i.e., currently solar for peaking) and nuclear (base load) — fuel-mix diversification.

        Now I know zero about Australia, but I’ve gone to this source as it obviously is one you “trust”. In running CSIRO scenarios, I see numerous scenarios where the models are showing “right fits” — inconsistent with your (and Other’s) posts that they don’t exist.

        Again, most U.S. engineers (at least that I know) that support Renewables (under the right fit) are not enemies of nuclear power — Its just the opposite as we are Cheerleaders for nuclear.

        At least under current technology for example, solar technology and nuclear can be complimentary in meeting generation options for specific load profiles. Its not an either/or.

      • Stephen Segrest,

        For some time, I’ve been very consistent in saying that decisions on Renewables should be about looking for “Right Fits” based on engineering and engineering economics (and not locked-in-concrete political mandates, e.g., a Federal REPS).

        I’ve got all that. But then you follow with meaningless motherhood statements and nonsense.

        I’ve stated that “Right Fits” can and do exist.

        You’ve made many assertions but have not been able to support your beliefs with persuasive arguments or facts.

        You’ve not shown that renewables like solar and wind make sense as the least-cost, fit-for-purpose way to supply the electricity in developed economies (except perhaps in minor cases and I even doubt that). But let’s focus on the big picture. The essential requirements are:

        1. Energy security (long term, years and decades)

        2. Reliability of supply (seconds, hours, days)

        3. Least cost over the long term (e.g. life of plant, so LCOE and LRMC of the total system are what is relevant)

        Those are the essential requirements. Of course there are also other locally imposed constraints to deal with on a case by case basis, but that is not the focus of this discussion because we are talking about the big picture.

        Another requirement for some is they want to cut CO2 emissions by 50% to 80% by 2050 depending on who you talk to.

        The fact is that to achieve deep CO2 reductions, the focus must be on cutting CO2 emissions from baseload generators. This is the priority, not peaking power.

        Australia can get 80% to 90% reduction in CO2 emissions by doing what France did 30 years ago (US a bit less because of its shift to gas). If Australia replaced coal with nuclear it would cut CO2 emissions from electricity generation by 90%. You cannot do that with renewables except at huge cost. Similar effect applies across the world

        If we are not concerned about CO2 emissions, there’s no need to go either nuclear or renewables.

        If you are concerned about GHG emissions then you should be putting all your effort into advocating for nuclear not p-ssing around wasting time and money advocating for renewables. I’s an enormous distraction from progress. And it gives the anti-nukes ammunition and keeps them misleading the population for decades.

        By advocating for renewables you are assisting to block progress.

        You keep making unsupported assertions, misrepresentations, dodging the point, avoiding answering the questions I asked so I wont respond to the rest. People who are habitually dishonest have little credibility.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Peter Lang — It is YOU that is DODGING.

        Going to YOUR source of the CSIRO Model and running numerous scenarios one sees a significant amount of Renewables present in scenario results.

        Under your (and Others) argument — How is this happening in the CSIRO Model?

        You just will not answer.

      • Stephen Segrest,

        The least cost option to meet requirements without CO2 constraint is with fossil fuels and hydro. The least cost option with deep CO2 emission reductions is with 70% to 80% nuclear and 10% renewables. Any more than 10% renewables is more expensive. So least cost is with 10% renewables, That is comprised mostly of hydro and biomass, not solar and wind.

        Furthermore, you need to understand the source of the LCOE figures, AETA report, is highly favourable to renewables, not nuclear. That would take pages to get into the details.

        The MyPower CSIRO calculator uses the same input data as eFuture and allows you to choose the proportions of the various technologies. The least cost for deep emissions reduction is 10% renewables, 20% gas, 70% nuclear. Even better is 80% nuclear (gives 91% reduction in emissions). That was the basis of me saying I suspect no more than 5% intermittent renewables (like wind and solar) is viable in an undistorted market.

      • Here’s the link to the CSIRO MyPower calculator.

      • I’ll try that again. Here’s the link to the CSIRO MyPower calculator:
        http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Energy/MyPower.aspx

      • Stephen Segrest

        Peter Lang — Give us the link to the assumptions (I’ll try and wade through them).

        Your statement: “The least cost option to meet requirements without CO2 constraint is with fossil fuels and hydro.”

        Where is the CSIRO scenario option that shows this?

        Your statement holds true no matter what the price of natural gas is? Like a return to 2007 levels?

      • Two insights I think from the above thread. Occasionally I’m asked about how people should invest their money? I read somewhere, some in 401(k)s and/or traditional IRAs, some in Roth IRAs or Roth 401(k)s, and some in after tax accounts. The last is called ‘after tax’ partly because it’s not inside a tax deferral bubble like the first two are. I suggest this approach as it’s diversified. A threat to all these investments is Congress changing the rules to any or all of the above three investment vehicles. Each of the three have different tax attributes currently. Pluses and minuses. Diversifying a utilities energy mix would work the same. Nuclear, hydro, oil, natural gas, coal, solar and wind can be part of the mix, though of course they currently have different attributes. Most investments will be long term ones. We have little idea of the future fuel costs of oil, natural gas and coal. We don’t know how governments are going to subsidize and penalize each choice for the next 10 years. I am not arguing for a necessity to pick dogs like solar and wind in their current state. Their price is going to have to come down. I am suggesting the dogs not be weighted more than what the average utility is doing. One problem with not investing in dogs, is incomplete certainty that they are beyond hope.

        Also I think you’re right with renewables being a foil to prevent more use of nuclear. You don’t need nuclear, we have this instead. In Minnesota, one of our facilities was a bargaining chip to get wind generation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prairie_Island_Nuclear_Power_Plant#Spent_fuel_storage I still have hope for small modular nuclear which I think would decrease infrastructure (transmission lines) cost and provide more resiliency. If we were to take a page from the Green’s playbook at the link, we’d ask for more nuclear and instead of wind, package it with pumped storage hydro.

      • Ragnaar,

        Thanks for that. I agree with all your points. I’d make one comment however. Nuclear doesn not inherently increase transmission costs compared with fossil fuels. in fact, it may reduce them on average across the country. Nuclear plants need water, or air cooling but that is the only real constraint on their location. Fossil fuels also need water but their distance from fuel is also a factor. So they oftern need longer transmission lines. But RE is a whole different story. For Australia’s NEM to use mostly nuclear would increase transmission costs by about $4/MWh over the existing grid. But for mostly renewables would cost and additional $37/MWh (about nearly 10 times higher cost for RE). That’s from my simple calculation (no LOLP analysis) and is probably high. See Figure 7 and Figure 4 for the map here: http://oznucforum.customer.netspace.net.au/TP4PLang.pdf

      • Explaining why I called wind and solar dogs:

        Some will say they are question marks, some have decided their are limits that will not be overcome in the near future. An argument is that they are questions marks and moving to stars. On the diagram, the left side subsidizes the right side which is what conventional is doing for wind and solar. That subsidy makes sense in retrospect when a star stands on its own, and starts paying for other new product advancements. A utility should pick future stars with accuracy same as with other companies. Renewable mandates can take off the table, the utilities ability to get rid of the dogs, and under capitalism, is sub-optimal. I think natural gas is a star, coal and nuclear cash cows. Hydro can be either cash cows or stars. Look at what China did with hydro. Here it seems more mature. One more thing about the Boston Matrix, when you think of Coca-Cola their money makers are left side. Every other one of their beverages that failed was right side. Solar and wind are risky, if you use the matrix. Financially risky.

      • Ragnaar,

        Interesting. Thank you. I like the plot.

        Regarding the RE being “?”, I agree. Can you suggest how to estimate the risk (consequence x probability where consequence is in $) that RE would not be able to meet the requirements to supply 50% of California’s electricity by 2050 (or what ever Beta Blocker’s ‘Grand desire’ is). Tell me how you’d go about it and give me your best guess $ value of the risk.

        I believe the there is little likelihood RE will be able to meet the requirements. I’d put it at 10% probability of it being achievable.

        But what’s the consequence?

        One way of thinking of it might be if it doesn’t happen then fossil fuels will be used, CO2 emissions will be BAU, the consequence is the SCC of the difference in emissions.

        Not that I accept the EPA’s estimates if SCC but it would be difficult for the RE advocates to dismiss that argument.

        Another way might be the economic damage caused by the failed attempt.

        Any thoughts?

      • Peter Lang:
        The California utilities will be incurring high risk but will probably get bailed out by the Public Utilities Commissions raising rates. And then they’ll be lots of finger pointing. I think they may see a subsidies collapse. Looking at the matrix and comparing it to Coca-Cola, they are deciding to sell less Coca-Cola and more mineral water. Switching from what does make them money to things that don’t. If they didn’t do that so much, the flagship product could generate more money for research to find future stars. They’d also improve their long term viability, which also leads to more money for research. I think what the state governments are doing is forcing utilities to launch products that are not economically viable. The solar and wind options are higher cost and have lower revenues than the conventional. At 50% non-hydro renewables, I think a risk is the shareholders will end up with very little unless they’re bailed out. Off on another of my tangents,
        AU Section 341 The Auditor’s Consideration of an Entity’s Ability to Continue as a Going Concern.
        # Negative trends—for example, recurring operating losses, working capital deficiencies, negative cash flows from operating activities, adverse key financial ratios
        # Other indications of possible financial difficulties—for example, default on loan or similar agreements, arrearages in dividends, denial of usual trade credit from suppliers, restructuring of debt, noncompliance with statutory capital requirements, need to seek new sources or methods of financing or to dispose of substantial assets
        # Internal matters—for example, work stoppages or other labor difficulties, substantial dependence on the success of a particular project, uneconomic long-term commitments, need to significantly revise operations
        # External matters that have occurred—for example, legal proceedings, legislation, or similar matters that might jeopardize an entity’s ability to operate; loss of a key franchise, license, or patent; loss of a principal customer or supplier; uninsured or underinsured catastrophe such as a drought, earthquake, or flood
        The auditors need to satisfy themselves none of the above apply, or if they do, they are disclosed, preferably with great fanfare to protect the auditors from lawsuits.
        None of the above needs to happen if they can keep raising prices. On a less negative note, I think before long the utilities are going to start pushing back.

      • Ragnaar,

        Thank you for more good thinking and information.

        I am fairly stuck on trying to get an estimate of the consequence of pushing for renewables to be a large component of electricity generation. I realise the estimates depend on assumptions about timing, and in reality the worst consequences won eventuate because the policy (thought bubble) would be abandoned before it did major damage. But, I want to estimate the risk of it proceeding and failing. My reason is because we need to include that risk in the LCOE’s of the alternative policies we are comparing – e.g. a mostly nuclear v mostly renewables electricity system by 2050.

        I previous had a 12 point post explaining how the cost items the anti-nukes keep raising are trivial and they are missing the really big ones. I’ll repost the 12 points below plus I’ve added a 4 point summary of the totals. I am now trying to work out how I can estimate point 4 in the totals (i.e. the last point.)

        “Point being debated:

        “The LCOE of a mostly nuclear powered electricity system is substantially less than the LCOE of a mostly renewable powered system. ”

        Could you please answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the questions below. Where you answer ‘No’, please provide your alternative figure and the authoritative source for your figure.

        1. eFuture http://efuture.csiro.au/#scenarios LCOE for default values with and without nuclear are: $85/MWh and $130/MWh respectively (i.e. LCOE of renewables 1.6 times higher than nuclear)

        2. Waste disposal and decommissioning costs are relatively trivial

        3. Waste disposal and decommissioning LCOE; (nuclear $1/MWh, renewables $0.15/MWh)

        4. Nuclear power is about the safest way to generate electricity (LCA basis, all risks included)

        5. Nuclear accident insurance is relatively trivial compared with LCOE

        6. Nuclear accident insurance is around $0.11/MWh

        7. Transmission cost is not included in the AETA LCOE figures

        8. Transmission costs are much higher for renewables than for nuclear (at high penetration for both).

        9. Nuclear has demonstrated it can supply over 75% of the electricity to a large, industrial economy (e.g. France for 30 years)

        10. Non-hydro renewables have not demonstrated they can supply a large proportion of the electricity to a grid in a large industrial economy

        11. There is a significant risk that renewables will not be able to do the job (meet requirements at economically viable cost)

        12. The ‘expected value’ of this risk, when added to the LCOE, would inflate the LCOE of the mostly-renewables grid substantially.

        LCOE totals:

        1. eFuture (excluding accident insurance, decommissioning, waste disposal, transmission, risk of technology being not able to meet requirements): $85 and $130

        2. Include accident insurance, decommissioning and waste disposal: $86, $130

        3. Include transmission: $88, $150

        4. Include risk the technologies will not be available: $88, $200+ (depending on method of estimating consequences and probabilities).

        Anyone who disagrees with these figures could you please state your alternative figures and the authoritative sources for them?”

  74. Having spent many years in Canada and about half that time working on various aspect of the Canadian nuclear power, I have to admit a liking for the CANDUs. So, when I saw the below article this morning, I thought: now this is the right size for the Australian grid, super flexible, ideal for a country like Australia and many mid sized economies too.

    Canadian technology to innovate China fuel cycle

    A Framework Joint Venture Agreement has been signed between China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Candu Energy to build Advanced Fuel Cycle CANDU Reactor (AFCR) projects domestically and develop opportunities for that technology internationally. While the basic technology is Canadian, R&D at Qinshan in China since 2008 has turned a simple concept into technology which can now be utilised, so that the used fuel from four conventional reactors can fully supply one AFCR unit (as well as providing recycled plutonium for MOX). This means greatly reducing the task of managing used fuel and disposing of high-level wastes, and also significantly reducing China’s fresh uranium requirements.

    The AFCR is described as “a 700 MW Class Generation III reactor based on the highly successful CANDU 6 and Enhanced CANDU 6 (EC6) reactors with a number of adaptations … [allowing] it to use recycled uranium or thorium as fuel.” The present focus is on uranium recycled from conventional used fuel (RU) blended with depleted uranium (DU) to give natural uranium equivalent. Trials of this in one of the CANDU-6 units at Qinshan have been successful, and next year both those reactors will be modified to become full AFCRs. Then the joint venture plans to build new AFCR units in China and beyond.

    Setting the scene for the latest JV agreement, an expert panel hosted by the China Nuclear Energy Association praised the AFCR’s safety characteristics and said that it forms a synergy with China’s existing PWRs and that it is positioned to “promote the development of closed fuel cycle technologies and industrial development” in China.
    WNN 10/11/14. China FC”

  75. Stephen Segrest

    Concepts Discussed here at CE on Renewables and Reliability: As this blog thread winds down (and very few people will even read this), as we move forward in discussing very real concerns/problems/challenges of Renewables — Its important to also recognize that our World is changing.

    Our World today is much different than in say the 1970’s. Our Electric Utility paradigm/model is not just simply the centralized electric utility regulated monopoly — and System Planning techniques/approaches are changing to reflect this changing World (e.g., deregulated electricity markets).

    Concepts of “Reserves” today can be very different than in the 1970’s. Some technical approaches reflect a much more integrated and encompassing grid network, concepts of flexibility (e.g. combined cycle natural gas), Effective Load Carrying Capability (ELCC) of Renewables (an approach using probabilities), and . . . . .

    While we absolutely need to talk about problems/concerns/challenges of Renewables — we also need to talk about our changing World and how engineers are trying to address issues of Renewables (and engineering successes they’ve had).

    • Segrest, Oh, I see, So you start a new sub thread again to avoid having to acknowledge you were and are wrong!

      Again you’ve posted a whole pile of irrelevant nonsense, personal opinion and unsupported assertions. You’ve avoided addressing the key issue that renewables are not viable (except possible in small amounts in small niche applications). You’ve dodged it repeatedly. So let’s get this bit straight;

      The LCOE of a mostly nuclear powered electricity system is substantially less than the LCOE of a mostly renewable powered system.

      I’ve demonstrated this and you have avoided responding. There’s a pattern there. It’s one of the signs of intellectual dishonesty.

      Interesting to see that China has said it might try to peak its emissions by around 2030 and reach 20 non fossil fuel electricity generation by 2025. Of that, just 3% is wind and solar! Confirms what I’ve been saying all along, eh?

      I doubt you’d have the integrity to admit it though.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Peter Lang — What are you referring to as to “personal opinion” — why statements on intermittency? If this is (in your opinion) garbage — maybe you should take this up with MIT (which has written so much about this). Oh I forgot — engineers at MIT in your book are hacks!

      • Reread your comments and you’ll see that virtually everything you say is unsubstantiated personal opinion.

        I don’t take you seriously. I think you are intellectually dishonest. So, I am not wasting my time answerign questions that would take me a significant amout of time, when I realise you will just dismiss them with some baseless dismissive comment. You are clearly not objective, don’t understand what is policy relevant and what is not, don’t admit when you are wrong. You play games of diversion, distraction, FUD and won’t take any key point through to closure. I find that not the behaviours of a good engineer.

      • Peter

        Beta Blocker gives himself away with the following:

        “President Obama’s climate deal with China ought to give the abvocates of more renewables in California a big boost.”

        Methinks you’ve been debating with Podesta employees.

        Richard

      • Thanks Richard. It slowly dawned on me that he was an RE advocate trying to pretend he was not. Same with Stephen Segrest.

      • @PL: The LCOE of a mostly nuclear powered electricity system is substantially less than the LCOE of a mostly renewable powered system.

        I’ve demonstrated this and you have avoided responding.

        According to Table 1 on page 6 of this US Energy Information Administration analysis dated April 2014, the Total System LCOE in 2012 $/MWh is 96.1 for “Advanced Nuclear” and 80.3 for Wind.

        Hardly “substantially less”.

      • Vaughn Pratt,

        the Total System LCOE

        Sorry, you’ve misunderstood. Those figures are not total system LCOE. They are the LCOE for individual technologies. The non dispatchable are listed separately from the dispatchable technologies. You have to add the cost of back up or energy storage to the non dispatchabel (wind and solar) and the grid costs to all. For a high penetration of RE, as would be required to have a significant on CO2 emissions, the grid costs could be 10 times higher for renewables than nuclear – see Figure 7 here for one figure or go to other sources: http://oznucforum.customer.netspace.net.au/TP4PLang.pdf I can give you many.

        Please don’t waste time arguing about the assumptions behind LCOE estimates of individual technologies. They’ve been discussed to death on CE and elsewhere.

      • @PL: You have to add the cost of back up or energy storage to the non dispatchabel (wind and solar) and the grid costs to all.

        Certainly. However there is no single formula for these additional costs, which need to take into account the projected utilization rate and capacity value as governed by the local load shape and resource mix. For this reason it’s hard to do better than to list the dispatchable and non-dispatchables separately. You can’t just flat-out say that the dispatchables always do better than the non-dispatchables. The figure of $96.1/MWh for nuclear is as you rightly point out dispatchable, that of $80.3/MWh for wind is non-dispatchable. Whether dispatchability is sufficient to make $96.1 cheaper than $80.3 is heavily context-sensitive.

      • Vaughan Pratt.

        However there is no single formula for these additional costs, which need to take into account the projected utilization rate and capacity value as governed by the local load shape and resource mix.

        I do of course know all this. It’s just silly motherhood stuff. Read the link I gave you and go to the EDM links and read that, then read the AEMO 100% renewable study done as directed by the Labor-Green government.

        Sorry, every time you comment on energy you display you haven’t a clue about the subject. You have a hell of a lot of research to do. Read from the top of these two threads by Planning Engineer for starters, and read the relevant links. You’ve come in late and I have not interest in going through this all over this again for your benefit, especially since every previous discussion with you has shown you are a blind RE zealot and not in the slightest interested in a rational debate.

      • @PL: you are a blind RE zealot and not in the slightest interested in a rational debate.

        Well, I could debate like you do, but then others might not consider it rational. :)

        What Planning Engineer wrote in his posts made perfect sense to me. I found nothing in those posts inconsistent with anything I wrote here. If you disagree please quote verbatim the precise sentence of his that you feel contradicts something I wrote.

      • VP I didn’t say anything about “I found nothing in those posts inconsistent with anything I wrote here”. Another one of your strawman tactics. Another of your usual repugnant bait and switch tactics. Repetition of you intellectual dishonesty.

      • @PL: I didn’t say anything about “I found nothing in those posts inconsistent with anything I wrote here”.

        Yes you did, you said “Read from the top of these two threads by Planning Engineer for starters.” I’d already done that before you asked, and had come to the conclusion that there was nothing there that was inconsistent with anything I wrote here. I therefore asked you for a quote that would contradict this. Since you haven’t produced one my conclusion stands.

      • This is what I said in full:

        Vaughan Pratt.

        However there is no single formula for these additional costs, which need to take into account the projected utilization rate and capacity value as governed by the local load shape and resource mix.

        I do of course know all this. It’s just silly motherhood stuff. Read the link I gave you and go to the EDM links and read that, then read the AEMO 100% renewable study done as directed by the Labor-Green government.

        Sorry, every time you comment on energy you display you haven’t a clue about the subject. You have a hell of a lot of research to do. Read from the top of these two threads by Planning Engineer for starters, and read the relevant links. You’ve come in late and I have not interest in going through this all over this again for your benefit, especially since every previous discussion with you has shown you are a blind RE zealot and not in the slightest interested in a rational debate.

        You are a troll!

      • Based on the table I quoted there may well be circumstances under which non-dispatchables such as wind could be cheaper than nuclear. If you know of evidence to the contrary then quote it here directly. Merely providing a list of links is useless. Imagine if every Wikipedia article was simply a list of links to the relevant literature, plus reflections on the reader’s shortcomings.

  76. China to achieve 3% contribution to its electricity generation by 2030! Wow, eh!

    Many, including CNN, read that China would get 20 per cent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030, but China promised only 20 per cent would come from non-fossil fuels — and guess what? In the baseline scenario of the IEA, China already plans to get 18 per cent of its energy from non-fossil fuels and solar and wind will make up only about 3 per cent. The rest come from nuclear (5.5 per cent), hydro (3 per cent) and wood (6 per cent) which in 2030 will still power the stoves of more than 240 million Chinese, contributing to devastating indoor air pollution and killing more than a half-million people each year.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/kyoto-deja-vu-as-paris-becomes-copenhagen/story-fni1hfs5-1227122325610

  77. [Repost with correction]

    China to achieve 3% of its electricity generation from wind and solar by 2030! Wow, eh!

    Many, including CNN, read that China would get 20 per cent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030, but China promised only 20 per cent would come from non-fossil fuels — and guess what? In the baseline scenario of the IEA, China already plans to get 18 per cent of its energy from non-fossil fuels and solar and wind will make up only about 3 per cent. The rest come from nuclear (5.5 per cent), hydro (3 per cent) and wood (6 per cent) which in 2030 will still power the stoves of more than 240 million Chinese, contributing to devastating indoor air pollution and killing more than a half-million people each year.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/kyoto-deja-vu-as-paris-becomes-copenhagen/story-fni1hfs5-1227122325610

    • Stephen Segrest

      Peter Lang — What are the “big picture” safety issues that drive engineering costs so much higher in the U.S. versus China? I assume the cost discrepancy are safety issues.

      The Georgia Power new Vogtle units now have a estimated cost of $6,500 kW (and they are a long ways from completion — believe like 21 months behind schedule).

      • Getting down into the causes is a secondary issue . Let’s try and get to closure on the key issue first – i.e. a large proportion of nuclear is the least cost way to reduce emissions and renewables are not likely to be viable for other than minor niche market generation. Therefore, they are not where our efforts should be focused. They are a distraction. Incessantly advocating for them instead of nuclear is blocking progress.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Your continuance to frame current Renewables and nuclear power into an either/or argument is just plain crazy. There is no electric utility on this Planet that would build a nuclear power plant (say a $7,000 kW Vogtle uniti) to meet a peaking load with say, a 30% capacity factor.

      • Segrest,

        Your continuance to avoid the key, high level point is disappointing. Your dodging and weaving, and cherry picking of irrelevancies to avoid admitting your are wrong is intellectually dishonest.

        Grow up. I’ve answered your questions, now go and research and edeal with them.

  78. Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)

    Good morning, Judith. Here is a link to the reposting http://kajm.deviantart.com/art/Beware-the-Duck-Curve-494407891

    Hopefully my own comments, before and after the article, don’t disagree with your thoughts too much :P I am a Skeptic and we may not always be on the same page…..?

    I notice I forgot to repost the link back to here, doing that now.

  79. Stephen Segrest,

    Peter Lang — Give us the link to the assumptions (I’ll try and wade through them).

    I thought I’d given the links many times in previous comments. Here they are again.

    The LCOE, CO2 emissions factors and all the technical parameters and basis of costs are from the Australian Government report (You can also request they send you the Excel file; you can change parameters to your heart’s content and see the effects.
    Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, Australian Electricity Technology Assessment http://www.bree.gov.au/publications/australian-energy-technology-assessments . Use the 2012 version because it is complete then look at the 2013 Update. The CSIRO calculators use the figures from the 2013 Update. But many argue the directors have been captured by the powerful RE influences in Australia. There is strong anti-nuke sentiment in Australia.

    http://efuture.csiro.au/#scenarios
    Select ‘Default scenario’, and note the figures from 2050 from the three charts. Then select Nuclear permitted ‘Yes’ > ‘Build charts’ and note the equivalent figures from the three charts. Let’s stick to discussing this scenario first as a starting point.

    http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Energy/MyPower.aspx
    Note the proportions of each generator type the change in electricity bill and CO2 emissions to 2050. Then change to various mixes and compare the change in electricity price and CO2 emissions in 2050. Check that you agree with my figures for a start:

    Change to 2050 in electricity price and emissions by technology mix:

    1. 80% coal, 10% gas, 10% renewables, 0% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 15% and emissions increase = 21%

    2. 0% coal, 50% gas, 50% renewables, 0% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 19% and emissions decrease = 62%.

    3. 0% coal, 30% gas, 10% renewables, 60% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 15% and emissions decrease = 77%.

    4. 0% coal, 20% gas, 10% renewables, 70% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 17% and emissions decrease = 84%.

    5. 0% coal, 10% gas, 10% renewables, 80% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 20% and emissions decrease = 91%.

    Points to note:

    • For the same real cost increase to 2050 (i.e. 15%), BAU gives a 21% increase in emissions c.f. the nuclear option a 77% decrease in emissions (compare scenarios 1 and 3)

    • For a ~20% real cost increase, the renewables option gives 62% decrease c.f. nuclear 91% decrease.

    • These costs do not include the additional transmission and grid costs. If they did, the cost of renewables would be substantially higher.

    Conclusion: nuclear is the least cost way to make significant reductions in the emissions intensity of electricity.

    The difference is stark. Nuclear is far better.

    But progress to reduce emissions at least cost is being thwarted by the anti-nuclear activists.

    • In the interest of further “irrational debate”, here are four possible scenarios assuming no coal and no CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) based on the various possible slider settings of the online tool at

      http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Energy/MyPower.aspx

      Scenario A is with 10% gas, no renewables and 90% nuclear: 10/0/90
      Scenario B is with 50% gas, 50% renewables and no nuclear: 50/50/0
      Scenario C is with 40% gas, 60% renewables and no nuclear: 40/60/0
      Scenario D is with 60% gas, 40% renewables and no nuclear: 40/60/0

      A: 10/0/90: COST: +20%, CO2: −91%
      B: 50/50/0: COST: +19%, CO2: −62%
      C: 40/60/0: COST: +29%, CO2: −69%
      D: 60/40/0: COST: +14%, CO2: −54%
      .
      Scenario A is the one Peter Lang is promoting. It requires that Australians accept nuclear power stations, with everything that comes with that: getting the public to agree to it (what are the odds?), where to store the nuclear waste, risk of a nuclear power station accident, vulnerability to terrorist attack, the usual subsidies for nuclear power, and so on.

      Scenario B eliminates nuclear and splits the resource mix evenly between gas and renewables.

      Scenario C shifts 10% from gas to renewables while scenario D does the opposite shift, from renewables to gas.

      Granted scenario A is well ahead on carbon reduction.

      But scenario B also accomplishes much more carbon reduction than we’re likely to see from either the US or China any time soon.

      How big a difference to global CO2 will it make if Australia picks A over B?

      And scenario B is cheaper. Well, not by much, but it’s certainly not more expensive.

      The negative impact on Australia of going 90% nuclear will be out of all proportion to what many other countries are willing to spring for. Furthermore reducing CO2 by even 62%, let alone 91%, is way more than the US or China are proposing for the foreseeable future. Why should Australia stick its neck out for that extra 29% of CO2 reduction when the nuclear penalties are so severe that Australians have not to date been willing to go out on that limb? And is it really 91% with the nuclear option when you consider that cars will emit just as much CO2 as before—more likely it will be something like 50-60%.

      Scenario C gives the marginal return on investment of substituting 10% renewables for 10% gas. Cost increases by a further 10% but CO2 is reduced by a further 7%. In the other direction, scenario D reduces cost by 5% while increasing CO2 by 8%.

      A referendum on nuclear—yes or no—and on the preferred ratio of gas to renewables would be very interesting.

      • Pratt,

        More strawmen. More dishonesty. You never stop do you? We’ve been through all this. Go back and actually understand what I’ve said and then try to repeat it accurately.

      • You wrote “progress to reduce emissions at least cost is being thwarted by the anti-nuclear activists.” Your basis for this was your scenarios 3-5, the ones proposing 60-80% nuclear with cost increases of 15-20% and reduction emissions of 77-91%.

        But with my scenario D, 60% gas and 40% renewables, involving no nuclear at all, electricity bills increase only 14% while emissions decrease by 54%. So that would constitute progress to reduce emissions.

        You are right that more nuclear would result in lower cost (according to the calculator). However “thwarted by anti-nuclear activists” is an interesting way to describe the 350,000 participants in the 1985 anti-nuclear rally mentioned at

        http://www.japanfocus.org/-Lawrence_S_-Wittner/3179

        Unless the pro-nuclear activists listed at

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pro-nuclear_environmentalists

        can rally a similar crowd, a better description might be “democracy at work”.

        You also wrote “These costs do not include the additional transmission and grid costs. If they did, the cost of renewables would be substantially higher.” However that seems more like a criticism of the calculator. Where is this inaccuracy of the calculator documented and quantified?

      • Your basis for this was your scenarios 3-5

        WRONG!. Your assumption. Baseless. Dishonest. Misrepresentation. Another strawman.

        Ex professor Pratt resorts to trolling the internet. What a way to end a career, eh?

      • If that’s your strongest argument then I think we’re done here.

  80. The least cost way to achieve deep emissions reductions from electricity generation is with a high proportion of nuclear power. Hydro can also be effective and viable where the resources are available. However, other renewables are not viable, not sustainable and unlikely to be, except for small niche market roles. Therefore, they are unlikely to play much of a role in reducing global GHG emissions.

    Nuclear power will do the heavy lifting, just as is has been doing in France for the past 30 years where it has been supply in 75-85% of France’s electricity with its CO2 emissions just 15% of Germany’s and Denmark’s (the two poster child of the renewable energy advocates). All the evidence for these statements is included in the comments above along with supporting links to authoritative sites.

    Continually advocating renewables and repeating the the anti-nuke’s misinformation and scaremongering is delaying progress. The Progressives are blocking progress!.