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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Simon Holmes à Court thinks 100% Renewable Energy has been Demonstrated to be Possible in Australia

More Twitter activity from Simon.

He starts by asking:
nuclear twitter: does anyone have a simple LCoE for a nuclear power station? i'd love to better understand the economics.
If he's an energy expert, I have to wonder why he's asking for data from strangers on Twitter. You wouldn't see the likes of James Hansen doing that for one of his many papers published in Science and elsewhere. And as is almost always the case with his tweets, you're never sure what he is trying to say. Did he mean an equation? An example calculation? Examples of LCOE for nuclear? A spreadsheet?

It's not just me. Also not sure what he is asking for, Suzy Waldman handed him a link to Lazards which listed various LCOEs and an EIA link that explained the concept of LCOE.


I, in turn, responded to Suzy:



Tom Biegler responds to me:

Thanks. And I don't suppose they include load leveling costs to turn wind and solar into a product that users might like, want and need.
I, in turn, respond to him with a link to an Energy Matters article that tries (but apparently often fails) to explain why you can't compare the LCOE of sporadic sources to baseload sources:
Exactly ...if you want to compare LCOE of wind and solar to baseload nuclear LCOE, you find what it would cost to make them do baseload (answer offshore wind in UK is six times more expensive than Hinkley). 
Missing the point of the Energy Matters article entirely, Simon posts a typically cryptic response devoid of capitalization:
russ, this is nonsense. the market does not demand flat supply. demand for baseload is dropping fast in [inserts flag icon that I am guessing in hindsight is for Australia].
I responded as best I could, given the information at hand:
Both of your sentences are completely nonsensical. You will now ask me, like you did last time, why they are nonsensical and I will tell you because they make no sense. The minimum level of demand on an electrical grid over a span of time (definition of base load) is not dropping at all.
Simon responds with:

So, in the end, what Simon was trying to say is that a deeply biased pro wind and solar report has a graph in it that predicts, in theory, a reduction in the need for power stations that are not capable of varying their output on demand in sun-baked Australia. Part of the confusion was that he failed to say where he was talking about. I was thinking globally, he was just talking about Australia.


According to the report, minimum demand will (in theory) shift from the wee hours of the night to midday and at a lower value, all thanks to everyone having solar panels on their roofs. Ergo, you will need fewer power stations that don't vary their output. On the other hand, you still need enough power stations to meet that same minimum demand in the wee hours of the night, but because they will need to throttle down to the lower minimum demand in the day, they must be power stations capable of significant variation in their output (typically gas). The last thing you want to do regarding emissions, is replace your nuclear with fossil fuels or other low carbon sources because the former is step backwards and the latter is no forward movement at all.


And finally Simon responds to Tom:

When Simon says "baseload gen has already disappeared from SA," I think he is trying to say to us that the power stations not designed to vary their output that had been supplying the base load have been replaced by power stations that can vary their output upon demand (typically gas) to supply the base load.

When Simon says that the Australian Energy Market Operator has looked at 100% renewable energy (he means wind and solar) and has  "demonstrated it to be possible" (whatever that means), I'm guessing that he is mistaking the theoretical predictions in a heavily biased report, for reality. Australia does not get 100% of its electricity, let alone its energy, from wind and solar. You'd think, given the peer review of Jacobson's work, that these guys would be a little more circumspect.




And then, there's the cost:



Source: http://www.afr.com/news/australian-households-pay-highest-power-prices-in-world-20170804-gxp58a


Source: https://theconversation.com/australian-household-electricity-prices-may-be-25-higher-than-official-reports-84681

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Environmental Progress--The Power to Decarbonize

Figure 1

Environmental Progress has a new study out that I found very compelling.  It's just raw data arranged in a manner that paints a global picture. Critics can't punch holes in it by attacking assumptions chosen because it doesn't have any. In a nutshell, it shows a strong global correlation between nuclear energy use and lower carbon intensity, but no such correlation between wind and solar.

It took some effort for me to understand how the graphic shown in Figure 2 below was derived. To make sense of it I had to drop down into the appendices to look at the data for each country:
In service to transparency, we have reproduced all 68 national carbon intensity of energy charts used in this analysis in our appendix, in addition to publishing the aggregated national charts.
Each dot represents a given country's carbon intensity at a given level of annual nuclear, or wind, or hydro, or solar output. Each data point used to plot the thick curve is a kind of average of the dots at a given annual electricity output for nuclear, or wind, or hydro, or solar. The carbon intensity in countries can grow or retract with the addition or reduction in any given energy source (nuclear, wind, solar, or hydro). In Japan, for example, a reduction in nuclear caused an increase in carbon intensity.

I put my anti-nuclear hat on to find a way to punch holes in the results. Could the different horizontal scales be hiding something? Are plots using the same scale hiding something in the clutter for wind and solar? To resolve those issues I overlaid the nuclear and wind graphs at the same scale and magnified the results to make them more visible (see Figure 1).

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Simon Holmes à Court would support fast, cheap, safe, small, flexible nuclear

This post is motivated by a Tweet by Simon who very much thinks he has an open mind about nuclear energy ...like all antinuclearists, but like all antinuclearists, he really doesn't. He's like the creationist who would love to believe the theory of evolution ...if the data would only support it. Classic case of self-delusion combined with a little cognitive dissonance.

His Twitter homepage intro:
interesting theory — data me up! 'likes' are bookmarks not endorsements. ATTN: loopy left & RWNJs: if you think i'm one, you're almost certainly the other.
Bottom line, I would not have had to "data him up"  if he really had an open mind because he would have already sought out the data. Below, he gives an attaboy to a supporting tweeted chart critiquing nuclear. I gave him a few other charts to think about, but no love for me (link):



His supporter then posted a strawman argument coupled with another graph and got another attaboy. Those graphs shown below are actually a positive sign showing how the combination of low carbon sources has joined forces but this guy somehow sees this as evidence that nuclear should not be part of the mix:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Now for the bad news: 75% decline in insect biomass over 27 years


In a nutshell, no insects = no ecosystem.

I recently took a trip to the Brazilian Cerrado and Pantanal. Click on this link to see photos and videos of some insects I saw there. I'll add a few random insect photos from other places I've been as well. Click on any photo to open a higher-resolution slideshow.

Just in from youngest daughter
doing research in Madagascar

Monbiot's article is worth a quick read unless you're prone to depression (last of the above links):
Every year I collected dozens of species of caterpillars and watched them grow and pupate and hatch. This year I tried to find some caterpillars for my children to raise. I spent the whole summer looking and, aside from the cabbage whites on our broccoli plants, found nothing in the wild but one garden tiger larva. Yes, one caterpillar in one year. I could scarcely believe what I was seeing – or rather, not seeing.
He suggested a few solutions, like limiting pesticide use (while acknowledging that we still need to grow food). GMO corn has reduced the use of insecticides for rootworm and the corn borer, but the anti-GMO crowd (similar in many ways to the anti-nuclear one) will resist that idea to their graves. And then there are the layers of complexity, like the permanent mandated consumption of corn ethanol put into place via rare bipartisan cooperation.

He made a salient point about the growing of food for livestock. From The Breakthrough Institute (co-founded by Shellenberger) Where’s the Fake Beef? Eating Meatless Meat Is Safe for You and the Planet:
The Impossible Burger—the meatless burger that bleeds—has recently been lambasted by some environmental activists for using genetic engineering to make the burger taste and look like meat. It’s a strange accusation, to say the least. The environmental impacts of meat production are large and complicated; reducing them will require modern tools and technologies. And few innovations have as large a potential as meatless meat to mitigate ecological impacts while meeting global demand.
Click on the video below which I shot in the heart of the Pantanal "nature preserve."




Friday, October 20, 2017

First the good news; South Korea’s nuclear will stay online thanks, I strongly suspect, in large part to the efforts of Michael Shellenberger and Environmental Progress


Update 10/25/2017: Moon announced that he still plans to phase out nuclear even though they will finish the two under construction, which makes no sense. Build two brand new power stations only to close them down? Call me a cynic, but he probably thought the citizen group would vote against finishing the reactors, taking the all the heat (used as scapegoats). Plan backfired, so, time will tell.

Read more at Environmental Progress here.

In a nutshell, by vowing to close all nuclear power stations, a South Korean politician took advantage of the anti-nuclear fear-mongering by environmental groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, the NRDC, and the UCS (to name a few) to get elected. However, the decision to close South Korea's nuclear power stations was turned over to a citizen committee which just voted 60 to 40 in favor of keeping them open finishing the ones they have under construction.

This is [still] huge. The South Korean company KEPCO (unlike their American counterpart) is at the top of its learning curve when it comes to building nuclear power stations, which means they can build it more cheaply than wind and solar when one accounts for not only the LCOE, but the costs of solar and wind system integration and the impact of sporadic weather dependent gluts on wholesale market power prices.

And more importantly, they have proven themselves fully capable of building it that cheaply for countries like the UAE thousands of miles away.


Wind and solar have a role to play in power grids. Nuclear certainly can’t do it all. Using a Naval task force as an analogy for those of you especially susceptible to feelings of nationalism and for those of you more susceptible to endorphin release from things not powered with fossil fuels, you wouldn’t want to fight the battle against climate change without your nuclear powered aircraft carriers.

More as to why this victory is so important can be found in the following articles:

Is smaller better for nuclear energy?

Michael Shellenberger: Nuclear Industry Must Change — Or Die

Now for the bad news: Warning of 'ecological Armageddon' after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

More on that later.