|Figure 1: 2017 Technology Neutral Low Carbon Solution from Joint IEA and IRENA Study for Germany|
Jesse Jenkins and Samuel Thernstrom just published a paper that might be described as a meta study of meta studies:
As it turns out, dispatchable baseload significantly decreases the cost and technical challenge of decarbonizing power systems. Huh, could that be why we use it in virtually all power systems today? There are only three low carbon, dispatchable power sources: nuclear, biomass, and hydro.In addition to the 30 papers directly reviewed, this literature review also covers other review articles (Cochran, Mai, and Bazilian 2014; Morrison et al. 2015) that summarize findings from an additional 21 previously published studies, as well as Kriegler et al. (2014) and Krey et al. (2014), which describe results from a detailed inter-model comparison exercise involving 18 energy economic and integrated assessment models.
All three are resisted by major environmental groups but only two out of the three are resisted for rational reasons:
- Biomass displaces carbon sinks while usurping land needed for food production and biodiversity and in most cases isn't low carbon at all.
- Hydro destroys thousands of miles of river ecosystems (think end of the Amazon, extinct river dolphins and salmon runs) and can produce massive amounts of methane as submerged vegetation decomposes. In addition, it can't always be used for baseload depending on precipitation patterns, and to ice the cake, dams eventually silt up.
This paper was, in turn, written about in Utility Dive where Mark Jacobson (mastermind behind a hypothetical global zero-carbon energy master plan based purely on wind, hydro, and solar), was asked to weigh in on the critique of his work found in said paper.
Jenkins is fundamentally wrong about nuclear generation, Jacobson told Utility Dive. “In the U.S., nuclear is absolutely not dispatchable.”