Touch here for mobile friendly version

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:



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).