For Cutting Carbon: Nukes or Renewables?

November 2, 2020

New study published in Nature: Renewables quicker, more reliable for cutting carbon.

Market Watch:

There’s a growing push for nuclear-power generation as a choice for countries trying to wean themselves off fossil fuels and reduce their carbon footprint. But new research suggests there are potential downsides.

For many scientists — and Bill Gates — nuclear energy is part of the answer to the world’s climate-change problem.

The market for nuclear power could triple by 2050 across the world, according to a recent study by Third Way, a U.S.-based think tank. There are more than 60 advanced reactor designs in development in the U.S., the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think tank, said in a paper.  

However, a recent study published in Nature Energy provides a different view. Scientists who conducted the study collected data from 123 countries over a 25-year period, examining how the introduction of either nuclear-power or renewable-energy sources affects each country’s levels of carbon emissions. 

The results show that a larger-scale national investment in nuclear-power plants not only fails to yield a significant reduction in carbon emissions, it actually causes higher emissions in poorer countries that implemented this strategy.

For renewables, the opposite is true — in certain large country samples, the relationship between renewable energy and reduction in CO2-emissions is up to seven times stronger than the corresponding relationship for nuclear power. It is interesting how consistent the results are across different time frames and country sets.

The study also found that trying to use both nuclear and renewable energy actually reduces the effectiveness of both, and that the “do everything” approach isn’t the most effective way to reduce a country’s carbon footprint.

The reason for this is that both energy sources require significant enhancements of electric-grid structures, as well as regulatory adaptations that later make it difficult for a country to switch to a different model. 

A heavily centralized nuclear option that requires significant initial investment is vastly different from small-scale distribution patterns and investment requirements that characterize renewables. Implementation of one over the other locks the country in a certain pattern that pushes out the alternative or makes it comparatively harder for it to take root. 

As a comment on the research, Benjamin K. Sovacool, professor of energy policy in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex Business School, said: “The evidence clearly points to nuclear being the least effective of the two broad carbon emissions abatement strategies, and coupled with its tendency not to co-exist well with its renewable alternative, this raises serious doubts about the wisdom of prioritizing investment in nuclear over renewable energy. Countries planning large-scale investments in new nuclear power are risking suppression of greater climate benefits from alternative renewable energy investments.”

While this seems to be a key moment for renewable-energy supporters, and a strong indication that we need to re-evaluate clean-energy postulates, it’s important to note that the study covers only the period between 1990 and 2014. A lot has happened in the past six years in terms of upgrades in design and efficiency of nuclear plants. 

Also, not all surveyed power plants had received the same level of maintenance — as a result, their efficiency may have been affected. Finally, scientists said that what they found was a correlation rather than direct causation

In short, more data are required before we can say for certain that nuclear energy needs to take a back seat in countries that prioritize carbon neutrality over energy efficiency.

Nature: Differences in Carbon Emissions Reductions between Countries Pursuing Renewable electricity versus Nuclear Power. (paywall)

When taken together with the finding that renewables seem importantly more positive for carbon abatement worldwide, important adverse implications arise for nuclear power. As nuclear is the evidently less generally favourable of the two broad carbon-emission abatement strategies, a tendency of nuclear not to coexist well with its renewable alternative does (all else being equal) raise doubts about the opportunity costs of investments in nuclear power rather than renewable energy. The direction of the cost and learning trends discussed here intensifies this point.

34 Responses to “For Cutting Carbon: Nukes or Renewables?”

    • greenman3610 Says:

      that is phenomenal, a variation on geothermal, and probably worthy of a post.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        see below

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        That’s what killed Mars, you know. The cooling and thickening of the crust, until its molten core shrunk and lost the magnetic properties that protected the planet from deadly solar irradiation. You start using this Eavor-Loop thing and in a billion years our planet will be unliveable!

  1. Kaj Luukko Says:

    Nuclear is a low-carbon energy source. Thus it is as effective in emission reduction as other low-carbon sources, like wind and solar. Actually, it’s more effective because it works 24/7 and it can easily be used to heat production also.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      As far as I can tell, the only way to get around the capital expenditures and project scales of nuclear is to have it implemented by a fiat government, like China or Russia. The Return on Investment takes too long for private sector investors or democratically elected budgeteers.

      In the US, the money is going to wind and PV solar, where the projects are up and running and profitable in a small fraction of the time it takes to site, negotiate and build a nuclear power plant. Wind and PV solar don’t need water or capital-intensive maintenance cycles, and are scalable based on need and budget.

      The difference between theory and practice is bigger in practice than it is in theory.

      As for being 24/7, remember that France had to shut down four nuclear reactors in 2018 during a heat wave because it was a heat wave. In the 2019 heat wave it had to shut down reactors again because of the coolant water source being too warm.

      • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

        Problems in search of solutions, to save the planet.


      • “… France had to shut down four nuclear reactors in 2018 during a heat wave … “

        To put that into perspective, France has 56 reactors at 18 power stations.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_France

        • J4Zonian Says:

          To put it into better perspective, how many solar parks and wind farms had to be shut down?

          If reactors use rivers for cooling, won’t they have to be shut down too because of heat? (As reactors already have been.)

          And what will the temperature be during heat waves in 10 years? 20?


          • Solar parks and wind farms shut themselves down on calm nights.

            Actually, those reactors can still be cooled with river water. they’re shut down because of temperatures of outgoing water.

            If there’s heat waves in 10 years, your going to need lots of electricity for AC, heat pumps and such.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            Mike seems to still not getting it, or pretending not to, mystifying as either one of those is. Duh, yes, it’s often because of outgoing water. No, they can’t always be cooled by river water, as that would kill a stretch of the river and/or not cool much. This happens more and more frequently. Yet more damage by nukes that can be avoided with clean safe renewable energy.

            Wind and solar are largely complementary. Early mornings and late afternoons/evenings are often peak times for wind, helping with the duck curve. Night is also often a strong time for wind but a low time for demand, which ARFs always “forget” is intermittent. And of course, geothermal, hydro, small amounts of biomass, etc. and ocean energies, especially tidal power locally, as well as distributed generation and many demand response strategies fill in gaps that aren’t filled by storage–batteries and pumped. (not needed yet in most places).

            Clearly we can provide many times the energy the world needs with 100% clean safe renewable energy. Denying this now just makes you look like the ideological assholic idiot you are. You’re accomplishing nothing but embarrassing yourself with this nonsense, although you must be used to that. Please stop anyway.


  2. This guy has pretty much debunked that Nature study by Sovacool:

    https://threader.app/thread/1313457739612459010

    A new article by Sovacool et. al. in Nature Energy claims nuclear energy is not associated with lowering GHG emissions while renewables are.

    The article’s analysis does not support this contention but rather reflects the dynamics of global energy poverty …

    To start, the authors admit that their study is correlation and not indicative of causation.

    However, they then base their analysis and conclusions on the inference of causation. Such logical leaps should not have made it past peer review. Here’s why:

    At the core the article just does a regression of non-transportation CO2 emissions per capita versus nuclear and renewable energy use.

    This is immediately suspect as nuclear and renewables are primarily for the electric sector

    In effect, what this choice means is that their selection criteria is comparing the 30 countries with nuclear power with most countries in the world.

    Countries with nuclear power are more likely to be wealthy and industrialized, and hence have higher non-power CO2 emissions

    Despite discussing wind and solar as renewables and making inferences about causation, the primary renewable in their data sets (1995-2004 and 2005-2014) is hydropower.

    As energy poor countries do not have industrial emissions and only have hydro, their regression appears to show renewables are better

    All it really shows is that energy poverty and not having industrial emissions means you do not have large CO2 emissions. That is not ground breaking and it does nothing to contribute to an analysis of comparative merits of different energy resources

    • Kaj Luukko Says:

      There are papers that claim CO2 emissions are not the cause of climate change. Then there are papers that claim nuclear power can not help to reduce CO2 emissions. Alex Gilbert just showed this paper of Sovacool is one of those.

      • indy222 Says:

        Which one, Kaj? The first is outright climate denialism, the second category is more controversial and worthy of careful study. One makes Sovocol completely unreliable, the latter category – not necessarily so.

        • Kaj Luukko Says:

          Well, it seems clear that this study from Sowacool, or at least a conclusion made out of it here, is flawed. There is a correlation but without causation.

          “Renewables quicker, more reliable for cutting carbon.”

          The study does not prove this.


      • Alex Gilbert explained it pretty clearly. I think there is a real conflict between nuclear and renewables that has become very tribal and Nature has picked its tribe.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      ARF trolls love them some Sovacool, just like they love em that Jacobson, cause they’ve been publicly argued with and the trolls can just point to that as if it means something. They ignore the DOZENS of other studies showing we can provide 100% clean safe renewable energy, hoping we don’t notice, I guess.

      And the studies are finally getting close to getting it right, in showing we can do it faster and cheaper than anyone snowed by the trolls believed possible 10 or 20 years ago. Not that it wasn’t obvious then, just obscured by insane idiots. The minds of the US have just been clogged with too much troll sputum, funded by fossil fuel corporations and right wing lunatics to understand this clearly.
      I certainly feel like I need a shower every time I have an exchange with Canman and his or her kin.

  3. indy222 Says:

    What no one seems to care about in this nuke/renewables debate, is the VALUE of UNTRAMPLED NATURE. The land and materials necessary for renewable is far larger than for modern MSR nuclear reactor designs and footprints. And I dismiss this paper claiming nuclear is least effective – it’s looking at OLD pressurized light water uranium reactors. It neglects the key fact that the major costs of nuclear have been financial and insurance -political. Their political, and that can change fast if we have the will. They’re not inherent to the nature of the energy source and engineering.

    However, the recent papers on high grade geothermal and technology that could tap it, is very encouraging. High grade GeoThermal can be the better replacement than modern MSR’s as the reliable and low bootprint on Nature that we need. I hope so. I’ll switch alliance from MSR’s to high grade geothermal if these studies are proven out. But I will always have huge regrets over utility scale solar taking over countless square miles of virgin land that supports ecosystems who also want that sunlight, just because of the carelessness of most people towards the Earth that gave them birth, and life.

    The opening scenes of “Blade Runner 2045” is not inspiring – solar thermal covering deserts everywhere through a hazy sky.

    Let’s get our knee of the neck of mother nature. Find low impact energy, not just non-carbon energy.

  4. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    There is the NASA paper saying the Antarctic ice cap is growing.
    There is Jacobsons (?) paper on required renewables per country that hates Finland.
    There are papers supporting gods and fairies FFS.
    A world running on renewables would be LOVERLY and FANTASYtic. Common sense and logical thought will show the impossibility of this. Stop arguing about, the equivalent, of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The world is cooking too fast for wishful thinking and ideology. Nuclear is a requirement for zero emissions, Live with it.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Right. Fuck the facts. An appeal to the existence of chaos and liars means reality doesn’t exist. So whatever Brent wants to be true is declared to be as true as any damn scientific study.

      Wull, hell, I’m convinced. Thanks for setting us straight, Brent.

      • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

        Brent wants to stop AGW by ANY method. You want to stop it with renewables because it is a lovely idea.. The UK plans to be carbon neutral by 2050, of which 60% will be renewable, maximum. That is fact, not wishful thinking. No need to thank me for being logical.

        • J4Zonian Says:

          Right. Fuck the facts—and the study some of us just read about somewhere—and logic and numeracy—that says it costs extra and takes longer to try to combine 2 incompatible systems, one of which involves more expensive, slower-to-build-and-pay-off-carbon-costs-of-construction technology.

          Well, OK, except for the new reactors that are proving so much better, faster, cheaper—like Hinkley Point, Flamanville, VC Summer… and the cost overruns, the bankruptcies, and the corruption and other scandals integral to the failed technology… Korea, China, the US, Toshiba, Areva—oops, New Areva, er, Orano, er…what is it now? Wow, their name changes are like Philip Morris’, Monsanto/Bayer/I.G. Farben, Union Carbide’s after Bhopal, Blackwater/Xe/etc. The School of the Americas…

          What are they all running from?

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            You believe the Antarctic ice cap is increasing?
            You believe saving the world is not worth the cost?

          • J4Zonian Says:

            What a complete ass you are.

            Nothing but deception, manipulation, and fallacy. I hope you’re getting paid for this because otherwise, what a complete waste of a life.


  5. Here’s a previous piece of work by Benjamin K Sovacool:

    Contextualizing avian mortality: A preliminary appraisal of bird and bat fatalities from wind, fossil-fuel, and nuclear electricity

    https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/enepol/v37y2009i6p2241-2248.html

    … wind farms killed approximately seven thousand birds in the United States in 2006 but nuclear plants killed about 327,000 …

    Paper is paywalled. I’d love to know how Nuclear killed all these birds?


    • Doing a bit of Google searching, I find this has been critiqued at Atomic Insights:

      https://atomicinsights.com/nukes-kill-more-birds-than-wind/

      They also published a response from Sovacool:

      https://atomicinsights.com/sovacool-vs-lorenzini/

      Sovacool makes estimates of birds killed by being poisoned at uranium mines and crashing into cooling towers and such. He does admit these are just estimates and more data is needed. I’d say he pushes these estimates as far as he thinks he can get away with and then some.

      • John Oneill Says:

        Sovacool’s estimate of bird fatalities from uranium mining was based on one case of poisoning of waterbirds in a COPPER mine tailings pond, and his impacts on cooling towers estimate on one case of a flock of geese hitting the cooling towers of a COAL plant. (In his defence, there was a nuclear plant next door, but it didn’t have any cooling towers – it uses river water. Also, after this one incident, the coal plant’s cooling towers were lit up, and no more bird deaths were reported.) Ben Sovacool has been putting out hit jobs on nuclear power for years, and his dubious scholarship is cited, probably without being read, by anyone wanting to boost their case for renewables. I haven’t looked at this study, but mention was made of greater reductions in CO2 emissions per head in countries adopting nuclear. Since the countries with a lot of nuclear ( or hydro ) usually had much lower emissions to start with, the renewables adopters could get a bigger percentage drop, and still be pushing out much more greenhouse gases.In any case, no country has over ten percent of its power from solar, and only two – Denmark and Uruguay – have a significant fraction from wind. Both are small nations that can import power, when the wind drops, from much bigger neighbours that don’t rely on wind. Getting rid of fossil fuels is a long game, and renewables are hardly out of the blocks yet.

        • J4Zonian Says:

          John: “his…scholarship is cited, probably without being read, by anyone wanting to boost their case for renewables. I haven’t looked at this study…” Enough said.
          “…but…” Hmmmm. More than enough. You might as well draw conclusions from surmises about what’s in the study you didn’t read…Oh, wait. You did.

          “Sovacool’s estimate of bird fatalities…”
          As opposed to the brilliant and painstakingly accurate science by those attributing bird deaths to windmills…

          Must be the cancer doing it.

          Or the rabbits.
          In Iowa: Wind Opponents Turn to Animal Cruelty
          climatecrocks[DOT]com/2017/11/08/in-iowa-wind-opponents-turn-to-animal-cruelty/

          The (mostly conservative) people grasping at nukes at least partly because they’ve been convinced by lying denial that clean safe renewable energy can provide all we need, seem to give up their love of the laughably tragically unfree market when the market is hard on technologies they favor. There seems to be some bigmanlymachine bias at work.

          Nukes are too expensive. The ones that exist can’t compete with wind, solar, hydro, geothermal. The ones that don’t exist—well, in an honest discussion, enough said. “Nukes are too expensive” is a fact that in such a fanatically capitalist society should be the end of the argument. That it isn’t reveals the lie behind conservative anti-renewable arguments—in fact, it reveals the lie behind conservative arguments about everything.

          Despite relentless ferocious attempts by fantastically rich and powerful men, governments, and corporations to stop them (even in the face of certain cataclysm without them) renewable sources provide more energy for both the US and the world than nukes do, and the gap is growing, though not nearly quickly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change and other ecological devastation.

          Denmark 47% wind electricity
          Germany 24%
          Uruguay 22.4%
          Curacao 22%
          Portugal 20.6%
          Spain 18%
          Nicaragua 16%
          Nordic grid 11%
          Costa Rica 10.5%
          UK 10%
          Sweden 10%
          Romania 10%
          Greece 9.5%
          Morocco 9.3%

          Beside their advantages in price, speed, democracy, ecological impact, etc. the strength of renewables is in their diversity, complementarity, and distribution. It’s common for anti-renewable trolls to pretend those are weaknesses, but Denmark is part of the Nordic grid, connected to Germany and thus to Spain and Portugal, and increasingly, North Africa, and soon—unless we continue blundering on against evil as stupidly as we have so far—to the Middle East and beyond. What lets Denmark get half, and soon more of its electricity from wind, including what’s temporarily primary energy, is those connections, and diversity, complementarity, and distributed generation.

          4 countries have mostly nuke grids; 3 of them (Hungary, Ukraine, and Slovakia) barely over 50%. At least 65 countries have grids mostly powered by renewables, 23 of them at or near 100%. More than 40 produce more RE than France does NE. Germany, 4th largest economy in the world and one of the countries with the most solar as a percentage of its grid, has terrible insolation,

          a clear indication that there’s far more to come and it will continue to get cheaper. The ARFs, anti-renewable fanatic nook boosters, deny the facts about both nooks and clean safe renewable energy using distractions, misdirections, and other lies.

          Nukes got big to try to save money and compete against gas and RE. But it turns out what grids need is not big inflexible things but small, quick, nimble generation. So now the industry’s touting small modular reactors. But they got big to compete, and S&W&B are all much cheaper now and even gas can’t compete with them. More than half the reactors in the US are already losing money, and the rest will join them soon as solar PV, CSP, onshore and offshore wind, geothermal, and battery prices keep dropping.

          Consumption of solar energy as a percentage of grids:
          Honduras 14.8%
          Israel 8.7%
          Germany 8.6%
          Chile 8.5%
          Australia 8.1%
          Greece 8.1%
          Italy 7.3%
          Japan 7.6%
          India 7.5%
          Malta 6.5%
          (IEA, IRENA data)

          Let’s not confuse the unconscionable failures of those in thrall to fossil fuel corporations with the potential of clean safe renewables in the very near future. Given the stakes, to work to stunt the growth of RE with deception, and then to criticize the technologies for not providing more energy is despicable weaponized projective identification.

          To ignore historical reality is no better. Nukes have been around for 70+ years, unable to outcompete dirty and destructive fossil fuels despite getting enormous subsidies on the same scale as fossils—both at more than 10 times that of renewables even including biofuel, which has gotten the vast majority of “renewable” subsidies even though it isn’t renewable. (It’s a money- and energy-laundering scam for fossil fuels.) Hydro has been competitive for a long time so there’s a lot of it. A harmonizable mix of clean safe renewable energy—sun, wind, earth (geothermal), batteries—has been around for less than 10 years in a form and at prices that could compete with those well-established, massively subsidized, externality-soaked fossil fuels [1]. Diversity and complementary of sources, distributed generation, and demand response, in addition to tech improvements and economies of scale, mean clean safe renewable energy can provide 100% of the energy we need, at lower cost and smaller harm than the current and any other possible system.

          Wind power has seen amazing drops in prices, but it’s been a long and slow fall compared to solar, which has dropped spectacularly in price. Its slower decline has made wind competitive longer, so more wind has been installed than solar, so far. But solar is about to explode—metaphorically.

          Several recent studies have confirmed what many other studies and plenty of experience have already showed us, that “By 2030 electricity systems comprised entirely of solar, wind and batteries (SWB) can provide both the cheapest power available and two to three times more total energy than the existing grid in the continental United States, and most populated regions globally, bankrupting coal, gas and nuclear power companies and slashing consumer costs dramatically.”
          http://www.rethinkx.com/energy

          Of course we also have hydro, geothermal, tidal, wave, and other clean safe renewable energies. And we have to use them all now because we have only 10 years to eliminate GHG emissions.

          [1] It only came into being when China assumed leadership for the world and built enough wind, solar, HSR, EV buses etc., to bring prices down so the psychopathic world of capitalist oligarchs would finally consider using them to prevent global chaos, suffering and destruction.

          New Study Shows How Clinging to Nuclear Power Means Climate Failure
          “By suppressing better ways to meet climate goals, evidence suggests entrenched commitments to nuclear power may actually be counterproductive”
          commondreams[DOT]org/news/2016/08/22/new-study-shows-how-clinging-nuclear-power-means-climate-failure


          • With the exception of special case Denmark, it doesn’t look like any of those countries you’ve listed has any chance of getting to 50% wind + solar, much less past.

            100% RE, for all practical purposes means wind, solar, batteries and transmission lines. Hydro is built out. Mark Jacobson’s extra penstocks don’t take into account things like flooding. That leaves batteries and wire which require enormous amounts of mining and expense (delusional amounts).

          • J4Zonian Says:

            Canman is pushing only idiotic cherry picking nonsense that contradicts facts already in evidence, to the point where this poster is obviously not only impervious to fact and reason but is also either lying or insane. S/he should have no more attention from anyone.

  6. leslie graham Says:

    I had this idea when I was about 12.
    Can’t believe it’s taken this long for such an obvious source of energy to become mainstream thought.

    Re nuclear. Far from constructing more of these useless dinosaur monsters we should be decommisioning those still functioning while we still have the skillset and the global social cohesion to pull it off. Can’t see anyone volunteering once we get to the every man for himself stage with global heating.

    • John Oneill Says:

      Maybe the engineers who also considered geothermal knew rather more about it than 12-year-old you ? Not knocking it – it’s making a quarter of the power in New Zealand’s North Island, about the same in north central Italy, 17% in Philipines, 5% in California. But those are all on tectonic plate boundaries, so the hot rock is more easily accessible. Drilling techniques have improved, true, but the fracking industry has still been losing money hand over fist. The payback on drilling an oil or gas fracking well is a lot faster than just mining heat, as a power plant does. Current geothermal plants don’t have a very high quality heat source, either – about the same as a light water reactor, 320 C, or worse. Most have only about 10% Carnot efficiency – ninety percent of their energy output is waste heat. Drilling a leach mine for uranium extracts the same metal that is providing much of the heat in transuranic-bearing rocks like granite. Once mined, that metal can be used anywhere in the world, and much more efficently than just waiting for the incredibly slow process of natural decay. Australia has thousands of natural gas and coal seam gas wells, but gets more energy from only four uranium mines – and exports it all. All attempts at geothermal power from hot rocks have so far failed, for reasons of cost or distance from markets.

  7. J4Zonian Says:

    We obviously can supply all the energy the world needs with 100% clean safe renewable energy.

    In fact we could provide the whole world’s current use with solar panels on 18% of the Sahara, OR a few hundred square miles of well-spaced wind turbines in the North Atlantic, OR geothermal and hydro—all with only existing technology. However, the areas required for the 1st 2 are constantly shrinking as the technologies improve. Obviously those would all be exceedingly dumb ideas but they make clear that the only thing stopping us is the emotional illness of the right wing.
    uploads[DOT]disquscdn[DOT]com/images/9e52e7eb832469099d13248e75898615186223cd7e0f9a43568266d5143c5336.jpg

    Hocketable renewable energies include solar PV (including offshore PV), CSP, onshore and offshore wind, hydropower, geothermal, tidal, wave, OTEC, biomass/biogas/etc. in small amounts, clothesline paradox solar like passive and active solar heated and cooled water and space, and yes, clotheslines, as well as non-geothermal geothermal ACES (Annual Cycle energy System)…

    Solar obviously peaks in midday and summer; wind typically in early morning, late afternoon and evening, late at night, and winter, complementing solar and providing power for the duck curve. Hydro peaks in spring or the rainy season but is mostly dispatchable; more so as it’s strategically curtailed as W&S increase. Geothermal and bio energies are dispatchable; tidal, though small now, adds another rhythm to the mix locally.
    (Scotland, eg. (69% Wind, 20% Hydro, 1% PV) could get half its power from Pentland Firth tidal power alone. Sells the excess to the UK. Orkney Island, north of Scotland, provides 103% of its power from RE and sells the excess to Scotland.)

    Batteries are only needed at very high levels of wind and solar, if then, and in much smaller amounts than most people suppose. EVs can function as mobile batteries, time-shifting electricity as needed; when the batteries’ mobile life is over they can be used as stationary grid batteries and then recycled. Combining the instant responses of batteries with the larger capacity of hydroelectric adjustments and pumped storage means in about 5 years gas and oil will be as obsolete as coal and nukes are now.

    To add to the variety of source-rhythms, geographic distribution of generation catches different time zones and weather patterns, and demand response can fill in any gaps.

    The marginal capacity factor of offshore wind is now about 65% and still growing as the turbines grow. Storage, including batteries, pumped hydro storage and others proposed, make everything dispatchable, and there are lots more hydro sites, including tens of thousands of existing small dams, many of which can be torn down while the best sites are developed for power, hugely improving overall stream health in the US.

    530,000 potential sites for pumped hydro energy storage
    cleantechnica[DOT]com/2019/04/01/pumped-hydro-energy-storage-poised-for-global-domination/

    Densely populated Germany, 4th biggest economy in the world with not much hydro, is already at 47% RE, with potential for more solar and even more offshore wind. While not a world leader in private EVs it does have twice the US’s EV market share and almost infinitely better mass transit—much more efficient.

    Denmark (66% RE including 47% W) is part of the Nordic grid (66% RE grid, 33% RE primary energy), which with cold, dark Sweden (60%), Norway (98%), and Finland (44%) serves 30 million people in some of the harshest, most RE-unfriendly territory in the world, separated into numerous areas by Arctic seas. Through government policies, Norway has the highest EV ownership rate in the world, among the cleanest-running EVs in the world, and a 65% EV market share. Sweden’s, a much larger market, is 30%. So they’re rapidly increasing the already high RE% of their primary energy.

    Iceland is not part of the Nordic grid but has all those harsh conditions plus tininess—so no distributed generation. 100% RE grid, 81% RE primary energy with a 25% and increasing EV market share so even that little bit of fossil use is shrinking. Despite its distinct lack of bauxite mines the country uses its cheap, rock-steady geothermal and hydro to make aluminum, an electricity-intensive process. It gives Iceland the highest per capita use of electricity in the world, but it’s good for foreign exchange. More offshore wind potential than they could ever use. The US used to and could again as RE drops the price of electricity. nytimes[DOT]com/2017/07/01/us/politics/american-companies-still-make-aluminum-in-iceland.html

    Kenya (Geo ~45, Hydro ~39, Wind ~13) isn’t in the Ring of Fire any more than Iceland is but they both rely on geothermal, as could many other countries. Nicaragua and Costa Rica also use geothermal; Nicaragua (56% RE grid, great solar and considerable wind potential) is one of few with a higher RE% of primary energy than electricity—75%. British Columbia could provide half its electricity with geothermal. And so on.

    The RE of Spain (43%) and Portugal (63%), the Iberian grid, is mostly hydro and wind, including offshore. But their obvious strength is solar, and now that it’s so cheap they can build like not crazy they’ll be able to get to 40 or 50% solar and increase wind correspondingly. Spain leads the world in CSP, and there’s almost Iceland-level potential for more offshore wind. Several of GE’s new Haliade-X turbines, biggest in the world, are scheduled to go in there, IIRC.
    https://fotopaulmartens.netcam.nl/futureland.php

    Chile tripled its RE generation in 5 years; it’s now at 43%, with vast geothermal potential, some of the best solar potential in the world in the Atacama desert, and considerable wind. It could easily supply many times its total energy needs from those 3 but it also gets nearly 30% of its power from hydro.

    A number of Central and South American countries provide most of their electricity with clean safe renewable energy; they’ve begun to explore the possibility of a Nordic-type grid. Costa Rica (100), Belize (97), El Salvador (62) Guatemala (68) Panama (68) Venezuela (66) Paraguay (99.99), Uruguay (95) Colombia (82) Brazil (83) and Ecuador (60), most with high hydro percentages but plenty of solar, fair amounts of wind and often geothermal potential. Nations of the Caribbean RE initiative, with very low RE now but solar and wind potential many times their possible use—could also connect. An astounding 50 MW wind turbine with folding blades for storm protection is in the design stage, expected around 2025, and could be of use in the area.

    There are also a few such nascent multi-national grids in West Africa and other places.

    Japan (15%) has much better insolation than Germany, phenomenal geothermal potential, and even more offshore wind resources now becoming usable with the ever-deeper capability of floating wind turbines. Between the 3 it should be able to reach 100% RE but it might be cheaper to connect to the mainland and share.

    With 4 times the population in almost exactly the same area as the US, China’s grid is “only” 25% but it leads the world in amount of solar PV built and sold, wind technology built and sold, several grid technologies, EV batteries. Of the world’s solar companies, 8 of the biggest 10 are Chinese; and the Chinese wind turbine builder Goldwind is the world’s 2nd largest. It produces more wind power than nuke, and has upgraded 80% of its grid to accommodate wind. China has 70% of the world’s solar water heating capacity. Of the world’s 450,000 EV buses, 98% are Chinese and they build a London-sized fleet of 5000 more every 5 weeks. (The US has 300.) Though it’s the poorest country to have any high speed rail—a crucial climate technology—it has ⅔ of the world’s mileage and even more of its ridership. It went from 70 miles to 17,000 in 10 years, (at the same time it was building its buses, solar, wind, and new grid) and still has more HSR mileage planned than Europe has now—5000 miles. China’s massive investment in all these technologies, starting decades ago, has brought their prices down more than any other country, making it possible for the rest of the world to deploy them.

    It’s reforested an area the size of France.

    While China leads the world away from catastrophe and into the clean energy economy of the 21st century, US Republicans have given everything away: US manufacturing; US credibility and leadership; any pretense at US democracy. They’ve given away the long lead time we had to solve the crisis with conventional means; squandered it lying to the public and only admitting what they were forced to—not by reality, which for decades they’ve seemed to take sadistic delight in ignoring—but by polls; fear of losing power being their main motivation. They’re still operating decades behind the progression of the chaos they’ve caused, only offering now what might have worked if started forcefully half a century ago. Like Philip II of Spain, they’ve taken an empire at the height of its wealth, power and influence and set it on an almost irrevocable course to being a 3rd world country, if it survives at all.

    Canada (60% H, 6% W) has tremendous on and offshore wind potential, a fair amount of solar with even greater potential for efficiency, and the ability to help itself and the US by connecting their grids better and continuing to develop its resources. The US, the Saudi Arabia of varied complementary clean safe renewable resources with the most fantastic wealth in the world to harvest them, is at a pitiful 18.5% grid, (stuck down there with other petro-states) and ~10% primary energy, because of the billions of dollars spent by fossil fuel, agro-chemical, ICEV, rail** and other corporations and right wing political groups, denying climate catastrophe, lying about fossil and fissile fuels and clean safe renewable energy, misleading the public, destroying trust in science, buying governments, and funding internet trolls like the ones here, to spread lies created by the jackal pack of right wing economic PR firms masquerading as think tanks.

    After decades of intransigent bipartisan resistance by that lunatic cabal (Kochs and Kennedys, eg.) there are finally a couple of very small wind farms off the Atlantic coast. But huge new ones are planned and being built—2400 MW worth in the next 5 years and that’s almost certainly a very low estimate. (It better be.) East coast offshore wind could supply more than 4 times the Eastern seaboard’s electricity just with current technology. In all, even using turbines current 10 years ago (practically Medieval technology the way wind has advanced) on and offshore wind could have supplied 9 times the US’s electrical use. 1500 turbines (of roughly that age?) were recently replaced in Altamont Pass, California, with just 82 new ones that provide the same total amount of electricity. With today’s technology we could supply—as a wild guess—20 or 40 times the US’s total energy needs just with domestic wind power.

    Melding East Coast (and soon, West Coast) offshore wind with Southwest solar PV and CSP, Pacific Northwest hydro and geothermal, Midwest wind, and local resources from everywhere, we could supply probably 100 times US energy needs with clean safe renewable energy sources in a few decades. Recent studies have shown it’s possible in 10 years, as we need to for civilization to survive, and it would actually provide more and better jobs than the energy industry does now, while reducing the cost of energy.

    This information shows the way out. Why isn’t it known by every person in the connected world? Why are people allowed to lie on sites whose purpose is supposedly to inform readers about ecological matters, especially climate cataclysm?

    People should read the mind-blowing study at the rethinkx link above. Also see Tony Seba’s equally flabbergasting video
    https://climatecrocks.com/2017/09/16/the-weekend-wonk-tony-seba-on-disruptive-energy-technologies/

    ** because 30% of rail’s business in the US has been hauling coal.


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