Energy Quagmire Centers on Europe, Asia

October 7, 2021

France 24 piece above, which starts at about :45, is one of the better explainers I’ve seen.
There is also a nice podcast here.

It’s going to be a question about what winter looks like.

Energy markets going nuts right now, in what might be a preview of the roller coaster that we’ll be on during this unprecedented technological transition.

Globally, gas is in tight supply, with Europe and China in most jeopardy, but energy is a global market, and we’re all going to feel it, however things shake out.
We will see an attempt to spin things agains the energy transition, although as the expert interviewed above points out, the rational market response to soaring fossil fuel prices will be increased momentum towards renewables.
It really is a critical moment in the energy transition, and it’s important to understand the story of what is going on.
Here’s a primer:

– Gas has been underperforming for investors for a decade, despite continued promises of rich returns
– demand crashed due to the Covid crisis, and a lot of wells, here and abroad were shut down
– as demand ramped up, gas companies have remained focused on paying off long suffering investors rather thanopening or re-opening wells, which is expensive
– US now has significant Liquid gas (LNG) export capacity which means US consumers will compete with Asia and Europe on price – something that was not true even 5 years ago, and that arbitrage has begun
– Europe is over-dependent on Russia for gas, and the Russians are not responding to requests for more supply (although today Vladimir Putin promised to loosen up supplies)
UK is massively screwed up due to Brexit
– climate enhanced weather extremes are battering all sectors, from Norwegian hydro, which has suffered from low snowfall, a period of low winds this past summer, which is clearing out now, harsh winter last year in Central Asia, which battered gas stores, drought in Brazil slamming hydro, and hurricane Ida, which damaged wells in the Gulf

– ironically, one of the major complaints is that gas stores (ie energy storage) are low going in to winter. Energy storage is of course, key to clean energy, but we’ve always been told gas is always there when you turn it on. Turns out that’s not so, as the Texas situation last year showed.

Tom Friedman in New York Times:

Every so often the tectonic geopolitical plates that hold up the world economy suddenly shift in ways that can rattle and destabilize everything on the surface. That’s happening right now in the energy sphere.

Several forces are coming together that could make Vladimir Putin the king of Europe, enable Iran to thumb its nose at America and build an atomic bomb, and disrupt European power markets enough that the upcoming U.N. climate conference in Glasgow could suffer blackouts owing to too little clean energy.

Yes, this is a big one.

Natural gas and coal prices in Europe and Asia just hit their highest levels on record, oil prices in America hit a seven-year high and U.S. gasoline prices are up $1 a gallon from last year. If this winter is as bad as some experts predict — with some in the poor and middle classes unable to heat their homes — I fear we’ll see a populist backlash to the whole climate/green movement. You can already smell that coming in Britain.

I am a fan of the financial newsletter Blain’s Morning Porridge, written by a smart, irreverent market strategist in London, Bill Blain. Last Thursday he bluntly summed up the energy situation for the U.K. and Europe this way:

This winter — people are going to die of cold. As the price of energy goes higher, the costs will fall disproportionately upon the poorest in society. Income inequalities will be dramatically exposed as the most vulnerable in society face a stark choice: heat or eat. … This winter the U.K. is likely to be on its knees, begging energy from wherever it’s available. Europe will be in as much trouble. The Middle East will be charging whatever they can get away with, and the capacity to deliver is limited. … And Vladimir Putin can’t wait. … He will invite each European leader to plead their case individually, menacingly asking each leader why he should open the gas taps to their nation specifically. … Make no mistake, this winter is going to be shocking. Be aware.

How did we get here? In truth, it’s a good-news-bad-news story.

The good news is that every major economy has signed onto reducing its carbon footprint by phasing out dirtier fuels like coal to heat homes and to power industries. The bad news is that most nations are doing it in totally uncoordinated ways, from the top down, and before the market has produced sufficient clean renewables like wind, solar and hydro.

If you don’t have enough renewables but you want to go green, the next best thing is natural gas, which emits about half as much C0₂ as coal (as long as methane is not released in the extraction process). But there is not enough of this transition fuel to go around. So, everyone is scrambling to get more, which is why the European Union’s biggest pipeline gas supplier — Russia — is now in the catbird seat and prices are skyrocketing along with blackouts.

As Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Sept. 27, when it comes to natural gas, “inventories at European storage facilities are at historically low levels for this time of year. Pipeline flows from Russia and Norway have been limited. That’s worrying as calmer weather has reduced output from wind turbines, while Europe’s aging nuclear plants are being phased out or are more prone to outages — making gas even more necessary. No wonder European gas prices surged by almost 500 percent in the past year and are trading near record.”

But it’s not just Europe. This energy crunch could pinch ceramics, steel, aluminum, glass and cement suppliers in China, the story added, while it presents households in Brazil with eye-popping power bills because low river water flows have slashed hydropower output. And pandemic-related supply chain problems for coal are making the problem worse.

But how did the bad-news side of this story emerge so fast?

Blame Covid-19. First, the pandemic erupted and signaled to every major economy that we were headed for a deep recession. This sent prices of all kinds of commodities, including oil and gas, into downward spirals.

This, in turn, led banks to choke off investment in new natural gas capacity and crude wells after seven years of already declining investments in these hydrocarbons because of lousy returns.

But the economy snapped back — thanks to government stimulus programs — far faster than anticipated. And so, too, did demand for energy. But this industry does not ramp up quickly. So, there was not enough natural gas, let alone renewables, to fill in the gap.

America has enough oil and natural gas to meet its own needs for now, but its ability to export liquefied natural gas to help others is limited, especially when every utility in Europe and Asia is trying to meet newly minted environmental, social and governance standards for clean energy and therefore is desperate to import natural gas.

When every country jumps in at once, the price goes crazy. Or the lights go out.

Don’t get me wrong. I am as green as ever. But I’m not a nice green. I am a mean green. Achieving the scale of clean energy that we need requires not only wind, solar and hydro, but also a carbon tax in every major industrial economy, nuclear power and natural gas as a bridge. If you oppose all those, you’re not serious about what scientists tell us needs to be done right now — put in place enough noncarbon-emitting fuels to manage the destructive aspects of climate change that have become unavoidable, so we can avoid those that would be unmanageable.

Sadly, in an overreaction to the Fukushima nuclear accident, Germany decided in 2011 to phase out all of its nuclear power by 2022 — nuclear power stations that in the year 2000 generated 29.5 percent of Germany’s power generation mix. All of that has to be replaced by wind, solar, hydro and natural gas, and there is just not enough now.

As Bill Gates points out in his smart book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” the only way to reach our climate targets is to shift production of all the big heavy industries, like steel, cement and automobiles, as well as how we heat our homes and power our cars, to electricity generated from clean energy. Safe and affordable nuclear power has to be part of our mix because, Gates argues, “it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day.”

Meanwhile, though, this energy crisis is coinciding with the stalemate in the talks between the U.S. and Iran about restoring the nuclear deal that Donald Trump recklessly tore up in 2018 — without any alternative plan to curb Iran’s nuclear program. To pressure us, Iran has resumed enriching uranium to levels such that U.S. officials now believe it could be only a few months, or less, away from having enough fissile material for a single bomb.

It would take much longer for Iran to build a warhead and delivery system, but some U.S. officials believe that Iran just wants to make itself a threshold nuclear power, like Japan, where it would stay just a few turns of the screw away from actually having a bomb. This would give it all the deterrence it needs. Both Israel and America have vowed not to let Iran get that close to the doorstep of a nuclear weapon. Alas, we are entering crunchtime.

But what if the U.S. or Israel feels it has to strike Iran’s nuclear program in the middle of what could be the worst energy winter since 1973? And what if Iran responds by firing at U.S. or Western oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, where Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, resides? Oil and gas prices will go into the stratosphere. So, Iran suddenly has new leverage: Hit us and you bankrupt the world.

If I can figure that out, the Iranians can.

Little darling — it’s gonna be a long, cold, crazy winter.

31 Responses to “Energy Quagmire Centers on Europe, Asia”

  1. Ann Says:

    Hi Peter.
    I am grateful that you continue to do the work of informing us of situations and projections that most news sources never cover! This one was particularly sobering.

    Is there someplace I can look to find various heating systems compared in terms of efficiency, carbon consequences, relative cost of installation and use? I know there is LOTS of information out there, but do you know where I could start and find information in a relatively easy to understand fashion?
    Thanks so much,

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I literally just had a heat pump HVAC installed in my 1750sf home this week (powered up on Thursday) to replace my AC+gas furnace.

      In terms of efficiency learn about SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration) and HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) ratings.

      Heat pumps are also judged on how loud their compressors are, and as a general rule compressors optimized to be quiet aren’t as efficient.

      Independent of the HP unit itself, much of the cost may be related to reconfiguring ductwork, how weird your attic is, insulation issues, etc. I had mine done as part of a bigger set of upgrades managed by a rather up$cale contractor I’ve used before that has a super-reliable reputation, so consider this the high end of costs you could ever see:

      HVAC scope:
      Remove old HVAC system
      Install a Variable Speed Heat Pump: Bryant Evolution Heat Pump with Dehumidification, Silent Operation, 5-stage Compressor, Variable Speed Motors, Smart Phone/WiFi Thermostat.
      Rebuild supply – metal plenum with exterior fiberglass insulation (R8)
      Includes minor ductwork to shorten sags and eliminate kinks.
      Filter base and filter (4″ Honeywell).
      Total – $12,500

      Note that, because of refrigerant recapture issues, you need to have a professional remove (recycle) your old AC unit, rather than just have Bubba-Bob take it away.

  2. toddinnorway Says:

    Peter, the period in Europe of the ‘wind drought’ could have been completely alleviated by PV if only much more had been in place. The ‘wind drought’ of Aug-Sep corresponded to a period of decreased cloudiness/increased sunniness.

    In other words, PV and wind complement each well across hours, days, weeks, months and seasons. The solution to the current energy problem would have been Europe having about 50 GW more PV than it has today.

    If Europe wishes to reduce its dependence on gas/coal/nuclear more, it needs another 300-500 GW of PV in addition to planned offshore wind buildout.

    • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

      PV is mostly only productive for a few hours a day. Massive increase will result in massive over supply as is happening here. Besides these ‘to be addressed’ details, the weather gods will screw you for hubris!

      • toddinnorway Says:

        Hyper-cheap battery storage is on the way. All that excess PV will get stored very cost-effectively for later use, either same day or days later.

        ‘Jaramillo, former director of Tesla Motors’ powertrain business and director of Tesla Energy, co-founded Form Energy to pursue what he called “the biggest opportunity on the grid for energy storage”: creating a battery that when paired with renewables can cost-effectively replace fossil fuels at scale.

        The company’s first contract for a pilot project has been signed with Minnesota utility Great River Energy. That 1MW system is expected to be online in late 2023 and Jaramillo told this site wider deployment of the iron-air technology will be possible the following year. ‘

        • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

          Consider the case of 100% renewables. Two to three weeks of little to no wind generation of a (at least 50%) major supply for ALL of Europe. Feel free to calculate that storage equivalent. The amount beggars the brain and is effectively impossible. Renewables are the ideal, but wishful thinking is dangerous.

          • toddinnorway Says:

            Form Energy is promoting an iron-air battery with all-in CAPEX of 20 USD/kWh. There is no cost or material limit to using this. Storage time of hundreds of hours.

            ESS is delivering its first full-scale, slightly more advanced, iron-saltwater battery with all-in CAPEX of <30 USD/kWh. Again, no material limits or cost limits. Storage time 12 hours.

            There is no brain beggaring required. I already personally own 64 kWh of battery storage in my EV. This will keep my fridge, freezer and lights on for days in a pinch. If the electronics were set up for it, like they already are in a Nissan Leaf.

            These three battery solutions together solve the problem you state. It does require building much more capacity of wind and PV than is needed 'on average' in order to manage the various occasional mismatches between instantaneous production and demand. But do not forget- it is always windy and sunny somewhere. A high-capacity long-range grid is also a part of the solution.

            And finally, I would like to introduce you to Brent J-S, who wrote in a comment below that 'Here in Sth Oz the ‘regulators’ can, and have, shut down the states solar (overall 17% of state supply including household systems ) because of excess supply.'

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            Double piffle. Your battery can maintain things for days in a pinch, not for weeks or seasons. Note 3 weeks low wind across ALL Europe. Wind or sun somewhere does NOT mean power Everywhere. These facts are so obvious, so basic, why do people blithe keep denying them.
            Do have a good day, despite the lack of consensus.

          • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

            Longer-term and seasonal backup storage requires the lowest tech out there (gravitational/kinetics), but of course at lower efficiency and higher cost. We’ll transition away from national FF reserves to stored energy reserves over time.

            The advantage of all power being grid-based, rather than a mix of grid, coal trains, tank farms, pipelines, and tanker trucks is that there is one interface that new sources have to be compatible with, and the issue of transport will be electrons rather than massive molecules.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            Once again flabbergastingly dunderheaded refusal to understand—or pretending to not understand—the obvious. There’s not much wind and solar on the grid yet.* There will be more. Then—try to follow along—there will be shorter periods of need/supply mismatch and much less perceived (never real; see above) need for future storage.

            *There’s not much because it’s only been acceptably cheap to the psychopathic profit-driven rulers for a few years.** They tried to stop it because it doesn’t satisfy their addiction to domination. They did slow it down by decades but couldn’t stop it, because their own economic system, set up to create a hierarchy they could claw their way to the top of, has run amok.

            **Yet another example of weaponized projective identification, or the I told you so! fallacy. Make it so, then blame the victim.

      • toddinnorway Says:

        Peter covered the new long-term battery storage breakthrough here

        • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

          When and if it works, I shall cheer. Until it is up at scale it rests with fusion etc.

          • Mark Mev Says:

            Now you have gone too far. Comparing anything to “fusion will be ready in 20 years” warrants your expulsion from all further comments.

      • Mark Mev Says:

        California PV produces on average its peak around 1:30PM with its 10% corners at 11Am and 5PM roughly. 6 hours is not a few hours per day. Maybe you like to use the worse state, Alaska, for your number. Which is 2-3 hours. The oversupply is temporary, as batteries and green hydrogen increase their penetration this decade.

        • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

          Piffle! The vast majority of PV output is limited to a few hours’ and that only when the sun shines. Can tell when it is winter by the drop in my panel’s output. Here in Sth Oz the ‘regulators’ can, and have, shut down the states solar (overall 17% of state supply including household systems ) because of excess supply. As supply increases, there will be an increasing situation of severe under and over supply. Really crap out the economics. Batteries are brilliant except for long term storage. Personally have hopes for hydrogen despite the BS, wank and greenwashing around.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        PV is mostly only productive for a few hours a day.

        Aye, that’s true, and at European latitudes not nearly as intense as the tropics. But also remember that when the fuel is provided it’s free, unlike the market controls and shipping/transfer costs of fossil fuels. That “free fuel” from our favorite fission reactor compensates for a lot of the downside.

        • jfon Says:

          ‘Nothin ain’t worth nothin but it’s free’ . Sunshine is free, you just have to buy the land it’s built on, the panels, the replacement inverters at ten years, the batteries, the transcontinental grid to keep you going in winter, the solar panels at the other end of that grid, the goodwill of whoever controls the switch on those foreign power sources ..

          • J4Zonian Says:

            And yet solar is still, along with wind and beaten only by efficiency, the cheapest energy source of all, in fact, the cheapest large-scale energy source ever. Even with batteries, still cheaper than new nukes, old nukes, new coal, old coal, new gas, and over most of the world now, even old gas.

            Obviously most of that stuff jfon says someone has to buy already exists, nd someone has. Solar panels can go on a third of the buildings in the world that were bought for other reasons; now with panels, soon applied like paint and in transparent applications in windows. Now let’s see, does the grid already exist? Um…

            But I do know that distributed solar takes less transmission than any other energy source except muscle power.

            Don’t know if inverters need to be replaced after 10 years, if so no doubt there will soon be some that don’t. Know what? I had to replace some clothespins once. And yet, shockingly, I can still afford to hang my clothes on the line.

            The trolls: Sputter, um, throat-clearing, well, um… You have to do maintenance on human systems yet they continue to exist? How does that work? Certainly it doesn’t work that way with nukes, which continue to run on, providing heat and power forever with nobody doin nothin, just like at the Fukushima Perpetual Immotion Hole and the click-bait Chernobyl geiger counter testing range. And the site of the Browns Ferry memorial comedy of errors We almost lost Athens Plaque. And all the other potentially horrific accident sites.

            Good will of OPEC did someone say? Venezuela? The repressive government in Nigeria? (Oh no, never mind, he’s one of ours. Resource curse working in our favor there. Yay.) And uranium? Well, there’s good old mates right wing government in Australia, also one of ours; Kazakhstan not so much… Russia, Namibia, Niger…eh. South Africa? US Native Americans, Canadian First Peoples… oops, maybe shouldna treated em that way. Oh hell, we always got corruption and desperation working for us…

          • jfon Says:

            According to Lazard’s levelised cost of energy, the median case for old nuclear -$29 a MWh – is the same as the best case for new solar. That’s for thin film utility scale, without storage or tax incentives, single axis tracking.
            New nuclear is much higher, but so is rooftop residential solar. Distributed solar doesn’t need much transmission if it’s on your roof,and you’re not worried when or how much you get. Proposals for powerlines from Australia to Singapore, or Morocco to England, suggest some people do worry, but they haven’t thought very hard about it.
            Most uranium mining these days is leach mining – a couple of boreholes are sunk to where dissolved uranium came out of solution about two billion years ago, after the Great Oxygenation Event. Water with acid or bicarbonate is pumped down one hole and back out the other, the metal extracted with resin beads, rinse and repeat. No worries about dust, radon, or rockfall.
            Interesting times in Europe, where the new Green Party energy minister in Belgium is pushing to replace the nukes that make over half the country’s power – and give it the lowest power footprint in the ‘hood, barring France – with … renewables ? Hell no, subsidised gas, and any Greenies who question the course are shunned as pronukers.
            John ONeill

          • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

            All power plants with plumbing and moving parts require more maintenance than any solar plant, and must purchase fuel, too. I’m not saying that solar is everything, but it can fill batteries with pretty damn cheap energy when the sun is out, and that means a lot to people who make money selling power on the grid.

            Another advantage of solar in Texas is more covered parking lots. 😉

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Russia’s Gazprom, a key supplier of gas to China, calmed fears that a fire at a major gas processing plant could worsen the situation, saying it was able to continue exporting gas to China as normal.

      I definitely wouldn’t put it past Putin to reduce domestic gas supplies in order to continue to get that revenue from exports to China and Europe.

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    OT, but the last story on the France 24 video was about the European flower growers diversifying and rebounding. That story mentioned how local producers in the 1990s were hit by the jump in imported flowers, including from Kenya. The trend in Kenya and other African nations to growing flowers for export, while clearly a money-maker in good economic times, turned out to be unsustainable: Not only were they “exporting water” in the form of flowers, but they were left with products that wouldn’t keep in storage and that they couldn’t eat. (One analysis showed that much of the corporate profit in exporting flowers turned into weapons imports, to boot.)

    Now, back to energy….

  4. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    How much more power do one million wind turbines produce than one turbine, when there is no wind?

    • J4Zonian Says:

      “How much more power do one million wind turbines produce than one turbine…?”

      A lot more, because you can’t keep a million wind turbines in one place. You have to spread them out, and that is the basic concept called distributed generation. That involves yes, sprreeaading them out so even if the wind isn’t blowing on one turbine it’s still blowing on others.

      There’s always wind. There’s always geothermal. So far there’s always been water. And on a big grid like I keep telling the trolls we need, and they keep ignoring, there’s solar within reach more than half the time, and numerous ways to store energy from all those—yes, even for seasons. And oddly enough, it seems when there’s less wind and water there’s almost always more sun! And of course, if you can’t find wind in the North Sea, water in Scandinavia, and sun in MENA, there’s something wrong with you. But we knew that.

      When are the fossil and fissile fueled trolls going to admit that the only reason there’s not enough clean safe renewable power on the grid to supply everything we need already is because the fossil and fissile fueled psychopathic right wing has used tens of billions of dollars to stop it, but once enough is built, enough energy will flow?

      When are they going to admit that clean safe renewable energy sources work together, so the trolls’ inevitable tactic of attacking one source and pretending that’s all there is, is both irrational and despicable? When are they going to admit that power can be hocketed on a grid with renewable energy—with varied complementary sources, distributed generation, storage, demand response, and back-up sources just like we have now for fossil and fissile fuels (only cheaper, cleaner, and better)?

      None of this is really so difficult a concept that they can’t understand it, especially after being told a dozen times. So it must be that they refuse to understand it, just like the climate denying delayalists, evolution deniers, birthers and violent insurrectionist maganiacs refuse to accept reality. And it’s also obvious they’re lying because despite many times the concept has been explained to the trolls and they still ask questions meant to cherry pick and deceive as if they never heard of distributed energy and were getting paid not to understand it or even try.

      Of course there’s wind. Can they possibly think we’re so stupid as to accept the premise of such a blatantly dishonest question? Or do they know they’re going to lose every argument but just keep doing it because it delays as well as if they won? They know nuclear reactors are an unsupportable dangerous and expensive technology, and the only possible excuse to use it is one denies that clean safe renewable energy can do the job. But we know it can; dozens of countries, dozens of studies, and the most basic logic and reasoning say so, so all they have is lies they know won’t convince, but will delay action anyway. Given the stakes, what kind of sick, monstrous people would do that? Or all they all just delusional?

  5. J4Zonian Says:

    jfon can’t be serious. The $29 etc. marginal cost figures are irrelevant nonsense, a synthesis of gas, coal & nuke energy factoids & unwarranted assumptions that make them meaningless.[1] The chart clearly shows the relatively real price of nuclear (excluding all the things they exclude, so really, it’s higher) in the $129-198 bar. It will never be $129 again; nuke costs are mostly at the high end of the range already, & still rising as surely as clean safe renewable energy costs are at the low end of theirs, still dropping—so fast they’re lower than when the chart was done at which time they were lower than when the data was collected. Decommissioning costs, which hit nukes by far the hardest and still have never been fully accounted for afaik, hit C,O&G next hardest and S&W hardly at all, are almost certain to go up tremendously by the time today’s facilities are being laid off (if the costs ever get paid [2]). Once all costs are included, including existing & sought after subsidies/externalities—without which nukes couldn’t exist—it becomes obvious nukes just aren’t viable even economically, let alone any other way.

    In the real world, ¾ of nukes in the US are losing money because they’re unable to compete against gas, S&W. And now, Lazard and almost everyone else is saying gas can no longer compete with S&W in ⅔ of the world. I the real world, clean safe renewable energy prices are often lower than any of the major institutions’ estimates. The better someplace is for wind, solar, geothermal, etc, the more likely it will be cheaper. The US has loooooads of great places, and a lot of the world has cheap labor. Putting solar in Germany, the UK, Maine… accounts for a lot of the high end of such estimates. [3]

    “renewables are starting to “outshine” gas” The London-based Financial Times
    “We used to say some day solar and wind power would be competitive with conventional generation. Well, now it is some day.” George Bilicic, Lazard global head of power, energy & infrastructure
    … Large wind farms and solar plants are now cost-competitive with gas-fired power in many parts of the US even without subsidy, according to Lazard, raising the prospect of a fundamental shift in the country’s energy market.” [4]

    There’s not a single nuke in the US & I’m guessing, the world, w/ adequate insurance for their real long-tail risk. If they had to buy it like every other business, every reactor in the US at least, would shut down this week, priced out of existence by even a tiny admission of their real threat. Instead, w/ massive bribes as in Ohio, revolving doors, captured government—let alone agencies—run-o-the-mill corruption, & ideology that valorizes addiction to domination, (including the military connection as at Hinckey) corrupt governments don’t just let them get by w/ hoping nothing bad happens as an alternative insurance plan; they tax their non-rich constituent/victims and give it to the nuke corporations and oligarchs. That’s an utterly insane policy for such a monumentally dangerous technology.

    Each time the inevitable happens again, the public is likely to be stuck paying a trillion dollars or more. Or worse, going along with that ideology by not paying—deciding, as we have over & over amid crumbling infrastructure & increasing climate disasters, to simply let people suffer & die. [2] That degrades the viability of US & global civilization (such as they are) instead of improving them by outlawing a deadly technology & corrupt, psychopathic industry. That industry is based on a fundamentally wrong premise that’s no more than a symptom of a mental illness; to keep it around on the dole based on another fundamental deception about clean safe renewable energy offends climate activists around the world. That it doesn’t offend conservatives, who above all believe in a dog-eat-dog world in which everyone should stand alone, (until it’s something that demonstrates dominance even more than naked capitalism, that is) reveals a lot of disturbing things about them & their ideology.

    A hocketed mix of mostly solar and wind (S&W) with other clean safe renewable energy sources is clearly cheaper than new nuclear and will continue to get more so as new nukes get expensiver, in addition to being better in every other way including the all-important faster-to-build way. In almost of the world W&S are already cheaper even with storage. If the lack of transmission is factored in, rooftop solar is considerably cheaper than Lazard’s simple LCOE suggests, too, & it furthers the crucial goals of making the energy system more democratic & allowing more utility solar to be integrated.[3] The ever-lower price of onshore & offshore wind, PV, CSP, geothermal, tidal, & batteries, mean investments for F&FFs can only be gotten by corruption & insanity, because any of it built now is virtually guaranteed to be a stranded asset w/in a decade.

    The Hinckey reactor, eg, isn’t finished & may never be; if it is, it will be billions over budget & decades late. But corrupt wangling & military connections got it a deal: a price for its electricity—for 35 years after it’s finished!—that solar & wind are already beating by 50-100%. UK & world citizens will be reamed in a wide variety of ways on that & every other nuclear deal from now on.

    And just in case anyone forgot: onshore & offshore wind, PV, CSP, geothermal, and batteries are all still dropping rapidly in price. They’ll all double in capacity at least several more times, price dropping at least 20% with each doubling [4], so most likely they’ll all drop at least 60% more, although given the past few decades’ experience & the technological advances happening, that’s an extremely conservative estimate. It’s more likely to be 80-90%.

    [1] The “Selected renewable energy generation technologies are cost-competitive with conventional generation technologies under certain circumstances” note on Lazard’s chart, when clearly most RE technologies are already cheaper than Fossil & Fissile Fuels &, as ARFs constantly need reminding, are quickly dropping in price, gives a hint as to Lazard’s bias. They’re not as infamous as IEA or EIA for that pro-F&FF, anti-RE bias but now & then it shows, even if it’s only an unconscious assumption that what is will continue.

    “High end incorporates 90% carbon capture and storage.”
    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Yeah, good one.

    [2] US Nuclear Site Cleanup Underfunded By Up To $70 Billion

    [3] ”At an auction in Chile [in 2018], a solar+storage project won at $34.40/MWh, which is a third lower than the lowest Lazard LCOE estimates for solar alone.”
    David Roberts


  6. J4Zonian Says:

    Splitting this messed up parts and some footnotes. “I the real world should be “IN the…” “The word “all” was left out: “almost all…”

    Coal and gas have so many cons going, like self-insurance, shell corporations, debt & financing cons, etc. that whatever Lazard’s analysis assumes, the numbers there are crap as well, and nooclear bookkeeping boollshitt over capital cost overruns and latenesses, assumptions about completion and profit, etc. makes that a big con as well. So any new nukes are non-viable & unacceptable, & I see that you’ve admitted that: (“New nuclear is much higher”) so we’re only arguing about how fast to shut down the old ones. In the US they’re mostly unsafe because they’re old—well, first because they’re nukes, doubly because they’re old, and trebly because they’re in the US, where corruption is endemic & the fuel industry has made it absolutely clear they cannot be trusted even to say what day it is.

    Read Michael Mann on long tail risk for climate; a lot of it holds true for nukes. The small but significant chance of utterly catastrophic failure makes using nukes simply insane, especially when we have another choice & it’s not just safer, cheaper, & faster, it’s better in every way.

    So the hundred nukes in the US are it for the foreseeable future, & some—because of decrepitness, or proximity to population, nature, culture, or transport routes, obviously need to be shut down asap & replaced with clean safe renewable energy, efficiency, & wiser lives.

    I can’t help it if some people misrepresent themselves as environmentalists when they’re clearly not, or if people do & say stupid & irrational things. That’s the whole business strategy behind the US breakthrough boys’ arguments (Shellenberger, Bjorn McBorgerson, et al). It gets them attention from the conservative media (aka the media) & when repeated enough, their lies—including that they’re environmentalists when they’re not—seem credible enough to people who don’t know any better or are collaborating with the scam.

    “and you’re not worried when or how much you get.” Another bullshit argument, just a meaningless attacking phrase stuck in to get people to unconsciously draw false conclusions. Once again telling a compound lie about a non-problem denying 1) that it was solved yeeeeears ago & 2) that it has nothing to do with the potential of a clean safe renewable energy system to provide all we need. Wow, it’s just like some climate denying delayalist inventor-type nutcase arguing for the 1,000th time that the laws of thermodynamics invalidate the greenhouse effect, or even more to the point, implying that the fact that scientists get grants to study climate invalidates the 98%+ consensus & the more than 300,000 peer-reviewed papers in agreement on it.

    “they haven’t thought very hard about it” Yet more ridiculous fact-free ad hominem chickenshit, again casting aspersions by insinuation, implying that anyone who disagrees with jfon must not be thinking.

    The Duhpartment
    I’m well aware that people in the nuke industry don’t worry about contamination through the entire fuel cycle; that’s a huge part of the problem! If they did they’d stop it and get into the clean safe renewable energy business. That jfon doesn’t know that, or pretends not to, is a clear indication of how far gone s/he is on the subject.

    Rooftop solar and home batteries make a clean grid vastly more affordable
    “Distributed energy is not an alternative to big power plants, but a complement.”
    David Roberts
    So like the whole RE mix, utility & rooftop solar (which includes much cheaper commercial and industrial roofs) must be considered together for price. The parts of the hocketed mix can’t be taken in isolation (except at rare times they do, will, & are intended to operate that way). Clearly learning from their recent bout with climate denying delayalism, ARFs continually try to disparage CSRE by trying to slice off each part to attack it as if it operates in isolation. That’s both a disingenuous rhetorical tactic & a strategy for preventing the only workable set of solutions to climate catastrophe, as Koch, Exxon, ALEC, Republicans et al do in twisting the law to restrict wind or solar, lying & manipulating people to defeat transit proposals, & lying about nukes.

    REFERRING TO: Last paragraph of 1st part.
    “costs fall by 20% every time capacity is doubled.”

    Solar’s been going down at about 28%/doubling


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