Blowout week 29

Wind power is very much in the news again from flaming turbines to loss making wind investments. I kick off with the half yearly report from Prof Bruno Burger at the Frauhhofer Institue. Germany’s electricity exports are growing, a clear sign that they cannot consume all they produce. What will happen if this is replicated throughout Europe?


The electricity exports increased in 2014. In the first half of the record year 2013, the export surplus to the neighboring European countries was 14.4 TWh. During the same period in 2014 already approx. 18 TWh were reached. If this trend continues until the end of the year, Germany will achieve a third record in a row in electricity exports. The bulk of the exports are sent to the Netherlands, followed by Austria, Switzerland and Poland. Some of these countries transmit the electricity directly to third party countries. For example, the Netherlands acts as a transit country for Belgium and the UK, Switzerland transmits electricity mainly to Italy.

Hat tip A. C. Osborne; sizeable pdf. The EM news gathering staff are on unpaid leave, but there is still an eclectic mix of 18 links + below the fold.

Pierre L. Gosselin (No Tricks): German Wind Turbine Investors Dissolve Operating Company After 13 Years Of Poor Returns, Technical Failures

Unfortunately outputs promised by wind turbine manufacturers and proponents have fallen short of expectations. Moreover, high maintenance costs have in many cases eliminated profits and resulted in losses for investors. As generous as the subsidies may be, profit from wind can be elusive.

Hat tip A. C. Osborne

Finadvice: Development And Integration Of Renewable Energy: Lessons Learned From Germany

Over the last decade, well-intentioned policymakers in Germany and other European countries created renewable energy policies with generous subsidies that have slowly revealed themselves to be unsustainable, resulting in profound, unintended consequences for all industry stakeholders. While these policies have created an impressive roll-out of renewable energy resources, they have also clearly generated disequilibrium in the power markets, resulting in significant increases in energy prices to most users, as well as value destruction for all stakeholders: consumers, renewable companies, electric utilities, financial institutions, and investors.

Telegraph: Wind turbine fires ‘ten times more common than thought’, experts warn

Study backed by Imperial College finds wind turbines prone to “catastrophic” fires but the true scale of the problem is unknown

Telegraph: Giant wind farm will cost millions and ruin Brighton view

Over the next four years, visitors to Brighton and the Sussex coast are in for a shock. Visible all the way from Beachy Head to the Isle of Wight, they will see 100 or more colossal wind turbines rising up to 700ft into the sky, nearly 200ft higher than Blackpool Tower. These will form one of the world’s largest wind farms, covering more than 60sq miles of the English Channel.

Clive Best:  Oxygen – provider of life

Current levels of photosynthesis on earth would deplete all CO2 in the atmosphere in just 9 years

The Economist: A costly solitude

IF SCOTLAND becomes independent the early going will be good. The new country will be a wealthy one: at over £20,000 ($33,000), within Britain its output per person was only behind London and the South East in 2012 (see chart 1). Edinburgh, the new capital, and its oil hub, Aberdeen, are both cities where wages are growing fast, a rarity in Britain. But trouble would soon strike. Scotland’s long-term economic prospects are dire: it would be a rich country, set to get poorer quickly.

Paul Holmwood: 90 Degrees? Take Off That Jumper!

Public Health England, yet another Quango, issued its “Heatwave Plan 2014″ earlier in the year, for which I am sure we are all very grateful.

If anyone has not read it, and is worried they might melt or something, here is a list of their main tips:

Telegraph: Cabinet reshuffle: Chancellor’s allies Matt Hancock and Amber Rudd join energy department

Two allies of George Osborne have been appointed as ministers in the Department of Energy and Climate Change, prompting suggestions the Treasury is seeking to tighten its grip on green energy spending.

City A.M.: The wrong renewables: Why relying on offshore wind will prove a costly error

Politicians everywhere have to decide between satisfying long-term national needs and achieving short-term electoral rewards. It is hard to imagine a more worrying sign of this conflict – as a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) last month helped highlight – than the present policy confusion in the UK over renewable energy.

Click Green: Greg Barker quits as Energy Minister as Paterson sacked as Environment Secretary

Greg Barker has quit his position as Energy Minister as the Prime Minister completes the reshuffle of his Government Cabinet, which includes the sacking of Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

Mr Barker is understood to have informed PM David Cameron of his surprise decision to resign over the weekend. He will also stand down as an MP at next year’s general election.

Telegraph: People who claim to worry about climate change use more electricity

People who say they are concerned about climate change use more electricity than those who say the issue is ‘too far away to worry about’, government-commissioned study finds.

MIT Technology Review: How to Clean the Gas and Oil Industries’ Most Contaminated Water

In a nondescript site in Midland, Texas, an inexpensive new process is cleaning up some of the most contaminated water around—the extremely salty stuff that comes up with oil at wells. By the end of next month the technology is expected to be chugging 500,000 gallons per day, furnishing water that’s sufficiently clean to use in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and natural gas production.

Guardian: Westminster energy debate: ‘The pace and trajectory of change is timid’

If there’s one thing that everyone involved in the debate over the UK’s energy needs can agree on, it’s that we need to move faster towards a low carbon future. Not only are there challenging climate change targets to hit, there is also worrying lack of certainty over investment in low carbon technology which could deter investment and hit economic growth.

Independent: Fears the UK’s ageing fleet of gas-powered plants will not be able to cope when wind levels are low

Britain risks widespread electricity blackouts unless it improves the network’s ability to balance intermittent supply from renewable energy sources, a leading engineer has warned.

Coverage of Hugh Sharman’s recent guest post on Energy Matters

Herald Scotland: Energy crisis warning after power imported from England

In a departure from historical trends, Scotland imported power from down south on 162 days over the past three years.

On 10 occasions, Scotland imported English power constantly throughout the day to meet its needs.

The previously unreported National Grid figures show Scotland continues to export far more power to England than it imports from south of the Border.

My selection of stories posted by Luis de Sousa At The Edge of Time. Luis writes:

There are moments like this, when war seems to burst everywhere at the same time. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Libya, Ukraine, all filled up front pages throughout the week; and these are just the conflicts the media picks up, there is plenty of other gory stuff going on in Africa, for instance. Tension mounts in a world that is definitely going through a period of re-distribution of power and influence.

In Ukraine the conflict deepened significantly with the killing of hundreds of foreign civilians. The western media blames it on the russophone separatists, while the Russian media blames it on the Ukrainian army. As Aeschylus long ago wrote, “truth is the first casualty of war”. Along the way, adequate supplies of gas to Europe the coming winter seem ever more menaced.

Apart from Ukraine, Iraq remains the most threatening case to our energy predicament. The picture is starting to look really bleak for the Baghdad government. Lacking foreign intervention a victory in this war seems a remote possibility.

Luis has many links to reports on conflicts that may impact energy supplies around the world. This one caught my eye.

Bloomberg: Saudis on Alert at Iraq Border for Conflict Spillover

Saudi Arabia is deploying men and high-tech machinery to boost vigilance along its 800 kilometer (500-mile) northern border with Iraq, where it faces security threats from both sides in a deepening sectarian conflict.

The last week on Master Resource:

1] U.S. EPA’s Futile, Costly Crusade Against CO2 (Part 1)
2] Asthma Reduction: The Joker Card of EPA’s CO2 Power Grab (Part 2)
3] EPA’s CO2 Power Grab: Economic Consequences (Part 3)
4] Julian Simon on the ‘Ultimate Resource’ (human ingenuity, the cascading resource)
5] The Liberating Theory of Resourceship
6] Wind Power Slaughter: ex-USFWS Agent Speaks Out on Shiloh IV (California)
7] USFWS Special Agents: Speaking Truth to Wind Power re Shiloh IV (Part II)
8] The Voice of Dead Eagles at Shiloh IV (Part III)

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22 Responses to Blowout week 29

  1. Glen Mcmillian says:

    Wind power may turn out in the end to be uneconomic if fossil fuel supplies hold up or if solar power prices do not fall far enough or if political attitudes change and a new generation of safer less expensive standardized nukes can be built.

    But I for one do not believe fossil fuel supplies are sufficient to last even twenty to forty years without dramatic increases in prices and hot wars being fought over access and control of them. Beyond that I am a forced climate change believer and think our very survival may hinge on getting away from fossil fuels.

    Now as far as nukes go nothing scares me more than the thought of hundreds of new ones except the thought of the lack of them and the wars that will be fought over coal and natural gas and a runaway greenhouse effect.

    Did I mention the acidification of the seas? Seafood may be a thing of historical interest in another thirty years or so.CO2 chemistry in air and seawater is well understood and the implications of ocean acidification are terrifying to say the least.

    Many industries in the past have grown a bit and then failed totally or more frequently shrunk and consolidated and then started growing again.

    It is clear now that many and grievously expensive mistakes have been made in paying too much in subsidies for wind farms that are located in less than ideal spots- meaning spots with a poor wind resource.Too much has been paid for land and right of ways-I read often about landowners who are farmers collecting more rent from wind farms than could conceivably ever be made farming the same land.

    But the technology is maturing and the machinery will cost less and be more reliable as time passes. Installation costs will fall. It appears that virtually every detail involving the industry is still proprietary or patented in one fashion or another.

    In the future it is to be hoped that the biggest single mistake in my opinion- siting wind farms on land with less than a satisfactory wind resource due to subsidies – will not be repeated at least not very often.

    The real question in my mind is this one.If a country has to import coal and natural gas and the price doubles or triples in real terms and availability is questionable due to war or natural disaster or depletion or resource nationalism or lack of foreign exchange funds to pay – or any combination of all these things- well, would such a country be making a mistake if it invests in wind energy? (assuming of course that the wind resource is good.)

    I could get by just fine with intermittent electricity at three times the price I am paying now for coal fired electricity , about eleven cents US per kWh far easier than I could get by without electricity at all.

    And in the world of the not so distant future the choice may well be between intermittent renewable power and no power at all in many places.

    Any place without something to export that will continue to sell in world markets for hard currency when a major depression hits is not going to be able to import fuel.

    I may be wrong but I somehow doubt that England for instance is going to be able to pay English wages and compete in world export markets against newly developing Asian countries paying Asian wages too much longer.

    Wind power properly managed can stretch fossil fuel supplies substantially and thereby stretch foreign exchange reserves substantially.

    There is a serious national security aspect to wind and solar energy.

  2. Ben Elsworth says:

    “Germany’s electricity exports are growing, a clear sign that they cannot consume all they produce.”

    Interesting comment that, of course historically the country with the highest exports of electricity in the world is France.

    • Ben, I tried to offer Euan an article to improve coverage of the German situation on his blog, but he did not accept. As you point out, his twist on this issue is nonsensical, and I would like to add that it is also factually inaccurate.

      Germany has not had more than 73% renewable electricity at any time, so there is no excess to export.

      Foreign countries import German power based on price, and German power is cheap because renewables have grown so fast as to reduce capacity factors of conventional plants

      France exports when prices are low, incidentally; Germany, when prices are high. You can see the outcome here

      German power is thus significantly more valuable than French because French plants are so inflexible.


      • Euan Mearns says:

        Ben, I tried to offer Euan an article to improve coverage of the German situation on his blog, but he did not accept.

        YET – I have rolling lists with hundreds of things to do. But reading your comment here I would not be optimistic about your chances in the comments on your post. Send me your post and I’ll publish it – with whatever disclaimers I see fit. Ben has already promised me a post on bio mass electricity production in the UK.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Germany has not had more than 73% renewable electricity at any time so there is no excess to export.

        OK, so there is a simple test here to see if Germany exports electricity when it is windy or calm.

        Foreign countries import German power based on price, and German power is cheap because renewables have grown so fast as to reduce capacity factors of conventional plants

        I have been led to believe that wind and off shore wind in particular was expensive, and so I look forward to the evidence you can present that shows the production costs are lower than coal. What on Earth is good about renewables lowering the capacity factors on conventional plants where there are already sunk costs that German consumers are paying for? And where is the benefit of selling very expensive renewable electricity below the production cost?

        France exports when prices are low, incidentally; Germany, when prices are high. You can see the outcome here

        So how does Germany with a stochastic electricity surplus manage to choose to export when prices are high (when logic would say prices should be low or negative) while France with a chronic surplus somehow manages to only sell when prices are low?

        Bring it on Craig. Your comment here makes zero sense to me and I await with baited breath to see how much sense a full article may make to my readers.

        • Glen Mcmillian says:

          I think the situation is such that the French mostly export their surplus off peak – meaning of the French peak hours. Their exported juice is nuclear and running a nuke in terms of fuel expense is trivial. Furthermore although the French do manage their nuke in a load following mode to some extent they run best when running steadily. With fuel costs being trivial they can export juice anytime they don’t need it themselves.

          Some of their customers are far enough away that loads peak at somewhat different times and those customers are glad to get peak load help.

          But the real deal is that their customers can shut down or cut back on gas and coal fired generation to the extent they can get French juice.The coal and gas are very expensive indeed these days in countries that have to import most of their energy.

          Now as to how the Germans can export when prices are high-I think that happens mostly only by luck when the Germans happen to be off peak themselves and have a great wind and sun day.

          The same situation applies for the most part. The customer can idle a gas or maybe even a coal plant and save substantial amounts of gas and coal.That gas and coal can be stockpiled and used at peak hours and on days when wind and sun don’t cooperate.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I’m not sure why France has the highest exports of electricity in the world and I don’t know if this is correct. Perhaps they built all of those nuclear power stations with a view to exporting electricity to no-nuclear countries like Italy. Or perhaps the power stations have exceeded the initial performance specs creating an unexpected surplus. What part of the French energy generation sector is being harmed by the French surplus in nuclear electricity?

      Why has Germany built so much renewable generating capacity? That is clear. To reduce global CO2 emissions and to comply with EU and German targets on CO2 emissions and renewable energy production.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think energy surpluses are a good thing, but I don’t think stochastic very expensive energy surpluses are that great. Creating energy surpluses promotes economic growth and consumption. A cynical and clinical look at what Germany is doing may reach a damning conclusion on their environment record:

      Figure 8 Germany is the 4th largest economy in the world after the USA, China and Japan. Like Japan and S Korea, Germany is energy poor and has a large bill to pay for energy imports. With a large export orientated manufacturing sector, Germany manages to pay this bill with consummate ease and has run a large structural surplus since the year 2000. Since 1970, the cumulative surplus amounts to 1.7 trillion $US (current). Germany has benefited from the adoption of the € in 1999 since, for the highly efficient German economy, the € is undervalued making German exports cheap on international markets.

      • Ben Elsworth says:

        Hi Euan, I’ve been meaning to write something about this on your part 1 or 2 blog about energy and mankind, but I will write it here now anyway.

        Firstly, Craig is absolutely spot on. France exports electricity when prices are low and Germany exports when prices are high. Historically the explanation for German exports at this time of year is hot/dry weather in France (and Northern Italy). It pushes up air conditioning load, restricts hydro availability, and can limit nuclear output due to thermal loading in French rivers.

        Admittedly there is a new flavour on this, since Germany has installed such dramatic levels of PV, it obviously means that availability of power for export from Germany during the day in the summer is now huge. I see this as a good thing and it’s the major benefit (for continental Europe) of PV, which is not enjoyed at all by wind – that output is very well correlated with peak demand. It doesn’t work for the UK where peak power demand is after dark in the winter.

        The reason why France is the biggest exporter of electricity in the world (and yet also a significant importer of power at other times) is simple – with 80% nuclear capacity they have the least economically flexible power grid in the world. If not for the fact that France was so extremely well interconnected with its 6 fossil/hydro dominated neighbours on every geographic side (12.2GW of import capacity, 10 GW of export) it would have been hard to retain a competitive economy with such a high nuclear power ratio. They also have a lot of overnight electric storage heating which helps, plus about 15% of flexible hydro.

        Although it is something of a myth that nuclear power plants can’t be cycled, technically they can (an old boss of mine used to joke about nuclear submarines that could never slow down), almost all of their costs are fixed and so every MWh lost this way hits the bottom line with full force. Daily cycling comes with a significant extra maintenance cost however, let alone – horror of horror – 2-shifting of the kind that is routinely carried out by fossil generators. France sells electricity when prices are low because it is dumping power produced by its nukes that it can’t consume itself and doesn’t want to switch off or turn down.

        This is the thing, a grid dominated by nuclear power would be good at providing power when we do want it, but very bad at not producing it when we don’t. A mid-merit nuke would be a ruinously expensive thing – even were the OEMs willing to back such an operational regime with their existing designs. Hinckley Point C requires an index linked income of £92/MWh, its predicted load factor will be > 90%. If it were to be reduced to 45% it would likely need to be paid at least £184/MWh while genuine grid-level storage would be even more expensive, hence the optimum penetration of nuclear on the grid is likely to be <60%.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Ben, useful and informative comment. But certain things still seem to be turned on their head. For example, how does Germany chose to export when prices are high?

          I can accept most of the points you make about nuclear and there is an interesting debate to be had there. Part of my commitment to high level nuclear stems from my DECC 2050 pathway:

          Part of the problem here is that the calculator already puts you in an ideological straight jacket – aimed at reducing emissions. If you have a look you’ll see my priorities are different.

          To be clear, I could be persuaded that less than 60% nuclear on grid is best. I can be persuaded that solar makes sense in sunny climates. I might even be persuaded that some bio-mass makes sense – though remain to be convinced. I am far more sceptical about the merits of wind and of having an energy policy steered mainly by CO2 emissions reduction targets.

          • Ben Elsworth says:

            “For example, how does Germany chose to export when prices are high?”

            Not sure I understand the question exactly, if this response is patronising just ignore it.

            What happens is a trader buys capacity on an interconnector, and then looks to buy power in one transmission zone and sell in the other. If he can sell for more than he can buy for (plus the transmission fees and losses) then he will do so. He then schedules the power flows with both system operators.

            What happens when he buys that power is that another trader – this time it is someone who works for a generation company – has been trying to sell the power at a price that will allow her to run her generation units at a profit – or at least higher than the marginal running cost. The generator will have a team of analysts with large VBA models containing all the fuel costs, heat rates, start-up shut down costs etc of each of their units who will decide what the marginal price curve is. When the sale goes through (usually “day-ahead” but sometimes as little as 4 hours ahead) then an updated generation profile will be sent to the control room of the power station that is the marginal unit, who will run it accordingly.

            Because in Germany this marginal unit is almost always going to an out-of-merit fossil fuel plant (probably a gas CCGT these days) they have a fairly high running cost, plus the transmission fees, so it will take a fairly high price to make it run.

            The same thing is happening when France exports power, but in this case its marginal costs are next to zero (they may be negative) if they have spare nuclear capacity. Now our transmission trader is looking to sell his power from France into the other markets at a price that that will either displace a sale from an indigenous generator (because their marginal running cost can’t compete with the low prices being offered) or incentivise someone to turn off their own generation and buy his power instead. Again our generation company trader is looking at these prices, and he also knows exactly what price he should buy back at thanks to the same team of analysts. In this case a more efficient “in-merit” generator is being displaced and so the price will have to be lower.

            In all of this Germany has always had spare FF generation on stand-by and able to dispatch economically, especially in summer, it’s just that now it has a lot more of it because so much has been displaced by PV. France does not, and is hence reliant on imports at certain times of year.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Ben, its VERY helpful. Renewables advocates see the system through a different lens to the sceptics. I understand Craig’s comment more clearly now (do you have an email for him). It would certainly be good to have a post explaining the advocates stance. The sceptic stance is to abolish CO2 targets, renewables subsidies and the merit order.

          • Ben Elsworth says:

            Hi Euan, I’ve never come across Craig before until now. I don’t know if he is an “advocate” as you say, I didn’t get that from his post. I don’t really consider myself one, I just try to look at real world economic constraints and issues. Although I am sceptical about the value of a lot of long-term climate forecast modelling and climate change economic modelling, I can’t escape the simple conclusion that, from what we know, a significantly higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is likely to cause cumulative warming of the planet if acting over many years. There seems to be a lot of circumstantial evidence that this is indeed starting to happen, and absolutely no convincing evidence that it isn’t. Since this is a matter of human survival and not a court of law with a presumption of innocence, it seems completely reckless to me not to start to work towards an eventual fossil fuel free system of energy supply – especially as humans are going to HAVE to do that anyway over the next few generations due to resource depletion. All we are doing is accepting a fairer portion of the transition cost now rather than imposing it all on our children/grandchildren. I’m in favour of a gradual and technology-led transition, and recognise the need for fossil fuels to continue to play a significant part in the short to medium term.

            With regards to abolishing the merit order, I have no idea why you would want to do that. It would seem a bit like abolishing Mondays – you could do it in name, but in the real world nothing would actually change.

        • Roger Andrews says:


          I’m unable to comment intelligently on the question of exports and imports, but your claim that “(PV) output is very well correlated with peak demand” holds true, kind of, only on a daily basis. On a seasonal basis PV output is strongly anticorrelated with demand, with lower demand and lots of solar in the summer and higher demand and essentially no solar in the winter. To match solar output to demand over the course of a year it would be necessary to store surplus summer power for re-use in the winter, but a mind-boggling amount of storage is needed to do this.

          • Ben Elsworth says:

            Roger. Yes and no. The fundamental point I guess you are making is correct, modern industrialised-nation grids could not be run by solar alone because it is not always there when you need it.

            However, my point was different – that solar energy is at least usually generated at times when there is demand for power, so at least it’s not usually there when you don’t want it. That means it has a higher potential economic penetration than wind, especially in countries in the Southern Europe (and parts of the US) where peak season is actually summer and not winter and also where hydro and nuclear output can be constrained in summer.

          • Roger Andrews says:


            Here’s a plot of 2013 monthly data for Germany. I’ve factored up wind and solar PV generation so that both generate 100% of total 2013 consumption. Wind is broadly matched to monthly demand, solar isn’t close. I think we can reasonably conclude from this that wind will ultimately achieve a higher level of penetration than solar, all other things being equal.


            Incidentally, the only European country of any size where summer demand is higher than winter demand is Greece, and there only by a hairsbreadth.

          • Ben Elsworth says:

            Roger, if electricity could be stored for a month that would be great analysis.

  3. Ben, I tried to offer Euan an article to improve coverage of the German situation on his blog, but he did not accept. As you point out, his twist on this issue is nonsensical, and I would like to add that it is also factually inaccurate.

    Germany has not had more than 73% renewable electricity at any time, so there is no excess to export.

    Foreign countries import German power based on price, and German power is cheap because renewables have grown so fast as to reduce capacity factors of conventional plants

    France exports when prices are low, incidentally; Germany, when prices are high. You can see the outcome here

    German power is thus significantly more valuable than French because French plants are so inflexible.


  4. Kit P says:

    “for coal fired electricity , about eleven cents US per kWh”
    That is the retail price that includes taxes and transmission. The price on the whole sale level is $30/MWh. Maybe glen wants to stay at a hospital that is supplied by intermittent wind.
    “To be clear, I could be persuaded that less than 60% nuclear on grid is best.”
    It kind of depends on where you are getting your fossil fuel from and when. Natural gas is cheap in the US when no one is buying it. Often natural gas and coal come from the same parts of the country. I am not too worried about the US navy cutting off fossil fuel supplies from Wyoming. On the other hand, countries that import fossil fuel are happy that the US navy keeps the sea lanes open.
    The French are happy that they do not depend on the US navy or Putin. Even if that means running nuke plants at 10% lower CF than the US.
    “because French plants are so inflexible.”
    Really? I have often watched the French grid and it appear to be very flexible with nukes load following to meet France’s needs. It is about meeting the needs of your own country first. France does an excellent job of that. Looking at exports and imports while ignoring the big picture is classic cherry picking.

    • Glen Mcmillian says:

      I am not quite so naive as that lol. But I would not have a problem with a hospital running on wind with reliable coal fired backup.

      The regulars here never address one supremely critical long term question- that question being the long term availability and price of coal and natural gas.

      How about it guys? I can understand you not believing in forced climate change in general and warming in particular. I know many people with excellent educations who still believe in sky daddy looking after them and a world where men once walked with dinosaurs.

      But let us stay away from the climate question.The people who want to believe have plenty of evidence. The people who don’t have plenty too.I myself did not believe until about a decade or so ago when I started studying this question myself.The evidence is statistical and as the saying goes there are lies damned lies and statistics.

      The basic black box problem is pretty simple.

      I do not personally doubt we are in a long term warming trend that will cause us some horrible problems. YMMV.

      All the conventional thinkers assured us two decades ago that oil would cost maybe twenty bucks a barrel this year.It costs a little over a hundred in case you anti renewable guys haven’t noticed.

      Considering that everything that comes out of holes in the ground except peanuts and potatoes will run short eventually and that the population is growing and the third world is industrializing and we have been cherry picking the best holes for a century now- just how long do you guys think coal and natural gas will remain affordable?

      I am very eager to hear your opinions on this matter but I am not going to hold my breath waiting because I don’t expect much in the line of serious answers.

      And while we are at it- just how good do you think the odds are of getting a substantial number of new nukes permitted, financed and built within the easily foreseeable future?I am not expert in energy but I am a life long observer of people and politics and personally I don’t think there is a snowballs chance in hell that more than a half a dozen to a dozen new nukes will come on line in the US within the next fifteen years.That is a pittance in terms of our power needs.Now of course if there is a substantial problem with fossil fuel deliveries not making it to importing countries and there are a few blackouts due to fuel shortages in the dead of winter or middle of summer people in those countries will change their minds about nukes. BUT after changing them they will still probably be waiting very close to a decade for nuclear juice under even the most optimistic of scenarios that take politics and finance into account.

      ( For what it is worth I am in favor of building plenty of them but not in third world countries where the government may not properly supervise their operation.We have already seen just how easily it is to get engineers to sign off on designs and sites that are ridiculously dangerous- witness Fukushima.Note that Japan is very much a first world country.

      Anybody who had ever even read a single book about tsunamis would have known that site was unsuitable. Maybe another couple of hundred yards inland the ground would have been high enough to be safe. Don’t know- don’t care at this point. My point is that engineers are just people and cannot be trusted but so far.All the ones on that job understood that they must not say anything about unusually large tsunamis if they wanted to collect their paychecks. They chose the checks.)

  5. Roger Andrews says:


    We’re getting cramped for space higher up so I’m putting this response to your comment of July 23, 2014 at 3:18 pm down here.

    You say: “I can’t escape the simple conclusion that, from what we know, a significantly higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is likely to cause cumulative warming of the planet if acting over many years. There seems to be a lot of circumstantial evidence that this is indeed starting to happen, and absolutely no convincing evidence that it isn’t. Since this is a matter of human survival and not a court of law with a presumption of innocence, it seems completely reckless to me not to start to work towards an eventual fossil fuel free system of energy supply.”

    I have no difficulty whatever escaping this simple conclusion. After spending 15 years analyzing gigabytes of climate and climate-related data I’ve concluded that the claims that climate change threatens human survival are at best grossly exaggerated and at worst downright fraudulent.

    But that doesn’t mean that I oppose the concept of a carbon-free, sustainable future. In fact I think it would be great if we could have one. We would eliminate once and for all the real or imagined dangers of human interference with the climate and of the Earth running out of fossil fuels, and I guess we could learn to live with all the solar panels, wind turbines and biomass plants it would take to do it.

    My question, however, is whether it can be done without wrecking the global economy. Everything I have seen so far suggests it can’t. Adverse impacts are already being felt in countries where sustainable energy penetration is still at a comparatively low level, such as Germany (diminishing competitiveness, rising electricity rates, power providers in financial trouble) and Spain (currently being sued by investors to recover billions in unpaid solar subsidies), and factoring such impacts to the level required to achieve even 50% sustainable energy penetration will inevitably court disaster unless a better way can be found of doing it.

    But we haven’t found a better way of doing it. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary we still assume, among other things, that any amount of intermittent renewable energy can readily be admitted to the grid by installing smart meters, smart grids and interconnectors etc. and that the public can somehow be cajoled into accepting the disruptive lifestyle changes that would be needed to make the smart meters, smart grids and interconnectors etc. work. It ain’t gonna happen. What we need is a plan for a sustainable future that’s based on hard engineering and economic realities, not utopian flights of fancy. I haven’t seen one yet and doubt I ever will.

  6. Glen Mcmillian says:

    Are any of the regular commenters here willing to predict how many more years it will be until the price of natural gas and coal double in constant money?

    I will also point out that a wind farm or solar farm built today with a low interest rate loan will be selling juice for the next twenty years at least and probably more or less indefinitely with refurbishments which will cost substantially less than new construction from scratch.

    When the cost of imported gas doubles – which in my estimation will happen within ten to fifteen years-wind power is going to look a whole lot more attractive.Especially old wind power which is nearly paid off.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Glen, when you say:

      When the cost of imported gas doubles

      Which gas is it you are talking about? US prices are certainly going up. But the rest?

      But your words are not falling on deaf ears. The problem this side of the pond is that policy is based on CO2 reduction which I believe in turn is based on deeply flawed science. And the danger is we end up railing against the warmists and their policies even though some of the policies may make some sense in different future scenarios. But you are not yet living in a land plastered with wind turbines and poor folks who cannot pay for the subsidies.

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