The looming Nordic energy crisis

Guest Post by Rauli Partanen who is an independent author and communicator on energy and its role in the environment and modern society. Originally written in Finnish for Energia. English translation first published on Energy Post.

Nuclear power in Sweden has become uneconomical. Wholesale prices of electricity in Sweden have been much lower than the breakeven price for nuclear generation. Electricity has been sold at a record low price of €20 per megawatt hour (MWh), while the cost of generating nuclear power has been in the same ballpark, or even slightly higher. In addition, the Swedish government has set a tax on nuclear power, which has been steadily rising. After the latest hike, it amounts to about a third of the wholesale price, roughly €7 per MWh.

The publicly owned utility Vattenfall, which owns and operates seven reactors in Sweden, announced recently that if the government does not remove the nuclear tax, it would close down all of its reactors by 2020. This, in addition to the earlier announcements by the German utility Uniper (the company was created when E.On split its business; Uniper got the nuclear and fossil fuels part) to close down two of its three reactors prematurely, would mean a massive loss of generating capacity in Sweden and in the common Nordic electricity market. The ramifications would be huge.

How did this situation arise? To put it frankly, Swedish energy policy has been messy when it comes to nuclear power. After the oil crises in the 1970s Sweden moved away from fossil-based electricity production with record speed. In addition to its existing hydropower fleet, the country built twelve nuclear reactors, commissioned between 1972 and 1985. Their total capacity was over ten gigawatts, but three plants have since been closed: Barsebäck 1 (600 MW) in 1999, Barsebäck 2 (600 MW) in 2005 and Oskarshamn 2 (638 MW) in 2015. The current operational capacity is around 9000 MW. Nuclear power has produced between 40 and 50 percent of Sweden’s electricity.

This combination gave Sweden one of the cleanest, most affordable and secure electricity grids in any industrialized country. The average carbon emissions per kWh of electricity produced have been roughly 20 grams. The nuclear power plants produce at around 5 gCO2/kWh. If the world’s energy would be produced as cleanly as Swedish electricity, the climate change problem would be well on its way to be solved. Consider for example that the carbon balance of electricity in Germany, which arguably has the most ambitious and radical energy and climate policy today, is many times higher at roughly 500 gCO2/kWh.

Possibly the Swedes have been taking their clean and affordable electricity system for granted. Even before the last reactors were started up and connected to the grid, Swedish nuclear energy policy made a U-turn. After the Three Mile Island nuclear accident happened in the United States in 1979, the Swedes decided they needed to close down their nuclear fleet by 2010. This killed the future prospects of nuclear power in Sweden, although little was actually done to replace the nuclear fleet with anything.

With all four older reactors announced for closing by 2020, more than 2,500 MW of capacity will be lost. That is roughly equal to the total capacity of the Finnish nuclear fleet.

Then, when it came to the crunch in 2010, Sweden made another U-turn, allowing nuclear power to be maintained after 2010 and even making it legal to build new nuclear reactors, as long as they replaced the existing aging reactors. But a lot of damage had been done by this time. The fact that the political order had declared nuclear power “obsolete in a few decades”, darkened the prospects of the sector considerably.

Insidious problem

In the 1990s, the Swedish government passed a tax on nuclear power, in anticipation of the shutdown. It was roughly €3 per MWh in the beginning, but after numerous hikes it is now over €7, accounting for roughly a quarter of the production costs of nuclear energy. The government collects around half a billion euros from the tax annually. The combination of this tax and record-low prices of electricity have seen to it that no new reactors have been seriously proposed in recent years. Even the planned upgrades to existing reactors have been largely forgotten, since the reactors are likely to be shut down way before their licences expire.

The tax is only a part of the problem. The deeper and more insidious problem are crashing electricity prices throughout Sweden, the Nordic market and even much of the Western Europe. There are several reasons for this, of which the most prominent ones include:

  • The economic slowdown since 2008 and the accompanying European-wide reduction in demand for electricity.
  • The increase of especially wind power in the Nordic market, made possible by price-premiums and tariffs.
  • The continuing trend of industry moving out of Europe’s shrinking markets to other countries with cheaper labour, growing markets and laxer environmental regulation.
  • The low carbon prices in the European emission trading scheme (ETS), partly a result of the three other factors.

As a result, electricity spot prices in Sweden have been around €20 per MWh for some time. Even without the nuclear tax, this is lower than the total production costs of nuclear.

Shutdown

The Swedish utilities face another challenges in addition to low prices and taxes. The Swedish law on nuclear safety requires reactors to be fitted with what is called an independent core cooler to improve their safety in the event of a Fukushima-style accident. These improvements need to be in place by 2020. This means investment decisions have to be made soon, during 2016 in most cases. Since the planned operating life of some of the older reactors ends in the early 2020s, it is not worth investing in new safety measures unless they obtain extensions to their planned lifetime.

The closures already decided upon – 2,500 MW in total – would mean Sweden would not be a net exporter anymore. Sweden could become a net importer.

Both Vattenfall and OKG, which is majority owned by German Uniper and minority owned by Finnish Fortum, announced in 2015 that they will close down the older reactors before 2020. These include Ringhals 1 and 2 (Vattenfall) and Oskarshamn 1 and 2 (OKG). The planned 50 year operating lives of these reactors will end by mid-2020. Until recently the owners were planning extensive maintenance projects and upgrades to extend the lives to 60 years.

Now the situation has turned completely on its head. Oskarshamn-2 was already undergoing significant repairs and maintenance aimed at extending its operation to 60 years and having spent roughly €1 billion on them, when the operations were stopped in mid-2015, with a later decision to never start up the reactor again. Fortum, the minority-owner, was firmly against this, but Uniper did not budge. With all four older reactors announced for closing by 2020, more than 2,500 MW of capacity will be lost. That is roughly equal to the total capacity of the Finnish nuclear fleet currently.

And it did not end there. In early 2016, Vattenfall announced that if the Swedish government does not remove the nuclear tax, it will prematurely close down its remaining five reactors as well. These include Ringhals 3 and 4 and Forsmark 1, 2 and 3. All of these reactors currently have 60 year planned operating lives extending to the early 2040s. They would, however, also need the independent core coolers to be installed by 2020. Closing these reactors down would remove roughly 5,000 MW of capacity.

Subsequently, Uniper recently announced that it is considering closing down the last remaining, biggest and most modern (along with its twin-unit Forsmark 3) nuclear reactor in Sweden, Oskarshamn-3, if the situation does not change. This would bring the closures to around 9,000 MW. This is almost equal to Finland’s average electricity consumption, and equal to twice the electricity Denmark uses, 34 TWh, in a year.

Capacity void

So what would be the result of a Swedish nuclear shutdown in terms of grid balance? Sweden is a net exporter of electricity. Depending on available hydropower, Sweden exports between 10-20 TWh of electricity annually. This corresponds to roughly 1,200-2,500 MW of constant power being exported. Most of this ends up in Finland. The closures already decided upon – 2,500 MW in total – would mean Sweden would not be a net exporter anymore, and Finland would have to find its imports from somewhere else. It could even mean Sweden would become a net-importer, depending on the spare, largely unused capacity Sweden currently has.

Imports could be increased from Poland, the Baltic countries, Germany, Russia through Finland and a few other places. Most of these countries have dirty or very dirty electricity mixes.

If the other reactors – 5,000MW – are also shut down, there would be a huge capacity void in the Nordic power market, and Sweden would become a big electricity importer in a very short time. Especially during low wind productivity and during cold spells in winter, Sweden would need to import large amounts of electricity. During these times, however, Sweden’s neighbours would also need a lot of electricity. The likely sources for these additional imports would be mainland Europe.

Finland would have to rely on its eastern neighbours for maximum imports (interconnection capacity to the east is 1,400 MW). During higher demand, even these imports might not be enough.

What could be done to replace the nuclear capacity at risk? There will be one nuclear reactor – Olkiluoto 3 in Finland – coming online before 2020 at a capacity of 1,600 MW. In addition, Finland will likely build another 1,300 MW of wind power, with perhaps similar additions from Sweden. Sweden and Norway have had a common electricity certificate program, which has a goal of building 20 TWh worth of wind power. This equals to about a third of what the nuclear fleet now produces.

Sweden’s lobbying organization for wind power has written that it thinks Swedish nuclear can be replaced by building many times more wind power than Sweden has now, and by dealing with peak hours and low winds by building gas turbines. This amount of wind would be hugely uneconomical to build. The gas turbines could also cost billions of euros, and they would be running only a few hours during the year, making them monumentally bad investments. At current market conditions, nobody would build either of these without very generous subsidies from the government.

The current supposedly market based system mixed with government subsidies and arbitrary taxes is proving to be a failure.

Since the grid needs dispatchable power, the role of wind power will be limited unless similar increases in energy storage can be realised. The most realistic replacements for nuclear in addition to wind power are hydropower (mainly upgrading current plants) and burning wood, peat, natural gas and coal. It should be remarked, however, that none of these energy sources will be economical to build on their own in the current situation. Finland has already made a decision to give up coal in the 2020s. At the same time, Sweden is talking of dismantling some of its hydro power to restore river biodiversity.

Imports could be increased from Poland, the Baltic countries, Germany, Russia through Finland and a few other places. Most of these countries have dirty or very dirty electricity mixes, and increasing imports from them will mean that this extra power will be produced at marginal cost, most likely by burning coal. So while the imported electricity would in theory have the “average” grid carbon content of the exporting country, in reality the addition would come from burning coal with a carbon balance of 800-1,000 gCO2/kWh. As this will happen outside Sweden, these emissions might be ignored in the Swedish discussion. Out of sight, out of mind.

Rising emissions

Let’s look in more detail at what the implications might be of a Swedish nuclear phase-out for greenhouse gas emissions The Swedish nuclear fleet would produce more than 900 TWh of clean electricity during its current, licensed lifetime with a carbon burden of roughly 20 gCO2/kWh. Here are three simplified scenarios of what could happen if the nuclear energy is replaced with various energy mixes.

Scenario 1 – Mostly clean at 200 gCO2/kWh

In the most optimistic scenario, most of the alternative energy would be low-carbon, with very little imports from Poland or the Baltic countries. The electricity in Finland has a carbon balance of around 100 gCO2/kWh on average. Replacing Swedish nuclear with a mix that has 200 gCO2/kWh (only slightly lower than the median carbon balance of biomass, 230 gCO2/kWh, according to the IPCC) would increase the carbon burden manifold. Over 180 million tons of extra carbon dioxide would be released into the atmosphere during the remaining lifetime of the nuclear reactors that were shut down. This equals to three years of Finland’s total emissions, from all sectors.

Scenario 2 – Clean power and something else

If roughly one half of the production would be replaced with other clean production, like wind and hydro, and the other half with natural gas, biomass and some coal-fired imports, we get an average carbon balance of roughly 350 gCO2/kWh. This is over ten times higher than Sweden’s current electricity has, and it would increase the average carbon balance for the grid many times over. It would result in 330 million tons of added emissions, which equals to almost six years of Finland’s total emissions.

Scenario 3 – Natural gas equivalent

If the alternative energy would have a similar carbon balance as the German grid, 500 gCO2/kWh, equal to the emissions of gas-fired power, it would increase the carbon balance of the grid by more than ten times. This would be a likely result if much of the power would need to be imported (although imports would not show in Sweden’s carbon balance). It would result in over 450 million tons of added emissions, equalling 7.5 years of total Finnish emissions.

Rising prices

Losing a large amount of low-cost baseload capacity will also lead to higher prices and more frequent price spikes. Imports would increase, and some old thermal power plants would be restarted, with possible investments needed to increase the maximum power of current generation capacity. The timeframe of five years is rather short for any big investments. If production can’t meet normal demand, plants that provide reserve power will be started up. These have a very limited total capacity however, and the costs are high.

Affordable electricity has been one of the important factors in the competitiveness of Nordic industry. In this new situation, those affordable prices could disappear too fast for industry to be able to accommodate.

In the longer run, new capacity will get built. The options for clean energy production are limited, so most capacity would tend to be thermal power or imports. This could bring average electricity prices much closer to the prices of near €100/MWh during the recent cold spell in January, when Finland had to import a lot of electricity from Estonia’s dirty power plants.

If the shutdowns are realized fully, grid operators may need to require some industry to shut down during peak demand hours. This would carry a high price in two ways. First, the high price of electricity that would precede this situation would in itself strike a blow to both industry and domestic electricity users. When factories need to be paid to shut down production and send workers home, the situation has become serious indeed. This would be done mainly in order to keep the grid stable. Secondly, the productivity of national industry would be impacted.

Affordable electricity has been one of the important factors in the competitiveness of Nordic industry. In this new situation, those affordable prices could disappear too fast for industry to be able to accommodate. At the same time, household energy bills would go up, reducing their spending elsewhere.

Is there something we could do?

What could be done to avoid this outcome? The utilities in Sweden want to get rid of the nuclear tax. Political decisions would need to be made quickly, preferably during first half of 2016. There may be other possible solutions, but the schedule is quite tight for any major market reforms. Those reforms are, however, also direly needed. The current supposedly market based system mixed with government subsidies and arbitrary taxes is proving to be a failure.

Sweden has just announced that it aims to be world leader in decarbonization, and wants its energy sector to be carbon-neutral by 2050 or even earlier. Shutting down thousands of megawatts of low-carbon power will cost Sweden decades of hard work in this decarbonization project. Both the energy companies as well as the politicians involved need to weigh the situation carefully and negotiate with care and cool heads.

Editor’s Note

Rauli Partanen (@kaikenhuippu, @Climate_Gamble, raulipartanen@gmail.com) is an independent author and communicator on energy and its role in the environment and modern society. He is the main author of Climate Gamble – Is Anti-Nuclear Activism Endangering Our Future? (with co-author Janne M. Korhonen, published in 2015) and The World After Cheap Oil (with co-authors Harri Paloheimo and Heikki Waris, published by Routledge in 2015). He is also co-founder and vice chair of Ecomodernist Society of Finland, a new environmental NGO.

Published here with consent of the author.

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86 Responses to The looming Nordic energy crisis

  1. Euan Mearns says:

    Rauli, thanks for this interesting insight and overview. A point of historic blogging interest, the first article I ever wrote for The Oil Drum was called:

    Why wind power works in Denmark
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/1735

    Little did I know that I’d still be writing about the same issues 10 years on.

    This is so crazy it is hilarious. A cornerstone of The Green wet dream is to balance the whole of Europe’s wind off Scandinavian hydro. Sweden of course only has hydro capacity to spare since it generates so much from nuclear.

    I will bet you the closures do not go ahead – are there bookies odds? If they do, it will prove the Swedes, once a cornerstone of European sanity, have collectively gone mad.

    What is it that divides public opinion in flat Finland, where two new reactors are being built / planned, from Sweden?

    • David Porter says:

      Possibly Finland’s history with Russia and concern about gas imports?

      • Willem Post says:

        David,
        In the near future, that will be less of a concern with multiple suppliers and better 2-way piping connections between countries.

        Recently, Russia won a long-term contract to supply gas to Lithuania, by outbidding various suppliers.

        I am sure, other gas users and suppliers took notice.

    • Euan, I truly hope you would win that bet, and I’m hoping the swedish politicians will come to their senses with this. Closing the already decided ~2700 MW is bad enough. Losing the rest would be serious on so many levels it would require a book to describe the madness of it.

      The scary thing is the time-frame. They need to come to their senses and do something about it in just a few months time. The industry has been warning about this for some time, and now finally made a public announcement that they are considering closing all the reactors (Vattenfall). The timeframe is short, since they need to make investments on their independent core-coolers this year, preferably on the first half (in 3-4 months) of this year. Right now, with the tax, those investments, nor the running of the reactors after 2020 in any case, does not look profitable, so its hard to find the economics for the case.

      If they don’t start installing those core coolers pretty soon, the regulator will shut those plants down no matter what, on 31st Dec 2020.

      On Finland and Sweden, its hard to say. Even though we are both scandinavians, neighbours, have a common history and similar nordic welfare states, the people are rather different (swedes talk, finns rather not – for example). Sweden became somewhat anti-nuclear right after Three-mile island. They had this public vote if they should shut down nuclear and all of the three options one could choose meant shutting down nuclear, one way or the other. Epic public vote, that.

      I guess Finland has never gone through that strong anti-nuclear sentiment, or at least acted upon it on a national level. Sure, we had couple of our new-builds permit-applications shut down by the parliament in the 80s and 90s, but since then we have had the first western new-build (not that it went very well) and now another is in the pipeline (not that it has gone perfectly so far either).

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Rauli,

        The more interesting thing you say is this:

        On Finland and Sweden, its hard to say. Even though we are both scandinavians, neighbours, have a common history and similar nordic welfare states, the people are rather different (swedes talk, finns rather not – for example).

        I lived in Norway for 8 years and used to speak passable Norwegian – still do. Norway, Sweden, Denmark + Faroes and Iceland have a common language. They are Scandinavian. Finland is not. Finnish has little in common with Norwegian.

        Finland is part of Norden or Nordic countries and there is no doubt that you have grown close in the last 60 years or so. But root culture and the people are different. I think Finland has more in common with the Baltic States – correct me if I’m wrong.

        You guys famously took on The Soviet Union in 1939 and won.

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

        And Russia has respected that for 76 years. The Baltic States were consumed and Finland was not.

        I can’t recall details, but is it not the case that Russia is in the frame to build the second reactor in Finland?

        • I would say that you are on track on where the differences might originate (although have no formal training on this matter). We were under Swedish rule for some time, and our second official language still is Sweden (largely thanks to that rule) but deeper roots of the people and Finnish language are different from other Scandinavians.

          And yes, Rosatom is the provider and part-owner (about a third) of our most recent newbuild by Fennovoima at Hanhikivi-site. VVER-1200. I have actually written (and still write) some basic/short nuclear info-articles for Fennovoima’s web-magazine Fennonen, of which some I have also translated to English for them. Here is one:
          http://www.fennonen.fi/en/article-page/ten-reasons-to-feel-positive-about-nuclear-energy.html?p189=2

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Rauli, thanks for clarification. I didn’t know about the Swedish rule part. You feel Scandinavian because the Swedes once ruled over you. And I feel British because the English rule us;-) But the origins of the Scottish people and the English are quite different. The Scotts are mainly descendants of maritime invaders , some of whom were Vikings. The English are descendants of Normans or Nordmen – hey wait a minute!

            I didn’t mean for this exchange to go this way. But it is a major curiosity why Finland is building reactors at a time that Sweden is planning to close there’s. And Norway is a world leader in Th reactor research.

            There’s something going on here between roots, culture, history, press and politics.

        • bernie1815 says:

          Euan:

          The Finns actually lost, though they really bloodied the Soviets and exposed the weaknesses of the Russian military to a sufficient degree that Hitler felt he could launch Barbarossa with little to fear. Thank God Hitler was wrong.

  2. Syndroma says:

    Isn’t that a chance for Finland to make money selling electricity around?

    • We have been heavily reliant on imports, and the current projects (two nuclear reactors, a few TWh of wind and maybe some more biomass) will take that reliance away in the coming years, but we won’t still be able to export that much.

      • Lars says:

        I think he meant selling cheap imports from Russia around? If you become self-sufficient but still can import 1400 MW from Russia you can sell that to the Swedes with a profit. The situation will be reversed. Haha.

      • Syndroma says:

        You can build more reactors and have electricity surplus in 2020s. The more reactors are closed in Sweden, the higher demand for baseload power.
        And yes, Russia has 5.5 GW of nuclear 100 km from the Finnish border. You can consume imports from Russia and sell your “green” electricity to Sweden.
        I can see only profits for Finland in all of this.

        • robertok06 says:

          “You can consume imports from Russia and sell your “green” electricity to Sweden.
          I can see only profits for Finland in all of this.”
          That’s exactly what Switzerland does: imports low-cost French nuclear, stores it for few hours in some pumped-hydro reservoirs, and then sells it a huge margin to Italy the day after.
          There are a couple of “energy” companies here in Geneva who do just that, they don’t own power stations, nor hydro facilities, just a nice office with a view on the lake of Geneva and a couple of computers…. they click on the mouse and buy from france, and next they click again and sell to italy.. and big bucks end up in their bank accounts.
          Welcome to the wonderful world of “liberalization”, or whatever you call it in English. 🙁

          Cheers.

  3. Alex says:

    A question – is the tax (€7 / MWh) used to fund decommissioning or nuclear waster storage, or is that already covered and the tax is just a random imposition?

    The problem everywhere is that payment is for MWh only, and not for capacity. And yet, most of the cost is fixed. The sources that can get over this issue are renewables (they are mostly funded by subsidies) and natural gas and diesel, which have low fixed costs and high operating costs.

    What is needed is a capacity market where the grid pays for firm capacity – probably through an auction system, either on a annual basis or a much longer time frame.

    What is also needed is a cold winter with no wind across western Europe for a fortnight. Perhaps then people will see the effects of relying upon unreliable power.

    • Lars says:

      Alex, no, Sweden has a nuclear waste fund fee that comes on top of the £7/MWh tax. Last time I found out I think it was 3 Swedish öre/KWh, which roughly translates to £2,5/MWh at the current exchange rate.

      “and the tax is just a random imposition?”

      I think this is the correct answer. Sweden is now running a national budget deficit to cover the huge costs of migrants, so any politician probably will be reluctant to reduce the tax on nuclear increasing the budget deficit.

      “The electricity consumers pay a fee for nuclear-generated
      electricity which is collected by the nuclear power companies via
      their electricity bill. The companies pay the amount into the
      Nuclear Waste Fund, a national authority that manages the money
      via the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency. SKB
      calculates how large the fee should be in order to cover the costs of
      final decommissioning. After SKI has reviewed SKB’s background
      material, SKI presents a proposal to the Government, who makes
      the final decision on the size of the fee. Previously a decision on
      this has been made every year, but in the future decisions will be
      made at three-year intervals.”

      • Alex says:

        Thank Lars (Lars J?)

        I wonder how that gets through the courts. I’d have no problem with a €7/MWh tax as a way of making money, but it needs to be applied to all electricity generation. That would raise even more to the fund the migrant costs.

      • Willem Post says:

        Lars,
        It would cost about 80 billion euros/y in direct payments, health/living facilities, infrastructure, and extra government and other workers/administrators for Germany to take care of the RECENT 1,000,000 new immigrants, unless Germany sends the bulk of them back to Turkey.

      • Lars said: “I think this is the correct answer. Sweden is now running a national budget deficit to cover the huge costs of migrants, so any politician probably will be reluctant to reduce the tax on nuclear increasing the budget deficit.”

        Here is the juicy beef of this. No matter what the government does, the tax is going away. If they remove it, it goes away. If they don’t the nukes get shut down.

        But the surprising lack of math skills comes from the fact that the company with the most nuclear in Sweden is Vattenfall. Vattenfall is 100% owned by the government. Any profit it makes, a large portion goes to the government as dividends, and much more as investments.

        Back when electricity market price was well above 50 euros, the paid-for nuclear power plants were making shitloads of money, and the tax was not a problem. Now, that same tax has become a life-or-death matter.

        • gweberbv says:

          Rauli,

          when the wholesale price of electricity was more than twice the actual value not too long ago, there should now be room for a ‘system stability surcharge’ on the retail prices. To modernize power stations, upgrade hydro plants or whatever. No need to spend government money.

          • I’m not sure if I’m understanding you correctly… Vattenfall is fully government owned (so all money they spend is in a way “government money”) and on the other hand, Vattenfall is not looking for “government money” to make those investments. They are looking for a removal of a nuclear tax so they can have some of their own money to do them.

            If you mean that they should have saved for the rainy day, then I agree. Perhaps the owner should have been less greedy with dividends? 🙂

            I might have gotten your point wrong though (its late). But the weird situation here is that government is trying to tax a government-owned business to death, meanwhile endangering both emissions goals, security of supply and low electricity prices.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            In the Green world, reduction of tax is a subsidy. But this is a classic comment! Welcome to 1984 – but we need to revise the calibration of the time scale.

          • There is a funny (?) story here, which I hope is not True. I recently heard that when the nuke tax was set/increased in Sweden, some people started to say that Finnish nuclear is being subsidized since it does not have that tax. Talk about a mangled perspective 🙂

          • gweberbv says:

            Rauli,

            my point is that when electricity prices fall below a sustainable level (unsustainable not only for nuclear power plants), then government should not jump in with money from the treasury to keep the system running – instead a surcharge on the power price should be installed that is payed by the customers in addition to the very low wholesale price.

            If in contrast the government waives a tax on the energy sector this only opens space for an ongoing deterioation of the market price. As a result, government ends up subsidizing cheap electricity.

          • gweberbv says:

            Euan,

            you can call it what you like. It would simply be a stupid policy to fight the unwanted effects of an oversupplied market by making production of the good even cheaper.

          • robertok06 says:

            @rauli partanen
            “There is a funny (?) story here, which I hope is not True. I recently heard that when the nuke tax was set/increased in Sweden, some people started to say that Finnish nuclear is being subsidized since it does not have that tax. Talk about a mangled perspective :)”

            Well, Rauli (congratulations for your nice posting, by the way), it is not a funny story at all… it is simply the reality of things.
            Have you ever seen any of those 8-column, first page titles like “fossil fuels are subsidized xx trillion dollar/year”?… well, if you find one such report written by some “green” group you’ll see that that is exactly the way they calculate the “subsidies”… they take country X, see what the cost of 1 liter of gas at the pump is, then if the said country does not make the cost equal to some cleverly averaged value that they like then they assume the difference of the two values as a subsidy to the fossil fuel lobby. In this case they do the same with nuclear, nothing new, just a different target.

            If I find the one report I read recently I’ll post the link here.

          • Robertoko6,
            Yeah, Im aware of how these subsidies often get calculated, there is a lot of misinformation and oversimplification, which again makes a reasonable, fact-based conversation impossible.

            The fact is, even if fossil fuels subsidies are calculated in a somewhat ridiculous way (i, if something oil-based is taxed at 100%, then if something else oil-based is taxed only at 90 %, the second one is getting a “subsidy”) there is the fact that fossil fuels externalize their costs in a much larger scale than either renewables or nuclear (but the spread is big, depending how one calculates these externalities). Of these three, nuclear tends to include most of its costs, which often comes a s a surprise for people – given that an often-heard argument against nuclear is that it externalizes its costs to the public. It doesn’t, not compared to anything else at least.

            Here is a link to a study revelaing this, done by International Institute for Sustainable Development in 2011:
            http://www.iisd.org/gsi/sites/default/files/power_gen_subsidies.pdf

    • Roberto says:

      ‘tax is just a random imposition?’

      It is not random at all!.. it is an imposition by the usual ‘green’ geniuses, this time supporting the government-(part of it, actually).
      And in the end they are winning their battle against the nuclear monster… and they well claim victory, setting a precedent which will push other countries too do just the same although the NOME law in France is in some ways similar.

      Note that these are the same ‘greens’ which claim to be wanting to save the planet and mankind from the deleterious effects of the poisonous CO2… and, as well documented here, the only tangible effect will be increased CO2 emissions.

      Welcome to the new middle ages, where ideology and bogus pseudo-religious precepts rule or lives.
      Scary indeed.

  4. Nigel Wakefield says:

    The following comment is a little bit facetious (maybe):

    Rather than spending tens of billions on new nuclear in the UK, at a current wholesale price one excess of €100/MwH, why don’t we spend maybe 1/10th of that money in building a new interconnector to Sweden and import their existing capacity instead at a higher price than they currently receive and a lower price than the UK bill payer is currently on the hook for (assuming EDF makes a positive FID on the new plant)?

    Two birds, one stone…. They’ve got it, we want it and are prepared to pay for it….

    • A C Osborn says:

      That makes complete sense.
      So don’t expect any Government or NGOs to do it.
      They are all infected with the Anto CO2 virus that brings on total insanity in a very space of time.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Sorry, that should read.
        They are all infected with the Anti CO2 virus that brings on total insanity in a very short space of time.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I beet you to that one:

      An Energy Plan for France and the UK
      http://euanmearns.com/an-energy-plan-for-france-and-the-uk/

      And while I wrote this tongue in cheek, with about 8 GW of new interconnection planned to the near continent it may turn out to come true, if not planned that way.

      • Nigel Wakefield says:

        That’s why I said my message was facetious….

        Even a tentative approach to any of the nuclear operators in Sweden with the suggestion to build an interconnector and thus solve the problem would expose any number of games:|

        1. The game in Sweden which is clearly a tactic to try to strong-arm the government into waiving the tax on nuclear
        2. The game being played by EDF into delaying a Final Investment Decision in the UK – it feels to me they are simply trying to get a better strike price for the power, though I may well be wrong on that
        3. The game being played by the UK government (and George Osborn in particular) regarding building new nuclear. These are vanity projects, with a lucrative sideline in sinecure non-Exec positions lined up for a post-ministerial life.

        There are better options for the UK than building new nuclear at the mooted cost – first and foremost is interconnection to Iceland, Sweden, Norway, France…. Iceland has a vast resource of geothermal and hydro (summer only) potential which is currently untapped. At the right price, I’m sure they’d willingly tap into it….

        I can remember suggesting a UK/Iceland interconnector about 12 years ago on the Claverton site (before anyone else was talking about it as far as I know). More people are talking about it now, in semi-serious tones, but it’s still just that… talk…. no action.

        As far back as 1999 I was looking at a 1200 MW North Sea interconnector between England and Norway – cost at the time £450 million…. it would have paid for itself within 5 years simply by locking in the arbitrage at the time between the UK Pool price (as was) and Nord Pool.

        The reason none of these things happen is because the utilities don’t want them to… they are wholesale price destructive (same as gas storage incidentally). And it’s the utilities who have the lobbying power when it comes to government.

        I could rant for ages about potential solutions to UK power problems but it’s off-topic relative to this post…..

        • stone100 says:

          What is the potential for expanding Icelandic geothermal? If Iceland really has so much untapped geothermal why do they build so much hydro that has issues of causing environmental problems silting up etc? Iceland already sort of indirectly provides the wider world with the benefits of their cheap electricity by exporting aluminium.

        • mark4asp says:

          Icelandic interconnectors will be a good idea but their tiny population means there isn’t much of it available. It will take a long of time before new Icelandic resources can be developed.

          Icelandic electricity costs compared to top 4 EU economies: https://icestat.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/electricity_eu_iceland_2011.jpg

    • mark4asp says:

      I asked myself: what is to stop Vattenfall building the interconnectors to Britain, and/or Holland, Poland? The average wholesale electricity price in Britain for the first 12 weeks of 2016 is €45/MWh. That’s quite low for winter. Assuming a €10/MWh profit, one year’s revenue for a 2GW interconnector would only be €175m.

      In comparison: The 2-way 1.4GW electricity cable from Blyth in Northumberland to Kvilldal, in Norway will be 450-mile (730km), will cost about €2bn (£1.5bn). Completion is planned for 2021.

      • gweberbv says:

        Mark,

        the financing cost of 2 billions in the current financial environment are only about 40 to 60 million (if the project is backed by government, it will be even less). More, the upcoming interconnectors for UK will be shielded from making loss.

        • mark4asp says:

          2 lots of 1.7GW interconnectors to Sweden should cost about £4.47bn, after scaling for extra distance and capacity. It certainly looks a better deal than Hinkley C, wind, or solar. That would be 3.4GW and the electricity will cost a lot less than Hinkley, wind or solar – about the same as current UK wholesale cost. I think the power lost in transmission will be closer to 5% than 10%, so it certainly looks viable.

          Tories should do this. Someone tell Amber Rudd please so she can whip DECC into line.

  5. Javier says:

    By abandoning nuclear power at a time of Peak Oil, the Europeans are planting the seeds of a catastrophic future energy crisis. Only the Chinese are seeing the painting on the wall. So much for democracies having an advantage over autocracies. We have collectively gone mad over a molecule, CO2, that is the basis of photosynthesis and oxygen creation and that to date has only hypothetical negative effects while very real measurable positive effects.

    Whoever wants to have a future will have to build their own off-grid electric generation.

    • gweberbv says:

      Javier,

      once it is really necessary one could quickly switch back to coal to produce electricity (given that it was abandoned at all). Many countries have domestic ressources that can last from decades to centuries.

    • mark4asp says:

      First, we collectively went mad over the threat of small amounts of radiation. You’ve probably heard of radon building regulations? Did they tell you the total amount of radon in Earth’s atmosphere is in the ballpark of about 5 grams? Such small amounts of radiation do not cause cancer. A weak immune system causes cancer. This Mohan Doss NRC submission on radiation regulation is well worth reading to get a handle of the matter of radiation risk : http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1532/ML15329A092.pdf

  6. climanrecon says:

    Rule 1: If you’ve got a well functioning power station with low fuel/operating cost, DO NOT SHUT IT DOWN. Make an appointment with your psychiatrist if you don’t agree.

    Rule 2 (for nuclear): If you’ve got a well functioning nuclear power station approaching the end of its life, BUILD AN EXACT COPY AS REPLACEMENT. Do NOT give in to lobbying from the nuclear industry that they can build you a much better one for only a small additional cost.

    • Alex says:

      Rule 1 is excellently put. France’s life extension program has been costed at €100 billion (renewal, upgrading, and 20 years of maintenance), which comes out at around 1.5c per KWh,

      Rule 2: Not so sure. If we held to that rule, we’d be building Gen II reactors still. Yes, they’re cheap, but they seem to be having a core melt down (globally) every 20 years or so.

  7. gweberbv says:

    How much of the roughly 16 GW of hydro capacity is run-of-the-river type installations and how many are associated with a dam and a reservoir? For the latter, one could double of even triple the capacity (limited by the maximum water flow that can be managed downstream of the dam). This will not increase the amount of TWh from hydro power, of course, but it will help to provide peak demand (GW). The TWh one might obtain from wind both within Scandinavia and in the neighbouring regions.
    The goal would be to shift hydro production to those times when wind production is low. Is it realistic?

    • Lars says:

      Gweberbv, roughly 10 GW is reservoir hydro and the rest run of river, some of the latter with a bit of ponding capacity I suppose, able to hold water for a few hours before having to produce.

      “The goal would be to shift hydro production to those times when wind production is low. Is it realistic?”

      Good question, I can only give an unqualified answer.
      First, there is not a single pumped hydro station in Sweden. This is due to the fact that its power system has worked amazingly well so far with its present mix of fuels. But with no nuclear and an increasing population pumped hydro could be one alternative in combination with wind, biomass and imports.
      However, I don`t think the current economic environment favours such development. Who is going to pay for new pumped hydro? The power companies cannot afford it with the present price levels, so that leaves the Swedish government?

      Secondly, Norwegian and Swedish hydro power systems are generally rather dissimilar. Norwegian hydro is mainly with a high head and relatively little water, whereas the Swedish systems are with relatively low head and much water. Swedish pumped hydro would mean larger water flows and possibly more negative consequences. Suitable places for pumped hydro in Norway are found mainly where hardly any people live at all, whereas in Sweden I believe it would have larger consequences in lower-lying areas where people live.

      Most of Swedish hydro is found in the Northern half of the country where the large river systems run for hundreds of kms from north-west to south-east, reaching the Baltic Sea. Although the population density is low I can imagine the population along many river systems would be hostile to pumped storage that would quickly alter the flow of the river and for instance make passage on ice in the winter impossible, including on lakes that are part of the river system. It would probably have a negative effect on leisure activity and tourism.

      There is one similarity between Norw. and Swedish hydro systems. Many hydro power plants were designed to run mainly as base load in winter, thus also providing a steady flow of water downstream. Pumped hydro would change all this with some negative consequences, the question is if the Swedish population as a whole are willing to accept even more environmental destruction. More power lines is of course also an issue.

      • gweberbv says:

        Lars,

        thank you very much for your detailed reply.

        However, I see little need for pumped hydro in Sweden. The water running downhill is able to provide 50% of the production over the year. Pumped hydro would allow you to recycle some of the water by pumping it uphill and let it flow down again. But there is no need for this additional water. What one really would like to have is the ability to hold the water back for at least weeks, when intermittent energy sources are available, and to run something like three times more of it through the turbines than now, when intermittent energy sources (and imports) fail to meet the demand.
        This boils down to three issues:
        – Having enough ‘storage volume’ for the water that is held back.
        – Having turbine capacity in the order of peak demand to cover those times when there is zero wind, solar and imports.
        – Being able to deal with the intermittent flow of water downstream of the power plants.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Gunter, water management! On point one, it really comes down to how much you allow the level of the artificial lakes to fluctuate. In Scotland they’re not allowed to fluctuate much at all. In Norway, they allow lakes to be almost drained. On points 2 and 3, yes you can build more turbines, have zero river flow for days / weeks and then let it all go in a torrent. It’s just not sensibly manageable. These things can be worked out in a 30 minute meeting and then the ideas should be buried forever.

          • gweberbv says:

            Euan,

            maybe you are to fast with dismissing the thing completely. Sweden has already about 16 GW of hydro capacitiy. If you find some locations where it would be acceptable to increase fluctuations by a factor two to three from what they are now, one could already add a few GW of dispatchable capacity. Given the fact that until recently there was no incentive to make hydro power ramp up and down pretty much, there might exist some low hanging fruits.

            But of course not within a time frame of only three years.

        • Lars says:

          Gweberbv, ok so you are thinking more of a passive system with more installed capacity in the present reservoirs, but without reversible turbines.

          I think the problem isn`t storage volume with more than 33 TWh.
          Without pumped hydro you would still have the problem with more swings and increased water flow downstream at times which you point out, and of course the controversial power lines I must add.

          Still the task would be huge and is impossible to achieve before 2020. Sweden now has more than 6 GW of wind power, and Svenska Kraftnät estimates that 600 MW of wind power is available at the coldest day of the year in their latest analysis. If the Swedes were to let`s say double their wind power to 12 GW that means 1200 MW of wind power correspondingly. With a deficit of 9,2 GW nuclear they still would have to construct 8 GW of new installed hydro to cover all situations, or with other technologies like gas turbines.

          During the worst cold spell this year (first half of January) the Swedish power system was operating with very thin margins even with access to more than 8 GW of nuclear and maximum possible imports.

          • gweberbv says:

            Lars,

            when you are going to scrap 50% of your power plants within a few years, as it is anticipated in this blog entry, the challenge is for sure huge. 🙂
            (I doubt that in the end such a thing will really happen.)

            Still, I fail to see the point with the transmission lines. For new lines, I fully understand that there might be public unrest. But if an existing line is upgraded to allow for higher currents and/or voltages, I doubt that non-experts will notice any difference. At least this is the take-home message from the fights for grid extensions in Germany.

          • Syndroma says:

            The problem of water flow fluctuations downstream can be solved with small regulating dams to smooth out the flow.

      • nukie says:

        As I can see from the data hydro in sweden is operated between 4,x GW at the low end and >13GW at the high end at least. So the storages often enough already fully close down the turbines, to switch to full power again some times later.
        The 32TWh are the changes of the levels of the reservoirs which are already in use during the yearly cycle of filing and emptying of storages.
        Adding pumped storage between two lakes one above the other would not change the alternating of levels much, just (maybe) increase the speed, and change the causes.
        Higher flows than usual turbine operation happens at times of high water, from swizerland I have read that usual maximum natural flows are about 10 times the flows which the turbines can produce. Which is why high flows from the turbines do not cause a relevant damage there. I would guess it could be similar in sweden.

        • Lars says:

          Nukie, you are about right about Swedish hydro`s output limitations. From my experience having watched the markets over the last few years the bottom is around 3,5 GW on a summer day, presumably when only run of river is operating. The upper limit seems to be 13,5 GW on a very cold winter day.

          Some notes to your claims. First, in the large Swedish hydro systems there are hydro plants with regular intervals all the way downstream from the mountains near the Norw. border almost to the coast. These rivers are heavily regulated. When water is released through a turbine it flows to the next reservoir and so on. Of course, a minimum water level is required at all times, I presume the level is less stringent in the winter compared to summer (that`s how it works in Norway at least). The river will sometimes be rather dry just behind a reservoir when the plant is not producing at all, but tributaries help to fill up the river between reservoirs.
          I cannot comment on your claims about Swiss hydro, but it sounds odd to me. At least it is not the situation in Scandinavia where regulated rivers extremely rarely overflow due to the large reservoirs. In fact this is a big advantage compared to the situation before these reservoirs were made when you frequently had floods during the spring snow melt and the “rainy time” in the autumn.

          Again, I would like to point to one general difference between Norw. and Swedish hydro. The latter is mainly part of the river system itself, it is similar to a run-of-river system but with huge reservoirs that can form dozens of kms of the river. In Norway on the other hand there are mainly tubes or pressure shafts outside the natural river flows, so with a minimum level of water required in the river the flow of water is set regardless of production of the hydro plant.

          Unfortunately I don`t have enough knowledge about how the Swedes fix the flow of their regulated rivers. I can only imagine that if they construct “effect power stations” (like gweberbv suggests) or even pumped hydro that will significantly alter the “flow regimè” that has been in place for decades.
          Again remember that a large number of hydro plants both in Sweden and Norway are constructed with a relatively low capacity to run as baseload for months at a time mostly in winter giving a rather steady flow of water.

  8. sod says:

    There are two big wind projects being build:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Sweden#Future_developments

    call me a pessimist, but i could expect them to provide electricity before Olkiluoto 3 does.

    PS: the old oildrum post was interesting to read. Thanks for the link Euan!

    • robertok06 says:

      “call me a pessimist, but i could expect them to provide electricity before Olkiluoto 3 does.”

      They won’t change a thing, wind is intermittent and seasonal, nuclear is not, you can’t even compare them, it is as if electrons in one case were different from electrons in the other case.
      Nuclear is dispatchable, wind is not. Wind is expensive, nuclear is not, even in the Olkiluoto case… it is sufficient to look at the numbers.

      • sod says:

        “Nuclear is dispatchable, wind is not. Wind is expensive, nuclear is not, even in the Olkiluoto case… it is sufficient to look at the numbers.”

        I am sorry, but the economic arguments needs a backup in numbers.

        I accept that being an intermittent source can be a problem.

        By on your second point, pure economics, i doubt that you can show that wind is more expensive that nuclear.

        By pure chance, we have two comparable (output in MWh) system:

        Olkiluoto 1600MW, cost 8.5€ billion:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olkiluoto_Nuclear_Power_Plant#Cost

        and this wind project: (1400MW output, cost 5.1€ billion)
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markbygden_Wind_Farm

        The wind project is well on its way:
        https://svevind.se/NewsEntry/432488cc-2dbb-4269-ba70-4e9a49edd29a

        It is unclear, if we can say the same about the reactor.

        Looking for cost comparisons, i also found this attempt from 2013, which tries a comparison to costs of german solar PV.

        http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/energy-and-climate/cost-of-german-solar-is-four-times-finnish-nuclear#foot2

        But it fails to use cost for current solar PV and makes optimistic assumptions about the reactor (finished 2016….). And solar PV is more expensive than wind, of course.

        So i am looking forward to see some numbers and links on this topic.

      • sod says:

        Here is another new report about our subject:

        renewables are considered to be cheaper than new nuclear in India by now:

        “Renewable energy’s growth is propelled by the falling costs of solar and wind energy, as IndiaSpend reported.

        In November 2015, US based SunEdison offered solar electricity in India at Rs 4.63/unit. In January 2016, this was followed by a Finnish company, Fortum Finnsurya, offering solar power to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for Rs 4.34/unit.

        At these prices, solar electricity is already cheaper than electricity coming from newly built hydro- and nuclear-power plants. For instance, India is now starting work on a Rs 39,849-crore expansion (2 units of 1,000 MW each) of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Tamil Nadu, due to be completed by 2020-21. Electricity from these reactors—if they are completed on time—will cost Rs 6.3/unit.

        Past experience in India and elsewhere suggests this is unlikely.”

        http://www.thebetterindia.com/49485/renewable-energy-india/

        I am looking forward to links and hard data on this subject. How could the Finnish reactor be producing cheaper than new wind? (again, ignoring the real problem of intermittency for a first stage of analysis.)

        • Greg Kaan says:

          sod

          Please try to expand your research beyond articles posted by renewables proponents – they have an agenda to promote. This site is about realities.

          Transmission capacity and inherent intermittency are still issues that make the cost and nameplate capacities you quote very misleading (even though you state that “I accept that being an intermittent source can be a problem.”)
          http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-12-31/news/69427050_1_solar-power-solar-prices-fortum

          Another issue is the profitability of the prices tendered – SunEdison is now on the verge of going broke.
          http://www.valuewalk.com/2016/03/sunedisons-bankruptcy-risk-solar/

          And back to the Nordic situation, expansion of hydro power is facing opposition so investment in that area is by no means certain.
          http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-wp-blm-sweden-power-6043904e-e6dc-11e5-a9ce-681055c7a05f-20160313-story.html

        • robertok06 says:

          “I am looking forward to links and hard data on this subject. How could the Finnish reactor be producing cheaper than new wind? (again, ignoring the real problem of intermittency for a first stage of analysis.)”

          You cannot ignore what YOU are calling “the real problem”, do you understand that sod or not? I’m afraid you don’t.

          Dunning-Kruger syndrome (or effect), explains it all.

          Go to the web page of the NREL LCOE calculator…. fill in the blank fields, 92% capacity factor for nuclear, 30% CF for wind (in Germany it is 20%, just to make things clear)… and then come back and tell us what LCOE for the two you’ve found, OK?
          On top of that you’ll have to add “the real problem”‘s solution and related costs…

          There’s NO WAY that one of the lowest energy density sources can beat the highest energy density source, it is physically impossible to do, neither in terms of energy nor in terms of costs.

          Only ideology, applied ideology, can beat nuclear… proof is this excellent article explaining what green nuclear-fobia is doing to Sweden.

          • sod says:

            “You cannot ignore what YOU are calling “the real problem”, do you understand that sod or not? I’m afraid you don’t.”

            I am not ignoring it. You made two different arguments in your first post:

            “Nuclear is dispatchable, wind is not. Wind is expensive, nuclear is not, even in the Olkiluoto case… it is sufficient to look at the numbers.”

            I challenge the second part of your claim, which has no connection to dispatchability.

            So i kindly ask you for the numbers that show, that this wind field is more expensive than the finish nuclear plant per MWh of output.

            And after 20 years, we look at the numbers again.

          • Costs depend on how one calculates them. But as the operator, TVO, is a co-operative, they will be selling the electricity from OL3 with marginal cost (ie, enough for investments, operative costs and financing) to its owners. The price is of course a commercial secret, but the ballpark is 25 – 45 €/MWh, depending who picks the final estimated bill (AREVA or TVO). So if TVO gets to pay the whole 8.5 billion, the estimated cost is near 45 € for the owners (as long as they pay financing back, after that it drops closer to 20 €).

            The link is to a finnish news article with one estimate on the price range, which is the one I used. Given that Fennovoima’s new build has a max roof-price to its owners (its also a co-op) of 50 €/MWh, I would say thats the ballpark; 25 – 45 €/MWh. So nuclear is quite affordable, even though the up-front investments are big and a lot depends on interest rates and how fast it gets built (interest rates run even if there is no power coming….)

            http://www.kauppalehti.fi/uutiset/professori-olkiluoto-3n-sahko-ei-valttamatta-kannattavaa/24UK2cCn

  9. Terry Krieg says:

    My reading has revealed that over the past 20 years the world has spent $367billion on subsidies for renewables for which the world generated 2.8% of its electricity and achieved no reduction in green house emissions. Why would you persist with expanding their development? Sweden appears to be going the way of Germany with it’s possible closure of its nuclear fleet. What is wrong with these people? They want to close down the most powerful source of energy known to mankind and replace it with generation which is totally inadequate and extremely expensive. Words fail me.

    • gweberbv says:

      Terry,

      just to put this number into perspective. It is roughly 50% of the US defence budget. Still Marco Rubio who was recently running for republication president candidate felt a little unsafe and bought a gun to protect his family from ISIS.
      Maybe, there is a lot of money spent for much (!) more stupid things than renewables.

      • Gaznotprom says:

        Bet there’s a lot of Swedes who’d like access to self defence right now…
        Recently a woman (in Sverige) peppered sprayed a migrant, guess who got prosecuted? Upside down world…

        Madness – to close reactors considering the times we’re in.

    • sod says:

      “My reading has revealed that over the past 20 years the world has spent $367billion on subsidies for renewables for which the world generated 2.8% of its electricity and achieved no reduction in green house emissions. ”

      The changes did of course reduce CO2 emissions. Just not enough to completely stop the massive increases in developing countries. But enough to possibly even peak CO2 output in places like China much earlier than we thought we could.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/03/07/china-vowed-to-peak-carbon-emissions-by-2030-these-researchers-think-it-could-already-be-there/

      It also drove down the prices for solar and wind to a level, at which it can easily compete, even with established power sources. basically every country will have 20-30% wind in a decade or two. Solar PV is completely changing the daily usage graph and is the simple solution to a growing use of air conditioners in warm countries.

      ” They want to close down the most powerful source of energy known to mankind and replace it with generation which is totally inadequate and extremely expensive. Words fail me.”

      Look at the article above. Prices have fallen to €20 per megawatt hour (MWh). That is a good thing. It looks like nuclear can not compete.
      And it is not people gone mad, just the economics not adding up. The main article assumes that prices could rebound to €100 per MWh soon after those plants are closed. Either the industry is too stupid to see it, or they disagree.

      • robertok06 says:

        @sod
        You message is full on nonsense, non-factual statements, wishful thinking and popular “green” galore… I don’t know even from which one to start debunking it.
        Let’s start with this:

        “It also drove down the prices for solar and wind to a level, at which it can easily compete, even with established power sources.”

        Nonsense one. “Established power sources” like nuclear (since we are discussing this) produce electricity 24h/24, 365dd/year… come back with the same statement only AFTER wind and/or solar will be able to do that… on demand.

        “basically every country will have 20-30% wind in a decade or two.”
        Basically you are dreaming: intermittent renewables hit the limit when their penetration equals their capacity factor, for a given country. This means that for, e.g., Germany, once wind will hit the 19-20% penetration they won’t be able to extract more useful power from any extra wind turbine UNLESS they find a way to store and transport the excess energy. In case there is another intermittent source, like in this case PV for Germany, the “hard limit” I’ve mentioned is LOWER, i.e. it will be reached sooner, because one source take away some possibility to cover demand to the other (unless some Energiewende genius doesn’t find the way to EXACTLY switch on wind when the sun sets, and viceversa).

        “Solar PV is completely changing the daily usage graph and is the simple solution to a growing use of air conditioners in warm countries.”

        And “who cares” should we add it or not? The overall consumption of electricity from air conditioners is a small fraction of the electricity demand, how about making car factories (in the case of Germany), hospitals, airports, etc… run after sunset, or between nov and feb even during the day?… have you ever looked at an insolation map for Germany in winter?

        Remeber: “he/she who refuses to do the math is doomed to talk nonsese”, and, boy, if you do talk nonsense!
        Do the math!

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Hey Roberto, please try to educate others using a little more gentle tone.

        • sod says:

          “Basically you are dreaming: intermittent renewables hit the limit when their penetration equals their capacity factor, for a given country. This means that for, e.g., Germany, once wind will hit the 19-20% penetration they won’t be able to extract more useful power from any extra wind turbine UNLESS they find a way to store and transport the excess energy. In case there is another intermittent source, like in this case PV for Germany, the “hard limit” I’ve mentioned is LOWER, i.e. it will be reached sooner, because one source take away some possibility to cover demand to the other (unless some Energiewende genius doesn’t find the way to EXACTLY switch on wind when the sun sets, and viceversa).”

          Thanks for the reply. I ll try to handle one point first

          I had a discussion about this in detail on Brave new climate some time ago:

          http://bravenewclimate.com/2015/06/05/less-than-the-sum-of-its-parts-rethinking-all-of-the-above-clean-energy/

          I think that we know by now, that capacity factor is not a hard limit to penetration of wind and solar. Such a cap is based on the assumption, that if installed at capacity factor percentage, wind and solar start spilling relevant amounts of output.

          But this does not seem to happen. In the comments on BNC there is a link to this site ( i guess i missed it back then):

          http://euanmearns.com/the-difficulties-of-powering-the-modern-world-with-renewables/

          Euan shows, that even at 50% wind (nearly double of capacity factor), we see pretty little spill.

          http://oi58.tinypic.com/2gx2ufr.jpg

          And it gets even better, if we mix two power sources. Wind and solar PV at 30 GW for example will rarely produce over 30GW combined, and nearly never over 35 GW (page 45)

          https://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/downloads-englisch/pdf-files-englisch/data-nivc-/electricity-production-from-solar-and-wind-in-germany-2014.pdf

          PS: Wind and solar PV will suffer economically at capacity factor and beyond. But it is far from a hard cap.

          • robertok06 says:

            @sod

            “Euan shows, that even at 50% wind (nearly double of capacity factor), we see pretty little spill.”

            Sorry, but you are off the mark, again. Euan has simply MODELLED an hypothetical increase of wind on one month, and the no spill that you mention is only because every other form of production is supposed to stop and adapt to wind… but that is NOT what happens in the real world, for instance it is difficult or impossible to stop completely run-of-river hydro…. and that 50% that you are indicating assumes no other intermittent REN… no PV in particular.

            Anyway, the hard limit corresponding to the capacity factor is not an invention of mine, I’ve read it in some peer-reviewed paper… if I find it I post it again.

            This is related….
            http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2014/ee/c3ee42125b

            … and kills any hopes based on PV with storage, if the stated goal is to reduce global emissions (which is not the case, it is just an excuse):

            “On the other hand, solar PV, which is already energetically expensive compared to wind power, can only ‘afford’ about 24 hours of storage before the industry operates at an energy deficit.”

          • Euan Mearns says:

            I urgently need to write my ERoEI, energy transformation, energy quality post.

          • robertok06 says:

            @sod

            “Wind and solar PV at 30 GW for example will rarely produce over 30GW combined, and nearly never over 35 GW (page 45)”

            Sorry again, but you still don’t get the point!… solar and wind combined together never generate more than 35 GW in the example you’ve shown only because… they are lousy sources!… that’s exactly the point AGAINST their use, not in favor as you seem to indicate.
            Page 5… almost 74 GW of combined wind and PV generate, as you say, NEVER more than 35 GW… so this is a good, efficient way of generating electricity? I don’t think so!

            In addition, using the document you’ve linked, all this happens at a penetration rate of 75/472.7=0.159… i.e. less than 16% (the ratio of the energy generated by wind plus PV divided by the total)…

            Last sentence of page 2:
            “In order to provide sufficient space for the wind power in the grid, nuclear power plants have reduced their base load generation by about 10%, lignite plants by about 30%.”

            … and this has happened with wind at 9% penetration (42.6 TWh out of 472.7), and PV at 6.9%… can you imagine the situation at 30% wind and 30% PV?
            It is physically impossible to do, plain and simple.

          • Greg Kaan says:

            sod,

            your “discussion” points in the Brave New Climate thread consistently ignored the evidence provided both in the article and in the posts by those who bothered to refute your claims. There are economic factors that prohibit the penetration of wind and solar which you don’t seem to accept.

            “Wind and solar PV will suffer economically at capacity factor and beyond. But it is far from a hard cap.”

            You are correct in that the technical cap is higher than 20% but economic sufferance has its limits – society needs to use resources and finances for more that just electrical generation and transmission. Why can’t you accept this?

            Euan, I respectfully disagree with robertok06 needing to change his tone. sod has shown from his posts in this thread and others that he has failed to learn in any way from the article and comments which points to promoting an underlying agenda rather than an intent to share and learn.

          • gweberbv says:

            Greg,

            luckily the production of electricity and its distribution is in general rather cheap compared to its paramount importance for modern societies. The feed-in tariff scheme together with the (annual) costs of grid upgrades are still below 1% of German GDP. And of course this money/work is not lost, but just slightly less efficient used compared to a situation where only low-cost energy sources would be applied. Thus, I tend to conclude that in the electricity sector you can achieve a significant renewables penetration with intermittent sources at the expense of only minuscle ‘economic suffering’.

          • robertok06 says:

            @gweberbv

            “Thus, I tend to conclude that in the electricity sector you can achieve a significant renewables penetration with intermittent sources at the expense of only minuscle ‘economic suffering’.”

            Wrong conclusion, it seems:

            “Germany’s agressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power has come with a hefty pricetag for consumers, and the costs often fall disproportionately on the poor. Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.”

            http://m.spiegel.de/international/germany/a-920288.html#spRedirectedFrom=www&referrrer=https://www.google.fr/

            There will be no major increase of the penetration of intermittent renewables, the hard limit will come soon, just wait Guenter… just keep track of where you store the pieces dismounted from the nuclear reactors… (just kidding, of course)…

  10. mosomoso says:

    Is it really good time for nations like Sweden to downgrade domestic/secure energy on “green” grounds?

    With Turkish Kurds at odds with Iraqi Kurds over gas to Turkey; with Turkey aspiring to be an energy hub for Qatar and the Saudis if Syria can be chopped up; with Russia and Iran playing a big game against the Sunni axis, and not happy about Azeri gas going straight to Europe from the Caspian; with Russia favouring a northern connection to Europe to bypass all the wrong Slavs and Muslims…it just goes on and bloody on, doesn’t it? I’m hardly an expert in geopolitics, but it all looks like such an ugly tangle. One has to buy into it a bit…but why buy into it more than necessary?

    While nearly everybody imports and will need to do so in the future, a critical dependence on imports is surely something best avoided. Australia’s disdain for its superb coal resources (called “durrrdy coal”) and our lack of a nuclear industry, despite enormous uranium resources, are evidence of this weird self-loathing. Our two greenest states, South Australia and Tasmania, are now basket cases; and the monumental bungling of Tasmanian hydro to exploit the now-defunct carbon tax is the stuff of fiction. We should be referring to our two “green” states as the Emergency Diesel Autonomous Region.

    Apologies to those more in the know if I have misrepresented the geopolitics, but do countries like Sweden even take such matters into account when doing their “greening” thing.

    It’s a naughty world out there, and all sorts of naughty people have a hand not only on the gas tap but also on the migrant tap.

  11. michael hamilton says:

    Rauli, Thanks for the interesting article.

    In your reasons for the current price of around € 20/mwh you make no mention of the significant decline in fuel prices. While I understand the Swedish stack is not setting marginal price on these fuels, but most of the surrounding markets do meaning that fuels still have a strong influence price. Surely this is a major driver here?

    As to € 100/MWh, while it’s clearly possible in the short term (volatility is very prevalent in the short term power market) the prospect of these numbers appearing in the forward market is doubtful. Hinckley point would make sense in that environment and a CFD contract for wind or solar would return cash to the government.

    • It is indeed hard to predict anything about future prices. My reference for that 100 €/MWh was that it was the highest price we had this winter, at a time when we were importing quite a lot from Estonia (which is not usually the case I assume). So if imports from Sweden die out, we could be faced with a similar situation much more often (but its unlikely that they will be the “normal” price), and on rarer cases, with a much worse situation. But then again, I don’t know the Nordic power grid/market that well, and the market is dynamic, a lot can happen in 5 years.

      Spot market pricing is defined at the margin though, so with the bidding of certain amount of predicted consumption, the “last” bidder who fits inside that amount of demand, sets the price for everyone. A lot of power is sold with long term contracts as well.

      The forward markets are another beast. Their size is not very significant going further into the future, so their ability to predict future prices is quite poor (as history tells us).
      This is, of course, why some Finnish energy consumers tend to band together (in a “mankala-company” which reminds a co-operative), and build a power plant: to secure certain level of power prices far into the future in a way that is not possible with futures market. TVO and Fennovoima are both examples of this.

  12. Gaznotprom says:

    Gridwatch showing 0.12 GW of Wind Power at this moment!

    • robertok06 says:

      Not a worry, at all!… ’cause “the wind is always blowing somewhere”… isn’t it? 🙂

      • Willem Post says:

        robertoko6,
        “… and this has happened with wind at 9% penetration (42.6 TWh out of 472.7), and PV at 6.9%… can you imagine the situation at 30% wind and 30% PV?
        It is physically impossible to do, plain and simple.”

        It would be possible, if there were a lot of energy storage capacity, TWh, and/or a lot of SPARE generating capacity, TW, capable of producing, ON DEMAND, steady, synchronous, 24/7/365 energy, with plenty of STEADY rotational inertia.

        Most folks seem to forget, PV solar and wind energy provide zero, steady synchronous, rotational inertia, which is essential for grid stability.

        Having larger percentages of wind and solar on a grid will make the stability problem exponentially larger.

        Germany’s grid managers are coping, stability-wise, by exporting excess energy to other grids that still have excess balancing capacity in their systems.

        Without these safety valves, the ENERGIEWENDE would come to a screeching halt some years ago.

        • The other problem with the energiewende though is that the German consumer is paying for these exports. The largest market for export is Austria I believe and most plants in that area are renewable (hydro, solar, wind) with some coal and gas clustered around the cities.

          However to export electricity, it must go on the wholesale market. Thus if renewable electricity is being exported, then the producer gets the FiT after it sells to the wholesale market regardless of where ti is going.

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