The Renewables Future – A Summary of Findings

Since February 2014 I find that I’ve published 24 posts on renewable energy here on Energy Matters (linked to in order of appearance at the end of the post) . In them I’ve written about wind, solar and tidal power, hydro, biogas, hydrogen and methane, CO2 emissions, interconnectors, exports and imports, energy storage, load management, backup capacity and ramp rates, the UK, France, Germany, Norway, California, remote islands like Eigg and El Hierro, the world as a whole and even mythical places like Atlantis and the Island of Denmark. I’ve reviewed “energy future” plans formulated by others, such as DECC, the National Grid and France’s ADEME and even come up with some plans of my own. I can’t think of any stone I’ve left unturned, or for that matter anything more I can write about for the time being.

So, time to sum up.

The ongoing transition to renewables – is it leading us into a clean, green, sustainable energy future, or will it leave us freezing in the dark? Or will it do neither?

Before proceeding I should make my position clear. I’m not anti-renewables, as I think the 2.25kW PV array and solar water heater panels up there on my roof demonstrate. None of my posts was motivated by a burning desire to prove that renewables wouldn’t work. What I was trying to do was come up with plans that would work, and as proof of my bona fides I will begin by recapping two of my minor triumphs:

In Post 16 I looked into the question of where households might be able to go off-grid with a rooftop PV system. I found that by installing a PV system large enough to fill winter demand along with a modest amount of battery storage households at latitudes of less than 40 degrees probably could supply their year-long needs without grid input (system capacity and curtailment of surplus summer generation become prohibitively large at higher latitudes). Not a major breakthrough, but better than nothing. The graphic below summarizes the 20 degrees north case:

Figure 3: Demand, consumption and curtailment, rooftop solar system at latitude 20 degrees north. Installed capacity: 4.1 kW, load factor based on consumption 13.9%, annual generation 5,556 kWh, annual consumption 5,000 kWh, wind power curtailed 556 kWh (10%).

And in Post 23 I presented options for the UK that expand renewables generation and also meet UK emissions targets. As far as I know they are the only plans of their type in existence for the UK that have a realistic chance of working, although I’m willing to be corrected on that. Here’s Option 4, which cuts CO2 emissions to 16% of current levels and includes 39% renewables generation:

Figure 7: Top graph: Monthly demand & generation by source for February 20XX. Bottom graph: Gas generation needed to match demand (hourly data) – Option 4

But these minor triumphs were as far as I could get. A green, sustainable energy future requires a generation mix which is dominantly or entirely renewables, and I was never able to develop an acceptable plan that allowed for high levels of wind and/or solar generation. It can be done, but only by using load-following capacity (presumably gas) to fill the huge supply deficits that result from high levels of intermittent wind and solar output, such as those shown in the graph below (from Post 22):

Figure 3:  National Grid “Gone Green” scenario for February 2035/36, total generation versus demand factored from February 2013 hourly National Grid data.

And these (from Post 6):

Figure 8: Supply & demand, January 20XX, 100% renewables

To match supply to demand in cases like these one has to abuse the gas plants, curtail huge amounts of surplus renewables generation and run both at very low capacity factors. Option 5 in Post 23 shown in the graphic below is an example. Both wind and gas operate at capacity factors down around 10% and 50% of the wind generation gets curtailed. And this is only a 50% renewables case. A 100% renewables case wouldn’t have any gas-fired or nuclear generation and matching demand would become impossible:

Figure 8: Top graph: Monthly demand & generation by source for February 20XX. Bottom graph: Gas generation needed to match demand (hourly data) – Option 5

The intermittency, or if you like non-dispatchability, of solar and wind generation – plus the added difficulty of managing the huge seasonal swings in solar output that occur at higher latitudes – is a problem presently without a solution. It can be solved only with enormous amounts of energy storage, which as discussed in Posts 15, 18, 19 and 20 don’t exist at present and won’t at any time in the foreseeable future. Yet many developed countries have committed themselves to CO2 emissions cuts that can only be achieved through a wholesale transition to wind and solar. How do they propose to handle the intermittency problem?

Well, if they’re like the European Commission they propose to ignore it. In its most recent public utterance Transforming Europe’s energy system – Commission’s energy summer package leads the way the EC dismisses the intermittency problem in three short sentences:

Brussels, 15 July 2015

What needs to be done to balance networks when there with (sic) variable solar and wind generation?

Firstly, by spreading renewable energy generation across Europe through interconnected networks, high generation can compensate areas with lower generation. At the same time the market has to give clear financial incentives for renewable energy generators to make their production as predictable as possible. Furthermore, in periods of low generation, and high prices, consumers can help fill the gap by reducing their demand, while the market has to ensure they are adequately compensated for this role.

These statements are typical of the thinking of the politicians and bureaucrats who presently formulate energy policy, and who if allowed to  pursue their policies to conclusion will do more damage to society than climate change is ever likely to. One might hope that they will eventually realize that the wind isn’t always blowing somewhere, that the sun doesn’t shine at night, that wind turbines and PV panels don’t replace conventional generation, that interconnectors are useless when no one has any electricity to spare, that being able to predict shortfalls in advance doesn’t help if there is no way of avoiding them and that paying consumers to shut down to prevent blackouts is not an acceptable option in an energy-dependent society, but most of them won’t. Bearing this in mind, what might the future hold?

I think the following. The renewable energy transition as presently conceived will gradually grind to a halt simply because it can’t be done. In fact this is already happening in Europe. Germany’s massive investments in renewables have forced it to cut subsidies to try to bring its excessive solar generation back under control but have done little to wean it off its dependence on coal. Ireland already can’t handle all of its wind generation and has a growing curtailment problem. Despite its efforts to encourage renewables Italy is reportedly still going to have to import renewable energy to meet its EU targets. Spain, after running up a cumulative tariff deficit of 25.6 billion Euros, effectively abandoned further renewables development in 2012. The UK’s efforts to replace conventional generation with renewables have achieved little other than to reduce reserve margins to dangerously low levels. (Although things are now changing. The new UK government still pays lip service to renewables but is slashing green subsidies while making let’s-go-nuclear-instead noises. This statement in a Blowout Week 84 link (my emphasis) Ministers say the (Hinkley Point nuclear plant) subsidy represents value for money as it is the only realistic way of reducing UK carbon emissions while ensuring a consistency of supply is hard to interpret any other way. Cameron was apparently serious when he spoke of getting rid of all that “green crap”.)

The main reason renewables are grinding to a halt in Europe, however, is that funding is drying up. The graphic from the Is the European energy bubble about the burst? post reproduced below shows the decline in European “clean energy” investment since 2011. Even if investment now levels out at ~$50 billion a year it will still be totally inadequate to fund Europe’s grandiose plans for a renewable energy future. (The proposed North Sea supergrid alone will cost $250 billion and the offshore wind farms needed to feed it probably twice that. The only way of raising such sums is to dangle yet more lucrative subsidies under investors’ noses, and that isn’t going to happen. By this time renewables were supposed to be generating their own investment momentum in a free-market environment. But they aren’t, and Europe is already “subsidized-out”.)

What of the rest of the world? In the US the Obama Administration and the states that have jumped on the renewables bandwagon are still mostly in the first-flush-of- enthusiasm stage that Europe was in ten or twenty years ago. But wind and solar are just as intermittent in the US as they are in Europe, and the obstacles are already beginning to make themselves felt. Vermont, after committing to 55% renewables generation by 2017 now admits that it can’t do this without importing Canadian hydro.  Massachusetts has the same problem, and California is beginning to butt up against the California Duck curve. Politics is another obstacle. Pro-renewables policies have come under fire in Colorado, Oregon and Texas and have been rolled back in Kansas, Ohio and Oklahoma. Obama’s Clean Energy Plan may not long survive his term in office. No significant progress in transitioning to renewables can in fact be expected in the US while the Republican Party continues to oppose it, and political unanimity on the need for this transition is not on the cards at any time in the foreseeable future.

And nothing much can be expected of Canada, Australia and Japan, none of whom has any lasting commitment to renewables, nor of the world’s developing countries, who are under no compulsion to stop burning fossil fuels and who have more important things than wind and solar to worry about anyway.

So if the world’s renewable energy transition as presently conceived is grinding to a halt, what replaces it? Well, the concept will have to change. Renewables growth will continue to be plugged in the developed countries, but with a more measured approach that balances intermittent renewables generation with conventional load-following generation, which as I noted above is the only way renewables can achieve any significant level of penetration. Such proposals are in fact already on the table, and from unlikely sources. The Energiewende blog, long a champion of Germany’s green transition, recently published one. Here is the relevant graphic. It looks like something I might have put together and leads to similar conclusions (although not to the same conclusions. In the 2020 example I think it would make more sense to add baseload generation and curtail some of the solar):

The intriguing feature of the 2020 energy mix is the continued heavy reliance on conventional generation (presumably coal and gas, since Germany is shutting down its nuclear), which fits in well with the Energie but not so well with the wende. If balancing intermittent renewable generation with fossil fuel generation is the approach to be adopted then Germany will never wend its way to a future based on renewable energy and energy efficiency, which was the Energiewende’s original goal. But with the obstacles that currently stand in the way of renewables there really is no other option.

However, the option will still come to naught if the fossil generation doesn’t exist, which is what will happen if countries continue to shut down fossil plants under legislative dictates such as the European Large Plant Directive and the US EPA’s CO2 emissions caps, or with pricing mechanisms that make it impossible for conventional generation to compete with renewables. Markets will have to be restructured so that fossil generation and renewables generation coexist rather than compete. So expect to see changes here too.

And we could of course always adopt the obvious solution to the CO2 emissions reduction problem, which is to forget about renewables and go nuclear. But this option has also been discussed at length in previous posts and this one is quite long enough already.

Finally an acknowledgement to Euan Mearns, who has also written a number of posts on the subject of renewables. I don’t link to any of them here because I’m providing my personal conclusions, which may not exactly coincide with Euan’s, although I think that for the most part they do.

1. How Much Windpower Can The UK Grid Handle
2. Renewable Energy Growth in Perspective
3. How to cut emissions, and how not to
4. Large scale grid integration of solar power – many problems, few solutions
5. Eigg – a model for a sustainable energy future
6. Electricity supply, electricity demand and 100% renewables
7. California public utilities vote no on energy storage
8. El Hierro – another model for a sustainable energy future
9. Google rejects renewables
10. UK Electricity Interconnectors – a Double-Edged Sword
11. Gridwatch France
12. Wind Blowing Nowhere
13. Wind Power, Denmark, and the Island of Denmark.
14. The German Grid and the Recent Solar Eclipse
15. How Much Battery Storage Does a Solar PV System Need?
16. A Potential Solution to the Problem of Storing Solar Energy – Don’t Store It.
17. A Trip Round Swansea Bay
18. Estimating Storage Requirements At High Levels of Wind Penetration
19. The Difficulties Of Powering The Modern World With Renewables
20. Renewable Energy Storage and Power-To-Methane
21. The DECC Pathways Calculator – A False Prophet
22. A Quick Look at the National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios
23. Decarbonizing UK Electricity Generation – Five Options That Will Work
24. How Much Wind And Solar Can Norway’s Reservoirs Balance?

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112 Responses to The Renewables Future – A Summary of Findings

  1. Willem Post says:


    Regarding being off the grid, that is entirely feasible in Vermont, even though we have cold winters.

    I have written an article comparing 2,000 sq ft houses, on and off the grid.

    The key is having a new, passive solar house that is highly insulated and sealed (close to the Passivhaus standard), with about 10 kW of roof-mounted solar panels ($38,000 without subsidies), and battery and domestic hot water storage, and a small propane-fired generator.

    Such a house would have enough energy to charge a plug-in EV most of the year. It would have surplus energy in the summer, but that can easily be gotten rid off, or used in some way.

    I built my house in 1986. Global warming was not yet a mania.

    If I were to build another new house, it would be built as I described in the article.

    I recently completed a rewrite of another article regarding increased hydro energy from Canada.

    New England, if foolish enough to invest in wind turbines to have 20 – 30 percent of its energy from wind, would need major connections to the Quebec grid to balance its wind energy, as doing it with gas turbines would cause them to operated inefficiently due to ramping up and down, at part load, i.e., more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh.

    Ireland had an island grid with a minor connection with the UK grid until October 2012. Eirgrid, the operator of the grid, publishes ¼-hour data regarding CO2 emissions, wind energy production, fuel consumption and energy generation. Several analyses of the Irish grid operations data by Dr. Udo and Wheatley offer clear evidence of the offset percentages increasing with increasing wind energy percentages.

    The Wheatley study of the Irish grid shows: Wind energy CO2 reduction effectiveness = (CO2 intensity, metric ton/MWh, with wind)/(CO2 intensity with no wind).
    Ireland = (0.279, @ 17% wind)/(0.53, @ no wind) = 0.526, based on SEMO data.

    If 17% wind energy, wind energy promoters typically claim a 17% reduction in CO2, i.e., 83% is left over.

    If 17% wind energy, actual performance data of the Irish grid shows, 0.526 x 17% is reduced = 8.94%, i.e., 91.06% is left over.

    What applies to the Irish grid would apply to the New England grid as well, unless the balancing is done with hydro, a la Denmark. Europe will be facing the same problem.

  2. Aidan says:

    Congratulations on an excellent conclusion to a vast amount of unbiased, well-reasoned work. Both the individual posts and this piece are very clearly written, jargon-free and understandable to anyone with the application to read them.

    My main reaction is that the most effective thing that governments, business and individuals can do is to work hard at reducing consumption. The UK government has had a pathetic response to various home-insulation schemes. Does anyone know why?

    In contrast there has been a massive uptake of biomass woodchip/pellet ‘communal’ heating schemes by the wealthy owners of country mansions who have included their servants’ cottages in order to qualify as a ‘community’.

    Just like the wealthy landowners who have installed big wind turbines, these schemes are going to be lavishly financed for their 25 year lifetimes by surcharges on poor peoples’ energy bills.

    Biomass has been a major plank in UK policy, despite being almost certainly the least efficient form of ‘renewable’ energy, with wood fuel imported from North and South America, West Africa and Siberia for these schemes, as well as supplementing coal at massive power plants such as Drax under the fraudulent pretence that it is remotely ‘green’.

    While motor vehicles are a different topic, UK government policy seems to have gone into reverse. We had an excellent scheme where the annual tax related to individual vehicle CO2 emissions, yet this has just been scrapped in favour of a flat-rate tax from 2017 which will be used to finance the construction of new roads. This is an extreme policy which will encourage energy consumption.

    Yet another folly has been the addition of plant-derived ‘biofuels’ to petrol and diesel. They are destroying native habitat in the tropics, competing with food crops in a hungry world and by removing crop by-products are dramatically reducing the long-term fertility of soils.

  3. Peter Lang says:

    A report just released by the Minerals Council of Australia estimates Subsidies for electricity in Australia by technology (A$/MWh):

    coal $0.86,
    gas $0.0003,
    Solar $412,
    wind $42,
    other renewables $17.5

    Total fossil fuel $0.001
    Total renewables $75.75
    Total all fuels/technologies $11.94

    • Peter Lang says:

      There appears to be a factor of 1,000 error in the estimated subsidies ($/MWh) for ‘Gas’ and ‘Total fossil fuel’ in Table 1, Column 4 in the report linked above.
      Dividing Column 1 by Column 3 gives the following amounts ($/MWh) for electricity production subsidies per technology type:

      Coal, inc. share of subsidies paid to coal mining: $0.86
      Gas: $0.30
      Solar: $412.10
      Wind: $41.60
      All other renewables (inc. hydro): $17.52

      Total fossil fuel : $0.69
      Total renewables: $75.80
      Total all fuels/technologies: $11.95

      The key point is that the production subsidies for renewables are around 100 times higher than for fossil fuels.

      All subsidies for production should be removed, other than those required to correct for market failures and market distortions. The subsidies for renewables cannot be justified on the basis of either market failure or correcting a market distortion.

    • Peter Lang says:

      There appears to be a factor of 1,000 error in the estimated subsidies ($/MWh) for ‘Gas’ and ‘Total fossil fuel’ in Table 1, Column 4 .
      Dividing Column 1 by Column 3 gives the following ($/MWh):

      Fuel/technology Estimated subsidies ($/MWh)
      Coal, inc. share of subsidies paid to coal mining $0.86
      Gas $0.30
      Solar $412.10
      Wind $41.60
      All other renewables (inc. hydro)+ $17.52

      Total fossil fuel $0.69
      Total renewables $75.80
      Total all fuels/technologies $11.95

      This indicates the subsidies for electricity production are a factor of 100 higher than for fossil fuels.

      Subsidies may be justified to correct for market failures and for distortions caused by previous poor policies. The subsidies for renewables cannot be justified on a rational basis.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Peter, I’ve not had time to follow this discussion. But, I wrote a post on subsidies a while back.

        Bottom line, some countries (like OPEC) subsidies the price of FF for poor consumers. This is what is meant by FF subsidies. Others (like the OECD) charge consumers more to subsidies the producers of RE (FiTS, ROCs etc).

        Greens disapprove of the former but support the latter.

        • Peter Lang says:

          Thank you Euan. I have many previous threads to read.

          One of the issues with statements about fossil fuels subsidies is that they often refer to the subsidies for all fossil fuels for all uses and compare that with the subsidies for renewables. This study compares like with like for Australia – i.e. subsidies for electricity production.

          By the way, is there a way I can contact you about a technical issue I am having with posting comments on your blog? I looked for an email address but couldn’t find one.

        • Willem Post says:


          Below is a table of federal subsidies for traditional and renewable energy for 2013. Some of the “As Published” values are from the references, and do not agree with the “As Calculated” values. RE received 72.5% of the subsidies, but produced only 13.1% of all the energy. Wind subsidy was 3.522/0.67 = 5.3 times greater than gas. Solar subsidy was 23.121/0.67 = 34.5 times greater than gas.

          Source…..Subsidy…….Production……As Calc……As Published
          …………….million $…..billion kWh…………c/kWh……………c/kWh
          Gas + Petro Liq…………..890…………..1141………………..0.060…………….0.067
          Total Trad..3251…………3536…………………0.090

          Solar, Utility + Distr………4393………………19……………….23.121…………..23.121
          Other RE….594
          Total RE..14929…………….533……………….2.191



  4. Leo Smth says:

    I think it was way back in 2003 when I write:

    Nuclear is not an alternative to fossil power
    It is the ONLY alternative to fossil power..

    It is interesting to see that slowly people who repeat the same calculations, in even greater depth than I did, come to the same conclusions.

    Renewable energy is a bolt on fuel saving device for fossil generation. Not a replacement of it. And its a very very expensive and environmentally destructive way of saving fuel.

    Nuclear is far kinder to the environment and to our pockets.

    • gweberbv says:

      Nuclear is good in theory. Reality looks like this:

      – France: Most power plants are getting older and older. Replacement is necessary in the next decades. But too expensice. So, just extend the operation time of the existing plants. Safety concerns anyone? Brings us to the next example …

      – Japan: To save a tiny amount of money, a dam against tsunami floods was build too small. As a results, the country lost an incredible amount of money (and a few thousand people their homes).

      In theory it is a no brainer to build a dam or to replace a power plant when it reaches the end of its lifespan. In theory one could also significantly reduce the costs of new nuclear power plants by a global safety protocol and common standards. But in reality …

      • Peter Lang says:

        Nuclear is about the safest way to generate electricity.

        Grids with the highest proportion of electricity have the lowest cost electricity, whereas grids with a high proportion of non hydro- renewables have the highest cost electricity.

        Nuclear is the least cost way to reduce emissions.

        Nuclear is sustainable effectively indefinitely. Renewables are not sustainable now and never likely to be (see link on this thread to “Catch 22 of energy storage”).

        All technologies have to be replaced. Nuclear plants have a design life of 40 to 60 years with extensions of around 20 years or perhaps more in the future. Solar have lives potentially up to about 25 years, but generally much shorter and average life of residential PV is around 15 years. Wind plants also have average lives of around 15 to 20 years. So, your comment about having to replace the nuclear plants is disingenuous.

      • gweberbv says:

        @Peter Lang

        My point is not, that nuclear plants are ‘bad’ because they have to be replaced. Instead, they are bad because in western societies it is de facto impossible to replace them. Look at France. This country should ramp up a major replacement program – given the fact that construction of a state-of-the power plant may take more than 10 years (see Olkiluoto, 13 years from start of construction to routine operation according to the most recent schedule).

        But for politics it is far ‘cheaper’ to extend and extend the lifespan of already existing nuclear plants. At a certain point this will reduce safety. You may argue that from a rational perspective, even the release of radioactive isotopes during a major accident is not such a bad thing compared to the deaths due to air pollution by coal plants. But human beings are no robots. If they decide to be much more afraid of nuclear pollution than of air pollution, you have to take this into account. See Fukushima et al. And compared to European standards, the Japanese people were quite relaxed at that time.

        • Peter Lang says:


          I agree with you about the politics of nuclear power in western democracies. However, we need to differentiate between physical constraints and political/public perception constraints. Politics and public understanding change over time (see reply to one of your earlier comments regarding perception of risk). Political constraints can be changed as rationality gets through to the public,by good oratory and advocacy, Enlightenment returns to academia, environmental NGO’s start to be genuinely concerned about people and environment, etc. But physical constraints cannot be changed.

          This country should ramp up a major replacement program – given the fact that construction of a state-of-the power plant may take more than 10 years (see Olkiluoto, 13 years from start of construction to routine operation according to the most recent schedule).

          Why should France ramp up its replacement program before the existing plants have reached the end of their economically viable life? Why would we want to terminate plants early? If it cheaper to extend their lives than build new capacity, why would we want to replace them? It doesn’t make sense. They are safer than all other electricity generation technologies, so we should be extending their lives and building more as needed. e should also be doing all we can to bring their costs down, not up..

          The 10 years and 13 years build times are for FOAK EPR plants after a long pause in construction of new plants and most of the expertise has been lost. Furthermore, new plants are being built in China in 3.5 to 5 years. This demonstrates the cause is not physical or engineering constraints. The cause is the loss of expertise combined with excessive regulation, bureaucracy and too many bosses at every level. All this can be fixed.

          • gweberbv says:

            @Peter Lang

            Most nuclear power plants in France started commercial operation in the 1980s. If you assume a lifespan of 40 years, in 10 to 15 years France would need to replace 20 to 30 reactors. Impossible! It is much more likely (still absolutely unrealistic) that France will have a man on the moon within the next 10 years.

            Of course, you can assume a lifespan of 60 years. Then officials in France have maybe 15 years more to kick the can down the road. And even 15 years are not pretty much time to completely change the public and regulatory mindset towards nuclear power. From ‘extreme cautious’ to ‘anything goes’.

          • Peter Lang says:

            gweberbv ,

            France commissioned most of its fleet over a period of about 20 years. It can replace more capacity faster now if it is commercially justified. Its not justified now. The plants have a long life ahead of them. It will be done when it is commercially viable to do it. There is no need for advocates or politicians to get involved in what are commercial decisions. But what they should do is advocate to remove the impediments that are making ne plants not economically viable. That is the role for politicians and regulators – deregulate, not more regulation and more interference in markets.

  5. Joe Public says:

    Thanks for summarising your work, and, enabling within a single Bookmark, your collection of studies.

    • Peter Lang says:

      I second Joe Public’s comment. This is a great resource. I am sorry I came late to it. I followed a link from Judith Curry’s “Climate Etc.” blog site and found this excellent site! I hope it grows and becomes influential for policy analysts.

      • genghiscunn says:

        I agree with Joe & Peter, this is an excellent summary covering issues which many policymakers (of which I was once one) ignore. I’ll draw it to the attention of the ill-informed Queensland government.

        Michael Cunningham aka Faustino aka Genghis Cunn

  6. glen Mc Millian says:

    It is obvious enough that the business of managing a transition to renewables is being badly mismanaged from a number of perspectives.

    It is also obvious that the low hanging fruit, the real savings in both money and resources, consist of conservation and improvements in efficiency of energy use.

    I have not yet personally bought a pv system because the cost is still falling so fast I can’t justify buying NOW. If costs continue to fall as expected I will put in a two to six kw system in three or four years.

    Most of this cost reduction is generally attributed to the fact that past and current subsidies have enabled the renewables industries to grow so fast. No doubt this has been accomplished only by means of wasting HUGE amounts of money -but hey, we are fixing to waste two hundred fifty million dollars in Milwaukee here in the states right now to build a new football stadium at tax payers expense for the billionaire owners of the American football leagues. This just in ONE city in one year. Every body imaginable is lined up like a pig at the government trough these days.

    Let’s not forget that Eisenhower put thru the legislation establishing our yankee interstate highway system with the man at the head of the program being an executive with GENERAL MOTORS. Subsidies are the way things work when government gets involved.

    It may not yet be obvious to most of the regulars at this blog but both wind and solar power are now well enough established that in places with DECENT wind and sun resources they are getting to be productive enough to save ENORMOUS amounts of coal and gas. Here in the states there are plenty of places where wind and sun will cost LESS than gas and coal in the easily foreseeable future. Gas and coal deplete. Wind and sun do not.

    Given the storage issue Roger is right that unless there are unlikely breakthroughs in the cost of storage renewables will always need truly substantial amounts of gas fired backup.

    Now we are NECESSARILY going to build coal and gas fired generating capacity to replace old worn out generating plant and new as necessary with OR without renewables playing a role.

    The question then, from a balanced point of view in my estimation, is whether the amount of fuel saved can justify the investment in renewables. Obviously in places such as the UK in the case of pv it cannot at this time and probably cannot even twenty years from now. On the other hand wind in the UK does have the potential to save the country simply enormous amounts of hard earned foreign exchange over the coming decades.

    I for one do not doubt AT ALL that the prices of gas and coal are going to rise sharply as time passes. Nuclear scares the hell out of me – but the LACK of nuclear scares me as bad or worse. In my opinion there is a very distinct possibility that there WILL BE nuclear accident that kills large numbers of people within the next decade, given the size of the existing fleet and the pressure to keep it running past it’s original design date. IF such an accident occurs, the political backlash will most likely result in any new nuclear construction being put on ice for at least a decade in most western countries.

    We pay for our military establishments IN CASE we must call on them. Maybe we ought to be thinking of renewables as security assets to some extent.

    Roger, will you venture a guess as to the price of gas in ten or twenty years? The price of coal in ten or twenty years?

    At one time I drove a pickup truck exclusively. In recent times I have kept a small car as well – mostly because it uses a third as much gasoline per mile as the truck.

    • roberto says:

      “In my opinion there is a very distinct possibility that there WILL BE nuclear accident that kills large numbers of people within the next decade, given the size of the existing fleet and the pressure to keep it running past it’s original design date.”

      There’s simply no way that any nuclear accident may kill large numbers of people!… it is physically impossible for it to happen, due to the very nature of the fission process inside the reactors.
      Not even the huge explosion with graphite fire which lasted weeks, in Chernobyl, with winds blowing all over the European continent was capable of killing large number of people, 10 days after the accident 51 people died, of which the vast majority were security/firemen who rushed inside the reactor’s building and got heavily irradiated. If this is the kind of “large” you are hinting at then we agree, of course… I’d just like to point out that every GWp of PV panels/modules “Made in China” with 70% electricity from dirty chinese coal, and 2 year energy pay-back time imply 2.6 TWh of energy at 20-50 deaths/TWh (mostly in China)… and just to replace 10% of the chinese yearly electricity consumption (i.e. 400 TWh) one would have to install 300 GWp of PV… “presto!” according to the anthropic climate change dogma…. and THAT would be a “large” number of deaths!…

      • roberto says:

        … reply to myself… forgot to comment on the

        “the pressure to keep it running past it’s original design date”

        In fact there is NO “original design date”. All nuclear countries’ nuclear safety agencies simply delivered operation permissions for, initially, 20 years, or 30… with long stops and checks after these intervals, and delivered further permissions for 10 or 2à more years on the condition that very precise and onerous modifications/updates be made.
        In some cases, especially int he USA, the cost of these measures have been deeemed not profitable and perfectly working reactors have been, stopped, to the detriment of the cost of electricity for their customers, and quality of the air for the people living in those states (or in the states where the electricity in their place has been produced).

        Nuclear reactors are the most controlled items ever made by mankind, and there is no reason why the vast majority of their best design/typoe, the PWRs, shouldn’t go to the 60 year mark with minor interventions.

        I read last week on World Nuclear News’ website that a company in Russia has produced the first full-scale prototype of a reactor vessel based on a Nickel alloy which could go to 120 years before replacement…. let’s ask our green friends to try and do that with wind turbine or PV modules?


        • glen Mc Millian says:

          I worked myself at six different nukes in the eighties and nineties on jobs that brought me into close contact with the engineers who were generally ready to discuss the nature of the beast with me.

          They all without exception said the plants were designed to run fifty to sixty years.

          • roberto says:

            “They all without exception said the plants were designed to run fifty to sixty years.”

            … exactly, and almost none of them has reached yet the 60-year bar, right?

            So, what exactly was your point?

      • roberto says:

        Please read…

        “10 days after the accident 51 people died”


        “10 YEARS after the accident 51 people had died”

      • Glen Mc Millian says:

        Here is a link to estimates of a worst case accident at various nukes published by … well you guys can read it if you are willing to consider the possibility that maybe outfits like Sandia Lab know DO DO from apple butter.

        • glen Mc Millian says:

          Since it seems rather obvious that nobody has actually read the link to the study I will post the summary here in case some kid comes across this blog so as to point out that nuclear power plants DO have the potential to kill by the thousands. Note that this study is OLD and that the populations in the vicinity of the plants are much higher now and that evacuation might be much more difficult.

          I have often posted comments to the effect that I only the LACK of nuclear power scares me as much as the possession of it.

          Now I suppose Roberto and company will accuse Sandia Labs of being a quack outfit. Using the link this study comes up in chart form and is easily readable.

          The CRAC-2 Report
          ”Calculation of Reactor
          Accident Consequences”

          a 1982 study by Sandia Labs, New Mexico
          commissioned by the
          US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

          The following figures are from the CRAC-2 Report.
          This report looks at nuclear power plants in the USA
          and assumes a class 9 [worse case] meltdown.

          The report was commissioned by the NRC
          [Nuclear Regulatory Commisssion] and
          carried out by Sandia Labs in New Mexico.

          It was published by the U.S. Congress
          and the Washington Post on November 1, 1982.

          Estimates are based on 1982 population and 1982 dollars.

          RA note: I have replaced the column of numbers with this link to the CRAC-2 table.

          • Glen: The table you posted above has emerged in column form and occupies a vertical height of over 30 feet on my screen. If you could post a link I will try to format it so it comes out as a table. If not I’m afraid it will have to go.

          • roberto says:

            “DO have the potential to kill by the thousands.”

            A small correction to your text above:

            “DO have the “potential” only according to a bogus study made eons ago which, by comparing with REAL MAJOR ACCIDENTS’ data, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island, Mayak, etc… are demonstrably OFF THE MARK by a large margin”.

            Voila’, now looks better.


            P.S.: nice formatting! 🙂 … sorry, couldn’t resist…

          • I added up the numbers on the CRAC-2 table and found that in 1982 no fewer than 10.3 million Americans were at risk of death or injury from reactor meltdowns. 33 years of reactor operation have passed since then and to the best of my knowledge nuclear meltdowns in the US have yet to kill or injure anybody.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Roger, millions are at risk from dying in air accidents every day and yet we still fly. Hundreds are killed on a regular basis and yet air travel is the safest form of transport normalised for distance travelled. I’m guessing that cycling is perhaps the most dangerous in the UK – and yet out governments encourage us to cycle to work and penalise the use of cars.

            This web site asserts that 92 have been killed in wind industry accidents since 2000:


            Normalise that for power produced and it would appear like a massacre.

          • gweberbv says:

            The number of dead people by an accident is more or less irrelevant. Look at the Fukushima accident. From an economic point of view, it was a real catastrophe. At the same time more people are killed in an average railroad accident.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            The number of dead people by an accident is more or less irrelevant.

            Well it shouldn’t be and in most cases is not. The economic catastrophe in Japan was caused by the tsunami and closure of their nuclear power plants on the W coast that were to all purposes safe.

          • gweberbv says:

            But we live an the real world. It is safe to say that 3000 dead people in two skyscrapers in NYC shaped to a large extend national and global politics of the western world for more than a decade. While the same amount of people die each year in Germany during car accidents (and 40 years ago it was 4 times more – still there is no general speed limit on the Autobahn).

            Back to topic: Nuclear pollution scares the hell out of people. Even though when the exposure at a certain place is – in terms of risk – compareable to the same person sitting in a pub where smoking is permitted. People do NOT tolerate nuclear pollution the same way they tolerate ‘normal’ stuff. If one of the western metropolis areas is affected, big trouble is not people dying from radiation. Big trouble IS that a few trillions of real estate are rendered worthless. Renewables will look a lot cheaper then.

          • Peter Lang says:


            The damage cost of the Fukushima nuclear accident is largely due to the over reaction by authorities. This was caused by the paranoia about nuclear power. The paranoia is irrational and the response was irrational (on objective grounds). We will get over the paranoia eventually. It would help if the environmental NGO’s would stop scaremongering and using fear of catastrophe as a means to scare people – and hence attract more members to their business.

            You are correct about the perception of risk. The perception of nuclear risk is out of all proportion to perception of other risks. However, I believe this will pass in time, in the same way as the perception of the risks of car travel (remember the man with the red flag required to walk in front of the car on public roads) and of air travel (“the human frame is not strong enough to travel at such speed” and “if God intended man to fly, he’d have given us wings”) has passed. The population woke up to the realities of car travel and air travel. This will happen with nuclear too.

      • Willem Post says:


        There was an article in Time Magazine about 1.6 million people dying due to air pollution, in China, EACH YEAR.

    • Leo Smth says:

      Sigh. Its obvious you haven’t bothered to read,. or dont understand the critiques of renewable energy: It doesn’t matter HOW much renewable energy you produce if its when you cant use it, and it doesn’ty matter how much you produce if you cant store it.

      And it does not displace fossil fuel if the net result of subsidising it is to drive efficient plant off the network and replace it with cheap inefficient plant that burns more gas, because that is the cheapest way to supply peak demand when wind and solar lets you down.

      The Great Lies of Renewable energy protagonists:

      The wind is always blowing somewhere.
      A gigawatt of renewable capacity is the same as a gigawatt of fossil power.
      Every MWh of renewable energy results in a MWh equivalent less of carbon emissions.
      Taxing and regulating the price of fossil and nuclear power upwards is a real demonstration that renewable energy is as cheap as fossil/nuclear.
      The cheque is in the post.
      I wont come in your mouth.

      • Glen Mc Millian says:

        The insanity of antirenewables guys. They all seem to believe that oil and gas grow back like potatoes and that fossil fuels will always be cheap and plentiful whereas renewables will always be expensive.

        And while I do not generally go into the climate argument- I find it VERY hard to find more than one out of fifty or so randomly selected professors of the hard sciences who do not believe we are taking extreme chances with the climate over time.

        Try it yourself. Just go to the website of any randomly selected university and get the email addresses of a couple of professors of biology chemistry physics mathematics etc and send them a brief email. Or call them directly during their posted office hours. You will be amazed how easy it is to talk to a dozen in short order.

        The fossil fuel industry is guaranteeing to come in your butt at some point. The only possible question is WHEN rather than if.

        I am going to post a couple more comments here and delete the bookmark to this site. It’s getting to be perfectly obvious that there are only fossil fuel true believers reading it. For now I am waiting to see if the link I tried to post a few minutes ago shows up. If it does I am going to try to post a page or two of the actual document.

        • Leo Smth says:

          You could not be more wrong. If you had read my posts, or the two papers I have written, I am as disturbed as you claim to be about the demise of fossil fuels. However, as an engineer, the calculations I have done lead me to the conclusion that renewables are no alternative.

          That leaves one technology standing. Nuclear power.

          being against renewable energy on the grounds that it is a futile waste of money, in no way equates to an endorsement of fossil fuel.

          The success of the renewable lobby is to convince people that it is in some way a valid alternative. It is not.

          Renewable energy cannot replace fossil fuel.

          Nuclear energy however, can.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Leo Smith,

            I agree with you that renewable energy is a futile waste of money. I’d go further and say advocating for policies to incentivize renewables is delaying progress on cutting global GHG emissions. The impediments imposed on nuclear have virtually halted the accelerating growth rate of nuclear power that was experienced during the 1960s and 1970s. The result is that nuclear power is far more expensive than it could and should be and is uncompetitive in most of the world. By doing this GHG emissions are 10% to 20% higher than they otherwise would have been and it will take much longer to ramp up low GHG emissions electricity generation than would be the case if the irrational policies had not been implemented. Further more, world economic growth is being slowed which means a lower standard of living and more people remaining in poverty for longer. Those are some of the consequences of the irrational support for renewables and disincentives for nuclear.

            I do not agree with you that fossil fuels are bad. The least cost energy that meets requirements is the best option. Until there is a competitive alternative to fossil fuels, that is by far the best option. Have you read this excellent report?:

            Humanity Unbound: How Fossil Fuels Saved Humanity from Nature and Nature from Humanity

          • Euan Mearns says:

            And, the success in convincing the world that nuclear, the safest form of energy production we have, is critically dangerous.

          • Glen Mc Millian says:

            Pointing out that renewable energy TODAY cannot replace fossil fuel is not proving it cannot TOMORROW.

            For my own part I have never argued that I believe we will ever have a totally renewable society in ANY respect, especially energy.

            But insisting based on current technologies and prices that renewables will always be so expensive as to make them uneconomic and impractical is just pure bullshit.

            Wind power in places such as TEXAS is already very close to level field cost competitive except when coal and gas are DIRT cheap. It so happens in Texas that they have ” mine mouth ” generating plants, so they have near zero transport cost for local coal power.

            Power plants in Atlanta are paying five or six times as much for DELIVERED coal as it costs at the mine mouth in Montana or Wyoming.

            Neither you nor I can know the future but as a practical matter we know fossil fuels deplete- and being more open minded about believing the evidence of my own lying eyes I see wind and solar power in PLACES WITH GOOD WIND AND SUN soon being cheap enough to justify on the basis of purchased fuel savings ALONE.

            Even though I much prefer to drive my truck I own and drive a car when I can based on the fact that it saves me the expense of purchasing three times as much fuel per mile for the truck.

            Additionally as a practical matter, we know machinery of just about any sort has a life expectancy that is usually measured in decades at the most. So when we build a wind farm or coal fired power plant or a nuke we know in any case that it will be scrapped within the lifetime of a young man almost for sure.

            We are looking at getting thru the next few decades doing what we already know how to do or what we can invent and scale up during these next few decades.

            Maybe I am wrong and the public will come around and endorse nuclear power wholesale. Sometimes I post comments to this effect in other forums.

            The difference between me and thee is that I do not insist that I KNOW what will happen. You insist that you somehow KNOW that fossil fuels never be expensive enough that supplementing them with renewables will be a practical option.

            Nobody KNOWS that there will be no major nuclear accident or accident that will kill people by the thousands -maybe the tens of thousands.

            Certainly money by the ton has been wasted on poorly sited renewable power infrastructure. This does not prove that properly sited renewables built at substantially lower costs will always be impractical or uneconomic.

            Furthermore there ARE workable storage options such as pumped hydro. When the depletion shit hits the fan, then there will be LOTS of sites suddenly found to be suitable for a pumped hydro reservoir system. These sites will (MIGHT BE for quibblers ) be seized by the various governments involved and pumped storage built. The people living on them will be summarily kicked out just as some members of my family were kicked off land they owned for generations to make way for a federal park.

            Now since others have descended to insults first I will close by pointing out that only a goddamned fool could possibly believe that it is impossible for a nuclear power plant accident to kill a lot- Thousands – of people.

            Nobody bothered to counter this bullshit claim. This indicates a true believer forum. Birds of a feather really do flock together. Ask any biologist or psychologist.

            One set of facts and or assumptions is gospel. Everything else is heresy.

          • Willem Post says:

            The nuclear industry is alive and well, except in hysterical US, Europe and Japan.

            Here are some Russian data:

            Russian has sold a large number of nuclear reactors to various nations during the last half of 2014 and the first half of 2015, which indicates Russia is doing business as usual, despite sanctions. Is this how “isolating Russia” is meant to work?

            Country………. Qty………Capacity, MW……..Cap. Cost, $billion
            South Africa….….8…………..1200………..……50
            Saudi Arabia……16………….1200…………….100
            Argentina………MOA signed
            Indonesia………MOA signed

            These are orders Russia has contracts for. There is nothing theoretical about them.

            The rest of the world (not Europe, not Japan, not the US) is busy placing orders, designing, building and commissioning reactors.

            It is true, more capacity, MW, was shut down than was commissioned last year, but, as Russia’s order book shows, that trend may reverse itself over the next few years.

            Russia and China are taking advantage of the self-induced nuclear coma of Europe, Japan and the US, which likely will put their nuclear sectors out of business.


          • roberto says:

            @Peter Lang

            “I do not agree with you that fossil fuels are bad. ”

            … IMHO this statement is NOT true regardless of the country to which it is applied!

            A careful reading of some of the most recent research articles, like “Electricity generation and health” on The Lancet of few years ago


            … and/or the paper by Hansen and Kharekha of last year… on human lives saved by nuclear (vs coal/gas, based on historic data and projections) make it clear that for rich countries fossil fuels are certainly bad, due to their hard impact on the lives of their citizens.
            On the other hand, I can probably (reluctantly) agree that for poor developing countries fossil fuels consumption for energy production are a good thing, because more energy, even dirty energy, is better than no energy at all.
            South Africa has a huge problem with deforestation due to its people having to resort to cutting trees and bushes in winter to warm their homes and cook… coal power stations with electric cook stoves would be immensely better, for the population and the environment…. no question about it.

            The human development index is a good indicator which can be used as a rationale for my point of view, expressed here above… there’s a threshold per-capita energy value below which any fossil fuel is better than no fossil fuel at all, clearly.


          • roberto says:

            @Glenn McMillan

            “Pointing out that renewable energy TODAY cannot replace fossil fuel is not proving it cannot TOMORROW.”

            … only if you/anybody else can prove that tomorrow’s laws of physics are going to change.

            This universe, with its laws of physics, make it IMPOSSIBLE to use intermittent sources to replace baseload/dispatchable ones on a scale like the one which we, European/Americans/Japanese/etc… enjoy and have enjoyed throughout the past decades.

            On the other hand, I could agree with you in case a return to middle-ages’ standard of living is what you are aiming for… but do not count me in… I will keep on counting on this, if you don’t mind:


            … in beautiful sunny, flowery Drome Provencale… visited by millions of tourists every year.

            4 small reactors, 920 MWe each, equivalent to 2/3 of the yearly production of the 38 GWp of useless PV installed in Germany (energy equivalency only).

            Never forget, Glenn: “He/she who refuses to do the math is doomed to talk nonsense”, J Mc Carthy

          • roberto says:

            @Glenn McMillan

            “Now since others have descended to insults first I will close by pointing out that only a goddamned fool could possibly believe that it is impossible for a nuclear power plant accident to kill a lot- Thousands – of people.”

            If you are referring to my comment, I have no problem whatsoever to SUSTAIN my argument.
            As a physicist I MUST look at THE DATA, and validate or invalidate ANY MODELS which do not agree with the former. Get it?
            It’s science vs science fiction, or religious belief.

            Not even decades of people living near the Mayak nuclear center in Siberia, criminally exposed to huge radiation doses for decades, have been able to kill tens of thousands of them… try with a search on PubMed like this:


            … and quit believing anti-nuclear propaganda/galore for once!

            Even assuming the pessimistic linear no-threshold model each Sv of absorbed dose makes a 5% increased probability of developing a mortal cancer in the 70 years following exposure to such radiation dose… this is A FACT, not the opinion of what very soberly you call a “goddamned fool”. This goddamned fool has been working with radiation on a daily basis since almost 20 years, my friend.

            “Nobody bothered to counter this bullshit claim. This indicates a true believer forum. Birds of a feather really do flock together. Ask any biologist or psychologist.”

            Wrong!… it simply means that this blog is read by knowledgeable people, with a solid scientific/technological background, which use their brains and do not believe all the BS which can be found on internet these days.

            It’s up to you to be a member of the club… there’s no fee, and be able to push this button every time some crazy un-scientific statement is made:


            Cheers, and have a nice reading:


            “Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented an average of 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent (GtCO2-eq) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning.

            On the basis of global projection data that take into account the effects of the Fukushima accident, we find that nuclear power could additionally prevent an average of 420 000–7.04 million deaths and 80–240 GtCO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels by midcentury, depending on which fuel it replaces.”

          • roberto says:

            @glen mcMillian

            “Wind power in places such as TEXAS is already very close to level field cost competitive except…”

            ` … except when there is no wind… which happens to be MOST of the time.

            The capacity factor of wind, even in windy USofA, is lower than 40%… in fact averaged over the last 10 years it is lower than the capacity factor of Japan’s nuclear fleet… just to make some counter-bogus argument.

          • Peter Lang says:


            You replied to my comment as follows:

            @Peter Lang

            “I do not agree with you that fossil fuels are bad. ”

            … IMHO this statement is NOT true regardless of the country to which it is applied!

            Your response suggests you did not read “Humanity Unbound: how fossil fuels saved humanity from nature and nature from humanity” I suggest you read it and then rethink your response.

            Also consider what would happen if we stopped using fossil fuels. As a reality check, consider the consequence if we just suddenly stopped using fossil fuels. I expect around 50% to 80% of global population would be dead in a year. That’s how much we depend on it and that shows how grossly beneficial it is.

          • roberto says:

            @Peter Lang

            “Your response suggests you did not read “Humanity Unbound: how fossil fuels saved humanity from nature and nature from humanity” I suggest you read it and then rethink your response.”

            Peter, there is nothing in the document that you’ve linked that goes against what I’ve said.
            Today’s rich countries should get rid of FF as soon as practically possible, I’m not saying that FF are evil or should be abandoned today, simply that their continued use at the expense of other technologies imply a burden in terms of human lives and the environment.
            That’s it, nothing more.

            Example: does it make sense that Germany stops the equivalent of 60 TWh/y of clean electricity few weeks after Fukushima, and at the same time ramps up its lignite/coal consumption? No.

            Is it reasonable that China and India, and who know how many other energy-hungry economies/countries use coal to produce electricity? Absolutely yes, because the alternative would mean more human lives taken.



          • Peter Lang says:


            I may have misunderstood your earlier comments. Is so I apologise. However, I am still not clear that we agree. To make my position clear what is needed is least cost energy that meets requirements. The primary requirements are energy security and reliability of of supply at least cost. Health and Safety and environmental impacts are secondary. The way to make this clear is that any energy is better than no energy. Therefore, policies should be aimed at providing least cost energy for everyone – especially for the poorest people and poorest countries.. The best way to achieve least cost energy is for governments and regulators to get out of the way – stop interfering in markets. Stop causing market distortions, but fix market distortions where justified. It is certainly justified to fix the massive market distortion that has been imposed against nuclear and remove the massive incentives for renewables.

            Do you agree?

          • roberto says:

            @Peter Lang

            “I may have misunderstood your earlier comments. Is so I apologise.”

            Don’t!… no need to apologise at all!… please?

            “However, I am still not clear that we agree. To make my position clear what is needed is least cost energy that meets requirements. The primary requirements are energy security and reliability of of supply at least cost. Health and Safety and environmental impacts are secondary.”

            OK, then I DO NOT agree, in general. For poor countries this is OK, but this is not OK for rich countries which could use alternate, even more expensive, technologies. Please note that my personal interpretation of “even more expenisve” does NOT encompass any of the intermittent renewables… and this statement does not stem from a personal dislike of them, it is simply due to the fact that the presen,t, existing data do not suggest that; all considered, they could substitute FF and/or nuclear.

            “he way to make this clear is that any energy is better than no energy. ”

            Agreed… for China, India, Vietnam, any sub-saharian african country… but not for rich ones.

            “Therefore, policies should be aimed at providing least cost energy for everyone – especially for the poorest people and poorest countries.. ”


            “The best way to achieve least cost energy is for governments and regulators to get out of the way – stop interfering in markets.”

            Agree only partially. “The self-regulating market” is an oxymoron, even with some level of control Enron and other planet-wide scandals have taken place. In particular, nuclear works at its best in heavily-regulated, almost monopolistic markets… just look at France’s, Sweden’s, even Germany’s before the REN craze.
            The counter-example is the USA and UK, where “market” decided that a plethora of reactors models and makers would be a good thing… the net result being that decommissioning costs will be far higher of France’s where basically there is only one type of reactors… Westinghouse-derived PWRs, in 3 sizes… a faster learning curve for decommissioning you can’t find. A by-product of this is that the newer domestic-made chinese reactor design is based on a pumped-up version of the 920 MWe French one, and this will help the chinese decommission theirs a couple of decades after France will decommission them.

            “Stop causing market distortions, but fix market distortions where justified. It is certainly justified to fix the massive market distortion that has been imposed against nuclear and remove the massive incentives for renewables.”

            Even basing my judgement and conclusions on data, I still think that RENs need some sort of “incentive” in the form of public R&D expenditures. But my willingness-to-pay for more intermittent RENs ends there… if they can’t fly with their wings now i’m not willing to pay for a transplant of wings.

            “Do you agree?”

            I’d say that the two of us agree on most counts.


          • Peter Lang says:

            I’ll leave it at that. I had misunderstood your earlier comments. However we disagree that rich countries should pay higher price for electricity than is available. As soon as you start down the road of trying to pick winners, you open up an enormous can of worms – as the irrational public support for renewables demonstrates. You are advocating for economically irrational policies and for market intervention by governments to support the winners you believe in. I don’t support that. It seems we agree on the other points I made.

          • Willem Post says:

            France already proved it.

            With gradually replacing existing nuclear plants, and its hydro, and some energy efficiency, and some population reduction, France is all set for at least this century.

            It does not need to bother with wind, biomas, and solar

        • Peter Lang says:

          Glen McMillan,

          You said:

          The insanity of antirenewables guys. They all seem to believe that oil and gas grow back like potatoes and that fossil fuels will always be cheap and plentiful whereas renewables will always be expensive.

          This sort of comment is not very productive. It is not a rational argument, and simply states your beliefs, not facts and logic. I’d encourage you to argue the case and point out any significant factual or logical errors in this and the previous 24 Roger Andrews’ posts. If you find an error you should also indicate how significant is the error – if it was corrected how much difference would it make to the conclusions.

          Are you aware of the 10 signs of intellectual honesty and 10 signs of intellectual dishonesty?

          I’d offer you an alternative to consider:

          The economic irrationality of the renewables advocates. They do not recognise or acknowledge the technical constraints with renewables and that they are totally uneconomic. They cannot operate without fossil fuels or nuclear, and probably never will be able to. The ERoEI of renewables is insufficient to support modern society as well as reproduce themselves, so they are unsustainable (“The catch 22 of energy storage” )

          The growth rate of wind and solar, at its miinscule proportion of global electricity generation, is not a basis for projecting the future growth rates, especially given the growth is entirely dependent on huge subsidies they receive.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Catch 22 of energy storage is a good post. I was going to say that raw ERoEI values for wind and solar are high enough. But as this post rightly points out, they cannot stand on their own two feet, and when you add in the energy cost of enabling them to do so, they become hopeless. Interesting though that CSP looks a lot better if you have a handy dessert close by.

          • Peter Lang says:


            Thank you. You and other readers may also be interested in this comment by the post;’s author, John Morgan. It replies to the many criticisms made in some 800 comments on various places.

            Comments by Cyril R, a UK engineer, are also interesting.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Yes, it’s an interesting response. I’m thinking of asking John Morgan to cross post this here. In principle he has to be correct, in practice the numbers can be debated. Another way of stating this is that renewables are expensive and adding storage makes them unaffordable.

          • Peter Lang says:


            I’d encourage you to ask John Morgan. It is well worth having the debate and getting more people involved in discussing this really important issue.

            Regarding your comment:

            In principle he has to be correct, in practice the numbers can be debated. Another way of stating this is that renewables are expensive and adding storage makes them unaffordable.

            I agree the numbers can be debated and that is certainly happening. The EROEI needed to support modern society is also debated and arguably around 14 rather than 7.

            I see the ERoEI and cost as two entirely different issues and important to keep them separate. Even if renewables could become economic, the ERoEI means they are not sustainable and need a sustainable energy source to support them.

            The debate goes something like this:

            [PL]: renewables are not economic

            [RE advocate], true now but the costs are coming down and may be economic one day

            [PL] Even if that did happen, renewables cannot supply much of our electricity because they are not sustainable – i.e. their ERoEI is insufficient to support modern society.

            [RE advocate] ???

        • roberto says:

          “Try it yourself. Just go to the website of any randomly selected university ”

          … you mean those institutions which by assuming a precise position and joining the bandwagon could profit largely from the immense amount of money for “research” into anthropic global warming?

          As they say in Italy… “oste, com’e’ il tuo vino?”… “barman, how’s your wine?”… good or bad?… just imagine the barman’s answer.



  7. edmh says:

    Some supportive real numbers for Renewable Energy in Europe using Renewable Energy Industry data sources. It is amazing what their own data and a simple spreadsheet can do.


    Accounting for capacity factors the capital cost of all European Renewable Energy installations is about €29billion / Gigawatt. But the cost of a conventional gas-fired generation is about €1billion / Gigawatt.

    Greens, the Government and the BBC obviously think this is a great way to spend other peoples money.

    By 2014 European Union countries had invested approximately €1 trillion in large scale Renewable Energy installations. This may well be an underestimate.

    This has provided a nameplate electrical generating capacity of about 216 Gigawatts, nominally about ~22% of the total European generation needs of some 1000 Gigawatts.

    The actual measured output by 2014 from Renewable Industry sources has been 38 Gigawatts or 3.8% of Europe’s electricity requirement, at a capacity factor of ~18% overall.

    The whole 1000 Gigawatt fleet of European electricity generation installations could have been replaced with lower capital cost Gas-fired installations for the €1trillion of capital costs already expended on Renewable Energy in Europe.

    However Renewable Energy production is dependent on the seasons, local weather conditions and the rotation of the earth, day and night.

    So the Renewable Energy contribution to the electricity supply grid is inevitably erratic, intermittent and non-dispatchable. It is therefore much less useful than dispatchable sources of electricity, which can be engaged whenever necessary to match demand and maintain grid stability.

    That 3.8% Renewable Energy contribution to the grid is often not available when needed and obversely its mandatory use can cause major grid disruption if the Renewable Energy contribution is suddenly over abundant.

    The Renewable Energy industry could not exist without the Government mandated subsidies and preferential tariffs on which it depends. It is not a viable business proposition

    Viewed from the point of view of the engineering viability of the nation’s electrical grid, Renewable Energy would never be part of the generating mix without its Government mandate and Government market interference.

    The Greens in their enthusiasm to save the world will destroy civilisation long before the world fails from excessive overheating from CO2 emissions.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The Greens in their enthusiasm to save the world will destroy civilisation long before

      That is the whole objective of the Green anti-capitalist endeavour. The worry is that institutions like the British Conservative Party, the EU and UN don’t seem to get it.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Ed, that’s an interesting post. When was it published. I do have a few issues with it.

      This I think is the fairest comparison of base costs. Its always been the case the renewables have high initial capex and low variable running costs. They are then at serious disadvantage to FF on any sort of economic discounted basis. See how they would get on with 10% interest rates. Same applies to fracking.

      I think the main argument is the value of that MWh and secondary costs associated with the various technologies. If the objective is to eliminate CO2 then to the cost of wind needs to be added the cost of grids everywhere, storage and likely blackouts.

      It is also questionable whether these Renewable Energy industries, when viewed “from cradle to grave”, including manufacturing, site works, installation, connection and demolition costs, does in fact reduce CO2 emissions to any significant extent overall.

      And I don’t think this is correct. Wind has ERoEI of about 20. So over life cycle it produces about 20 times as much energy as used to create it. CO2 reductions will be substantial. But then again the CO2 costs of grids, storage and balancing need to be added back.

      It boils down to the value of dispatchability. And playing Devil’s advocate, can we always rely on nat gas being there? And thus the answer is always nuclear.

      I have a number of other questions but not the time to ask them right now. Like is CAPEX for coal really so high – then why are we taking the wrecking ball to so many coal plants?

      • Peter Lang says:


        I have two concerns with the chart you posted of comparing LCOE of various technologies.

        First, the LCOE of intermittent renewables are not comparable with the LCOE of dispatchable technologies. EIA shows them separately and explains they are not comparable. To make renewables comparable with dispatchable technologies we have to include the cost of back up or energy storage.

        Second, the Transmission cost shown for renewables is nowhere near the full grid costs. The OECD report Table SE2 gives estimates of the grid costs at 10% and 30% penetration for six OECD countries:

    • gweberbv says:

      To compare €29 billion/Gigawatt for renewables to €1 billion/Gigawatt for gas plants is a bit unfair. The former number includes basicly the full learning curve of wind chargers and photovoltaics, while the latter is the cost of a matured technology.

      As an example: Today, in Germany you can get PV for about €1300/kW. Maybe €1100/kW if you go for large-scale installations. Onshore wind charger a slightly below €1000/kW now.

      • Peter Lang says:


        There are several ways to compare the cost technologies:

        – Capital cost: $/kW or $/W
        – Capital cost per average W sent out (this takes the capacity factor into account and is a simple way to get an approximate comparison of the cost of electricity for technologies with zero or low fuel costs and roughly equivalent O&M costs)
        – LCOE
        – Full financial evaluation of a proposed project
        – CO2 abatement cost ($/tonne CO2)

        Comparisons can be made at present prices or projected future prices taking projected learning rates into account.

        For a fair comparison, grid costs and the cost of either backup or storage should be correctly attributed to each technology.

        For all the ways of comparing listed above nuclear is many times cheaper than renewables now and projected (with defensible learning curves) to 2030 and 2050. Beyond that we are guessing and currently it appears there are physical constraints that will prevent renewables providing a large proportion of the world’s electricity, let alone its total energy demand

        Here is a link to LCOE of different technologies in 2030 and 2050 Read the AETA report first to fully understand. Note that these LCOE figures do not include grid costs.

        Grid costs for different technologies at 10% and 30% penetration are given for six OECD countries in Table ES2 here: Note the very high grid costs for renewables, versus very low for nuclear. Also note that the grid costs for renewables increase as penetration increases, but they decrease for nuclear as penetration increases.

        • Peter: Thanks for the link to the OECD report – it puts the costs of intermittent renewables in their true perspective. Another required read for Policymakers, I think.

      • roberto says:


        “As an example: Today, in Germany you can get PV for about €1300/kW. Maybe €1100/kW if you go for large-scale installations.”

        Wrong example, sorry!…

        … as 1 kWp (the little “p” makes a world of difference!) of PV in Germany is equivalent, Wh per Wh, to 1/8 W of a german nuclear power plant, or between 1/6 and 1/5 of a W of a gas power station… meaning that the energy-equivalent cost of the PV should be multiplied by an appropriate factor, about 8x if compared to nuclear.

        Once you factor in the mandatory storage plants, the final factor skyrockets up even further.

        PV as a large-scale technology is a fake, nothing more than a Ponzi scheme for getting rich fast… once the “incentives” have gone down or have been zeroed the whole process has come to a halt… see Spain, Italy, even Germany now… below 1 GWp/year vs the 2.5 GWp/year foreseen by the Energiewende mantra.
        10 years or so from now Germany will have maybe 50-55 GWp of PV which will still generate only 10% or so of its electricity, unpredictably, and still at an average cost of >20 Eurocents/kWh… only during the day, and practically never between November and February, 4 long, cold, dark months in the land of Beethoven.


        • Willem Post says:


          Germans were RE crazy, because it was profitable. Solar panels maxed out on roofs, etc., everywhere; Germany an RE example to the world. Rah, Rah.

          German PV solar has a national average capacity factor of 0.104; only a rich country could afford such foolishness.

          Year New PV solar, MW
          2015………………608; first 6 months

          YTD installed 38,850 MW which looses about 0.5%/yr, about 195 MW, in capacity, due to aging.

          After feed-in tariffs were gradually reduced, it became unprofitable, Germans lost their appetite, many PV installers went out of business, RE jobs evaporated.

          The same happened in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, one reason for lesser RE capital investments in Europe.

  8. I’m on the road today and won’t be able to respond to comments until later. In the meantime please keep them coming. 🙂

  9. renewnatta says:

    You should perhaps look at

    This is based on hourly/weekly modeling of supply and demand across Central and Western Europe by the Fraunhofer Institute and suggests that the issue is flexibility not baseload for 50% renewable electricity .

    A similar hourly modelling exercise for the UK by Imperial College says that up to 80% is possible with little extra cost and more at higher costs:

    It gets harder when you also try to supply all other energy uses from renewables, but a German UBA Environment Agency study met this head on and suggested that it can be done, up to 95% carbon free, by 2050 using Power to gas (thus limiting curtailment) and imports at roughly current levels (but of mostly green power not fossil energy) for balancing and (electric) transport, crucially assuming no use of biomass apart from biogas:

    You seem to adopt a ‘glass half empty’ approach: these studies (and others) by major Institutions (hardly hair brained greens) tend to the ‘glass half full’ view, but with hard headed numbers to back them up. I guess I would prefer their positive optimism,although clearly it is also wise to challenge and test it as you try to do.

    • ristvan says:

      I have read some of the studies you mention. Some are little more than wishful thinking. Those that are ‘glass half full’ often ignore one or more of the issues Roger has been highlighting. And Roger dissected a couple in detail. Go read those posts.

    • I looked at these three studies. The Fraunhofer study:

      … evaluated whether a closer integration of the power network in the CWE region could reduce weather-related power fluctuations for all countries, as differences in weather across Europe cancel each other out.

      Any study which begins with the assumption that differences in weather across Europe cancel each other out is not worth the disk space it’s stored on.

      Ditto the Imperial College study, which a) assumes the future availability of large amounts of grid-scale storage and b) thinks that tidal range power is dispatchable.

      The availability of grid-scale storage in scenarios with little dispatchable generation can reduce overall levelized electricity cost by up to 50%, depending on storage capacity costs ….. However, for more than an 80% renewable generation share to be economically feasible, large-scale storage, significantly more power imports or domestic dispatchable renewables like tidal range must be available.

      And ditto the UBA study, which projects that Germany can go 100% renewable by 2050 by importing hydrogen produced from electrolysis and methane produced from cow manure in biogas plants in other countries where production costs are lower even though these technologies “still require considerable further development before they can be widely introduced to the market (and) are associated with major conversion losses”. Another key assumption is that by 2050 “meat consumption in Germany will have dropped to levels recommended for healthy eating.”

      These three glasses aren’t even half-empty. They’re bone dry.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Any study which begins with the assumption that differences in weather across Europe cancel each other out is not worth the disk space it’s stored on.

        Agreed. But why do institutes like Fraunhofer continue to believe in and publicise what is easily shown to be BS?

        • roberto says:

          “But why do institutes like Fraunhofer continue to believe in and publicise what is easily shown to be BS?”

          The dog never bites the hand that feeds him.

          • roberto says:

            … seriously now… Fraunhofer lives in a parallel universe… and to understand that this is true you simply have to look at the paper titled

            “Recent facts about photovoltaics in Germany”


            … where they flatly, and shamelessly! , state 100% BS like this:

            “4.1 Is PV power subsidized?
            No. The support is provided through a surcharge.”


            … and the best has yet to come, the following paragraph:

            “4.2 Are fossil fuel and nuclear energy production subsidized?
            Policy makers also influence the price of electricity generated by fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Political decisions determine the price of CO2 emission allowances, condi- tions for filtering smoke and, where necessary, for the permanent storage of CO2 (car- bon capture and storage, CCS), the taxation of nuclear power as well as insurance and safety requirements for nuclear power plants.”

            … where, staying with the nuclear part, Fraunhofer “forgets” that each gram of enriched uranium inserted in a german nuclear reactor is taxed to the tune of 125 Euros… “in order to make its price competitive with the renewable energies”…

            … and continues:

            “As it is expected that the external costs of fossil fuels and nuclear power shall soon be- come impossible to bear, ”

            What is this crap? “unbearable” what? zero emissions from NPPs?
            And… “is expected” buy whom… GreenPiss sect members? C’mon!

            Fraunhofer is the german translation of shameless.

          • JerryC says:

            The entire environmental movement is completely shameless. Right now I’m getting bombarded right now by political attack ads against certain Senators for opposing Obama’s “Clean Air” policies. They flatly claim that “carbon pollution” causes athsma, which is complete nonsense. But they don’t care, they just keep repeating the same lies over and over…

          • Euan Mearns says:

            they just keep repeating the same lies over and over…

            Its been going on for a long time now. Any ideas how to counter this? Carbon pollution causes asthma and the USA has the finest scientists in the world.

        • But why do institutes like Fraunhofer continue to believe in and publicise what is easily shown to be BS?

          Euan: The reason is that it’s not easily shown to be BS. Franhofer’s assumption that the weather in Europe cancels out seems plausible, but you have to do some work to show that it isn’t, and most people not only wouldn’t bother to do it but wouldn’t even see the point (if you can’t trust a respected scientific institute like Fraunhofer, whom can you trust?) As to why Fraunhofer believes it, well, as Fraunhofer says, “around half of the region’s power, as well as in Europe as a whole, must come from renewable energies in order to achieve 2030 EU climate goals agreed in October 2014” (my emphasis). Fraunhofer can hardly conclude that this can’t be done.

          The IC study solves the problem with storage. Again you have to do quite a lot of work to show that storage isn’t a viable option, particularly in the face of the continuous barrage of reports on how advances in battery technology are transforming the electricity sector. And how many people know that tidal power isn’t dispatchable? Apparently not the UK government. And as IC says, “Mitigating climate change is driving the need to decarbonize the electricity sector.” If we can’t mitigate it we’re doomed, so there must be a way. Reaching any other conclusion would be unpopular to say the least.

          The UB study is also driven by necessity: In order to prevent serious disruption to the climate system and its uncontrollable consequences, industrial countries must reduce their emissions by approximately 85-90% (my emphasis again). UB assumes that Germany can do this by converting water into hydrogen and cow patties into methane, which sounds like just the kind of thing Germany needs to do to make the Energiewende a success. But again you have to do some work to show that it’s just another green pipe dream.

          • Peter Lang says:

            There are excellent studies showing that weather systems have a major effect on the whole Australian National Energy Market grid at the same time. The NEM is claimed to be the largest grid by areal extent in the world. The wind farms are distributed over a triangular area 1200 km east west by 800 km north south in the southern half of the NEM. All wind farms can be generating effectively zero power at the same time. In May 2010, the total generation from all wind was negative for (from memory( 75 5-minute periods in a period of 6 days. I can provide a links if there is interest. For the whole of that time capacity factor was less than 5% (from memory).

        • Willem Post says:

          But why do institutes like Fraunhofer continue to believe in and publicise what is easily shown to be BS?

          Because it keeps the RE story alive to continue to fool most of the lay people, including legislators and associated bureaucrats.

          RE aficionados could not admit the whole structure is built on quicksand, even if they understood the truth. They would be out of business.

    • roberto says:

      “… but a German UBA Environment Agency study met this head on and suggested that it can be done, up to 95% carbon free, by 2050 using Power to gas”

      It’s not “carbon free”, at most P2G can be “carbon neutral”, which is a very much different thing… and “carbon-neutral” in turn does not mean that there are no emissions and health/environmental effects… in fact burning H2 or CH4 made with “surplus” wind or PV in conventional power stations to make electricity would have the same, if not more, health effects of burning regular CH4 extracted somewhere.
      In addition, the “with possible little costs” is laughable… one would have to use electricity made with PV at 10% yearly capacity factor (Germany) to make H2 by splitting water (60% efficiency?) to then burn it with a 50-60% Carnot efficiency and make electricity?… “minor costs”???… 0.1×0.6×0.6=0.036 net efficiency, less than 4%???… even leaving out the inevitable transmission losses?… another 5-10%???
      C’mon!… they are saying the equivalent of “if the circus’ elephants flap their ears fast enough they’ll be able to fly”… true, right? 🙂

      All the studies and papers you’ve cited suffer from the same conceptual mistake: they are bottom-up models, they take the electricity production of one turbine, or one PV panel, and scale it up to larger, incommensurably larger, amounts… and this is UN-PHYSICAL, it is conceptually wrong… the correct modelling should follow a top-down approach… this is very well explained and argumented in the papers of De Castro et al… which I have already cited here before (and references therein, of course):

      “Although some uncertainties can not be avoid, our estimations for the global potential of solar electrical power are 1,75-4,5 TWe, which implies a hard techno-ecological of solar power potential, much lesser than other assessments.”

      “We propose a top-down approach, such as that in Miller et al., 2010, to evaluate the physical-geographical potential and, for the first time, to evaluate the global technological wind power potential, while acknowledging energy conservation.
      The results give roughly 1TW for the top limit of the future electrical potential of wind energy. This value is much lower than previous estimates and even lower than economic and realizable potentials published for the mid-century (e.g. DeVries et al., 2007, EEA, 2009, Zerta et al., 2008)”


      P.S.: C. de Castro had an appearance on The Oil Drum…

      • Graeme No.3 says:

        high pressure continuous hydrolysis runs around 77-80% efficiency. It can be 95% efficient in use of electricity IF you input heat as well. Not much hydrogen gas is made this way as cracking natural gas is more economic.
        Intermittent hydrolysis as suggested for wind energy storage runs to a maximum of 45%. A better figure in practice would be 35-38%, so your estimate of less than 4% is correct.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Graeme, you lost me here. Can you be a bit more specific about the energy efficiency of hydrolysis under varying conditions and why. And consider round trip, if H2 is burned in a CCGT then 50% is lost as low grade heat.

          A broader point is how to place a price on surplus renewable electricity. RE enthusiasts tend to take the view that it is free since it will be wasted. In reality it has to be paid for at whatever subsidised rate has been agreed. Making H2 from the worlds most expensive electricity is bonkers.

          In Aberdeen we have H2 powered busses now – GREEN busses. They took their lead from Iceland, the home of abundant cheap and continuous RE. I can only guess this is the world’s most expensive transport. And wouldn’t be surprised if they use off-peak nuclear base load as opposed to surplus wind.

          • Graeme No.3 says:

            gives the thermodynamic calculations.
            High pressure hydrolysis uses KOH as the electrolyte, and gets very efficient use of electricity. When I first read of this the article mentioned 95% efficiency, which impressed me. When I read further you had to add another 20% in the form of heat. On a small scale you can get that from the air surrounding the hydrolysis cell, but on an industrial scale you have to supply heat (which would probably come from waste heat from another process in the factory).
            If you start with water or slightly salty water as the enthusiasts assume then there are side reactions etc. and intermittent low pressure needs over-voltage.
            for a start. I hope this helps.

    • Willem Post says:

      Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology commissioned by Agora Energiewende.

      Fraunhofer is like the fox designing the lock to the henhouse.

  10. MikeW says:

    In a “wide boundary” analysis, wind and solar power consume more energy than they produce. (“Wide boundary” includes, for example, energy used by the industry’s land owners, infrastructure, backup sources, as well as its workers and their dependents.) So the only way to get to 50% penetration is to devote the entire economy to power production, which of course is infeasible. With current technology, wind and solar can only be parasites on the portion of the power system that is actually producing surplus energy for others to use.

  11. Roger,
    Folk like me, non engineers, owe such a huge debt of gratitude to the likes of you, Euan, Prof.Michael Lawton, Dr. John Constable and the large cohort of other rational data-based men and women.

    We knew all along, “by the seat of our pants” that the entire CO2/Green Energy drama was a farrago; you guys just proved it for us. And thank you all for that.

    Al we have to do now, is find a nice warm place at a low latitude, with good soils, and pull up the drawbridge.

    • Thank you Bob. I already have a nice warm place at low latitude with tolerably good soil. No drawbridge, but the wall around my property is tipped with spikes. 🙂

  12. K.Periasamy says:

    It is an excellent work by the author. Everyone in the Government throughoutt he world must read this. It gives a clear analysis with relevant data.

    hats off !

  13. William says:

    The energy debate is based on an acceptance that continued bulk use of fossil fuels is untenable (because of climate change, ocean acidification, etc) [1]. Coal, oil and gas can therefore be ruled out, whether they are “cheaper” or not – their price is irrelevant – which leaves us with:

    – Electrification of everything practical, which also implies huge increases in electricity generation.

    To keep things rolling we need electricity from somewhere.

    Higher Efficiency. Efficiency is clearly the cheapest option and should be top priority. But we can’t run an economy on efficiency alone, so we need to generate. Which means renewables, or nuclear; that’s it! That is the choice.

    Can we imagine a 100% nuclear world? Well the rich West arguably *should* be able to run nuclear safely but I don’t trust the UK government to be honest and open about nuclear. And neither do I expect them to decide any time soon what to do about the existing waste, let alone what will accumulate. When it comes to anywhere outside the rich, democratic West, I see no possibility of the necessary thousands of plant being run safely unless the reactors are intrinsically safe and sealed. And that is not the current state of the art. Unless that changes, renewables have to play a role, probably large.

    BTW, I’ve seen it written that nuclear in the West has been made unaffordable by regulation etc, but I’ve never seen a description of what measures/procedures could be discarded to address that. A link, anybody?

    [1] Of course if you don’t accept climate/ocean science this whole energy debate is nonsense. But I do.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      William, many (but not all) here will accept that the long term continued use of FF is untenable because of resource constraints. If the OECD, China and Russia goes nuclear that relieves pressure on FF resources for decades. We are either arrogant or stupid to believe we have a planning horizon beyond that.

      On CC and OA there is a wide spectrum of views on the impact. The fact that after decades and billions spent that there has been zero scientific advance on constraining the impacts is an appalling indictment of those involved. Therefore, the voices of those involved should be ignored. Its as simple as that. One of the biggest failings of science and the human race ever I’d say.

      • William says:

        An indictment of the scientists? Hardly. Just like the failure to produce a working fusion reactor after decades of work is no “indictment” of the scientists involved there. Both indicate that the subjects are complex. We could also ignore the voices of those involved in fusion research when discussing fusion too, just rely on self appointed experts, but that would be stupid.

        Roger, is that a standard measure of nuclear safety (“reports of two-headed burros, radioactive tortillas or children who glow in the dark”)? I doubt very much whether the real safety record of the one reactor in Mexico is publicly available, unless it has been unofficially leaked.

        • William. The reference to two-headed burros etc. was intended to be humorous. But Mexico, as you are probably aware, is a world leader in manufacturing rumors, and I’m fairly sure that if there had been anything resembling a serious accident at Laguna Verde we would have been reading all about children who glowed in the dark.

    • Nuclear plants outside the “rich, democratic West” generated 28% of the world’s nuclear electricity in 2014. Here in Mexico the 1.4GW Laguna Verde plant has been operating since 1990 and I’ve yet to hear any reports of two-headed burros, radioactive tortillas or children who glow in the dark.

      • JerryC says:

        There have been reports of chupacabras, though. Just sayin’. 🙂

      • roberto says:

        “Nuclear plants outside the “rich, democratic West” generated 28% of the world’s nuclear electricity in 2014.”

        Roger: by now it should be clear that if there’s a nukes’ fan that is me… but this datum cannot be correct… wish it were, though.
        Where did you get it from?

        World’s average is 12% (I think), Europe gets 27%, USA around 20%… Even counting the 28% of Japan pre-FD1, and knowing that China’s % is less than 10, how can it possibly be correct?


        • They came from the 2015 BP statistical review. Note that “rich democratic western countries” don’t include nuclear producers like Russia, South Korea, Ukraine, India and China.

    • Peter Lang says:


      BTW, I’ve seen it written that nuclear in the West has been made unaffordable by regulation etc, but I’ve never seen a description of what measures/procedures could be discarded to address that. A link, anybody?

      Bernard Cohen “Costs of nuclear power plants – what went wrong?” This presents evidence that the regulatory ratcheting increased the cost of nuclear by about a factor of four up to 1990. I expect it has double that since – i.e. regulatory ratcheting has increased the cost of nuclear by a fact of about eight.

      Below are two examples of the sort of irrational policies that are making nuclear far more expensive than it could and should be:

      1 Belgium

      “Through most of this year Electrabel and its parent Engie have been negotiating with the Belgian government regarding the future of the company’s Doel and Tihange nuclear reactors and the special nuclear tax they incur. The government is keen to secure reliable electricity rather than be bound by an inherited 2003 phase-out law. The company has been crippled by a 2009 nuclear tax which added about 25% to production costs and wiped out Electrabel’s profits, so it sought relief from

      2. Sweden

      ““To their credit, the greens of the current government have come up with a quite clever way to phase out nuclear. The law allowing new-build still stands but has been rendered moot due to the implementation and subsequent increases in a nuclear-specific tax called the “effect tax” (separate from the tax paid to finance the repository). It’s a tax of about $25000/MW-thermal of installed power per year, to be paid monthly, even if the plant is not in operation. It is thus completely disconnected from electricity production, and is only levied on nuclear. The extra tax of $100m/year per large reactor, on top of all other taxes, plus the heavy subsidy of construction of large amounts of un-needed wind and solar and the dumping of cheap coal on the European market means that at current electricity prices some of the nuclear plants are “economically uncompetitive”. The government then claims that nuclear “can’t compete in the market”, nuclear proceeds to decommission itself, without any law imposed for this and any settlement payments.””
      Email from Dr Staffan Qvist from Uppsala University to Professor Barry Brook

      Many other examples can be provided. The irrational impediments to nuclear power are massive and ubiquitous.

      • Peter Lang says:

        Supplementary reply to William’s question:

        but I’ve never seen a description of what measures/procedures could be discarded to address that.

        How to make nuclear cheaper than fossil fuels

        Here’s how I suggest the world can get to nuclear being cheaper than fossil fuels:

        1. The next US Administration takes the lead to persuade the US citizens nuclear power is about as safe as or safer than any other electricity source US can gain enormously by leading the world in developing new, small modular nuclear power plants; allowing and encouraging innovation and competition; thus unleashing the US’s ability to innovate and compete to produce and supply the fit-for-purpose products the various world markets want.

        2. The next US President uses his influence with the leaders of the other countries that are most influential in the IAEA to get the IAEA representatives to support a process to re-examine the justification for the allowable radiation limits – as the US announced in January it will do over 18 months:

        US study on low-dose ionising radiation

        The US Department of Energy (DOE) and National Academy of Sciences have been directed to work together to assess the current status of US and international research on low-dose radiation and to formulate a long-term research agenda under a bill approved by the US House of Representatives. The Low Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015 directs the two organisations to carry out a research program “to enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation in order to inform improved risk management methods.” The study is to be completed within 18 months.

        The Act arises from a letter from a group of health physicists who pointed out that the limited understanding of low-dose health risks impairs the nation’s decision-making capabilities, whether in responding to radiological events involving large populations such as the 2011 Fukushima accident or in areas such as the rapid increase in radiation-based medical procedures, the cleanup of radioactive contamination from legacy sites and the expansion of civilian nuclear energy. The aftermath of the Fukushima accident has boosted concern that unduly conservative standards may have large adverse health and welfare costs.

        WNN 20/1/15. Radiation health effects

        More here: .

        3. Once the IAEA starts increasing the allowable radiation limits for the public this should be the trigger to start the process that leads to reducing the cost of nuclear energy; and the catalyst to keep reducing costs over the long term as the radiation limits are reviewed and increased periodically. As the radiation limits are reviewed and raised:

        a. it will mean radiation leaks are understood to be less dangerous than most non experts believe > less people will need to be evacuated from accident effected zones > the cost of accidents will decline > accident insurance cost will decline;

        b. the public progressively reconsiders the evidence about the effects of radiation > they gain an understanding it is much less harmful than they thought > fear level subsides > opposition to nuclear declines > easier and less expensive to find new sites for power plants > increased support from the people in the neighborhood of proposed and existing power plants > planning and sight approval costs decline over time;

        c. The risk of projects being delayed during construction or once in operation declines; > all this leads to a lowering of the investors’ risk premium > thus reducing the financing costs and the fixed O&M costs for the whole life of the power plants;

        d. Changing perceptions of the risks and benefits of nuclear power leads to increasing public support for nuclear > allows the NRC licensing process to be completely revamped and the culture of the organisation to be changed from “safety first” to an appropriate balance of all costs and risks, including the consequences of retarding nuclear development and rollout by making it too expensive to compete as well as it could if the costs were lower (e.g. higher fatalities per TWh if nuclear is not allowed to be cheaper than fossil fuels);

        e. The Operation and Maintenance cost of nuclear plants is reduced as the excessive requirements for safety and security decreases over time to the equivalent of other types of electricity generation plant (to AHARS, As High As Relatively Safe). (NPPs have 150 highly trained, well-armed security officers, augmented by comprehensive detection and surveillance systems, on average. That’s $15-$20 million per nuclear plant site per year (about $10 million per reactor).

        4. NRC is revamped – its Terms of Reference and its culture are changed. Licensing period for new designs is greatly reduced, e.g. to the equivalent of the design and licensing period for new aircraft designs.

        5. Small modular reactors are licensed quickly. New designs, new versions, new models, and design changes are processed expeditiously. This will lead to more competition, more innovation, learning rate continually improves so that costs come down.

        6. The efficiency of using the fuel can be improved by nearly a factor of 100. That an indication of how much the cost of nuclear power can be reduced over a period of many decades.

        7. Eventually, fusion will be viable and then the technology life cycle starts all over again – but hopefully the anti-nuke dinosaurs will have been extinct for a long time by then.

        • gweberbv says:

          A 18-month study? Sorry, but this is absolute bullshit.

          What can you expect within 18 month? Let’s say you are a professor being active in the field of biological effects of ionizing radiation and tomorrow you get a letter that you are going to receive extra funding to participate in this study. After 3 months you have a bunch of Phd students working on the project. After 15 months (if your students are fast), you have the first larger sets of raw data. After 21 months, first steps of data analysis yield preliminary results – which are worth next to nothing unless they are discussed and checked by the scientific community. After 30 months (2 1/2 years) you more or less know about your results and their overall quality. Your phd students are preparing their thesis and writing publications. After 3 years you can report to your funding agency and ask for the next research grant.

          Plain and simple: A basic research study which “is to be completed within 18 months” has nothing to do with basic research.

          When you are a policy maker and you want to increase the allowable radiation limits for the public, simply do it. Do not bribe some scientists to fake a scientific foundation for what is a purely political decision. If, in contrary, you are really interested in the biological effects of low-dose ionizationg radiation, just increase funding a little bit and expect results within a decade or so.

          • Peter Lang says:


            If you are interested in understanding any of this let me know and I’ll send you some links for you to get some back ground. A lot is known already. Not all studies have to be of long duration (you didn’t say what duration study you think would be adequate). Studies are done is phases. As short time period like this to catalyze and provide the support for other countries IAEA and to do such studies is ideal, IMO. Understand this study as part of a process to get the public to start rethinking the basis for their nuclear paranoia.

            Here’s one short flyer to get you started:
            “Radiation is safe within limits”

            Here is an excellent presentation by Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Oxford University:

            NAS is not starting from scratch.

            Let me know if you’d like more.

          • gweberbv says:

            Peter Lang,

            I am always interested in expanding my knowledge. However, I doubt that an 18-months study can end the debate highlighted by the following two articles:


            (I worked some time in a research lab that was also adressing the biological effects of ionizing radiation. Even though, I did not participate in such studies, I believe that I have a rough idea about the current status.)

            As scientist, we simply have to wait for new high-qualitiy studies to yield additional data. For example:
            It is simply a very challenging task to correctly estimate the health effecs of low radiation doses. Because the effects are very, very small compared to the ‘noise’ of all other health-affecting stuff around us.

            Bottom line: An 18-month study is a joke. If policy makers want to raise the allowable radiation levels, they can do it anytime. The scientific evidence, which was collected since about 70 years, will not look pretty much different 18 months from now.

          • Peter Lang says:


            You misunderstand. NAS does not do their research like you envisage the process. The experts, the knowledge and the information is already available. There’s 70 years of information. Their role is to pull this together and provide sound basis for revisiting the LNP hypothesis for low level radiation. There is no need for the sort of research you envisage and it would be totally useless for policy advice.

            No one said “I doubt that an 18-months study can end the debate “. That is clearly a massive misunderstanding or misrepresentation on your part. It is the beginning of a process that hopefully will involve IAEA agreeing to review the basis for the LNT hypothesis at low radiation levels and then hopefully continuing the research leading to raising the allowable radiation limits for the public over time back to where they were in about 1956 (before politics driven by nuclear paranoia took over).

            You did not say you had looked at the two links I provided, so I assume you didn’t. That and your comments lead me to believe you have little understanding about the subject at the policy relevant level, you have a bias based on your limited experience, and, It seems, you (like most scientists) have next to no understanding of policy analysis, policy advice and the time lines involved. If we followed the process you envisage we’d be bogged down getting nowhere for decades – like climate science has been for 25 years or more.

      • roberto says:

        #Peter Lan,g

        thanks for linking again the same interesting study, which has been published in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal… which states among its conclusions this:

        “The Swedish reactor fleet as a whole has reached just past its halfway point of production, and has a remaining potential production of up to 2100 TWh.”

        2100 TWh is the energy-equivalent of 2100/35=60 years of electricity produced by 38 GWp of PV in Germany!… and this in a country of 8 million souls vs the 85 of DE!…

        … and…

        “The reactors have the potential of preventing 1.9–2.1 gigatonnes of future CO2-emissions if allowed to operate their full lifespans. The potential for future prevention of energy-related-deaths is 50,000–60,000. ”

        50-60 thousands lives spared!… how about that, glen?

      • William says:

        Peter, thanks for the links. The chapter 9 link is the sort of thing I had in mind and I will read it. As for the Sweden/Belgium taxes, for old plant there should be plenty of revenue to cover a lot of tax. A 1GW plant operating at 90% of the time will have an annual income stream of about £800 million if it sells at 10p/unit. So old units (where the capital is paid off) should be real money makers, assuming fuel is as cheap as it is said to be ( a few pence per unit).

        • Peter Lang says:


          As for the Sweden/Belgium taxes, for old plant there should be plenty of revenue to cover a lot of tax

          Investors invest with an expectation of a return on investment. If you change the rule part way through, as has been done with nuclear, it makes them less profitable. Then they shut down. You can see that the Belgium plant is unprofitable with the tax and would have been shut down if not relieved. The Green tax in Sweden will force them to shut down too. So not only are the plants being shut down, new more expensive energy sources will have to be built to replace them so electricity costs will increase. But most important is the signal it sends to investors. They need a very high financial risk premium (i.e. higher return on investment) to invest in nuclear than in other higher emitting and less safe technologies.

          It is not economically rational to say one businesses is more profitable than another so well legislate a new tax just for that business. Nor is it rational to say that a business has paid off its debt so now we can legislate a new tax to tax it. The investors lose out, electricity costs increase, businesses lose competitiveness and the country’s growth rate slows. That results in higher unemployment, less government revenue and services.

          I provided the links to the Belgium and Sweden quotes as examples of the sort of impediments that have been imposed on nuclear power and are raising its cost and making it uncompetitive. I can provide many more examples. The consequence is slower rate of reducing global GHG emissions and much higher rate of fatalities from genuine pollution.

  14. Pingback: AWED Energy & Environmental Newsletter: August 24, 2015 - Master Resource

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  16. Roger, thanks for sharing our chart from, but this sentence is not correct:

    “The Energiewende blog, long a champion of Germany’s green transition, recently published one.”

    The chart was originally published in 2012 and is a remake of a chart from 2010 made by German professor Volker Quaschning. That’s not recent.

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