The big complaint people have about renewable energy, or at least, the big complaint that has some merit, is that renewables, such as wind and solar, are intermittent and to varying degrees, unpredictably intermittent. This makes it hard to match demand for electricity to supply. Some aspects of this argument are overstated. For example, a steady supply (the same potential power all the time, every minute of the day) can be a bug as well as a feature. If every electron of electricity we used came from nuclear power plants, there would be a problem because our demand fluctuates and you can’t vary the output of a nuclear plant. Some of the arguments are inaccurate. For example, it is not true that a nuclear power plant produces the same exact amount of electricity all the time. Nuke plants often reduce production unexpectedly. If there is some sort of problem, they partly shut down. And, of course, the shut down for refueling. So they are not perfect.

The problem if intermittent and less than ideally predictable supply can be addressed a number of ways. One is big huge batteries, which are costly and otherwise problematic. There are various other storage methods using water and air and things that can hold heat or “hold cold.” And so on. Then, of course, there is the grid. If it is sunny one place and cloudy a different place, electricity can be shunted between.

Still, we often see arguments suggesting that these methods of matching supply and demand of electricity are problematic in one way or another.

A new research project, just out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, addresses these issues and gives great hope to the use of 100% non-nuclear renewables to meet energy demands. The paper is by Mark Jacobson, Mark Delucchi, Mary Cameron, and Bethany Frew, and is titled “Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes.”

Here is the abstract and the statement of significance from the paper:

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 11.58.07 AM

This study addresses the greatest concern facing the large-scale integration of wind, water, and solar (WWS) into a power grid: the high cost of avoiding load loss caused by WWS variability and uncertainty. It uses a new grid integration model and finds low-cost, no-load-loss, nonunique solutions to this problem on electrification of all US energy sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) while accounting for wind and solar time series data from a 3D global weather model that simulates extreme events and competition among wind turbines for available kinetic energy. So- lutions are obtained by prioritizing storage for heat (in soil and water); cold (in ice and water); and electricity (in phase-change materials, pumped hydro, hydropower, and hydrogen), and using demand response. No natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or sta- tionary batteries are needed. The resulting 2050–2055 US electricity social cost for a full system is much less than for fossil fuels. These results hold for many conditions, suggesting that low-cost, reliable 100% WWS systems should work many places worldwide.

The large-scale conversion to 100% wind, water, and solar (WWS) power for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) is currently inhibited by a fear of grid instability and high cost due to the variability and un- certainty of wind and solar. This paper couples numerical simu- lation of time- and space-dependent weather with simulation of time-dependent power demand, storage, and demand response to provide low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of WWS across all energy sectors in the con- tinental United States between 2050 and 2055. Solutions are obtained without higher-cost stationary battery storage by pri- oritizing storage of heat in soil and water; cold in water and ice; and electricity in phase-change materials, pumped hydro, hy- dropower, and hydrogen.

I’m still absorbing the paper. I’m informed that the authors of this paper know what they are talking about. People I know in the clean energy biz have been saying for some time that they are pretty sure we can do this, and this study seems to support the idea. Even if this is not perfect, it seems that we can be close to using primarily renewables with some contribution from nuclear, and some adjustments in how we use energy. The key message of this work: It is not hopeless, we can save the world! Will we?

Comments

  1. #1 Jazzlet
    December 4, 2015

    Good to know that this sort of work is being done.

  2. #2 Desertphile
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    December 4, 2015

    Well golly, USA citizens are not even allowed clean air and water (re: 114th Congress): we sure ab bloody mass shooting Hell are not going to be allowed renewable energy.

  3. #3 wheelism
    December 4, 2015

    (Shhhh! Don’t let Connolley or SoD hear!)

  4. #4 Magma
    December 4, 2015

    Many people underestimate the complexity of the North American and European power grids. Multiple sources, most of them intermittent to some degree or another, are carefully matched to time-varying demand while maintaining voltage, frequency and phase within very narrow limits and avoiding overloads. An article in Physics Today some years ago referred to the North American grid (half a dozen grids, actually, with a number of interties) as one of the most complex engineering structures ever built, and one taken almost completely for granted. It essentially hides in plain sight.

    With their typical lack of consistency, deniers are quick to embrace such distant or wholly unlikely technological fixes as dikes and levees around the world’s low-lying cities, thorium reactors and nuclear fusion, or carbon capture and storage on a global scale. But steady progress on decentralized small-scale power generation, energy storage and a smarter adaptive grid? Well, those are feats far beyond human capacity, according to them.

  5. #5 Magma
    December 4, 2015

    A copy of the paper can be found on the lead author’s Stanford website.

  6. #6 zebra
    December 4, 2015

    Magma #4,

    Spot on. And even more absurd, they will fight to the death to maintain the “utility” company’s monopoly status, along with that of auto franchises, while talking about free markets, freedom, and individual self-sufficiency.

    Go figure.

  7. #7 Chris O'Neill
    December 4, 2015

    The resulting 2050–2055 US electricity social cost for a full system is much less than for fossil fuels.

    We’re just waiting on governments to ensure that the full social cost of fossil fuels is incorporated (through Carbon pricing etc.) into electricity prices.

    Judging by how often conservatives are in control of the US government, that won’t happen until after most of us are dead.

  8. #8 Miguelito
    December 4, 2015

    These guys do know what they’re talking about, but they’re widely known to very, very optimistic with their projections.

    I don’t know many energy analysts who think this kind of buildout in this time frame is possible. Will it have a deep penetration by 2055? Almost certainly. But 100% or even 75% is very unlikely.

  9. #9 Lyle
    December 4, 2015

    Of course variability in demand has been an issue with electric generation from the days of the Pearl Street Plant in NYC (Edison’s first). If you watch the web sites that show demand it swings by a factor of up to 2 daily. Consider that the electric street car was pushed by electric companies to get load at off times. Of course some of the measures proposed today are old ideas. For example I recall hearing that during the 1920s water heaters paid less at night than during the day.
    Another interesting development. there is a proposed pumped storage plant at an old open pit mine in the Mohave desert. It will recycle water between the upper and lower mine pits. Note that there is also one pumped storage plant that uses sea water in japan.
    A simple idea that some dishwashers have already is a time delay feature, make the feature mandatory so the dishwasher can run at 2 am when electric demand is low.

  10. #10 Gretchen
    December 5, 2015

    ” People I know in the clean energy biz have been saying for some time that they are pretty sure we can do this, and this study seems to support the idea.”

    It is the job of the ‘clean biz” to sell things to the lay person, because they earn a lot of money in doing so. In Germany we have this concept for about a decade. It is a big money transfer scheme from the poor to the rich. About one quarter one third – guaranteed by law – of any electric bill in Germany goes directly to the owner of wind & solar parks. Even if they don’t produce energy! There are may people already who can’t pay there electric bill and are switched off from the grid. The more “clean energy” the more you have to pay per kWh. If you try to use less energy the prices are also go up.

    Conclusion: Capitalism runs as usual.

  11. #11 Everett F Sargent
    Nirvana or Utopia, take your pick
    December 5, 2015

    It’s 6.3 monies time, full on full scale prototype demonstration + a NAS/NAE study before that (meaning some real engineers get involved not just some academic desk jockey engineers)..

    Pumped hydro? Mile high dam in the Grand Canyon, fill it with the Pacific Ocean

    Roadmaps for 139 Countries and the 50 United States to Transition to 100% Clean, Renewable Wind, Water, and Solar (WWS) Power for all Purposes by 2050 and 80% by 2030
    http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/15-11-19-HouseEEC-MZJTestimony.pdf

    It’s nice that MJ sent it to the “Democratic Forum on Climate Change” but OMFG the USA Congress is MORE THAN HALF FULL OF DENIERS. Talk about a non sequitur.

    If MJ had instead sent that letter to the DOD they would have gone … Who is this utter nutter?

    Not going to say that the above can’t be done. I can push some very basic numbers on that buildout strategy though. But I’m kind of guessing it would make the WWII buildout look like a pea shooter fight by comparison.

    2030 – 2015 = 15 years @ 80% of world energy needs at that point in time. Say 20 TW in 2030 (low estimate?) that’s like a GW of brand new nameplate (I’ve added in a factor of 10 for produced) renewable energy added per HOUR (average). You might be able to ramp to that buildout capacity in oh say 15 years, so 2X for linear buildout (GW per 30 minutes at the end) and 4X for quadratic buildout (GW per 15 minutes at the end).

    And you build all that 100% renewable stuff with guess what? 100% renewables! You didn’t hear that one from me though.

    We’ll also assume no future conflicts at all so that we can divert 100% of global military spending towards this effort. I’m s-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o sure that will happen (all nations/peoples stop fighting, like right now).

    You do get to enslave all shipbuilders and all rail builders and all road builders, the entire energy infrastructure sectors and the entire automobile infrastructure, while in the meantime, you also get to prematurely shut down all FF production.

    You might as well think about building a Great Pyramid of Cholula per day.

    Heck, it would take 15 years of head scratching and logistics to even get started.

    Impossible? No. Mind boggling? YES!

  12. #12 Thelarch
    December 5, 2015

    http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/USStatesWWS.pdf

    I think this is it? I look forward to reading it.

  13. #13 cosmicomics
    Danmark
    December 5, 2015

    #12

    No, that’s another one. It’s a state by state plan to make the U.S. 100% renewable by 2050:

    “This study presents roadmaps for each of the 50 United States to convert their all-purpose energy systems (for electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) to ones powered entirely by wind, water, and sunlight (WWS). The plans contemplate 80–85% of existing energy replaced by 2030 and 100% replaced by 2050.”

    The one Greg is describing is here:
    https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/CONUSGridIntegration.pdf

    There’s another report, from a series of reports, that may be worth a look, but its focus is to reduce emissions by 80%:

    “Four distinct scenarios employing substantially different decarbonization strategies —High Renewable, High Nuclear, High CCS, and Mixed Cases, which were named according to the different principal form of primary energy used in electricity generation, and also differed in other aspects of energy supply and demand—all met the target, demonstrating robustness by showing that redundant technology pathways to deep decarbonization exist.”
    unsdsn.org/wp-content/…/US-Deep-Decarbonization-Report.pdf

    In Denmark we now get approximately 40% of our electricity from wind, and our production price is among the lowest in Europe. Our electric bill is high because of taxes. In 2020 84% of our electricity should be coming from a combination of renewable sources. Unfortunately, the reports I’ve read are in Danish, and linking to them won’t be of much help here. To sum things up very quickly, all seem to agree that that the system needs to be more flexible, and that in the future we’ll be using more electricity, but less energy. I may give more information on this tomorrow.

    One last thing: a couple of days ago Denmark was awarded the Fossil of the Day’ prize at COP21. It was deserved. Our new government is a hypocritical, duplicitous international disgrace.
    http://cphpost.dk/news/denmark-awarded-fossil-of-the-day-prize-at-cop21.html

    This is the government that tried to reestablish Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus as a government supported think-tank. According to the article, Denmark will no longer aim to reduce its emissions in 2020 40%, but 37%. It’s quite possible that the aim will be reduced even further, so it only corresponds to what the EU as a whole has committed itself to. Whatever progress we’ve made is the result of previous policies, not policies initiated by our current government.

  14. #14 Desertphile
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    December 5, 2015

    Everett F Sargent: “Pumped hydro? Mile high dam in the Grand Canyon, fill it with the Pacific Ocean”

    They will have to kill me before I’ll let that happen.

  15. #15 Desertphile
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    December 5, 2015

    cosmicomics: “This is the government that tried to reestablish Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus as a government supported think-tank. According to the article, Denmark will no longer aim to reduce its emissions in 2020 40%, but 37%. It’s quite possible that the aim will be reduced even further, so it only corresponds to what the EU as a whole has committed itself to. Whatever progress we’ve made is the result of previous policies, not policies initiated by our current government.”

    On Facebook I follow Denmark politics because some of my on-line friends live there. I love that hot, spooky fascist woman who is often in the news. The more that sane people criticize her, the more drawn and haggard she looks; she’s starting to look like Darth Vader without his helmet. Denmark is turning in to the USA under Bush2.

  16. #16 mt
    United States
    December 5, 2015

    I was astonished to see that they ran a GCM as part of this work; they even get down into the weeds of the cloud parameterization! So that made me suspicious of the whole thing, because why not just download the output of a CMIP run and get the most recent version. Surely there is only one-way coupling, so running an older, cheaper GCM is just a waste of time at best. But it’s also true that the coarser the GCM, the lower the variability, which would make solving this problem unrealistically easy.

    As for the rest of it, this certainly seems to be of the school that if we make enough unrealistically rosy assumptions, the problem goes away. Well, yeah.

    PNAS has a category of paper that is not peer reviewed, but rather submitted directly by an ANS member. The idea is that a few papers that would otherwise be delayed see publication more quickly, and this sort of hit is worth a lot of misses. I think this is one of the misses.

    If we don’t allow nuclear, we don’t allow CCS, we don’t allow gross international inequity, we insist on keeping a growth economy, and we refuse to ruin the natural world and put our descendants at risk from climate change, the solution set we have available now consists entirely of wishful thinking and hoping for miracles.

    We might have threaded that needle if we’d started in earnest at the time of Kyoto, but there is no opening at all anymore to achieve all those things. Researchers who shrug and say it will be easy do us no favors.

    Maybe a combination of brilliant technology and careful legislation can still save the day on all these fronts. But this paper contains no engineering and no economics, just a bunch of optimistic assumptions and a lot of handwaving.

  17. #17 Daniel Ferra
    United States
    December 5, 2015

    “Ice sheets contain enormous quantities of frozen water. If the Greenland Ice Sheet melted, scientists estimate that sea level would rise about 6 meters (20 feet). If the Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, sea level would rise by about 60 meters (200 feet).” National Snow and Ice Data Center.

    There Are Over 400 Nuclear Reactors and All Their Fuel Rods ! At Sea Level Now !

    Relocate All Nuclear Fuel Rods and Contaminated Metals above 3,000 Ft!

    There Is No Carbon or Methane Budget !

    “There is no carbon budget anymore and 5C is baked in according to both Shell petroleum and the International Energy Authority. ” Kevin Hester

    There is No Carbon or Methane Budget !

    There are Methane Deposits that Are Now Being Emitted off the Arctic Siberian Coast, Greenland, and The Antarctic, As The Permafrosts Melt and the Oceans Warm, Methane deposits blowing out of the Crust and Ocean Floors !

    Methane is a Bridge to Hell, Ban Fracking Gov. Brown ! and President Obama !

    Globally we emit over 40 Billion Tons of Carbon Dioxide Annually !

    California Emitted 459 Million Toxic Tons of Carbon Dioxide in 2014.

    Gov Browns call to reduce this to 1990 levels so we can continue to emit over 400 million Toxic Tons a year, will not help us stop or slow down Global Warming and Sea Levels Rising.

    2020 Limit – AB 32 is now slightly higher than the 427 MMTCO2e in the initial Scoping Plan.” Ca. Gov. Data

    Atmospheric Parts Per Million of Carbon is Now 404

    In the 1850 Carbon PPM was 260 – 280

    What will the Temp. be at 415 ppm ?

    Arctic 80% melted, Greenland is Keeping North America Cool, For How Long ? Antarctica is Melting as Well, When Will It Melt ?

    We must transition to 100% Renewable Energy

    Implement a California Residential and Commercial Feed in Tariff.

    California Residential Feed in Tariff would allow homeowners to sell their Renewable Energy to the utility, protecting our communities from, Global Warming, Poison Water, Grid Failures, Natural Disasters, Toxic Natural Gas and Oil Fracking.

    A California Commercial FiT in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, an Sacramento Ca. are operating NOW, paying the Business Person 17 cents cents per kilowatt hour.

    Sign and Share this petition for a California Residential Feed in Tariff.http://signon.org/sign/let-california-home-owners

  18. #18 Doug Alder
    December 6, 2015

    And here we see Uruguay seems to have solved the problem – 94.5% renewable energy

    http://ecowatch.com/2015/12/04/uruguay-renewable-energy

  19. #19 Chris O'Neill
    December 6, 2015

    All we need to do now is start with electricity generation systems that, like Uruguay, already generate 68% of their energy from hydro and get the rest from non-despatchable renewables.

    Problem solved!!

  20. #20 Marco
    December 6, 2015

    mt, this was a PNAS Direct Submission, not a NAS member-sponsored submission. Unsurprising, since PNAS no longer allows any NAS member-sponsored submissions. It does still allow NAS-members to arrange their own (open) peer review for up to 4 papers a year, but that’s not the case here either.

  21. #21 Johnny Vector
    December 6, 2015

    I get the distinct feeling mt did not read the paper. If you claim it is full of rosy assumptions, it’s on you to give examples. As far as I can tell, the assumptions are almost all based on existing technology. Solar PV assumes the SunWorld E20 panel, 35 of which are going on my house in a few months. Wind power assumes the REPower (now Senvion) 6 MW turbine, already installed and operating in several places. Solar concentrating power assumes performance equal to Ivanpah. Underground Thermal Energy Storage is based on the Drake Landing Solar Community, which has been operating almost a decade. (Actually they appear to assume much worse performance, as their UTES withdrawals go to zero in January each year, while Drake Landing covers the entire winter, in Alberta.) There is no additional buildout of pumped storage or hydroelectric power beyond what is already permitted (including pending permits). New wind turbine buildout is about a factor of 10 over the number already installed, and they are placed near existing wind farms.

    I haven’t finished reading, but the only rosy assumption I’ve seen so far is that phase change thermal storage will improve and take over from molten salt in solar concentrated power locations. Honestly, assuming there will be no advances in any technology between now and 2050 is absurdly conservative.

    As for the GCM, why does that make you suspicious? If you have a specific complaint about GATOR-GCMOM, I’d love to hear it. But “models suck” is hardly a thoughtful criticism.

    I also note amusedly that when Jacobson published some results from GATOR-GCMOM that white roofs might actually increase global warming, Willis Eschenbach posted a loving article on WUWT about how that’s the only model you can believe. And then a couple years later when the same model predicted that large enough offshore farms would significantly reduce the damage from hurricanes, WUWT responded with an outpouring of certainty that no model could possibly be right.

  22. #22 Christopher Winter
    December 6, 2015

    Executive summary of 2015 Deep Decarbonization report:

    http://deepdecarbonization.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/DDPP_EXESUM1.pdf

  23. […] Laden, who I follow and have a good deal of respect for, has discoverd the work of Mark Jacobson, work which I have highlighted myself. The juggle required demands long range regional cooperation, […]

  24. #24 Eamon
    Tohoku
    December 7, 2015

    Colour me skeptical. This is a simulation from the same team that added ‘carbon releases’ from ‘fires started from a global nuclear holocaust’ to nuclear power’s carbon footprint.

  25. #25 Eamon
    Tohoku
    December 7, 2015

    Greg,

    You make some points about the problems of nuclear power plants in your introductory paragraph, point which are widely disseminated, but not as solid as they seem.

    On the output-variation problem, the wiki page on Load Following Power Plants has information that this is not a problem with modern nuclear power.

    The refueling problem is not really a problem at all, as refueling is a scheduled activity, and so can be mitigated by forward planning.

    All plants have outage problems, but it is interesting that the few plants capable of operating well during the polar vortex were the nuclear ones.

  26. #26 Johnny Vector
    December 8, 2015

    Eamon: “This is a simulation from the same team that added ‘carbon releases’ from ‘fires started from a global nuclear holocaust’ to nuclear power’s carbon footprint.”

    Citation needed. I looked through several recent papers by Jacobson that mention nuclear power, and didn’t see that anywhere. In any case, if he makes equally egregious assumptions in this paper they should be pretty easy to find. Then you can argue about the paper rather than about the author.

  27. #27 zebra
    December 8, 2015

    Eamon,

    “load-following power plants”

    I’ve offered, over many years, what seems to me a good compromise solution in this endless and not helpful debate about different forms of FF-free electricity.

    1. Disincentivize, as they say, FF, through whatever means– fees, shifting subsidies, and so on– first step no matter what, of course.

    2. Require that the “utility” companies be restricted to maintaining the grid– keeping the wires up, and allowing electricity to be equitably bought and sold by anyone, but not being involved in generation at all. The model is the highway system, UPS, ebay/amazon and so on, a pretty close approximation to a true free market.

    Now, if you and your fellow capitalists want to invest in a load-following nuclear plant, and compete on the open market for my consumer dollars, and my neighbor capitalist wants to install solar panels on his roof and do the same, we should end up with the most efficient resource allocation after things shake out.

    Do you have any objections to such a solution? Or, what is your alternative plan? It has to be a concrete plan that involves concrete policies, not handwaving.

  28. #28 Chris O'Neill
    December 8, 2015

    1. Disincentivize, as they say, FF, through whatever means– fees, shifting subsidies, and so on– first step no matter what, of course.

    The previous Australian government did that and they were replaced with a reactionary, conservative government that simply ran a self-serving scare campaign and reversed those disincentives for FF.

    This first step will NEVER succeed until there is bi-partisan political support for it. That is not likely while conservative politics is controlled by climate science denialists. Hello 3+℃ world.

  29. #29 zebra
    December 8, 2015

    28 chris o’neil,

    Not my problem. I proposed a way to resolve the debate about which non-FF electricity source would provide best outcomes.

    I’m not saying you are one, but you sound like a denialist/do-nothingist Loki Troll. You certainly aren’t contributing anything positive to the discussion.

  30. #30 Chris O'Neill
    December 8, 2015

    zebra,

    the problem is that there is nothing new about your proposal to resolve the debate about which non-FF electricity source would provide best outcomes. And not only is it not new, it has already been done and it ignores the far more important political realities. For those reasons it certainly doesn’t contribute anything positive.

  31. #31 Chris O'Neill
    December 8, 2015

    By the way, the first step in solving a problem is to recognise the problem. In that sense I made a positive contribution to the discussion.

  32. #32 Eamon
    Tohoku
    December 8, 2015

    Johnny Vector: “Citation needed. I looked through several recent papers by Jacobson that mention nuclear power, and didn’t see that anywhere.”

    He explicitly states it in:

    *Effects of biofuels vs. other new vehicle technologies on air pollution, global warming, land use and water.

    *Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security.

    It may also factor in the calculations in more of his work. As an aside, his carbon footprint figures for nuclear are much, much higher than those of the IPCC.

    “In any case, if he makes equally egregious assumptions in this paper they should be pretty easy to find. Then you can argue about the paper rather than about the author.”

    If I had the paper, yes, possibly egregious assumptions could jump out at me – if the model’s workings are explicitly detailed.

  33. #33 Eamon
    Tohoku
    December 8, 2015

    Zebra, you make an unwarranted assumption in your reply to me:

    “Now, if you and your fellow capitalists want to invest in a load-following nuclear plant, and compete on the open market for my consumer dollars”

    I’m not a free-market capitalist.

    I believe that there are things that the nation state is good at, and things that the free-market is good at. Energy is one of the areas that I see as being in the domain of the nation state.

    I do not like capitalists who put panels on their roofs for a quick buck, because that buck usually comes out of other consumers’ pockets.

    I do not think that the market will fix energy supply problems efficiently. The market cares about making money now, and let the future fend for itself. The market is closing nuclear power plants now, because fracked gas is cheaper – that is not a decision which reflects the impact of such gas on climate change or the environment.

  34. #34 zebra
    December 9, 2015

    Eamon,

    “You and…” in this case is used metaphorically and ironically; it is intended to illustrate that people who claim nuclear is a good idea never want to bet their own money on it.

    Now, I’m obliged to make the same comment that I did to Chris– you may not be a Loki Troll, but you sure sound like one. Whatever the case, I did make an assumption, which is that you wouldn’t answer my question, and that you had no concrete proposal yourself as to how to deploy the technology you are espousing.

    Two for two.

  35. #35 BBD
    December 9, 2015

    mt says:

    As for the rest of it, this certainly seems to be of the school that if we make enough unrealistically rosy assumptions, the problem goes away. Well, yeah.

    […]

    Researchers who shrug and say it will be easy do us no favors.

    […]

    But this paper contains no engineering and no economics, just a bunch of optimistic assumptions and a lot of handwaving.

    I have to agree. It’s another J&D classic.

  36. #36 Johnny Vector
    December 9, 2015

    Eamon: “He explicitly states it [ added ‘carbon releases’ from ‘fires started from a global nuclear holocaust’ to nuclear power’s carbon footprint] in:

    *Effects of biofuels vs. other new vehicle technologies on air pollution, global warming, land use and water.

    Okay, thanks. So then let’s move on to whether that is an assumption so bad as to render not only that work but all his other work useless. He estimates 0–4.1 gCO2e/kWh for that particular, which is added to the lifecycle intensity of 9–70 and the opportunity cost of 59-106. So really, it doesn’t make much difference.

    And let’s look at that lifecycle intensity (9-70), about which you say “his carbon footprint figures for nuclear are much, much higher than those of the IPCC”.

    The IPCC says “Total life-cycle GHG emissions per unit of electricity produced from nuclear power are below 40 gCO2-eq/kWh” (FAR4, WG3, Chapter 4, P. 269). (As it says in Jacobson 2009). So no, the IPCC number is right in the middle of his range.

    In any case, those numbers are half the opportunity cost. I will also note that this paper was about biofuels and transportation, and I’m fair certain its conclusions are unchanged if you ignore nuclear proliferation and use the IPCC intensity of 40.

    If you want to comment sensibly, you really should read the report. “I don’t have the paper” doesn’t really work as an excuse when a direct link has already been provided.

  37. #37 Eamon
    Tohoku
    December 9, 2015

    Zebra,

    How was I to know you were only talking metaphorically?

    I also answered your question, as I said:

    “Energy is one of the areas that I see as being in the domain of the nation state.”

    I agree there should be a price on carbon.

    I think nation states should be building nuclear, hydro, tidal, geothermal as fast as possible.

    Nation states should be making it possible for investors to roll-out the more cheaply constructed renewables as fast as practicable – but the cost of grid connection should come from these investors.

    “Now, I’m obliged to make the same comment that I did to Chris– you may not be a Loki Troll…”

    Wow! From what I remember of Loki, that’s a pretty nasty insult. You need to dial back your judgement threshold from “near instantaneous” to ” let’s see how this discussion goes”

  38. #38 zebra
    December 10, 2015

    Eamon,

    Loki: Mischief maker, trickster.

    Lots and lots of comments on this subject are from people whose goal is to tear down renewables and promote do-nothingism. AKA “concern trolling” or “poison pill”– “if you liberals really believed climate change is a problem you would stop sending your Black Helicopters to prevent building of nuclear plants.”

    As to the substance: You aren’t reading very carefully as well as not thinking very carefully about the economic principles here.

    You want the cost of grid connection to come from investors in solar and wind? That’s exactly what my plan does, and it is stated very clearly in my comment.

    Where you go wrong is in this vague hand-waving “energy is in the domain of the nation-state”. The domain of the government in this context is the natural monopoly which is the grid. There is no natural monopoly in generation of electricity, so there is no benefit to having the government be involved beyond health and safety regulation.

    So, the government should either operate or strongly regulate the grid, on the model of the highway/road system and rules of commerce for common carriers. If you don’t understand what I am talking about, do some research.

    And along the lines of doing some research– you sound as if you have consumed some of the right-wing pseudo-economic koolaid with respect to what a free market is. It doesn’t mean “free to establish monopolies and cheat the consumer”. Free markets, as Adam Smith and other real economists understood the term, can only exist if the government is deeply involved in maintaining balance.

  39. #39 Eamon
    Tohoku
    December 10, 2015

    Zebra: “And along the lines of doing some research– you sound as if you have consumed some of the right-wing pseudo-economic koolaid with respect to what a free market is.”

    Or maybe, seeing that I come from the UK, and grew-up in the semi-state control / semi-capitalist society that existed there until recently, I see the “free market” as being the crazy stuff that goes on in the States.

    Zebra: “Free markets, as Adam Smith and other real economists understood the term, can only exist if the government is deeply involved in maintaining balance.”

    Thank you for the info. Of course, many governments are not interested in maintaining balance, and worse, given the multi-national nature of the big players in the market – government control can be a very hard thing to exercise.

  40. #40 Eamon
    Tohoku
    December 10, 2015

    Zebra: “You want the cost of grid connection to come from investors in solar and wind? That’s exactly what my plan does, and it is stated very clearly in my comment.”

    Well, then we are in agreement. Additionally, I did not get that understanding from your comment.

  41. #41 zebra
    December 11, 2015

    Eamon,

    Trickster indeed! And it’s next you’ll be telling me this magical “Kingdom” where you grew up has universal health care, and the police walk around without guns, and other such fantasies…

    Anyway, what puzzles me about people like you and Chris is that if you are so pessimistic about the government really doing something to reduce CO2, what’s the point of quibbling over nuclear v wind v solar?

    I’m being pragmatic– if we had a government that would deal with step 1, what would work for step 2 in the USA? It certainly isn’t sending the troops in to force construction of nuclear plants, even if such a one-size-fits-all approach wasn’t p-poor engineering.

    I’m saying that if we had a functioning, even slightly forward-thinking government, we could pass certain kinds of legislation that would encourage necessary changes and promote innovation. Real free markets can do that, and it gives political cover to those on the dark side.

  42. #42 Chris O'Neill
    December 11, 2015

    zebra:

    I’m being pragmatic– if we had a government that would deal with step 1

    You’re not being pragmatic. You’re just being hypothetical. And an offensive name-caller as well. Frankly your response to me was just pathetic.

  43. #43 Ricardo Teamor
    Long Beach
    January 10, 2016

    Great conversation going on here.
    The problem if intermittent and less than ideally predictable supply can be addressed a number of ways. One is big huge batteries, which are costly and otherwise problematic. There are various other storage methods using water and air and things that can hold heat or “hold cold.”

    This is actually very correct. Somewhere I read that a student named Anders has created some storage system that can store huge amount of energy for longer period of times and also this molecule system is non-toxic so a much better option than lithium batteries.

  44. #44 Magpie
    January 13, 2016

    As an occasional lurker, I just wanted to jump in and say that zebra, you’re being really unfair. It is reasonable for people to consider the political hurdles that a plan might have. It’s possible to disagree with a particular plan without being a troll or a nut.

    I think you’ve responded really unfairly to the other posters here, and I’m pretty amazed at how calmly they’ve taken this unjustified response. Pull your head in. Get over yourself. People having minor quibbles over your plan aren’t automatically trolls.