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Published on January 8th, 2014 | by Giles Parkinson

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Cities Take Energy Transition Into Their Own Hands

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January 8th, 2014 by
 

Originally published on RenewEconomy.

In Australia just now, there is an extraordinary contrast unfolding in the heart of Canberra, the nation’s capital. And it is about how government should move forward on climate change and clean energy policies.

The newly elected Australian federal government, a conservative coalition, has thrown climate initiatives into reverse, busily unwinding the climate change policies and infrastructure installed by the previous Labor government.

It is seeking to remove the carbon price, and institutions such as the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and is under intense pressure from incumbent industry to dilute, or even remove, the 20 per cent national renewable energy target.

Solar panel photo from Shutterstock

In the same city, the local government, which manages Canberra and the surrounding Australian Capital Territory (it’s kind of like Washington DC in the US), has hit the fast-forward button. This year, the city government is scheduled to hold the first of a series of large-scale auctions for wind energy installations in and around the ACT.

It follows the successful auction of 40MW of capacity for utility-scale solar farms. Extraordinarily, the solar farms being built in the greater Canberra district will be the first such installations to be constructed in Australia’s coal-dependent National Electricity Market.

Wind developers believe the ACT auction is the best chance of developing new projects in a country where policy uncertainty has brought an industry to an effective stand-still. The initiatives are part of the ACT’s goal to source 90 per cent of its electricity needs from renewables by 2020.

In Australia, Canberra is by no means alone. In Sydney, the largest city, the Sydney City Council has plans to source 100 per cent of its electricity needs by 2030. In Queensland, the Sunshine Cost Council has announced a unique (for Australia) plan to build a 10MW solar plant to meet half of its own needs.

Internationally, cities are being similarly pro-active, here city governments are taking bold-pro-active action while national governments stall on their own initiatives. In the US, for example,  the city of Lancaster aims to be the solar capital of the world with its ambitious action to source 2GW of solar power in its region, with much of it to be exported to other areas. The global C40 initiative has 63 large cities seeking to lead their national governments.

Importantly, the targets set by cities, rather than governments, more closely reflect the science and the task in hand – and the ability of humans to innovate and adapt – particularly on the important criteria of emissions reductions, energy transition, energy efficiency and water conservation.

Why the contrast? Part of it is politics – conservative versus left-wing (The ACT government is Labor, supported by a single Green member of the city assembly). But the ACT’s ambition was even greater than that of the previous Labor federal government. And the mayor of Lancaster, Rex Parriss, is a Republican.

The ability of cities to be more ambitious and pro-active than national government is possibly due to the ability of a city government to cut through some of the politics. Not only are they closer to the general population, they are closer to business, and business (apart from those vested interests who fear they only have something to lose from new technology) is keen to take up the challenge. And they are insulated from much (but not all) of the vested interests who are focused more on national policy.

In the words of ACT energy minister Simon Corbell: “We need more people to imagine and demonstrate that a different future is possible and it is affordable.” Or, as Lancaster mayor Parriss put it:  “This really is a problem that has to be solved in neighbourhoods. That’s where the energy is consumed, in buildings, and housing. (US president Barack Obama doesn’t write building codes. I do.”

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About the Author

is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.



  • Will E

    subsidies are not needed. renewable makes a lot of money.
    it can be compared with buying a house and burn it, as coal does
    or buying a house and live in it, like renewable does

    • jeppen

      So the article is wrong in claiming this “effective stand-still”?

      • johnBas5

        Journalists like to sensationalize.

  • jeppen

    Really strange. I’ve been in another discussion where I was constantly told how cheap and below grid costs solar and wind was, for instance in Australia. So there should be an enormous amount of construction going on, even if unsubsidised.

    But now I hear that “policy uncertainty has brought an industry to an effective stand-still.” which I guess means “no subsidies and we won’t build”.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Math is math.

      Investors, if unsure of how the numbers work out, tend to hold back until things are clear.

      If subsidies were pulled from renewables or nuclear or if fossil fuels were charged for their external costs then returns wouldn’t be quite as good and some money would like move to other ventures.

      • jeppen

        If the market doesn’t act but “math” says it should, then the “math” (or the input parameters to said math) is wrong. Investors tend not to hold back if there is profits to make.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I have no idea what you’re trying to say.

          Investors may see some attractive returns but will hold back if they perceive risk.

          That’s the thing with investing in nuclear. What if the plant never opens? That does happen now and then.

          What happens if there’s another meltdown? If it’s close to your investment you could be forced out of business by public demand.

          What happens if you invest in a plant that won’t start producing income for several years and cheaper generation comes to market? That’s why the French and Chinese won’t touch a new reactor in the UK unless the UK guarantees them protection from market forces for 35 years.

          • jeppen

            Ah, so investors see “a risk”. Now, what is that particular risk in Australia? What cheaper generation would enter the market and make solar and wind uncompetitive, if they are competitive at current prices?

          • Bob_Wallace

            The risk in Australia right now is to coal plants. People invested in them are in the process of losing their shorts.

            What cheaper generation might undercut wind and solar? Nothing we know about.

            Some people speculate that there’s some sort of GenIV nuclear which might, but so far it’s simply speculation.

          • jeppen

            Then you still have to explain the “effective standstill” absent subsidies.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, that’s self-explanatory.

            But if you don’t understand. When the financial model is disrupted investors are usually going to hold back and see how things are going to operate going forward.

            That’s what we’ve seen at the EOY multiple times with US wind when Congress doesn’t renew the support bill in a timely fashion.

          • jeppen

            Ah, so operators can profit from wind and solar, and nothing can undercut it, but operators just “wait and see” when they don’t get subsidies. I get it…

          • A Real Libertarian

            Simple.

            Fake!!!!!!

        • JamesWimberley

          The toolkit of anti-solar politicians includes retroactive taxes and arbitrary grid access fees, as in Spain. The mere removal of subsidies is far from the worst conceivable outcome.

          • jeppen

            You mean neutral politicians. They could decide solar should carry its costs, just like other generation. That would be tough, I know.

          • Bob_Wallace

            But all generation is subsidized. At least in the US.

          • jeppen

            Yeah, that’s the typical comeback, followed up with some bogus stuff about how everything non-green is subsidized more.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Actually new solar now appears to be subsidising the rest of the grid here in Australia.

          • jeppen

            How’s so? The typical problem I’ve seen is that solar installations are typically allowed to shirk grid costs. That’s especially true when net metering is applied.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Jeppen, do you understand how people without air conditioning subsidise those who do in Australia?

          • jeppen

            Perhaps. You don’t have hourly pricing?

            If so, then I can see how early solar, that shaves off the AC peak, subsidise the grid in a sense.

            In my own Sweden, there isn’t much AC and electricy is much cheaper in the summer, so we don’t have that effect.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Jeppen, you live in Sweden? Well then, at Australian installation costs rooftop solar would provide households with lower cost electricity than the grid. And at German installation costs point of use solar would be cheaper than grid electricity rates for industrial users. Sweden’s large hydroelectric capacity would compliment it quite well. If you have a roof I suggest going down to IKEA or wherever you can get the best deal and get yourself a system and start saving some money.

          • jeppen

            Yes, I live in Sweden.

            In Sweden, solar is not at grid parity (if you don’t get subsidies for installation), so I’d lose money. I can provide a calculation if you want. Also, I guess that’s why IKEA doesn’t carry solar panels in Sweden.

            Even if solar was at grid parity, I would shirk taxes and grid fees, and thus taxes and fees would have to rise on others. I’d probably still do it if I thought I could save money, but I would feel a bit dirty.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “I would shirk taxes and grid fees”

            Why should you pay for no reason?

            You and a bunch of people put up solar, no need to build massive grid additions because all that increased demand is met by solar production at the place of use.

            Not to mention most electricity bills already carry a separate grid charge for that shit.

            If you’re so concerned about “taxes and fees would have to rise on others” why don’t you focus on that?

            Especially considering those are flat taxes no matter how much you use and regressive taxes really screw over the poor.

          • jeppen

            There are no free lunches, and as solar PV power is at least three times more expensive than rational central generation, someone has to pay the difference. If not me, through shirking, then my neighbors. Where’s the moral in that?

          • A Real Libertarian

            “There are no free lunches”

            If you can’t get free lunches, you are doing efficiency wrong.

            “and as solar PV power is at least three times more expensive than rational central generation”

            Wait a minute, this seems familiar…

            “someone has to pay the difference. If not me, through shirking, then my neighbors. Where’s the moral in that?”

            Ah fuck, I’m debating Mustapha Mond.

            “Why don’t we improve efficiency with these technologies?”

            “If we do that the lower castes will work less and start getting rebellious.”

            “So let’s breed less of them.”

            “But then who will do all this work?”

            And around and around it goes.

          • jeppen

            And I’m debating some rather unintelligible anti-libertarian troll.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “unintelligible”?

            This is like attempting to explain calculus to a chimp.

          • jeppen

            I kind of know my abilities and limitations, so your putdowns won’t change much. Noticed you gave up on your attempt to discredit the number of reactors under construction, btw?

          • Ronald Brakels

            To be at grid parity solar power would have to match the wholesale price of electricity. But point of use solar doesn’t have to do that to save you money. It only has to beat what the consumer pays for electricity and I understand that is about 20 Euro cents or 27 US cents a kilowatt-hour for Swedish households.

          • jeppen

            Our prices are nothing like that. Currently, middle of winter, we have a wholesale price of 4 cents and on top of that taxes of 5 cents, and then 3 cents variable transmission fees (including VAT). There are some fixed fees also, but at most I can save 4+5+3=12 euro cents per kWh. Then prices are lower in the summer, and we generally don’t have net metering, so even 12 euro cents is optimistic.

            And there’s no realistic way I can get 12 euro cents/kWh using solar PV in Sweden.

          • Ronald Brakels

            I’m surprised to hear that your electricity is so cheap. But even with such a low retail price, at German installation costs and a 5% discount rate, point of use solar will still produce electricity for less than your retail electricity price. It’s not a huge saving but it’s there and as prices come down increasing amounts of solar will be installed.

          • jeppen

            I would be interested in those German installation costs and what your calculation for O&M is (i.e. repair costs for inverters and such). Also what you think the panel will produce (common figure here is 950 kWh/kW).

            Also, I’d like 10% for something that will probaby require hefty inverter repairs, complicate my life and my property, and likely be considered worthless when I sell the house, among other risks. 5% I would accept if there was no complications, repairs, major risks or write-offs.

            For a greenie, it’s more of a hobby than complications, and the installation is worth bragging rights in such circles, so for him, it’s worth some losses (or self-delusion), but I need a real business-case.

            I can get 3 KW for 7750 euros here in Sweden, after checking a few alternatives. At 10%, I need a 775 euro yearly saving. However, I’ll get only 950*3*0.12 = 342 euro. And that’s assuming I could use all of the 3 KW by myself or find an operator offering net metering.

            But we do have (limited) subsidies that might make this close to break even, if you get them.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you knew more about solar you wouldn’t be worrying about things such as inverter cost and house resale value.

            Inverters are often warranted for 25 years and not that expensive to start with.

            In the US installed solar adds more to the market value of the house than the system cost.

          • jeppen

            I think they are expensive enough. But what’s your figure – how many dollars per watt, say, for a 3 KW system?

            Warranties are only good if the companies involved remains in operation…

            Installed solar adds more to the market value than the system cost? That might change, don’t you think, when solar becomes increasingly cheap and more efficient while the enormous solar penetration lowers the electricity prices so much that savings are nullified? :-P (Or if trends simply reverse and people start acting rationally.)

          • Bob_Wallace

            3k watt inverter ~$1,600.

            That’s from a leading manufacturer. They’re likely to be around a long time.

            Installed solar will add less as the price of solar decreases. But the people who added solar years back will have been getting a return for those years.

          • jeppen

            Ok, so $1600 or 1200 euro. More expensive in Sweden, I’d guess, but let’s go for that. I would save 342 euro per year on 3 KW (if I got net metering somehow and electricity prices doesn’t decline), so every non-guaranteed inverter breakdown would wipe out almost four years of savings.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Four out of 25.

            Go fish.

          • jeppen

            I’d call that significant, wouldn’t you?

            (I don’t understand the “go fish” comment. A quick googling yielded a film and a card game, but it didn’t really help me.)

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, I wouldn’t.

            After 20, 25 years of savings you have to purchase a second inverter and then you have another 20, 25 years of savings.

            Go fish is a card game. When a player doesn’t have a card that fits they are told to go fish.

          • jeppen

            Ah. Well, to me, 16% savings nullified is a significant risk, among a number of other risks. You’re free to make economic decisions on the basis of it not being significant. We all handle our economic realities differently, I guess.

            Regarding the card game (we have it in Sweden, direct translation would be “it’s in the lake”), it would be nice metaphor if we agreed about what fits and not.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’re not likely to agree unless you somehow become capable of seeing both sides of issues.

          • jeppen

            Then I’d be the only one of us to do that…

          • Bob_Wallace

            You’re so blinded by nuclear love that you don’t even recognize your blindness.

          • jeppen

            So, tell me of your recognition of my side of the story.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Your side of the story is that we could use nuclear energy to curtail climate change.

            That the danger of nuclear accidents is less than that of climate change and coal.

            I don’t disagree with that at all.

          • jeppen

            And your side of the story is that it is technically feasible to curtail climate change with intermittent renewables and storage.

            That solar and wind have had spectacular reductions in costs and spectacular growth rates.

            I don’t disagree with that at all.

            But that’s half of the story. We disagree about a lot, and you react violently whenever I try to moderate your gung ho views on renewables or try to show that nuclear isn’t a lame duck. Any of that and I’m “dishonest” at best.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, that’s about half the story. To review:

            We could prevent the worst of climate change by switching from fossil fuels to nuclear energy or renewables.

            That the danger of nuclear energy is less than that of climate change.
            Now the other half:

            Renewables are significantly cheaper than nuclear. (Remembering that both need storage).

            Renewables are much faster to bring on line, thus cutting fossil fuels quicker.

            Renewables bring with them none of the dangers of nuclear bring into our lives.

            Renewables are much easier to site than are nuclear plants.

          • jeppen

            Yep,, and that other half is simply wrong. I’ve been through the counterpoints with you, and you don’t get them, so I don’t know what more I can do. I’ll summarize them here for reference, though.

            Onshore wind is close to nuclear in cost at low penetrations, but worse at high penetrations. Solar and offshore wind are at least two to three times as expensive at low penetrations, and worse at high penetrations.

            I’ve provided LCOEs to support that and your only important objection to that, regarding O&M, proved to be false.

            Regarding storage and balance, I’ve shown you how wind amplitudes are 3 times that of nuclear and argued that that makes it much harder to store and balance, and challenged you to tell me your preferred way of calculating storage needs so I can give you a simulation. You treat that challenge with silence.

            Nuclear is faster to bring online in large volumes. Historical ramping rates proves that and costs proves that, since money is time. While nuclear has easily and quickly charged past 50% in pioneer countries, wind seems to get heavy headwind in the range of 10-20% and solar likely before that considering how pioneers such as Italy, Spain, Germany has scrambled to contain growth by curbing subsidies when in the 3-5% range.

            Nuclear is better from a risk perspective, since it has as low average YOLL as wind even not considering storage and balance, and much lower than solar, the reason being lower material needs and a more disciplined industry. This includes accidents. Life cycle analysises proves this, and your only objection was the claim that you don’t know (an insignificant part of) the numbers, so researchers shouldn’t know them either.

            Only solar is easier to site than nuclear, but nuclear doesn’t lose as much efficiency in warmer places as solar loses in cold places. (This last argument I may not have put forward before.) Wind is hard to site – you need to cover extreme areas to match a nuclear plant and you need both good wind resources and fight NIMBYism. Nuclear can easily power small, population dense countries, whereas with wind, such countries would have to place their energy security in the hands of neighbors.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The island of Here’tis decided that it was time to cease powering their grid with diesel and called in a couple of companies to evaluate their needs and design a carbon free system.

            ABNuc first asked their average load and was told 100MW. That’s fine, AB replied, we can build you a 100MW reactor. Our reactor will give you a nice steady stream of 100 MW 24 hours a day.

            (Of course our reactor will need to be offline about 10% of the time for fueling/maintenance. So we’ll have to build two.)

            But, the Here’tis Utility says, our load can vary from as little as 50MW at night when everyone is asleep to as high as 150MW in the middle of the day when everyone is up.

            No problem, replied AB. We’ll just install a lot of storage. When demand is under 50MW we’ll store the extra unneeded power from the reactor and then feed it back in when demand is higher than 100MW. To determine the exact amount of storage we’ll have to do a detailed study of loan variation. But we know that it’s going to be a big number, at least 50MW.

            Then Here’tis Utility contacted a renewable energy company. CDRenew also asked the average load, took a look at the wind and solar resources and said that they could install enough wind and solar to produce that amount of power over a year. Of course there would be times at which supply would exceed demand and times at which supply would not cover demand.

            That means that CD would need to install storage to match supply and demand. To determine the exact amount of storage CD would have to do a detailed study of supply and load variation.

            So Here’tis Utility realizes that there’s no magic solution. Both nuclear and wind/solar would require storage and in order to determine how much storage there would need to be a lengthy (and probably expensive) study. Was there a way for them to save the study money and to save money overall?

            Well, they got some bids for installing a kWh of nuclear ($0.15) a kWh of wind ($0.05) and a kWh of solar ($0.06).

            And then they asked themselves the probability that nuclear would need so much less storage that it would offset its much higher cost. After considering the cost of nuclear they didn’t bother to contact ABNuc again….

          • jeppen

            Nice story. Problem is, the key numbers are wrong, as I showed with my LCOE. Wind and nuclear are equally expensive, while solar is 3x the cost. When storage and balancing is included, nuclear wins hands down. Please feel free to give parameters for an LCOE that will produce your results, otherwise, we have nothing to discuss.

          • Bob_Wallace

            It seems like you’ve used up your trolling allowance.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “the key numbers are wrong, as I showed with my LCOE. Wind and nuclear are equally expensive, while solar is 3x the cost. When storage and balancing is included, nuclear wins hands down”

            This is irrelevant because your LCOE numbers are based on “well, I’m guessing it’s about this”.

          • Ronald Brakels

            I can pick up a 3 kilowatt inverter in Australia for $450 US. Mind you, these cheap ones only have a five year warranty.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The price of inverters is apparently on the way down. There’s not hundreds/thousands of dollars worth of stuff inside the box. Increased sales volumes will create more price competition and economies of scale.

          • Ronald Brakels

            They have really come down in price in Australia and even if you get a cheap one and it fails after five years the replacement will be cheaper and probably more reliable than they are now. And you could replace it with an inverter with inbuilt storage.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Jeppen, you impression of rooftop solar does not match reality in Australia. It is not a hobby. In my city one in five private residences have rooftop solar. It is a way to save money on electricity bills. And it is “fire and forget”. You call up the solar company and depending on how busy they are will come around in a few days and install the system which can take a couple of hours. Then you do nothing. With a ten year warranty you are unlikely to have any breakdown and you won’t have any expense in that time. If you have European panels you can get a 25 year warranty on them. If your inverter breaks down after ten years you get it replaced and in 10 years time inverters will be cheaper and probably more reliable than they are now. And there is nothing complex about replacing it. It can be installed by your local electrician. So if over a 30 year system life time you are looking at two inverter replacements of $500 each, that’s $1,000 over 30 years or about $33 a year.

          • jeppen

            I don’t argue that it doesn’t beat the grid in Australia. You have better sun and worse electricity prices, and probably net metering and such as well. OTOH, I’ve seen greens’ calculations in Sweden often enough to know that they are always a bit too optimistic. (It’s even fairly unusual that they apply capital costs.)

            I’ve seen greens in Sweden where the rooftop solar is a hobby. They talk about it, they monitor the output and calculate their savings and their projected savings, they inspect it, they compare it with friends, they clean it. They might even try to get rid of snow covering it to get a few more kWh out of it, at least the first two years. They might try to match their supply and demand. And so on.

            Surely you can treat it as less of a hobby, but you actually need to monitor it somewhat to protect your investment. For instance, if degradation is guaranteed, you’d have to check that somehow. Also I wouldn’t just buy something just like that. I’d compare prices, read up on it, have a company or two come home and talk about installation options and give me quotations.

            Then you have the risks:
            * Selling house and not getting your investment back.
            * Others installing so much solar that electricity prices are such that there are no earnings.
            * Some parts break down and you have to spend time and money repairing, or see your investment lost.
            * Solar prices being so much lower in a few years that you would have earned money by waiting.
            * Conditions changing, such as net metering abolished, electricity taxes lowered, production taxed as income or more costs are transferred from non-fixed to fixed, so as grid parity moves and any savings disappear.
            * Your neighbor deciding to grow a tree that casts shadows or similar.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Jeppen, do you believe me when I tell you that the average maintenance cost of rooftop solar is currently very low?

          • jeppen

            Well, as I’ve understood it, the inverter issues (mainly) put solar maintenance on par with wind and nuclear, probably even worse than them.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Jeppen, instead of just “understanding it”, you could do the sums and work it out for yourself or look up what the actual maintenance cost of rooftop solar is in Germany or other countries. If you did that, you’d see that it’s a lot less than the maintenance cost of nuclear power.

            At a five percent discount rate, Australian installation costs, and insolation levels experience by the majority of Swedes rooftop solar is cheaper than grid power. While you may not be happy with a 5% discount rate, this isn’t about you. Sweden is a low interest rate country which means many homeowners can borrow money at good rates, so a 5% discount rate is quite reasonable. This means that solar power will gradually spread in Sweden and as prices drop towards those in Germany its installation rate will pick up as it becomes more clearly competitive with grid electricity. I wouldn’t want to guess how quickly this will happen or how much capacity will be installed, but it will happen. Sweden’s cloudy weather and low retail electricity prices just mean it will be a late bloomer compared to many European countries.

            Even if solar can’t be installed for around the average Australian installation price now in Sweden, it’s only a matter of time. There are a lot of low cost installers in Europe and we have plenty of examples of how quickly a country’s installation cost can drop. And since at Australian installation costs, rooftop solar outcompetes grid electricity, this means it outcompetes Swedish nuclear power.

          • Lars Andersson

            I’ve apparently been blacklisted, so I can’t participate in the discussions anymore. I’ll just use this other account to say farewell and thank everybody who seriously engaged in discussions with me. Thanks and bye! /jeppen

          • Bob_Wallace

            Interesting. The Eurostat database thinks that Swedes were paying over 20 euro cents for retail electricity in 2011.
            http://ec.europa.eu/energy/gas_electricity/doc/sv_energy_market_2011_en.pdf

          • jeppen

            2012 and 2013 has been better than at least 2008-2011 in terms of wholesale electricity prices. Also, I think the prices you reference include fixed fees and possibly not only the cheapest alternative (perhaps a mix of different multi-year locked prices and dynamic pricing). I can show you some links from our national electricity company to support my figures, but it’d be a bit of a hassle since it’s in Swedish. Or I could scan my electricity bill. Or you could be a bit charitable for once and trust me on this.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you put solar on your house you would use it to avoid paying retail prices.

            Retail prices include taxes such as the VAT.

            Please quit trying to squirm you way out of corners.

          • jeppen

            I don’t squirm one bit. I had taxes, VAT included, I wrote that. The non-fixed electricity retail costs really are what I said they are, everything included.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “They could decide solar should carry its costs, just like other generation.”

            When and where have nukes or fossils had retroactive taxes placed on them?

            Or had laws passed to imprison those who used them?

          • jeppen

            I’m guessing you’re not really a real libertarian…

          • A Real Libertarian

            So you have no evidence, you have no argument, you have no logic, you just have talking points to repeat ad nauseum no matter how many times they’ve been debunked.

          • jeppen

            Thanks for your opinion. It seems very unbiased and charitable, as befits an anti-libertarian troll.

            (Btw, retroactive taxes does not belong in a just society – neither does prison for ordinary work. However, nuclear is a cash cow for, I guess, most countries who use nuclear power. In my Sweden, for instance, there is a tax specifically on nuclear power that yields about $0.01/kWh, plus the fact that the government owns much of the nuclear capacity and rakes in huge profits.)

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Btw, retroactive taxes does not belong in a just society – neither does prison for ordinary work.”

            But apparently not using them as a club to beat down solar is a “subsidy” for solar.

            And for nuclear, new nuclear is over US$0.15/KWh, so not much more is being built.

          • jeppen

            Nuclear construction is at all time high since Chernobyl. 72 reactors are being built.

          • A Real Libertarian

            That’s because a lot of the reactors that started construction after Chernobyl are still being constructed.

            Oh, and how many of them are actively being built? Not proposed, not being prepared, actual It’s-A-Big-Construction-Site being built?

          • jeppen

            At most a handful of these 72 either started construction before 2000 or are not being actively built. All of them have had first concrete poured (for the nuclear island basemat), so none of them are in the planned/proposed stage.

            The number of planned reactors are listed as 172 and the number of proposed are 312.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “At most a handful of these 72 either started construction before 2000 or are not being actively built.”

            How many? How long does it have to stay idle before it counts as “not being actively built”?

            How over budget and behind schedule are they?

          • jeppen

            Of these 71 constructions (I used a source that claims 71, not 72, to answer your question) one of them were started in the 70-ies. That is Watts Bar-2, and it is being actively built.

            Five projects were started in the 80-ies. The oldest, Argentina’s Atucha-2, is close to completion, has recently been synched with the grid and is undergoing commissioning tests. The other four, two in Ukraine and 2 in Slovakia, had construction restart in 2011 and 2008 respectively.

            Only two active projects were started in the 90-ies, both on Taiwan. Build is active, but delays and cost overruns are evident.

            In the first half of the 00-ies, only three active projects are underway, two in India and the fabled Finnish one. All are being worked on.

            A full 60 reactor builds have been started since 2006, 39 of them since 2010. I don’t think any of them are paused, but I don’t have time to check.

            So, AFAIK, all are active, most are very recent.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Three in Japan have paused.

          • jeppen

            I had only two in my figures, and one of them have resumed and one seems to be paused. Here is the resumed one:
            http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/03/12/national/work-resumes-on-aomoris-new-oma-nuclear-plant/

            The list of reactors under construction that I used:
            http://world-nuclear.org/NuclearDatabase/rdresults.aspx?id=27569&ExampleId=62

            So we have found one paused out of 71.

          • Bob_Wallace

            71 reactors with a total capacity of 74,997 MW.

            Figure an average of 8 years to complete 9,375 MW per year. At 90% CF that’s 8,437 MW. 8.4 GW.

            Heck, let’s do a ‘thumb on’ for nuclear and give it a 6 year build and make it 11.2 GW.

            Looks like the world installed 44.4 GW of wind in 2012. CF for new farms is running pretty high in the US and offshore Europe, 40% or better. So let’s be conservative and say 25% for a world average. That should be more than fair to nuclear. 11.1 GW

            And 32,340 MW of solar in 2012. 18% a reasonable estimation? 5,821 MW. 5.8 GW

            8.4 to 11.2 GW nuclear and 16.9 GW wind/solar – delivered, not nameplate.

            And 71 sounded like such a big important number….

            With China ramping up wind and the rest of the world starting to go gangbusters with solar I suspect the lead will be widening a lot as we go forward.

            (It would be a good idea for someone to double check my math. It’s my bedtime….)

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thinking more about that great bit number – 71.

            The US closed or scheduled for closure 5 reactors in 2013. There are another 18 or so that are close to bankruptcy and could go away over the next few years.

            Japan closed down their last reactor in 2012. That’s 50 gone and while a few might be brought back most likely won’t.

            Germany shut 8 following Fukushima and will close another 9 over the next 9 years.

            Canada shut one down in 2012. Russia has 11 planned for closure before 2020.

            5 + 50 + 8 + 9 + 11 = 83 + ?

          • jeppen

            Shut-downs are irrelevant to me. New builds and lifetime is what’s important.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If shutdowns happen faster than new builds then you’ve got a dying industry.
            And think of what the age of existing reactors is. Even if we could push them to 60 we’ll have massive closures over the next 20 years.

          • jeppen

            It’s two different industries – plant O&M industry and plant construction industry. I’m more concerned with the plant construction industry – the other one will follow.

            The nuclear construction industry was almost dead in the 90-ies, but now it has tripled and is still ramping.

            Current projections by EIA and such have nuclear increasing roughly as much as consumption until 2040. Of course, that’s not good enough, but it’s not a dying industry either.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There’s no indication that nuclear is ramping.

            Most of the 71 were started prior to Fukushima and we’ve seen that Fukushima seems to have greatly slowed China’s starts. Plus killed the three reactors Japan had under construction.

          • jeppen

            At least one of Japans reactor builds have been restarted, and just two were part of the 71.

            There is every indication nuclear is ramping. Fukushima was clearly a setback, but it’s going up again. I made this pic for you – current construction by construction start year:
            http://s24.postimg.org/peub3r7np/image004.png

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, we’ll see how this plays out over the coming years.

            Fukushima was a disruptive event. There’s another disruptive event which hasn’t impacted nuclear starts yet – the recent plummet in renewable energy cost.

          • jeppen

            A grudging admission and gripping for another straw. That’s good enough for me.

          • jeppen

            I fully agree that renewables ramps faster than nuclear today. But it’s not enough. We need renewables to ramp like nuclear did in the early 80-ies. Or much better, actually.

            We’re going to have 40,000 TWh/year of electricity in the world in 2040. We need average 4,600 GW to satisfy that, and to fill it with renewables with a life time of 30 years, we’d need 153 GW average power installed per year.

            153 GW average power could be fulfilled by combining 200 GW wind and 400 GW solar (plus storage). That’s the per-year requirement. Today, wind is scaling by 50 GW and solar is at 35 GW.

            If yearly wind installations quadruples and solar installations tenfolds, then we are where we need to be, roughly.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Since we don’t have skilled labor or site restrictions then that’s doable.

          • jeppen

            For wind, I’d argue there’s definitely site restrictions. Also, as you know, I think intermittency/storage is a real problem. You think it’s not, but you’ll simply have to see.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sites are certainly not a problem. Especially since we’re now building turbines for places with lower speed wind.

            We will have to build some transmission lines. We built railroad track for coal.

            And somehow you just can’t seem to understand that large penetration of either wind/solar or nuclear storage would be needed. That’s simply going to be a system requirement.

          • jeppen

            There is increasing NIMBY-ism with wind, and also, good wind sites are depleting. We can use worse sites but will get less energy out of them, obviously.

            Yes, large penetration of nuclear and wind/solar requires storage. What you just can’t seem to understand is that it’s much worse for wind/solar. I’ve given up on explaining it to you, though.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “good wind sites are depleting”

            This is, in general, a dishonest statement.

            Good wind sites have been used in only a very limited part of the world and those sites are being upgraded with taller, higher output turbines.

            Please show us the math that demonstrates how wind and solar need more storage than nuclear.

          • jeppen

            Those limited parts of the world are quite important, since that’s where much of the money and population are. Of course, there are poorer places with more dense populations, but getting a big-footprint tech like wind cover high-population areas is a challenge. How easy would it be to make India and Bangladesh run on wind?

            Also, I thought it was common knowledge that Germany’s lousy wind capacity factors in part were due to Germany not having good wind sites?

            The math for more storage? Didn’t I show you the nuclear/wind variation graph? Isn’t that conclusion obvious from the 3 times higher amplitude of wind variations? Apart from that “math”, the only thing I can think of is running a simulation for you. If you specify how you would like me to calculate storage needs, I can do it for you. (I can specify myself, but I’m thinking that you would immediately renounce my method, so it’s better that you give it.)

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Those parts” are basically part of Germany. Germany has enormous amounts of offshore resources. Worry not for Germany.

            India has a very aggressive wind program. And one of the leading manufacturing companies.

            No, you presented a graph demonstrating that both wind/solar and nuclear need storage. You created no numbers.

          • jeppen

            Offshore is expensive in the extreme for Germany, and I don’t think the resources are that good either. I don’t worry for Germany – I simply defer to its plans which shows a lost decade – absolutely no progress in low-carbon electricity until after 2022.

            Now you’re avoiding the questions. Isn’t it obvious that wind need more storage than nuclear, from the graph? Also, please give me your preferred method to calculate storage needs, and I’ll give you results, and, if you like, the data and calculations in an excel sheet.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Isn’t it obvious that wind need more storage than nuclear, from the graph? ”

            Not at all. Not at all.

            What is obvious from the graph is that nuclear produces power on a “flat line”. It would take storage to load-follow, to move off-peak production to peak demand.

            Why must these issues be addressed over and over? Are you not capable of being an objective thinker or are you so blinded by your love of nuclear than you can’t look at things objectively?

          • jeppen

            Because you’re not making sense. And you obviously don’t dare to present your preferred method of calculating storage needs so we can settle the matter.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sweden’s newest reactors came on line in 1985. Almost 30 years ago. Half their reactors are around 40 years old.

            Electricity from a paid off nuclear reactor can be cheap (if the reactor doesn’t have to carry full liability coverage).

            I suppose if one had grown up with paid off reactors on their grid they wouldn’t understand the impact of adding very expensive generation….

          • jeppen

            Yeah, so during our main nuclear construction period 40 years ago, Sweden commissioned about 1 reactor per 5 million people and year and now we have the highest nuclear power penetration in the world.

            If the US would add one Westinghouse AP-1000 reactor per 5 million people and year, you’d add some 66 GW nuclear/year, which would produce as much as 300 GW solar, but do it for 60 years. As I understand it, you installed 4 GW solar last year.

            Swedens rapid installation rate at a point in time when we had much lower GDP/capita than now says something about the cost of it all. To get 300 GW solar/year, the US would have to devote $600 billion/year and also await the appropriate expansion of solar cell fabs, mines for material, ramping of installation capacity and so on (apropos it being faster).

          • Bob_Wallace

            Since solar is just now getting started let’s see how this all plays out over the next few years.

            Remember, since Fukushima world attitudes about nuclear seem to have shifted. Certainly knocked China off stride.

            Saw this interesting bit earlier…

            “China has embarked on the greatest push for renewable energy the world has ever seen. A key element involves more than doubling the number of wind turbines in the next six years.

            Already the world’s largest producer of wind power, China plans further massive increases.

            From a current installed capacity of 75 gigawatts (GW), the aim is to achieve a staggering 200GW by 2020.

            By contrast, the European Union countries together have just over 90GW of installed wind capacity.”
            http://www.evwind.es/2014/01/08/china-on-worlds-biggest-push-for-wind-power/41219

          • jeppen

            Yes, let’s see. Btw, going from 75 GW to 200 GW wind in 7 years is a virtually unchanged installation rate of some 18 GW/year. This means they are not ramping wind construction, but holding it stable.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Come on. That’s an incredibly dishonest claim. You know how installation rates for wind have been increasing.

            That sort of crap has no place on this site. Best you keep your inner child under control.

          • jeppen

            You’re a very special guy. Almost every time I say something provably true, you complain that it’s dishonest.

            You can verify here how wind has ramped in China:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_by_country

            It was +13 GW in 2009, +19 GW in 2010, +18 GW in 2011, +13 GW in 2012, with a total of 75 GW installed in 2012. You claim it will ramp to 200 GW in 2020. That’s eight years and (200-75)/8 = 16 GW (sorry, not 18, i think I used 7 years).

            So wind construction possibly peaked in 2010 and it seems that China will avoid those levels until 2020.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You know the discussion is about world wind installation, but you cherry-picked China.

            I’ll give you a graph of world installation.

            I’d suggest you turn up your honesty settings before continuing.

          • jeppen

            You cited several paragraphs on how fantastic China’s wind was, and how great its plans are. I simply responded to that.

            Almost every time you lose, and that’s fairly often, you move the goal posts and aggressively claim you really won and that I’m a really bad person. It’s quite pitiful to see.

    • Ronald Brakels

      There is an enormous amount of construction going on putting solar on roofs in Australia. Rooftop solar is continuing to expand despite the fact that in a lot of places solar is now subsidising the rest of the grid. Wind power is different from rooftop solar because it provides grid electricity and the use of grid electricity is declining in Australia. Countries with declining electricity use tend not to build a great deal of new generating capacity. New wind is cheaper than new coal or gas capacity, but it is not necessarily cheaper than existing capacity. Since electricity use is declining there is not a huge rush to build new wind capacity in most states and how much will be build depends very much on the carbon price and the Renewable Energy Target, both of which are under threat of being replaced with a more expensive and entirely voluntary scheme by the current Coalition Government. Of course, in South Australia where there is no cheap coal, there is a lot of wind capacity and more is being built.

  • Matt

    Building code are a real issue in this country. While there are national recommendations. Local governments decide when to update codes. So it can take a long time for improvements to happen. Then again you can get big jump like in Lancaster CA. Think if in 2014 all local government required new buildings be at least LEED Silver and went to a no permeant rule similar to Auz for solar panels (yes there have rules still).

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      i’d vote for that! :D

    • Ronald Brakels

      Building codes certainly are a problem here in Australia. While it is much easier to get rooftop solar than in the US, councils generally require panels be installed flat against the roof and I have heard of people with flat roofs not being permitted to properly angle their panels as a result. The building across the road from me had properly angeled panels, but then one day I noticed they had disappeared. Looking more closely I saw they had layed them flat, so I’m wondering if they have suffered from stupid Council syndrome.

      But on the bright side, the roof insulation program that was introduced as part of the stimulus response to the Global Financial Crisis was a great success in terms of reducing energy use at low cost.

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