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Published on November 3rd, 2015 | by Guest Contributor


Clean Energy Transition Is A $25 Trillion Free Lunch

November 3rd, 2015 by  

Originally published on Same Facts.
By James Wimberley

There is a disturbing passage towards the end of the final book in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia septet:

Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a Stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said, ‘Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.’ But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said: ‘Well, at any rate, there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs!’

‘You see,’ said Aslan. ‘They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they can not be taken out.’

Never mind Lewis’ peccably orthodox theology of hell, rejecting the universalism of his inspiration George D. Macdonald and of the Cappadocian Fathers. The Dwarfs’ banquet is a pretty good allegory of the mess we are in over climate change.

Brad Plumer, in a solid and much-cited Vox post, sheds gloom on the premature celebrations of success in Paris. The “intended national contributions” (INDCs) add up, says Climate Tracker, to cutting global warming from 3.6 deg C by 2100 to 2.7 deg C. That is far too high, seeing that the 2 degrees limit agreed at Copenhagen is reckless: it has a 50% chance of being just acceptable. Normal prudence argues for 1.5 degrees. He’s dead right there. The INDCs are agreed to be just a down-payment, to be ratcheted up later – this will be in the agreement. Plumer underlines that the ratcheting up isn’t a marginal tweak, but a huge effort, more or less doubling what’s already on the table.

The knowledgeable and acute Plumer is still a paid-up member of the Beltway political class, and shares two of its biases. One is paying too much attention to what politicians say as opposed to what they do. The other is a neglect of the impersonal forces of economics and technology, combined with the small decisions of billions of ordinary people.

The first bias is at work in his taking the INDCs at face value. These present the emissions of the USA and the EU on a sedately declining path. Those of China will peak close to 2030; India has not accepted any absolute cap at all, and plans a massive expansion of coal-burning along with its dramatic push for wind and solar power (160 GW by 2022). A few other middle-income countries like Turkey offer similar scenarios, but those are the two that count. It’s bad news, but let’s take a closer look.


Last November’s agreement between Obama and Xi was hugely important politically. Both countries accepted hard emissions targets, and so opened the path to a successful agreement in Paris.

The content of the undertakings was far less impressive. The US promise of a 26-28% decrease in emissions from 2005 to 2025, implemented mainly through the Clean Power Plan regulations on coal fossil power generation, only represented a continuation of the trend decline. On the Chinese side, the undertaking was only to peak emissions “around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early”. The pessimism of the scenario is extreme. The recent absolute decline in coal output suggests to me that China’s emissions will peak before 2020 and may have already done so. Details in the endnote. Optimism is reinforced by the brutal effectiveness of the government’s coercion of local officials: some district heating systems were shut down in 2010 to meet energy and pollution targets (pdf, page 5).

I am not the only observer concluding that China’s carbon emissions will peak soon. Deutsche Bank think 2016, Bernstein Research think this year (ibid, page 7). Xi could safely have promised a much earlier emissions cap. I will take a small bet that he will do so, either at Paris or – better theatre – at or just before the top-level signing junket the diplomats are planning for the spring of 2016. Will they try for U2 or the Pope or both? No bets on that one.

The other political effect was that both leaders became more committed domestically. Policy announcements have speeded up. Obama has not only made good on the CPP, but killed off oil exploration in the Alaskan Arctic. Xi has raised China’s 2015 solar target to a staggering 23 GW, equal to all the panels installed in the world in the first 60 years of the technology (1954-2009).  This determination affects the perceptions of businessmen and the public. American electric utilities have not joined the reflex Republican lawsuits against the CPP, which they can live with.


India still claims it will double coal-burning to meet its growing electricity demand. It also stands by its anti-colonialist rhetoric that it’s now the turn of the poor former colonies to trash the playground. Closer up, the coal plan looks more than shaky. Two large Indian resource companies, Adani and Reliance, have walked away from large coal projects they were developing in Australia and Indonesia, and in Reliance’s case, also from a huge Indian power station. The last time India tried for a massive boost in coal-fed electricity was in 2005, with the plan for 16 “ultra mega” power plants. Today, two are in partial operation and no others are under construction. Ten others are paper only, marking time in the face of a sceptical business community. The dominant coal supplier, the state-owned behemoth Coal India, is no better than British Rail at keeping to timetables. (Greenpeace pdf, page 15; EIA chart update).   Geological common sense and rising wages suggest that the days of cheap coal in India are numbered. State politicians get much more out of solar and wind, which give quick results and put money into the dhotis and pockets of in-state voters and businesses.

The coal policy looks incoherent and incompetent. But Narendra Modi is one of those rare politicians for whom the conspiracy theory is a better prior than cockup, as exemplified by Trey Gowdy. He is both very unscrupulous and very intelligent: Lloyd George more than Mussolini. I’d be surprised if he expects the coal plan to succeed, or the solar one to fail. In that case India’s emissions will grow much less than its INDC. In five years, India will have a large and low-cost domestic solar and wind supply chain – the policy to achieve this is careful and already working. Modi can then follow Xi into nobly announcing his emissions cap.

The great free lunch

I’ve been pointing out for a while that following the steep decline in the cost of wind and solar energy, an energy transition is a free lunch.  It’s a simple calculation.

Citibank are just the latest team of experts to confirm the “no or negligible net cost” conclusion. (Pdf report page 23; press coverage.) They make the total world outlays on energy to 2040 in a fossil-heavy BAU at $192 trillion, those in an energy transition at $190.2 trillion, net saving $1.8 trillion. The last number is well within the error range, and should not be taken too seriously. The less precise “next to nothing” conclusion is solid. I stress that is the consensus expert position: the IPCC WG3 (pdf, page 15) say the same thing, as do Fraunhofer IWES in Kassel for Germany. Can any reader cite a credible study suggesting the contrary? In case you are worried, these professional scenarios do include the costs of grid integration for variable wind and solar energy, it’s not back to candles.

  • Net cash cost of energy transition to 2040 ≈ $0.

Fossil fuels are also responsible for huge amounts of local and regional air pollution. This contributes to a steadily lengthening list of health problems and premature deaths. UNEP gives the world total of premature deaths from all air pollution at 3.5 million a year.  The OECD has estimated the annual health costs (basis 2010) attributable to outdoor air pollution in its member states plus India and China at $3.5 trillion a year (pdf, page 2). Half of this is due to road transport. This estimate (endnote) excludes a good number of countries including Brazil and Indonesia, plus the effects of indoor air pollution from wood fires and kerosene stoves. It is almost certainly a major underestimate. A full energy transition eliminates all of these costs in time. There will be a few deaths from solar and wind installers falling from heights, and electrocutions from electric vehicles. More significantly, air pollution has improved in OECD countries since 2010, but not enough to change the overall picture.

A complete energy transition would eliminate these health costs gradually, and in the end completely. Using a straight-line reduction from $3.5 trn a year in 2015 to zero in 2060, we get a total saving of $25.3 trillion.

  • Health saving to 2040 from energy transition ≈ $25 trillion.

So the net undiscounted cost to 2040 of the energy transition (cash for energy plus health) is minus $25 trillion. That’s a $3,500 bonus for every man, woman and child alive today.

I have not included anything for avoided GDP costs from extreme weather, hotter summers, and sea-level rise. Citi guesstimate these at $44 trn to 2060 (pdf, page 8).  Here’s a higher estimate. On top of that, there are avoided burdens in loss of biodiversity and the risk of catastrophic disaster. These impacts are all real but methodologically difficult.  It’s not downplaying these to leave them aside as superfluous to the proof. Discounting (what rate?) would also add a layer of technical difficulties and does not affect the conclusion.

We are faced with the greatest free lunch in the history of humankind. Cue Veronese’s knockout Renaissance banquet.

Turning it down

One objection is that if it’s so, why haven’t we tucked in already? Replies:

  • Cultural, economic and political inertia

The world’s energy system is enormous. The trillions in physical and financial assets and the millions of workers are supported by a whole ideosphere of professionals who have spent their lives thinking and writing about fossil fuels. One example among many: the energy statisticians at the EIA do a good job on fossil fuels in the USA, but their forecasts on wind and solar have been laughable. The IEA in Paris have been almost as bad. There is something wrong when the best forecasters on global solar pv installation have been at Greenpeace.

  • Vested interests in fossil fuels

The Kochs and others have been fighting with desperation and complete lack of scruple for their businesses to survive. It’s already too late for several large coal companies. Curiously, the industry has not yet mobilised to stop the electric car threat. Possibly because Big Oil is still living in a dreamworld where oil and gas continue to grow to 2035 and carbon emissions don’t fall at all. If they ever wake up, they will be up against the electric utilities and a good part of the car industry.

But don’t underestimate their past work. The Cloud of Unknowing created in the English-speaking world by Exxon and the Kochs on climate change must count as one of the great achievements of agitprop. The denialists still show up in dozens on Joe Romm’s blog and others, and it’s not likely they are all paid: many are Willi Münzenberg’s “useful idiots”. The denialist control of the Republicans in Congress is partly venal, but partly also convinced. It’s not like the political protection of Florida sugar barons from cheap imports, which everybody accepts as purely mercenary, and has no ideologues.

There are other losers more deserving of our sympathy, like coal-miners and roustabouts. The benefits of the transition would allow generous compensation, retraining and community regeneration policies, but on past experience these are sadly unlikely.

  • Front-loading of the spending

In the early years of the transition, spending is higher than under BAU. Renewable energies and electric vehicles are nearly all upfront capital expenditure, with very low operating costs. In their infancy, they also need subsidies to get them along the learning curve to cost parity. Fraunhofer’s scenario of the costs of the Energiewende in Germany shows the problem.


Outlays and savings of the energy transition in Germany

(The green bars above are the saved fossil fuel costs, the bars below the outlays. The red line is the net cash balance.)

The problem should not be exaggerated. The infant subsidies to wind and solar are largely past history, or embedded legacies like FIT guarantees that don’t affect future investment decisions. Brazil and Chile are installing wind and solar without subsidy. Electric vehicles are still dependent on subsidies, but the learning curve on batteries is so steep that the subsidies may go in five years. In any case, OECD countries are operating well below full employment, so the opportunity cost of additional public and private investment will be negligible for some time to come.

  • Small government ideology

As Mike O’Hare has stressed, climate change is the problem from hell because it’s all about externalities: the harm to other people and the biosphere caused by actions that look beneficial to individuals and organisations like companies. It is therefore an issue of collective action, and the solution goes through government. The dominant ideology of today, free-market liberalism, is instinctively opposed to such solutions and therefore minimizes the problems. Combined with the front-loading, we are facing some combination of carbon taxes, costly emissions regulations, subsidies to clean technologies, and direct public spending say on railways and buses. Merkel and Cameron, fearful of the impact of household electricity surcharges, have already backtracked on solar subsidies.

The world may get lucky on some of this. The subsidies to wind and solar energy are largely history (Danke, Tak, Arigatō). Those to electric cars – up to €10,000 a pop in France  – won’t need to last long. Electric buses are competitive on a lifelong cost of ownership basis. Green technologies may win in power generation, transport and heating/cooling without any externality pricing. I don’t though see a transition happening in aviation, shipping, steel and cement, or large-scale reforestation, without the heavy hand of government. Large scale carbon sequestration, if we find it necessary (and James Hansen is usually right), cannot be a commercial proposition without carbon pricing or equivalent regulation.

  • The imaginary free rider problem

The international free rider problem was a major obstacle to a global agreement when it was assumed that the net costs of climate mitigation were large. The benefits of action in one country would mainly accrue to foreigners, so you needed an impossible global deal before anybody got started. With the falling costs of renewable energies, and the realization of the local costs of air pollution, the problem has disappeared in fact. A rational policymaker in most countries will find that national climate action has net benefits in isolation, though these are much higher if everybody else joins in. This has made possible the turnaround in the prospects of climate negotiations, seized on by Christiana Figueres, and then by Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. However, not all policymakers are rational, and the free rider fallacy still grips many in the US Republican Party and elsewhere.

The Dwarfs’ banquet?

The free lunch explains why politicians as different as Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Angela Merkel, Dilma Rousseff and David Cameron are all now backing the energy transition. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and on balance their voters or subjects will not punish them for the policy.  They and other nervous leaders are reassured by the examples of California, Denmark and Germany, whose aggressive climate policies are plainly no obstacle to prosperity. After decades of flaffing around, a decent climate agreement in Paris next month is now odds-on.

The obstacles to taking up the offer explain the hesitations, delays, ambiguities, and backtracks of these same leaders. The five reasons for inaction are incoherent in logic, but psychologically and politically they add up to a formidable constellation of nay-saying forces. Only a handful of countries have adopted a hard zero-carbon target, and they don’t include Germany. What politician has had the courage to tell the coal and oil industries that they must go out of business well before 2050?

The banquet is not quite like Aslan’s. The dwarfs are behaving more like terrified and hungry savages, darting in to seize a pie from the table, then running off to consume it in safety. There must be a catch. We won’t let go of our fears of joy and plenty.

Humankind may still fail. The rejection of the $25 trillion free lunch, if it continues, will be the greatest ever failure of public policy, worse than August 1914: since this time, all our grandchildren will be in the trenches at Verdun.

Endnote 1: coal in China update

China’s coal output has been in absolute decline for 18 months, as I first reported here  and here. Consumption in 2013 was revised upwards, so there may be an element of data massaging, but the short-term trend is indubitable. This slowdown allowed global carbon emissions from energy to go flat in 2014, according to the IEA.

There is some element of cyclical downturn in this, but the shift away from heavy industry  in the makeup of GDP is both rapid and longstanding. In 2014 China added 21 GW of hydro, 23 GW of wind capacity and 11GW of solar, and will add more this year. This new renewable capacity is not only meeting the bulk of incremental demand, itself slowing from efficiency gains as well as tertiarisation. It has started to cut into coal burning: “utilisation rates at thermal power plants – nearly all coal-fired – have dropped to 52.2 percent in the first two months of this year” (Reuters).

You can construct scenarios in which these trends are reversed: a badly designed Keynesian stimulus programme to offset the current slowdown; a large increase on gasoline-fuelled cars; or an expansion of coal-to-gas or coal-to-gasoline plants. Fine, if you think Xi and the rest of the Chinese Politburo Standing Committee are incompetent technocrats unaware of the political danger of urban air pollution. Do they look like that to you?

Endnote 2: methodology of health costs

The OECD estimate of the costs of deaths is based on “the standard method for calculating the cost of mortality – the Value of Statistical Life (VSL) as derived from individuals’ valuation of their willingness to pay to reduce the risk of dying.” This is ethically problematic, as it values lives according to income per head. It is politically realistic in that the VSL should be reflected in the respective amounts that the citizens of Norway and Chad will be willing to pay in taxes or regulatory costs to mitigate the risk.

The OECD people are winging it on morbidity. “Indicative estimates suggest that morbidity would add 10% to the mortality cost figures, but work is needed …” This is strange; you would think that morbidity costs are fairly objective – health care plus lost work plus a malus for suffering – and putting a price on death problematic, but apparently it’s the other way round. For every death, there should be many more people made seriously ill. In road accidents, the ratio in Europe is 12 serious injuries to every death.  The QALY loss in life expectancy from illness must be very large, and people would pay a lot to avoid it as well as death. In some cases, like lifelong care of a baby brain-damaged in pregnancy, medical costs may be as much as a VSL life. My intuition is that the cost of illness from air pollution is in the same ballpark as that of death.

Reprinted with permission.

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  • Coley

    An excellent article followed by mostly well informed comments, and not one mention of ‘uncle Elon’ and supercar.
    Most refreshing-:)

  • Mike Dill

    James wrote: “I don’t though see a transition happening in aviation”
    Elon Musk has stated that he thinks batteries will work for mid range air transport when the density is greater than 400 to 500 W/Kg, and the cost gets below $100/KW. I have not done the math myself, but with fuel being a large part of the cost of flying, it may not be too many years out before this happens.

    • Dragon

      Advancements in making aviation fuel from sun and CO2 is another path to renewable flight that is already happening in pilot projects.

    • Bob_Wallace

      We’re at about 233 Wh/kG now with the Tesla S batteries.


      Getting above 400 Wh/kg would take less than one doubling.

      Predicting capacity increases based on past increases is not a great route to determining the time it will take to double, but capacity has been growing at about 7%. If we keep that up we’d have >400 Wh/kg batteries in about ten years.

      Looking at all the effort that is currently being poured into battery development we could hit that mark sooner. (Or never hit that mark.)

      Then there’s another route to vastly decreasing carbon output from flying. We mostly quit flying.

      We should know within two years whether the Hyperloop will work. If it does then we can replace short, medium and most long distance flight with tube travel. Faster, cheaper, more convenient, more comfortable and powered by the wind and Sun. Very low carbon output.

      Even most intercontinental travel could go loopy. We already fly polar routes on intercontinental journeys. We could take the tube to Anchorage and fly a hop to mainland Asia or loop to a NE point in Canada and hop to the east coast of Europe. We might be able to cut our flying to 10% of what we now do and do it with biofuels or batteries.

  • Mike

    This excellent article will be part of my “briefing ” I plan to force feed my newly elected MP here in eastern Ontario come early January.

    I’m actually reading the Citygroup Aug 2015 pdf file and on page 44 inside the LCOE primer, they still use 25 years as the useful life for a PV system versus 40 years for coal. Why does Wall Street seem to think that once 25 years is reached, one has to scrap a utility scale PV system?

    • Mike

      On page 75 now. Looks like all the energy inputs into getting that liter of gas from raw product to the gas pump nozzle are not being included in the transportation discussion, limiting the impact EVS could have…..

      • Mike

        …and page 79 and 80 talks about fire hazards for BEVS and need for charging infrastructure. …..

  • sjc_1

    There are 100,000 veterans who would like good jobs, but don’t want to be exploited by Solar City and the other we make money while you do the work companies. Start a cooperative owned by the employees, unfortunately the finance people are seeking rent in China at the moment.

  • Damon Wright

    I would think that even with a late start on CO2 mitigation, we might be okay if we pour enough R&D $$$/effort into CO2 reduction and sequestration in the years ahead.

    Right now there’s no apparent solution in the immediate future, but just look at how solar/wind/storage is taking off now that just *some* of the population is getting aboard. Once the flooding/rain pattern alterations/widening droughts/etc start to happen due to climate change, that will start costing real $$$. At that point I think we’ll see huge efforts to roll those effects back by vacuuming CO2 and other GHG out of the atmosphere with advanced technologies that are barely a gleam in experimenters’ eyes right now. Plus we might have also a good idea of how to control cloud cover and/or safely use artificial volcanic compounds in the stratosphere to temporarily lower insolation until the GHG levels are sorted.

    So maybe I’m blindly optimistic in future technology here, but if we sent men to the Moon with 1960’s tech because it became a national vision, I’m sure we can sort out excessive GHG levels once similar national-level fervor takes hold in the decades to come.

    • Mike

      In the book “This Changes Everything”, read the chapter on Geo-engineering.

      Historical records from places like the Nile Delta show that every-time a large amount of aerosols are injected into the upper atmosphere (volcano) that areas in Africa and the southern Asian’s subcontinent suffer loss of normal rain fall.

      • Damon Wright

        Thanks for the suggestion. I will try to read this soon.

        However, it will take some time before we understand enough to try introducing artificial aerosols, otherwise we run the risk of adverse rainfall totals in key areas as you’ve pointed out. I am thinking 50 years ahead or thereabouts when our understanding of climate science will be magnitudes better than what we know now and it will be much safer (and more urgent) to try playing Stage Director with the atmosphere.

        • Mike

          100% agree. To borrow a phrase from Mr. Spock circa 1967 (City on the Edge of Forever ), we are still in the “stone knives and bear skins” stage of understanding our climate….

    • Richard Foster

      Not sure about global geo-engineering approaches. There’s an awful lot of evidence that they’ll cause more issues than they’ll solve.

      However, I sort of agree about CO2 removal and sequestration provided the political will can be found.

      I’m more pessimistic given that the current neo-liberal “free-market” corporate hell we live in is likely only going to get worse, with corporations, rather than people holding all the power. Corporations only care about money.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The only geoengineering scheme that I’ve seen that seems to make a slight bit of sense is some sort of “solar shade” that could be deployed over non-agricultural land (poles during their summers) to cut the amount of incoming energy. We’d have to be careful to not shade ag and forest lands and reduce growth via global dimming.

        Better we simply get busy and get as much CO2 reduced as we can over the next 20 or so years.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think we have to operate with the belief that there are and never will be any geoengineering technologies which can lower GHG levels.

      We need to bail our sinking boat with the assumption that no vessel is going to appear over the horizon to save our butts.

  • Jason Willhite

    James, great article. I enjoyed that you included an excerpt from C.S. Lewis. I wasn’t sure, but were you saying you didn’t enjoy ‘The Great Divorce’?? That’s probably one of my favorites of his.

  • Epicurus

    Odd isn’t it that we never hear about the external costs to fossil fuel use from any of the Republicans. A rather glaring omission on their part. I wish there was a news person bright enough to press them on it.

    • Bob_Wallace

      We won’t hear it from them. But people can hear it from us.

      Anytime it fits into a discussion – online, in letters to the editor, or face to face – stick in some numbers about the hundreds of billions we spend each year because of coal plant and vehicle emissions.

      • Coley

        Aye, whiles its a good point, try getting such a point across on any of our jaundiced right wing press.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Try to sneak facts into comment sections. Facts that are very hard to refute.

          We seem to be peeling off some of the least extreme climate deniers. The hardcore group in the US is down to about 10% of Republicans with over 60% of Republicans stating that climate change is happening.

          If only 10% of Republicans are change deniers then we’re working with about 95% of Americans who either understand what is happening or don’t have an opinion.

          Work to get facts to the 95%. Forget the 5%, as more of the 95% demand action the 5% will be ignored.

          • Epicurus

            “over 60% of Republicans [state] that climate change is happening”

            True, but the latest Republican talking point (per Marco Rubio, for example) is that the climate is changing but it always has. It is caused by the sun (or something out of our control) and there’s nothing we can do about it. Most still refuse to attribute it to greenhouse gases. The handful (e.g. Kasich, Christie) who admit that climate change is caused by GHG emissions then say either that it is too expensive to do anything about it (i.e the economy is more important than the habitability of the planet) or that it’s useless trying to do anything about it because China and India aren’t doing anything or aren’t doing enough to control their emissions (the “we might as well drink champagne while the Titanic sinks” argument).

            All of their arguments are bullsheet of course, but there’s enough there for something to stick to Joe the Plumber’s wall.

  • Karl the brewer

    Thanks for the article James. If you are ever approached to turn it into a TV documentary may i suggest you approach Jonathan Meades, it would be right up his street 🙂

  • Matt

    James let me say thank you, for reading and replay to comments on your story. Something many do not do. As for does China under report it’s coal number? The key would be are the consistent? If it is always 17% under then they still work for trending. If it is off by random amounts, or a constant changing amount; then have to wait for external numbers to appear.

    • Bob_Wallace

      A few years back one of the Chinese leaders stated that they would like to reach peak CO2 by 2015. A while later they said that they might not be able to peak by 2015 but probably by 2017.

      This has largely been ignored by most people.

      China has been clearer about climate change than pretty much any other country. China has a number of bad points, but China generally achieves its goals. And China has stated that they intend to be a leader in the fight against climate change.

  • Asteroid Miner

    Fact: Renewable Energy mandates cause more CO2 to be produced, not less, and renewable energy doubles or more your electric bill. The reasons are as follows:

    Since solar “works” 15% of the time and wind “works” 20% of the time, we need either energy storage technology we don’t have or ambient temperature superconductors and we don’t have them either. Wind and solar are so intermittent that electric companies are forced to build new generator capacity that can load-follow very fast, and that means natural gas fired gas turbines. The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough. The result is that wind and solar not only double your electric bill, wind and solar also cause MORE CO2 to be produced.

    We do not have battery or energy storage technology that could smooth out wind and solar at a price that would be possible to do. The energy storage would “cost” in the neighborhood of a QUADRILLION dollars for the US. That is an imaginary price because we could not get the materials to do it if we had that much money.

    The only real way to reduce CO2 production from electricity generation is to replace all fossil fueled power plants with the newest available generation of nuclear; unless you live near Niagara Falls. Nuclear can load-follow fast enough as long as wind and solar power are not connected to the grid.

    • Matt

      Smile and wave! LOL

    • Tim

      Um … math?

    • vensonata

      The nuke fans are getting desperate! They are dead, but it happened so suddenly they haven’t fully realized it yet. They come back to their cozy enclave to find it has been cleaned out. Solar and wind broke in during the night, and stole the future!

    • Epicurus

      “wind and solar . . . double your electric bill”

      Someone better tell Georgetown, Texas. They have elected to go 100% wind and solar by 2017 in order save money.

    • Richard Foster

      Well, not touching on your many mistakes in this post, let’s not look at anything beyond the following points:
      1. Nuclear power is the most expensive form of electricity generation
      2. Nuclear power costs do not include the cost of disposal of waste
      3. We do not know what to do with nuclear waste (don’t say breeder reactors, thorium or other magical fairy solution – no such reactors currently exist).
      4. New nuclear reactors take 15-20 years to plan, permit and build (cf: Hinckley) which is not fast enough to mitigate the worst of climate change.
      5. If the whole world switches to Nuclear fission, then there is only 50 years of Uranium available to generate power.

      So no, nuclear is not the answer.

      As for the many other glaring and ridiculous errors in your post, I suggest you start reading and learning.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Utilities installed NG capacity because they saw the shutdown of coal looming.

      Overall fossil fuels have been losing market share to renewables in the US. Data tells us that you are wrong.(below)

      “The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough.”

      Wrong again. Wind and solar are highly predictable a few hours into the future. There’s no need to keep fillin generation spinning when one knows that it’s going to be bright and sunny for the next five hours or the wind is going to be blowing for the next three days.

      OTOH, we have to keep spinning reserve going for coal and nuclear plants because we cannot predict when one or more will go offline without notice.

      “We do not have battery or energy storage technology that could smooth out wind and solar at a price that would be possible to do.”

      And wrong again. Utilities are right now installing large scale batteries to their grids as a replacement for gas peakers.

      It’s wrong the rest of the way down your post.

      Pathetically wrong….

    • Hans

      Sigh, you confuse capacity factor with operational time and even then use numbers that are too low.

  • Aditya

    I like how someone found innocent by the Supreme Court of the country (while political opponents were in power) is called “very unscrupulous” based on a wikipedia entry detailing how he was allegedly involved in riots.
    Talk about misinformation.

    • JamesWimberley

      He was declared persona non grata by the US embassy, wasn’t he? That’s been brushed under the rug and Mr. Modi gets smiling photo-ops with other world leaders now. As my posts make clear, I am an admirer of the energy he is putting into India’s renewables policy.

      • Aditya

        I am just pointing out something I disagree with.
        Is the US embassy declaring someone persona non grata a measure of guilt and justice all of a sudden?

      • Aditya

        Minor disagreements aside, thank you for the very informative article.

  • I enjoyed “The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.” Never finished Mere Christianity. Lewis’s apologetic. Wheaton College (Illinois, USA) evangelicals’ favorite book, besides THE book. Lewis’s letters are archived there. Chinese may have a long memory. The practice of “rice christians” doesn’t sit well with many still in power. Offering Jesus as one’s lord and savior for a bowl of rice or an energy policy prepared by US think tanks may not work in practice. I’m guessing China may be not fully accounting for its emissions. Look at coal to aluminum right now.

    I don’t see the world taking on renewables fast enough to mitigate climate change acceleration. IPCC has been conservative in their last two five year reports. It’s now pretty clear we’ll blow past the 2 degree benchmark given more realistic runs of models.

    Renewables should be implemented and how, but there won’t be a free lunch. There will be gnashing of teeth, though, given increase in frequency and intensity of heated up weather. There’s other images for hell that are more iconographic. Climate change adaptation will be costly. One can assume the “stitch in time saves nine” theory of economics. We didn’t apply the stitch in time (cut emissions drastically and mitigation deployment). So adaptation will cost somewhere between 2 and 9 times that of clean technology deployment. Or roughly $50 trillion to $200 trillion. Just think about the cost of moving people inland around the globe. A heck of a lot of windmills and solar panels and EVs aren’t going to refreeze melting water of Greenland and Antarctica to reverse ocean level rise. That’s going forward and accelerating.

    I’m sensing co-marketing between evangelical christianity and clean technologies on posts here today. Which is fine. Disclosure is best.

    • Martin

      Yes disclosure maybe best, but at times it can be painful (think VW and their diesel models).
      And yes just like Exxon knew for decades, climate change is real and we missed the mark and may have to pay for that missed mark times over.

    • JamesWimberley

      For the record, I am a Christian but not an evangelical one. Evangelicals don’t praise Gregory of Nyssa.

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