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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
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The Viability of Germany’s Energiewende: Mark Jacobson Answers 3 Questions

The Viability of Germany’s Energiewende: Mark Jacobson Answers 3 Questions

Loukia Papadopoulos, Clean Energy Business Council
October 07, 2013

To those in the climate change field the name Mark Z. Jacobson needs no introduction. The director of the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford University is credited with having written the book on computer modeling for atmospheric changes, as well as being a recognized expert in the impacts of energy production and a staunch supporter of renewables.

In 2009, Jacobson caught people’s attention with his co-authored article A Plan To Power 100 Percent of the Planet With Renewables, which was the cover story of November’s Scientific American. In 2012, he partnered with The Avengers’ Hulk Mark Ruffalo to co-author The Tesseract Is Here!, a Huffington Post opinion piece likening the film’s Tesseract, a source of unlimited energy, to renewables. To cleantech and comic lovers worldwide, this was the epitome of cool! Additionally, his 2010 TED Talk debate with Stewart Brand Does the world need nuclear energy? is a must-watch for any renewables fan.

His work has often ruffled feathers, but to anyone who believes in a renewables-driven future, his unwavering vision and dedicated well-documented stance that “wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy” is the key to moving public opinion. Last month, the New York Times published an article skeptical of Germany’s Energiewende program. Since then I’ve read many other views, each with their own unique thoughts on the subject, but Jacobson’s opinion was the one I was still most curious about. In a three question interview, Jacobson did what he does best; breathe back life to the notion that the often deemed complicated task of switching to renewables is, in fact, doable and profitable....

Q&A follows at:

PV Cost Down 99% since 1977 (Chart)

Must-See Chart: Cost Of PV Cells Has Dropped An Amazing 99% Since 1977, Bringing Solar Power To Grid Parity

The price of solar photovoltaic cells has dropped 99% in the past quarter century. So in an increasing number of markets around the country, solar is at or very close to grid parity.

Consider Colorado. The Denver Business Journal reported last month the results of months-long competitive bidding process:
Xcel Energy Inc. is proposing to triple the amount of utility-scale solar power on its grid in Colorado, and add another 450 megawatts of wind power….
If approved, the plan would cut Xcel’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than one-third compared to 2005 levels.

David Eves, the CEO of Xcel’s Colorado subsidiary in the state told the Journal solar power is now cost-competitive with natural gas-fired generation:
“This is the first time that we’ve seen, purely on a price basis, that the solar projects made the cut — without considering carbon costs or the need to comply with a renewable energy standard — strictly on an economic basis.”

If solar power is seeing this kind of growth strictly on a cost basis, imagine ...


Proof emerges of renewable energy's link to Shell Petroleum

For years we've had the nuclear acolytes telling us that support for renewable energy is really just a diversion pushed by fossil fuel companies in order to kill off their true competition - nuclear power.
...One might even characterize such adamant wind promoters like yourself as dupes of the fossil fuel industry, distracted by (fossil-fueled) fantasy rather than fighting for actual reductions in energy use. You would appear to support Dick Cheney that our way of life is nonnegotiable.


It is a self-evident fact that the traditional energy establishment is best served by maintaining the status quo and that the inclusion of nuclear as part of that mix serves to preserve the system as it presently exists. Small nuclear reactors are particularly favored by those who see development of tar sands as a priority because of the extremely high energy costs associated with their extraction.

Renewable energy requires a complete and total rethinking of how we get, deliver and use energy; with emphasis on the words 'complete and total'. The people involved in the development of renewable energy know that the shift to this new system is recognized as an existential threat to the entrenched energy interests.

So you be the judge, is the ExShell boss just playing a Shell game, or is his endorsement of nuclear and his call for defunding support for renewables genuine?

Ex-Shell boss issues nuclear call
Pia Akerman The Australian
OCT 07, 2013 12:00AM

AUSTRALIAN policymakers need to keep nuclear power on the table to meet future energy needs, according to a former Shell Oil president who has called for an end to "kneejerk policy reactions" on energy issues.

John Hofmeister, who led the American arm of the global petrochemical giant Shell between 2005 and 2008, also urged the Abbott government to reconsider stripping public funding from clean energy development.

Mr Hofmeister said new processes of producing nuclear energy from thorium instead of uranium meant nuclear power should not be ruled out.

"The days of nuclear power based upon uranium-based fission are coming to a close because the fear of nuclear proliferation, the reality of nuclear waste and the difficulty of managing it have proven too difficult over time," he told The Australian.

"But that doesn't prevent us from going in a new nuclear direction...


The price was so good they doubled their planned procurement; "it was a no-brainer"

Massachusetts Utilities Sign PPA for Wind Energy That Is Cheaper than Coal

The price was so good they doubled their planned procurement; "it was a no-brainer"

James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
September 24, 2013

New Hampshire, USA -- Three utilities have grouped together to purchase more wind energy at a rate averaging less than $0.08 per kWh, which beats most other generation sources.

National Grid, Northeast Utilities (on behalf of its divisions NSTAR and Western Massachusetts Electric Co.), and Unitil (representing Fitchburg Gas & Electric Light Co.) have filed separate documents with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (CPU 13-146 through 13-149) seeking to add 565 MW of wind energy from six projects across Maine and New Hampshire. The winners, securing PPAs of 15-20 years, include First Wind, Iberdrola Renewables, and Exergy Development, for projects all under development and slated to come online over the next three years. Here's how the procurement is being divvied up, based on distribution load: 45.9 percent to National Grid, 45.4 percent to NStar, 7.7 percent to WMECO, and the remaining 1 percent to Unitil.

Last fall the Patrick Administration enacted new legislation directing utilities in the state to jointly procure more renewable energy in a competitive process toward long-term contracts for up to 4 percent of their load, with twin requirements of cost-efficiency and low cost, explained Mark Sylvia, commissioner for the state's Department of Energy Resources. (Another facet of that process called for a 10 percent carveout for "qualifying technologies," which is still being worked out, he said.) Requests-for-proposals brokered by DOER and Attorney General's Office, and evaluated on a jointly agreed-upon set of criteria, were approved in April of this year, and in May resulted in 40 bids that were pared down to a shortlist in the summer, followed by separate contract negotiations with each utility and bidder.

That $0.08/kWh rate is among the lowest around. One report compares it favorably to other generation sources looking out several years: $0.09 for hydro, $0.10 for coal, $0.11 for nuclear, and $0.14 for solar.

These deals represents "a threshold moment for renewable energy in New England...


Wisconsin Passive House at Center of Co-Op Solar Dispute

Wisconsin Passive House at Center of Co-Op Solar Dispute
The Midwest offers a vivid illustration of the nationwide net metering conflict.

Midwest Energy News, Dan Haugen
September 30, 2013

Gary Konkol’s home produces more energy than it consumes, but his energy bill is about to go up.

Konkol is one of just eleven customers of Wisconsin’s St. Croix Electric Cooperative who own solar electric panels on their home.

A new policy that took effect in May means those homeowners will see much lower payments for the extra electricity they generate on sunny days.


The Passive House in the Woods

In 2010, Konkol built what may be the most energy-efficient home in the Midwest. St. Croix Electric Cooperative actually sponsored the construction, waiving a standard $2,000 new hookup fee for the passive house, which attracted local and national media coverage.

The 2,000-square-foot, two-story walkout just outside of Hudson, Wisconsin features thick insulation, high-performance windows and no furnace whatsoever. A single solar thermal panel and a 4.52-kilowatt photovoltaic system produce all the energy the home needs -- and then some.

Under the policy in place...


Renewable's Mid-Year 2013: 10% US Energy Consumption, 14% Net Electrical Generation

Renewable Energy Mid-Year Report: 10% US Energy Consumption, 14% Net Electrical Generation

Kenneth Bossong, SUN DAY Campaign
September 30, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- According to the most recent issue of the "Monthly Energy Review" by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with data through June 30, 2013, renewable energy sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, hydropower, geothermal, solar, and wind) provided 9.81 percent of U.S. energy consumption and 11.82 percent of domestic energy production for the first half of 2013.

EIA's earlier-issued "Electric Power Monthly" revealed that renewables had provided 14.20 percent of net electrical generation during the first six months of the year.

Compared to the same time frame in 2012, overall renewable energy production, including conventional hydropower, was 2.00 percent higher while production from non-hydro renewables grew by 4.13 percent. Specifically, solar grew by 32.46 percent in 2013, wind by 20.14 percent, geothermal by 0.89 percent, and biomass by 0.42 percent. Hydropower slipped by 2.59 percent and biofuels by 5.92 percent.

Among the renewable energy sources, hydropower's share during the first half of 2013 was 30.18 percent, biomass 25.26 percent, biofuels 20.18 percent, wind 18.80 percent, solar 3.19 percent, and geothermal 2.39 percent.

Production from all renewable energy sources...


Former Japanese PM And Current Enviro Minister Speak Out Against Nuclear Power

Koizumi is a genro* ( saying he's a major political heavyweight might be a good way to characterize the significance of that.) His comments should be seen as a reflection of probable future policy.

Former Japanese PM And Current Environment Minister Speak Out Against Nuclear Power

This week both Japan’s environment minister, Nobuteru Ishihara, and former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a popular national figure, spoke out against nuclear power.

Ishihara said the country’s target to cut greenhouse gas emissions should be based on a scenario with no nuclear power generation.

Previously in January Ishihara had said that Japan will set a new emissions target, including how much nuclear power generation should account for, by November after reviewing the previous government’s goal to reduce emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

Meanwhile, in a speech to a pro-nuclear audience of business executives, Koizuma went against the grain by saying that Japan should “should rid itself of its atomic plants and switch to renewable energy sources like solar power.”

Koizuma went on to say that “there is nothing more costly than nuclear power. Japan should ...


*Websters has only the traditional definition of genro. The modern usage is one which assigns the title to senior statesmen that have left office but who are still highly influential and "pulling the strings" of political events and policy formation.

UK 18 month study shows wind requires less backup than conventional generation


It has become an article of popular faith that building wind farms also involves constructing fossil-fuelled power stations for back‑up when the weather is calm. As a result, some opponents go on to say, wind turbines do little or nothing to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Now the National Grid has studied what actually happens in practice, with explosive, if surprising, results.

Between April 2011 and September 2012 – its head of energy strategy, Richard Smith, told the Hay Festival – wind produced some 23,700 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power. Only 22GWh of power from fossil fuels was needed to fill the gaps when the wind didn’t blow. That’s less than a thousandth of the turbines’ output – and, as it happens, less than a tenth of what was needed to back up conventional power stations.

It proved to be much the same with emissions.
Wind saved nearly 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over that 18 months; standby burning of fossil fuels only reduced this by 8,800 tonnes, or 0.081 per cent.
Not surprisingly, given these figures, no new fossil‑fuel power station has been built to provide back‑up for wind farms, and none is in prospect.


I'm looking for more information on this study to clarify the results. - k

Small Modular Reactors: Safety, Security and Cost Concerns

Press release

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Won’t Solve Nuclear Power’s Safety, Security and Cost Problems, New Report Finds

WASHINGTON (September 26, 2013)—Nuclear power proponents pinning their hopes on small modular nuclear reactors to resurrect the industry’s fortunes will likely be disappointed, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The report, Small Isn’t Always Beautiful, concludes it will be extremely difficult for small reactors—which are less than a third the size of a standard 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor—to generate less expensive electricity and, at the same time, be safer than their larger cousins.

“Nuclear safety and security don’t come cheap,” said UCS Senior Scientist Edwin Lyman, the author of the report. “A utility that thinks it can have its own little nuclear reactor at a bargain-basement price may get exactly what it pays for: a plant more vulnerable to serious accidents and terrorist attacks.”

When the U.S. nuclear “renaissance” sputtered due to high construction costs, low natural gas prices and the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the nuclear industry began to tout small reactors as way to find new customers, such as utilities that cannot afford a large reactor’s $8-billion price tag or countries where electric grids cannot accommodate a large reactor’s output. The federal government, too, has gingerly jumped on the small reactor bandwagon. The Department of Energy (DOE) is now offering $452 million in matching grants to subsidize design and licensing costs. The agency foresees deployment of a commercial small reactor by 2020.

But do small reactors make economic sense? As Lyman’s report points out, utilities started building larger reactors in the first place because they produce electricity at a much lower cost than smaller ones due to the principle of economies of scale. So even if small modular reactors were cheaper to build than a large reactor on a per-unit basis, they would be less cost-competitive on a per-kilowatt basis, putting enormous pressure on reactor vendors to slash the costs of construction and operation to make small reactors cost-effective.

In an attempt to reduce capital costs, small reactor vendors are cutting corners on important reactor safety features, such as containment structures, which reduce radiation releases in the event of an accident. To cut operating costs, vendors also are pressuring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken requirements for emergency planning, control room staffing, and security force staffing. And to make matters worse, the NRC’s discussions with vendors on their designs and safety analyses are occurring largely in secret to allegedly protect proprietary information.

“Some small modular reactor concepts may have desirable safety characteristics,” said Lyman, “but if they are not carefully designed, licensed, deployed and inspected, they could pose comparable or even greater safety, security and proliferation risks than large reactors. Meanwhile the vendors are hiding their design details and asking the public to trust them.”

Small reactor aficionados argue that mass-producing the reactors on an assembly line instead of building customized reactors on site would cut costs. Lyman says that this is an unproven proposition and warns that any benefits of manufacturing reactors on a production line could be undercut by generic defects that would spread throughout the entire reactor fleet. Problems with modular construction already have delayed four new AP1000 reactors in Georgia and South Carolina.

“It will take many years of manufacturing experience before the industry will be able to confirm that small reactors can be built as cheaply as they say,” said Lyman. “And that means that it will take massive taxpayer subsidies to get this industry off the ground.”

The challenge for small reactor manufacturers will be to figure out how to reduce costs without sacrificing safety and security, the report concludes. It calls on the DOE and the nuclear industry to collaborate on developing nuclear plant designs that would be truly safer than the current generation, and on Congress to ensure the DOE—which has traditionally been an unapologetic nuclear power cheerleader—to spend taxpayer money only on designs that are safer and more secure than currently operating reactors.

“In the aftermath of Fukushima, the Energy Department and the industry should not be promoting the false idea that small reactors are so safe they don’t need 10-mile emergency planning zones,” said Lyman. “Nor should they be encouraging the NRC to weaken its other safeguards just to facilitate small reactor licensing and development. That would be a recipe for disaster.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.


Small Modular Reactors: Safety, Security and Cost Concerns
Small isn't always beautiful

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and some members of the nuclear industry, the next big thing in nuclear energy will be a small thing: the “small modular reactor” (SMR).

SMRs—“small” because they generate a maximum of about 30 percent as much power as typical current reactors, and “modular” because they can be assembled in factories and shipped to power plant sites—have been getting a lot of positive attention recently, as the nuclear power industry has struggled to remain economically viable in an era of flat demand and increasing competition from natural gas and other energy alternatives.

SMRs have been touted as both safer and more cost-effective than older, larger nuclear reactor designs. Proponents have even suggested that SMRs are so safe that some current NRC regulations can be relaxed for them, arguing that they need fewer operators and safety officers, less robust containment structures, and less elaborate evacuation plans. Are these claims justified?

Economies of Scale and Catch-22s
SMR-based power plants can be built with a smaller capital investment than plants based on larger reactors. Proponents suggest that this will remove financial barriers that have slowed the growth of nuclear power in recent years.

However, there's a catch: “affordable” doesn’t necessarily mean “cost-effective.”...


DOWNLOAD: Small Isn't Always Beautiful: Safety, Security, and Cost Concerns about Small Modular Reactors
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