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kristopher

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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
Number of posts: 29,798

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Solar PV continues to shoot down the cost curve

Solar PV continues to shoot down the cost curve
By Giles Parkinson on 17 February 2014

One of the most misunderstood aspects of the solar PV phenomenon over the past 5 years is the idea that it has been that it has been driven entirely by surplus capacity from China, and little else. Defenders of fossil fuel generation will tell you that the cost reductions are a mirage, and will solar module prices will likely rebound as the market comes into balance.

They are in for a nasty shock. Between 2007 and 2012 it is estimated that solar manufacturing costs fell by between 70 and 80 per cent – courtesy of the feed in tariffs that began in Germany and spread elsewhere, and the manufacturing boom that followed, particularly in China

But the cost fall was not simply a matter of capacity, it was also about efficiency – more powerful modules, less silicon, less metals, improved manufacturing processes and so on. And the fall is continuing.

Last week, SunPower, the second biggest US solar PV manufacturer, said it had succeeded in reducing manufacturing costs by 20 per cent over 2013, following a similar fall a year earlier (and the year before that). And it managed to obtain an even bigger (25 per cent fall) in the balance of systems costs, the amount it costs to make and install solar modules in utility-scale solar farms.

The latest cost fall has been significant ...

http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/solar-pv-continues-shoot-cost-curve-42386

Coal/nuclear lobby trying to kill renewables in Australia.

The Minerals Council of Australia isn't just a coal industry lobby group; its membership is also heavy with uranium mining interests such as Areva. As you'd expect, they are calling for continuation of a coal/nuclear centralized system.

Coal lobby wants energy transition thrown into reverse

By Giles Parkinson on 17 February 2014

The Minerals Council of Australia has launched an extraordinary attack on the climate policies of the world’s leading economic institutions, and suggested that Australia throw its evolving energy supply into reverse and abandon renewable energy in favour of more coal.

In a display of logistical gymnastics, the Minerals Council suggests that Australia’s rising electricity costs could be addressed by adopting the most expensive “clean” technologies – carbon capture and storage and nuclear – neither of which would be available in Australia for well more than a decade.

The suggestion, and its call to abandon the renewable energy target, are included in its submission to the energy white paper. Its basic assumption, of course, is that the world shouldn’t, and won’t act on climate change.

The figures it quotes from the International Energy Agency on coal forecasts, for instance, use those scenarios which the IEA itself says are completely inadequate to address climate change.

The Mineral Council also attacks the notion of “carbon budgets”...

http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/minerals-council-57246


Australia chooses climate change denier to head renewables review
By Giles Parkinson on 17 February 2014

The Australian government has nailed its colours to the mast on the issue of renewable energy by choosing manufacturing chief and climate change denier Dick Warburton to head its review into the renewable energy target.

dick warburtonWarburton will head a four-person panel that will report to the Prime Minister’s office, rather than to either the environment department or the ministry for industry, which includes the energy portfolio. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief business advisor, Maurice Newman, shares Warburton’s view of climate science and dislikes renewable energy, wind farms in particular, and Abbott himself has blamed renewable energy for rising electricity costs.

Warburton was one of the main campaigners against the carbon price under the previous Labor government. He said on repeated occasions that climate science was not settled. “On the cause there’s huge debate about whether carbon dioxide is the main cause,” he said at the time.

The other members of the panel will be Matt Zema, the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Shirley In’t Veld, the former head of WA government owned generation company Verve Energy, and Brian Fisher, the former long-term head of ABARE who gained notoriety for his positions on climate policies and is a noted free-market hardliner.

The selection of key members with an antipathy to renewable energy will not be a surprise to those who have watched the Abbott government in its first six months....

http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/australia-chooses-climate-change-denier-to-head-renewables-review-65883


They work with their "think tank" tools to create and propagate misinformation and lies.
The $5bln IPA mistake that derailed Australia’s renewable policy
By Giles Parkinson on 14 February 2014

Ever since it became clear earlier in 2013 that the conservative coalition parties were likely to gain power at the next federal poll – which they did – the renewable energy industry in Australia has pretty much ground to a halt.

The reason for this? The Coalition’s insistence from early last year that it hold another review of the renewable energy target, even though the Climate Change Authority had completed one just months earlier.

The problem was that the CCA did not give the answer the Coalition and its business supporters wanted. Not only was the renewable energy target weakening the revenues, profits and business models of the incumbent generators, the Coalition was being fed the line that RET was much more expensive than being let on.

The new Coalition government has since tried to dissolve the CCA, and the government’s inner core is being advised by climate change hard-liners and renewable-haters who repeat the theme that renewables are expensive. Prime Minister Tony Abbott most certainly thinks so.

This week, the Australian Chamber and Commerce and Industry was at it again....

http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/the-5bln-ipa-mistake-that-derailed-australias-renewable-policy-52328

Gasping nuclear industry in desperate need of a PR overhaul

Gasping nuclear industry in desperate need of a PR overhaul
Robert TrigauxRobert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist
Friday, February 7, 2014

A meltdown is under way in the nation's nuclear power industry that has nothing to do with radioactive fuel rods or core reactors.

......Nuclear's biggest friend, the debt-ridden federal government, remains wary of offering extensive loan guarantees to an industry unable to control runaway nuclear plant construction costs.

......Worst of all, some state legislatures empowered utility monopolies like Duke Energy in Florida to charge their own captive customers to pay in advance for proposed nuclear projects. The nuclear industry wants more states to adopt such rules.

Now Duke's Florida customers are outraged......

That leaves the nuclear power industry's three top potential allies — government, bankers and consumers — unhappy. That is a public relations disaster.

.....

http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/energy/gasping-nuclear-industry-in-desperate-need-of-a-pr-overhaul/2164673


So, what's their solution? To insist they need Even More preferential treatment than they've had for the past 50 years!

Nuclear Energy Operators Say Market Stacked Against Them

...“Markets have to address these issues or you will see a fallout of perfectly well-run units such as Vermont Yankee, and potentially others,” says Bill Mohl, who heads Entergy’s merchant nuclear operations in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Vermont. “You can’t stack the market with state regulations and environmental policies and expect competitive fuel sources to effectively compete.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2014/02/06/nuclear-energy-operators-say-market-stacked-against-them/



"Competition" in a nuclear world...

EDF Needs Nuclear Power Rate Increase for Survival, Proglio Says
By Tara Patel Feb 13, 2014 7:46 AM ET

Electricite de France SA can’t make ends meet unless it can raise the price of wholesale nuclear power it sells to rivals, its chief executive officer said.

“One can’t demand of a company to sell a quarter of its output below cost over the long term,” Henri Proglio told reporters today at a presentation of 2013 results. “No company can survive” on these terms “without compensation.”

Proglio’s comments indicate a battle over the regulated price, known as Arenh, is intensifying as the utility demands the rate be increased, and competitors and industry want it lowered. Under a system meant to boost competition, EDF has to sell about a quarter of its annual atomic output to competitors.

...While the current rate has helped competition, it should be phased out over time, he said. Other utilities “are free to decide” if they want to buy the power or get supplies elsewhere.

Factory owners have stepped up a campaign against energy costs that they say are higher in France because of the system of regulated power rates....

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-13/edf-needs-nuclear-power-rate-increase-for-survival-proglio-says.html

Westinghouse backs off small nuclear plants

Westinghouse backs off small nuclear plants
February 1, 2014 8:39 PM

By Anya Litvak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After millions of dollars and more than a decade spent developing a small modular nuclear reactor, Westinghouse Electric Co. is pulling back.

Danny Roderick, president and CEO of the Cranberry-based nuclear firm, said Westinghouse recently "reprioritized" staff devoted to small modular reactor, or SMR, development and funneled their efforts to the AP1000, the company's full-scale new generation pressurized water reactor currently under construction in China and the U.S.

"The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it's not the deployment -- it's that there's no customers," Mr. Roderick said.

Mr. Roderick said it would be difficult to justify the economics of small modular reactors at this point, especially without government subsidies...





Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/02/02/Westinghouse-backs-off-small-nuclear-plants/stories/201402020074#ixzz2tKUchStv

One Percenter Grantham: Wind, solar to replace fossil fuels within decades

Grantham: Wind, solar to replace fossil fuels within decades

By Giles Parkinson on 11 February 2014

Legendary hedge fund investor Jeremy Grantham says there is no doubt that solar and wind energy will “completely replace” coal and gas across the globe, it is just a matter of when.

...

“Even in the expected event that there are no important breakthroughs in the cost of nuclear power, the potential for alternative energy sources, mainly solar and wind power, to completely replace coal and gas for utility generation globally is, I think, certain.

...

Grantham says it could happen quicker than even he believes, and will have major implications for new investments in the fossil fuel industry – a topic very much in mind for project developers and bankers in Australia.

“I have felt for some time that new investments today in coal and tar sands are highly likely to become stranded assets, and everything I have seen, in the last year particularly, increases my confidence,” Grantham writes.

“China especially is escalating rapidly in its drive to limit future pollution from coal and gasoline and diesel powered vehicles....



So who is Grantham? I'd never heard of him before reading the above article. Here are a couple of references I found.
Invest like a legend: Jeremy Grantham
DAVID BERMAN

The chief investment strategist at global asset manager GMO has managed to dodge recent bubbles and scoop up opportunities on the cheap. But he’s getting increasingly worried about the environment, which bodes ill for Alberta. And don’t get him started on the Fed…

What’s your feeling about the state of the world?
In the short term, we’re jogging along okay. In the longer term, I worry about the inability of many countries to come to terms with environmental issues. There is little sign that anyone gets the point that we can’t afford to go on burning coal unless we want to end up with a miserable, dystopian future.

Environmentalism crops up quite a bit in your thinking these days. To what extent are you arguing as an environmentalist versus an investor?
It’s very hard for me to separate them. It leads to some clear conclusions: Coal and tar sands will be stranded assets, in that they won’t get their money back. The coal industry is seen increasingly as dangerously polluting and contributing to global warming. The pollution in Chinese cities may be the single-biggest driving factor on that.

You’ve been critical of Canada’s oil sands in particular. Why?
The tar sands is a particularly dirty and expensive form of fossil fuel. It doesn’t bubble out of the ground like it does in Saudi Arabia. If we burn an appreciable chunk of your tar sands, we’re toast. We’re in this boat together, and the boat is leaking.

You’ve been warning of a potential stock bubble, followed by the third bust since 2000.
....

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/invest-like-a-legend-jeremy-grantham/article16617287/

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Grantham

And for the inevitable tangental expressions of anger at "capitalism" - for the purposes of this conversation I frankly don't care what your feelings are about it.

I'd agree with most criticisms of the system and the greed of the 1%. But, that is the system we have and right now I'm focused on moving the planet away from CARBON. I also happen to believe that an energy transition to a system of distributed renewables is one of the most effective things we can to to level the global economic system and that working to make that transition a reality is job one until it is accomplished.

To that end, I've long maintained that only when the economic winners of taking action outnumber the economic losers of that action will climate change solutions accelerate to the pace we must see it reach.

IMO this is one indicator that this economic 'tipping point' is approaching.

Article: The true cost of disaster insurance makes nuclear power uncompetitive

The true cost of disaster insurance makes nuclear power uncompetitive
Ingmar Schumacher

6th February 2014


The European Commission is assessing how it should augment its nuclear disaster insurance. Ingmar Schumacher calls for full transparency of insurance costs in the cost-benefit evaluation of the nuclear industry.

Nuclear energy becomes uncompetitive once the costs of completely insuring against disasters are fully integrated into its price.

The continuing nuclear disaster at Fukushima has concentrated minds on the risks of nuclear catastrope in Europe - all the more so as estimates of Fukushima's cost rise towards a giddying US$500 billion.

And so it is that the European Commission is considering whether, and how, it should amend the insurance of nuclear power plants on European territory. In the event of the unthinkable taking place in a European reactor, who will pay the cost?

The focus is timely. For these three observations on nuclear power seem indisputable:
- We will continue to operate nuclear power stations for many decades to come.
- There is no exemption from nuclear disasters in the future.
- We will have to decide on the best ways to compensate victims of nuclear incidents as far as that is based....

...


Excellent discussion in the rest of the article at http://preview.tinyurl.com/okxthwz

CPUC preparing to order replacement of San Onofre's contribution to grid

Sierra Martinez’s Blog

CPUC Proposes to Replace Power from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station with Energy Efficiency and Mix of Other Resources
Print this pageSierra Martinez
Posted February 12, 2014
The California Public Utilities Commission is proposing a strategy to replace the electricity generated by the retired San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) with a mix of resources, including energy efficiency.

The replacement strategy is a critical issue for communities within the greater Los Angeles region and in San Diego because their health and environment will be directly affected by the Commission’s decision.

The question before the CPUC was: Will the replacement of SONGS — a 2,200 MW power plant — be met with excessive fossil-fueled power plants or clean energy resources? Yesterday the CPUC struck a balance by first relying on energy efficiency (the cleanest, cheapest, fastest energy resource to meet our needs) and other “preferred resources” that have lower environmental impacts (like demand response and renewable energy) to fill the needs left by the 2013 retirement of SONGS. Second, the CPUC went to a mix of resources to meet the remaining portion of the energy needs.

Overall, the CPUC is moving in the right direction by relying on energy efficiency and other preferred resources to replace the retired nuclear plant, although it is critical that the commission improve its proposal by correctly accounting for the contribution of preferred resources. In summary, the Commission:

- Relies significantly on clean energy resources in its proposal
- Authorizes no additional mandatory gas-fired generation in its proposal
- Should modify the proposal to explicitly account for the additional 733 MW of energy efficiency that is reasonably expected to occur
- Should improve the accounting of other preferred resources and transmission solutions

...

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/smartinez/cpuc_proposes_to_replace_power_from_songs.html

Note the word I put in bold - "mandatory". The option for gas is in the proposal, but the CPUC seems to be structuring the order in a way that will diminish the value of the cost advantage natgas has today.

Is it relevant when?

The fact that they are pursuing it period is the main problem.
I don't see it as a "sign" of the failure of the climate summit because we don't need sign. It was a foregone conclusion that the possibility of a 'grand bargain' type of internationally negotiated solution was nil.

The real tell in the OP is what I keep hammering on here - that nuclear and coal are twins. As long as we have a system designed around centralized generation we are going have interest groups pursuing fossil fuels. Nuclear does nothing to change that.

A history lesson.
The climate-change deniers have now gone nuclear
When the rightwing tradition of bad science comes onside, it's time to look seriously at other energy technologies


Polly Toynbee
The Guardian, Monday 17 July 2006

...The old right has been on an arduous journey, with most finally converted to the truth universally acknowledged, except by flat-earthers: the world is warming at life-on-earth threatening speed. When the climate-deniers' case collapsed, they retreated to an ideological redoubt claiming global warming was a natural phenomenon, not amenable to man-made remedy. But that fortress crumbled too, and even George Bush, last of the deniers, conceded.

For some reason the old deniers, barely batting an eyelid, shifted over to nuclear as the only salvation, though those who have been so wrong owe a little humility when it comes to next steps. Many hail from a bizarre tradition of rightwing bad science: remember Andrew Neill as Sunday Times editor running a dangerous campaign that denied HIV caused Aids, branding the latter as a disease only of gays and the wildly promiscuous. Consider the continuing claim of the Mail and Melanie Phillips that the MMR vaccine causes autism, panicking mothers into failing to immunise babies. Posing as hard-headed realists, those on the right are more prone to pit their ideology against the weight of science. Seat belts? Motorbike helmets? Chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone layer? Smoking bans? Advertising junk food to children? The science-based realos tend to be on the left, conviction fundis on the right.

Climate change leaves no doubt that nuclear power is infinitely better than roasting to death. New stations are likely to be safer and better built, but will still produce a lot of radioactive waste, if less than before. The energy review still has no idea what to do with it. Even so, nuclear is better than baking.

But why are nuclear enthusiasts so sure there is no better alternative? ...

Here's the conundrum: the kind of people now supporting nuclear are the same ones appalled by vast state-sponsored groundnut schemes in the making: look at ID cards, gigantic IT pipedreams, Concorde, the Dome or other balloons swelling up from politicians' airy rhetoric. The history of nuclear power is the most grotesque example of a state programme founded on dreams mushrooming out of control because no one dared say "Stop!". In the 50s people were promised energy so cheap there would be no bills, so no party dared stop pouring good money after bad. Construction was always wildly over cost and late, delivering far less energy than promised. So why are they falling for the same snake oil again?

...

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2006/jul/18/comment.politics3

Electric Industry think tank and Natural Resourced Defense Council on restructuring utility business

What do you think? Is this how we arrest the "death spiral" of traditional utilities while continuing to grow the distributed renewable system we require to transition away from carbon?

EEI/NRDC JOINT STATEMENT TO STATE UTILITY REGULATORS
February 12, 2014
The future of America’s vital electricity sector will continue to be a promising one as long as regulatory policies are fair and forward looking. As we move into a new age of innovation, the use of the grid is evolving, facilitating power flows in two directions, so that customers can engage in both purchases and sales of energy, and provide other services such as balancing, voltage support, and voluntary load management. Innovation is providing new incentives for customers to use the grid more effectively and efficiently, optimizing the use of existing infrastructure.

Anticipating as much, we launched a joint campaign in 2008 to accelerate energy efficiency gains and encourage utilities to undertake a host of other cost-effective and clean energy resources and grid enhancements. Together, these changes have done much to promote clean energy and efficient electricity usage, but they also have highlighted the vital need for regulatory policies that will support fair and adequate cost recovery for maintaining the evolving grid.

Recovering the fixed costs of the grid is becoming more challenging. While customers are discovering new opportunities that enhance the value that the grid brings to them, policy makers should rethink how utility costs are recovered, with consideration needed for new rate designs and new approaches that balance the desire to promote innovation while still enabling recovery of the capital investment that recognizes the value of the grid to all customers and their new uses of the grid. Traditional rate regulation can at times incentivize utility retail sales growth; in turn, utilities sometimes leverage that growth between rate cases to meet system-wide needs for cost recovery and capital investment.

Utility customers value electricity for the comforts, conveniences, and productivity it enables such as lighting, cooling, and mechanical drive provided reliably and just-in-time. In 2008, we outlined measures that would keep utilities whole for recovery of authorized non-fuel costs as electricity sales volumes fluctuated. We reaffirm that goal.

If properly done, utilities can adapt to the changing needs of customers, modern electricity systems, and technologies, while continuing to deliver safe and reliable service, maintain financial integrity by allocating costs of service fairly among customers, and continuously improve environmental performance. But utility regulatory and business model changes are necessary to accelerate progress and ensure transparent and equitable attainment of these objectives.

The recommendations listed below reflect our strong belief in the promise of new technologies for enhancing grid performance while lowering emissions (e.g., communications infrastructure, smart grid technologies, distributed generation, demand response, and upgraded controls). This innovation surge is viewed as having potential for grid improvement (including reliability and cost-effectiveness), and increased value of connectivity. Innovation does not threaten the grid; collectively, technology advances are making the nation’s transmission and distribution systems more important than ever as drivers of economic and environmental progress.

Key recommendations:
1. The retail electricity distribution business should not be viewed or regulated as if it were a commodity business dependent on growth in electricity use to keep its owners financially whole. Instead, utility businesses should focus on meeting customers’ energy service needs. Therefore, recovery of utilities’ non-fuel costs should reflect their costs of maintaining and improving the electricity grid, and should not be tied to levels of retail commodity sales.

2. Traditional rate regulation allows non-fuel revenues to grow between rate cases in proportion to growth in commodity sales, which averaged more than twice the rate of population growth between 1973 and 2000 before slowing significantly. If regulators break the linkage between cost recovery and commodity sales, they should provide for reasonable and predictable annual adjustments in utilities’ authorized non-fuel revenue requirements.

3. “Net metering” programs in wide use across the United States have helped valuable “distributed” technologies such as rooftop solar power gain traction and improve performance, but additional approaches are needed now. Although such generation can reduce a grid’s needs for central station generation and other infrastructure, it typically does not eliminate its owners’ needs for grid services. For example, solar generation at a residence typically does not align perfectly with the occupants’ energy use, requiring some use of the grid as the equivalent of a battery.
When they use distribution and transmission systems to import and export electricity, owners and operators of on-site distributed generation must provide reasonable cost-based compensation for the utility services they use, while also being compensated fairly for the services they provide. Customers deserve the opportunity to interconnect distributed generation to the grid quickly and easily.

4. Utilities deserve assurances that recovery of their authorized non-fuel costs will not vary with fluctuations in electricity use. Customers deserve assurances that costs will not be shifted unreasonably to them from other customers. Rate designs will continue to develop that reward customers for using electricity more efficiently. Examples include, but are not limited to, real-time pricing and variable demand charges that take advantage of digital meter capabilities where available.

5. It is appropriate to consider expanding investor-owned utilities’ earnings opportunities to include performance based incentives tied to benefits delivered to their customers by cost- effective initiatives to improve energy efficiency, integrate clean energy generation, and improve grids. In general, business models should include profit opportunities linked to utilities’ performance in delivering safe, reliable, affordable, and clean energy services.

6. We will work together to ensure that energy efficiency services reach underserved populations, including the increased deployment of utility programs focused on affordable multi-family housing.

7. We reaffirm our goal of “helping electricity users take advantage of all cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities through an integrated combination of financial incentives to customers and minimum standards governing the performance of buildings and equipment,” and we rededicate ourselves to the five key elements of that campaign.

8. We also reaffirm our call to state regulators, when presented with a reasonable business case by utilities, to “support significantly enhanced utility investment in ‘smart meters’ and a ‘smart grid’ that focuses on delivering new energy management tools to customers, enabling increased energy efficiency, supporting efficient new technology such as plug-in electric vehicles, and reducing the cost of integrating renewable energy generation with variable output into resource portfolios.”

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