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Why rise of solar, and fall in costs, still shocks energy experts

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The solar revolution is upon us, and yet many still don’t get it. Yes, they say, solar will play an increasing role in the world’s energy systems, but they still fail to comprehend to what extent solar will become the dominant energy provider in the decades to come.

This is true even of the International Energy Agency, which nevertheless concedes that solar will become the biggest individual source of power by 2050. It is true of Bill Gates, who is still searching for an energy miracle when there is one right in front of him. And it is certainly true of the fossil fuel industry which, having given up fighting for its future on environmental grounds, still wants to believe that coal is the key to unlocking “energy poverty”.

Last week’s Future of Energy conference in New York, hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, included some fascinating insight into just how quick this transition to solar is happening. Here are a bunch of graphs to illustrate.

The first is from Jon Moore, the BNEF chief, who predicts that more than two-thirds of all new energy generation  capacity around the world in the next 25 years will come from renewables, notwithstanding the huge growth in energy demand from emerging economies.

bnef solar wind growth

Solar, Moore says, will account for one-third of all new capacity – 3.43 terrawatts, or 3.43 million megawatts – a ten-fold increase on today’s capacity. It will be spread evenly between utility scale solar and “distributed solar”, much of the latter being installed behind the meter and on the rooftops of houses, businesses and factories.

The solar capacity will match the combined new capacity of coal, gas and nuclear – almost all of a which will be built in the developing world. Wind, hydro and other renewables make up the remainder.

This next graph from Michael Liebreich, the former BNEF chief and now chair of its advisory panel, illustrates how the major energy bodies have and continue to be caught offside by this growth.

bnef solar 2040

It is a similar graph to the famous one that showed how only Greenpeace successfully predicted the growth of solar over the past decade. The IEA, over the past 15 years, has increased its solar forecasts 14-fold, but is still short of the BNEF target by a factor of more than three. (Liebreich’s numbers for 2040 include installed capacity).

Indeed, Liebreich pointed to the recent solar auction in Mexico, where the lowest bid came in at a record $US36/MWh, including renewable energy certificates, as a sign solar costs continue to fall dramatically, and unexpectedly.

Liebreich also used this graph below to ridicule the recent comments by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has called for an “energy miracle” to solve electricity supply and greenhouse emissions issues.

bnef solar miracle

“We’ve seen the costs (of solar) come down by a factor of 150 since 1975,” Liebreich said. “We’ve seen volume up by 115,000. How much more miracle-y do you need your miracles to be?”

Gates, like the fossil fuel industry, throws the spotlight on “energy poverty” in third world countries. The coal industry, for instance, says that to deprive developing countries of fossil fuels is to deprive them of access to energy.

Forget for the moment that fossil fuels, in most developing countries, are heavily subsidised and still can’t be built cheaply enough to reach much of the population.

Liebreich says that a solar lamp costing $2 can bring light to developing areas. “The entire population of children studying by candlelight could be given those lamps for a cost of just over $1 billion dollars, or more to the point that families could, perhaps, buy them for two dollars each.”

bnef global off grid solar

As this graph above shows, BNEF estimates that 100 million households in off-grid areas will have solar by 2020 – not just tiny lanterns, but also larger solar installations that can power many more appliances. That is a lot more accessible than a new grid built to support centralised fossil fuels. But don’t expect the fossil fuel industry to admit that any time soon.

  

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  • Geoff

    …..how many homes are “off the grid” as we speak?

    • Geoff James

      That’s a hard question to answer. The forecast is a global total and it’s hard to put aside our developed-world assumptions and think in global terms. I’m working with an Indonesian colleague who recently inspected 300 village power systems with solar PV generation (maybe supplementing diesels but I’m not sure of the details). This would be a fraction of the total number in Indonesia. So are these village households “off grid” because they’re separated from the interconnected power systems on the major islands of an archipelagic nation? I’d say “yes” in the sense implied by Giles’s article – they would be connected to a village “grid” that is partly or fully independent of fossil fuels. The Asian Development Bank said a couple of years ago that there are 800 million Asians without access to electricity. I imagine there are a similar number in Africa which also has a lot of poverty and a lot of sunshine. There is enormous potential – unlocked I’m not sure how – for solar energy to improve the quality of life (comfort and connectedness) for people in developing nations whom the incumbent grid companies haven’t bothered about. In development circles this is called “leapfrogging”.

      • CB

        I wish Giles had been more clear about the ability of an interconnected grid to serve as an alternative to centralised sources of fuel.

        If you have just one house with solar panels on it, you’re going to have plenty of times where there’s energy being generated and no one using it.

        Connect that house to the rest of the village, and you can let someone else use that energy instead of letting it go to waste.

        Connect it to an entire continent, and you’d almost always have a source of renewable energy. The sun’s always shining somewhere…

        Installing a grid is expensive, of course, but it’s well worth the cost, especially if it’s built to move energy in multiple directions instead of just from the center out.

        • BBQman

          The problem with putting solar panels on houses all over the US is that you will cause regional droughts all over the place with these newly created heat islands, it will totally screw up our rain loop, just like all the fallow fields did from 1925 to 1937 and the same thing that is happening in California today where farmers are not allowed to have water for crops, or the droughts that occurred in 2012 Puerto Rico and are ongoing after a 138 acre solar farm was installed.

          Remember, actions have consequences CB, don’t mess with Mother Nature.

          • CB

            “The problem with putting solar panels on houses all over the US is that you will cause regional droughts all over the place”

            …and paving miles and miles of black tarmac won’t?

            o_O

          • BBQman

            Yes, paving miles of black Tarmac is almost as bad.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s some kind of crazy.

            Solar panels causing heat islands….

          • BBQman

            It’s really not crazy at all, massive forest fires will also create heat islands. Please feel free to research the topic, too many solar panels in one area will cause region droughts.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Putting solar panels on a light colored roof does lower albedo a bit. But I get the feel that you don’t understand how little area would be covered with panels were we to get, say, 40% of our electricity from panels.

            See those little green rectangles below? That’s the amount of land coverage we’d have if we got 100% of our electricity from solar. Cut them down to less than half to see what 40% solar would look like.

            Now take those tiny, tiny green patches and spread them around the continents.

            There’s going to be no solar panel heat island problem.

          • BBQman

            Good point, that is why I say they could cause “regional” droughts like what is happening in Puerto Rico. Don’t take me wrong, I like solar and have taken work shops on how to be an installer. I just don’t think large solar farms are a good idea in some areas.

          • CB

            “that is why I say they could cause “regional” droughts like what is happening in Puerto Rico.”

            …or California…

            “With California still experiencing severe drought despite recent rains, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) today adopted an extended and revised emergency regulation to ensure that urban water conservation continues in 2016.”

            ca.gov/drought

            “Our results indicate that future reductions in Arctic sea ice cover could significantly reduce available water in the American west”

            onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2003GL019133/abstract

            If you pretend magical solar panels caused that and not your car’s exhaust, does that take from you your responsibility in causing it?

    • Sunbuntu Ltd

      There are about 1.5 Billion without access to electricity. The largest installer of solar lights is Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh. They currently install about 8,000 systems a week and have about 1.7 million systems installed.

      That success will be repeated in most low income countries over the next few years.

      FYI – solar lights typically replace Kerosene lamps. They cost about the same as 2 yr of kerosene. Normally the systems are paid for over a 1 or 2 yrs like hire purchase with payment made either daily or weekly.

      • Brunel

        So basically rechargeable batteries?

        • Sunbuntu Ltd

          No, an off-grid solar system. The simplest is 4 x 2W led lights, a phone charger, a lead acid battery and 10W solar panel. The sexy version has more lights a bigger solar panel and enough power to drive both a fan and tv.

          In India, poor people without electricity pay about 2 rupees to charge their phones..

          • Brunel

            You mean recharge their phone batteries?

            And I thought lithium batteries are a cheaper way to store electrons compared to lead-acid.

          • Sunbuntu Ltd

            I must not not be explaining myself very well. Most of the very low cost systems ~ USD 70 use lead acid as they are cheaper and much more common. They have a higher energy density per dollar. Other battery types are also used such sealed gel and LiFe etc but it is still more common to use lead acid. They are tough and reliable.

          • Calamity_Jean

            “In India, poor people without electricity pay about 2 rupees to charge their phones.”

            How much do those people typically earn per day? 20 rupees? 50? 1000? I’m thinking that the 2 rupees to recharge the phone is a significant fraction of their total income.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Yes. Very simple systems which provide more light for less money than kerosene, candles or disposable batteries. And don’t cause the health problems which come from living in a room where kerosene is burned.

          Solar panel, rechargeable battery, LED lamps, place to plug in a mobile phone for charging.

  • Jens Stubbe

    When will is solar projected to be cost competitive with wind ?

    Wind has seven doubled every decade since the seventies and is still quite a bit cheaper than solar (about half price) and has a far better capacity factor.

    Wind will produce as much electricity in 2031 as the world produced in 2014 if the last four decades of growth persist.

    Wind grow slightly slower than solar in installed capacity but slightly more in produced energy.

    I am very surprised to see anyone expecting any new fossil generation capacity beyond this decade.

    10% coal capacity in the period between 2015 and 2050 – forget it. 9% gas is also overshooting the potential dramatically.

    10% nuclear would require a Bill Gates size miracle (besides this implies that Jon Moore from BNEF believes Nuclear will be the dominant producer of electricity with a capacity factor around 90% if wind is on average below 45%).

    9% hydro is also astonishing to see and definitively not environmentally acceptable.

    A pity Jon Moore did not bring cost predictions to substantiate his marketshare predictions.

    Ps. More than two thirds of all new power generation capacity added in 2015 was renewable so expecting that the marketshare will diminish appears very strange.

    • Jens Stubbe

      The really crazy thing about the chart is that BNEF completely has forgotten biomass.

      Recently there has been a huge breakthrough in biofuels at KU that has established collaboration with Novozymes. They have managed to increase the speed of biomaterials conversion by a factor 100 with better source utilization and no external energy addition except sunlight.

      Novozymes is the worlds largest producer of industrial enzymes and part of the largest industrial corporation in Scandinavia, and they have for decades been dedicated to out compete fossil fuels on cost based upon biomass. Currently they have 60% market share of enzymes used to produce methanol, which powers 10% of US transportation.

      Biomass is a silver bullet that in one and the same go extracts vital minerals, avoid rotting that produce methane and extract energy from biomass that have nearly no value for farmers today.

      • Gerry

        Biomass has a much lower EROEI and is essentially a low efficiency solar technology. Where do the plants get their energy? From the sun. And how efficient is the process of transforming sunlight into useful biomass in the plant? And then how efficient is the process of extracting the energy in that biomass into useful energy (i.e. heat or electricity)?

        At every step of the process you lose quite a bit and end up waay lower than a PV panel (which at the moment averages around 16% efficiency in converting direct sunlight into DC power).

        Nonetheless, biomass has a huge role to play to make use of by-products from other industries like in intensive agriculture (getting methane from dairies, piggeries, etc.) but it cannot compete at all as a primary source of energy against solar PV. A good article on this is here: http://theconversation.com/for-efficient-energy-do-you-want-solar-panels-or-biofuels-9160).

  • Dimitar Mirchev

    Giles,

    you misspelled the title. It should be:

    “Why rise of solar, and fall in costs, still shocks energy fachidiots”

  • Brunel

    I am surprised at how ignorant Bill Gates is about the crash in solar PV prices.

    And the transmission losses – which mean that solar power does not have to get as cheap as coal if you are generating power on-site without transmission losses.

    • nakedChimp

      He either has bad informed or ignorant or biased informants or is himself invested at the wrong side of history.. maybe in 5-10 years we’ll know.

      • Brunel

        http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Powering-the-Worlds-Poorer-Economies-A-Response-to-Bill-Gates-and-Jigar-S

        This article is from Aug 2014, solar panels have crashed further in price since then and will continue to do so.

        • Ike Bottema

          “Crashed” Good word. Yes costs of the panels have dropped but have transmission facilities to collect all the diverse solar power? And does this crashing price include the cost of storage to make it dispatchable? No? DIdn’t think so. This farcical technology will be crushed (an other appropriate word) by gen iV nuclear. Solar PV will always be a bit player in the total energy demand picture.

          • nakedChimp

            Ah, the nucelar group is back in town.

            Get back to us once you got your GenIV up and running.. so far the GenIII+ is having big problems and doesn’t seem to be able to make it out of the barn really.
            Nothing better to do than to troll some RE boards?

            Must be a miserable time for youguys with so much negative publicity..

          • Ike Bottema

            Just here to let readers know that wind and solar isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Ultimately a waste of time because the buffering dilemma hasn’t been solved, well not without national GDP levels of investment.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ike, this isn’t the DummesRUs site. You’ve wandered into a mass of people who aren’t going to buy your attempt at misinforming.

            The “buffering dilemma” existing only in your fantasies. Grids are doing quite a good job of incorporating wind and solar.

            It will take investment to change over our grids from fossil fuels to low carbon generation. I’m pretty sure you’re here pimping nuclear but pretty much everyone here recognizes that nuclear is simply too expensive.

          • Ike Bottema

            Why’s that Bob? Have you managed to brainwash them all? I’d like to think not so much; that rational folks will recognize that the physics doesn’t add up; that the grid is not a storage medium.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ike, your game is worn out. “(T)he grid is not a storage medium” – what does that mean?

            Grids use storage. We built storage back when we were building nuclear reactors. We needed storage to move unneeded offpeak power to demand hours.

            That same storage will now be used to move power from when the wind is blowing and/or Sun is shining to times when wind/solar output is low.

          • Ike Bottema

            Ike, your game is worn out.

            Sorry Bob but physics reality trumps your bafflegab.

            “(T)he grid is not a storage medium” – what does that mean?

            I just know you don’t get it Bob, so I’m glad you asked. It means that electrons move from supply to demand in an instant. They don’t hang around like in a battery. They must be used or the voltage builds to damaging levels (about 10% higher than nominal is allowed). So as demand decreases, supply must decease in lock-step. Likewise as demand increases, supply must increase otherwise brownouts occur.

            Grids use storage. We built storage back when we were building nuclear reactors. We needed storage to move unneeded offpeak power to demand hours.

            Ah so you do understand somewhat. But that “moving unneeded power to demand hours” isn’t a trivial task that can be solved with a wave of your hand. The one thing you are missing here is the scale of the storage required. The amount of storage required to balance renewables intermittent supply with the demand is measured in many TWh. That’s many Terrawatt-hours Bob! Many millions of Megawatt hours! Get it now?

            That same storage will now be used to move power from when
            the wind is blowing and/or Sun is shining to times when wind/solar
            output is low.

            Sounds so easy doesn’t it Bob? Just wave your hand again, I’m sure it will happen … Or maybe not so much.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ike, I don’t think you understand how renewable grids will function. You seem to think that we will need massive amount of storage. Transmission, dispatchable loads, dispatchable generation and overbuilding will greatly lower the amount of storage you think necessary.

            Why don’t you give this a read and watch the video?

            http://www.engineering.com/ElectronicsDesign/ElectronicsDesignArticles/ArticleID/8272/Is-Storage-Necessary-for-Renewable-Energy.aspx

          • Brunel

            Another nuclear vested interest!

    • Matthew Schilling

      The sun shines less than half the time. The fate of solar is tied directly to battery technology, battery cost, and battery toxicity. Without battery backup, all the costs and issues associated with the grid remain associated with solar.

      • JamesWimberley

        How much real demand is there at 3 a.m.? The current total is padded by the fact that must-run generators practically give the power away.

        • JenniWest

          I have an idea. Let’s hook you up to a ventilator. Tied to a solar panel. We’ll sit you in a chair facing west with big windows and you can watch the sun set. I bet you change your tune real fast.

          Now imagine grocery freezers, factories that run three shifts, industries of all kinds, people who go to night school, people who like to watch TV after getting home from second shift. Your comment is so naive as to be laughable. First world, hi tech, industrial, manufacturing nations cannot be run on intermittent power.

          All I see from power like nuclear is reliability, promises that you can do anything and the power will be there. All I see from solar is haphazard patches to leaky problems and issues, excuses and outlandish solutions meant to make up for its myriad of drawbacks.

          Why jump through so many hoops trying to make our shittiest power–solar– act like real power? No one ever can answer that for me.

          • nakedChimp

            Jenni.. its nice that your little circle is propping up your posts.. every single time the same 3 blokes..
            Can’t handle more that 3 Disqus accounts at the same time, can ya?

            You might need to install a couple more VMs, so you can keep them all logged in. With a normal PC you can easily handle like 10-20 extra OS’s that way..

          • Starviking

            Ah, throwing mud. Very mature of you.

          • Chris Baker

            JenniWest you seem to have the idea that there is such a thing as base-load. As JamesWimberly suggests, how much real demand would there be at 3am if it wasn’t for inflexible power sources such as coal wanting to give away their power at that time of day.
            Hydro is a good match for solar and wind, and when begin to see the “off-peak” load begin to shift to match the solar peak, the remaining power needed during the night will decline to its proper low value. If Tassie had more wind and solar installations they wouldn’t be in the trouble they are now, and they’d have plenty left over to export up north to the rest of us.
            We’re beginning to see lots more west facing solar installations to get the power production to better match the demand, which is reducing the need for storage. We still have some available hydro and pumped hydro sites and its a pity we are focussed so much on batteries for storage cos hydro is so much cheaper and it can match the demand curve so perfectly, unlike coal.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s hook you up to a ventilator. Tied to a nuclear reactor.

            I’ll bet you’ll be surprised how often reactors go offline without notice.

            Actually you’ll probably only be surprised once, but let’s assume the medical staff can keep pumping manually for the days, weeks, months, and even years that a reactor can let you down so that you can start to understand that nuclear energy (or coal energy) is not the rock solid electricity supplier you think it is.

          • Bob_Wallace

            These are unplanned shutdowns across about three months in the us starting in September, 2013. Routine refueling and maintenance shutdowns are not included.

            9/03/13

            An unusual event was declared Sept. 2 at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona after workers found a fire in a main feed pump for Unit 2. A security officer first noticed smoke y the “A” train main feed pump. A worker found a fire on lagging behind the main standard pump. The fire was put out about 30 minutes later, but re-flashed twice during removal of the lagging.

            9/06/13

            The Unit 2 reactor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland was shut down around 5 p.m. Thursday after a control rod dropped into the reactor core during electrical testing, according to a report from The Calvert Recorder.

            10/25/13

            A nuclear power plant in Oconee County had to shut down one of its three reactors after a problem in the water system that helps generate electricity, according to a release from the Associated Press.

            11/07/13

            Unit 1 at the Beaver Valley nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania remains offline after a small electrical wiring fire was detected.

            12/01/13 and Second Offline

            Hope Creek, a single unit boiling water reactor consisting of 1,210 MW in generating capacity, put their nuclear reactor back online after high moisture in the main turbine forced the reactor to be taken offline twice, according to a report on NewJersey.com. Hope Creek originally was taken offline Dec. 1 when high moisture in the steam tripped the main turbine, then taken offline again on Thursday for the same issue. (Back 12/10/13)

            12/09/13

            Arkansas Nuclear One Unit 2 is offline after a transformer fire was found.

            According to Northwest Arkansas Online, a fault in the transformer led to the early morning fire. Entergy said through its Twitter account that the fire has been contained with no injuries or threats of safety.

            12/11/13

            An Unusual Event was declared at Arkansas’ Nuclear One power plant Tuesday after the transformer to Unit 2 experienced an electrical explosion in the switchyard, causing the unit to shut down. An Unusual Event is declared when an event indicates a potential degradation of the level of safety.

            12/14/13

            The plant was shut down Dec. 14 for the repairs. Workers with Exelon (NYSE: EXC) completed maintenance on a system that regulates pressure to the steam turbines along with other work. The work could not be completed while the plant was running. (12/20/13)

            1/6/14

            Unit 1 at the Beaver Valley nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania automatically tripped around 5 p.m. EST, according to an event report with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

            Workers with FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE) said a main transformer differential trip caused the reactor to shut down. The transformer converts power generated from the plant to the appropriate voltage for distribution throughout the transmission system, according to Jennifer young, spokesperson with FirstEnergy. It is located on the generation side of the plant.

            1/6/14

            Unit 3 at the Indian Point n the plant deployed as designed and the unit was safely shut down. (Back on 1/8/14)

            1/9/14

            Pilgrim was already under additional NRC oversight due to the plant automatically shutting down October 2013 for a week due to the loss of a 345 kV power line that provided offsite power to the plant. It was the second time the plant shut down last year. That incident led to the plant having a “white” performance indicator last year.

            1/10/14

            A buildup of ice caused the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant to temporarily shut down just weeks after it restarted.

            Workers with the Omaha Public Power District were making routine inspections at Unit 1 when they noticed a block of ice had formed on the shaft and the top of one of six sluice gates that control the flow of water into the plant on Jan. 8. The ice also bent the sluice gate operating shaft, which caused the gate to not close and made all four raw water pumps inoperable.

            A nuclear power plant in New York automatically tripped due to “33 Steam Generator Steam flow/Feed flow Mismatch,” the NRC said. Plant operator Entergy (NYSE: ETR) said in a release that a controller device failed to regulate the flow of water into one of the plant’s four steam generators, which led to lowered water levels.

      • Brunel

        Schools close before sunset I think.

        Bill Gates keeps talking about Africa.

        Well, how much storage does a school in Africa need.

        Not all factories need to be running 24×7.

        So you could probably have factories in Africa that run when the sun is up.

        • Carl Raymond S

          Or the wind is blowing, or the batteries are full. Not many days off.

          • Brunel

            Batteries are not cheap enough yet, but solar panels are definitely cheap enough already.

          • Carl Raymond S

            A tip in the market from ICEV to BEV will soon fix that,
            Happening now,

          • Brunel

            EV batteries cannot do many cycles. Only about 1000 cycles.

            Grid storage batteries can supposedly do 3000 cycles.

            So we need grid storage batteries to crash in price also.

          • Carl Raymond S

            But there will be large overlap in the technologies, such that gains in one produce gains in the other.

        • Sam Gilman

          That’s a bit colonial. What if countries in Africa would like to have modern industrial economies? Do they get a say in this?

          • Brunel

            What is a bit colonial.

            Getting electricity 8 hours per day is better than 0 hours per day.

          • Sam Gilman

            It’s better than nothing, but the way you phrased it, it sounds as if factories not working to a more modern regime would be good enough for them.

            Solar is a great help for domestic electricity where there was none before, and is a good stopgap before a grid is built, with the investment now easy to integrate once a grid turns up.

            But with larger economic concerns, the need is for factories that can compete across borders. This means investment that can be fully exploited rather than sitting idle. Solar plus something else. Possibly something else being bigger than solar.

            A lot of the comments on this page seem to see the challenge as shaping the world in order to meet the demands of solar. Not only is this muddled, but when westerners start trying to shape the world like that, one has to be careful of the historically enculturated instinct to treat “developing” countries as particularly malleable.

          • Brunel

            A lot of offices shut at around sunset.

            I do not know what percentage of factories run 24×7.

            Of course batteries should keep crashing in price so that more people can get power after sunset.

      • Mark Roest

        Battery cost is falling fast; Tesla is reported to be at $200/kWh capacity and headed for $110 by 2019, while LG Chem was outed by the CEO of GM as charging $140/kWh for batteries for the Bolt in 2017. They are still Lithium, so still toxic. New batteries are coming based on mineral salts; non-toxic, cheaper, higher performance. So,
        1. We do now and will more so in the future have ample battery backup.
        2. We will also realize the full economic potential of intermittent renewable energy because of the same batteries (beyond backup), and have grid-stabilizing ancillary services as well, so we will see more rapid electrification of the grid than even the great report above projects, so the electricity charging the vehicles will be clean too.

        • JenniWest

          If you are a green and support solar, with all its ungreen drawbacks AND support batteries since your pet power can’t even do ITS ONE JOB? You are nowhere near green. Sorry to break it to you.

          • George Carty

            He probably subscribes to the Amory Lovins/Paul Ehrlich school of thought which wants to starve humanity of energy believing that will limit humanity’s ability to destroy the natural environment.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually, we can have even more energy to use and do much, much less damage to the environment at the same time?

            Doesn’t that make you happy?

      • nakedChimp

        You forget there is CSP with heat storage that can stretch the less than 50% supply over 100% of the time..

        And solar isn’t alone.. there is wind, hydro, wave, etc.. those are usually not bound to daylight and some of them are dispatchable even.

        • Ike Bottema

          You forget there is CSP with heat storage that can stretch the less than 50% supply over 100% of the time..

          Yup, CSP has possibilities esp in community heating setting. But using the parabolic heating of circulating molten salts, not the central tower of death that is really a natural gas plant in disguise.

          And solar isn’t alone.. there is wind, hydro, wave, etc.. those are usually not bound to daylight and some of them are dispatchable even.

          “Some of them” being the operative phrase here. Yes hydro but all the prime sites have been cherry-picked and there’s huge resistance by environmentalists and others to adding more. Lots of concerns about existing sites BTW.

          “Wave” Not so much. Marginal opportunities especially WRT cost and don’t think that NIMBY isn’t going to play a big factor. Plus it’s not dispatchable. Why bother?

          “Wind” The great renewable hope. NIMBY is a big factor. Not dispatchable even at continental scale even if copper plate transmission were even feasible. I can’t fathom how any environmentalist can support the huge impact these beasts have to our flora and fauna.

          • nakedChimp

            central tower of death?
            What is tar sand pit then, or an oil spill or a stinking brown coal plant?
            Places of natural beauty and bubbling wildlife?

            Yeah, some of them are dispatchable.. not all. You got a problem with that?
            You really should read some studies by those dumb and idiotic Germans who run the most reliable grid of the world about how they find no problem to integrate 80% of intermittent and non-dispatchable renewables into their grid within the next decades.
            You might also want to check the mental health of the South Australian grid operator who thinks they can go 100% RE by 2050 or something along those lines.
            Oh, and don’t forget that moronic Chinese Energy Minister that really said in front of the G20 that technology isn’t the problem to go 100% RE, but mindset is.

            What problem does FLORA have with wind turbines please?
            I can understand birds and other avian fauna.. but that’s it.
            I’m pretty sure that the fauna and flora that has and is affected by oil spills, power plant exhaust fumes and under water noise by sea drilling is no problem for you at all..

          • Ike Bottema

            central tower of death?

            The Ivanpah bright lights attract birds which are then fried as they approach the tower of death.

            What is tar sand pit then, or an oil spill or a stinking brown coal plant?
            Places of natural beauty and bubbling wildlife?

            Not good either. Are you arguing that such examples makes Ivanpah kill zone OK?

            Yeah, some of them are dispatchable.. not all. You got a problem with that?

            Yes. Primariliy with the ones that cannot be dispatched. But even hydro for example isn’t exactly all sweetness and light as I mentioned above.

            You really should read some studies by those dumb and idiotic Germans who run the most reliable grid of the world about how they find no problem to integrate 80% of intermittent and non-dispatchable renewables into their grid within the next decades.

            Right the Germans. The crew that is building and firing up more coal plants? That crew? Great track record in CO2 reduction. OK maybe not so much.

            You might also want to check the mental health of the South Australian grid operator who thinks they can go 100% RE by 2050 or something along those lines.

            Oh they bought the Jacobson delusion did they?

            Oh, and don’t forget that moronic Chinese Energy Minister that really said in front of the G20 that technology isn’t the problem to go 100% RE, but mindset is.

            You mean the mindset that recognizes that undispatchable renewables cannot provide 100% of demand without buffering? And you believe a politician for your energy technical facts? Nuff said.

            What problem does FLORA have with wind turbines please?
            I can understand birds and other avian fauna.. but that’s it.

            Oh I don’t know, maybe those trees they have to chop down to get to the windmill site and to put in transmission lines?

            I’m pretty sure that the fauna and flora that has and is affected by oil spills, power plant exhaust fumes and under water noise by sea drilling is no problem for you at all..

            You presume a lot. Or are you again saying that the environmental damage by renewables should OK because hey look fossil fuels are environmentally damaging?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Oh, Ike, why bother.? No one believes your junk.

            Ivanpah had a bird burning problem which was solved in a single day. And the supposed number of birds that were killed was a POS claim. The ‘streamers’ observed were mostly insects and pieces of trash being burned, not birds.

            Germany has reduced coal use and is closing more coal plants than what they’ve built. Germany built some supercritical (much more efficient) plants and are shutting down old inefficient plants.

            ” Or are you again saying that the environmental damage by renewables should OK because hey look fossil fuels are environmentally damaging?”

            We recognize that there are no perfect solutions. The task is to identify the least problematic solutions and discard the most damaging.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s shortcut this stuff, Ike. You think nuclear is the answer. How about we ask the two largest nuclear owning companies in the US what they think?

            “’It would be very difficult for any company to make a decision to try to build a new nuclear plant,’ says Mike Twomey, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, which runs nuclear power plants.

            Entergy has already taken one unprofitable reactor offline in Vermont and plans to close two more plants that are losing money in upstate New York and Massachusetts.”

            Entergy is the largest nuclear plant operator in the US.

            “’We think that the costs of new nuclear right now are not competitive with other zero-carbon technologies, renewables and storage that we see in the marketplace,’ says Joe Dominguez, executive vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy at Exelon, a nuclear power company that has announced plans to close one of its existing reactors in New Jersey.

            Three other plants that are losing money in Illinois and upstate New York are also being reviewed for possible closure, Dominguez says.

            ‘Right now we just don’t have any plans on the board to build any new reactors,’ he says.”

            Exelon is the second largest nuclear plant operator in the US.

            Entergy and Exelon combined own and operate about 25% of all US reactors.

            “Mycle Schneider, a nuclear industry analyst, says nuclear also faces growing price pressure from wind and solar. Renewable energy is so cheap in some parts of the U.S. that it’s even undercutting coal and natural gas.

            ‘We are seeing really a radical shift in the competitive markets which leave nuclear power pretty much out in the rain,’ Schneider says.’”

            http://www.npr.org/2016/04/07/473379564/unable-to-compete-on-price-nuclear-power-on-the-decline-in-the-u-s

            That’s what the major companies in nuclear energy have to say. Nuclear is too damned expensive.

          • Ike Bottema

            No, a reliable,24/365 source of power is being forced to acquiesce to a diffuse intermittent i.e. non-dispatchable source of power by regulations that are counter to market principles that would normally allow long-term contracts to provide base power without the uncertainty of supply that under current regulations, trumps certainty.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ike, the market is telling you that new nuclear is too expensive.

            The market is also telling you that some paid off reactors produce electricity that is too expensive to be competitive.

            “’It would be very difficult for any company to make a decision to try to build a new nuclear plant,’ says Mike Twomey, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, which runs nuclear power plants.

            Entergy has already taken one unprofitable reactor offline in Vermont and plans to close two more plants that are losing money in upstate New York and Massachusetts.”

            Entergy is the largest nuclear plant operator in the US.

            “’We think that the costs of new nuclear right now are not competitive with other zero-carbon technologies, renewables and storage that we see in the marketplace,’ says Joe Dominguez, executive vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy at Exelon, a nuclear power company that has announced plans to close one of its existing reactors in New Jersey.

            Three other plants that are losing money in Illinois and upstate New York are also being reviewed for possible closure, Dominguez says.

            ‘Right now we just don’t have any plans on the board to build any new reactors,’ he says.”

            Exelon is the second largest nuclear plant operator in the US. Entergy and Exelon own and operate about 25% of all US reactors.

            “Mycle Schneider, a nuclear industry analyst, says nuclear also faces growing price pressure from wind and solar. Renewable energy is so cheap in some parts of the U.S. that it’s even undercutting coal and natural gas.

            ‘We are seeing really a radical shift in the competitive markets which leave nuclear power pretty much out in the rain,’ Schneider says.’”

            http://www.npr.org/2016/04/07/473379564/unable-to-compete-on-price-nuclear-power-on-the-decline-in-the-u-s

            “Production costs from the existing fleet are heading higher over the medium-term,” France’s Cour des Comptes said in a report to parliament published today.

            The report, which updates findings in a January 2012 report, said that in 2012 the Court calculated the cost of production of the current fleet for 2010, which amounted to EUR 49.5 per megawatt-hour.

            Using the same method for the year 2013 the cost was EUR 59.8/MWh, an increase of 20.6 percent over three years.

            http://www.nucnet.org/all-the-news/2014/05/27/france-s-state-auditor-says-edf-s-nuclear-costs-are-increasing

          • Ike Bottema

            Oh, Ike, why bother.? No one believes your junk.

            My junk? LOL. The master of juck science telling me my post is junk. High praise indeed Bob.

            Ivanpah had a bird burning problem which was solved in a single day. And the supposed number of birds that were killed was a POS claim. The ‘streamers’ observed were mostly insects and pieces of trash being burned, not birds.

            Really! So how was the problem solved in a day Bob? Was the plant shut down for the day? Where clouds interfering with the death rays?

            Germany has reduced coal use and is closing more coal

            plants than what they’ve built. Germany built some supercritical (much more efficient) plants and are shutting down old inefficient plants.

            Right Bob.

            http://tinyurl.com/nayku82
            http://tinyurl.com/nzu5fhd

            We recognize that there are no perfect solutions. The task is to identify the least problematic solutions and discard the most damaging.

            Very good! In principle we agree!

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Really! So how was the problem solved in a day Bob? Was the plant shut down for the day? Where clouds interfering with the death rays?”

            “Streamers” were seen when the mirrors were not focused on the tower but when they were put into a “parked” position, aimed into the sky.

            The problem was that several mirrors focused on the same spot, many beams converged, creating hot spots. It took less than a day to reprogram the parked positions for the separate mirrors so that no more than four converged on the same spot.

            Fixed.

            German coal. Your first link is three years old. As you should know following the Fukushima disaster Germany decided to speed up their reactor closure program. Since they had not anticipated this problem Germany did not have a low carbon replacement ready to step in and was put in the position of needing to burn more coal. By 2014 Germany had solved the higher fossil fuel use problem and dropped FF use to a new low. (Graph below)

            You second link talks about Germany not reaching its 2020 CO2 emission goal. That is true, Germany may not. In 2007 Germany set a goal of a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions. Obviously the Fukushima disaster was not factored into reaching that goal and it has knocked Germany off track.

            In order to meet the 2020 reduction target of 40%, Germany will have to create an additional 17.5% drop. Germany decreased CO2 output by 4.1% in 2014 but emissions rose 0.9% in 2015. In order to hit the 2020 target Germany would have to average a 3.5% drop per year. That may or may not happen but signs are good that Germany will still meet its 2050 goal of a 100% CO2 reduction.

          • Calamity_Jean

            “Germany has reduced coal use and is closing more coal plants than what they’ve built. Germany built some supercritical (much more efficient) plants and are shutting down old inefficient plants.”

            IIRC, Germany didn’t start coal power plants after the beginning of the Energiewende. They did finish some coal plants that were already under construction at the time. And at least one of those looks like it will never actually be run because it isn’t needed (Oops.) Link: http://www.renewablesinternational.net/new-german-coal-plant-worth-one-euro/150/537/89142/

      • Carl Raymond S

        Solar, wind, EVs (demand managed) and some battery storage are synergetic.

        • JenniWest

          They are toxic, incapable, intermittent, expensive as hell, short-lived and ridiculous for anyone who knows how to do math.

      • JenniWest

        And large scale solar is failing all over the world. What is being revealed by these plants is that they were probably meant to be natural gas plants all along, just a clever way for fossil fuel interests to scoop up subsidies meant for so-called “renewables.” SInce all of them need a back up to their unreliability and that is almost always natural gas.

    • JenniWest

      SOlar cannot replace baseload power at reasonable costs. To pretend it is a viable replacement for coal, fossil fuels or any baseload power is folly.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Sorry, that is not correct. Let’s look at some numbers.

        The current cost of PV solar in the US is about 6c/kWh, unsubsidized. The current cost of unsubsidized onshore wind is below 4c/kWh. The cost of electricity from the Vogtle reactors being constructed will be at least 13c/kWh, subsidized.

        We can store energy in pump-up hydro sites for 10/kWh.

        Nuclear = 13 cents (plus subsidies and the backup needed for when the plant isn’t working).

        40% directly from wind (4c) as generated, 30% from solar (6c) direct, 30% stored wind/solar (15c) = 7.9 cents

        7.9 < 13

        Coal, with external costs included, runs close to 20c/kWh. But we aren't building any new coal in the US. Only CCNG plants compete with a mix of wind, solar and storage but we can't count on a reasonably priced supply of NG for more than a couple of decades.

        • Brunel

          JenniWest seems like another nuclear vested interest.

          • Bob_Wallace

            At least someone who is operating with outdated information. The energy world is rapidly changing and yesterday’s best solutions can be obsolete today.

            Not that many years ago wind and solar were too expensive. Nuclear did look like our best route off fossil fuels. But the cost of wind and solar have plummeted over the last several years and now are our two least expensive ways to generate electricity.

          • CB

            “the cost of wind and solar have plummeted over the last several years and now are our two least expensive ways to generate electricity.”

            Wind is definitely one of the least expensive ways to generate power, and the last time I checked, solar PV was still high, but plummeting quickly. $36/MWh is absolutely nuts. If it’s true, it would make it cheaper than earth gas now…

            The baseload junkies have a point that the intermittent nature of these sources of energy will add to the cost, though I’ve never seen them actually come up with any numbers for that additional cost.

            As you know, one of the ways to avoid that cost is a long haul smart grid, so it was disappointing to see Giles insinuate the grid is only for centralised power!

            It can make decentralised power much more reliable and much less expensive as well.

          • Sam Gilman

            The baseload junkies have a point that the intermittent nature of these sources of energy will add to the cost, though I’ve never seen them actually come up with any numbers for that additional cost.

            No, that’s not true.

            Here are a couple of papers you’ve been shown before that look at the issue of rising costs with high level intermittent penetration.

            Here’s one looking at three different systems:

            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1040619016300136

            Here’s another looking at a unified US system:

            http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2921.html

            Here is a paper that I haven’t shown you before – maybe someone else has – that looks at system LCOE and how costs increase with increased grid penetration:

            https://www.pik-potsdam.de/members/edenh/publications-1/SystemLCOE.pdf

            The idea that people haven’t tried to estimate the costs of intermittency is naive.

          • CB

            “The idea that people haven’t tried to estimate the costs of intermittency is naive.”

            lol!

            If someone had expressed that idea, it certainly would be!

            …and almost as naive to think that all methods of making a fully-renewable system function on-demand have already been thought of…

            You’ve got two papers that put the extra cost at about double current levelised prices:

            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1040619016300136
            http://www.pik-potsdam.de/members/edenh/publications-1/SystemLCOE.pdf

            I would be glad to pay that amount for energy that’s fully renewable! Maybe that’s just me…

            Your papers are also not focused on the bigger picture. They are only focused on replacing the system we have now with one that doesn’t emit carbon. We have to do better than that. We have to actually be removing carbon from the air to preserve a planet compatible with human civilisation, and to do that takes energy. It’s just the sort of thing that renewable oversupply can be used for.

          • Bob_Wallace
          • Sam Gilman

            Yes, CB, to repeat to you, reducing atmospheric carbon is a great idea. For that matter, combatting desertification is also important, as is deacidification of the oceans.

            We were talking about getting a grid to work.

          • CB

            “to repeat to you, reducing atmospheric carbon is a great idea.”

            …and to repeat back to you. It’s not merely a good idea, it’s going to be required to preserve a planet compatible with human habitation…

            Understand?

            “Global Warming Feedback Loop Caused by Methane, Scientists Say”

            news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060829-methane-warming.html

          • Sam Gilman

            I agree.

          • Bob_Wallace

            First paper. They use $3123/kW for installed solar while installed utility solar in 2015 was $1430/kW.

            And they make this claim –

            “Modern wind plants produce power at capacity factors (CF) between 30 and 40%; solar PV system CF ranges between 10% and 25%.

            Currently new wind farms are reporting CF over 40%. GE has stated that the farms for which it has supplied turbines are returning CFs of over 50%. Utility PV solar in the US had reported a CF of 28.6% in 2015.

            I think we need to put this paper aside. It’s built on bad numbers.

            The second study is behind a firewall but there is this interesting statement in the Abstract….

            “Our results show that when using future anticipated costs for wind and solar, carbon dioxide emissions from the US electricity sector can be reduced by up to 80% relative to 1990 levels, without an increase in the levelized cost of electricity. The reductions are possible with current technologies and without electrical storage.

            The third paper builds a mathematical model for predicting cost of integration. They talk about the cost of integrating wind rising as penetration levels rise. But they claim that the increased costs start at 20%, which is just a number snatched from space. A grid with high amounts of dispatchable generation and/or dispatchable load could incorporate a much larger amount of wind before there was a cost of integration.

            They fail to mention that large penetrations of any generation technology can drive up cost.

          • Sam Gilman

            First paper: If I may unpick those cherries:
            The capacity factor you cite for solar comes from the EIA 2015 figures.

            You try to construct a capacity factor for wind rather than use the same table, which has a capacity factor for wind of 32.5% – at the bottom end of the range chosen. Whatever corporate sources are saying, it’s not showing up in current figures, which are actually down on the previously year (34%). In general, I don’t think it’s a good thing to pick and choose numbers from different sources like this, not least without being open about it. It looks suspicious.

            The 2015 solar figures are substantially derived from California, Nevada and Arizona – areas with unusually high insolation. This paper looks specifically at a single grid across the US where solar from across the country is needed to meet demand. So while capacity factors may be too low, the 2015 figures are also not representative of what they are trying to model. So you have a point about the upper limit of solar capacity factors, but I’m not sure it’s as strong as you might want it to be. [sorry – my error – got the first two papers mixed up: the point for the first paper is that the capacity factors for Wisconsin will not be 28.5% and are definitely not so for Germany.]

            As for cost, the latest cost estimates from the NREL (Feb 2916) are here. There’s nothing like $1430/KWe. It’s really important not to cherry pick best in show; you’ve got to go with representative figures.

            On a more important point, you’ve overlooked a key point of the study: it runs two versions: the EIA costs and then costs whereby renewables are hugely underpriced and nuclear is very overpriced (OR/PN). Under these conditions, 80 RPS is barely cheaper than the balanced low carbon system in Wisconsin and still more expensive in Germany. Even in this OR/PN scenario, achieving the same carbon reductions as a balanced system does using wind and solar costs more; carbon abatement costs more. The 80%RPS does not reduce carbon by as much as the balanced system does.

            In almost every scenario, under a wide range of assumptions and across three widely varying geographies, cutting CO2 emissions with a balanced portfolio of low-carbon generation sources is more effective, and more cost-effective, than relying on renewables alone. As Tables 3 and 4 show, a balanced low-carbon system consistently achieves significantly greater emissions reductions at far less cost.

            The second paper – you can access the supplementary materials to see the results – achieves 80% reduction of carbon emissions but only with around 55% wind/solar. The rest is natural gas, nuclear and hydro (the latter two held constant in terms of capacity with some mild load following), and only if gas is very expensive and renewables much cheaper. The intermittency issue is evident in this paper too – even with loads of gas to balance, there seem to be limits (They also modelled what happened when a dispatchable baseload-type source (coal) was allowed to play, and in system cost terms, it pushed renewables intermittent renewables back.)

            Your comment on the last paper is, I am afraid, mystifying. I don’t think they are pulling numbers out of thin air. Perhaps you might trust the case made by Wirth more if it comes via Craig Morris who, hats off to him, has taken this work more seriously despite Morris’ own staunch pro-intermittent and anti-unnameable-low-carbon dispatchable-source position.

            http://energytransition.de/2015/07/no-business-case-for-lots-of-wind-and-solar/

            http://energytransition.de/2015/07/no-business-case-for-lots-of-wind-and-solar/

  • JenniWest

    Solar is the worst way we have to generate power. It fails all five criteria for judging power efficacy. It is costly ( when subsidies aren’t propping up the industry) is intermittent, unreliable, toxic to produce, hazardous waste by the millions of tons when it’s done, short lived, always needs a backup to do it’s ONE JOB, and it’s growth is based purely on misled and mathless, factless greens finding it “popular.” What kind of greens can find something this lousy “popular” depends on EPIC levels of denial.

    • nakedChimp

      There are more subsidies propping up the fossil fuel industry than the renewables industry.. cattle calling the pot black much there?

      You don’t have to use it.. just sit back and let the millions of poor get what they want and how they want it.
      Good luck selling them a coal power plant.

      • Matthew Schilling

        Please tell us more about these subsidies propping up the fossil fuel industry. Are you talking about tax breaks?

        • JamesWimberley

          And sweetheart leases on public lands. They are all called “tax expenditures”. The IMF has taken to counting unpriced health and climate externalities as subsidies – sound economics but I don’t think it will wash.

        • Bob_Wallace

          In the US we pay between $140 billion and $242 billion each year dealing with the health damage caused by coal. That’ a cost which does not appear on coal’s ledger sheet in the expense column.

          That means that those hundreds of billions are subsidies the coal industry receives.

          There there is the environmental damage that coal causes and taxpayers pay for…..

      • JenniWest

        No, that is a lie. Solar and wind are hogging subsidies at levels that are astonishing for power this lousy.

        Charts ES2 and ES4, if you please.

        http://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/

        • nakedChimp

          The EIA isn’t the most unbiased statistician on the block in regards to fossil fuels vs renewables..
          I can also pull out numbers from sources that look ten times worse for the FF guys:
          http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/
          10-50 billion annually.. that’s 10-30 times more than the 2013 figure of EIA there.

          The numbers in this paper for 2015 are higher than what the EIA got there as well..
          https://www.treasury.gov/open/Documents/USA%20FFSR%20progress%20report%20to%20G20%202014%20Final.pdf

          So, what now?

          Do you really believe that technologies that have been around for 50+ years should be eligible for subsidies at all?

          You can ask ANY solar or wind developer if they would forgo/waive subsidies IF THE fossil fuel industry does forgo/waive theirs AS WELL – they will all answer yes.
          The ball really is in the field of the incumbents there, not the new guys.

        • Bob_Wallace

          That’s for a single year. Cherries picked.

          Let’s take a more objective look at subsidies….

          Over the first 15 years of these energy sources’ subsidies, oil and gas received 5 times what renewables got (in 2010 dollars) and nuclear energy got 10 times as much. (Most of the renewable subsidies went to corn farms for ethanol, not wind, solar and other renewable electricity technologies.)

          Between 1918 and 2009 oil and gas received average annual subsidies of $4.86 billion. (92 x $4.86 billion = $447 billion)

          Between 1947 and 1999 nuclear received average annual subsidies of $3.50 billion. (53 x $3.50 billion = $185.6 billion)

          Between 1980 and 2009 biofuel received average annual subsidies of $1.08 billion. (29 x $1.08 billion = $31 billion)

          Between 1994 and 2009 wind and solar received average annual subsidies of $0.37 billion. (15 x $0.37 = $5.6 billion)

          http://www.dblinvestors.com/documents/What-Would-Jefferson-Do-Final-Version.pdf

          Since the 2009 cutoff above wind and solar have been receiving subsidies in larger amounts. This is because many subsides are now based on new production. (If any new nuclear had come on line it would also received PTC subsidies.)

          Out of curiosity I made a rough stab at calculating the amount wind and solar have received since 2009.

          Based on EIA production numbers from the beginning of 2010 through 2013 solar produced 16,625,000,000 kWh. During the same period wind produced 762,483,520,000 kWh.

          Ignoring the fact that some wind/solar farms chose the 30% ITC rather than the $0.023/kWh PTC and doing the math as if all wind and solar chose the PTC, wind and solar subsidies would have received subsidies (had their taxes lowered) by $19.5 billion.

          Between 1994 and 2009 renewables received subsidies of $5.6 billion. Adding in the 2010 to 2013 (roughly calculated) subsidies the total comes to $25.1 billion.

          Between 1947 and 1999 nuclear received subsidies equaling $185.6 billion.

          Wind and solar received 11% as much as nuclear when we carry the numbers to the end of 2013. Of course there are subsidies for nuclear which are not included in the $185.6 billion.

          Here’s another interesting statistic.

          In 2013 nuclear produced 19.4% of all US electricity. Wind and solar produced 4.33%.

          Nuclear has received 7.4x as much subsidy over time and yet is producing only 4.5x as much electricity. We are currently getting 1.6x more electricity per dollar subsidy with wind and solar.

          Another indication that we seem to have wasted our money on nuclear.

          And let’s not forget the $140 billion to $242 billion taxpayers spend each year treating health problems caused by coal. That subsidy totally dwarfs everything.

    • JamesWimberley

      Find me a working 30-year-old solar panel that’s as unreliable as a nuclear reactor. FYI, reliability means “performing when there is sun/wind/geo steam/ nuclear or fossil fuel”.

      • JenniWest

        Your sentence is worded funny. Nuclear reactors are the most reliable power we have.

        • nakedChimp

          Yeah, we’ve seen that absolute fantastic reliability twice within the last 3 decades.
          I’m happy I live in a country/continent that has none of those super reliable things so I can witness another demonstration of that reliability.

          If a solar panel fails or a wind turbine, the others around it don’t.
          They also don’t explode and make millions of square kilometers uninhabitable for decades and cause evacuations of hundred thousands of people.

    • Marcel

      lies, you’re completely wrong.

    • Mark Roest

      See my reply to Matthew Schilling a few minutes ago. You are saying something that may have been true ten years ago, but today is simply denying reality, or being dragged kicking and screaming into a better future. I think they call people like you late adopters, in the Chasm Theory of Marketing.

      • nakedChimp

        No, ‘late adopters’ come before that group he belongs to..
        His bunch is called either ‘deniers’ or ‘grumpy old man’.
        😉

      • JenniWest

        Mark, if you are suggesting that solar and wind will magically become as good as baseload power, you are incorrect. There is nothing in the pipeline, technology wise, that can make up for wind and solar’s inherent drawbacks. No amount of denial on the part of greens can change that. And no amount of money that exists in a real economy to make it happen even if you totally ignore the facts.

        If you are suggesting the truth, that solar and wind suck so bad that it’s revealing how unscientific the average person is, then I apologize.

        • nakedChimp

          nuclear mouthpieces:
          JenniWest
          Ike Bottema
          Joffan
          greenthinker2012

          Have fun witnessing the demise of your pimp, guys.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “There is nothing in the pipeline, technology wise, that can make up for wind and solar’s inherent drawbacks.”

          The only ‘drawback’ for wind and solar is that they do not produce electricity 24/365. We have two technologies right now that fill in the gaps to give us electricity 24/365.

          The first, and least expensive is natural gas. Gas turbines are very dispatchable and CCNG plants are about as cheap as solar. The downsides of NG are CO2 emissions, fracking and the lack of a long term supply.

          Second, more expensive but clean pump-up hydro storage. The same technology we’ve been using for 50 years to redistribute nuclear electricity from low demand to higher demand markets.

          Then there’s a new generation of battery storage making its way out of the lab and to the grid. We’re already using chemical batteries for short term storage and they should provide affordable storage for 2-3 days. We’re also installing flow batteries which have the promise of storing energy affordably for longer time spans of low wind/solar input.

    • onesecond

      You should put all your pension savings in coal funds then. 😀 Lol

      • JenniWest

        Your ignorance about power is showing if you think the only viable power we have besides solar is coal. Or you were trying to be snarky. Either way, you fail.

        • onesecond

          I should check my replies more often :D.
          You are hilarious, you and your cult riding a dead expensive dangerous horse. All of your assumptions are wrong:
          1) It is anything but costly, beats nuclear and coal easily even without externalities on a cent/kWh basis.
          2) Is intermittent only when not coupled with storage which is as stupid as looking at only half a picture
          3) Is extremely less toxic than the production of alternate technologies like nuclear plants with their fuel or coal plants with their fuel.
          4) Is extremely durable with decades of useful lifetime with minimal maintenance.
          5) Due to its decentralized nature and high predictability it needs less backup than gigantic nuclear plants which fail at random from time to time.
          6) It wins hands down on any math that accounts for all the costs and doesn’t conveniently forget about the others only because some people managed to hide the true cost deep in other taxpayer expenses.
          But of course you either know all of this and you are deliberately misleading or you are simply delusional.

  • Matthew Schilling

    Most of the spectacular improvement in solar cost and efficiency since 1975 ought to be totally ignored, since solar started out ridiculously, laughably, outrageously expensive and inefficient. In fact, anyone using 1975 as a baseline is lying with statistics. It is fraudulent. Only a solar fanboy would doubt that. I’m sure Gates discounts 90% of the improvements since 1975, since those improvements were required for solar to even be allowed in the discussion.
    Having said that, it is patently obvious solar has great potential. Our biosphere runs on solar. Biology, though, has photosynthesis, and, therefore, a wonderful way to store solar energy. We currently lack an analog to that.

    • JamesWimberley

      “In fact, anyone using 1975 as a baseline is lying with statistics.” Why? How much did a mobile (satellite) phone cost in 1980? Or a computer capable of running a spreadsheet in 1970? The longer the baseline, the more accurate the estimate of the learning rate.

      • john

        True my first computer $3150 no software and 8 kbs memory.
        That is like $16000 in today’s money so the figures stack up.
        My first quote for a 5 Kw system $54,000 now they roll out for $5,000
        Which ever way it is looked at the price has just kept going down and the efficiency has kept rising.
        Getting large systems to deliver power at the sub $40 a MWh is very hard to match.

      • Matthew Schilling

        A satellite phone was a niche product, at best in 1980. Just as I said in my comment, it wasn’t until the capability/price ratio had improved by orders of magnitude did cell phones become a consumer device. The only thing like a spreadsheet in 1970 was on a mainframe – another perfect example of something waiting for massive improvement in power/price. Moore’s Law is the unsung technological miracle of our age. And, it had a direct impact on spreadsheets and cell phones, nowhere near as direct an impact on solar power.
        Alternative energy still has to face the daunting task of trying to measure up to the power, cost, and utility of a gallon of gasoline. It now sells for less than water, yet can propel four adults, with luggage, 25-35 miles in complete comfort.
        Solar awaits storage, and another halving of the power/price ratio.

  • Miles Harding

    Bill gates is way off on his energy miracle. This seems a result of a typical supply-side mentality – “if only it were cheap enough, we could have all we want”.

    My following comment is also applicable to the pernicious ways of the coal lobby, as it attempts to sell (coal fired) electricity to unplugged polulations, seeking a highly profitable coal fired equivalent to bill gates’ energy miracle.

    Both of these are about a (greatly) increased supply of energy, but ignore the use of energy as an enabler of consumption.

    While we have an economic system that is dependent on (exponentially) increasing consumption, we are (increasingly) rapidly approaching the ruinous inflexion points discussed in the 1972 edition of the Limits To Growth and reinforced at the 40th anniversary update symposium held in 2012 at the Smithsonian.
    Deep and fundamental changes to our economies and consumption will be rapidly forced upon us when this occurs.

    This makes powering the thirld world with two dollar solar lights the only viable option.

    As a corollary, it also indicates that we must address our first world energy issues with a combination of deep reduction of consumption, as well as displacement of fossil fuels by increased use of renewables. Decreased consumption makes the task of switching to sustaiable energy a lot easier.

  • Sam Gilman

    The success or otherwise of solar can’t be measured in capacity additions unless you are working in the solar industry. It has to be measured in two other ways:

    1) Output. This levels the playing field. Wind has a higher capacity factor, so requires less additional capacity. If one looks at increases in wind output, they are much bigger than solar output. Wind is clearly a more successful low carbon technology.

    2) Grid penetration rate. This is how much of the grid is reliant on solar. This metric matters because ultimately it’s how much of the economy can be decarbonised using solar, and because solar is intermittent: supply is determined by weather and time of day/year rather than demand. Again, wind outstrips solar by a healthy margin in most places. Wind has a higher capacity factor and is not limited to daytime production thus does not outstrip demand so easily.

    Intermittency and grid penetration matter because there is increasing evidence of limits to intermittent integration, particularly in markets. Even Craig Morris, a cheerleader for the Energiewende, has taken on board these issues. The price is falling, but the value falls with increased penetration too.

    http://energytransition.de/2015/09/happy-with-25-percent-wind-and-solar-the-case-of-italy-and-spain/

    http://energytransition.de/2015/07/no-business-case-for-lots-of-wind-and-solar/

    So looking at capacity additions is misleading, and looking at prices alone is not enough to understand how far solar might expand.

  • Marcus

    yes, less than a dollar per watt on my roof

  • JenniWester

    RenewEconomy blocks anyone who posts facts about power generation…Every single person I know who has ever posted here and not toed the renewables line has been kicked out. What does that say for their integrity? Afraid of the truth? I wonder how much they are lining their pockets with renewable $$?

    Onesecond: Making up facts is par for the course with solar fans. “Popularity” works with the Kardashians. It doesn’t work when it’s the only factor being considered in how we generate power. Solar is nothing but popular.

    Nothing beats coal in cost per tw.hr so that is why people worldwide are still building it despite the fact that it helps kill 7 million people a year worldwide. Coal is cheap, reliable, 24/7/365 power. But power is critical and people want REAL power. Ask India why they kicked Greenpeace out of their nation? Among other reasons, because India is not stupid and were not about to settle for the garbage power solar and wind that Greenpeace was shoving down their throats. So India is building nuclear. And coal.

    Nuclear is tied with hydro for cheapest per Tw.hr of the clean forms of power.

    Solar even NEEDING a backup is utterly laughable, a total step back in time and a HUGE drawback that everyone ignores. All the costs of commercial solar are given without those backup costs even being factored in. Ivanpah is basically a natural gas plant that dabbles in solar and WE GOT OUR TAX DOLLARS RAPED while its builders lied about it being a “solar plant.” Which is why solar and wind are really lining the pockets of fossil fuel interest.

    And since when are batteries green? And since when is natural gas green? Your choice of solar is toxic enough, then the back ups to make them function are even worse!!

    There is actually no power less toxic than nuclear. It is the cleanest, greenest, least resource intensive, longest lived (only has to be built once for every 3 times solar is built and the manufacturers say it lasts on average 25 years, that’s not only my “opinion”) nuclear is the most reliable power we have. Nuclear is the only power form that has a closed loop on its byproducts. Everything else goes to the landfill.

    Go ahead and build craptastic solar plants so they can load follow for NUCLEAR. Go ahead and build huge battery structures so they can load follow for NUCLEAR. Because it is the BEST. In every single way power is judged.

    But quit choosing the worst of the worst and then having to build natural gas to basically replace it 20 hours a day. We kind of like our lights ON.