Carbon crash, solar dawn: Deutsche Bank on why solar has already won | RenewEconomy

Carbon crash, solar dawn: Deutsche Bank on why solar has already won

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Deutsche Bank says solar market is massive, will generate $5 trillion in revenue by 2030. It describes solar plus storage as next the killer app, and says even in India will be 25% solar by 2022.

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Deutsche Bank says solar market is massive, will generate $5 trillion in revenue by 2030. It describes solar plus storage as next the killer app, and says even in India there will be 25% solar by 2022.


Deutsche Bank has produced another major report that suggests solar will become the dominant electricity source around the world as it beats conventional fuels, generates $5 trillion in revenue over the next 15 years, and displaces large amounts of fossil fuels.

In a detailed, 175-page report, the Deutsche analysts led by Vishal Shah say the market potential for solar is massive. Even now, with 130GW of solar installed, it accounts for just 1 per cent of the 6,000GW, or $2 trillion electricity market (that is an annual figure).

But by 2030, the solar market will increase 10-fold, as more than 100 million customers are added, and solar’s share of the electricity market jumps to 10 per cent. By 2050, it suggests, solar’s share will be 30 per cent of the market, and developing markets will see the greatest growth.

“Over the next 5-10 years, we expect new business models to generate a significant amount of economic and shareholder value,” the analysts write in the report. Within three years, the economics of solar will take over from policy drivers (subsidies),

Their predictions are underpinned by several observations. The first is that solar is at grid parity in more than half of all countries, and within two years will be at parity in around 80 per cent of countries. And at a cost of just 8c/kWh to 13c/kWh, it is up to 40 per cent below the retail price of electricity in many markets. In some countries, such as Australia, it is less than half the retail price.

The case for solar will be boosted by the emergence of cost-competitive storage, which Deutsche describes as the “next killer app” because it will overcome difficulties in either accessing the grid or net metering policies. “We believe reduction(a) in solar storage costs could act as a significant catalyst for global solar adoption, particularly in high electricity markets such as Europe,” it writes.

“As we look out over the next 5 years, we believe the industry is set to experience the final piece of cost reduction – customer acquisition costs for distributed generation are set to decline by more than half as customer awareness increases, soft costs come down and more supportive policies are announced.

“While the outlook for small scale distributed solar generation looks promising, we remain equally optimistic over the prospects of commercial and utility scale solar markets.

At utility scale, parity is also drawing near. Just four years ago, the ratio of coal-based wholesale electricity to solar electricity cost was 7:1. Now, says Deutsche Bank, this ratio is now less than 2:1 and it could likely approach 1:1 over the next 12-18 months. In some markets, it already is cheaper. And in India, that ratio could fall to 1:1 this year, with major ramifications for coal projects such as those in the Galilee Basin.

deutsche solar rise

“We believe utility-scale solar demand is set to accelerate in both the US and emerging markets due to a combination of supportive policies and ongoing solar electricity cost reduction. We remain particularly optimistic over growth prospects in China, India, Middle East, South Africa and South America.”

The Deutsche Bank report follows recent reports such as that by Agora Energiewende, which found that solar could fall below 2c/kWh by 2050. This week, the Abu Dhabi National Bank said that based on recent solar prices, even an oil price of $US10/barrel could not compete with the technology.

Gas needed a price of less than $5mmmbtu to compete, and that wasn’t happening anywhere. Last month, fossil fuel consultancy Wood McKenzie said solar farms were cheaper and displacing planned gas-fired generators in the US, despite the low cost of gas in that country.

Still, Deutsche Bank reported that while it is becoming increasingly clear that solar is now competitive with conventional electricity generation in many global markets, there is still some policy uncertainty that could impact investor sentiment and overall supply/demand fundamentals.

“That said, we believe the dependence on subsidies has decreased significantly compared to a few years ago and demand drivers are also increasingly more diverse as well as sustainable.

“We expect solar sector’s dependence on subsidies to gradually decrease over time, policy outlook to become more supportive and economics to take over politics over the next 3 years.”

Deutsche Bank said that despite the 30 per cent compound annual growth over the past 20 years, the solar industry is still roughly 1 per cent of the 6,000GW or $2 trillion electricity market.

“Over the next 20 years, we expect the electricity market to double to $US4 trillion and expect the solar industry to increase by a factor of 10. During this timeframe, the solar industry is expected to generate $5 trillion of cumulative revenue.

“By the year 2050, we expect global solar penetration rates to increase to 30%. We also see solar penetration rates increasing more rapidly in developing economies. India for example has recently announced targets to reach 100GW of solar capacity by 2022.”

If that occurred, solar would account for 25 per cent of total capacity in India. “We believe the opportunity would be even bigger if companies start adding services to the solar PV offering and venture into adjacent markets such as wind and hydro.”

Another two of the big markets are in the Middle East and central and south America. There, solar is already at grid parity in the wholesale market, And in areas where there is no grid, then solar is the obvious option.

“Even today, (with about) 20% of the world’s population does not have access to grid electricity,” it notes. “Due to declining costs and ability to deploy the technology without really developing the grid, we expect policy makers in developing countries to proactively promote solar .”

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  1. john 6 years ago

    This report underlines a governments responsibility to ensure that it fosters the best outcomes for the constituents.
    Any government that looses sight of the underlying duty to be able to foster the best outcomes looses the confidence of the voters.
    Without a doubt RE is going to be the growth industry going forward just like sail was replace by steam and steam is going to be replace by the ultimate energy source of both sail and steam, we are witness to a change in the energy mix.
    As with any change in structure there will be those who prosper and those who hold on to the bitter end and ultimately suffer a painful demise.
    This need not happen with foresight and good planning both the old and the emerging can be guided and helped to make the transition with benefits to all.
    No amount of sloganeering will detract from the fact that a new age of energy is on its way.
    I hope our leaders can grasp this and lead us to a good outcome without needless harm to companies and to the constituents in general.

  2. Ian 6 years ago

    7.3 billion people, 6000GW market for electricity, that’s only 820 W per person! A lot of work needs to be done, a lot of work.

    • John Klein 6 years ago

      What’s wrong with 820W/person? That’s enough to power a computer (200W), cell phone, lighting (20W), and a household of 5 people can use their spare wattage to power refrigeration and cooking.
      820W comes from roughly 3 solar panels these days (255W each).

      • Sparafucile 6 years ago

        No — 820W is the 24 hr average, which requires 18 of those solar panels you describe, to generate the needed power.

      • georgemitchell2015 6 years ago

        You should try it and see if it is possible.
        You will find your panels will produce their peak amount for only a few hours per day and only on sunny days.
        I do encourage you to try even a small solar panel and see what you can power. Also buy a small battery to store the peak power.
        It is quite educational and will give you a feel for the reality of solar in your area.

        • John Klein 6 years ago

          I am trying it. I’ll have stats on the Internet.
          I’m from Regina, which is in the top 5 cities in the world for solar potential.

    • TCFlood 6 years ago

      Average electric power consumption in the US is close to 1.45 kW per person.

    • John Saint-Smith 6 years ago

      Most of the power currently used by people in the developed world, (US 1.45kw per person) is wasted on inefficient technologies. 820w would be 100 times as much as many people have today. Rather than base our assumptions on what the existing ‘wealthy and wasteful’ nations blessed with cheap polluting energy have done in the past, lets look at how much more we could do with a lot less in the future.
      We have a planet to save!

    • Jan Veselý 6 years ago

      820 W whole year = 7.2 MWh. That is huge consumption.

  3. Dr. A. Cannara 6 years ago

    Too bad solar panels don’t deliver “utility scale” power — they need about (1-capacity-factor) backup, via something else — usually gas or coal (as in Germany). Thus, trying to fib about solar ‘farming’ is not nice. An inconvenient truth.

    Local solar is great, so is nuclear, since they are the closest the being truly ‘renewable’.

    • patb2009 6 years ago

      Dr A Cannara leaves off one critical measure. Cost.
      Each Reactor at Hinckley will cost over 8 billion pounds. That’s over 5 pounds/watt. $7.50/watt. The PPA is locking in at 150 pounds/ MWH.

      Wind in Scotland is coming in at 33% that cost. That’s what’s killing nukes and coal. Cheap renewables.

      • Andrew Woodroffe 6 years ago

        He also leaves off the impact of mining uranium and, of course, disposal of radioactive material. Replacing the pumping of CO2 into the atmosphere with the piling up of radioactive waste, somewhere, is hardly progress. As for windfarms, while they do tend to need a lot of room, their actual footprint is tiny and the land between them tends to be used as before, running sheep, dairy cows, wheat, barley, whatever.

        Nuclear also needs back up. Finally, how is uranium renewable?

        • Michael Mann 6 years ago

          Except the huge amounts of CO2 and pollutants are spewed into the environment, while the small volume of radioactive waste is contained and monitored. I would say that is a vast improvement.

        • georgemitchell2015 6 years ago

          The amount of Uranium and Thorium on Earth could power all of humanity for tens of thousands of years. For me that is pretty good. But yes, you are technically correct. it is not “renewable” (eye roll)

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Thorium reactors? How much for a 100MW thorium reactor and when can you install and have operational by? You realise climate scientist Micheal Mann is now saying we will tip 2ºC of warming in 2036. Further more if you take away the 50% cooling to warming of aerosols coal plants are presently spewing out that takes us back to 2018 for 2ºC of warming. Can you have it done by say 2020. Potsdam Institute says Australia and USA and other historically high emitters need to be at less than zero net emissions by 2020 — the critical decade it was called before we got into it.

      • Dr. A. Cannara 6 years ago

        Took the bait! The Hinkley plant, at $0.10/kWHr customer charge will generate >$2.5 billion/year revenue. It costs ~$100,000,000/year to operate each reactor. So revenues, at 1/3 the German citizens’ electric rate, will be >$2B/year. Hinckley will pay itself off in a few years and then run for decades, 24/7, pumping out thousands of Benjamins of clean electricity per hour.

        Same for the other fave anti-nukes’ whippping boy — the Finnish reactors coming on in 2017.

        No need for gas/coal backup of PatB’s windmills about 1/3 the time or more. No need for all that coal needed to build all those windmills (you do know how steel is made, eh PatB?). No need to waste beautiful Scottish scenery or birds (an inconvenient truth, I know).

        Wind, as the weakest form of energy, shows itself in the pic attached — what Germany got in last years (the spikes) for all it spent (top line), with the light blue ‘sea’ in between being filled by coal, lignite, garbage burning — all those things that forced Germany above its original emissions agreements.

        Reality for windmills is becoming more stark every day… (deaths & injuries) (Ireland)
        (hard to watch)

        But those subsidies from the many to the few make it all worthwhile, eh PatB? Love that overpriced PPA, eh?
        Never met a wind supporter who’s a true environmentalist.

        • Giles 6 years ago

          Er, you took the ball and ran straight into a brick wall.
          The contract for Hinkley is 14c/kWh in its first year, not 10c/kwh, rising with inflation each year till it gets to around 45c/kWh. That is a wholesale price. The german wholesale price is less than 4c/kWh. You are comparing apples with cement mixers by comparing retail and wholesale rates.
          And ff, as you say, it will make so much money and pay itself off within a few years, why does it need a contract that requires this tariff for 35 years? Why are they still yet to commit. Why did the only publicly owned firm, Centrica, withdraw because it said nuclear was too costly and too risky? Answer, because your calculations are nonsense.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Ouch. One more nuclear salesman with a big name and no blankets bites the dust.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Also those Finish reactors the Cannara talks about are over time and over budget by double. We wouldn’t even have time to launch a nuclear industry in this country even if it were economical and as safe as RE.

            Studies and experience in Germany and Denmark have shown that up to 40% penetration of national grid by RE can occur before significant changes to the grid infrastructure are required. SolarCST and other forms of storage can provide all the frequency harmonisation we need without FF to do it.

          • Dr. A. Cannara 6 years ago

            Alastair, I used the over-budget numbers for the Finn nukes, remember?

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Yes ok, so that leaves nukes too expensive and too slow to deploy to have any meaning impact on Australia’s emissions problem. Agreed?

          • georgemitchell2015 6 years ago

            Why are nukes slow to deploy?
            Is there some rule that dictates that only one plant can be built at a time?
            France managed to decarbonize their electricity production in about a decade. Ontario Canada managed to shut all their coal plants by using nuclear. It is possible.
            Are Australians less intelligent than the French?
            Less industrious?
            I think Australia could follow France’s example if they wanted. Except for the giant coal lobby.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Interesting you mention France, they are not decarbonised they import coal powered energy from Germany. That’s actually where some of the unabbated coal generation in Germany is being used. Also their current leadership is looking to replace nuclear power plants with solar and want an EU wide solar consortium to drop the prices to less than half current module price and up the volume by a factors of ten. Regain the market that Germany once led in back from China is their thinking. The French nuclear plants will need replacing as they reach end of life and who knows how popular it will remain in France amongst population if accidents continue to plague nuclear power. The decommissioning will be a big cost on it’s own without the massive cost of new nuclear plants. Nuclear is not a good match for grids with high penetrations of renewables which need ramping/dispatch power not 60% capacity factor with long ramps.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            Hi Alastair
            France may import some power from Germany but the relevant metric is the CO2 emissions of each country. France puts out only one fifth the CO2 as Germany.
            I would be interested to have you answer George’s questions.
            Why is nuclear too slow to deploy?
            Is there a rule that requires only one plant to be built at one time, or can a country build multiple plants in parallel?
            I agree that the unpredictability of renewables presents large challenges to grid stability.
            If the only way to compensate for this unpredictability is to burn natural gas then I would advocate abolishing renewables instead of twisting the logic to somehow blame nuclear power for renewables’ shortcomings.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            No greenthinker2012 (so called) no rules that say that. It’s just that the nuclear industry has continually over promised and under delivered on it’s potential to solve mankind’s energy needs. Pro-nuclear advocates love to point the stick at Greenies as if they have slowed it’s progress, but France’s commitment to 100% nuclear power supplying all her energy needs right back in the 70s till now is proof of the fact that even with the political will it’s just not up to the task. These days French people are 50/50 on nuclear power and most support the reduction of dependance on nuclear for electricity generation.


            You are wrong, wind and solar, while being variable sources of energy, are very predicable. But most national grids can handle up to 40% of penetration by RE sources with little major infrastructure spending on the grids. As per Germany and South Australia both pushing past 30%. In fact imagine what Australia’s gold plating would be like without solarPV eating the midday demand peak!

            Wind and solar are also quite complimentary —wind peaks at night and I don’t need to tell you when solar peaks. SolarCST with storage, chemical storage and pumped hydro (off river) are all good solutions for frequency harmonisation and network scale storage. Greater energy independence by consumers will also reduce the peaks. Smart grids and EE will also play a role.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            France is not abandoning nuclear power. You heard that from a propaganda site. They are interested in changing the balance to include more renewables – which is great. They have the luxury of altering their low CO2 mix. But their long-term plan is 50% nuclear. Segolene Royale has called for further nuclear plant construction.


            To make this about nuclear versus renewables is silly. Your argument about the difficulty of matching intermittents to nuclear is based on the presumption that we cannot solve the storage problem. If intermittents continue to be so spiky (which is what large scale storage would solve), then they’re not going to be scalable to the extent that we need. We can’t build hydro everywhere to manage them.

            Decarbonisation is a more difficult problem than you are treating it as.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Sam you are putting words in my mouth to make an overblown argument for nuclear power. I appreciate your passion, but don’t misrepresent what I am saying, please. Furthermore you making some baseless assertions about the potential grid penetration for renewables both with and without storage.

            I didn’t say France is abandoning nukes although I wouldn’t bet against that happening inside the next decade as RE deployment continues its extraordinary slide down the respective cost curves and storage breakthroughs continue to emerge. Some are saying 2c/kWh for solar and not much more for wind.

            Your link to comments by the French Energy Minister is the first assertion from the French government of a future for nuclear power beyond current deployment. It even says so in the first line of your article! Counter that with his President wanting an EU wide ‘Airbus’ style solarPV consortium to increase production to compete with SE Asian factories and so reduce costs by multiple halvings (Swanston’s Law) and increase cell efficiencies: for rooftop and CPV cells.

            Also it’s clear the French PM François Hollande would like to do more transitioning away from nuclear than 75%—>50% but is hamstrung by France over-dependance on it as an electrical supplier and the political and economic levers the industry is capable of pulling in self-defence. Have a read of these two articles:


            The second link is particularly interesting and the comment which cites the 2012 data for total energy (not just electrical generation) supply by nuclear for France at just 17% with 75% of the energy industry, while RE in Germany in the same year already at 12.4% of total energy consumption.

            I don’t know why you say my point regarding the mismatch of variable (but predictable) renewable generation to inflexible nuclear generation is silly. Much smarter people than me have explained why this is so. Nuclear is very slow to ramp up and down so as ‘network storage’ and in frequency harmonising it’s not particularly useful.

            “Apart from the risks associated with this technology, nuclear power plants cannot be readily ramped up and down. As a result, they are not suitable as standby power plants for backing up renewables.”

            Much more suitable for dispatch energy in a 100% RE scenario is CST with storage, at present molten salts storage has the most deployment, but perhaps advances in super-critical steam by CSIRO will bare fruit as steam can also be stored under pressure.

            Variability of wind and solar does present challenges but oft times they are overstated by proponents of nukes. Many national grids can take up to 40% RE without major grid restructuring as has been found in Germany and South Australia. One state in Germany is running at 150% RE (mainly wind) so is exporting to Scandinavia which can supply storage because Norway has a lot of hydro which can become pumped hydro if required (the cheapest storage option by far for utility scale storage today). Solar CST with storage is also sailing down the cost curve the more it is deployed and in Chile is going in on price performance alone without any government support whatsoever. In USA it’s bidding into the profitable evening shoulder market for Las Vegas. Australia and Antarctica are the only contents on Earth without CST with storage being built. Against that nukes need a wealth of long term government support in UK just to build two plants.

            There have been no fewer than three detail studies into what a 100% RE grid looks like in Australia and none of them present engineering challenges that are not overcome with off-the-shelf current day RE and Energy Efficiency technologies. The latest was by the ultra-conservative AEMO who keep the lights on 99.98% of the time in most of Australia managing the wholesale bidding market. In the future we will no doubt see rapid improvements in chemical storage also to perform frequency harmonising and load balancing, plus the emergence of smart networks and community networks. Old school centralised nukes have even bigger problems in this world. I’m confident we will never see nuclear power in it’s current form built in Australia. It would need to get down to a container sized plant or smaller and have costs cheaper than solarPV with storage which are still falling rapidly to even have a hope.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            It’s also interesting that you interpret the end-of-life for 33% of France’s nuclear plant assets as an endorsement of nuclear. Given how dependant they are on nuclear power to meet electrical demand, it more closely resembles abandoning their long stated goal of ‘100% electricity — 100% nuclear’ for newer, safer, superior technologies. But hey, glass half full, right?!

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Alastair, you appear to have deliberately chosen to falsify my position. Please don’t do that.

            My position is that decarbonisation is the primary goal. (I’m not convinced that yours is) Nowhere have I ever said anything about nuclear being the only acceptable technology – you’re making things up even to imply that.

            If France has already largely decarbonised I frankly don’t give a flying intercourse if they want to alter their mix of low carbon energies.

            On the other hand, if you want to point to France and say “look, that’s evidence we can drop fossil fuels without nuclear”, then pointing out your logic is wrong is not some huge nuclear marketing gambit. I have zero personal interests in anything to do with this topic. It’s just facing the facts.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Where did I point to France and say “you can drop FF without nuclear because France”?!

            I’m saying France is turning it’s back on nuclear even with pressing climate action needs. So presumably, despite their national investment in nuclear technology and the lock-in effect such choices tend to have on a body politic (c.f. the power of the Coalocracy in Australia) Frances sees renewables as more cost effective and publicly acceptable. The poster child for nuclear is turning her back on the industry despite how hard that will be politically and economically. Must make a nuclear fan-boy weep.

            You enthusiasm for new-build nuclear is entirely irrational, however understandable our loyalties to dreams and technological ideals are. I’m agnostic, if wave power becomes cost competitive in remote locations then build it, other wise just fund pilot studies until we can decide if can reach potential or not. If geo-thermal gets it’s costs down considerably then lets look at it. IF solarPV with storage is cheaper at scale than CST with salts or steam storage then favour that. Same for any other RE tech. Till then lots of wind, lots distributed solarPV, lots of solarPV & solarCST with storage and more utility scale storage/harmonising when we get to RE saturation point on the grid.

            Forget nuclear, it’s yesterdays nightmare.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            To a rational person, a country planning to use substantial amounts of technology X in the future is not a sign that the country has “turned its back” on technology X.

            The point here is not to say “isn’t nuclear great!” The point here is how a rational discussion of future energy policy is incredibly difficult with people who are prepared to say that day is night if it is demanded by their ideology.

          • Peter Thomson 6 years ago

            Running at 80% capacity factor (generous – UK nuclear plants have historically achieved ~62%), Hinkley C will generate 22,425,600 MWh per year. Using $0.10/kWh generates revenues of $2.25Bn/yr, or £1.15Bn/yr. This barely covers the the interest on the construction costs of £24.5Bn, never mind ‘paying off the construction cost in a few years’, or even providing a return to investors.

            That £24.5Bn construction cost is only an estimate prior to construction start by the way – the same EPR technology plant under construction in Finland (Olkiluoto Unit 3) is currently eight years late and nearly three times over budget, while the one in France (Flamanville Unit 3) is five years late and 2.5x over budget.

            The actual agreed strike price contract for Hinkley C is £92.5/MWh, index-linked to rise in line with inflation over the whole of the 35 year contract. And the price is index-linked during construction too, so the actual price paid for the first electricity delivered in 2023 will likely be much higher than this. Liberium Capital said that the strike price was ‘economically insane’, making Hinkley C ‘the most expensive power station in the world’.

            Meanwhile, strike prices for onshore wind and solar projects in the recent CfD awards are already lower than for Hinkley C. They will remain flat for the life of the projects, and will be lower still for future projects. Quite simply, nuclear power never has, and still does not, live up to its oft-touted image as a cheap energy source.

          • Dr. A. Cannara 6 years ago

            Peter, it’s really not nice to fib to the unsuspecting. Are you an engineer of any kind>? DO you know what Capacity factor means for any energy sources? Do you know what wind’s CF has been in the best EURO regions?

            Apparently not, because you’d then have to add in the grid-management and backup-power costs & emissions from the fact that wind in the region falls far short of even your worst estimates for Hinckley.

            At least the Germans have been honest about why their wind and why Irish wind, etc. forces other sources from nuclear through coal to be depended upon on short notice. The pics are German reporting on how tgheir grid-manageent costs have increased exponentially as their wind has rolled out (or rolled over) and how little of their investment in capacity has actually been realized in delivered energy (graph is 2014).

            In any case, your attempts to decry nuclear, which generates clean power at far higher capacity factors than wind or solar, and for decades longer, while receiving no carbon or rate subsidies, is silly. Germans would like their nukes back, & there’s already a market in Germany to buy Swiss nuke power.

            So, it seems you’re a wind salesman. I’ve yet to meet a wind promoter who’s a real environmentalist.

            The inconvenient truth for folks like you is that more and more real environmentalists are advocating increased nuke power…
   (Dalai Lama!)
            Former Aussie anti-nuke…

            So go thll folks like Jaim Hansen or Nobellists like Richter, Blix, Rubbia, Helm… they’re dumb, Peter.

            Don’t bother with me, I’ve no connection to the nuclear “industry”, whatever that is. I’m just an engineer & statistician & educator who happens to be an honest environmentalist.

          • Peter Thomson 6 years ago

            Hi Dr. A,
            Wow! So many questions! Ok, let’s go…

            “Peter, it’s really not nice to fib to the unsuspecting.”
            So what’s my fib? Where am I lying? Can you be specific please? If I am
            incorrect anywhere I am more than happy to admit my error and correct

            Hmm fibbing – like suggesting Hinkley C can produce electricity at A$0.10c/kWh – suggesting that Hinkley C cab ‘pay itself off in a few years’ when it most patently cannot? Can I suggest you examine the log in your own eye, etc, etc?

            “Are you an
            engineer of any kind>?”
            Yes, I’m an electrical/electronic engineer with a masters in sustainable energy.

            “DO you know what Capacity factor means for
            any energy sources?”

            “Do you know what wind’s CF has been in the best
            EURO regions?”
            Well the best in Europe is Burradale Windfarm in the Shetland Isles. It has achieved an average CF of 52% per year since commissioning in 2000. It was 57.9% in 2005, but that’s a world record – I think you’re more interested in the typical CF’s for inshore wind which range around 21-25% best-case. For offshore, the southern end of the North Sea is supposed to be best (offshore winds are more consistent and stronger than onshore) but has not been exploited so far. That will change in the next few years with the East Anglia offshore farm now scheduled for construction.

            “So, it seems you’re a wind salesman.”
            No, I am not a wind salesman. I don’t work in the renewables industry. I have formally studied it though, so I do know something about wind power, as well as solar, solar thermal, geothermal, wave, tidal, geothermal, biomass, biofuel, etc. Why did study it? Concern about the future our children and grandchildren are facing, and a desire to try to influence the direction of world events.

            “The inconvenient truth for folks like you is that more and more real environmentalists are advocating increased nuke power…”
            …All your links, thank you…

            Yes, I am quite aware of this view. I also have the book ‘Powering the future’ by Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin, where he strongly advocates nuclear as a major part of the post-FF energy supply. Some parts of his book I agree with, some I don’t (such as burning all the animal dung to generate energy – much better to use it as fertiliser for food production).

            I am also aware of the work of Prof. Derek Abbott at Adelaide University however, who showed that nuclear power does not scale to supply global energy needs. My personal view is that nuclear is an important part of the energy mix, but I would prefer to see thorium reactors developed as the fuel of choice. Governments don’t though, because they can’t get their nuclear weapons material from them.

            ” I’ve yet to meet a wind promoter who’s a real environmentalist.”
            Not sure what you mean – how do you define a ‘real environmentalist’?

          • georgemitchell2015 6 years ago

            Your bias is showing.
            Why do you pick low capacity factors from the oldest plants and then call it generous? In the USA nuclear plants regularly run at capacity factors around 95%.
            You then say that for nuclear costs will continue to rise, even though first of a kind plants like in Finland historically show that the first is expensive and the next plant built is cheaper and the next cheaper.
            You then assume that wind projects will become cheaper.
            Why do you skew the playing field?

          • Peter Thomson 6 years ago

            Hi George,
            Capacity Factors: I take your point, US reactors have indeed been doing much better than UK, with annual capacity factors running around 90%:

            So I really should be using best-practice here. So as not to quibble over numbers, if I recalculate Hinkley C using 100% Capacity Factor and the A$0.10/kWh as proposed by Dr. A., we get annual revenue of A$2,804,800,000/yr, or £1,431,020,408/yr with today’s rate on

            But whether you are making £1.15Bn/yr or £1.43Bn/yr doesn’t change my point – this income barely covers the cost of the interest on the £24.5Bn construction costs, it certainly doesn’t ‘pay off the cost of construction in a few years’ as Dr. A asserts.

            Nuclear Costs: I didn’t say nuclear [construction] costs would rise, I said that the ‘price of electricity’ from Hinkley would rise. This is because under the contract for difference PPA agreed with the UK Government, the strike price will rise in line with inflation – it is index-linked. This is the ‘economically insane’ part:
            The £24.5Bn construction cost estimate is not mine either BTW:
            Some interesting background on nuclear costs vs. budgets here too, including for EPR:

            Wind Projects Costs: I’m not assuming that wind projects will become cheaper, it is a well understood and recognised trend in the industry. NREL predict LCOE for wind to fall by ~25% between 2012 and 2030:

            Hope this helps.

          • georgemitchell2015 6 years ago

            If we refuse to use a proven, scaleable, low-CO2 power source like nuclear to help stop climate change because we are not making enough interest on the loans, we as a species are too stupid to deserve survival.

          • Peter Thomson 6 years ago

            Scalability – that is part of the problem actually. Nuclear doesn’t scale to meet global energy needs, as demonstrated by Prof Abbott in his paper: “Keeping the energy debate clean: How do we supply the world’s energy needs?”; Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 98, no. 1, Jan 2010, pp. 42-66.

            I am not anti-nuclear, it has it’s place and its uses; but it is not the low-cost panacea to all our energy problems that nuclear proponents like to claim it is. I just happen to believe we can build a zero-carbon post-fossil fuel energy supply system with renewable technology that does scale to meet future global energy needs, without resorting to very large-scale nuclear and all its attendant risks.

            Species stupidity? How stupid are we to spend forty years denying that we are having a detrimental effect on the atmosphere, so some people can make very large profits out of fossil fuels? How stupid are we to continue relying on finite FF energy supplies, that are going to run out just when we need them most – when population peaks at the end off this century – just so that some people can continue making very, very large profits out of fossil fuels? How stupid are we to subsidise the fossil fuel industry to the tune of US$500Bn a year to locate new fossil fuel reserves that we know we can’t afford to burn?
            Maybe we are too stupid to deserve survival.

          • Matthew 6 years ago

            If we act like the only alternative to CO2 is nukes, which create problems that money can’t pay our way out of, instead of the cheaper both long and short term actual renewables, we will deserve only to trade oil and gas problems for nuke problems. And not to survive.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            The climate crisis needs swift action to reduce our CO2 emissions.
            Acting like we can omit a major tool like nuclear power and use only wind and solar because of fears stoked by exaggerated perceived problems with nuclear power is foolish.
            We need to use all tools at our disposal to fight climate change.
            We also need to make rational decisions based on facts not myths or romantic notions.
            Overcoming these entrenched inaccurate beliefs about wind, solar and nuclear power will be an immense challenge.

          • Matthew 6 years ago

            Nobody’s saying “only wind and solar” – except you right there. It’s the nukes absolutists who say “only nukes”, which is far from reality.

            Among the many real – and usually downplayed, as you are trying here – problems with nukes is how long it takes to build a plant. Not to mention how long it takes to dismantle one, and the pollution both processes create, plus the pollution from the ongoing mining and processing the fuel. Building them even as safe as they are now take many times as long as building alternatives like wind and solar.

            We have plenty of ways to slow and perhaps eventually reverse climate change that don’t increase the many other problems that nukes have brought. The “romantic notions” are the fallacies like you invoke to promote nukes.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            What I actually said is we need to use all tools at our disposal to fight climate change.
            Who said only nukes?
            The fallacy you promote is this idea that nuclear power takes too long to build. Is there some rule that dictates we only build one plant at a time? It seems that the sensible thing would be to build many plants at the same time.
            Your last paragraph seems to show it is you who is saying “only wind and solar”.
            What other ways do you propose that can make a significant impact on CO2 emissions?

            France decarbonized their electricity sector using nuclear power. Ontario shut all its coal plants by using nuclear. These are real world examples that show it can be done.
            I think climate change is urgent enough that we should not dismiss these real world examples of successfully reducing CO2 emissions.

          • Matthew 6 years ago

            Nukes absolutists say “only nukes”. It’s very common.

            Nuke plants each take far longer to build than sustainable alternatives. It also takes far longer to demolish them, and causes a lot more mess. In the time to build them more wind and solar could be using more of the precious time left better.

            “Plenty of ways” doesn’t mean “only wind and solar”. Wind and solar are great ways, but there’s also geothermal, wind and water. To say nothing of efficiency, which in NYC is already planned to cut 80% of 2005 emissions by 2050, and is on track to cut over 40% by 2030.

            France and Ontario replaced GHGs with nukes a long time ago, when there wasn’t as little time to lose. Now time is running out, and alternatives to nukes are even cheaper – even cheaper than investing in new oil/gas exploration and production. I didn’t say it couldn’t be done with nukes, just that it shouldn’t.

            I have used not a single fallacy. Yet every point you are making is a fallacy, primarly the straw man, but also including the fallacious excluded middle.

            The time, money and effort to cut Greenhouse pollution using nukes would cut a lot more using alternatives to nukes.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            I don’t agree that if we use one technology that it stops us from using another as well.
            If time is short we should use all technologies available. All technologies deployed as fast as possible is the fastest route.

          • Matthew 6 years ago

            I didn’t say using one tech stops us from using another as well. More fallacies from you.

            Since time is short we should deploy what gets us off of polluting fastest. Wasting time building a gigawatt of nukes instead of building multiple gigawatts solar and wind is wrong, just for Greenhouse purposes – nevermind the other costs and liabilities of nukes.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            Here are two fallacies of yours…

            1) You say “Nuke plants each take far longer to build than sustainable alternatives.”
            2) You say nuclear power is too expensive.

            Let’s examine the largest wind farm in the USA….The Alta Wind Energy Center and compare it to nuclear power.

            The Alta Wind Energy Center consists of the following wind turbines:

            100 X 1.5 MW (Alta I)
            50 X 3 MW (Alta II)
            50 X 3 MW (Alta III)
            34 X 3 MW (Alta IV)
            56 X 3 MW (Alta V)
            50 X 3 MW (Alta VI)
            56 X 3 MW (Pinyon Pines I)
            50 X 3 MW (Alta VIII)
            44 X 3 MW (Pinyon Pines II)

            TIME TO BUILD>>>>>>
            The first five phases of the wind farm took about a year to construct and have a combined nameplate capacity of 650 MWatts. Their capacity factor is around 30% for an average output of 195 MWatts.

            If we wanted to expand this 195 MWatts to a typical nuclear power plant equivalent of 1200 MWatts it would take 6 years to put up this many turbines.

            Modern nuclear power plants are planned for construction in five years or less (42 months for CANDU ACR-1000, 60 months from order to operation for an AP1000, 48 months from first concrete to operation for an EPR and 45 months for an ESBWR)

            Even if we add a few years for construction delays we are still in the same ballpark as the wind farm.

            Here is a wind energy association website that discusses the cost of the latest units at the Alta Wind Energy Center.


            $1.2bn for units II to V (550 Mwatts x 30% capacity factor = 165 MWatts average)

            Let’s compare this with nuclear power…
            A typical nuclear plant puts out 1200 MWatts. (7 times as much power)

            The equivalent Alta Wind Energy Centre cost to supply this power would be $8.7 billion.
            This is for the wind turbines alone and does not including the storage costs or the costs of the back up gas generators to make the wind farm power reliable.

            The costs for nuclear power differ depending on the region in which they are built .

            The IEA-NEA Nuclear Energy Roadmap 2015 estimates China’s average overnight costs of approximately USD 3,500/kW are more than a third less than that in the EU of USD 5,500/kW. Costs in the US are about 10% lower than the EU, but still 30% higher than in China and India, and 25% above South Korea.

            Let’s use the USA figure of $5 per MWatt. x 1200 MWatts = $6 Billion per 1.2 GigaWatt reactor.
            Even if we add a 40% cost overrun, we are still in the ball park of your “bare bones” no-backup Alta Wind Farm.

            So you see that even though you claim it is silly to consider nuclear power because of cost and time, the fact is that nuclear power compares favourably with the USA’s largest wind farm.
            Perhaps you can argue that some instances of wind will be cheaper or faster or that some instances of nuclear will be slower or more expensive, but the point is these low-CO2 power sources are both in the same ballpark.

            This is why I advocate using all available low-CO2 power sources such as wind and nuclear power to stop climate change.

          • Matthew 6 years ago

            The cost to build a nuke plant is considerably more per watt than the cost to build a solar plant; the gap is even bigger compared to building a wind farm. The ongoing costs for nukes are multiples of that for wind and solar, especially counting variable costs. And that’s not even counting the extra cost of loan interest because nuke plants cost so much at once, the insurance that’s subsidized by the government carrying it because no private bank will, the costs of security, the externalized subsidies of R&D and cleanup, and the costs of catastrophe.

            After you’ve gone on about how we don’t have to wait to do things one at a time, you’re now pretending that we’d have to build solar or wind farms a piece at a time instead of simultaneously to equal the same capacity in a nuke plant. There you’re trying the fallacy of having it both ways when it’s convenient to your argument.

            Also, even if I were factually wrong it wouldn’t be a fallacy, logically invalid. You’re using a word you evidently don’t understand, especially since you’re engaging in fallacies while baselessly accusing me of it. It’s one thing to be factually wrong. But you’re posting fallacies in every post, invalid logic that is insulting after a while. And you’re accusing me of that kind of irresponsible debate when I’m not. And you’re getting worse.

            That’s enough. Goodbye.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Why, if you’re using EIA figures, are you not simply citing the LCOE figures? These are the ones that are used for making comparisons, and they clearly don’t make nuclear this stunningly expensive option in the way that you do.


            The cost issue bothers me less than the feasibility issue of foregoing nuclear while holding decarbonisation as our genuine and urgent priority, but if we’re going to talk costs, we should at least use the right numbers.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying.
            Here is a simple question for me to try and understand what you are saying.
            Which is the fastest way to decarbonize?
            1) using only solar, wind, tidal, geothermal.

            2) using only nuclear power.

            3) using all of the above.

          • Giles 6 years ago

            This is garbage. You start off with capital costs per capacity, convert capacity to output in case of wind, and then take this as inflated capital cost per capacity. The installed cost of wind capacity is about one firth that of nuclear. Their output is about one third per installed capacity. Wind is still way ahead on costs of energy delivered.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            Hi Giles, No it is not garbage.

            It was a calculation to show the cost for actual power produced for wind vs nuclear.

            My ballpark calculation showed the costs were similar for wind and nuclear.

            The EIA costs also show these power sources are in the same ballpark for levelized cost per output.


            Nuclear costs $96 per MWHr
            Wind costs $80 per MWHr

            So not as you say “way ahead” and definitely not so different that there is any reason to dismiss either of these low-CO2 energy sources in our fight against climate change.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            You think that on a large wind farm they would not install more rapidly than on a small project? You think there’s a rule saying only one crane per wind farm install? Furthermore wind can be integrated into the grid in stages, unlike any nuclear power plant I’ve read about.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Matthew, what you are saying – that pretty much all of those who think we should use nuclear power want only to use nuclear power – is simply wrong. It’s false, nonsense, horse****, rubbish, a fairy tale, a load of baloney, not true.

            The position of people like James Hansen – who I think we can safely say is one of the most knowledgably concerned people regarding climate change on the planet – is that cutting GHG emissions cannot be cut rapidly enough without also using nuclear power. He’s all in favour of solar – he’s not only fit panels on his house, but on those of his children – but he’s also numerate. He can do the maths.

            To say “let’s use all the technology we can to cut GHGs. Oh, except nuclear” is to make a mixture of mistakes:
            1. You don’t take global warming seriously. We have time to work out mass storage (read the report – they’re talking about tiny amounts of storage in grid terms), we have time to transform the whole of modern society to a post energy idyll, we have time, time, time…and anyway it’s just a bit warmer, what could that possibly do to the biosphere?
            2. You think it will be really, really easy to replace all our fossil fuels with renewables everywhere really quickly. If you look into Germany’s figures, you’ll see that just under half of all their renewables growth has been biomass and hydro, which are going to struggle to expand further for simple physical limits. Solar investment has declined year on year since 2011. The only space for large gains right now appears to be wind.
            3. You think nuclear is a lot more dangerous than it actually is. I live in Japan. I am pretty well versed in what the risks are, and what the risks of building more would be.

            I am advocating a mix. The maths don’t add up if we decide to exclude nuclear power as a source of reliable low emissions baseload. It can depend partly on one’s geography, but to rule out nuclear everywhere is to put one’s head firmly in the sand about the seriousness of climate change.

            Matthew – and this is a rhetorical question – are you in denial about climate change?

          • Matthew 6 years ago

            Well, if that were what I said it might be wrong. But I didn’t. I said “nuke absolutists”. There are proponents of nukes who are not absolutists. But there are many who are absolutists.

            James Hansen we can safely say is one of the knowledgably concerned people regarding climate change. He is not however one of the most knowledgably concerned regarding nukes. It’s completely understandable that he’s right about climate change but wrong about nukes. Likewise I don’t rely on nuclear physicists to tell me about climate science.

            I take global warming seriously. I left the finance industry to dedicate my career to energy efficiency to slow and maybe reverse climate change, at a cut in pay and in class. It’s faster to deploy watts of solar and wind than watts of nukes, for each megawatt and more in parallel than single centralized nuke plants.

            I don’t think it will be “really, really easy” to replace our fossil fuels with renewables everywhere really quickly. That’s your strawman, not my words. It’s quicker to replace fossil fuel kilowatts with wind and solar than with nukes. The physical limits on wind and solar aren’t a problem for the amounts we need for our generation, not with the available deserts, rooftops and plenty of other areas for it all around the world.

            I think nukes are a lot more dangerous than solar and wind. How much more dangerous doesn’t really matter, since the danger is just more cost and liability atop the other reasons wind and solar are better than nukes. BTW, living in the country that let its nuke industry nuke the country without heads rolling, and is now going for more nukes doesn’t really lend you credibility. It’s a losing argument to authority fallacy.

            Finally, what’s the point of your last rhetorical insult? I’ve put more on the line personally, and done a lot more to help professionally, to slow or reverse climate change than you have I expect.

            Look, you’re blurting out fallacies and insults. You’re wrong on the facts too. You’ve demonstrated you’re not a serious person. Goodbye.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            That’s an incredibly defensive response to a non-abusive comment.

            You offer an either nuclear or wind/solar choice – so yes, you are indeed painting those who think we should also deploy more nuclear as nuclear absolutists.

            As for the dangers: per TWh of electricity produced, several studies have found that nuclear is easily on a par with wind and solar when it comes to human safety. The non-GHG environmental impact of deploying nuclear is clearly less than solar and wind, given that one needs a smaller quantity of materials and land. By taking advantage of the features of all three of these energy sources to me makes sense.

            It’s great that you’ve taken these career steps. It would be better if you would drop an absolutist position regarding nuclear power. Your objections don’t appear strongly based in the data.

          • Matthew 6 years ago

            OK, you’re offensive enough that I’m taking back my polite “goodbye”.

            You closed your comment with “Matthew – and this is a rhetorical question – are you in denial about climate change?”. And now you’re attacking me for being “defensive” in response to a “non-abusive comment”. Do you know that asking an explicitly rhetorical question whether someone is in denial is abusive? Mine is not a rhetorical question. Do you?

            Further, I do not offer an either/or choice between nuclear and wind/solar. Moreover, even if I were, your assertion that it means I’m thereby saying “more nukes equals nuclear absolutists” is nonsense. It doesn’t even make sense.

            The dangers of nukes include Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima, Hanford, and hundreds of other poisoned sites around the world. The dangers include nuclear weapons proliferation, major dangers that have caused actual harm in response already in Libya and Iran, during the Cuban missile crisis, every few years (but really every day) in India/Pakistan, and elsewhere. The dangers include the toxic mess where the fuel is mined, and the serious risk put off every day for another day where the waste is stored – especially in places like Fukushima, which are many.

            The Greenhouse damage of nukes, owing to the huge infrastructure required to build, operate, fuel and decommission them, plus all the fuel and infrastructure to secure them and their supply lines, makes them much worse than solar or wind in comparison.

            There’s not going to be a devastating wind spill, or an arms race from top-secret PV tech leaked to a rogue state or terrorist gang. Nukes have already given us several of those, causing large scale damage.

            I don’t even have an absolutist position on nukes. I think we should simply deprecate them, stop building new ones, and use the existing plants’ energy to help power their replacements. And then spend decades cleaning up after them with the power from their replacements.

            My objections are based in the actual data. Yours are fallacies and patronizing. You owe me an apology for the kinds of insults, whether to my seriousness about global warming or just as rhetorical stunts, or just throwing these fallacies around without even acknowledging it when I call them out.

            From your track record here I don’t expect to get anything but doubling down on them.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Rhetorical here clearly means not that you are in denial, but that your desire to tackle climate change is being compromised quite seriously by your opposition to nuclear power.

            You claim that the physical infrastructure for nuclear is necessarily hugely greater than solar and wind. This is patently false. Nuclear is incredibly energy dense. That’s the point of the whole technology. You need far more cement, for example, to build the equivalent output amount of wind power. There are loads of studies looking at the GHG output of various sources of energy, and nuclear comes in at the low end. Clearly.

            The connection between civilian nuclear power and nuclear armaments was broken decades ago. If a country wants nuclear weapons it builds nuclear weapons, not civilian power. It is not an opportunistic policy that comes out of civilian nuclear. Seriously, read the academic literature on this. It’s a subject of much study.

            Regarding Fukushima: for such a horrendous radiological disaster, the expected health effects from the radiation are considered to be incredibly low. If you have any questions about this, I’m happy to go into detail. It’s something, given where I live I’m quite up on.

            Your hostility to bring challenged on your beliefs is noted.

          • Billey Bangle 6 years ago

            Sam, scientific beliefs are conditional and subject to discussion. Religious beliefs are not. If you join the catholic church and state “I don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ”, you will be excommunicated. Similarly, if you join the green church and state “Nuclear energy is a good idea”, you will be excommunicated.
            If you challenge a christian/muslim/jewish fundamentalist they get angry. And if you challenge a green fundamentalist like Matthew they get angry.
            Arguing with Matthew isn’t going to change his mind, but it might change the mind of some people not yet committed. There are striking similarities in the conspiracy theories of the anti-nuclear and climate-change denialists

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Billey, I appreciate the support, but I fundamentally disagree with this:

            if you join the green church and state “Nuclear energy is a good idea”, you will be excommunicated.

            People who are ideologically anti-nuclear are anti-nuclear before anything else. Proper environmentalists put the environment first. Many of us who grew wise to the tricks of climate change deniers in misrepresenting science now realise the same problem is going on within the environmental movement regarding nuclear power (and a few other issues).

            I’m sure a respectable fact-based anti-nuclear position could be put together (not that I would agree with it necessarily, but I could respect it). It’s just that that’s not how the anti-nuclear movement is constituted, and the mindset of indifference to inconvenient evidence is endangering the relevance of the movement in general.

          • Billey Bangle 6 years ago

            Sam, I guess you’re saying that only the anti-nuclear ideologues join the green party. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that anyone who joined the green party who didn’t accept doctrine would be excommunicated.
            Your other point I’ve actually made earlier. The core belief is anti-nuclear. This requires the secondary belief that renewables can do it.
            I started out anti-nuclear but I went the scientific route and could not create a scientific case against nuclear. It’s quite clear Barry Brook & Ben Heard have done the same.
            Matthew describes Fukushima as “a horrendous radiological disaster”. I only need a pen, the back of an envelope, and publicly available figures to conclude that Fukushima released radioactivity = 1/30000th of the natural radioactivity in the oceans and 1/25000000th of the natural radioactivity in the earth’s crust. Scientific argument disappears.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            I came to my position ironically by having my eyes opened to the nature of the anti-nuclear movement during the Fukushima crisis. People were understandably freaked out by something “going wrong at a nuclear power station” – and the anti-nuclear movement embarked upon an absolutely huge and exploitative public health scare campaign. These weren’t fringe elements, but major figures spouting utter nonsense with the sole aim of scaring the Bejesus out of everyone. It was utterly disgraceful, without any concern whatsoever for the welfare of the people here. They seemed addicted to telling everyone that tens of thousands were going to die, regardless of what scientific opinion was. They wanted people to be dropping dead. The situation around Fukushima Daiichi is a mess, but what these people were claiming was not only nuts, it was directly harming the post-tsunami recovery.

            It was pretty clear that the anti-nuclear movement was as crazy as the climate-change denial movement. I then started noticing their paws in the renewables-only movement…

            I don’t see why we should surrender the “green” label to these people.

          • Billey Bangle 6 years ago

            So Matthew, James Hansen isn’t a serious person? Or the Dalai Lama?
            I don’t consider the debate to be a nuclear vs renewable absolutist. I can’t remember a pro-nuclear person who’s said that renewable energy should not be considered.
            But the pro-renewable groups demand that nuclear not be considered.
            The increasing concern with climate change has created a dilemma for the anti-nuclear ideologue. They either have to
            1. Admit they were wrong about nuclear energy, or
            2. Prove somehow, that renewable energy is a 100% certain winner.
            Richard Feymann said “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
            I really think you’re fooling yourself Matthew.
            You aren’t really pro-renewable at all, you are anti-nuclear, and your assessment of renewable energy is coloured by your desperate need to believe that “nuclear is bad”
            I am skeptical that anyone other than the anti-nuclear ideologues believe that renewable energy is 100% of the answer. Less ideological people like Geoff Russell or Ben Heard simply abandoned the anti-nuclear stance when they looked at the facts closely.
            I challenge you to name ONE person who believes the 100% renewable message who isn’t an anti-nuke.

          • Matthew 6 years ago

            I didn’t say they’re not serious people. You did.

            I said they’re not experts in nuclear energy concerns.

            However, your attempt to force that strawman fallacy, among other strawmen, as my position in this debate shows that you’re not a serious person.

          • Billey Bangle 6 years ago

            It really would help you Matthew to look at this representation.
            I note you have avoided my challenge.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Renewables only fundamentalism is to the anti-nuclear movement what intelligent design is to creationism. It puts a sciencey gloss on what is a non-negotiable ideology.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            I do know a lot about nuclear power, and I know how safe and clean it is, I’m not an expert in wind and solar, but I know nuclear energy has a better safety record over the last decade. I know solar and wind power generation has been around a lot longer and has a larger environmental footprint than nuclear energy and still produces a fraction of the electricity..Solar and wind power makes sense for some situations and should be used in those situations, but nuclear has a much better record at displacing fossil fueled generation..Is there room for improvement in nuclear and solar and wind generation? Yes definitely! We need to stop spewing combustion products into our atmosphere it’s the only one we have.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            The volume mining per unit energy produced is less for nuclear than for solar PV or wind.. so does that mean they are not clean or green either?

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            The longest running (not the oldest) nuclear power plant in the USA had a capacity factor of 96% in 2014, and has been over 95% for the last decade, Why would you think a brand new plant would run less reliably than a 45 year old plant?

          • Peter Thomson 6 years ago

            Hi Michael,
            I think I’ve already answered your point in the posts below, if you take a look through them.

            George thought I was introducing deliberate bias in favour of wind because I used (better than) published UK performance figures, rather than world best-practice for capacity factor. So I recalculated using 100% capacity factor, to show it makes no material difference to the revenue situation that Dr. A had claimed.

            Disputing capacity factors just distracts from this point, so I took them out of the equation altogether. (But if I tried to offer any investor a revenue model LCOE based on 100% capacity I would be laughed out of the room!)

          • Dr. A. Cannara 6 years ago

            Actually, Giles, I used $0.10 to illustrate the payoff time at a low sales price. You missed that, apparently. So your figures simply shorten the payoff time.

            And, you miss that Germany subsidizes many businesses to the low electricity cost you mention by charging average Germans >$0.30/kWHr.

            Despite the subsidy, firms like BASF are choosing to expand operations outside Germany, not trusting future German power costs. Maybe a German minister can inform you?…

            Then too, imagine if something rational were done, like Hinckley getting carbon credits, remember how much coal it takes to make 1 windmill?

            Maybe take a little flight into reality, instead of misleading yourself and others here, Giles…


          • JonathanMaddox 6 years ago

            BASF is a chemical manufacturing business whose main energy costs are in the form of precursor chemicals including petroleum and natural gas, not for electricity. Some of its facilities actually generate their own power (very cheaply, if the feedstocks are cheap) on-site by burning byproducts. Gas is very expensive in Europe which has everything to do with geography and international relations but nothing to do with Germany’s renewable energy policy.

            Industries which really do depend on large amounts of electric energy, aluminium smelting for instance, are happy to expand in Germany (both Trimet and Norsk Hydro have recently announced expansions), while operators in neighbouring countries (Aldel in Delfzijl, across the river Ems from Germany) are actually asking to be connected directly to the German power network:


            Forward-thinking aluminium smelters are also happy to become part of the solution when it comes to intermittent energy integration:


          • michael 6 years ago

            would it be a problem if it did need a tariff for 35years? isn’t that a major basis for all the current drops in RE PPA’s, the ability to sign 20-30 year PPA’s and the associated drop in finance costs

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            The UK is only giving 10 year tariffs to Wind and they are not indexed to inflation. Big difference in the contracts for difference. The question it begs is why? Why bet on the much more expensive and risky centralised generation technology and force the taxpayers into absorbing so much risk.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            stand corrected 15 years flat vs 35 years indexed and with billions of dollars of no-excess insurance thrown for good measure. And payouts if for any reason the plant has to be closed down. Great deal huh?

        • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

          From you unsourced data at

          “1,500 birds are estimated to be killed per year by the MacArthur wind farm in Australia, 500 of which
          are raptors.”…& “Data in the detailed table is by no means fully comprehensive – CWIF believe that it may only be the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of numbers of accidents and their frequency”

          500 raptors a year in that one location killed, must have been a raptor conference on that year and every subsequent year. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg… Your referencing to data is laughable. Crawl back into hole Dr Cannara.

          • Dr. A. Cannara 6 years ago

            Guess your birds don’t mind dying by the hundreds for your coffee maker, Alastair.
            Oh, but that;s only if the wind is blowing when you want the coffee, — those birds are safe when Aussie hydro, coal, etc. is making up for no wind, eh mate?

            Pic is what the Germans actually diocument as their wind harvest in 2014 — citizens paid for the upper blue line, they got the spikes, and the remaining blue space was filled by whatever they had to burn — coal, garbage, lignite… and Swiss/French nuclear.

            See, as an engineer, Alistair, my oath is to facts. so, I support local solar PV/hot-water because it uses no land, hurts no species and lessens power-transmission loss (an “oops” for windmills). and I support EVs, efficient storage and nuclear. The reason for the latter is exemplified in the remaining pics …

            You do understand the importance of capacity factor, safety, power density and EROI, right Alistair? No need to kill any birds, bats or people with windmills…

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            I’m not anti-nuke. I went to a university with a reactor on campus — indeed, turned down an offer from MIT because of the opportunity to study at a school with a reactor on campus — and finished first in Physics as a freshman in a course led by the professor who ran that reactor. I contributed as a sophomore to advancing the programming of lasers for a fusion experiment. However, my background in Industrial Hygiene and my experience as a technical business analyst tell me that nuclear is not the panacea many claim, and is not likely to be more than a minor player in the world energy sector going forward due simple economics.

            Some have heard of Swanson’s Law of solar power, which is no more than a special application of the Law of Economies of Scale. There’s a similar principle for wind energy: as more is built out, the cost per unit energy drops dramatically. Since so little of either is built out yet compared to their capacity, the price per unit energy of solar and wind is inevitably due to fall, in the case of solar by orders of magnitude in the long run, by the time it reaches optimum scale. These two are right now, given the problems of storage, better as peak load power supply, or ‘negative draw’ supply. Capacity factor issues are overcome by the very large size of grids due Ultra High Voltage DC distribution, smart grid technology, and that means any fossil fuel is right now more expensive as a new installation than wind or solar in over 75% of the market.

            And storage is improving. In the case of pumped hydro, storage is already there. As a tool of improved water management infrastructure, hybrid dams for irrigation, flood control, drought mitigation and tailings ponds can pump water uphill whenever peak production exceeds demand then almost instantly answer peak demand by letting the water flow downhill. Economies of scale are calculated to show this approach will continue to drop in price until twenty to forty times the present world deployment is reached. And it’s fully dispatchable over 95% of the time, seasonally.

            Even better, geothermal electric is much cheaper, a third less expensive than the cheapest fossil power, right now, at less than 1/10,000th of its optimal deployment, and it can service about 50% of the world, easily outperforming nuclear’s ability to meet power needs.

            Likewise, biomass-based energy is rapidly advancing with drop-in replacements for fossil gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, and while it will be some time before they beat the $5/barrel cost to a Saudi prince of pumping light sweet crude, it is already competitive with the $45/barrel price of heavy crude, fracking mess, and the triple that cost of tarsand dilbit.

            That is why nuke is not necessary, and just too expensive. It’s already past its optimal deployment for economy of scale, much less safe than its proponents acknowledge, much more expensive to improve, and with six decades of being only six decades from the next breakthrough, not credible.

            By the way, the bird and bat killing claims about wind are becoming decreasingly relevant year by year, as technology and practice improve and reduce avian mortality by order of magnitude every generation of wind technology. And when this argument was first put out, wind was the number thirteen most deadly contributor to avian mortality, a good ten places below fossil.

          • Dr. A. Cannara 6 years ago

            It’s truly amazing that someone in ophysics, or industrial health would say something like “nuke is not necessary, and just too expensive”, when the actual evidence of decades of use make absolutely clear it’s a) the safest form of generation; and b) cheaper than any but,perhaps, future solar PV/hot-water on structures.

            So, Bart (thanks for a real name), why are 70+ reactors now under construction worldwide? And why are all these folks ‘wrong’ about nuclear safety?…

            And why are all these scientists ‘wrong’ in saying nuclear is necessary in large amount?…

            And why is it that established nukes produce electricity for 2GWe, 24/7. That’s >$1.9B/year @$0.10/kWHr. It costs about $100M to operate each reactor for a year, so the Finns will see payback of $15B in 9+ years. If they displace German electricity, they’ll pay back in 3+ years, and run for decades, generating >$1.5B/year, without carbon credits, while undercutting German, etc. ‘renewables’ by a factor of 3.

            As I’ve said here and elsewhere many times, solar PV/hot-water on structures is great and has likely a doubling of efficiency to go in next generations. Evs & efficient storage are on the way. And present nuclear is safest, least environmentally intrusive, with next generation designs able to achieve thermal properties & efficiencies to meet most any needs via clean, 24/7 power. Mush of that will be needed for ocean-chemistry rotection…

            How easily wind/solar ‘farm’ promoters miss/hide that CF 90% of the pinky is recyclable to present or next-generation nuclear.

            Anyone interested in further discussion, feel free to come to Calif in June:

          • Giles 6 years ago

            It’s truly amazing that someone talking about energy markets so know so little about energy markets. It doesn’t matter what scientists prognosticate about costs, the reality is different.
            The price paid for Hinkley C has been described as economic insanity, and as we have pointed out here, will be the most expensive power station in the world.
            France has cheap electricity, because the state wrote off the debt. Now it is wondering where the hell it is going to get the 55 billion euros it needs for its fleet maintenance.

          • Mike Carey 6 years ago

            As the moderator, are you still blocking Dr. Cannara’s comments?

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            As you’re truly amazed, it’s good you asked your questions with an open mind and willingness to consider more than just the opinions of people who are not Physicists on matters nuclear or Industrial Hygienists on matters of public safety. Because while it’s important to consider what Forbes thinks is safe and what The Daily Mail thinks is science, a balanced perspective includes all the evidence and all the expertise, instead of mere argument by link.

            BART R isn’t a name. It’s an acronym for Bayesian Additive Regression Trees in R, a toolset for decision support capable of balancing prior probabilities from observed data. Thanks for providing attitude and ad hom where reason is needed.

            Pointedly, a) claiming nuclear is the ‘safest’ based on lethal accidents on generation sites only compared to power generated is ludicrous, as it cuts out and discounts the very real damages and dangers intrinsic in the nuclear industry prorated over the thousands of years some of those dangers will linger unproductively; b) uh what?

            Why are nuclear generation facilities planned or being built, or over schedule, or lingering in mothballs or being proposed (to actually hit 70+ ‘under construction’)?

            There are a lot of nuclear technology companies in the world with a lot of sunk capital; when all you have is a trillion dollar hammer, you better hope you can convince people to use billion dollar nails. There is a world of lobbying and marketing, and very long lead times and very slow changing mentality about energy options. The nuclear decision, a decade ago, was likely the right one for the time. People still using ten-year-old information are making the right call, if it was ten years ago, about the lead time for the fastest of political decisions to go nuclear from beginning to flipping the switch.

            But it isn’t ten years ago. Right now, today, we’re seeing the first practical graphene polymers hit the market, with space-elevator-based power almost a technical reality and far more promising and near to hand than the fusion power that has been under development for over six decades fruitlessly.

            Right now, today, over three quarters of new peak energy installations are cheaper if based on solar or on wind — and if you remember your combinatorics, that means 94% of the time you should be seeing one of these selected for peak power over any alternative.

            Right now, today, geothermal electric is a third less expensive than the cheapest fossil (and 80% less costly than nuclear) in the half the world least suited to nuclear for reasons of tectonic risk for dispatchable baseload power. Mixed hydro averages 5% less than the cheapest fossil alternative in roughly sixty percent of the world for 95% of the year or more; in North America, these coverage zones are complementary, so there is nowhere in the USA where it is the right fiscal decision to go with fossil or nuclear, period.

            So why are bad decisions still carrying forward?

            Well, in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve, is why. You want lower taxes, go with lower costs; you want lower costs, go with geothermal (which with hot rock technology could provide storage for solar and wind), hydro (which with pumped hydro and arbitrage provides storage for solar and wind), solar, wind and biomass infrastructure, smart grids, biomass for liquid fuel synthesis and to dispose of organic wastes, and hold nuclear only for medical purposes. That’s why.

            Thanks for asking.

          • Billey Bangle 6 years ago

            You maybe right Bart, but some of your claims seem to come right out of the anti-nuclear doctrine book. I refer in particular to your claim that nuclear energy is too expensive.
            Anti-nuclear groups like greenpeace, physicians for social irresponsibility, the nuclear disinformation and rubbish service, all produce reports saying nuclear is too expensive. ABSOLUTELY NO ONE ELSE DOES.
            A search on shows dozens of peer-reviewed articles on nuclear costs, none of which say it’s too expensive.
            France has cheap electricity, it’s cheap in Ontario
            If you really believe that nuclear is too expensive, you’ve never looked outside the closed world of the anti-nuclear websites.
            The price of storage may go down, put so may the price of nuclear.
            What we need is a technology neutral market based system.

          • Giles 6 years ago

            Billey, as usual you cite academic papers but ignore reality. The price paid for Hinkley C has been described as economic insanity, and as we have pointed out here, will be the most expensive power station in the world.
            France has cheap electricity, because the state wrote off the debt. Now it is wondering where the hell it is going to get the 55 billion euros it needs for its fleet maintenance.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Giles, what really bothers me about you saying

            as usual you cite academic papers but ignore reality.

            is that it doesn’t seem to register with you what kind of person has been using that rhetoric about environmental issues for years and years.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            I have to disabuse you of the wrong notions you hold based on assumptions about my reading habits.

            Have you read the audit report of Hanford? Do you know how much Chernobyl costs every year as a fraction of the Ukraine economy (which the Ukraine agreed to pay for even though the incident was engineered entirely from Moscow, by the way)? Do you think the accounting for the shut down of all of Japan’s nuclear has been disclosed yet?

            Typical reports from those favorable to any particular options are exclusive of full costing; nuclear is not the only malefactor in this way: fossil fails to account for the over $2 trillion in subsidies annually it receives worldwide — and indeed vociferously denies them by every means available to marketing and propaganda — or what should be the Free Market price of fossil waste disposal (by the law of Supply and Demand, floating to the point of diminishing returns to sellers) while yes, every alternative has drawbacks that ought be accounted for, too.

            The problem of true costing isn’t that difficult, even for all the persiflage, bafflegab, hidden agenda and confirmation bias by the persuaded, the compromised and the well-meaning. It’s rather plain.

            We know fixed resources are depleted with use, thereby scale more poorly than renewable resources, and are subject to problems of economy of scale soonest.

            We know these fixed resources will continue to grow more valuable into the far future as they become rarer — 23% of fossil resources are used even today for non-emitting ends like plastics, paints, binders, metallurgy feedstock, pharmaceuticals, lubricants, industrial chemicals and construction materials, and those options are lost forever by burning.

            We know from Moore’s Law that technology becomes better as more is spent on it. Therefore we know it’s just never going to balance in any set of books for us to choose fixed depletable resources over renewable.

            The fine details, they come out if you flip over enough rocks and look hard for what’s been hidden or ignored.

            That’s 5% of the Ukraine economy every year, in terms of GNP, by the way. Nuclear in Japan appears to be costing in the range of 3% GNP annually due the earthquake and tsunami damage. Nuclear is staggeringly expensive on a full costing basis.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Well ever heard of Citi Group Billey? They say the same thing and they have institutional investors for clients so they don’t do propaganda so much as analysis. Check out their Energy Darwinism: The Evolution of Energy 100pp report. It says clearly that coal, nuclear and oil are being undercut by renewable energy such that present day upstream investments in those industries are at risk of devaluation and becoming stranded assets. That’s any new play in those industries with a big question mark over it including railways, ports and mines themselves. Compare with the multi-trillion dollar market solar is expected to grow to in a couple of decades.

          • Billee Bangle 6 years ago

            Yes, Alastair, I have heard of Citigroup, and you have missed my point.

            Giles obviously does not like my opinions, he has banned me.

            I do not form an opinion on the basis of one report. I read reports from a variety of sources and find the middle ground.

            I am not qualified to make a judgement on the basis of the economics, but I can pick denialist behaviour a mile off.

            If you Google or search sciencedirect for nuclear + costs, you certainly find a wide variety of opinions. There are a number that say nuclear is too expensive, and many others that say it’s quite definitely not.

            There are many opinions that renewable energy is too expensive, and many others that say it’s not.

            So without a definite consensus (like there probably is with climate-change), I would like to keep both nuclear and renewable energy as options.

            I will be writing a submission to Kevin Scarce, where I will offer the opinion that an appropriate market-based mechanism should be in place to help choose between the alternatives.

            But I will also be offering the following observations:-

            1. There is a larger number of reports which suggest nuclear is less expensive, than those suggesting it is more expensive, and that there are very, very few “nuclear is too expensive” reports, except those that come from the anti-nuclear movement.

            2. I am pro-renewable energy, but I am also pro-nuclear, and I this it would be a potentially catastrophic decision not to explore both options at this time.

            3. There are a large number of people out there who claim to be pro-renewable, but their core ideology is anti-nuclear. I would include you, Giles P, Bart_R and Matthew in this group. A sensible and reasonable pro-renewable person is also pro-nuclear.

            The anti-nuclear fanatics believe that:-

            1. The UN is involved in some sort of conspiracy in regard to the nuclear industry (just like the climate-change-deniers)

            2. When such people evaluate renewable energy they find a 100% certainty that this is the only answer. Virtually no one else believes this.

            3. And when such people evaluate nuclear energy they find it too expensive. Virtually no one else believes this.

            4. There is a striking correlation of 2&3 with ideology and I conclude that the belief is based on ideology and not on any rational assessment of the facts.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            You think the The Union of Concerned Scientists are “anti-nuclear” fanatics?

            I for one am happy for Giles to ban the nukes brigands from RenewEconomy if they continue to talk absolute ideological rubbish like what’s on display on this page in total oblivion to the facts. Like Micheal Mann (not the climatologist) here pretending the insurance market and nukes industry is covering 100% of the risk of accidents and risk of loss of contract for whatever political/technical reasons when it’s a blatant lie if we examine history of accidents and the contracts.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            No, just the UCS leadership are anti-nuclear fanatics…and I believe you are calling some things “subsidies” which are nothing of the kind.. would you call Price Anderson a subsidy? It is not…

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            I’d call the rest of the re-insurance for catastrophic accidents that falls to the taxpayers a subsidy what ever the country, USA included. Fukushima may end up costing half a trillion dollars and that’s not including the cost of powering down all the other plants in days following the meltdowns. Are any plants insured to that level of payout? And the decommissioning subsidies? And the waste disposal if it ever happens? (Fukushima reactor was storing their spent rods in the attic when it blew) And the commercial risk subsidies built into HInckley C contracts if it gets turned off for whatever technical or political reason? And the decades of research subsidies.

            Just face it nuclear power has been the fig-leaf for cold-war nuclear weapons research for decades. And now it doesn’t even have that to it’s name. If France can target 100% nuclear power in the 70s and not get there by 2015 then there’s no hope of nuclear power saving us from CC inside the critical decade (2010-20) even if we started in 2010 is there? The fact that you argue so uncompromisingly for nuclear suggests to me CC action is not your main concern here by a long shot.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Price Anderson is new, right, it’s only been in effect since 1957, it hasn’t paid out a dime in taxpayer money yet… how long should we wait to see if it’s effective? That is the thing anti-nukes hate the most, Price Anderson works…

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Please show me the quote you are referring to, I don’t recall saying that, I simply pointed out that you have no understanding of Price Anderson act and attempt to misrepresent it at any opportunity and I put the actual NRC explanation of Price Anderson in a comment. I guess showing people the truth is bad form? Why not let people read it themselves and decide?

          • Giles 6 years ago

            Anti-nuclear? I make the point that nuclear is ridiculously expensive, that is all, and renewable energy technologies do the job at a fraction of the cost. A view which is shared by many in the energy industry, and most energy analysts. Cost is something that you and other pro-nuclear people cannot address. You, Billy, Billey, and Billee, are a troll. You repeat the same nonsense ad nauseum, often unpleasantly so. Which is why you have been banned, 18 times by my account. But you clearly have the resources to bounce back with new IP addresses, and new email addresses. Interesting that the latest has a russian email address. Although you still got some way to catch up with some of your other nuclear trolls!

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Wow. Jaw dropping.

            If you want nuclear, that’s great. Go for it. Just pay for it with your own cash and leave the public purse out of it.

            If you can make a go of it, and can set enough aside to clean up what it will impose on others and redress the harms it does them — are these preconditions a hardship for you? — then that’s no more than a reasonable person might ask of a participant in a free and fair market.

            For myself, I see no reason to pay the far higher price of nuclear electricity living in the heart of a hydroelectric wonderland as I do, atop a world of geothermal potential, while the sun shines and the wind blows.

            Perhaps you’re someplace that has no geothermal potential within 800 km. If so, that’s great, because with lack of geothermal potential generally comes the tectonic stability that lowers the risk of nuclear facilities.

            Maybe you’re someplace hydroelectric is impossible within 800 km. That’s good, too, because such places are prone to flood in some narrow regions, so it’s likely if you can find a reliable water source for cooling your reactor core (or if the air cooled technologies ever live up to their very, very immense PR campaigns) you’ll likely be more stable than 78% of reactors on the planet to date.

            If you’ve got political stability, if you can dispose of your wastes in a meaningfully permanent way that satisfies the health profession, if you can make it work economically without imposing burdens on those who have no role in the decision, that’s awesome.

            Go ahead. That’d be great.

            I’m not anti-nuke. I’m pro-capitalist.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            I’m glad you mention hydro electric, please name one major dam project not backed by a government. The free market has a major flaw, it cares not about the greater good, it wants immediate satisfaction, it is run by CEO’s with very short term agendas. Any project which is heavy with up front investment for long term gain is not attractive.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Major project? Who’s talking about major projects?

            Major projects are hardly all there is to hydro. Most of the untapped hydro potential in the world is small cap. Most of the large cap hydro projects in the world are unnecessary and overly expensive.

            The free market is a construct of economics specifically designed to obtain the greatest good at the lowest cost; you appear to be confusing free market capitalism with unregulated corporatism.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Really, specifically designed? How does it account for projects with great return on investment, only decades down the road? Please explain how free market capitalism accounts for the time lag… Please be specific and use small words as I am just a blue collar technician…

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            They call it a loan.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Oh so count google citations by the nuclear lobby as a way to measure LCOE costs. Excellent methodology. You can crawl back into your hole too BIllee/bily/billy-boy

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Seem to?

            No idea is responsible for the people who hold it.

            If there are people you don’t like capable of looking at an account audit and understand it, that doesn’t make the account audit wrong. If there are people you do like who refuse to accept the audit of their accounts is not in order, that doesn’t make them right.

            Most of us learn the principles behind that understanding by the age of five, when our mothers ask us if our friends jumped off a bridge, would we do it too?

            It appears by your shouty all caps conviction that fair and balanced full accounting of the cost of nuclear is ipso facto the product of anti-nuclear groups that you are resorting to fallacy to establish an ad hom argument.

            Ontario has the most expensive electricity in Canada, despite having some of the country’s best hydroelectric potential, in no small part due the enormous overages and write-offs and write-downs of its very failed nuclear infrastructure. Citing Ontario’s ‘cheap’ electricity is footshootingly enormously wrongheaded.

            I say this having direct experience of the Ontario situation, not because of some website or pamphlet as you allege.

            Perhaps if you dropped your personal attacks, you might be.. uh nah. Nevermind. If you dropped your personal attacks, there’d be so little left of you as to cave in and blow away like dust.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Have you ever worked at a commercial nuclear power plant? Have you ever done a probable risk assessment? What safety analysis protocol did you use to determine that it’s not as safe as people who do detailed safety analysis daily think it is? Upon what data did you make your determination that “It’s already past its optimal deployment for economy of scale,”? Thank you!

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Wow, you have a lot of pre-conditions on who can or cannot hold valid opinions on a topic.

            Gee, not just a nuclear power plant, but also it has to be a commercial one?

            Done probable risk assessments? Are you asking if I subscribe to FAIR, or USAR?

            Buddy, I pioneered development of systems for risk assessment, hazmat and IH decision support.

            One of my classmates and longtime friends was a lead responder to Chernobyl. Dozens of my past colleagues have multiple PhDs across the sciences. I am not some outsider or know-nothing spouting propaganda. My statements are not representative of the minority, nor are they ill-informed. If you’re trying to impeach my views because you think only people with tee shirts reading, “I am a nuclear technician — If you see me running, try to keep up,” have something valid to say, you’ve been drinking from the wrong tap.

            The way to determine if something is past the optimum point for economies of scale is to look at whether more money spent produces more efficiency or less. Well, there’s a ton more money being spent, and no more efficiency has come about from the technology in decades. Nuclear is past optimum deployment scale. Period.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            So you think there is no room for a step change improvement over 1950’s nuclear technology? You completely miss Small Modular Reactors as being a paradigm shift? You completely ignore MSR’s and LFTR’s which could be game changers? Maybe you’re not as smart as you think you are? Yup, I’m just a blue collar technician with over 30 years experience, I could’t possibly have a valid opinion.. yes one of my friends was a lead responder to Fukushima does that make my points more valid? I have a few colleges with PHD’s does that in any way enhance my position?

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            If you’re trying to impress with the validity of your opinion due the intellect of your cohort, perhaps learn the difference between a college and a colleague.

            There’s massive room for improvement in nuclear technology. And yet, the only exemplar of that massive improvement you can name remains more costly than the prior generation, and without a single successful commercial embodiment as evidence of its viability. Try to remember that the point is ‘economy of scale’, not ‘technical possibility’.

            Sure, it’s technically possible to build thorium reactors (probably). But it’s not economical to do it. Heck, it’s technically possible to build a fusion reactor: even a fourteen-year-old can do it. It just takes more power than it puts out, so not economical.

            How pie-in-the-sky is the economics of new nuclear technology?

            It’s so pie-in-the-sky that space elevators are outpacing nuclear in practicality.

            And if you think there’s such a thing as a blue collar nuclear technician, you have never seen a mine or foundry or production line or construction site and know nothing of the privilege of your cushy line of work.

            Yes, nuclear is technically possible. Yes, it has some credible place in the economy, at least for manufacture of medical isotopes. No, it’s not economically viable compared to what’s available without massive government subsidy and gifts, much like fossil energy, and it’s getting less so by the day.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Do you think someone who only qualified on a 100 watt research reactor ( i day to qualify) is equivalent to someone who qualified senior reactor operator (2 years of intense study to qualify) at a commercial nuclear power plant?

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            So you think a football fan (1 day to qualify) yelling “Walk it off!” is equivalent to a sports medicine practitioner (nine years of intense study) at saying what’s best for the athlete’s health?

            You’re comparing apples to monkey wrenches. I’m saying that when talking health terms, you talk to health professionals. When talking fiscal terms, you talk to bankers and accountants and auditors and economists. We all know some forms of nuclear technology are feasible in the sense of being technically possible. That’s great, and all. However, in health and economic terms, nuclear continues to suck. That’s not me saying it, that’s the health and economic professions.

            When you get two years of intense study in health effects or economics, come back and make claims of authority.

            Because that’s where the topic is at now.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Finally I agree with you, you are way over your head…

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            That.. doesn’t.. even.. make.. sense.. in.. context..

            Which is hardly new for you, it seems.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Those are not pre-conditions, but clarifications, you presented yourself as knowledgeable, I was trying to determine how knowledgeable.. It turns out that you take offense, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, you are not entitled to speak for others unless you were elected by them to speak for them…

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            If you didn’t recognize that you were saying something offensive, perhaps the issue isn’t where you think it is. Your version sounded more like no one should get a vote unless they’re a commercial nuclear operator. You can see how that might skew an election, right?

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Well said.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            The re-insurance industry for one. The re-insurance industry for nuclear power does not exist, it’s called taxpayers. Have you ever found another industry which insurance corporations are willing to make money out of?

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            The Price-Anderson Act motivated the private insurance industry to develop a means by which nuclear power plant operators could meet their financial protection responsibilities. Pooling provides a way to secure large amounts of insurance capacity by spreading the risks over a large number of insurance companies. The American Nuclear Insurers (ANI), which currently writes all nuclear liability policies, is a joint underwriting association created by some of the largest insurance companies in the United States. Its purpose is to pool the financial assets pledged by member companies to provide the significant amount of property and liability insurance required for nuclear power plants and related facilities. ANI retains about one third of the liability exposure under each policy and cedes the remaining two thirds to reinsurers around the world. This approach allows ANI to marshal the resources of the worldwide insurance community and spread the uncertainties of the risk over a large financial base.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            If that’s the case why did the UK absorb the risk over a very limited pay out (millions of pounds IIRC) by the insurer for Hinckley C? Why did the Chernobyl melt-down, in Mikhail Gorbachev’s words financially cripple USSR to the extent that it ended it’s participation in the cold war? Which re-insurer is paying out for Fukushima today? Why is the Japanese government so concerned about the impact of it’s exposure to Fukushima to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars even one trillion?

            Following quotes from this study which has citations for the quotes within it. Worthwhile reading for a nuclear fan in search of a reality check.

            Nuclear power is only required to pay a small fraction of the cost of insuring fully against
            claims from a Chernobyl-style disaster, or worse. For example:

            “… in the United States, the Price-Anderson Act limits the nuclear industry’s
            liability in the event of a catastrophic accident to $9.1 billion, which is less than
            2% of the $600 billion guaranteed by the Congress. In any case, $600 billion is
            considered to be a gross underestimate …” [CALD2006, p 32] and “In France, if
            Electricité de France had to insure for the full cost of a meltdown, the price of
            nuclear electricity would increase by about 300%. Hence, as opposed to
            conventional wisdom, the price of French nuclear electricity is artificially

            Footnote: Regarding the 300% figure, Appendix J of the report “Environmentally harmful support measures in EU
            member states” says “Scenario B, in which all liabilities are covered at the upper damages estimates, results in
            premiums of 5.0 c€/kWh. This insurance scenario would thus lead to a tripling of current total generating
            costs.” (p 132). The report, which was commissioned by the DG Environment of the European Commission,
            2003, can be downloaded from (PDF, 1.1 MB).

            The Union of Concerned Scientists, writing about their report into subsidies for nuclear power in the USA, says that “Government subsidies to the nuclear power industry over the past fifty years have been so large in proportion to the value of the energy produced that in some cases it would have cost taxpayers less to simply buy kilowatts on the open market and give them away.

            Whichever estimate we take, nuclear power would not be competitive if it was required to pay proper levels of insurance against the cost of a nuclear disaster.

            The cost of nuclear power would be substantially higher again if the industry had to pay all the other costs that have been identified in Section 2: the cost of underwriting the
            commercial risks of the industry, the cost of protection against terrorist attacks, the short-, medium- and long-term costs of disposing of nuclear waste, the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants, institutional support for the nuclear industry, and a range of other subsidies.

            Whichever estimate we take, nuclear power would not be competitive if it was required to
            pay proper levels of insurance against the cost of a nuclear disaster.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Where did you come up with 9.1 billion? They already have 12 billion of their own money after the tier one insurance pays out.. ( no accident in the USA has ever even used the entire first tier insurance) Then congress decides if they would need to pay more after the 12 billion is used up…one of us doesn’t understand Price Anderson…Owners of nuclear power plants pay a premium each year for $375 million in private insurance for offsite liability coverage for each reactor unit. This primary or first tier, insurance is supplemented by a second tier. In the event a nuclear accident, causes damages in excess of $375 million, each licensee would be assessed a prorated share of the excess up to $111.9 million. With 104 reactors currently licensed to operate, this secondary tier of funds contains about $12 billion.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Insurance was never required to pay out large in Russia, UK or Japan prior to accidents either… so what? Doesn’t change the fact that taxpayers will be absorbing the risk. Gulf of Mexico payout by BP is in the order of US$50B. And that according to congress is “all over” in terms of harmful effects. Of course it isn’t but compare that to the environmental implications a meltdown.

            Speaking of which why does Uranium industry not pay out when they leak heavy metals and isotopes into the Kakadu World Heritage Area wetlands? Why are they allow the cost saving of self-regulation allowing them to get away with breaching regulations and not informing the authorities time and again?

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Please do compare the environmental effects of a meltdown, Three Mile Island for example, a meltdown in the USA, under Price Anderson… minimal environmental impact, did not even exceed the first tier of insurance, actually did happen had little if any health effects and little if any adverse environmental effects. Much less than fossil fuels and I would say less that a large solar array, yes let’s compare. What about the mining of rare Earth metals in China? The solar panel wastes? There is no free ride, we must evaluate every method of producing energy with our eyes open, not blinded by radiophobia.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            This is precisely the issue: evaluate the whole picture. Look at everything honestly.

            If you raise rare earth mining, also raise uranium mining and vice versa. If you raise GHG emissions of plant construction, also raise GHG emissions of, say wind farm construction. Look at land use, environmental impact.

            Look not only at how much electricity you can make, but whether it will be there for you when you need it.

            Don’t set up childish “my team vs your team” oppositions and don’t force them on other people. Anything like that discourages people from being open about the challenges all technologies face and the advantages they provide.

            The last thing we need is cult-like behaviour getting in the way of solving global warming. We’ve wasted enough time fighting a cult that said it didn’t even exist.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            TMI was a near miss of a disaster that would have run billions not millions in payouts. And I expect even someone as aggressively obsessed with nuclear (paid promotor perhaps?) would know that. The tier I and tier II does not run to any thing like the magnitude that a Fukushima style accident would i.e anywhere from a hundred billion to half a trillion dollars. Taxpayers and loss of environmental quality in the commons will absorb all that should it ever happen. So nuclear is not paying the real cost of insurance in the USA. And that’s what the Concerned Scientists have said not me.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            The last time I looked Fukushima wasn’t in the USA and is not covered by Price-Anderson so what does that have to do with my statement? Nuclear power plants in the USA are required to have lots of insurance.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Point is “lots” is not realistic cost of insurance. Congress picks up the tab, as it does on subsidies into research and yet nuclear LCOE is still traveling north on the cost curve as it has for decades. The fact is a nuclear catastrophe, like the one closely escaped at Three Mile Island, would cost USA a lot more than what they pay for insurance coverage in the market.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            They narrowly escaped? Um, it melted.. no scary what ifs.. it did melt and the result was….. not scary, no matter how much drama you try to put into it…I can almost hear the scary music you are trying to play in the background…

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Did it go China Syndrome? Did radiation leak? How close was that, experts say scary close.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            No, those are fiction, remember China Syndrome was a movie.. did we have Armageddon? It was a movie too, no China Syndrome is a way to scare people, The fact that China Syndrome does not occur is somehow a bad thing? I guess melting a 1/4 inch into the vessel is almost like melting all the way to China in your mind?

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Really, Congress picks up the tab? How much has Congress “picked up”? How much in 2014? 2013? 2012? 2011? 2010? Do you have numbers? Is it around $0.00?

          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            With such a stellar record, re-insurance should be easy. Opps.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            The point is, in my earlier posts I gave you numbers, they were quite substantial you didn’t seem to like that and instead made some vague reference meant to create fear, uncertainty and doubt, but what if? Well what if happened in TMI and the reality is, not much bad happened, that was in the 70’s existing plants have been improved, upgraded, training, materials, maintenance all improved to make nuclear energy even safer…Bottom line nuclear power makes the world a better place.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            It’s the scale of potential disaster. Actually it could have been much much worse if the wind was blowing to Tokyo and not out to sea millions of people would have been evacuated for who knows how long.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Here is an interesting explaination of the safety of nuclear power plants

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            And here is why ‘interesting explanation of the safety’ like that one happen:

            Politics and Scientific Expertise: Scientists, Risk Perception, and Nuclear Waste Policy Richard P. Barke and Hank C. Jenkins-Smith; Article first published online: 29 MAY 2006; DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.1993.tb00743.x

            ” In contrast to physicists, chemists, and engineers, life scientists tend to: (a)perceive the greatest risks from nuclear energy and nuclear waste management; (b)perceive higher levels of overall environmental risk; (c)strongly oppose imposing risks on unconsenting individuals; and (d)prefer stronger requirements for environmental management. On some issues related to priorities among public problems and calls for government action, there are significant variations among life scientists or physical scientists. We also found that–independently of field of research–perceptions of risk and its correlates are significantly associated with the type of institution in which the scientist is employed. Scientists in universities or state and local governments tend to see the risks of nuclear energy and wastes as greater than scientists who work as business consultants, for federal organizations, or for private research laboratories. Significant differences also are found in priority given to environmental risks, the perceived proximity of environmental disaster, willingness to impose risks on an unconsenting population, and the necessity of accepting risks and sacrifices.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Regarding the various energy sources:

            First of all I would absolutely agree with you that the harmful effects of wind power are seriously overblown. Of all the intermittent renewables, it’s clearly the best source on current technology, and is proving itself so far, far more than solar. I am a big fan of wind. Even without storage it can help cut back on fossil fuels, even though that tends to be natural gas.

            I would not like to see biomass developed more. We’re entering a period where climate change is likely to cause serious problems with food production (which causes conflict and famine), aggravating that by diverting agricultural resources into biomass seems a Really Bad Idea. It’s also a poor use of land area and has really dubious low CO2 credentials.

            Geothermal? I like in one of the most geothermally active countries in the world. If we maxed out all our resources (a very tough ask technologically according to the Geothermal Research Association of Japan), we’d barely meet 15% of current demand. On current tech it’s only 1%. Not to be sniffed at (although it could devastate a large domestic tourist industry of onsens), but if we can’t do that much here, I wouldn’t hold out much hope elsewhere, unless you have the population to resource ratio of Iceland.

            As for solar – potentially it could yield the most power of all renewable energies, but let’s be honest: unless you’re somewhere very consistently sunny, it’s difficult to expand to serious levels of penetration. German solar investment has been dropping now for three or four years – for the moment it’s past its expansion peak. What do they have so far? 6.9% of their electricity from solar and a messed up electricity market. And they’re far and away the world leader in deployment.

            In general, I’m really troubled by the way that solar is touted by renewables ideologues as the big immediate solution. It looks almost cult-like. Look at the headline here: “why solar has already won”. What does that mean? Decarbonisation isn’t a race or a competition between low CO2 energy sources. What does “already” even mean when solar is still less important globally than several other renewable sources? Shouldn’t we be focussed on carbon emission reduction and thus a combination of technologies that together provide a low CO2 energy system (after all, different energy sources are better suited to different aspects of electricity supply)

            As I’ve commented separately, this report’s immediate “killer app” storage prospects are none of them serious grid-level storage. The report seems like a marketing exercise rather than a clear-eyed assessment. Solar panels makers may be about to make a lot of money, but only those who buy into naive ultra-capitalist ideology believe that what’s good for the share price is ipso facto good for humanity.

            You mention exploiting the geographical unevenness in wind and solar with huge smart grids. The studies that try to show this is possible are simply not convincing. The essential problem is that the authors sit down and the first sentence they write is “We have therefore successfully shown how [insert region here] can be powered entirely by renewables by the year [insert round number here].” And then they work backwards. This means they are not realistic assessments of what is possible. Take, for example, Gregor Czisch’s plan for a renewables-only Europe. He suggests we need a wider grid encompassing North Africa and the Middle East. Great, say renewables-only evangelists. We can do it! All we have to do is march into the following countries and take over their electricity supply “for their own good”: Mali, Libya, Sudan, Niger, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus… Why on Earth would the local populations not be happy with Europeans doing that?

            As for costs? The current meme doing the rounds is just how cheap solar is now. I have struggled – really, truly struggled – to get some renewables-only advocates to grasp that costs of high penetration intermittents are not the same as low penetration for what should be really obvious reasons. I quote from the literature. I run the maths for them. Nothing seems to work (they often get abusive and accuse me of trolling). Not that the primary issue is cost (for me it’s feasibility), but it’s a stark indication of how much the renewables-only movement is built on memes and mantras. It’s endangering the credibility of the green movement in general.

            So that’s why I (and many others) see this big hole in all these decarbonisation plans that are built squarely on the dogma of no nuclear. You talk about people not appreciating the risks from nuclear. I would disagree that it’s a chronic problem. If you look at something like Pandora’s Promise, the very first thing they do is go to Fukushima and confront what has happened. Some of the most articulate proponents of using nuclear to tackle climate change are former anti-nuclear campaigners. The key message is: if you look at the risks presented by modern nuclear power, and you look at the risks of not plugging the gaping hole in your decarbonisation plans, the latter outweigh the former hugely – so much so that there is no need not to be upfront about the risks. Of course, you could be relying on your information about nuclear risks on the likes of Yablokov, Busby, Gundersen, Caldicott, Fairlie and so on, in which case please say so and I can explain in great and tedious detail what’s wrong with them. I originally came to this debate via the Fukushima crisis and the committed attempts by the anti-nuclear movement to unconscionably cause a huge public health scare on top of the devastation caused by the tsunami and evacuations.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Geothermal while successful in some places (Iceland for power and micro-geothermal for building thermal management in Canada for eg) has show little promise in Australia. The one experimental rig in Australia broke is drill bit half way down the ~2km journey and took over a year just to get a new bit delivered. We don’t have the cold weather extremes that make thermal ‘direct-geothermal’ hugely enticing either (although the Geoscience Australia building in Canberra is using it). I’d like to see your evidence for getting so excited about geothermal in this country.

            For sure nuclear has favourable Climate and healthcare system expenditure prospects to the FFs we currently use but we aren’t comparing nuclear power to FFs (nukes already managed to lose that race)— for new deployment we are comparing it with state of the art Renewable Energy which is already more favourable on costs, more favourable on risk, more favourable on deployment schedules, more favourable for re-insurers, more popular with the public and, in contradistinction to nuclear, RE is on rapid cost curves downwards in deployment costs and time to deploy.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Sam, I believe the phrase, “That’s what makes a horse race,” applies here.

            We minorly differ on biomass, in that I view getting fuel from sewage and producing soil amendments as byproducts helpful to the food supply problems we increasingly face and you apparently overlook it. There are many kinds of biomass, ranging from such things as the ethanol scam as an excuse to subsidize corn megagiants to using cellulose fibers from timber and undergrowth wastes to growing algae on industrial emissions. Taking nutrients out of the mouths of people to burn is not economical, so is not what I’m proposing. Of course, where biomass can be avoided, it generally ought be avoided, if for no other reason than simply because we’re so far into debt to the carbon cycle already from fossil waste dumping.

            If we got to 15% of electricity demand via geothermal, two things would happen. 1.) We know from the example of computer technology that the more is spent on new technology not previously well-explored, the better we get at it. The computer on my desk is more powerful than all the computers in the world on the day I was born, and has capabilities undreamed by the people who were researching computers then. So we’d expect that 15% figure to rise substantially. 2.) We’d have displaced the entire world demand for base load coal in the half the world where geothermal is appropriate, and could count on wind and solar to further displace the world demand for peak load coal. Since we know hydroelectric can cover 40% of the world demand for base load electricity by itself (and far more with pumped hydro storing excesses from other sources), in those places it’s appropriate, we’re at least at 65% of the world demand combined between those two technologies, and they are cheaper than any form of fossil and far cheaper than any demonstrated in production nuclear on a whole cost basis.

            You came into this topic to debate after Fukushima. I came into the topic as a career and technical pioneer thirty years before that. But thanks for the offer to explain in great and tedious detail what you think I don’t know. Your argument amounts to the Fallacy Fallacy, “those are people with bad ideas, or bad implementations of good ideas, or bad cases for good implementations of good ideas, therefore X”.

            There is a place for nuclear technology in the economy. However, in a Fair Market world, nuclear wouldn’t stand much of a chance beyond medical isotopes and military applications, which I personally find deeply regrettable to personally acknowledge but the numbers do support any other conclusion, objectively.

            How bad are the prospects for nuclear in the future?

            They’re so bad that by comparison, space elevators seem plausible.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Hi Bart,

            I’m afraid I find your answer a bit, well, handwavy. My point about the availability of geothermal was that even in one of the most geothermally blessed countries in the world, we could get – only with the invention of new technology – at most 15% of needs, but on current technology, 1%.

            You change that to:

            If we got to 15% of electricity demand via geothermal

            There is no “we” here. You live in the US. You cannot pretend that everywhere is like Japan. You continue:

            If we got to 15% of electricity demand via geothermal, two things would happen. 1.) We know from the example of computer technology that the more is spent on new technology not previously well-explored, the better we get at it.

            The technology is limiting us here in Japan to a potential 1%. The 15% is availability of geothermal resources. We’re talking about limits. The thing about Japan is that we have earthquakes. The land and seabed is surveyed and assessed constantly. While it’s possible that a massive amount of geothermal availability has been missed, what you can’t say is that this is some kind of naive infant industry. That’s being handwavy.

            Furthermore, comparisons with Moore’s Law like this are an example of Moore’s Fallacy – that any technology will expand like computer processing. In what sense could geothermal resources double every eighteen months into eternity? Again, it’s handwavy.

            Then there is this really weird statement:

            2.) We’d have displaced the entire world demand for base load coal in the half the world where geothermal is appropriate, and could count on wind and solar to further displace the world demand for peak load coal.

            Coal is used for 40% of the world’s electricity. Where are your numbers coming from to make this claim? Again, remember, that my geothermal figures are for Japan, not the world.

            Then you say:

            Since we know hydroelectric can cover 40% of the world demand for base load electricity by itself

            Have you done an environmental assessment on maxing out every single point of hydro feasible? What happens to your calculations when we remember that the goal is to convert energy to low carbon sources, not just electricity on current consumption patterns, which is a third of overal energy consumption? What room do you have for electrification?

            Then you say

            (and far more with pumped hydro storing excesses from other sources), in those places it’s appropriate, we’re at least at 65% of the world demand combined between those two technologies, and they are cheaper than any form of fossil and far cheaper than any demonstrated in production nuclear on a whole cost basis.

            Where’s 65% come from? Seriously, if hydro is 40%, then you think geothermal is 25% of world demand. Where does that 25% come from?

            This, Bart, is a really clear example of why I and others have developed an inherent mistrust of the renewables-only movement’s calculations. It’s as if your sole goal is to persuade other people that your ideology is right, and to that end you will produce any kind of argument that you think might fly. It’s like a propaganda exercise, not a serious, self-critical discussion.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Japan may well be geothermally blessed. However..


            Japan is at best 8th ranked in current deployment, and only produces about as much power overall as the annual world increase in geothermal power. While its untapped resources may be vast, it’s not by any means in the top five nations as a matter of technical expertise.. which is surprising considering how Japan has successfully been at the technical forefront in so much, given the immense potential of this resource.

            So, no, I reject the 15% figure you proffer as just the estimate of a second-rate nation at about the same level of technical advancement in geothermal as the world was in 1943 about nuclear power. However, even if 15% is the limit, let’s compare like-to-like. Even moreso for the 1%; so Japan has earthquakes. It’s not alone in that, and these obstacles have been overcome elsewhere.

            Geothermal is a base load power source. It delivers reliable electricity 98% of the time (with 2% downtime for planned maintenance) but does not lend itself to peak load application. Coal (with similar reliability) is used as dispatchable base load and peak load, which is about where 60% of coal is used. So let’s split that off into what geothermal can address — base load — and tackle what geothermal can’t address — peak load — later.

            In the case of Japan, it’s feasible even under the conservative estimates of what can be technically drawn for geothermal to replace almost all of what coal provides to base load. Sure, there are technical challenges. Why wouldn’t there be? How is that an obstacle? The same sort of challenges or variations thereof face every new electricity installation, more or less. You want to talk about handwavy, ask about disposal of nuclear waste, or fossil waste, from proponents of those sources.

            Of course geothermal is only applicable in about half the world. And of course it is only applicable to base load. However, where it is applicable, it is by far the lowest cost electricity source. Why shouldn’t it be pursued?

            And even Japan has hydroelectric potential that it has not yet tapped. There is every expectation Japan could be entirely renewable powered, if that was the choice the Japanese government allowed.

            For peak load, see wind and solar: more than capable of satisfying a substantial fraction of peak demand today, and easily could eventually meet far more than world demand when fully developed.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Hi Bart,

            That’s a curious reply (with no defence of the numbers I questioned) sadly tinged with an unnecessary degree of Chauvinism:

            I reject the 15% figure you proffer as just the estimate of a second-rate nation at about the same level of technical advancement in geothermal as the world was in 1943 about nuclear power.

            I believe the more mature and reasoned response would be: “Do you have a source for that 15%”. And the answer is, yes, I do, from the Geothermal Research Society of Japan:


            You can work out the 15% for yourself from the 23.5GWe available.

            Why has so little been developed? As the report suggests, one reason is ” a technical break-through to develop unused geothermal resources is crucial.” There’s only about another 730MWe easy pickings.

            Another reason is environmental. Most of the unexploited resources lie in national parks. A fairly large amount of easy to get resources are already being used in the tourism industry. You don’t appear to be familiar with Japan, but one thing anyone who visits knows, hot springs are a key part not simply of tourism, but the culture itself. It is a perfectly reasonable question to raise – how much are we prepared to damage our environment in order to preserve it?

            By the way, I understand that Japan supplies 67% of turbines to the geothermal industry worldwide. I think it might be an idea to rein in the ol’ stars and stripes nationalism there. It doesn’t contribute anything to the debate.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Maybe it’s best if we avoid meta-analyses of one another’s comments, as we know so little personally of each other?

            To whit, you find ‘Chauvinism’ where I debunk your own understandable chauvinism. It’s natural to think, while in Japan, that Japan ranks as “one of the most geothermally active countries in the world”. It’s sort of kind of true. But it’s also true that Japan ranks as no higher than a distant eighth in the world in terms of total geothermal electric production, which is far more relevant to the credibility of the claims of the Geothermal Research Society of Japan (which you’d previously mentioned, and which I’m familiar with from other readings.. thus I had no reason to question your 15% claim as I know the source, regardless of your beliefs about maturity and reason).

            Further, I’m Canadian. This isn’t about patriotic fervor or nationalism. It’s simple technical objectivity. Am I familiar with Japan? It has not been my privilege yet to live there, but I’ve heard of it.

            There ought be zero reason for geothermal electric to come into conflict with hot springs in an archipelago. Offshore drilling is hardly a novelty, and offshore shallow water geothermal is not as much of a technical stretch as either the space-elevator-based solar plans the Japanese government has announced, nor the even further stretch of safe nuclear. This is in part why I doubt the 15% figure, as it excludes pretty much everything that has not been done before for pretty pallid reasons.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            The fifteen per cent figure is potential. You cannot extrapolate the amount of unexploited resource from the amount of exploited resource. Surely that’s obvious.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            The 15% is what you calculate from a website.

            I can certainly extrapolate beyond that.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            “A website”? My link was to a PDF of a submission to the World Geothermal Congress Proceedings 2010.

            I’m sorry, but if you’re just going to block conversation like this, I don’t see the point. This isn’t a game.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            You missed the point. It’s _your_ conclusion from the document, the five year-old non-peer-reviewed document from a national association. You’re treating this like a game of gotcha. If you’re serious about the subject of geothermal, why not call up some members of the GRS and sit down with them for a chat. Get some reading references from them. Get your facts straight.

            Yes, it is true geothermal has a long way to go, but it’s had so little invested in it considering its low cost, relative simplicity, ample safety and really low rate of deployment compared to availability and scalability that dismissing it in favor of nuclear which has had more spent on it than any energy source except fossil, is inherently costly so far as can be established in practice, gets less simple with every look, has serious safety questions often dubiously answered by its principal backers, and remarkably short availability and scalability is not a reasoned approach.

            On balance, I can stand by my initial claim: nuclear appears to have little potential to be more than a minor participant in future electrical energy, and little need.

            Geothermal electric and small-to-mid scale hydroelectric are bountiful and low cost complements to solar and wind; biomass has a place in the future that is far ahead of the niche nuclear can fill in biomedical coproduction. There might be a future where that next thing after nuclear happens, and we’ll likely call it nuclear, but it isn’t panning out particularly well for the present state of the art as a business proposition. The case of France clearly shows that some do business on other standards, but then that’s the problem of France.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Hi Bart,

            What kind of game of “Gotcha” involves me giving you cited publications about geothermal and you saying “no, they’re old, they’re written by a second-rate nation, and no one has given a peer-reviewed endorsement?

            If you want other references, here’s the GRS of Japan, saying 20,000MWe or more


            Here’s two people from the Japan Renewable Energy Research Centre and the Geo-Heat Promotion Association of Japan, saying 20GWe or more for the 2015 Geothermal congress:


            What you’re doing is engaging in denialism. Quite straightforwardly. I’ve seen this behaviour in climate change deniers, and I’m seeing it in you now. You are trying on anything to stop seeing the figures that all the experts in this second-rate nation can see. I’m sorry we’re not run by Canadians, but that’s the luck of the draw, I suppose.

            You then top it off by inventing a falsehood that I have suggested using nuclear instead of geothermal – that I’m mad for nuclear-only solutions. This has happened several times to me recently with anti-nuclear activists such as yourself. The best thing I can compare this with is where someone gets paranoiacally jealous if anyone talks to their ex. It’s really weird.

            The point remains: the reason why I and many others – an increasing number in the environmental movement – believe that nuclear has a role to play, is because we don’t believe that the decarbonisation figures add up without it in many, many places around the world. Our priority is decarbonisation. Your priority is renewables. These priorities are not identical.

            Unlike you, I don’t have such intense supreme confidence that I’m right. Such astonishing confidence seems inappropriate in such a complicated scientific and technical endeavour. However, your failure to defend your calculations and your attempts to brush away what appear to be clearly accepted research results that are inconvenient for you to me gives me a little bit more confidence that maybe I am indeed esconced in the reality-based community.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Sam, maybe we could ease up on the whole nations, and people, and talking about how one another are behaving in debate and seek clarity.

            Do I think it makes sense to abandon nuclear where there are currently sunk costs that could more economically be gotten to producing power than any other alternative?

            For the most part, no.

            Japan has mothballed a goodly number of reactors that are likely safe enough and might be inexpensive enough to use, well, except for a handful.

            Do I think no one is ever going to build another new nuclear reactor based on sound financial reasons?

            No. There likely will be times and places where nuclear is the obvious right choice. That’s a great problem, given that there are substantial unresolved issues with nuclear, and given that the world as it is tends to magnify and make worse those issues while too many look the other way rather than face them. But it isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t make nuclear evil or wrong. It’s just the world as it is.

            Clearly, as we know from Moore’s Law, from our experiences of the computer industry and the mobile phone industry and a dozen other high tech examples that do not depend on depleting scarce resources while burdening the economy with a toxic debt, there is more profit in geothermal and small-medium scale hydro and solar and wind and some biomass, not because renewables are saintly or green or good or a priority a priori, but because they’re scalable and enjoy the same qualities that make computers and cell phones a good investment, unlike fossil and fission.

            As more is spent on these technologies, their costs drop and their deliverable potential increases. Two decades ago, it was assumed by many that solar could never deliver more than about 8% efficient conversion of sunlight to useful power. Now the figure is above 80%.

            It’s not that I’m confident I’m right. It’s that I’m confident reasoned economic arguments are better than zealotry, and full information is better than half information.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            How does Moore’s law apply to renewable energy?
            There are limits imposed by physics on many renewable systems. They often harvest diffuse energy sources and are thus limited by this. No amount of miniaturization will change this. For example wind turbines must remain the size they are if they are to capture the energy in the wind.

          • Sparafucile 6 years ago

            Clearly, IC Fabrication is but one of many topics he pretends to understand, but doesn’t.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Do tell. Please, go on at great length about what you think you know that you assume I don’t.

            I’m up for some entertainment.

          • Sparafucile 6 years ago

            You’re the one who suggested Moore’s “law” applies. Tell us all how the ongoing lithographic reduction in feature size impacts PV solar, or whatever other analogy you intended to convey.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            That’s it? That’s all.

            A) READ HARDER. I’m the one who said, “ we know from Moore’s Law .. experiences of the computer industry and the mobile phone industry and a dozen other high tech examples .. there is more profit .. because they’re scalable and enjoy the same qualities that make computers and cell phones a good investment, unlike fossil and fission.”

            Do you see the difference? Moore’s Law is just one aspect of one case that applies to the object lesson of how to best make profit in the long run.

            B) Look up Dunning-Kruger Effect; hold a hand mirror while you do, and watch the expression on your face as you read it. Photolithography is not the be-all-and-end-all of Moore’s Law, certainly not now, and it barely was when Moore stated it more generally about the advances in packing of transistors on IC chips, but rather about the chips themselves in general at the outset. It applied to the power used by chips, their cost to produce, and on and on. Which makes Moore’s law directly relevant to such things as the new Chinese thin slice IC technique for delivering 25 wafers where before there had been one, out of the same amount of material and with the same or better performance. This single advancement reduced the energy debt of a solar cell from something like five years to just a few months, in and of itself.

            In the decades since Moore first made his observation, the ‘law’ has been expanded and adopted by other disciplines and wider analyses.

          • Sparafucile 6 years ago

            Thank you for so-clearly confirming that your application of Moore’s Law was based on ignorant guesswork. Your attempt to fill-in relevance is laughably pathetic, especially your idiocy about “but rather about the chips themselves…”

            I’m certain you don’t know this, but Moore’s “law” was first postulated (rather, observed) by an engineer at Motorola, about a decade before the more-prominent Moore gave it public mention. That engineer (a family friend, which is why I won’t name him to an idiot like you) went on to found what became a very large optical electronics company.

            Moore’s law, as well as its predecessor, applied exclusively to transistor density and the direct capabilities resulting thereof. And if you knew anything about semiconductors (which it’s clear you do not), you’d know that power consumption does not scale anything like density does, which is why Moore’s law doesn’t apply. Moore’s law is, and has always been, a planar scaling observation, having nothing whatsoever to do with “thin slice” advancements.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            So let’s get this straight: there’s this sekrit knowledge only you and a close personal family friend have about this thing that happened a decade before Moore put his thing in writing, that was entirely about something else than Moore wrote and spoke publicly about and that took on a life of its own separate from Moore and your sekrit knowledge, and that’s the standard you judge what people write by?


            Do you even stop to look at what you’ve written to think about how it sounds to people before you hit “Post”?

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            That’s an excellent question.

            Before Moore, the same views pervaded the computer industry. Every breakthrough was a surprising marvel unconnected to the breakthrough before. No one looked for patterns in such unconnected events. And then Moore pointed out the trend, and suddenly everyone saw it.

            Swanson’s Law is a bit like Moore’s Law. If you look at them both, you recognize they’re special cases of the Law of Economies of Scale meets technologies that scale without limit. Finite resources have their finite quantities working against them, no matter how large those resources seem.

            And while it’s a conceit to think renewables have no limit, they have that special something that finite resources lack: even once they are fully exploited, their efficiency can keep improving, and the lessons learned from each generation of refinement can be adapted to new frontiers.

            This is why solar has already won, really: twenty years ago, no one could have imagined solar with 20% efficiency; now it’s past 80% efficiency. Two decades ago, the idea of solar satellites transporting their energy to the surface was a fringe science fiction trope. Right now, today, the materials that could make that possible are being manufactured in quantity. It is a sure bet? No. Not at all. It’s probably pipe dream. But it’s far more likely to be a workable technology than the nuclear concepts that have already absorbed far more investment than they could ever pay off. And lessons will be learned from the effort, succeed or fail.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            Bart, Thanks for your reply. I will look up Swanson’s law.
            I agree that technologies can be improved as we constantly learn about new materials and processes.
            I was struck by how your optimism about human ingenuity was so evident in your post until you got to nuclear energy when suddenly your optimism turned to doubt about human capabilities for innovation.
            At this point I say our views diverge. I have a degree in physics and have the same optimism you showed earlier in your comment for the advances we will see in nuclear power.
            The same advances we see in materials and processes coupled with computer modelling mean that all human endeavours will continue to advance. This includes nuclear power.
            I choose to support the development of ALL feasible technologies for decarbonizing our energy production. We will learn the most from pushing forward with all technologies. We cannot predict which path forward will yield untold treasures.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Not optimism. Just math. Not it’s lack. Just math.

            Nuclear is a well-tapped asset, intellectually. We’ve spent the money on researching it that ought have yielded the brilliant results we seek by now, if it were going to, on the balance of probabilities. Sure, it might one day have that unexpected turnaround moment, but that seems doubtful given its track record and the very dubious accounting we see throughout the industry and the promotion of the industry, not just on simple industrial hygiene but also on decommissioning costs and disaster recovery provision.

            If we’d spent as much on geothermal, we can be fairly certain we’d know whether Sam’s pessimism on that front were warranted, or if an order of magnitude or two, or three, or more power were attainable. That’s how much investment hasn’t gone into geothermal research, which is in essence not much farther ahead than the day the first oil well was drilled, and still it is cheaper by a third than the next closest rival for base load power, in those places it is practical.

            And yes, geothermal isn’t practical for half the world. If you’re in that impractical half, by all means carry on.

            Much the same is true for small-medium scale hybrid hydro. There’s places it works, and places it doesn’t. In particular, there’s seasons it doesn’t work well. Where it does work well, it works well also as storage as well as baseload, so levels off the vagueries of solar and wind.

            Somewhere between 4% and 18% of world peak load demand can’t likely be met by solar and wind combined, at least not any time soon. What will meet that peak demand I cannot say, though I suspect smarter management can shrink that gap to zero.

            Somewhere between 6% and 15% of baseload isn’t going to be provided by geothermal or hydro as a worldwide average, at least not any time soon. That 6% to 15% might include components of tidal, or nuclear, or biomass, depending on Market conditions and decisions of government policy.

            To me, the Genius of the Market is generally wiser than government policy, as the Market tends to spur innovation and invention on the whole better than any committee can. I say this with a world of regard for committee decisions.

            And it seems that the smart place to put the money, if the Market is going to settle things, is in the option with the most long term profit potential. That isn’t nuclear.

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            If the playing field was level I think nuclear power has great potential. The market is heavily distorted by politics. That is a human reality but it is not a reflection of the technology.

            I would disagree that nuclear is a well-tapped asset, if by that you mean it has reached the peak of its potential.
            My perspective is that there are a staggering number of innovations possible with nuclear power. We are like cavemen who have made the first smoky fires in our caves. Little could they imagine riding to the moon on a pillar of fire, or cruising comfortably on a trans-oceanic flight sipping wine.
            Maybe your “math” regarding nuclear is a bit myopic. 🙂

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            If the playing field was level — and it ought be — then we’d see how things would go. I’m certainly opposed to people dumping without paying for disposal and adverse impacts, without consent from those they adversely impact (even if it’s me doing the dumping; who wants to be ‘that guy’?) and without compensation to them for the costs they incur _as they determine them to be_.

            This isn’t an environmentalist position; this is a classic libertarian stance; your right to dump ends where it starts to oppress my right to draw breath. I don’t want to do this by regulations and committees telling people how much they can dump on me without me taking offense: the right to draw breath is manifestly as close to absolute as a right can get, and one I cannot see anyone handing over to the tyranny of however good a government.

            What goes for fossil waste dumping must surely apply to irradiation and heavy metals, no?

            Yes, none of us lives in a classic libertarian bubble. Like capitalism, like equity, peace and justice, it’s an ideal worth striving for, not an iron glove that banishes all reason. So sure, there has to be room for some things that do dispose of wastes, and it’s turtles all the way down because there will always be products of any disposal method. Simply, it’s prudent to engineer something better than a toxic debt with no concern for where it lands nor the trespass it causes.

            On nuclear, it’s my opinion based on the data that nuclear is an over-tapped asset, past its scale of economy. The more power nuclear produces today, the more expensive per unit power it becomes. That’s the classic indication of over-exploitation. But that’s not what I mean about well-tapped intellectually.

            Intellectually, nuclear’s had every benefit of a world of investment and research and study and yields in the expert opinion of most who inhabit that world no indication of breakthrough. Not fusion, not alternate fission: we are not on the verge of the next big thing and see no sign of it coming up any time soon. Look how ludicrously slow advancement is in nuclear power generation compared to the technologies that do advance. That’s generally a sign we can’t expect frequent breakthroughs or new advances at a very fast rate.

            They’ll come, maybe. But they won’t be the fast path that we see the other energy technologies are right now and for the foreseeable future. Which is why it’s best to focus investment on renewables.

            What would your rather have invested in, in 1979? Microsoft, or thorium?

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            I am guessing that, given your view of government, that you are living in the USA?
            Please correct me if I am wrong, it is just a guess.

            Living in a different country, my view of government is a bit different than yours. I view it ideally as a mechanism by which I and my fellow citizens can get together, have a conversation, and work out agreements that benefit us all. This includes accepting compromise and an agreement to submit to the outcomes of the conversation in the belief that overall the outcome is a net positive on average.
            This ideal is realized to different degrees in different countries and around different topics of discussion. (see below)
            My view on nuclear power is that in the USA brilliant minds have been held back by oppressive government regulations that have effectively crippled the industry and suppressed innovation. These regulations are not based on rationality, but on over-conservative assumptions.
            As a society we need to have rational discussions about our energy choices. We need truthful numbers and less rhetoric and fantasy.
            For example my relatives have had a wind farm erected on the surrounding properties. During the “consultation” meetings nobody would give an honest answer how much electricity was expected to be produced. Landowners had to sign confidentiality agreements to not tell their friends how much they were paid for their land leases etc.
            The government refused to disclose how much of our tax money was being spent for this unknown amount of electricity.
            These sorts of actions are unacceptable. (maybe now I am leaning your way on how government and industry collude to deprive us of a true voice.)
            We need to know how safe or dangerous radiation is. We need to know how renewables will be integrated into the grid and how much storage will cost.
            I don’t want industry spin nor do I want Greenpeace spin. I want real, honest, rational facts.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Looking at our two views of government as expressed in thread (no, I’m not in the USA; it has been my privilege to live and work there from time to time; nice folks individually but they’ve gone increasingly crazy as a nation so I tend to avoid things that take me inside their borders now) it appears yours is the more jaundiced: I’m not a Libertarian; I find there to be something worthwhile in some classical libertarian ideals. And while I am a bit of a minarchist (in that I believe if two choices will give equivalent results, the one involving less government is generally going to end up best for all concerned in the long run), it appears you have a chip on your shoulder toward the US government over imagined slights, and your relatives’ local government over somewhat inflamed sensibilities too.

            Their neighbours used land that did not belong to your relatives. That use did not dump noxious substances on their land. The health effects of wind farms have been proven to an extraordinary degree of certainty to be nonexistent, unless you’re an avian. And if you’re an avian, the health effects of wind farms are about number 17 on your list of human-caused concerns and dropping rapidly because wind farms are improving every generation with regards avian impacts.

            So, what’s your legitimate beef with wind?

            That someone got paid money?

            Privity of a contract is an ancient precept. It’s none of your business unless you’re a party to the contract, is it?

            How much is being spent by your government is available to you through Public Accounts of some sort; in the UK, it’s and it’s not some deep mystery there; if you think there’s something untoward going on, file a complaint with the Committee and they’ll get back to you in due time. Most of the former Commonwealth has similar mechanisms.

            If you need to know how safe or dangerous radiation is, ask a radiation health specialist. There’s a whole industry of resources in that field. And then there’s the nuclear power industry and the Greenpeace industry, which as you point out are not reliably impartial sources. Why put on them the burden of reporting objectively when their livelihood is in the balance?

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Hi Bart,

            You’re failing to address the central point: that decarbonisation with renewables alone does not seem, to those of us outside the anti-nuclear crowd, to add up except in very specific places. (If I have it right, you’re now trying to claim the reverse – it’s only specific places that all-renewables solutions won’t work) I went over your number claims about geothermal and hydro, and they didn’t seem to stand up, and you didn’t reply. As for price arguments, they have to come second to what will actually work. The market can’t tell us if renewables can be rolled out 100%. It’s not a benificent god like that. (The explosive popularity of Thatcherite market philosphy within the anti-nuclear movement is quite disturbing, frankly) With all that in mind…

            Regarding your belief that we will experience growth in solar efficiency akin to that experienced in computer processing power, as I pointed out before, you’re engaging in what is known as Moore’s fallacy – misapplying Moore’s Law where it simply doesn’t fit. You make a direct comparison with improvement in solar panel efficiency, a comparison that is bogus, and in the process you cite some figures that are flat wrong.

            Moore’s law states that computer processing power will double every 18 months. 1 becomes 2, 4, 8 and after 12 years, 256. It’s exponential growth. You say of solar panels

            Two decades ago, it was assumed by many that solar could never deliver more than about 8% efficient conversion of sunlight to useful power. Now the figure is above 80%.

            Immediately one should recognise the problem in applying Moore’s Law. We’re not going to get 160% efficiency in two, three or any years time, so we’re not going to get any more huge gains, so we can’t bet the climate on dramatic future gains. I’m really not as keen as gambling the only planet we have as you apparently are.

            However, there’s a deeper problem. Your numbers are wrong. Simply plucked out of the air, as far as I can see. Here is the chart from the NREL that shows the development of solar cell efficiencty from 1975 to the present day:


            What we see is that two decades ago, the highest rated efficiency was 30%, not 8%. Now, we see that the highest rate is 41.6%, not 80%. That’s not Moore’s law. It looks nothing like Moore’s Law. It should be apparent to anyone that applying Moore’s Law makes no sense at all. The thing is, that chart is all over the Internet. It’s on the wikipedia page for solar cell efficiency. You could so easily have checked that. Why instead did you claim we’ve gone from 8% to 80% in 20 years when neither figure is true? Why talk about mobile phones (which are just mini computers, not an example of Moore’s Law outside computing) when we could simply have talked directly about solar panel efficiencies?

            Sam, maybe we could ease up on the whole nations, and people, and talking about how one another are behaving in debate and seek clarity.

            I’m sorry, but there’s no “we” invoking nations and people, it’s you. You twice based your dismissal of figures that look fatal for your argument on the grounds – without any evidence at all about their quality – that they firstly came from a “second rate nation” and then from a national research association apparently incompetent to produce accurate figures, despite it being a country with as decent a science and technology culture as any in the G7, and with particular special interest in the geothermal industries and in geological activity in general. Unless you withdraw that argument and accept the figures as the best we have, I am still within my rights to dispute your position, and to describe what’s wrong with it and what it says about the seriousness of someone prepared to deploy it.

            Decarbonisation is going to be much, much harder than you are portraying it to be. Actively propagandising against one of our established scalable sources of low carbon energy doesn’t make sense, and it seems like a really silly distraction if you take climate change seriously.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            You know, I know a great deal about propaganda. I can spot its techniques, name them, categorize them, identify their lineage and origins. It’s one of the defenses against propaganda I found most helpful, and yet I never found it tempting to employ propaganda. I’m not a propagandist. But I could point to someone who is using the techniques. Tribalism, devil words, us-vs.-them, nationalism, ad hominem, fallacy. I smell what you’re cooking.

            But it isn’t preventing me from trying to have a cordial and productive exchange.

            I am not in some anti-nuclear movement. I’m in some pro-accounting movement. If you have a problem with the numbers for geothermal and hydro, that’s fine with me. Let the Market decide, but recognize it’s the Market’s decision.

            Defossilization is only as hard as the Market lets it be. Continue to let people dump their wastes on your air without demanding they pay a disposal fee dictated by the Law of Supply and Demand, and of course they will keep dumping on you. Keep letting governments subsidize fossil industries, and there will be nothing that can contend on the Market with fossil. Keep playing sentiment, and the people in the fossil sector who have so many more decades at that game will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

            Objectively, in the long run, the lowest long run cost non-fossil technologies are the thin edge of the winning wedge.

            And that is not nuclear.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Well, I’m glad you raised the issue of how fossil fuel propagandists behave. People can look at see which one of us cites academic sources, and which one of us makes ideological arguments and tries to undermine trust in the data, and decide for themselves.

            Let’s look at this “market value” argument, and your faith in The Market to solve a problem fraught with poorly- or entirely un-costed externalities.

            Objectively, in the long run, the lowest long run cost non-fossil technologies are the thin edge of the winning wedge.

            There are two fallacies implicit here. The first is assuming that all low-CO2 electricity sources behave in the same way. They don’t. They have different geographical limitations, different capacity factors for different reasons, different dispatchabilities and availabilities. They have different environmental impacts, different demands on scarce resources, different barriers to expansion.

            The second is the assumption that electricity is a homogenous good. It isn’t – its value varies hugely over the day, and the way that prices are structured is not homogenous.

            As a result, it is fallacious to make arguments based simply on marginal cost at low penetrations rates while ignoring the heterogeneity of both demand and supply, and integration costs for the whole system.

            Here’s a widely cited paper on such problems, building on a very widely cited paper by Paul Joskow on the non-homogeneity of electricity and the value of intermittent sources:


            In particular, note what happens to the case study price of wind as penetration increases.

            What I see, by this insistence on focussing on electricity as if it’s simply a matter of producing a certain total number of gigawatt hours completely regardless of the time of day and where it’s needed, is all these born-again market-fundamentalist activists setting themselves up for a huge market failure regarding decarbonisation, and dragging the rest of us with them.

            As I keep saying, there appear to be gaping holes in these all-renewables arguments, and I’m not getting answers. In particular, Bart, you keep moving from argument to argument without addressing any of my objections. It’s not quite a Gish Gallop, but it’s developing into a canter.

          • Giles 6 years ago

            Yes, let’s ignore the markets. Right now the UK government is paying for virtually the entire Hinkley project, but as any analysis can tell you, you need private capital to address decarbonisation, it will send governments broke quick smart if they had to pay, no matter which technology they use. So the issue is to try and convince the world’s biggest insurers and bankers to back nuclear, and they won’t have a bar of it. Even the equipment manufacturers won’t accept the risk of their own technology, as happened in India and GE. So the issue is not this imaginary anti-nuclear lobby, it is the industry and the nature of the technology itself.
            As for the Potsdam system LCOE analysis. Great. Same predictions were made 10 years ago that systems cannot accept more than 5 or 10 per cent variable renewables. A new study from ARENA in Australia shows that 26 per cent solar, just solar, even in a small grid, is eminently achievable with little or no extra cost. The real life experience in South Australia, with more than 40% variable renewables, shows no system issues, and no added expense. But that’s only according to the market operator.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Hi Giles,

            Did I say anywhere that markets and costs should be totally ignored? No. Instead, I was critiquing someone who claimed that pure market solutions were the best, pointing out that as he was currently constructing the market, it failed to reflect what the decarbonisation challenge was and the nature of the technologies he was exclusively backing. If, by objecting to my criticism, you want to indicate that you’ve joined the Thatcherite markets-solve-everything bandwagon too, well, that’s interesting. It would mean you’d want ARENA disbanded and defunded. If that’s not what you’re saying, your objection is moot.

            The paper I cited did not say that higher integration is impossible, it was indicating how cost assessments based on low penetration are misleading. You seemed to read it with an all-or-nothing approach. It’s a little (!) more nuanced than that. Comparing their calculations there for German onshore wind with South Australia’s means overlooking the large difference in capacity factors: in Germany it’s 18%, in South Australia it can get up to 38%. Switching in different figures to disprove their case isn’t valid. (This report you cover is not about Australia, it’s about everywhere.) The issues they raise need to be considered at higher penetration rates is all. The same is all the more the case for German solar compared with Australian solar.

            You can go back and see my comments – I think wind is a great resource where it’s available, as it tends to have much higher capacity factors than other intermittents, and allows dual land use. If South Australia can get 40% out of intermittents, that’s great. You seem to think this is all about whether or not renewables can produce electricity. It isn’t.

          • Giles 6 years ago

            Did i suggest you suggested markets be TOTALLY ignored? No. Did I suggest that the paper suggest higher integration is impossible? No. Where did i suggest an all or nothing approach. I didn’t. Etc Etc. Stop inventing arguments where there aren’t any to cover the weakness of your own, or more accurately, to avoid the issues at hand. My, your writing is striking similar to some other pro-nuclear types who write under a different name.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago


            You said:

            As for the Potsdam system LCOE analysis. Great. Same predictions were
            made 10 years ago that systems cannot accept more than 5 or 10 per cent
            variable renewables.

            and then you said:

            Did I suggest that the paper suggest higher integration is impossible?

            To me, the first statement reads like you are suggesting that. If you didn’t mean that, what did you mean by “cannot accept”

            You said:

            Yes, let’s ignore the markets. Right now the UK government is paying for
            virtually the entire Hinkley project, but as any analysis can tell you,
            you need private capital to address decarbonisation, it will send
            governments broke quick smart if they had to pay, no matter which
            technology they use.

            Then you said:

            Did i suggest you suggested markets be TOTALLY ignored?

            Well, again, it looks like you did.

            What I would love is a conversation where there isn’t a constant black-and-white all-renewables vs no-renewables stance taken up by one group of people.

            As for this:

            My, your writing is striking similar to some other pro-nuclear types who write under a different name.

            Is this an accusation of sock-puppeting Giles? Would you like to clarify what you mean here?

          • Giles 6 years ago

            Ah, a pedant who doesn’t recognise his own pedantry. As for sock-puppeting, who knows, maybe your accusative writing style is a trait among people of your point of view. Anyhow, you’ve had plenty of opportunity to say your piece, I really don’t have time for this. Though i must say it was finally gratifying to see a tweet from Ben Heard recently that recognised that Hinkley was absurdly expensive and could not be replicated across Europe. Finally, the pro-nuclear lobby admitted the simple point that this site makes, and the one that you apparently refuse to.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago


            I understand that a lot of people who believe that we probably need nuclear to decarbonise think the Hinkley Point strike price was too high. George Monbiot said it on the day it was announced. Here’s an article from 2013:


            Here’s Ben Heard writing for the Breakthrough Institute, again, in 2013 – far sooner than any tweet: “Hinkley has caused some, including George Monbiot, to argue that expensive nuclear is unacceptable, even if it is low-carbon. On this point Monbiot is right.”


            It’s this kind of openness about problems that engenders trust. Hostility to raising problems does not.

          • Giles 6 years ago

            I think the Monbiot article sums it up perfectly. He wants nuclear but doesn’t want to pay the cheapest price acceptable to people who build nuclear plants. He doesn’t want the EPR – the latest technology – but wants nuclear technologies that haven’t been invented yet. He calls for urgency but wants only over the horizon solutions. A lot of wishful thinking, which is the nuclear problem.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Hi Giles,

            First of all, I absolutely share your skepticism about relying on technology we don’t have yet. That’s precisely why I don’t jump on any LFTR nuclear bandwagon, and precisely why the future “killer app” in the report here raised a red flag for me. My first post here was about what the storage killer app actually was.

            Secondly, I think taking the price for Hinkley as the cheapest price-and-that’s-it is a bit of a stretch. I certainly wouldn’t search for the most expensive new solar or wind project and use that as an argument. My own preference for what is actually needed, which is a standardised full survey of the technology, and which is beyond either you or me to do on our lonesome, is to look at published, respectable well-cited cross-technology LCOE studies. Whether the funding is done by an entirely unrestricted market or with the supervision of the state (I’m a social democrat, I have no aversion to state aid and understand that market failures exist in social goods) to me is beside the point when we’re trying to get a basic picture. The latest ones are EIA for the US and Lazard:



            Bearing in mind the Joskow/Potsdam analysis of how LCOEs overstate the value of intermittents at higher levels, neither of these studies to me screams that nuclear in itself is crazy costwise compared to the low CO2 alternatives.

            Lastly, I think you really misunderstand what you call the “pro-nuclear” crowd, which is far better understood as the “not anti-nuclear but very anti-carbon” crowd. If a discourse analysis were done of online discussions, I suspect we would find the non-anti-nuclear crowd talk far more about carbon emissions and decarbonisation, and the renewables-only crowd talk far more about renewables penetration rates. For example, in this article here, apart from the title, the word carbon doesn’t appear anywhere. Nor does the word emissions. Nor global warming. Nor climate change, nor CO2. When the accusation is levelled at renewables-only people such as yourself from outside the renewables-only community that you don’t seem to prioritise decarbonisation, they’re not trolling. They’re genuinely concerned. The energy expended in this community on denouncing nuclear seems far, far greater than the energy expended on analysing decarbonisation possibilities with a critical eye.

            That alienates people committed to action on climate change but who do not share your anti-nuclearism. It’s alienated James Hansen, for pity’s sake. Shouldn’t that indicate a change of strategy? Or is the target only the growth of the renewables industry?

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            Straw man.

          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            Bart, see: established in 1958.

          • Bart_R 6 years ago

            I’m well aware. Now. I’ve been kicking myself over that particular oversight since I was seventeen.

      • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

        Picking the most expensive nuclear option and comparing it to the most favourable wind costs is biased.
        This discussion is too important for such distortions.
        We need honest, unbiased information to help us choose the right energy mix for each region.
        Anything less is unacceptable.

        • Giles 6 years ago

          The most expensive nuclear option? It is the only nuclear option in Europe. That sets the price point. That is nuclear’s problem. Anything less than recognition of this by the nuclear booster club is unacceptable. (i say nuclear booster club because the people actually within the nuclear industry, and I have talked to senior execs at Areva, EdF, NRG, GE, accept this reality).

    • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

      Surely Alex you have heard of storage, the “killer app” according to Deutsche Bank, that can turn solar into base load without the high cost and radioactivity risks of nuclear.

      Also, don’t you think it would be fairer to include the acreage needed to mine your fuel and to safeguard it when spent? How about the 2,600 km2 (642,200 acres) needed for the exclusion zone around Chernobyl?

      Also, is it fair to count the arreage within a wind farm when traditional activities such as farming, forestry, or recreation can continue?

      • Arno S. 6 years ago

        And solar can be put on existing and new roofs. This would probably provide enough energy for all uses with zero additional acreage.

        • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

          No, it really wouldn’t. Not everyone lies in sprawling farmhouses. A lot of people live in apartments.

          Moreover, living more densely is better for energy use, such as in terms of transport emissions.

          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            Better only if solar opportunities and public transportation are ignored.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Cliff, public transport is part of that density-is-good calculation. Sprawling cities make effective public transport more difficult and less attractive. They make the use of transportation at all far more likely. Anyone who’s lived in a densely-populated city knows this.

            I have to say that it’s depressing to see a renewables-only advocate deciding it’s better to have urban sprawl just so you can do lots of solar rooftop.

          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            It’s even more depressing to watch you put words in my mouth to bolster your perspective.

            You even spin Arno’s point to suggest that solar can only be mounted on “sprawling farmhouses.” What gives?

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            I didn’t say solar can only be mounted on sprawling farmhouses. You made that up, Cliff. What I said was that solar-mounted rooftop is not enough to meet our energy needs. The romantic idyll where you generate all the energy you’ll ever need from your own land is based on forgetting that an awful lot of people don’t live in such benign conditions – and that from the point of view of overall societal energy consumption, that’s a good thing.

            You directly disagreed with my statement that denser living is better. If that doesn’t mean you think living less densely – in more of a sprawl – is better, then perhaps you need to revisit your comment.

          • Arno S. 6 years ago

            I’m an interested visitor. I tried to get an estimate for total rooftop area of the world or of a region or city, but no luck. One of the estimates of area required to power the planet is the total area of the US interstate highway system. It would be interesting to know what is the ratio of total rooftop to total area required to power everything by solar. My guess is that it would be close, but even if it is less, it would still provide lots of energy with no loss of land. I was also thinking of industrial buildings, many of which would be suitable for solar panels.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Hi Arno,

            This article might help you get some way to your answer. It looks at how much solar can be harvested per square metre in different places over different areas. It’s not the same as “how much space would you need for panels”, as that involves more complicated calculations including overcoming intermittency (which has a variety of solutions which would all take up rather more space), but instead looks at the simple physical limits.


            Hope this helps.

          • Starviking 6 years ago

            Well, the US interstate runs for 76,788 km. The Interstate lane width is about 4m, so perhaps we can assume the Interstate’s average width is 20m – 2 lanes each way and a bit more to account for the median and edges.

            That’s 1535560000 meters squared, 1535.6 km squared.

            2008’s Average Electricity Production was 2,311,400,000,000 kW

            Assuming that Solar produces this power, then each square meter would have to give 1515 kWs. That’s a physical impossibility – far beyond the solar power at Earth’s orbit.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            He might be talking about Solar Freakin’ Roadways, which got some attention last year. It actually looks to me like a scam of some sort.

          • Starviking 6 years ago

            Solar Freakin’ Roadways certainly was a hit last year. I doubt the engineering behind it would survive contact with reality. “Let’s put our solar panels on the ground and run vehicles over them”… No, let’s not.

          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            Sam, you said in response to Arno’s first comment on the role of existing and new roofs to host solar, “Not everyone lies in sprawling farmhouses.” I made nothing up and you own that statement.

            I never said roof-top solar is enough to meet our energy needs. No one here said it either. That’s your straw man. Nor did anyone here say everyone can “generate all the energy you’ll ever need from your own land.” Again, you make stuff up just to hear your own arguments.

            You did not say “denser living is better.” You said, “living more densely is better for energy use.” On that specific generality I disagreed and still do. Are you familiar with net-zero homes?

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            HI Cliff,

            I think there may be something odd going on with visibility of comments on Disqus. You said:

            I never said roof-top solar is enough to meet our energy needs. No one here said it either. That’s your straw man.

            Yet Arno said:

            And solar can be put on existing and new roofs. This would probably provide enough energy for all uses with zero additional acreage.

            As for denser living being better for energy use – I didn’t think this was a controversial idea. Here’s just one example, from the top of a quick google:


          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            I interpreted that to mean all uses in that house. You, for some reason, chose otherwise.

            There is nothing wrong with denser living except when people use it as an argument against solar.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Hi Cliff,

            “There is nothing wrong with denser living except when people use it as an argument against solar.”

            First of all, I wasn’t using denser living as an argument against solar. I was pointing out how rooftop solar wouldn’t be enough because not everyone has enough roofspace. I didn’t say anything about not putting up solar elsewhere.

            Secondly, seriously, denser living isn’t just “not wrong”, it’s an important way we reduce our collective energy needs. This does, I admit, somewhat challenge the idea of highly decentralised power sources being the fantastic panacea that some argue they are, but I don’t see the need to mix up politics with technical challenges.

      • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

        You haven’t read the report closely enough. The “killer app” prospects in the near future are not on the scale of being able to do baseload grid supply.

        The document is a plea for investors. It’s important to bear that in mind.

        • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

          I do not agree with that interpretation. We read, “The case for solar will be boosted by the emergence of cost-competitive storage,…” Where do you read ancillary services only. The link speaks of bulk storage for time-of-day shifting.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Look at the capabilities of the storage solutions they see as viable soon, and look at how much electricity a grid provides at any given moment. Smoothing is not the same as baseload scale backup.

          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            Pumped Hydro, which represents 99% of storage and has been used for bulk electricity storage for nearly 100 years. There are 40 PHS facilities in the US alone, representing 20 GW of power.


          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            It is clear enough that pumped storage exists and works quite well in certain locations. But demonstration does not imply scalability, and scaling the existing installations did not deliver a radically different answer (in fact, demanding more installations). The enormous scale I calculate means simple factors of two or even ten here and there do not change the overall flavor of the conclusion.

            Let’s be clear that I am not making any claim that large scale storage at the level we need is impossible. But it’s far more daunting than almost anyone realizes. It’s not a matter of “just” building up when the time comes. We could easily find ourselves ill-prepared and suffering insufficient energy supplies, intermittency, and a long, slow economic slide because we collectively did not anticipate the scale of the challenges ahead.

            – See more at:

          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            In the US PHS is presently 2% of generating capacity and has been doing yeoman’s work for decades covering for fossil and nuclear availability issues and responding to demand peaks. I’d not categorize that as “demonstration,” rather its implementation.

            As a society we have finally come to understand that the implementation of PHS, wind and solar for that matter, come at far less environmental cost than our present use of fossil fuel.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Michael Mann has beaten me to it with Tom Murphy’s calculations, but just to clarify – the “killer app” the report talks about isn’t pumped storage. The report says:

            we do not expect any notable increases in pumped hydro storage and it cannot be deployed in many instances

          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            Tom’s assumptions and the above report assume no change in society’s acceptance of these projects. Do you think that is realistic given the growing importance of storage in reducing emissions?

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Well, that’s the thing. We need to have a talk about how much storage we can deal with from a number of perspectives. We need to get real about it. The report all the anti-nuclear crowd are praising here (but few seem to have read – actually, very few of the anti-nuclear sites even link to it, which is odd) says that pumped storage isn’t going to expand. Just like you, that prospect seriously worries me. Pumped storage works. We know it works.

            The challenge for the anti-nuclear crowd is this: how to carry on pretending that nuclear and renewables can’t work together while at the same time insisting storage can overcome the intermittency issue. If you solve the storage issue, you solve the incompatibility issue, and you solve it more easily for renewables + nuclear than you do for renewables alone. You also avoid the escalating costs of renewables at high penetration rates.

            It would be really nice if at least one anti-nuclear person here could acknowledge that those who are not anti-nuclear do actually welcome the development of renewables too.

          • Ike Bottema 6 years ago

            Well said Sam! Indeed WRT renewables, the storage issue is the rub. Solve that issue and renewables are no longer a dead end street!

          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            I am not very optimistic we will solve the storage issue.
            The periodic table only has a finite number of elements which we have been playing with for hundreds of years so the advances in battery technology will not be revolutionary but rather incremental.
            Other methods of storage have also been explored pretty extensively.
            The inescapable truth is that converting energy from one form to another involves losses
            My preference is to replace fossil fuels with a power source that can supply power when we need it. That is why I support nuclear power.

          • Ike Bottema 6 years ago

            I can’t find fault with your assessment in spite of several proposed grid-level storage candidates. However if and when there is a solution, perhaps at least we can fairly compare costs of various dispatchable energy sources. As it stands, renewable generation looks promising but only if the ability to dispatch that energy to match grid demand isn’t part of the comparison.

          • Sparafucile 6 years ago

            If you’ve got both the water, and the topography for it, pumped storage is effective. But here in the US, we’ve pretty much tapped out of both (pun not intended).

          • Cliff_Goudey 6 years ago

            Not so. In fact there are over forty preliminary permits issued by FERC for new pumped hydro facilities with a total 34 gW of capacity. See:

          • Sparafucile 6 years ago

            That accounts for a whopping 5% of our current demand. Whoopie.

        • Giles 6 years ago

          I’ve read the report, and it does talk about storage at grid scale. network operators such as those in australia are installing them without subsidies, because it is cheaper than poles and wires. this is what really terrifies coal and nuclear operators, because it highlights the transition from centralised generation to decentralised generation. As David Crane, the CEO of NRG, the largest generator in the US – including nuclear – said last week, the days of centralised generation are rapidly declining. In effect, the pro-nuclear lobby is doing the work of the coal lobby by trying to slow the deployment of renewables,
          As for plea for investors? This is the same team that covers all energy analysis for deutsche. that includes, coal, oil, gas, nuclear. Their job is to identify what makes sense to investors, they are technology neutral, but they can plainly see that solar makes most economic sense. It doesn’t matter how many reports you cite by pro-nuclear “think-tanks”, the market reality is quite different. Nuclear is ridiculously expensive in western markets. that is the point we make here.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

            Giles, first of all, calm down. This for me is not about nuclear vs renewables, no matter how much that is your own central motivation – and I’m afraid your rhetoric makes it look so. For me, it’s about successful decarbonisation. I’ve been very clear in other posts about this. I find the opposition the renewables-only lobby want to set up a bit weird, to be honest.

            The point I was making that the storage killer apps listed don’t appear to be “baseload”-worthy – that is, they don’t appear to be on the scale of sustaining a large substantial part of total electricity demand for a long period of time when solar and wind are down or very low (and I’m talking not just about Australia, but far less sunny parts of the industrialised world). If I’m wrong, that would be a good thing.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Sam for you nuclear trolls to be telling Giles to “calm down” reflects just how detached from reality you all are. The point we are making is as stated by Giles. You pro-nuclear trolls refuse to accept what money managers at banks and energy companies have already accepted. Then as retaliation you say we are not agonistic and you badger every sensible reply with straw-man argument, misrepresentations and playing dumb slight of hands like Micheal Mann’s conviction that the private market entirely covers the risk cost of nuclear energy. Pot-kettle-black I think. Nuclear has had it’s chance for decades and not measured up, even in 100% nuclear France it never could realise nuclear the dream — because it fails to scale at cost compared to other energy generation, and these days that’s RE.

            The problem us Climate activists have with nuclear lobbying and government largess going into new plants is that it is a distraction from renewables, the technology which is going to solve stationary power decarbonisation. And there are many in the nuclear lobby who run the dinosaur argument that 100% RE can run an industrial economy. It’s a BS argument that, sadly, many political leaders in Australia still feel comfortable trotting out in public as an excuse to avoid meaningful climate action. And nuclear isn’t even a consideration in Australia, seriously it will never get a foothold until someone has enabled the vision of a container sized reactor that’s completely safe from a terrorist intervention to put in a building without engineers to run it at a LCOE price less than solar with a container of battery storage. Good luck with that vision because it’s the only way nuclear will crack the distributed energy market — and that’s where the market is heading. The utility scale RE market is moving way too fast for nuclear to have a hope without a major breakthrough on costs which it’s not found in decades of development.

            I’ve never been calling for all nuclear plants worldwide to be closed down, especially given that we’re 3 years away from tripping 2ºC of GW (given that when coal stops producing aerosols which are cooling the globe half as much as coals CO2 is warming the globe we are really that close and 2ºC is definitely is not ‘safe’).

            I don’t really know any CC activists who are trying to close down nuclear as a priority. But we do respect the fact people who live beside plants should have some say in their right to exist. If Germany and France want to close them down, that’s really the prerogative of the people in those communities who’ll live with the consequences — good or, god forbid, catastrophic. And we realise every dollar going into nuclear is one less dollar going into RE. And every dollar going into RE drives the cost of RE further down the cost curve. Nuclear doesn’t have that advantage, it just keeps getting more expensive and less popular. You can’t deny that contrast of trends. Also you waste our time with these ridiculous bike shed arguments.

          • Sam Gilman 6 years ago


            I’m afraid a large part of your reply didn’t really seem to make any relevant sense to what I wrote, or, to be blunt, accord much with reality (I was struck by your claim “I don’t really know any CC activists who are trying to close down nuclear as a priority” – fair enough, then the Energiewende, which is doing just that, isn’t about climate change – shockingly frank admission, Alastair, and I’m not sure the Germans will like you for it). All it seems is that you object on a fundamental level to people disagreeing with you. Even my questioning the details of the report that’s the topic of this post – nothing directly to do with nuclear power – seems to offend you on some profound level.

            What kind of debate about energy is this when my genuine inquiry about the specifications of new storage technology is dismissed as a “ridiculous bikeshed argument”? Why do you want to stop people asking those kinds of questions, Alastair? I am genuinely baffled by your responses.

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Alastair, Do you really think name calling enhances your position? The position that anyone who disagrees with me is a troll is rather droll. Climate Change activists are pro-nuclear, anti-nuclear activists only pretend to be climate change activists. The emergence of the pronuclear Greens represents an important schism in modern environmentalism. For decades, groups like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace have pushed an antinuclear agenda and contended that the only energy path for the future is the widespread deployment of wind turbines and solar panels. But fear of carbon emissions and climate change has catalyzed a major rethinking. As Brand puts it in a new documentary, Pandora’s Promise, which explores the conversion of antinuclear activists to the pronuclear side: “The question is often asked, ‘Can you be an environmentalist and be pronuclear?’ I would turn that around and say, ‘In light of climate change, can you be an environmentalist and not be pronuclear?’ ”

          • SolarEyes 5 years ago

            Why not nuclear?
            9-25 times more pollution per kWh than wind from mining & refining uranium and using fossil fuels for electricity during the 10-19 years to permit (6-10 y) and construct (4-9 y) nuclear plant compared with 2-5 years for a wind or solar farm

            Risk of meltdown (1.5% of all nuclear reactors to date have melted) Risk of nuclear weapons proliferation

            Unresolved waste issues

            Stanford Plan for 100% Wind Water and Solar for all global
            energy purposes by 2030-2050.

            Professor Jacobson presents and discusses at NASA:

            Land area, economics, number of turbines and panels needed for 100% Wind Water Solar energy transition; 7.5 million 40-year Jobs are created in the US, replacing 3.5 million lost jobs related to fossil fuels; 3% of GDP improvement due to healthcare cost savings from cleaned air;
            Bio fuels cause as many or more air pollution deaths than gasoline.

          • Michael Mann 5 years ago

            Your numbers seem skewed Updated February 2015)
            From the outset, there has been a strong awareness of the potential hazard of both nuclear criticality and release of radioactive materials from generating electricity with nuclear power.
            As in other industries, the design and operation of nuclear power plants aims to minimise the likelihood of accidents, and avoid major human consequences when they occur.
            There have been three major reactor accidents in the history of civil nuclear power – Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. One was contained without harm to anyone, the next involved an intense fire without provision for containment, and the third severely tested the containment, allowing some release of radioactivity.
            These are the only major accidents to have occurred in over 15,000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial nuclear power operation in 33 countries.
            The evidence over six decades shows that nuclear power is a safe means of generating electricity. The risk of accidents in nuclear power plants is low and declining. The consequences of an accident or terrorist attack are minimal compared with other commonly accepted risks. Radiological effects on people of any radioactive releases can be avoided.

          • Michael Mann 5 years ago

            Not really the case and solar power is even worse the fantasy numbers for wind and solar need to be brought back to reality.

          • Todd 5 years ago

            Actually, according to Nature Geoscience and Scientific American, numbers completely backwards and Energy Returned on Energy Invested is a telling metric Each wind turbine is composed of 390 tons of steel and is anchored by 1,000 tons of concrete

          • LoboSolo 6 years ago

            Less popular? I gess that is relativ. China has 23 nuclear power reactors in operation, 26 under construction, and more about to start construction. It just approv’d the plans for two more.

            Even the US is about bring another one online this year and two more are under construction. Six more are in the application phase.

            China and the US DOE are working a molten salt reactor that China hopes to hav online in 2024. An MSR could significantly bring down the cost of nuclear power.

            Aside from all that, the amazing thing that I see in this writ is the low estimated cost of solar which doesn’t match anything that I’v seen elsewhere.

            The US Energy Information Agency for power coming online in 2019 has the leveliz’d cost of $130.0/MWh for solar and $96.1/MWh for nuclear. See

            Further, those with great % of solar or wind like Denmark (offshore wind), Germany (solar, wind) and Spain (solar, wind) hav the most expensiv electricity. The German rates are more than 3x my hometown rates which is a mix of coal, gas, hydro, and nuclear (about 1/3 of our region).

            Thus, the future cost estimates in this writ are far below other costs estimates and not anywhere near today’s costs. I would say the low cost gesses here for solar is way too optimistic. I think any ernest investor would see right thru these numbers.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Did you just get the nuclear-trolls newsletter to drop by this article on reneweconomy LS? Bit late to the party aren’t you? Click all the up arrows while you’re here at least can’t you?

    • Matthew 6 years ago

      Nukes are far from renewable. Producing and using nuke fuel destroys.

      • Dr. A. Cannara 6 years ago

        Actually, Mathew, if we remember high-school science and “conservation of energy”, nothing’s “renewable”, which is why the term itself is just marketing.

        The closest to being renewable are solar & nuclear, and I favor both because of that, and their potential for low environmental impacts: local solar PV/hot water needs no land, hurts no species and wastes less power than solar/wind ‘farms’. EVs, efficient storage and nuclear are similarly important.

        Solar will last us until the sun goes red giant and fries us. Nuclear will last as long as there’s any rocky/watery body in the solar system.

        Remember, stick up your pinky, look at it, now imagine it were the same size, but Uranium. That amount of U (not you) will run your life for more than a decade — house, cars, trips, food, water…

        The waste produced over that time of service to you is smaller than your nail on that pinky. All such waste from running all US nuclear power for 57 years and powering ~20% of our country, is less than 4000 tons — it fits in a low pile between the goal and the 5-yard line on a football field. In a few hundred years, its radioactivity is gone to background and many useful elements, like Cerium, Zirconium…can be taken from it.

        In contrast, just one US coal company has piled >100 million tons of ash all around our southeast, leaking into rivers & groundwater wastes that never decay: arsenic, cadmium, thallium, lead, mercury…

        And when the coal was burned, it emitted much of those, plus radioactive isotopes, that the combustion industry long ago lobbied to be able to pump into air: NORM Exemption.

        Wind/solar ‘farms’ have their own pollution issues, especially windmills, which consume ~2000 tons of raw materials per average MW delivered. Those materials must be processed via fossil fuels — look up how much coal is used to make a ton of steel for a 150-ton, 2MW windmill tower. Solar-cell manufacturing has its own, considerably-dangerous waste issues.

        The point that we environmentalists should value is “power density” — how much of the world is sacrificed per kWHr delivered to us?

        Nuclear has the highest power density by far, while local solar uses no land. So we have thousands of years of clean power ahead by simply using local solar, EVs, efficient storage and nuclear.

        China recognizes this, so do other countries, so do climate & other scientists…

        Even the Dalai Lama & former anti-nuke Heard…

        Our penchant for irrational fear, as of nuclear…

        • Matthew 6 years ago

          Actually, conservation of mass/energy means that ultimately *everything* is renewable, as we learned in high school. Of course, what we’re talking about here is renewable resources as opposed to non-sustainable ones, and the open system of the Earth as opposed to some total universe system that nobody’s talking about because it’s irrelevant.

          Nuclear is not remotely “renewable” in any sense. It uses some of the rarest, most toxic and most dangerous substances on the planet. They get renewed in the cores of giant stars. There is other radioactive fuel elsewhere in the solar system, but the energy budget for retrieving it is a ridiculous proposition – especially when there are such better alternatives. Calling it “renewable” is ludicrous, and is the actual marketing BS in this discussion.

          Solar is renewable because the solar resource is renewed continuously in the copious incoming sunlight. Its other necessary materials, especially silicon, are not quite “renewable” if we’re being pedantic (like if we’re marketing competition that can’t get by honestly), but silicon is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, and not exhaustible in even the most remotely plausible scenario. That is completely different than nukes, which are not renewable.

          I’m not going to bother dignifying your “uranium pinky” stuff because that’s the most inane marketing since the 1950s “your friend, the atom” and “too cheap to measure”. Especially the lies about how the radioactive waste is gone in a few decades – when it’s more like many millennia, effectively (for human planning horizons) forever.

          I really don’t care what the Dalai Lama says about nukes, nor does the policy in China (the world’s biggest polluter and violator of more humans’ rights than any other country) tell me what’s right.

          Solar, wind and water are sufficient resources to power all human consumption, with the minimum pollution. Wasting time with the nukes boondoggle just gets in the way of the doing this the right way.

          • Billey Bangle 6 years ago

            Carbon is the enemy. Anything which reduces Carbon should be considered on its merits. Whether it will last literally forever, or could conceivably run out is not the issue. Getting rid of Carbon is the issue.

            I believe that nuclear does in fact meet the criteria for renewable if Uranium is harvested from the ocean. But that’s for the future to decide.

            Your fear of radioactivity Matthew is quite irrational, perhaps this will help you get some perspective.


          • greenthinker2012 6 years ago

            I have corrected your last paragraph to make it accurate….

            Solar, wind and water, backed up with a whole lot of natural gas burning, are sufficient resources to power all human consumption.

            You also have not answered my previous question so I will post it again.

            Which pathway will reduce our CO2 emissions fastest?

            1) Only using WInd, Solar, Hydro, Biomass, Conservation

            2) Only using nuclear power

            3) Using all of the above.

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            or 4) Wind, concentrated solar thermal with molten salt storage, solarPV with chemical storage, pumped hydro storage, very small amount of burnt bio-fuels as backup. All could be completed in a decade as Beyond Zero Emissions showed in Australia’s first 100% renewable stationary energy study and two other subsequent studies. Probably for same or less than the cost of burning FFs.

            You think we’d see even one nuclear plant through setting of regulations by ARPANSA and thorough planning law overrides in an Australian city inside of ten years let alone operational? Even with the political will, that’s 2.5 cycles of government at both federal and state levels which could fall over such a scheme. Nominate locations for plants now I’d suggest — you’ll need decades of climate disasters and ‘informed debate’ to get them approved by the public.

  4. Sparafucile 6 years ago

    “Even now, with 130GW of solar installed, it accounts for just 1 per cent of the 6,000GW, or $2 trillion electricity market (that is an annual figure).”

    Innumeracy is an activist’s best friend and closest companion. And if you don’t see anything wrong with the article’s statement I’ve quoted, then you’re probably one of those activists I’m describing.

    • John Saint-Smith 6 years ago

      10 years ago there were 5000 Australian homes with solar panels, today there are 1,200,000 and still growing. That’s a 2400 fold increase, way beyond what anyone would have considered remotely possible in 2005. If this trend were to continue through 2025 at half this rate, Australia would be generating all of its electricity from rooftop solar, with plenty to spare.

    • Chris 6 years ago

      So, I’m guessing you mean it should be 2%?

    • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

      Private Disqus user details, a paid trollers best companion 😉

      • georgemitchell2015 6 years ago

        “paid troll” is the oldest, least original meme on the internet.

        • Guest 6 years ago

          Hey, haven’t you read that sign saying “Do not feed the trolls”?:)

          • Michael Mann 6 years ago

            Are you saying Alastair is a troll? Now that you mention it there is no info on Alastair no Facebook link.. nothing good tip, I’ll check out these commenters who seem to have trouble with facts, and accuse others of being trolls…

          • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

            Real name, Micheal. No hiding my Disqus activity either. But nice try.

  5. patb2009 6 years ago

    India will rapidly absorb solar, the country has a lousy grid and a long standing tradition of self sufficiency. With 250 million middle class indians now, a small investment in solar means they can commit to reducing their grid dependence. I suspect India will surprise us with this.

  6. Alastair Leith 6 years ago

    25% solar in India by 2022, 100GW is such a massive amount of solarPV and good news for people with limited access to power and unreliable networks.

  7. Billey Bangle 6 years ago

    China’s only pure-play nuclear company, China General Nuclear (CGN), was 286 times oversubscribed in December 2014.
    The ASX “clean” energy index went up 7.8% in Feb, now only 15% below where it was in 2011.
    Maybe investors and markets think different.

    • Giles 6 years ago

      France’s two nuclear stocks – Areva down by two thirds in past 3 years, EdF down by more than half.

  8. Sam Gilman 6 years ago

    Having had a look at the report, I was left with the impression that the killer app storage solutions that they predict are all still on a relatively small scale, and wouldn’t actually be available for utility-sized installations. Surely this limits the expansion somewhat.

    I’m also puzzled by their belief that electricity is going to become more expensive (allowing grid parity for solar+storage) while at the same time, solar will a) continue to fall in price and b) increase penetration rates hugely. The former prediction seems to be based on extrapolation of historical demand-led trends. Are they externalising some of the costs of solar (transmission etc) or are they not joining up the two things?

    • theghostofthomaspaine 6 years ago

      It would be an enormous infrastructure investment, but a world grid could be built which would mute the need for storage. The sun is always shining somewhere.

      • Sam Gilman 6 years ago

        The sheer resource use would be a hell of a challenge.

        It’s also important to remember that what we need is not simply to produce electricity reaching the equivalent to today’s total energy demand, but that we need it in the right place at the right time. That’s why storage is pretty much essential if you’re going to use something as intermittent as solar on a large scale.

        In general, I don’t quite understand why so many renewables-only sites seem to reach for solar as their first intermittent of choice. Wind, although it doesn’t match peaking demand as well, at least produces more consistently, and the historical evidence shows that it’s deployed far more quickly and effectively. I honestly start to wonder about whether there is some funny funding going on.

  9. WhatTheFlux 6 years ago

    I live in Southern California. We could have repaired SONGS (San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station) for $600 Million. Instead we’re decommissioning it for $4.5 Billion. The economic logic behind this is puzzling. But wait, there’s more:

    Replacing San Onofre’s 2.15 GW with solar, including enough pumped storage to replicate the reactors’ reliability, would cost well north of $100 Billion, and take up many square miles of desert. Where water tends to evaporate “like a mofo” as we say around here.

    It would take land half the size of LA to wind power LA. Not including storage. And wind is predicted to calm 15% by mid-century due to AGW. So toss in another 15%, and then another 10% for long-distance transmission loss, since that much land could only be made available far out of town, in the desert.

    Looking over scale-up scenarios like these, I simply cannot fathom why and how anyone could rationally conclude that we could power a city such as Los Angeles with renewables.

    • Bart_R 6 years ago


      Isn’t this the same SONGS that just had $671 Million in refurbishment that failed because no one in the world can make the tubes it takes to cool the reactor core?

      And that refurbishment went 80% over projections. I’m not saying that you can’t get the refurbishment for $600 Million; however, the best efforts made by the best in the world couldn’t do it for $671, and opted to mothball that white elephant rather than lose another penny on it.

      As for $4.5 Billion for decommissioning, it’ll have to be decommissioned sometime, and likely very, very soon. SONGS is one of the least well-built (heck, it was put together backwards by Becktel at one point), most poorly maintained (sabotage found in its backup generators blamed on staff), least secure (it actually had no security plan when a surprise audit inspected its compliance with federal infrastructure protection laws). Nothing you claim about SONGS is anything but more SONGS & dance.

      Oh, and it is storing over 4,000 tons of spent fuel on site that no one wants and no one has agreed to take.

      Plus, it’s on a fault line, albeit one that is likely inactive, there’s still a substantial 0.7% chance of major earthquake hitting SONGS before it becomes a safe zone. Sure, you’re better than 99.3% chance to not have a tectonic event three orders of magnitude beyond SONGS claimed design specs. But then, those design specs were dependent on it not being put together backwards, sabotaged by its own staff, run down to the point it couldn’t continue and then refitted with inadequate replacements.

      Further, you’ve inflated line losses by some 1,000% and the cost of solar by a similar amount. Hot rock storage for solar is already being used in the desert, and pumped hydro storage can be done anywhere within 800 km using Ultra High Voltage DC.

      Is there anything about electricity infrastructure you know that is actually true?

  10. Brian 5 years ago

    We need to stop all new nuclear and fossils development. All new energy should be renewable.

    pv, offshore wind, electric vehicles, efficiency, and hydro and waste
    to fuels for backup, long range and chemicals. Cheaper before gov
    breaks, infinitely

    cheaper than war, pollution and climate change.

    Solar and wind are now available cheaper than any other sources. Before gov breaks

    Funny how that anti solar folks always include storage and backup, for solar and wind, but never for nuclear and coal which need hydrocarbon generators for load following and for the multi week refueling for nuclear.

    Solar and wind need only hydro and the same reserve generators as nuclear and coal already need and use.

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