Home > Environment > Straws in the wind

Straws in the wind

April 15th, 2010

Serious action to reduce CO2 emissions has been stymied in Australia and the US for the moment. So, to get an idea of what is likely to be feasible, and on what timescale, we have to look at Europe, which has both a working Emissions Trading Scheme and a bunch of special incentives to promote renewable energy. At least on the latter point, there is some cause for optimism.

Here’s a graph of new installed capacity and decommissioned capacity for 2009 from The European Wind Energy Association (link here was broken and is now fixed-JQ). The results pretty much speak for themselves, but I’ll add a couple of observations.

The fact that solar PV was a major source of new installed capacity surprised me. Until now, solar (along with fusion) has been one of the contenders for the tag “the energy source of the future and always will be”. But, on current trends, solar is set to be a major contributor in the future. Of course, the outcome so far has been the result of large subsidies, such as feed-in tariffs. But, even as the subsidies are cut back the volume of installations continues to grow. Before long, solar could be competitive with coal on the basis of the ETS and peak-load pricing, without the need for an extra “renewable” subsidy. Gas is likely to be cheapest for some time to come, but there are sound reasons for not wanting to depend entirely on an energy source that can be cut off at short notice.

The other point is that for coal (and also, less surprisingly for nuclear) installed capacity showed a net decline. The combination of the ETS and strong political opposition has made the construction of new coal-fired power stations in Europe almost impossible, at least without a commitment to CCS or some other sweetener.

On this issue, where Europe has led, the rest of the world will follow sooner or later. The big question is whether it will be too late. The good outcomes we are seeing in Europe suggest that, even with a few years’ slippage, big reductions in emissions will be possible in time to stabilise global climate.

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  1. Ernestine Gross
    April 15th, 2010 at 19:18 | #1

    RE: “The fact that solar PV was a major source of new installed capacity surprised me.”

    Relative to solar, wind power has two negative externalities, noise (unwanted sound) and visual pollution. These negative externalities matter in densely populated regions, such as the EU.

  2. Rationalist
    April 15th, 2010 at 19:34 | #2

    China is building 2 coal fired power stations per week, just sayin’. This will continue at a similar or faster pace for at least another 10 years. Coal fired power stations have a operational lifetime of several decades.

  3. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 15th, 2010 at 19:46 | #3

    I feel more optimistic about fusion lately.

  4. Rationalist
    April 15th, 2010 at 19:47 | #4

    Another small comment, the EU27 has around 430,000 MW of installed thermal (coal, gas) capacity, 135,000 MW of installed nuclear capacity, 139,000 MW of installed hydro capacity.

  5. April 15th, 2010 at 20:17 | #5

    It’s certainly promising, although it would seem that political obstacles to change both locally and in the United States may prove to be stumbling blocks with significant longevity. Perhaps the situation here will be slightly different after the impending election, but I would imagine that Messr Obama has used up a fair whack of his political capital on health reform.

  6. jquiggin
    April 15th, 2010 at 20:30 | #6


    China is certainly a big source of new emissions, but they are making some significant progress closing down the least efficient plants, at the same time as building new ones.


    As regards the EU, there is plenty of room to cut emissions from coal, and this process is accelerating.

  7. April 15th, 2010 at 20:31 | #7


    China is building 2 coal fired power stations per week,

    Not really. Go back and check the ned annual addition to coal capacity

  8. April 15th, 2010 at 20:31 | #8

    oops net annual addition

  9. Michael
    April 15th, 2010 at 21:49 | #9

    @Ernestine Gross
    Noise is a fairly termed an externality but I’m not sure that the visual pollution of wind mills is universal or constant. It’s a matter of taste and attitudes to the visual impact might change over time – there are plenty of historic bits of utilitarian infrastructure that are considered marvels in later times. There may also be alternative designs in the future that are considered less of an eyesore. I’d rather wind mills than freeways of coal fired power stations.

  10. conrad
    April 15th, 2010 at 21:52 | #10

    “I feel more optimistic about fusion lately.”

    I feel optimistic about wind and solar (especially the third generation solar, and possibly small household sized wind generators I’ve seen), although I guess the problem with being optimistic about these is that if they do really get down to the price of coal, then many Australian companies will go broke. Should this really be factored into their share prices, or am I just too optimistic and should go with the crowd?

  11. Ernestine Gross
    April 15th, 2010 at 22:35 | #11


    Apparently it is the pattern of shades created by the turning blades which is a major component of the visual pollution of wind farms. Yes, I’ve heard of alternative designs (wind towers). The attitude line is unlikely to be a fruitful one. It has been tried for aircraft noise. It is a red herring. Specifically, the idea that humans’ reaction to aircraft noise is ‘modified’ by their attitue toward the aviation industry is a big red herring. If one interpretes ‘taste’ as preferences then alternatives become relevant, eg. windfarms vs nuclear power, windfarms vs coal dust (ie comparisons of negative externalities other than ghg).

  12. 2 tanners
    April 15th, 2010 at 22:52 | #12

    Taste is subjective, but I have always thought wind farms rather elegant and inspiring. Unlike coal plants and nuclear power stations.

  13. April 15th, 2010 at 22:52 | #13

    [email protected]#6 said:

    China is certainly a big source of new emissions, but they are making some significant progress closing down the least efficient plants, at the same time as building new ones.

    The PRC is making “significant progress” in renewable energy installations too, much faster than the EU on a per capita basis, so far as I can judge.

    China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year. The NYT reports:

    China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year.China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coalpower plants.

    These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China.

    The link to the PRC’s non-renewable energy projects are encouraging and interesting not just from an ecological perspective. It also sheds light on the unstoppable rise of the PRC to global industrial hegemony.

    “Most of the energy equipment will carry a brass plate, ‘Made in China,’ ” said K. K. Chan, the chief executive of Nature Elements Capital, a private equity fund in Beijing that focuses on renewable energy.

    All this points to the elephant in the economists living room: how is it that the PRC is growing so fast with relatively few growing pains? Whats interesting to me about the PRC’s institutional formation – a kind of nationalist state capitalism – is that it appears to flout all the “Washington Consensus” liberal rules about transparent markets, open borders, capitalist commanding heights, floating currency, democracy. Tom Friedman seems to be paying them a few visits these days and you can see his world model being jolted around in his head, bits of cognitive dissonance creeping out into his columns.

    Once upon a time economists made great strides in Comparative Economic Systems. Marx, Weber, Rathenau, Keynes, Lange, Hayek, Mises, Nove. Nowadays they would rather study Freakonomic theories about abortion and crime which aren’t even right to begin with. Petty rubbish.

    I have always been obsessed with CES. First from an interest in working out theories of capitalism and socialism. But later on I got fixated on German “war socialism” and post-war Japanese MITI developments. (Can anyone spot the similarities between pre-War Germany and post-War Japan?) And the historicist theories of Gerschenkrohn ie actual and existing statism that worked. I now think history is equally if not more important than theory in these questions.

    So what is it about the PRC’s evolutionary history that makes it such an economic power-house?

    It would be nice if economists knuckled down to their comparative economics to figure out where they went wrong on the PRC. Instead of playing the blame game on the GFC. (I plead guilty here too.)

  14. Ernestine Gross
    April 15th, 2010 at 23:27 | #14

    2 tanners :Taste is subjective, but I have always thought wind farms rather elegant and inspiring. Unlike coal plants and nuclear power stations.

    a) Taste is ‘subjective’. Do you mean arbitrary or as understood by the concept of preferences defined on a space of commodities, characterised by their physical properties, time of availability and location of availability?

    b) Is you stated taste indepedent of location?

  15. Ernestine Gross
    April 15th, 2010 at 23:29 | #15

    @Jack Strocchi

    Jack S., what exactly is ‘an economic power house’?

  16. gregh
    April 16th, 2010 at 00:00 | #16

    @Ernestine Gross
    I’m not sure you can compare across sensory modalities (vision versus hearing) in this case. Noise is a different sort of stressor – R Murray Schafer’s ‘we have no earlids’

  17. April 16th, 2010 at 00:51 | #17

    In 2009, emissions covered by the EU ETS fell by 11%. Some of this would be due to the GFC, but the EU ETS and other policy measures would also make a difference. This would imply emissions are significantly lower than the cap, but because permits can be banked, there is still an incentive to reduce emissions. In any case 11% is a great result.

    An interesting difference between ETS’s and carbon taxes is that in an ETS with banking and borrowing, the carbon price is to a certain extent based on the discounted expectation of the future price, which perhaps makes better use of information than a carbon tax.

  18. jquiggin
    April 16th, 2010 at 05:37 | #18

    That’s a very nice point, Peter.

  19. Rationalist
    April 16th, 2010 at 07:04 | #19

    Correct, improving efficiency of existing plants is very important and I am happy to see China is enthusiastic about employing technology which allows them to get the most out of each tonne of coal burnt. In addition, if all Chinese coal fired power stations were equipped with the same scrubbing and filtering equipment as Australian coal fired power stations are, they would have a smaller problem from particulate, nitrogen and sulphur oxides.

    @Fran Barlow
    All semantic arguments aside, Chinese coal production doubled between 2002 and 2008. They essentially consume all they produce and they now even rely on imports from places like Australia.

    China produces and consumes around 3 billion tonnes of coal per year. (2008 statistic).

  20. Hermit
    April 16th, 2010 at 07:38 | #20

    In my opinion solar PV is barely viable more than forty degrees from the equator so the uptake in non-Mediterranean Europe must be due to subsidies. Apart from feed-in tariffs I know that in at least one EU country, Germany, electricity resellers are obliged to buy all available windpower whether they want it or not. That is wind generators get both a subsidy and a guaranteed market. This usually requires quick start gas turbine generators on standby to cover wind lulls which raises the spectre of very high fuel costs in the not too distant future.

    Thus electricity prices in parts of Europe are double are what they are in Australia. We need to ask whether the 11% emissions reduction can be attributed to stifling of output rather than efficiency. Will the next 11% and the next be harder? Remember we want 80% cuts by 2050 which may be out of range or unaffordable for the wind/gas combo.

  21. April 16th, 2010 at 08:22 | #21

    PrQ … your hyperlink to the EWEA above has no argument. You’ll need to insert the string value for the URL.

  22. April 16th, 2010 at 08:23 | #22

    Actually, it does have one, but it is simply “http:///” wish is obviously not a valid string value.

  23. Donald Oats
    April 16th, 2010 at 12:09 | #23

    Solar PVs are not necessarily subsidised. Once polluting the ecosystem and/or tragically interfering with the ecosystem are properly accounted for by a pricing mechanism, the once unprofitable may suddenly be contenders due to their low(er) negative effects upon the ecosystem. That’s kind of the point.

    With regards to coal fired power, the costs of CO2 extraction and sequestration are sufficiently high to render it marginal in many regions around the world. The costs of extraction and sesquestration are to some extent unavoidable, due to the extra energy required to perform these steps, and the accompanying extra CO2 to be sequestered. Amusingly the most inefficient coal-fired power stations may generate the most CO2 due to sequestration’s extra energy needs, which further increases the cost burden upon these stations if they are required to sequester CO2. PV solar is very competitive in comparison to such coal fired dinosaurs. This may give PV solar the extra investment capital needed to fund even newer PV technologies to market, and that is where the real power of ETS-like schemes lies IMHO.

    I haven’t quoted any figures because quite frankly they depend upon very dynamic factors, but ballpark-wise alternative energy technologies using wind, wave, and solar are solid if an ETS system is in place (as in the EU). In the US solar is growing quickly due to incentives, but the incentives are having the desired effect of increasing growth and benefitting from economy of scale price drops. And the US installed 10GW of wind power generation last year, bringing it to 35GW – ironically Texas is a wind energy leader!. Imagine if in Australia we manufactured wind turbines and solar PV hardware – it’s a big market now and we are missing it. It’s time to get on the bandwagon and build some gear of our own on a large scale. Just my 2 cents worth 🙂

  24. April 16th, 2010 at 14:53 | #24

    I the point about banking and borrowing from this paper:

    Murray, B.C., Newell, R.G., Pizer, W. A., 2009, ‘Balancing Cost and Emissions Certainty: An Allowance Reserve for Cap-and-Trade’, Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 3(1), 84-103.

    It also discussed a proposal that was later implemented as the ‘Strategic Reserve’ in the Waxman-Markey bill. Perhaps a nice example of an academic paper having policy impact.

  25. Hermit
    April 16th, 2010 at 14:59 | #25

    Carbon pricing schemes will make renewables somewhat more competitive even if they need routine backup from fossil fuels like gas. However Australia will have to pay world prices for gas since lobbying for domestic set-aside quotas seems to meet with great resistance. That resistance may lessen in years to come, particularly if the transport industry becomes a major new customer for gas, either in compressed form or converted to petrol.

    Let’s say retail electricity prices double 2010-2020 due to a combination of factors. Will household incomes double? Remember with high immigration and strange rainfall patterns household budgets will have find more money for food as well as doubled power bills.

  26. hix
    April 16th, 2010 at 15:30 | #26

    The European solar panel installations can be explained quite simple: I pay them, along with every other German, in particular not so well off Germans. Photovoltaic gets insane subsidies in Germany at least 6 times more than wind. That explains 90% of the installations.

    New installed solar capacity from 2009 alone will impose a direct regressive tax of at least 10,4 billion Euro . Those 10,4 billion are based on a 5% increase for conventional energy from a starting point of 5 cent every year for the last 20 years and a discount rate of 20%, which is far far to generous. ( source:http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/soziales/0,1518,672959,00.html). European solar panels are not in Sicilia where they would be twice as efficient, meaning still less efficient than wind energy, they are in Southern Germany. This is not to say that wind is so great, just that photovoltaic is such a huge waste of money in Europe. Give photovoltaic a couple of years, an apropiate externaltiy price for coventional energy and it will take off , but not at the places where photvolotaic installations are done right now thanks to insane subsidies. Sorry for those many at least, its all very opaque, even for people that spent much more time on the subject.

    Wind energy installed in 2009 gets a guaranteed price of 9,2 cent per kw/h, photovoltaic between 43 and 32 cent for the next 20 years. The wind industry isnt any better. The next big subsidiy thing is off shore wind. This time at least Britain is foolish enough to follow Germany. Chinese technology advancements are the least Europe has to fear. They are years behind Europe with both their solar and wind technology. Their labour is just cheap at the moment. Europe doesnt even spend much on research, just lots of money on inefficient current technology installations. Most solar ones are from China. There are many many much cheaper ways to lower environmental damage. Better house isolation, more efficient and smaller cars or just a liquid natural gas terminal. Dont fall into the nice good looking blue toys trap.

  27. Michael
    April 16th, 2010 at 15:35 | #27

    Does anyone seriously entertain efficiency measures as a way of combating rising electricity prices. At current prices most people don’t even bother to find out in any detail where electricity is used or wasted. I doubt many households or buildings in Australia are making much progress on this due to a lack of awareness and motivation but there is surely a big scope for this if electricity prices were to rise. I have reduced my own electricity consumption to save money and it’s paid off. Not really difficult or expensive to do if you can be bothered doing a bit of reading.

  28. Ernestine Gross
    April 16th, 2010 at 16:39 | #28


    Where do you get the number 10,4 billion Euro from? Note that in Europe 1 billion is 1 million millions!

    Further, careful with the wiki-site you referenced. There is the remark “Bearbeiten” in several places and there are other communications which indicate to me that the data has not been verified.

  29. April 16th, 2010 at 22:56 | #29

    Michael, why worry about electricity prices when it is easy to offset the income effects of electricity price increases by other methods?

  30. Rationalist
    April 16th, 2010 at 23:03 | #30

    @Ernestine Gross
    Nobody of any significance uses the long scale.

  31. BilB
    April 16th, 2010 at 23:11 | #31

    On acceptance of wind, apparently in the late 1800’s Europe had 90,000 wind mills. That is a lot of heritage and many times more than they need today.


    Would you care to explain the basis of your considered evaluation of the value of solar PV in northern climbs?

  32. Ernestine Gross
    April 16th, 2010 at 23:42 | #32

    Rationalist :@Ernestine Gross Nobody of any significance uses the long scale.

    LOL – “the long scale”!

  33. Ernestine Gross
    April 17th, 2010 at 00:00 | #33

    gregh :@Ernestine Gross I’m not sure you can compare across sensory modalities (vision versus hearing) in this case. Noise is a different sort of stressor – R Murray Schafer’s ‘we have no earlids’

    As a private individual I could ‘compare’ (preference ranking) alternative negative externalities in my particular circumstances and so could other individuals, arriving at possibly different rankings (least of two evils kind of idea, including subjective risk assessment, given the personal circumstances such as location, activities, physiological…). Actual experience would be required. I am not suggesting that physiological test results for one type of sensory modality are ‘compared across’ (in the sense of being comparable) to test results for others even under identical circumstances.

  34. Freelander
    April 17th, 2010 at 01:41 | #34

    @Peter Wood

    Your 2009 numbers for the EU Emission Trading Scheme lead to another interesting point for denialists. The EU managed these emission reductions without their world falling to bits. If the world had started emissions reduction back when it otherwise would have, without all the denialist rearguard action, we would already be significantly down the path and there wouldn’t have been much grief.

  35. hix
    April 17th, 2010 at 03:13 | #35

    The wikipedia numbers are correct. Bearbeiten is just the edit page option. I used billion=1000 milions, not million. Source for the calculation for costs from 2009 solar installation is aleady linked up there ( the smaller article on the left)

  36. BilB
    April 17th, 2010 at 05:26 | #36

    Solar PotoVoltaic panel operation at higher latitudes.

    There are a lot of people who have confused thinking about the features of solar photo voltaics.

    The first misconception is that at higher latitudes photovoltaics are less efficient because less solar energy falls on the ground per square metre. This is false because the panels are set up to be normal to the solar radiation ie they receive exactly the same amount of radiation as at the equator, with the only losses being atmospheric due to the extra thickness, reflection refraction. The main difference is that the panels cast longer shadows than at the equator so there will be few panels working per hectare. This is not an issue for building mounted panels as buildings provide sufficient spacing, although solar farms would be far less effective.

    Another higher lattitude compensation is that Arctic and Antarctic summer days are far longer than any where else, though the winter from November to January (Arctic) is a solar writeoff due to very short days and snow cover.

    The main, little understood, higher latitude compensation is that photovoltaics are far more efficient in colder air. From 100degrees C to 0 degrees C the the efficiency improvement can be over 60%, depending on the panel construction.

    So the often quoted claim that the use of Solar PV is pointless in Germany and higher laititudes is completely false. Solar PV works just fine in Finland and Alaska as well.

  37. BilB
    April 17th, 2010 at 05:41 | #37

    Externalities? Let’s ask the people.


    September 2003 Report.

  38. Hermit
    April 17th, 2010 at 06:53 | #38

    You have omitted the projection effect of higher latitude
    Additionally some populous countries may have more cloud cover since they evolved from regions with reliable rainfall.

    If I recall Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said solar is an expensive way to make small amounts of electricity. Which makes hard to explain why he is flogging so much of our gas to foreigners.

  39. BilB
    April 17th, 2010 at 08:11 | #39

    No, Hermit, I have not omitted the projection effect. That is what placing panels NORMAL to the solar radiation eliminates. This is what shadow casting covers. Higher latitudes=longer shadows, but the radiation is the same NORMAL to the incoming rays. Ground area less radiation per square metre, panel area standard radiation per square metre. Many others have made this same mistake of understanding.

  40. iain
    April 17th, 2010 at 08:16 | #40

    @Peter Wood

    Emissions, across all scopes, have likely increased in the EU since the ETS was introduced.


    The EU’s scope 3 emissions, which they are fully responsible for, will likely increase further at the same time as their scope 1 and 2 emissions, covered under the EU ETS, reduce further.

    Carbon taxes, in conjunction with a well coordinated carbon tariff amongst major polluters, is a possible method to reduce emissions across all three scopes globally.

    Until then, the EU possibly only serves as a model that represents how easy it is to reduce specific scope 1 and 2 emissions (and trumpet this, relatively, meaningless fact) without actually reducing overall emissions.

  41. iain
    April 17th, 2010 at 08:19 | #41

    The graph for nuclear power, obviously, speaks for itself.

    But do pro-nuclear sycophants ever really hear it?

  42. Chris O’Neill
    April 17th, 2010 at 09:49 | #42

    The combination of the ETS and strong political opposition has made the construction of new coal-fired power stations in Europe almost impossible, at least without a commitment to CCS or some other sweetener.

    One argument we hear ad nauseum from Green Party supporters is that the ETS in Europe has failed and that’s why the Greens voted against it here in the Senate. That argument is just wrong and the Greens are being nothing more than useful fools for the far-right conservatives in the Liberal Party.

  43. Freelander
    April 17th, 2010 at 13:24 | #43

    Some of the more extreme types that tend to inhabit the Greens and Greenpeace give conservation and environmentalism a bad name by advancing positions that allow opponents to portray any reasonable conservation or environmental initiatives as ‘scorched earth’, incredibly costly, and one step removed from ‘back to the caves’.
    Similar may be said for PETA in relation to animal cruelty, animal rights and animal welfare.

  44. stockingrate
    April 17th, 2010 at 20:41 | #44

    In Japan photovoltaics are said to be on the verge of explosive growth as residential grid parity without subsidy appears to be much closer than it was just a few years ago. It is hard to predict the future, but some in Japan -the biggest consumer of Australian gas and coal – are explicitly considering massive reductions in gas and coal imports within a few decades.

    Meanwhile in the real world – ie inclusive of subsidies – “When financial incentives are added in, some [Japanese] regions become able to introduce solar power generating systems for astonishingly low cost” TODAY.


    Article also discusses 45x increase in Italian PV in three years as a simulation of grid parity.

  45. hix
    April 17th, 2010 at 23:13 | #45

    “”So the often quoted claim that the use of Solar PV is pointless in Germany and higher laititudes is completely false. Solar PV works just fine in Finland and Alaska as well.”

    The best regions in Germany manage 1100kwh per kw peak, the best regions in Australia 2300. Sure, photovoltaic works fine in Germany, its just twice as expensive as in some other geographies. Grid parity is not as exciting as it sounds. Photovolatic users still need a grid connection. The grid operator can react and tweak the fee structure, increase fixed fees and lower the consumption dependend price. In a typical household, energy use is not very high while the solar panels produce most energy. The monopoly operators that charge such high prices that grid parity is possible soon wont pay much for that overproduction.

  46. Ernestine Gross
    April 18th, 2010 at 00:33 | #46

    The point I wanted to introduce @1, p1 concerns a problem, examined in the literature on incomplete markets, which tends to be ignored in the policy area. The idea that a carbon price (to solve ghg emission problem) will result in ‘the market’ selecting the appropriate energy production (ie either nuclear or wind or solar or coal…..) is theoretically valid if and only if ghg emission is the only negative externality. This is empirically not the case. So, if one wants a ‘market solution’ one would need to introduce a lot of other ‘markets’ for other negative externalities. This is costly. And, one would need to have not only spot markets for each of them but future markets (say approximated by forward markets). An alternative to markets are administrative prices, eg taxes and subsidies. When considering different local conditions, not only internationally but also within a geo-politically defined country, it would not be surprising at all if different administrative prices are observed for various alternative energy sources. It is a mistake to focus only on the production cost of energy in a non-dictatorial resource allocation, ie in social democracy where economic welfare defined with respect to individual humans rather than to corporations.

    The data referenced by BilB and in the diagram in JQ’s post is encouraging regarding corporatism being kept in check.

  47. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 01:01 | #47

    One would also have to do numerous brain transplants as well. But the types of brains that are required for the transplants to make a completely decentralised approach work (without a bit of help via other coordinated efforts) have never existed. Markets do have problems with intertemporal allocation. Not just because the hardest thing to forecast is the future, but because, as someone else said, they can be subject to animal spirits.

  48. hix
    April 18th, 2010 at 02:51 | #48

    Lets see:

    guarantee price for smalll solar installations 2009: 43,01 cent per kw/h
    guarentee price for wind : 9,2 cent
    Electricity consumption : 621 billion kw/h
    —> For just another 210 billion Euro, Germany would not just produce electrity all carbon free, but also without the sight of those ugly windmills.

  49. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 04:40 | #49


    With that type of thinking you might be suggesting that the money that was spent invading Iraq and Afghanistan, killing a large number of innocents, providing numerous recruits for al-Qaeda, and displacing millions of people, as well as creating refugees who attempt to come to our shores in leaky boats, could have been put to better use?

  50. Jill Rush
    April 18th, 2010 at 10:13 | #50

    Thanks for the encouraging picture Prof Q. On the comment the rest of the world will follow I wonder if China will do that without some other external pressure.

    At the moment their competitive advantage is in the price of goods without factoring in the carbon price of production or transportation. China seems quite resistant to the idea of carbon trading – although it is researching new energy sources with a radical rethink of nuclear and taking research from other countries and putting it into production. Should those nations like China, which aren’t involved in ETS, be subjected to an external tax in the form of tariffs? Whilst the free traders would have an apoplectic fit it would provide another market mechanism to engage in a world wide ETS.

  51. Hermit
    April 18th, 2010 at 10:48 | #51

    India’s steel industry appears to be dependent on Australia coking coal and China’s recent surge in coal imports tends to support theories of an imminent (2015) domestic coal peak. However they use 10X Australia’s total coal exports. I suggest Australia should either carbon tax coal and LNG exports to those greenhouse ‘rogue nations’ or slap a punitive carbon tariff on their finished goods. Those countries can claim the money back if they put forward a list of green projects the money will go to. At $20 a tonne of CO2 I estimate the export carbon levy would be about $48 a tonne on thermal coal, recent spot price $90, and $27 on LNG, recent spot price $400 a tonne. If China and India think they can source enough of these commodities elsewhere let them.

    Of course Australia cannot morally impose a carbon export levy unless an ETS is in full swing at home. This would also require a review of trade protected status. It would be most odd if steel was smelted in Australia using carbon taxed Australian coal and steel was smelted in China using Australian coal that was not carbon taxed.

  52. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 11:52 | #52

    I think China’s resistance to what was on offer was quite understandable. After all, in the west we have achieved our standard of living without paying for the greenhouse gases we emitted or the damage they have caused. We also got first bite at a variety of resources when they were cheap and plentiful. Also, the behaviour of the west toward the rest during those two hundred years was not exemplary. What China probably wants is what they would consider an evenhanded deal. This is definitely not what the US is willing to offer, and it seems that unwillingness is shared by other western countries.

    The best way forward is to come to some equitable agreement, but not so much equitable for China as equitable for the third world as well. Failing that tariffs will have to be resorted to, but that is likely to become very messy, and even to achieve some effectiveness with tariffs, the west will have to muster considerably more agreement than it has been able to muster so far.

  53. Ernestine Gross
    April 18th, 2010 at 12:30 | #53


    Obviously I have failed to cause you to think about the issues and, using contemporary education practice, it would have to be my fault. So I’ll try again. But only once more.

    a) ghg emissions affect the entire world in a complex manner. Lets call it a universal negative externality. Hence the idea of having a global ‘price’ for ghg emissions is not a silly one, even though it is not easily implementable for a host of reasons that have been discussed on this blog-site and elsewhere many times.

    b) wind turbines (not windmills) have two negative externalities, relative to solar, noise and visual pollution. However, these negative externalities are local. Putting wind turbines in a totally unpopulated area that is big enough such that people can’t hear or see it. Then there is no negative externality (setting aside any potential effects on wildlife and flora, if any). Thus, if one wants to be fair toward all people in a geopolitically defined country, then some other information than production cost is required.

    c) ‘Visual pollution’ is not necessarily a question of aesthetics (‘ugly’) only. For example, a flickering TV screen is visual pollution and people don’t like it. It is an empirical question to find out how important visual pollution is in a particular location.

    d) In practice compromises are made. But to try to focus on production costs only is not a compromise but a corporatist view of the world where the survival and welfare of a corporation or an industry is the objective. Perhaps this now goes a little beyond what is technically necessary.

  54. paul walter
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:17 | #54

    Hit him on his bonce with a cricket bat, Ernestine!

  55. April 18th, 2010 at 16:21 | #55

    @Ernestine Gross

    The notion of an “externality” carries with it the notion of property. What would it mean, for example, to say that the damage to wildlife — such as birds and bats — from wind turbines was an “externality”? It would mean that we were saying that birds and bats were the property of someone other than the operator of the turbines.

    Typically, though not always, externalities are costs to the commons. If an industrial plant gets to dump its waste into a river for free (or at any rate cheaper than full stewardship would imply), then the loss of amenity in the river and any other impositions on the commons associated with the dumping is the cost of allowing the plant to dump its waste, less the cost the plant has paid to that stakeholder community.

    As you say, if wind turbines don’t impose loss of amenity, then they aren’t really an externality. In a tidy and equitable system, all industrial processes would fully internalise their costs, but this is probably easier to say than achieve, since this can be complex to0 design and audit. Certainly a move in that direction would be a worthwhile exercise however.

    Perhaps the most serious “externality” associated with wind are the greenhouse gases emitted by the redundant capacity associated with covering the slews implicit in using intermittent sources like wind. A windfarm with a CF od say 33% but which periuodically produces output at 10% requires back yup for the differential every time that lower output matches a likely demand period where average CF would be wanted. i.e the difference between actual output and demand.

    This wouldn’t be such a problem if there were a serious price on CO2 emissions — one reflecting how much this externality cost because then that would be factored into the price of wind. We’d also be able to easily see how much it cost to mitigate one tonne of carbon emissions using wind or any other source.

  56. Hermit
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:35 | #56

    We need to remember it is not physically possible for China and India to have the same per capita emissions as Australia. 1.3 + 1.2 = 2.5 bn combined population for those two countries. I believe Aussies now account for 20 tonnes of CO2 per year. Thus 2.5 X 20 = 50 bn tonnes of CO2 well above the current global figure of 28 bn tonnes of anthropogenic CO2.

    In my view the bottom 50% in China and India will never make it to the middle class unless some radical clean energy source is implemented. The world’s existing middle classes will also have to tighten their energy belts, be it efficiency or rationing.

  57. paul walter
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:46 | #57

    Re 32#, the whole thrust of neoliberalism has been to ensure that costs are anything but internalised,; rather these are fobbed off onto th rest of the world, as the GFM bailout most recently demonstrated.
    “Public Bads”?
    Roll em out; sooner or later the public realises vaguely that something been put over them and consultation was just a tactic, as ever.

  58. April 18th, 2010 at 16:47 | #58


    And really, the best and most plausible candidate energy production on that scale is nuclear power, especially of the fast spectrum variety …

    No other source can be built in those jurisdictions at the speed and CO2 footprint required, and even leaving aside CO2 coal (which could be built at about the speed needed) would poison their cities and by 2062 or so run up against resource depletion challenges. Then of course there would be the problems with water.

  59. paul walter
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:48 | #59

    where’d I get #32 : meant #5.
    “The sleep of reason brings forth dingbats…”

  60. Ernestine Gross
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:49 | #60

    @Fran Barlow

    “The notion of an “externality” carries with it the notion of property”

    Please provide reference. I have given a precise definition of ‘externality’ some time back; it is independent on any notion of ‘property’.

    I am afraid, the remainder of your post has too many adjectives and its style is polemic. This is not my area of expertise.

  61. BilB
    April 18th, 2010 at 17:03 | #61

    You needn’t be too concerned there, Fran. Casting a quick eye around the internet on the subject of managing renewables, it is clear that there many options and a whole new class of professional. The list of strategies includes geographical placement, broadly connected systems, complementary flexible delivery systems (such as pumped hydro, biomass, storage CSP, Geothermal, wind), forecasting, variable off peak management, and market based demand management. The broader and larger the renewables sector becomes the more baseload stable it becomes. The electricity industry is traditionally a very spikey demand business, and Natural Gas will be the final load balancer for many years to come.

  62. BilB
  63. iain
    April 18th, 2010 at 21:01 | #63

    @Fran Barlow

    iain :The graph for nuclear power, obviously, speaks for itself.
    But do pro-nuclear sycophants ever really hear it?

  64. April 18th, 2010 at 21:49 | #64


    I note that your list avoids calculating the cost of each unit of Co2 or other pollution abatement in each mix. In the end, it doesn’t matter if, in theory one could produce x% of load by a suite of take-your-pick technologies. What will be the marginal cost of abatement? How quickly will each be rolled out? On your reckoning, your explict admission, natural Gas will be the final load balancer for many years to come. So after all the argy bargy, your advocacy for renewables comes down to an argument for natural gas. That is indubitably better than coal, in the short run, but how is it enough, in the long run? Indeed, how can it even be sustainable, in the long run?

    Indeed, if it were, why bother with renewables which are after all, many times the price?

    And where/how are these systems you suggest going to step in in places like Brazil, Japan, India, China, Pakistan, Mexico and Indonesia? The thermal systems all require water for maximum efficiency. Wind and solar also require serious quantities of land not far from demand and water. And right now, with the exception of Japan, the countries listed are at the bottom of their intended per capita consumption.

  65. April 18th, 2010 at 22:02 | #65

    @Ernestine Gross

    Externalities refers to situations when the effect of production or consumption of goods and services imposes costs or benefits on others which are not reflected in the prices charged for the goods and services being provided


    Is access to the air and the water a form of property right, Ernestine?

  66. hix
    April 18th, 2010 at 22:12 | #66

    Its true that the windmills costs are higher than those 9,2 cent, especially when they are used on a very broad scale. Photovoltaic can help to balance the output here. That all doesnt change that the current European installations are 90% driven by a very inefficient subsidy regime in Germany.

    For a positive example that doesnt matter much for the aggregate European numbers due to the small country sice look at Denmark. They have a logical aproach, they dont subsidice coal mines with 2 billion a year and allow unlimited speed at the Autobahn. They dont pick “green” energies based on whats good for rich farmers, but rather based on whats good for the environment.

    They use 20% windmills, cogeneration with gas and oil, no coal, very high taxes on everyone that wants to buy a big car to brag. Thats an aproach that works right now to lower environmental damage without large costs.

  67. Ernestine Gross
    April 18th, 2010 at 23:27 | #67

    Fran Barlow :@Ernestine Gross
    Externalities refers to situations when the effect of production or consumption of goods and services imposes costs or benefits on others which are not reflected in the prices charged for the goods and services being provided
    Is access to the air and the water a form of property right, Ernestine?

    Well, Fran, your OECD definition of the term externality does not depend on ‘property’. So your statement @5, p2, which I queried, is wrong.

    Please formulate your question in paragraph 2 in a manner that indicates you understand what you are talking about.

  68. BilB
    April 19th, 2010 at 01:11 | #68

    Gosh, Fran, that is all a bit desperate there @14. The purpose for using gas as a final load balancer is that gas works most conveniently in gas turbines for rapid and variable power generation when there is insufficient hydro available to do the load balancing job. It doesn’t have to be natural gas, as gas turbines will run on just about any fuel including biomass (a bit harder) or slurried crushed coal. There is no “explicit admission” here, that is simply the reality.

    We are still on the same thread that began with a graph of Europe’s renewable energy infrastructure rollout, aren’t we? The one that proved that renewables were growing out of sight and nuclear was taking a nose dive, just as Dr Franz Trieb had stated in his interview on the ABC? And anyway much of this is just today’s picture. The information that I am seeing, as I have stated several times before is that at least 50% of future energy needs will come from distributed PV, in most countries of the world, and this will not cost the government a cent, or require massive industry investment to achieve this, or even a price on carbon. The major electricity suppliers will see a decline in their industry gross turnover of about 30% and CSP will become a major part of the new order of electricity generation along with wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass and natural gas. One of my partners who is designing a new ultra efficient inverter system (his technology) phoned me excitedly today because he had to crunch the numbers on this system for a presentation on Thursday, and it suddenly dawned on him just how achievable all of this is. And that is on top our realisation that what had been looming as a major headache suddenly turned into a huge benefit, with some new information that came to light on airconditioning systems, which means that on top of the high electrical output from our system, up to 10Kw of airconditioning comes energy free. I’m happy for that to sound like so much gobbledy gook and not be believeable. That is the way it will have to stay for the time being. All I can say here is that the future offers free electricity for households and free transport energy for at least 1 medium range electric vehicle along with free non grid airconditioning. No new technology required other than the knowledge of how to put the current available technologies together.

  69. April 19th, 2010 at 03:58 | #69

    @Ernestine Gross

    Well, Fran, your OECD definition of the term externality does not depend on ‘property’

    Of course it does. Those costs on others are impositions on a form of property right. You and I for example, have a right to breathe the air. It’s essential to our right to life. If the air becomes less suitable for maintaining our lives — i.e. because it is composed of irritants or toxics — then our enjoyment of that property right has been diminished in a way analogous to the enclosures. An enterprise that does not contaminate the air or water thus respects the property right all of humanity has in the commons. Its manner of doing business internalises those costs.

    To return to our windfarm, the windfarm’s footprint is limited to the lifecycle impositions associated with manufacturing the hardware, installing it, maintaining it, shadowing its output and ultimately decommissioning it. If this turns out to be less than some other suite of technologies per unit of output, then its imposition on the property of others has been smaller and we can calculate the cost in the reduction of this in relative terms.

    That is my point. You can’t talk intelligibly about externalities except as impositions on the property rights of others. Occasionally, these impositions may fall largely on small numbers of private stakeholders — the obvious example might be someone who operates a hotel the patrons of which occupy all the parking spots in the street, make a lot of noise leaving late and use the front lawn and bench of the house next door to sleep it off on summer nights. The amenity given to the patrons is “sold” to the patrons as an inducement to pay the pub for its service, but it is at the expense of the neighbours. The pub pays nothing for it instead forcing the neighbours to pay, so the cost is externalised.

  70. April 19th, 2010 at 04:11 | #70



    It sounds much like vapourware and magic pudding to me. Unless someone can put a cost per unit of abatement and unit of output on their system and it can scale to something like what we use now and will use in the future, there’s simply no way one can take it seriously.

    Sure there is inefficiency in the system Sure some jurisdictions can manage demand better, slowing the per capita growth in demand for energy. But it won’t reduce it. New capacity in large quantities will still have to be sourced in addition to replacing the old dirty capacity. Contrary to what you suggest I can’t begin to imagine how any of this new capacity can be built without very significant investment from somebody. Can you really be saying that 50% of output will be in “distributed PV” without very significant investment?

    It sounds to good to be true, and one is urged to conclude that this is indeed the case.

  71. paul walter
    April 19th, 2010 at 04:15 | #71

    Well spoken Fran!
    Has me in mind of the old framework of “positive” versus “negative” freedoms.
    You are entitled to freedom, including property, but how about when the execution of your freedoms materially/adversely affects bystanders, eg as collateral damage; any way that seriously jeopardises the same sort of life you’d allow for these and yourself ?
    Follow the fracture lines.

  72. BilB
    April 19th, 2010 at 08:11 | #72

    Indeed it does, Fran. But as the saying goes “not all generalisations are false, including this one”. Some “too good to be true’s” are in fact good and true. We don’t know absoluty yet, but every time we review the details it becomes more solid. On the other hand this technology is already available in installable units, just not the way we have done it. And the air conditioning system has been in the market for 20 years. Anyway time will tell. What I am comfortable with myself now is that all of these energy worries will evaporate.

    “Can you really be saying that 50% of output will be in “distributed PV” without very significant investment”

    Absolutely. And the reason is so simple it is glaring you in the face. Distributed generation capacity also means distributed investment.

  73. Ernestine Gross
    April 19th, 2010 at 08:26 | #73

    @Fran Barlow

    “That is my point. You can’t talk intelligibly about externalities except as impositions on the property rights of others. ”

    No, Fran, you got everything mixed up.

    It is not I who can’t talk intelligently about externalities except as impositions on the property rights of others.” It is you who says you can’t do it. This is your problem, not mine.

    The fact remains that your OECD definition of the term externality does not depend on ‘property’. So your statement @5, p2, which I queried, is wrong.

    I see no point reading on if line one in your voluminous writings is wrong, irrespective of the elogoquece with which you present your confusions.

  74. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 08:48 | #74


    Absolutely. And the reason is so simple it is glaring you in the face. Distributed generation capacity also means distributed investment.

    Astonishing. A gallon of water is a lot less when you tip it from the bucket onto the floor fllows the same reasoning.

  75. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 08:55 | #75

    @Ernestine Gross

    It is clear that you either have some sort of receptive reading problem or a concept processing problem and on that basis I agree that discussing this matter with you can lead nowhere useful. Your failure to recognise “you” in its generic form points to the former inference, but the inability to see that all rights over access to assets (including ecosystem assets) are property rights points to the latter.

  76. Ernestine Gross
    April 19th, 2010 at 09:16 | #76

    @Fran Barlow

    I happily agree not to discuss anything with you because I am interested in environmental economics and not in creative essay writing.

  77. BilB
    April 19th, 2010 at 09:16 | #77

    No, Fran. The amount of water is the same, however its weight is distributed over a much larger area. The same reasoning.

  78. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 11:15 | #78


    That observation is in direct conflict with your response to this question:

    Can you really be saying that 50% of output will be in “distributed PV” without very significant investment”

    “Absolutely.” you said.

    From the point of view of the burden system it makes no difference at all how a given investment is shared just as in a household whether one person does all the work or everyone pitches in doesn’t really make a difference to the total amount of work done.

    If introducing 12GWe of PV costs $AUS120billion whether we get it from taxes or user charges or FiT or state loans — it still diverts spending from all the other places that $AUS120billion or its debt service cost could be spent.

  79. BilB
    April 19th, 2010 at 11:54 | #79

    You are going to have a problem understanding this because I can’t spell it out absolutely definitively for you, and because you have a preconceived belief structure on what things cost. But here it is, the cost of the investment is paid for by avoided service charges. ie the householder/business pays the same amount for their electricity as they would normally pay only it is as repayments for their installation until it is paid out. Thereafter they have no electricity bills and most will receive some income from their household to grid electricity sales. What makes this possible? The energy itself, the fuel, is absolutely free. There will be maintenance costs and a distributed grid will have to be making contributions to maintain the grid connection. Apart from that electricity thereafter is free. I have said all off this for your benefit before, Fran, in pretty much the same words. It really does not matter to me if you believe this or not. The only thing that I would suggest is that you would be better served to divest yourself of your Nuclear energy industry shares now, if you have any.

  80. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 12:27 | #80


    I have no such shares BilB, never have had and am unlikely to ever acquire any, unless it is by accident through my super.

    Yes the “fuel” is free, but the collection devices are not, nor are the devices for sending that power someplace or the fuel for the complementary redundant capacity, and so someone(s) must ultimately pay for them. It doesn’t matter how you burden share. Someone has to be paid to do these things. There is no free ride.

    If I offer you a mercedes with a magical battery that will operate for a million km without recharge and you use it as a taxi, unless you pay the right price for the vehicle the recurrent debt service costs may mean that operating it won’t make good economic sense even if the revenue stream is adequate to maintain the payments. If for example, the vehicle cost ten times the cost of a regular mercedes then the debt service cost alone might exceeds the value of the energy savings in each year.

    You are trying to do a magic pudding trick here, but in the end the only way to compare things is to examine the life cycle cost per unit of output over its most likely useful life. For PV, this is variously reckoned to be between 10 and 30 times the current cost of coal. Now coal of course, as we have seen, externalises some very serious costs to humanity because almost none of its environmental costs are considered. Yet PV is not without its environmental footprint either. While it is a fraction of that of coal it is not inconsiderable. It’s also unlikely that most newly installed PV will be around in 25 years time and working.

    So if society invests in PV, it pretty much has to recover its investment in 25 years, and probably closer to 15.

    Nuclear on the hand can last for nearly 60 years, its fuel is highly energy-intensive (about 1 million-3 million times that of coal per unit of mass) and thus very cheap per unit of output and is available 90% of the time so its lifecycle costs per unit of output are quite low. With IFR, which uses existing waste it is even closer to zero-carbon.

    What that means is that each tonne of abatement comes cheaper with nuclear than with renewables.

  81. BilB
    April 19th, 2010 at 12:44 | #81

    “Yes the “fuel” is free, but the collection devices are not, nor are the devices for sending that power someplace or the fuel for the complementary redundant capacity, and so someone(s) must ultimately pay for them. It doesn’t matter how you burden share. Someone has to be paid to do these things”

    In the near future most households will be paying 2500 to 3500 per annum for their electricity, small businesses even more. That is the budget from which the repayment money comes. If the installed system provides the entire household needs then this full “budget” is available for capital repayment.

    “There is no free ride”

    Yes there is a free ride, that is what solar energy is all about.

    Repayment period? We are designing for 3 to 8 years.

  82. April 19th, 2010 at 12:50 | #82

    You and I do not often agree – but you are correct on this one. PV cells deteriorate over time, they need to be washed to keep the surfaces clean to maintain power output.
    The one thing you have missed is that the use of the simplistic payback method somewhat understates the financial impact – an NPV (net present value – which takes into account time value) is a much better method. To achieve a positive NPV at a reasonable discount rate you are normally looking to about a 5 year payback period.
    Generating electricity using PV just does not get there. Of the “low carbon” technologies, nuclear, despite the huge up front costs can (under certain conditions) get there due to the large generating capacity once it is built.

  83. April 19th, 2010 at 12:52 | #83

    If I need to spend that much to get a “free ride” then I, for one, would hesitate to pay. I would expect most people on lower incomes than mine would do likewise.

  84. BilB
    April 19th, 2010 at 13:11 | #84

    Then this system is not for you. You will be a customer of those who have the system, buying their surplus output. So if your situation requires an electricity consumption of just $1200 per year then your 50 year electricity requirement is $60,000 ignoring inflation. However if you install a 19200 kilowatt pa unit and your requirement is just one third of that then you are foregoing and earning power of $2500 pa which is a net gain of $125,000 over the same 50 year period ie nearly as much as your superannuation. But that is ok, we all make our choices (calculations based on a per unit price of 19 cents).

  85. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 14:56 | #85

    @Andrew Reynolds

    I’d have no problem extending that pay back time to seven years or even ten years providing there is no subsidy needed to do that. To me that sounds borderline reasonable.

    Mind you, I just think it would be a lot simpler if we junked all the subsidies, abandoned MRETs and RECs, decided what the true cost to the community of the various externalities associated with energy and industrial production were and either charged them as taxes or constructed a trading scheme around them. Ideally you would get as close to the process causing the externality as feasible. Thus, the cost of remediating after mining would be charged against the extractor of the valuable resource (eg coal, iron, steel, copper, uranium, gold, zinc or whatever). Proper management of overburden and tailings would also be a charge that you’d force the miner to internalise. Combustion of coal at stationary plants lends itself well to a cap and trade system with an underpinning set of punitive charges for those who fail to keep to their cap. Motor vehicles would be charged at the tailpipe. Batteries for electric engines would have a cost based in part on recovery and decommissioning by some organisation. Ditto packaging. Goods that landed on our docks that did not have these costs internalised in a way that met our standards would have them imposed at the dock. If a supplier could show that they had made adequate provision they could be relieved.

    This way we would have a level playing field in which the true cost of all the industrial activities was internalised in output. As improbable as I think it would be, if, despite such robust provisions, PV or solar thermal or wind or wave power or biomass were commercially competitive enough to compete nuclear power out of business, I’d have no objection at all. Notwithstanding all I’ve said, there remains a part of me that just likes the idea of renewables — they seem so much more aesthetically pleasing — so I’d be more than pleased.

    My problem is that I can’t see how that can be true.

  86. Ernestine Gross
    April 19th, 2010 at 16:02 | #86

    iain :@Fran Barlow

    iain :The graph for nuclear power, obviously, speaks for itself.But do pro-nuclear sycophants ever really hear it?

    While the sample is small, the answer at present is No.

  87. Freelander
    April 19th, 2010 at 16:17 | #87

    But we need nuclear (for weapons purposes and to power our otherwise unimpressive fleet of submarines) if we are to have any street cred.

  88. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 16:35 | #88


    Mainland China has 11 nuclear power reactors in commercial operation, 20 under construction, and more about to start construction soon. Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world’s most advanced, to give a sixfold increase in nuclear capacity to at least 60 GWe or possibly more by 2020, and then a further substantial increase to 160 GWe by 2030. China is rapidly becoming self-sufficient in reactor design and construction, as well as other aspects of the fuel cycle.

    India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program and expects to have 20,000 MWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020 and 63,000 MWe by 2032. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050. Because India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons program, it has been for 34 years largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, which has hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009. Due to these trade bans and lack of indigenous uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.
    Now, foreign technology and fuel are expected to boost India’s nuclear power plans considerably. All plants will have high indigenous engineering content.
    India has a vision of becoming a world leader in nuclear technology due to its expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle.

    Russia is moving steadily forward with plans for much expanded role of nuclear energy, doubling output by 2020. Efficiency of nuclear generation in Russia has increased dramatically since the mid 1990s. A major increase in uranium mine production is planned. Exports are a major Russian policy and economic objective.

    South Korea is set to become a major world nuclear energy country, exporting technology. Nuclear energy is a strategic priority for South Korea and capacity is planned to increase by 56% to 27.3 GWe by 2020, and then to 35 GWe by 2030. Today 20 reactors provide almost 40% of South Korea’s electricity from 17.7 GWe of plant.

    Most recently the Saudis have signalled their intent to augment with nuclear and as most know the UAE recently signed for 4*1400MWe reactors. For some reason, despite all that insolated land solar didn’t quite make it.

  89. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 16:38 | #89


    But we need nuclear for weapons purposes …

    No we don’t.

    Why build an expensive commercial energy reactor when you could build an much less expensive research reactor to produce weapons-grade material? Wasting that Pu239 on energy makes no sense, if you are after weapons.

  90. Ernestine Gross
    April 19th, 2010 at 18:32 | #90

    In case it has slipped some memories, the heading of the crucial figure in the thread is:
    “New Installed Capacity and De-Commissioned Capacity in EU 2009 in MW, Total 25963 MW”

    The data shows that net capacity (new installed – de-commissioned) was negative for coal and nuclear, in this order. Net capacity was positive for wind, natural gas, pv and other renewables in this order.

  91. Freelander
    April 19th, 2010 at 19:02 | #91

    We need them. We are the only continent without them, ignoring Antarctica of course. We need them to cover our nakedness; to underscore our presence on the world stage; to get better trade concessions. Hell, we need them to heavy our nearest neighbours.

  92. Hermit
    April 20th, 2010 at 00:29 | #92

    Like most readers I never thought to click on the graph. With wind and solar we have to ask
    1) how much of the increase is due to subsidies?
    2) can it keep increasing at this impressive rate?
    3) how do these figures compare to existing capacity?
    Intermittent energy sources have to be accommodated by a mix of intermediate and peak load power that takes up the slack during extensive lulls. World wide I believe wind power produces about 25% of its nominal installed capacity while solar produces just 16% over 24 hours. If policies in EU countries force or over-reward the grid for taking wind and solar power that means equivalent backup electricity sources are needed. That could be French nuclear, Norwegian hydro or local gas peaking plant increasingly fuelled by gas from Siberia.

    I suggest that wind and solar have a niche contribution that limits their expansion beyond perhaps 20% of the grid. Take away subsidies (feed-in tariffs, green quotas, saleable offsets, compulsory purchase etc) and there may already be over-investment in these technologies. That could explain why Germany wants to build several new coal fired plants and why they are anxious about their dependence on Russian gas. Australia would be stupid beyond belief to repeat the energy policies of Germany.

  93. Ernestine Gross
    April 20th, 2010 at 03:41 | #93

    “Australia would be stupid beyond belief to repeat the energy policies of Germany.”

    Of course it would be silly for Australia to import gas from Russia!

  94. BilB
    April 20th, 2010 at 03:43 | #94

    Good grief, Hermit. You pose a bunch of questions, make wild assumptions, do no research, make guesses, add no new insights, draw conclusions, then make a political policy statement. All in two paragraphs.

  95. Ernestine Gross
    April 20th, 2010 at 03:57 | #95

    It would also be silly for Australia to contribute toward the development of large scale solar power generation in North Africa to import its output!

    And, Hermit, what use is it to have a European Union if trade in power supply across country borders is noteworthy?

  96. paul walter
    April 20th, 2010 at 05:05 | #96

    To me the discussion here is also about alternatives and the degree to which they can (must) be improved upon, also Hermit’s proposition could be about not putting too many eggs in one basket as to sources. On another level, of course, it might be just be a justification of the frantic modern conception of capitalism as”growth”, consumerism and exchange value rather than as a necessity to the “real” human task that also accounts for sustainability.
    I’d rather see a cultural shift away from heavy usage of fossil fuels, which also might entail a cultural shift away from the wasteful way power is generated and used, these times.
    btw, Ernestine, surely there are hypothetical situations involving cost in which it would be right to buy gas from Siberia?
    anyway, #45 covers it well enough, I guess.

  97. April 20th, 2010 at 14:10 | #97

    South Australia currently gets 20% of its electricity from wind and this figures appears likely to double over the next five years. SA lacks cheap coal and wind power is competitive with the current main source of electricity, natural gas.

  98. BilB
    April 20th, 2010 at 16:02 | #98

    That is good news, Ronald.

  99. Hermit
    April 20th, 2010 at 17:10 | #99

    @Ronald Brak
    I think you’ll find that windpower lets SA down very badly in heat waves when all the air conditioners are on. The last figures I recall were installed windpower capacity of 867 MW (mostly in the south east) which output something like 80 MW during a period of 45C temperatures. This can be verified from the archives on the AEMO website. Adelaide had to import a lot of power to cover the shortfall such as peak hydro from NSW and Tasmania. Note the Pt Stanvac desalination plant has a direct connector to the Torrens Island gas fired baseload power station. What happens when Cooper Basin runs out of gas?

  100. BilB
    April 20th, 2010 at 17:23 | #100

    What do you pay for your power there in SA Ronald, per unit?

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