A few more observations on nuclear power

I thought I should respond to the latest suggestions from Department of Industry and others that nuclear power is an option worth considering for Australia. While I’m at it, I’ll add some updates on global developments.

* The most striking feature of recent Australian discussion, beginning with the Australian Energy Technology Assessment from 2011 is the claim that “small modular reactors” represent an appealing option for Australia. AETA listed these as being one of the cheapest options for 2020. with an estimated levelised cost of between $75 and $125/MWh. That’s both ambitious and remarkably precise for a technology that does not yet exist, even in prototype form. Leaving aside niche technologies like the Russian proposal to adapt nuclear sub reactors as floating platforms, the only serious contender in this field is the US, where the Department of Energy has provided grants for the development of two pilot plants. The target date (almost certainly over-optimistic) for these to begin operation is 2022. To get any idea of economic feasibility, it would be necessary both to undertake commercial deployment (in the US, obviously) and to to accumulate some years of operating experience. To get this done by 2030, or even 2035 would be an ambitious goal, to put it mildly. Again assuming everything goes well, Australia might be in a position to undertake deployment of SMRs by, say, 2040. But obviously, if we are going to reduce emissions on anything like the scale we need (80 per cent by 2050), we need to phase out most fossil fuel electricity well before that. Obviously, all these points apply in spades to proposals that exist only as designs, with no active proposals even for prototype development, such as the Integral Fusion Reactor. As I’ve argued before, to the extent that nuclear power makes any contribution to reducing CO2 emissions on a relevant time scale, it will have to be with current technology, most likely the AP1000.

* Talking of the AP1000, the builders four plants under construction at two sites in the US have just announced another 6 months delay, pushing the operations date out to 2017 or 2018 (release from FoE, but links to originals)

* Most interesting of all are projections released by the International Atomic Energy Agency last year for the period to 2050. Currently nuclear power accounts for around 11 per cent of global electricity. The IAEA “low’ projection has that falling to 10 per cent by 2030 and 5 per cent by 2050. The “high” projection, which includes steady growth in both North America and Western Europe as well as spectacular growth in Asia, has the share remaining roughly stable. So, even on the most optimistic projections of the world’s leading nuclear agency, nuclear power won’t play any significant role in decarbonising the electricity sector, let alone the economy as a whole.

I’ve come to the conclusion that nuclear power advocates, like climate delusionists (virtually all climate delusionists are nuclear fans, though not vice versa) are essentially immune to empirical evidence. So, I’d prefer no comments from our usual advocates (hermit, Will B etc) unless they have something genuinely new to say.

300 thoughts on “A few more observations on nuclear power

  1. Douglas Clifford :
    What is the role, if any, of the Thorium/molten NaCl reactor in this debate?

    Very interesting to watch. Highly dependent on somebody investing in the idea. Not commercially ready any time soon given current lack of interest.

  2. I guess if you want to go zero carbon emissions, it’s really nuclear vs. renewables rather than nuclear vs. gas, coal etc., and I assume this is implicit in the post. I know you’ve argued it before, but I think other countries are more important than Aus for this sort of thing, and I’m yet to see any big cities going to only or at least mainly renewables (e.g., Beijing), especially those in places where you don’t have lots of space . So the pie-in-the-sky arguments about nuclear don’t seem a whole lot worse than pie-in-the-sky arguments about some types of renewables to me. So it might be bad vs. bad compared to bad. vs good.

    That being said, I don’t see why we (and indeed most countries) can’t substantially reduce carbon usage quite cheaply within the near future without worrying about grandious things. Things like electric cars seem just around the corner (GMs very recent concept car looked pretty good to me — who wouldn’t buy a slightly more expensive car that used no fuel?) and should pretty much kill a lot of carbon used in cars, and I don’t really see why a lot of other transport and energy couldn’t use solar (etc.) as it follows the path of all other technology (i.e., getting much cheaper).

    Given this, to me a lot of the more important arguments about carbon usage are how much these other technologies can reduce carbon quickly rather than getting to zero, and, apart from what I think are the obvious (e.g., electric cars) I’d like some real situations which show how low you can get things easily (i.e., examples where it really has been done). If you can get rid of 70% in the near future, for example, and just use 30% gas, that obviously leaves a lot of time to think about how to get rid of the other 30%, and you needn’t really worry as much about nuclear. vs others.

  3. The moment has passed now, but I thought there was one location that was ideal for nuclear power.

    At its maximum planned extent, the Olympic Dam project in South Australia was set to consume more power than the city of Adelaide. They had set aside $2b just for diesel to operate the machinery that would scrape away the surface layers to create the mine pits. Given that uranium was one of the key products of that project, a nuclear reactor would have made sense to create the energy necessary to run such a huge undertaking.

    The owners would have incentives to both be efficient and avoid accidents due to the fact that any mistake would shut down the project, and that efficiencies would boost their bottom line. They would have incentives to train people (the lack of an Australian workforce trained in nuclear technologies is a factor often overlooked). It would have been a great opportunity for a proof of concept, boosted by the commitment and credibility that comes from “eating your own dog food”.

    But, the Olympic Dam project is not going ahead. This means, as confirmed by the Switkowski review of 2005 or so, that the positives and negatives of nuclear power are pretty much where they were in 1970 when the Gorton government first floated the idea. When someone like Josh Frydenberg MP ‘calls for a debate’ on this issue, they are pretty much calling for a rehash of those proposals and a discount of projections that unit costs of solar and wind power are dropping fast.

  4. @conrad

    it’s really nuclear vs. renewables rather than nuclear vs. gas, coal etc

    I see it that it’s grid vs renewables and the grid has allies eg nuclear hydro coal gas etc. I include hydro as they seem to spend their time creating power during high $ periods and pumping the water back up the hill during off peak periods.

    Renewables are shaking the energy tree.

  5. i would have thought it was a slam dunk after this week.

    data courtesy of ronald brak at monday message board indicate the south australian energy network, with a significant proportion of renewable energy sources in the mix, coped so well in unprecedented extreme conditions that they were in a position to export power.

    some consequences of nuclear power:-

    1/ more interference in gov’t decision-making by transnational energy corporations & investors -versus- no avenue for transnational energy corporations to pressure our gov’t.

    2/ an unprecedented security state for all parts of the cycle -versus- a state that administers things not people.

    3/ centralistion of the power supply in the hands of for-profit transnational corporations, so big & so crucial to the economy & so protected by treaty, they can stand over our gov’t even against our interests -versus- energy farms & self-service smart metered electricity for all australians collected from where people work & live, farms & backyards and distributed and billed for by coordinating offices. and don’t tell me its to expensive -v- nuclear power.

    they hate renewables because renewables lock transnational energy corporations & their corporate investors out of the future.

    they love nuclear because it locks us the people into dependence on corporations to supply – at cost to us & dividend to their investors – what the we the people could get for ourselves for next to nothing for ever.
    alfred venison

  6. I doubt we’ll ever be at a point where change seems so urgently necessary that we tackle the problem full on. And by full on, I mean the way you do in a war.

    And just for the fun of it, maybe we should start referring to coal reactors, gas reactors and oil reactors.

  7. Douglas Clifford asks

    What is the role, if any, of the Thorium/molten NaCl reactor in this debate?

    It depends on what debate you are talking about. If it is the issue of research, development and pilot/demonstration funding, then it would be criminally negligent to (globally) not put significant resources into it along with other Generation IV nuclear technologies. In general such funding for all energy technologies is seriously deficient – by a factor of three according to the IEA. One would think that given all the multiple issues with future energy supply, that R&D funding would be going up, but it isn’t.

    If it is discussion of deployable energy technology scenarios, then the rudimentary state of MSR development precludes realistic inclusion of MSRs – at this time.

    Unfortunately, some (but certainly not all) thorium advocates conflate the two issues and wrap it in a crude and often very badly informed narrative demonizing uranium. They are fooling themselves if they believe they are going to gain political advantage from this.

    There is one and only one Western, passively safe reactor design with advanced fuel recycling available right now for construction of demonstration units and that is the General Electric – Hitachi PRISM. All it’s fundamental technologies are already proved at engineering scale at Argonne National Lab in the US in the largest nuclear US R&D program of it’s era. Nothing comparable has occurred with any molten salt reactors. As for the rest of the world, the Russians are saying that the demonstration BN-1400 fast reactor, now approved for construction, will be design to full commercial and Generation IV standards, but there seems little info available, at least in English.

    The Chinese are the only players in serious MSR development at this time and have published some very provisional timelines. Full blown LFTRs (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors) are well into the 2030s. There is a lot of very serious engineering involved. Not the least being the on-line recycling of extremely radioactive molten salt. This is going to be challenging and as far as I can see the Chinese are being realistic in their projections. Throwing more money at it may help, but we don’t really know yet. What we do know is that however long it takes, it is extremely likely that there will still be plenty of carbon emissions to abate.

    The other tack the Chinese are taking is a kind of hybrid with TRISO fuel particles or pebbles in molten salt. This will be less challenging and the projected time lines are shorter. TRISO fuel is uranium covered in layers of special grade carbon and silicon carbide. Among other attributes it withstands extreme temperature that might occur in a serious accident, thereby offering higher levels of safety. TRISO fuel will be available to the MSR researchers from the high temperature gas cooled project under way in China. This molten salt/pebble technology may prove to be very useful in it’s own right.

    It is important not to conflate any of this with small modular reactors which are (mostly) evolutionary designs based on light water reactor technology used in applications ranging from submarines to power stations for decades. Though at least one improvement claimed by NuScale (the recipient of one of the US DOE grants) is very significant. They now say their design is indefinitely passively safe in event of complete loss of electrical power. Fukushima style accident not possible. This is a first for light water reactors.

  8. We shouldn’t even discuss the proposition of creating more nuclear waste until we have a proven safe way of dealing with the nuclear waste we already have.

  9. We have a giant fusion reactor positioned safely at just under 150,000,000 km from earth. This fusion reactor is free, self-regulating and has about 5 billion years worth of fuel left.

  10. Given that the primary issues of nuclear power are not technical, but extreme over-reactions to delusional ideas about risk – there is no real discussion to be had about it. Since the public started fearing nuclear power because of scaremongering, it is impossible to build or move forward on plants. But the reasons have nothing to do with engineering, they are legal and regulatory. My brother did surveys for the EPA of radiation levels in the USA. The highest levels, by far, were in hospitals because of medical use. If the wee nuclear plants, they would be shut down.

    You see discussions about how “one hot particle” in your body will cause cancer and kill you. This is just not true. The human body under normal conditions experiences 4400 disintegrations per second. (4400 Bq). Our bodies are very good at DNA repair. DNA is not that stable – that’s why it’s useful to us. If DNA was rock-solid stable, it wouldn’t be able to split, unwind, transcribe, copy, etc..

    A coal fired plant will cause roughly 90 deaths per year for its life span (typically 40 years). If we take the worst credible estimate for Chernobyl of 4,000 deaths, that’s pretty close to the casualties from a single coal plant. In other words, we could have a Chernobyl every year and not hit the casualties from coal. That’s leaving aside that only one cancer has been shown to have excess diagnosis from Chernobyl, and that is thyroid cancer at 43 diagnoses above baseline. Note that a diagnosis of thyroid cancer is not death. Thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. Why? Because most thyroid cancer takes up iodine. So radioiodine is used to treat it.

    Compare 40 some proven cancers from I-131 to the death toll from evacuation. At Chernobyl, the data is fuzzy. The USSR broke up, things went severely downhill. But estimates are in the tens of thousands dead from evacuation. At Fukushima we have a careful count. It was 1645 last I checked. That is more people dying from the stress of evacuation than from the tsunami itself. And nobody has died from Fukushima. At most a handful of people might get cancer.

    The linear no threshold model of cancer induction is not based on evidence, which most people are quite unaware of. Quite a few physicians don’t know this either. LNT goes against what we know, and against what we have learned from half a century of radiation treatment of cancer. http://radiology.rsna.org/content/251/1/13.full.

    LNT is also inconsistent with our data on atomic bomb survivors (a very well studied cohort). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22171960.

    Most people think that if they get dosed with radiation, they can’t have children because their children will have mutations. This is flat wrong. It comes from a 1955 estimate by JBS Haldane. He did the best he could at the time to come up with a safe figure. But he had next to no data, and estimated a mutation doubling dose of 0.05 gray. We now know the real doubling dose. It is at least 2 Gray, and probably 4 Gray or higher. In other words to get mutations in germline requires mortal doses. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9576899.

    People also think that “the ocean is pure” and any release of radioactivity into it is a terrible disaster. The ocean has 4.2 billion tons of uranium dissolved in it. What that means is that if you do the math, Tokyo Bay alone has enough U-235 in it to make 24 Hiroshima sized bombs. There’s enough U-235 to make at least one atomic bomb for every 15 people on earth.

    The math on wind and solar is worse than nuclear. We may find improvements to the energy cost of manufacturing solar panels. But today, if panels are installed and maintained optimally, it takes 2-5 years (latitude dependent) to get the energy back that went into them. If they are not installed optimally, (which is most of home installs) it can take 5-15 years to get the energy back out. What that means is that the choice to go solar forces massive consumption of fossil fuel.

    Circling back to thorium, India his moving on a thorium cycle system because India has lots of thorium. The USA had a thorium reactor going at Oak Ridge for years. Ironically, one of the reasons Nixon cancelled it is that it didn’t produce plutonium for weapons. Short-sighted, but that’s politics. Far-sighted politicians are pretty darn rare.

    It isn’t actually true that modular reactors aren’t available now. South Africa has them. http://www.pbmr.com/index2.asp

    There is a big problem with modular reactors. (And with reactor design in general.)

    The problem is the design-academioc-industrial-government complex. Each group of engineers/companies/academics in every nation wants to design their own new pet project. These government funded projects employ engineers, and they can make the reputations of academics involved with them. They will also generate lots of patents in the process, which will protect the investment of the companies. Those big companies employ high priced lobbyists to push for nuclear power construction – pushing for their own proprietary designs. I’m sure an academic can see how that motivation circuit works, both on the commercial side and the academic side.

    As far as the government funds are concerned it’s all about winning the construction bid. Those construction bids are far more lucrative for big, complicated LWRs of various designs. The construction of plants becomes primary, because the construction firms have zip to do with running the end product. (They can, but most of the big subcontractors don’t do anything except build.) So it’s the lucrative construction contracts that become a primary goal whenever nuclear power is involved. And lets not forget the law firms who stand to make beaucoup bucks representing the power plant and the inevitable plaintiffs wanting to stop it.

    Reality is, Australia could buy modular reactors now from South Africa, and start installing them in a few years. That Australia won’t do that has nothing to do with availability, and everything to do with politics, lobbying, and feeding at the public trough.

  11. What happens to the climate if you apply the same ’empirical’ standard to renewables that you want to apply to nuclear? Global renewables investment has fallen for two years running. Its emissions abatement track record is woefully inadequate.

    On the other hand, the only country to have demonstrated decarbonisation of the required magnitude remains nuclear France. The weight of empirical evidence for climate effectiveness thereby remains with nuclear.

  12. To assume no modern economy could achieve what France did in two decades from the 1970’s, which was to build a fleet of nuclear power stations to almost eliminate their dependence on coal is curious. France saw an existential threat from the ‘oil shock’ of the early 70’s, decided they were at the mercy of imported energy, and went to war on fossil fuels. Unlike every other “war on [insert enemy]” France actually won that one!

    Currently, after spending many hundreds of billions of Euro on solar and wind, Germany still produces over 450g of CO2/KWh and it’s been rising for the past two years. Meanwhile, France has been producing 80g for each kilowatt hour for decades.

    The clear message is that diffuse energy forms (solar/wind) are very expensive to harness, are very intermittent, and need some form of base load or back up to keep a grid system balanced to the load which far exceeds the output from these sources. For example, Australia’s much lauded “one million rooftop solar PV” installations only produces about 1% of Australia’s total electricity output. How many billions of dollars did that cost? (And how utterly inefficient, even compared with a purpose built solar PV farm.)

    As for small modular nuclear reactors, they exist already. What powers the world’s fleet of nuclear warships? Hint: it ain’t hamsters! They’ve been around a long time, but improving the designs is not like inventing something completely new, like say…oh, for example mass storage of electricity to make renewable energy actually economic. We’ve had lead acid batteries since the late 19th century, and the improvements on that in terms of energy density/cost have been marginal to say the least.

    I’d put my money on improved, self-contained, non-refueled small modular reactors being in use way before any storage system ever gets out of a lab.

    Spain boasted a large wind component in its output last year and that it’s emissions actually went down. Germany’s did not, despite all that expensive wind. So why the difference?

    Simple, Spain has not turned off its nuclear reactors, and Germany’s are rising because they’re burning more coal to replace the lost clean nuclear electricity.

    It’s a hard world, and energy is the mother of all problems, but without nuclear, we will continue on the road to hell, even if it’s paved with pretty green intentions all the way.

  13. @Chrispydog France certainly managed a rapid expansion of Generation II reactors in the 1970s, and has had fairly good performance from them. It’s just about impossible to work out the economics of their construction in retrospect (a big government program, probably with cross-subsidies from the military program). But whatever France did then, the secret has been lost – Superphenix was a disaster and the EPR plant now being built at Flamanville is years late, and billions over budget.

    As for your silly snark about submarines, you obviously didn’t read the post where I mentioned that idea before dismissing it – the economics are hopeless, except where you absolutely need something compact and mobile (eg a submarine).

    On storage, are you really so ignorant as to suppose that the lead-acid battery is state of the art. Again, it’s optimised for a particular use and subject to particular constraints.

    Finally, given that California has just mandated over 1GW of storage, I’ll be happy to take your bet

  14. @Mark Duffett

    It’s silly to cherrypick stats like this. Solar PV installations are predicted to rise to 50GW this year. Not nearly enough, but (even allowing for lower availability) much more than we are going to see from nuclear any time soon, even disregarding closures. Wind is in a minor downturn, but still likely to be around 40GW IIRC. Both of these numbers are up from approximately zero 10 years ago

  15. I wonder if SMRs could influence the design of gigawatt reactors the way the latest desktop computers are ‘all in one’ like a laptop with the processor built into the monitor. That means majority factory prefabrication of reactors could greatly speed build times. I notice that Finland having experienced delays and cost overruns with a French reactor has now ordered their next reactor from Russia. What some see as dithering over SMR licensing by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission could mean Russia and China grab the market.

    It’s hard to say with or without renewable energy targets/obligations/portfolio standards around the world whether wind and solar will continue recent build rates. Tas Hydro say they will not build the 600 MW King Island wind farm absent the RET. Nonetheless when cheap nukes do become available they will need to complement an already existing stock of intermittent generation. SMRs are said to have better output variability as modules can be offlined.

    A slight overall decline in coal burning has been noted (maybe not last week, wait for the stats) but there will have to be a reliable replacement for the big coal baseload plants such as the Vic Latrobe Valley and NSW Hunter Valley. Maybe we can cut the need for baseload somewhat but as the limbo dancer asked ‘how low can you go?’. I think Australia needs at least 20 GW of low carbon price stable and reliable generation that can cover a week of rain or a continent wide high pressure system. Hamsters on treadmills?

  16. @Andrew Elder
    The OD expansion is a golden opportunity to use SMRs and thereby ‘break the ice’ on commercial nuclear power in Australia. The original plan was to build a gas pipe to Roxby Downs and run a 250 MW air cooled combined cycle plant. Another 400 MW or so would be drawn from the SA grid but they can’t spare it. In fact other states are grumbling SA lacks reliability..see yesterday’s SMH article. A reverse osmosis desalination plant was to be built at Whyalla and fresh water pumped 320 km to the mine. All of it now mothballed.

    It was to be SA’s biggest ever project. Holden close in 2017 and the air warfare destroyer contract finishes in 2018. Then what?

  17. @Hermit
    Both the SMH and AFR articles re energy use and role of solar within the heat wave weren’t as nuanced as the following: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/solar-23763

    The big question for nuclear (and as per the coal-fired Loy Yang A) is what happens when it’s too hot and sufficient cool water is not available for use within the steam cycle? Particularly one centred in the middle of the SA outback.

    Economics of nuclear as discussed have never approached paper estimates; forgetaboutit… Concentrated solar with storage is here now, approaching generation costs of coal given unaccounted externalities.

  18. @John Quiggin California can ‘mandate’ whatever it wishes, it just can’t mandate the laws of physics comply with them. Unlike pumped hydro, no battery storage system will scale to grid size. There’s not enough lithium on the planet to store more than a few days of US demand. The constraints in battery technology are not an economic issue, they are chemistry and physics limits.

    “Are you really so ignorant” (can I can use your own polite language back?) not to understand there’s no such thing as 1GW of storage? Sure, they can build storage for 1GWhr or 1GW day, but one is 24 times bigger than the other. Therein lies the problem with using meaningless terms like “1GW of storage”. An hour, a day a week? Horrendously expensive to do for any amount of time and with about 25% energy loss it’s looking like good money after bad to appease the renewables lobby.

    The efficiency of lead acid is not much improved by other technologies, it’s not orders of magnitude, and to make it economically feasible on scale, batteries need to be several orders of magnitude more efficient. It’s an energy density to cost problem, that has not been much improved for a very, very long time.

    So what France did is a “lost secret”? I understand it might be difficult to get the data to cost it, but let’s just note that Germany’s retail electricity prices are the second highest in Europe (after Denmark’s) and France’s the lowest.

    As for the economics of nuclear vessels, maybe you should do some reading on what it costs to keep liquid fuel pumped into conventional ships.

  19. @Hermit Many experts in energy would agree with you, we need a mix of nuclear/wind/solar and some gas or sequestered coal fired power. (Forget concentrating solar, it’s LCOE is always at the high end).

    What economists don’t seem to realise is that it’s not numbers, it’s physics. If we can build 10% of our electricity generation from wind/solar, then it does not follow that 10 times more makes us independent of fossil fuels.

    Even allowing for the horrendous scale of the input costs, the vast areas of land, the long transmission connections, there is still the unreliability. And no, we are nowhere near being able to store more than a fraction of that energy at eye-watering cost.

    And then of course…hamsters for backup!

  20. @Megan
    megan…We have solved the nuclear waste problem in the USA. It is called Yucca mountain. Completely built and codified in law as the place we( the US ) is to place spent nuclear fuel. All that is needed is to drive the stuff through the gate. of course Obama and Reid cut the funding for the NRC to sign off on it( they have been building it for 30 years yet they require a study to know if it is safe or not). The fed also have a place called WIPP which takes transuranic waste and stores it in a salt mine. One could be built just like down the road for other kinds of waste. Political challenges not engineer challeges

  21. PG&E built a power storage facility in California about 20 years ago. It’s a reservoir in the mountains that they pump water up into. When they need the power, they run it back down through turbines. That facility was built to take advantage of off-hours generation capacity, and to provide surge capacity.

    It is 13% efficient. For 100 KWHr use to pump water up, 13 KWHr of energy comes back to the grid.

    They looked at batteries. But batteries have serious issues.
    1. Large scale battery farms are a very different kettle of fish than small scale. People have talked about lithium batteries here for large scale power storage. But, as Tesla is finding out, it doesn’t scale smoothly, and batteries that are merely the size to power an automobile are capable of going up in a fire. Lithium is highly reactive – that’s why its power density is high. At scales we are talking about, just dumping heat from the system would be a serious issue.

    2. Similarly, lead-acid batteries at large scale have corrosion and maintenance problems. The cost is huge.

    3. I have done the calculations for an engineering project to determine uptime of a system. That’s dependent on meant time to failure (MTTF) of each component. For any components linked together, it is the multiplicative product of the uptime fraction over some time period. If you are going to spend a billion dollars on something, you better be sure it’s going to work and be reliable.

    Put all those factors together, and that’s why PG&E went with a 13% efficient system.

  22. @Brian That’s what I’ve seen elsewhere, which confirms that battery storage on anything like grid scale is a revolution away (as is fusion!).

  23. I do not live in Australia, If I did I would support anything that did not use water. Take a look at salt cooled systems. yes molten salt reactors look good. But why not salt cooled gas plants or solar plants. Why not take advantage of the high tides in the northwest part of the continent? Hydro is the cheapest by far although it costs a bunch up front but it keeps giving and giving. Austria has a population the size of the state of Texas and no nuclear regulatory equivalent of the US or Europe. so much of the regulations would have to be imported or copied from other counties. But other countries with small population do nuclear. countries such as Finland or south Africa.

  24. The average wholesale price of electricity in Australia is around 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour. At today’s exchange rate that’s less than a third of the minimum price Britain’s Hinkely C nuclear plant will be paid once it start operating. When the sun is shining in Australia point of use solar outcompetes electricity from the grid from any source and the cheapest new utility scale generating capacity in Australia is wind. My state’s largest windfarm, Snowtown II, will be completed this year and at a 5% discount rate will provide electricity for under 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. (The Australian Reserve Bank cash rate is currently 2.5%.) It is not economically possible for nuclear power to compete in this environment without the use of magic. And as Japan showed us not so long ago, nuclear power can suffer rare but extremely expensive accidents which may make the cost of insuring nuclear power in Australia higher per kilowatt-hour produced than the current wholesale price. So, barring the use of magic, Australia will not build any nuclear power plants.

  25. #23 Brent,

    Why not take advantage of the high tides in the northwest part of the continent?

    Just for starters, if you had to pick the part of the continent most distant from the load centres, that would be the northwest. High voltage transmission lines are expensive. As I recall, at least $1 million per GW per kilometre. Perhaps more – somebody may have some accurate figures. Those costs will be inflated by construction costs in remote areas – construction costs always are. There is little prospect of cost reduction as they are just towers and wires with no learning curve.

    Put generation technology that only has moderate capacity factor at the end of those transmission lines and the cost problem escalates. If the capacity factor is 50%, then to transmit an average 1 GW you will probably need close to 2 GW transmission capacity to deal with the peaks. Transmission costs double.

    If estimates for the Severn Barrage are anything to go by, tidal barrages are very expensive. And they will be even more expensive in remote areas. Add all this up and the result would be eye wateringly expensive electricity. It’s not going to happen.

    So often when the topic of nuclear power comes up, such schemes are cited as alternates. They almost never are. Time to tackle energy in a hard headed and informed manner.

    There is also a problem of the merit of sticking vast industrial installations on what is basically pristine coastline. What has happened to traditional conservation values? All too readily thrown under the bus, as long as some project can be stamped “renewable”. Avail ourselves of the benefits of the very high energy density of nuclear power and such issues can be largely avoided. Tiny footprint.

  26. @Ronald Brak That wind has a capacity factor of around 30%, while nuclear is typically 90 plus. It’s not that some wind in a grid isn’t feasible, it’s that beyond a certain amount, its cost effectiveness diminishes rapidly as its spikes in output cannot be used by the demand, and the long periods of much less than nameplate capacity must be made up by something, usually either coal/gas or of course nuclear.

    The other thing that is most often not mentioned in such numbers is that the typical modern reactor will have a life of 60 years, and both solar PV and wind are typically given 25yrs.

    Scale, reliability and longevity are very important factors in designing a grid if you’d like your electricity supply to be available 24/7 in all weather conditions.

  27. The real savings will be in proper optimizing of the energy use, not so much in creating new sources.
    Many people are taking their time and effort to learn about free energy systems. The drive to be independent of corporate powers is driving inovations of people to do something about it. Many internet communities are tinkering with HHO optimizing of their cars, using exces power of alternator for producing HHO and increasing MPG of their cars.
    Many are driving purely on water which requiers aditional tinkering with car electronics. Look for Joe Cell. Many are completely converting to water powered cars using Stanley Meyer resonant HHO cell and injectors.

    Many are investigating the Searl effect generators, Ottis Carr’s, Victor Shauberger’s inventions, Ed Leedskalnin’s Coral Castle machinery, Keshe machines, Vietnamese water-electric stoves and much more.
    Johann Grander water is alredy making sales in treating water against pollutants and bacteria growth saving many bucks in treatmant facilities. A monk is selling contraptions without using any power that are reppeling moisture from walls in basements. Some new catholic churches are being built with Freemasons knowledge using resonances to control energy of underground water.
    All these are based on what is sometimes called zero point energy, using energy of the sun. ZPE iz coming, slowly but it will be here prety soon. Seeing milions of amateurs are working on it, give some 20 years and it will be here.

  28. #27 Jordan,

    If you want to put your faith in pseudo science and scams, go ahead. But could you please leave it out of serious discussion of the climate/energy problem.

    It is noteworthy that this stuff also rears it’s head when the subject of nuclear power comes up.

    Interestingly our former dear leader in Qld – Bjelke Petersen – was at one stage promoting this twaddle about water power cars.

  29. @chrispydog
    I have a fairly detailed post up there with several citation links to papers that is still awaiting moderation. It discusses the false understandings of radiation dangers primarily.

  30. Crispydog, does the fact that wind is an intermittent source of electricity magically make nuclear power (plus insurance) cost less than 5.6 cents per kilowatt-hour? No? Well then that’s not going to make nuclear power competitive in Australia. You’ve got to beat that 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour barrier, including insurance, before you can build a nuclear power plant here. Do you have the magical power to do that? It doesn’t look like it because if you had the ability you could have made a heap of money in the UK.

  31. @John Quiggin

    It’s far more egregious cherrypicking to talk about constructed capacity without reference to capacity factor (~0.25-0.3 for solar and wind, not matched to demand; 0.8 for nuclear).

    The recent investment data is what it is. It signifies a trend that’s barely even in the right direction, let alone one adequate for the decarbonisation task. Particularly in the case of wind, the growth of the last 10 years has taken up much of the low-hanging best site fruit.

    In the end, the only stat the atmosphere cares about is how much emissions have reduced. On that score, it’s emphatically nuclear with the runs on the board. If we’re truly facing a climate emergency, it’s unacceptable that the ‘secret’ of effective nuclear construction is unrecoverable (or only privy to the Chinese).

  32. @Ronald Brak
    We should keep checking sites like WattClarity to see how much the existing stage one Snowtown wind farm helped out in last week’s heat wave. We do seem to be getting more winds in heatwaves; such conditions were once called ‘brickfielders’. I was emailed a phone photo of Wattle Point SA wind farm not moving a muscle in a hot spell a couple of years ago. We are still paying a premium price for wind if you include the 3-4c per kwh LGC subsidy for a service that lets us down when most needed.

  33. According to this article during the last heat wave energy providers redirected power to high paying customers creating blackouts for domestic users.

  34. Hermit, are you suggesting that nuclear power can meet peak demand during heatwaves? HAHAHAHA! Oh dear oh dear… Let me explain Hermit, you see, nuclear power plants cost a huge amount of money to build, but their fuel costs very little. As a result, if you only run a nuclear plant half the time, you more or less double its cost. This means that nuclear power, which is currently far too expensive to meet baseload demand, becomes even more far too expensive if someone tried to use it to meet peak demand. You know what they do instead in some countries with nuclear power? They build pumped storage because its cheaper than having idled nuclear plants sitting around. Nuclear power can only meet peak demand with huge amounts of energy storage.

  35. That’s both ambitious and remarkably precise for a technology that does not yet exist, even in prototype form.

    You could have stopeed there, John.

    Of course belief in the technology fairy is far more widespread than belief in the confidence fairy.

    Regarding emissions reductions, I’m of a mind with Jorgen Randers (in 2052). Our political classes will do nothing material until the problems are completely undeniable, say around 2035. At which time we’ll be hit with all four of the costs of dealing with the damage and illness from ongoing extreme weather, the costs of beefing up the built environment to cope with the weather and sea level rise, the costs of replacing formerly ‘free’ ecosystem services, and the costs of trying to get rid of the root cause in a great hurry.

  36. @Ronald Brak
    I’ve seen figures of 5-15% for nuclear fuel as a proportion of average running cost as opposed to 50% fuel cost for combined cycle gas. I don’t think reducing the output of a nuke saves much so the average idled cost is about the same as full power. The problem is the ramp rate. The French seem to manage load following with ~80% nukes I presume they use hydro for a lot peak power. Their Alps being somewhat grander than ours. Australian hydro is already close to max but as mentioned in another thread it was a big helper last week. The French don’t use so much gas for home heating so their peak must be winter.

    A good question is what do we do for peaking plant circa 2030 when we’ve flogged our best gas reserves. ZCA suggest burning hay bales delivered by electric trains. Google Avedore 2 power station Denmark. Could be why their electricity is even dearer than Germany. Maybe SMRs or mini-nukes can help by quickly adding or subtracting increments say of 100 MW. Note eastern Australia needed 34,000 MW a few days ago even with some big users taking a voluntary power cut.

  37. @Brian Likewise for a good analysis of the costs of Finnish nuclear versus German solar…the post is in moderation due to the link, but just do a search on Breakthrough Institute/german solar/Finnish nuclear.

    By the way, despite the cost overruns, the Finnish electricity will be four times cheaper.

    Reality really does bat last.

  38. So Hermit, then you understand that nuclear cannot provide peak power and that it basically provides the same portion of electricity generated during peak periods as wind does?

  39. “It’s far more egregious cherrypicking to talk about constructed capacity without reference to capacity factor (~0.25-0.3 for solar and wind, not matched to demand; 0.8 for nuclear).”

    Which is why I did refer to it. I can’t be bothered dealing with dogmatists who don’t even take the trouble to read what I wrote. Nothing more from you, Mark Doggett, or from Chrispydog, please.

  40. @Ronald Brak
    Don’t accept that at all. Nuclear is likely to perform near its rated capacity any time. Wind power could go as low as 5% of its nominal output. I seem to recall the summer capacity credit for SA windpower was just 3.8% in 2011. Reference SASDO2011. Admittedly the tall new 3 MW turbines should turn over in light winds.

    The cheapest way to deal with heat wave peak demand may be to give big users a special deal to cut back. By ‘cheap’ I mean so that pensioners can run an air conditioner until mid evening if needed. Strangely I agree with ZCA to assume inadequate gas in the long run. They say too much carbon and indeed some peaking plant (essentially bolted down jet engines) is nearly as CO2 intensive as supercritical coal. However I also say we’ll squander most of our cheap gas in the next 20 years. I think we can assume there will be no Gwh scale energy storage breakthrough.

  41. @John Quiggin

    I think most people here (and elsewhere) seem to worry a lot about the price of commissioning new reactors. But to me a bigger worry is the price of _decommissioning_ them, estimates of which go up and up all the time (this is a problem for France), and so you should add this also. This is seriously problematic because if they are privately owned and had been forced to stick down a bond, then the bond ends up not being enough if they go broke (I believe there is a reactor which this happened to in the US), so that becomes a “people’s cost”. With governments, if your country happens to become poorer, then you can end up with a situation where the only power you have is a reactor that should be closed because it is dangerous and you can’t afford to close it and build something new. So you end up with dangerous reactors. It’s hard to estimate the cost of this, but it’s also a serious potential cost.

  42. Just in case anyone is confused about the cost of solar power I”ll point out that in Australia nuclear power, or any grid supplied source of electricity, would have to produce energy at below zero cents per kilowatt-hour to compete with rootop solar. To avoid further confusion I will point out that this does not mean Australia will get rid of grid generators and make do with just rooftop solar, but it does mean that Australians will continue to install solar on their homes and businesses and the electricity it produces will push down the wholesale cost of electricity in the daytime and make nuclear power even less economical than it is currently.

    High retail electricity prices and low solar feed in tariffs also mean that Australians with solar will start installing home energy storage as doing so will save them money. This is likely to happen quite quickly as the electric car industry has really pushed down the cost of high performance, high reliability batteries and they may now cost less than $150 per kilowatt-hour of storage. Unless retail electricity prices drop or feed in tariffs rise, this home and business energy storage will reduce the evening peak and lower wholesale electricity prices further. It also means we may see a shift away from fixed charges as a significant portion of retail electricity bills to prevent people with home or business energy storage buying a small generator and dropping off the grid.

  43. Hermit, generally speaking a one 1 gigawatt nuclear plant will run at its full capacity and generate one gigwatt of electricity all the time. Operators do not reduce the output unless they have to because their costs stay almost the same while losing revenue from selling less eletricity. So outside of scheduled down periods and unscheduled interuptions, nuclear power is constant.

    Wind power is variable because the wind is variable. A wind turbine will produce electricity about 80% of the time. While it is possible for morning and evening winds to match periods of peak demand, generally speaking the output of wind turbines will vary but if you average it over time you will see it provides about the same portion of the electricity it produces during peak periods as nuclear.

    If you don’t understand I have an anology with flipping coins I can tell you.

  44. Ronald,
    There is a good agument for installing battery storage for charging at iff peak rates yo power the house during high peak periods. This will particularly attractive where smart meters have been installed.

    The UK has contracted the installation of 15 million smart meters for both electric and gas users. The contract amount suggests that these meters”

  45. ….”meters” will be a display snap on which reads the output of the existing meters but records that against real time so that the power companies can charge penalty rates for peak consumption. “Smart” meters are only in the interests of the energy retailer.

    Well thought through domestic power storage is more attractive than people realise.

  46. When mainstream politics and especially conservative Right politics chose to deny the seriousness of the climate problem (or not deny it but just carried on as if they had) they hurt the prospects for nuclear more deeply than anything a noisy bunch of fringe anti-nukers ever could. No climate problem, no need for nuclear.

    In a nation that floats atop a deep layer of coal, with an electricity industry that has no desire to replace any of it with nuclear except under extreme duress, there is no genuine mainstream political backing for nuclear. Even the most influential voices that would push for it – commerce and industry – have been successfully bought off by the simple expediency of being offered (by Abbott and team) the attractive option to do little or nothing at least cost. Acting like climate change is crap is cheaper and less disruptive to their businesses than doing the minimum necessary at some cost. And if they all go along with it, then no-one can get blamed when it all leads to an intractable mess. By this simple means the strongest and most influential Right leaning proponents of nuclear have been subsumed into broader political opposition to action on climate and their calls for nuclear have been successfully diverted and and muted.

    If mainstream politics really accepted the IPCC version of climate change and they really believed that nuclear was the best and only option then a noisy bunch of fringe anti-nukers would not stop them. Two decades ago, with commitment to act on climate, nothing would have, but renewables have exceeded expectations and still have ample room to keep doing so.

  47. A 2013 update to the AETA data was recently released, as reported by RenewEconomy. The capital cost of nuclear power has been revised up significantly, such that it is estimated to have the highest levelised cost of energy among the options in 2050 (see bar chart in the article).

  48. BilB, I think smart meters can still result in things being pretty dumb unless they involve feedback more sophisticated than a minor coronary when the monthly bill arrives. Feedback could be as simple as a phone message that lets you know when the cost of electricity goes above say $1 a kilowatt-hour. That at least would let people take action to reduce their consumption.

  49. @Ronald Brak

    solar on their homes and businesses and the electricity it produces will push down the wholesale cost of electricity in the daytime

    This means the electricity that solar cells produce won’t be worth much and the price of electricity at other times (which has to come from other types of generation) will be much higher.

  50. We have a giant fusion reactor positioned safely at just under 150,000,000 km from earth. This fusion reactor is free, self-regulating and has about 5 billion years worth of fuel left.

    Ikonoclast – we also have stellar fuel in the form Thorium and Uranium sitting in the dirt much closer to home.

  51. @Ronald Brak

    the cost of high performance, high reliability batteries and they may now cost less than $150 per kilowatt-hour of storage

    $150 per kilowatt-hour is about what lead-acid car batteries cost so I find the above very hard to believe. Deep discharge lead-acid batteries cost more per kilowatt-hour than car batteries because they have much greater longevity for storage purposes. I’ll start believing figures like $150 per kilowatt-hour when deep discharge lead-acid batteries are always replaced by something else.

  52. Smart meters can ,and hopefully will, do some good things apart from meaning that suppliers dont have to pay people to walk around and read millions of meters every 3 months .Now we pay them for the privilege of having a smart meter. They could put you on power rations until you pay your bill.
    Some green energy puts power in the hands of people rather than further concentrating it in the hands of the big boys -that may seem a bit counter intuitive and scary to some.
    For me to consider nuclear I need a good answer to the waste problem .Waste is an easy way for evil doers to render large areas of land useless for generations .I cant see how it could be kept away from people like that for 1000’s of years .

  53. @Chris O’Neill At $150/KWh battery storage for just one MWh costs $150,000 and for one GWh it’s $150m.

    12GWh (half a day) costs $18B

    You can buy a lot of generating capacity for 18 billion dollars.

  54. A lot of the storage burden can be borne by clever use of electric car batteries. Cars can be linked into the grid and supply as well as consume electricity, according to demand. I thought this was common knowledge, but perhaps not, particularly if your ideological bent insists on the assumption that V8s can only get bigger and thirstier into eternity.

  55. Chris O’Neil, currently I pay 46 cents a kilowatt-hour all up for electricity from the grid. If the wholesale price of daytime electricity fell to an average of one cent a kilowatt-hour then I’d only be paying something like 41 and a half cents for daytime electricity. I don’t think that’ll be enough to kill the solar industry. Nor the upcoming storage industry. Something bigger would be required.

  56. Good grief , Ronald B, 46 cents per unit???? No wonder you are so up to date on power information. Tbat is out right robbery. I take it that you have calculated in your connection cost to the small amount of power you buy to suppliment your rooftop solar.

    I have nothing on the roof yet but I’m planning a 2 kw system that will also provide 3.5 kw of thermal energy, and track in 1 dimension to make this effectively a 3kw fixed system equivalent. I should be adle to get that done this year. I’m doing a bit of study on the ammonia cycle heat pumps for an air con system that can be either solar or wood powered.

    When that is installed the exercise will be to reorganise the household consumption to occur during solar daytime. There are some good Aussi products to help with that. The storage will come later. People with pools might consider changing to the LG ultrasonic algae suppressor (aus invention) yo save on pumping energy and chemical costs.

    In the longer plan changing to gas for cooking and with 2 kwhs of battery storage and my household will be mostly grid independent. My householb power bill is now over $2000 per year so that is a healthy budget to finance the transition to solar. I think at the 3 year mark I will have a total energy bill under $500. Thankyou greedy energy retailers.

  57. Chrispydog you have yet to appreciate that rooftop solar and household level storage is readily affordable as it offsets the RETAIL rate of energy costs, not the production rate or the wholesale rate. So all of your arguments on costs are irrelevent to the home and small business rooftop solar power generators.

    The other flaw in the arguments of people such as youself is in the assumption that on cloudy days solar generation drops to zero. It does not. It drops to a third or there abouts. Still enough to power refrigeration and charge batteries for nightime lighting and computer and entertainment powering. It does not take very much storage at all for a reliable basic 24/7 system.

  58. If I thought humanity could use nuclear power safely and wisely I might support it as a transition fuel. I mean as a fuel that could help in phasing out fossil fuels and in transitioning us to a full renewables economy. However, it is patently obvious that humanity cannot use nuclear power safely and wisely. Firstly, the temptation to weaponise it cannot be resisted. Secondly, the temptation to cut safety corners to increase profit cannot be resisted. Finally, major accidents are so dangerous and so dirty that wide tracts of land can never be used again. Witness Chernobyl and Fukushima.

    The argument that other power technologies are dirty and dangerous (which they are) is no argument to excuse nuclear power. How does this argument make sense? “We are doing several environmentally dirty and dangerous things so let us add one more to the mix.” Of course, this does not make sense.

    Industrial scale solar and wind power can and should be built. The technology has arrived and is safer and clear than anything else though of course not perfect. Everything we build at industrial scale will have unavoidable effects on the environment.

    Having been in Canada for some time now, I can see that Canada is as wedded to oil and dirty oil (tar sands) as much as Australia is to dirty coal. The politics of fossil fuels are such that the oligarchs of these industries are still in complete control and setting the agenda. But it is more than that. The expectations of the bulk of our populations are such that these expectations can only be met by continuing down the fossil fuel path. Even most of us who decry fossil fuel use, actually use as much or nearly as much of it as our more unaware neighbours.

    So far as I can tell, the political and military authorities of the powers that matter, USA, China, Russia and a few others, know that it is too late already. They are now planning adaptation to not prevention of global warming. We have probably passed a kind of tipping point where this makes a kind a mad sense. However, I think they are all underestimating how bad it will be. The issue will not be so much adaptation as a mad scramble to merely “crash-land” rather crash catastrophically.

  59. A lot of the storage burden can be borne by clever use of electric car batteries. Cars can be linked into the grid and supply as well as consume electricity, according to demand. I thought this was common knowledge, but perhaps not

    I knew a grad student who was working on this idea of using car battery storage for the grid. It has issues:
    1. Connection to the grid is mostly during low demand period. (Nighttime charging in the garage.)
    2. Drivers of electric cars have zero interest in jumping in their car to find it drained of power. Imagine getting in your gasoline powered car to find that the oil company had taken your gas? Even if they paid you something to take their power back, what you want it for is transport. Electric cars already have serious range issues.
    3. Utilizing automobile batteries that way means that the utility will cycle the batteries more times than you would. Lithium battery cycles are commonly considered to be around 200 before serious degradation sets in.
    4. Efficiency of distributed batter storage is significantly lower than on a utility controlled farm. Why? Because of transmission losses that are higher. Low voltage transmission has higher losses, and transmission distances are longer. Also, the utility won’t be maintaining and monitoring connections and inverter equipment, the customer will. Those also degrade.

    Using electric car batteries for storage is a nice idea, but not a very useful one if you work out the details. What the grad student worked out that could work is to use hybrid vehicles and allow the utility to turn on the gas/diesel generator for the car on demand instead of using the batteries. But even then, you have to outfit parking lots with hookups into the grid, and people have to plug in their car after parking. Again, because peak demand is during the day.

  60. I can’t find the link but I wonder if Australia’s 1.2m solar roofs (PV) and I think half a million solar water heaters will level out. The main reason being feed-in tariffs dropping to about 8c per kwh Australia wide. If this is right it means centralised power generation is here to stay. Stinkers like Hazelwood will be with us to around the year 2030. Big Coal knows it and is not too worried by whatever else is going on.

    For home batteries to take off they would have to be cool temperature, compact allowing wall mounting and so people visiting in a van could speedily replace them after a few years. The battery replacement cost would have be affordable by retirees. I think the California Air Resources Board has a target of 4c per kwh for energy retrieved from commercial storage which may be unachievable by home batteries. In contrast I don’t see too much wrong with France’s model of electricity supply..it is centralised, low carbon and cheap. I repeat the words of sometime nearby who lives off-grid and is getting worn out from the constant struggle… ‘I’m getting too old for this sh*t’.

  61. Not sure what you mean by “nuclear fans being climate delusionists”. Most nuclear fans have reluctantly accepted climate change theory, because they see in this a way to win over genuine environmentalists. There is the exception of Barry Brook, who now enjoys a sort of “hero” position within South Australia’s fervent nuclear lobby, and who probably did start out as a genuine believer in climate change theory.

  62. @Christina MacPherson If you download the film “Pandora’s Promise” from iTunes, you will see a number of environmentalists who’ve spent years railing against nuclear power who have recently re-evaluated their positions.

    It takes courage to stand up as a leading UK environmentalist and say, in public, sorry, but I’ve looked at this again, and hey, nuclear is actually the only thing that will do the heavy lifting to replace coal. This is what Mark Lynas did.

    In fact the film maker, Robert Stone, started his career in film, making a documentary about the evils of nuclear testing.

    Stewart Brand, who published the iconic counter culture book “The Whole Earth Catalogue” is in the film explaining why he too now understands that the risk of climate change is existential but the risks from nuclear power are very very low.

    To study the facts and change your opinion is not motivated by a desire to win converts, it’s to realise the truth: renewables on their own cannot replace coal.

    Think about it seriously, we either go the way France (and Onatario, btw) did, or we keep burning more and more coal.

    Germany is spending billions to subsidise ‘green’ technology while its emissions keep rising…does this look healthy to you?

  63. @chrispydog

    I think the key to a lot of the arguments raised in this thread boils down to that word you’ve used:

    replace

    In the peak oil context, there is an argument that the worst possible thing would be to NOT run in to limits for our never-ending growth in energy consumption.

    There perhaps should be a side argument in this context about whether it is desirable to continue to grow energy consumption, regardless of the source. If we used LESS energy we would use less fossil fuels, more renewables and could avoid nuclear anyway.

  64. I paid 46 cents a kilowatt-hour all up including supply charges over the last three months, and since the start of this year I’ve been paying almost 48 cents a kilowatt-hour. While I’m paying more than average my experience is not that unusual and I’m sure that if people here worked out what they were being charged in total for electricity it would be over 30 cents a kilowatt-hour for most. (For Australians that is.) With these sort of retail charges for electricity it’s not hard to see why rooftop solar is popular, why home energy storage will become popular, and why supply charges result in there being a real risk of people buying home energy storage and a small generator and dropping off the grid. (Note the generator would only need to be very small as it could slowly charge the home energy storage sysem and with a properly sized system would not need to be used often.)

  65. @Christina MacPherson
    I have no doubt at all that Professor Brook accepts the IPCC consensus. To the chagrin of deniers who used to post there, Barry devoted considerable space to climate science and eventually adopted a policy of not hosting commentary from those rejecting the science.

    I see Professor Brook’s positions as the result of informed reflection rather than some artifice as you imply.

  66. This is a type of home energy storage system that a lot of people may be installing soon:

    http://www.sma.de/en/newsroom/current-news/news-details/news/4283-sunny-boy-smart-energy-from-sma-distinguished-with-the-intersolar-award-2013.html

    It is a solar inverter with two kilowatt-hours of built in storage. It’s wall mounted just like a normal inverter and light weight as it has lithium-ion batteries. It’s design life is 10 years. These systems pay for themselves very quickly in Australia by preventing people from dipping into that expensive 30 cent grid electricity when there’s a cloud or a period of high demand during the day and by reducing the amount of grid electricity used during the evening. Many people will of course opt for more than 2 kilowatt-hours of storage.

  67. Speaking as someone who is known in this forum and elsewhere as sympathetic to the idea of nuclear power in the energy infrastructure mix, I am rather disappointed with the contributions of some advocating nuclear power in this topic. There’s a lot of bagging of renewables, much of it IMO misleading instead of an account of the positive case for nuclear power.

    It seems to me that the strongest case for nuclear power is its potential for low footprint energy production in settings much less constrained by site considerations than is the case for renewables. Per unit of sent out power, nuclear plants demand far less steel, concrete and other materials than is the case for most renewables, particularly if one includes the transmission infrastructure needed to reticulate technologies such as wind and industrial scale solar or hydro.

    As PrQ points out though, nuclear power is not going to be cheap. That shouldn’t discourage those of is who put priority on the protection of ecosystem services of course. Those of us who take this view are entitled to be worried at the schedule feasibility questions of course. Even allowing that the ecological footprint of a well-designed, sited and maintained nuclear plant at improve somewhat on wind, indutrial or retail solar, or hydro, the unfortunate reality is that nuclear power cannot do the job humanity needs of it on the timeline we need most — between now and 2030. That’s not an argument for closing existing plants or abandoning actual or proposed projects, or R&D but it is an argument for a sober and pragmatic view of the contribution nuclear power can make when it is most likely to count.

    It seems to me that in he medium term (the next 20 years) the key decarbonisation infrastructure is likely to be what we call renewables, not only because they are cheaper, but because they are going to start producing output far sooner. They also attract far less political dissent which is germane in any democracy. Their potential to be seen as local assets allows them to appeal even to the right. Windfarms can be community held or generate income for rural landholders.

    It is often argued that the intermittency of wind entails more fossil HC as back up but as Spain showed last year wind increased at the expense of gas and coal and just tipped out nuclear power which remained stable.

  68. The figures are in: 2013 was an annus horribilis for the nuclear power industry ? its third in a row ? and the nuclear renaissance can now be pronounced stone cold dead.
    The most that could be said for the 2013 figures ? four reactors connected to grids, four permanently shut down ? is that they weren’t as bad as the previous year. Nuclear power suffered its biggest ever one-year fall in 2012 ? nuclear generation fell 7 per cent from the 2011 figure.
    Nuclear generation fell in no less than 17 countries, including all of the top five nuclear-generating countries. Nuclear power accounted for 17 per cent of global electricity generation in 1993 and it has steadily declined to 10 per cent now.
    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/1/13/energy-markets/nuclear-renaissance-stone-cold-dead

  69. Chrispydog, you were lying either intentionally or through negligence when you wrote, “renewables on their own cannot replace coal.” There is no reason why renewable energy cannot replace coal use. In Australia renewable energy has reduced coal use, particularly in South Australia which is the state with the most wind and solar power per capita where one of a total of two coal plants has been mothballed and the other switched to seasonal load following where it only operates for six months of the year. As the state’s renewable capacity expands the final coal plant will be shut down for good as it won’t be economical to run. Solar power will help meet peak total electricity demand and wind will lower the average wholesale cost of electricity until maintainence and fuel costs make the coal plant no longer economical to run.

    As for how renewables could eliminate fossil fuel use there are a number of studies that show how that could be done, or you could sit down and think it through yourself. But I will mention that the goal is to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, not fossil fuel use. The two things are very similar but not quite the same. At about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour or less Australia can use existing fossil fuel capacity if a shortfall in renewable output requires it and then extract the CO2 released from the atmosphere. This is still cheaper than Hinkely C’s minimum price plus insurance.

  70. oh, rah-de-rah, ontario. new brunswick, too. but, what, nuclear power in ontario as counter-foil to mixed renewables from the start, now, for this country?

    well let’s all gather round & watch while the canadian tax-payer in one form or another funds the decommissioning of the pickering nuclear plant outside toronto; a plant that has in its life reached only 40% to 75% operating loads.

    meanwhile gov’t policy in quebec – with an economy & climate challenges comparable to ontario – is already committed to go carbon-free by 2020, while continuing to earn bucks exporting hydro-sourced juice to new england, which, 2020, is of course about the time ontario will begin to decommission its oldest pickering nuclear plant.

    we have options ontario didn’t have in the 1960s, and options – like vast tracts of land under sunlight – it will never have at the best of times. i know what i’d prefer my gov’t to back. -a.v.

  71. @Fran Barlow I agree with almost everything you said Fran, except your last paragraph needs some expanding. Spain did indeed produce over 20% of its electricity from wind last year, and its emissions did fall, unlike Germany’s which also produced a lot from wind but saw emissions rise again.

    The only difference is unlike Germany, Spain has not turned off any of its nuclear power, which is still near 20% (from memory). (And lets not talk about how bankrupt the entire Spanish generating industry is…it’s a colossal financial disaster)

    If you want to decarbonise quickly, then Germany is a sobering lesson: spend hundreds of billions and do diddly squat, or spend hundreds of billions and replace coal with nuclear.

    Sure, pick the ‘low fruit’ with renewables, but the cost benefits roll off pretty quickly when you start putting a lot of it on a grid due to its inherent fluctuations.

  72. Someone above quoted a round trip efficiency for pumped storage as 13%. In fact RTE for such systems is generally 75-85%. The larger the pipes the lower the viscosity so perhaps the 13% figure was some DIY job with a really long narrow pipe run. This isn’t a fair benchmark for industrial pumped storage.

    While Li-Ion has been a very important battery technology, new materials are coming on board all the time. Various types of flow battery materials are being developed which may prove as effective if not more so than Li-Ion. On the whole, the need for storage to deal with intermittency seems to me to be overstated. Plainly, in Australia, we have very significant hydro resources, and if a significant portion of our vehicle fleet was either plug in electric or hot swap battery then in practice we ought to have plenty of reserve. There is obviously plenty that could be done on the demand management side of the balance sheet. We can choose for example when water needs to be pumped to local catchments, and of course reuse of grey water in medium or higher density residential or industrial estates could cut some of this demand. And even where we are obliged to run thermal plants, biomass from ah waste or biogas are good options.

  73. @Fran Barlow
    These options are all limited. For example flow batteries were tried on King Island in Bass Strait but have been abandoned. In the case of biomass a bagasse burning cogen plant in Queensland had to buy in timber waste when the sugar cane harvest was low. Biogas is already done where practical. Most good hydro sites have been taken and mini hydro sites may have access or transmission problems; I know because I’ve been looking for them.

    These things can be expanded with effort perhaps a few times over but not by orders of magnitude. We need a a replacement for coal and baseload gas that has massive 24/7 grunt, say 20 GW or more. Otherwise we’re going to wonder why we’re not making big enough gains in emissions cuts. The former climate change department said the aim was 80% emissions cuts 2000 to 2050. Pro rata that means 32% by 2020 not the pathetic 5% that we’re already congratulating ourselves over.

  74. Chrispydog

    The picture for Spanish nuclear suggests it’s a dwindling technology there.

    Spain has a total of 10 nuclear installations within their mainland, among which are six stations, which are a total of eight nuclear units: Almaraz I and II, Ascó I and II, Cofrentes, Trillo, Vandellós I and II. The José Cabrera, better known as Zorita, ceased operations on April 30, 2006. So did Santa Maria de Garoña in 2012. On the other hand, Vandellós I is being dismantled.

    It’s unlikely that the kinds of loans and guarantees needed for construction and the risk premium price would make new nuclear capacity a viable choice in Spain any time soon. That said, I’m not in favour of closing plants that are viable, but the track record of nuclear in Spain has been patchy and their plants are ageing.

    I’d say that if you had hundreds of billions to spend on energy infrastructure here in Australia, you could completely decarbonise the stationary energy system without nuclear power — indeed, you could probably do 95% of that in practice for well south of $100bn, even allowing for transmission and storage. Most importantly, you could do that within 15-20 years (maybe faster) rather than by 2050.

    Really, if our aim were to reduce global emissions, using nuclear power, it would make more sense to look at what we could do to support R&D, to foster modularity in plant components, to develop fuel fabrication, devise and implement effective hazmat storage, taking back spent fuel from our exports and so forth. Much of the opposition to nuclear power focuses on the hazmat or proliferation, and Australia is in an excellent position to make nuclear power more feasible in places emitting far more GHGs than do we. That policy could be used to allow us a quid pro quo on the mitigation policies of those jurisdictions. That IMO is a more productive discussion than endlessly saying that renewables can’t do the job.

  75. @Fran Barlow
    I am mostly in agreement with your views. You are one of the commenters I always find most worth reading. I don’t have any ideological objections to nuclear and expect that globally it will be very important, but it is far from a perfect solution and not all it’s problems are activists’ exaggeration.

    Nuclear requires long term bipartisan commitment. It requires strong international regulation, oversight and policing. It will need governments either enticing or forcing energy companies to adopt it. If carbon pricing is steep enough they may choose it, except that renewables are increasingly attractive even in it’s absence. In every way the nuclear solution is one that needs State intervention as well as government financial backing – strange that the free marketeers imagine they prefer nuclear even as they refuse to contemplate the interventions required, whilst it’s those leaning green that want market based solutions.

    Meanwhile, in the Australian context, nuclear has no genuine mainstream political support, so arguing about it is mostly a distraction. The only mainstream party that might put it on the table is the LNP and then only if or when the climate science deniers and obstructors – and the resources sector – lose their stranglehold on the party. That is the bit that Brooks and others don’t want to address – the unfortunate alliance of politics in favour of nuclear for Australia with those most strongly opposed to forcing the issue on the basis of climate science.

    There is no doubt that Barry Brooks is sincere about tackling the climate problem but BNC nowadays avoids the issue of climate science denial and obstructionism in favour of fighting anti-nuclear activism and undermining support for renewables. Pre the last election I don’t think there was any post that criticised the LNP for their opposition to action on climate, only criticism of green preference for renewables and opposition to nuclear.

    I disagree with the BNC approach which seems to see the whole issue being about trusting or not trusting nuclear, and that all would be well if only we could love nuclear as he does. Unstated is the idea that the conservative Right are climate obstructionist as a consequence of popular opposition to nuclear, which seems naive in the extreme; it’s not green pro-renewables politics that keeps nuclear down, but pro fossil fuels politics. The pro-nuclear Right routinely lie about climate to protect coal interests but not even the truth about climate is sufficient to bring them to push back against the (convenient to the fossil fuel sector) public distrust of nuclear.

    I don’t think there is any better evidence of how shallow support for nuclear is within conservative Right politics than that of it’s aligned mainstream media and it’s favored commentators. They routinely push climate lies. But they don’t have more than mild objections to anti-nuclear stories. If that isn’t clear sign that the rich end of town doesn’t want to act on climate simultaneously with not wanting nuclear, i don’t know what is.

  76. Hermit

    These options are all limited. For example flow batteries were tried on King Island in Bass Strait but have been abandoned.

    There’s been some interesting work done using organic compounds such as quinones by Harvard. If these came to commercial fruition over the next decade, they could be a far more sustainable option.

    In the case of biomass a bagasse burning cogen plant in Queensland had to buy in timber waste when the sugar cane harvest was low.

    Assuming it’s waste I’m not sure what your objection is. If such plants are purely for backup their footprint would be marginal.

    Biogas is already done where practical.

    So you say, and perhaps you’re right. We could keep doing it, or expand upon it using waste gas from landfill and sewage treatment. Again, it depends on how much ‘goldplating’ we want for the system.

    Most good hydro sites have been taken and mini hydro sites may have access or transmission problems; I know because I’ve been looking for them.

    Again, if one sees energy access as a basic good, then we can choose between the environment or our capex. I’ve no doubt that their are places at the seaboard where we could build facilities capable of storing useful tranches of the energy output of the grid.

    We need a replacement for coal and baseload {despatchable} gas that has massive 24/7 grunt, say 20 GW or more.

    I’m not sure that’s so. Maybe we’d want it for about 400 hours per year. It might make more sense to supply that 5% largely from biomass plants or vehicle to grid storage and scale the other storage with that in mind.

  77. I’m amazed Chrispydog, how you represent Germany’s renewables generation as some kind of failure because their overall emissions still rose. Imagine how their emissions would have been without the CO2 emissions savings from the renewables.

    No one knows better than the Germans that there is a long way to go.

  78. Interestingly, Germany’s wind turbines pushed the renewables share of energy output past there 2020 target of 35% back in December.

  79. That’s right – quinones could change things. Very cheap. Let’s hope there aren’t critical issues that show up in terms of scaling up from the lab, durability or reliability. Let’s hope.

  80. 13% efficiency is what I remember from the article I read over 20 decades ago. I find efficiencies of 75%-80% hard to believe without a cite.

  81. @Ronald Brak
    I have to stop maintaining my rage against this blog (for sexism) for a moment to confess I’ve been lurking and seen this post of yours – wow that Sunny Boy thing sounds brilliant! Have you any idea if/when those things will be in commercial production and how much they will cost? I imagine something like this could supply most of my energy needs even in winter.

    A person (I think a pro-nuke type) further up the thread raised some issues about available lithium not being enough for these types of batteries to be made widely available – do you know if there is anything in that?

  82. Val, the Sunny Boy home energy storage inverter went on sale in Germany in the last quarter of last year. I don’t know if it’s available in Australia yet. But you can get something similar from a solar installer who does off grid installations, but be warned that home battery systems for off grid use still tend to be pricey in Australia so you might need to shop around. You might also find it worthwhile to cheap with people who install uninteruptable power supplies to see what they can currently do.

    As for how much the Sunny Boy system or something like will cost when it becomes available in Australia, the answer probably is expensive at first, but dropping rapidly in price. If the battery pack is made from a pile of small commercial lithium batteries that are currently in mass production, then the price for the batteries should be under $150 a kilowatt-hour but there will be an expense involved in wiring them up and getting them to work together as a unit. But I would expect the sale price to be $500 a kilowatt-hour or more when introduced since that competes well with whats available and still gives a reasonable return on the investment. And then a combination of competition and heading off the competition will cause prices to rapidly drop over the next few years.

    As for whether or not there is enough lithium in the world, well, I believe I worked out that there is about enough lithium in current known reserves for about a billion or so electric cars so there’s certainly no shortage now. And if we did start using large amounts of lithium more desposits would be found. And if we need to, lithium can be extracted from seawater and this has already been done commercially. And finally there’s the fact that home and business energy storage doesn’t need to be lithium based. It’s just that lithium batteries are light and so a lot of effort has been put into improving them so they can be used in electric cars and home energy storage is piggy backing on this. There are plenty of different chemistries that can be used for home storage and at some point I’m sure we’ll develop something that’s better than lithium batteries for electric cars anyway.

  83. @Fran Barlow
    Oh, I am very old indeed. Pardon my Freudian slip.
    I am older actually. My mother, the gazelle, and my father, the wild donkey, engendered me, four wild asses raised me on their milk. 😉

    Thank you. Delightful to be corrected!
    Google, “Technical Analysis of PS and Integration with Wind Power in the Pacific Northwest” for a better citation. That cite gives cycle efficiencies above 80%. (Sorry, I didn’t trust Wikipedia on its face.) I can only imagine the article I read 2000 years ago had a typographical error. 😉

    @Val – Current battery technology is problematic at scale. With pumped storage having cycle efficiencies above 80%, it will be difficult for any battery technology to compete with it on life-cycle cost. But, since I have been corrected, this puts a significantly different spin on potential wind, solar and nuclear energy storage.

    Battery systems can run at 90%, but the inverters don’t. They operate at 50%-80%. (
    Solar-facts.com How Much of your DC Power Comes Out as AC Power) (I’m not going to dig for a stronger cite because this agrees with every other source I have read.) Do the math on that: 0.8 x 0.9 x 0.8 = 57.6% system cycle efficiency. It is common for subsystems to be presented standalone.

    Now, a higher efficiency can be had by improving the conversion efficiency to inverters. For instance, superconducting components should potentially raise the optimum efficiency of inverters to 98%+. But, the cost of replacing battery systems on a regular basis would still be prohibitive i think. Perhaps quinones will make it possible to build batteries with cheap enough materials.

    Again, Fran, thank you. I appreciate it very much!

  84. @Ronald Brak
    Thanks Roland most interesting. Since I have just installed a solar system, I am not really in the market for such a system, but as I am also one of those people whose electricity usage is normally very low, I do feel somewhat frustrated that I am paying so much for the service charges associated with being on the grid (even though they will be largely offset by the feed in tarrif for at least part of the year). It is also annoying that low users like me are effectively subsidising high users through the service charges and I think this may turn into a political issue eventually.

    Anyway relating this back to the subject of the post, this supports my growing belief that the most important factor in achieving 100% renewables is this question of storage, and in turn, that that issue is being rapidly addressed through research and development. Therefore I tend to feel that the nuclear advocates are at best misguided, and at worst deliberately trying to derail the debate and block the path to a low emissions future.

  85. @Brian
    Hi Brian thank you – however the question also relates to whether you want to be on or off the grid. I think many of us now would like to be off the grid, and for someone like me, living in an inner urban apartment, I don’t see pumped storage as being a very relevant off the grid solution (though feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this 🙂 ).

    I’m interested in community solutions also (a la Hepburn Wind and the emerging community solar projects I’ve been writing about on my own blog), not just individual household solutions, but I am really over corporate models of energy provision. The old state systems had their good and bad points, but since our Lib/Lab governments have generally gone over to the corporatised, neo-liberal models of energy provision, being off the grid looks very appealing.

  86. @Fran Barlow That new battery using quinone is very much at the lab stage and they have yet to make quinone both + and – .

    Burning bio material is fraught with problems, at one stage in NSW they were burning wood chip to meet the renewable target but the losses incurred in burning wet or damp product made it a no goer.

  87. @Val

    I don’t say that the nuclear advocates as a group have malign intent or are foolish. Some in that camp are playing a duplicitous game but people such as chrispydog and quokka above are as far as I can tell, speaking out of a genuine desire to see better environmental policy. They are not right of centre folk or deniers of climate science.

    I think they misapprehend the constraints on the implementation of NP in non-NP states and misidentify renewables as a competitor, when their principal enemy is the fossil HC movement which is using NP as a wedge against change, precisely because they grasp how destructive the debate can be to progress.

  88. @Fran Barlow
    NP is a religious issue, not a technical one. There is little rational debate, and the misapprehensions regarding the effects of radiation, dose levels, etc. are astonishing.

    Being off the grid sounds good. Generally speaking it is the most expensive way to provide power.

  89. @Fran Barlow

    Hi Fran probably you are right on this, but I wonder if you also remember a debate I had on LP with someone (‘Mark from Brisbane’ I think) whom I first took to be a ‘genuine’ nuclear advocate who was interested in low emissions solutions, but who eventually turned out to be a complete climate change denier who accused me and others of being motivated by a religious belief in climate change and similar nonsensical stuff!

    So once bitten, twice shy in my case I think.

  90. Brian, a run of the mill inverter for a rooftop solar system will run at about 93% efficiency. The peak efficiency of most inverters nowadays is around 95-96%. An easy way to check that this is correct is to go to a solar inverter on a sunny day and put your hand on it. If your flesh isn’t burned off by searing heat emanating from it you’ll know it’s not running at 50-80% efficency.

  91. @Fran Barlow

    It is often argued that the intermittency of wind entails more fossil HC as back up but as Spain showed last year wind increased at the expense of gas and coal and just tipped out nuclear power which remained stable.

    IEA Monthly Electricity Statistics for the Period Jan-Oct 2013 change over the corresponding period in 2012:

    Combustible Fuels -32,864 GWh
    Wind/Solar/geo + 6,976 GWh
    Hydro + 17,684 GWh

    With the balance mostly made up of a reduction of 5% in total electricity production. There was a drop in exports and an increase in imports. The change in hydro is due to the weather.

    But of course by now, the story of the Spanish solar and wind miracle has bounced around the internet echo chamber, and I expect some here (excluding yourself) to be not the slightest bit interested in the facts.

  92. @BilB

    My householb power bill is now over $2000 per year

    It does not take very much storage at all for a reliable basic 24/7 system.

    $2000 per year of electricity sounds like it needs a little more than “not take very much storage at all”.

  93. IEA World Energy Outlook 2013 “current policies” scenario:

    2035 World Electricity Production

    Wind: 2251 TWh
    PV: 680 TWh
    CSP: 122 TWh

    As the nuclear stuff in the IEA World Energy outlook is paywalled I’ll take the BP Energy Outlook projection of nuclear production in 2035.

    Nuclear 4,300 TWh

    Despite policies that have enormously favoured renewables for more than a decade and continue to do so.

    BP projects world energy consumption to rise 41% to 2035 and emissions by 30%. That is almost certainly game over for 2 degrees.

    The notion of stomping out nuclear power to be replaced by a solar and wind powered nirvana AND simultaneously maintaining a safe climate is fantasy for the foreseeable future. The problem is bad enough as it is without those purportedly concerned for a safe climate deliberately making it worse.

  94. @Ronald Brak

    lithium-ion batteries. It’s design life is 10 years. These systems pay for themselves very quickly in Australia

    At US$1200 (expected in 2014) just for the 2 kWh Li-ion battery, I wouldn’t call it very quick.

    Many people will of course opt for more than 2 kilowatt-hours of storage.

    Yes, if they don’t want their computers and lights to go off before bedtime. But at US$600 per kWh, maybe they’ll just stick with the grid.

  95. @Ronald Brak

    lithium batteries that are currently in mass production, then the price for the batteries should be under $150 a kilowatt-hour

    will cause prices to rapidly drop over the next few years

    Neither of these claims are believable as a Google images search of lithium-ion battery cost will show.

  96. @Ken Fabian

    The only mainstream party that might put it on the table is the LNP and then only if or when the climate science deniers and obstructors – and the resources sector – lose their stranglehold on the party.

    Yes the bottom line is no-one significant is interested in nuclear energy in Australia, political support for Carbon emission reductions is intermittent and won’t be substantial for a long, long time, and very few Australians will be interested in paying to reduce their Carbon emissions.

    So it’s pretty much business as usual for the next ten years at the very least.

  97. C’mon ChrisON, One does not need to go for the gold plated system first time up.

    http://www.solar-electric.com/unba100amagm.html

    $400 will give a nameplate 2.4 kwhr storage capacity assembly with a 600 watt safe draw rate. Properly managed these batteries will last up to 8 years. Your $1200 would have a 7kwhr assembly with a 2100 watt safe draw rate (plus charge manager of course). Where the system lasts for 8 years that is an annual cost of $150, way less than the line connection charge if that can be cast off.

    In the future a group of perhaps 10 houses may pool to form a micro grid, and have one line connection for the set with the cost of that shared between all houses, and that line being primarily for backup charging.

  98. Chris O’Neil, you said you don’t think that at $1,200 for battery storage you don’t think the payoff would be very quick. What process did you use to arrive at that conclusion? Let’s say the batteries deliver two kilowatt-hours of storage each day. Some during daylight hours and around 1.8 kilowatt-hours in the evening. An Australian with rootop solar might pay a marginal cost of 30 cents per kilowatt-hour for grid electricity and receive a feed in tariff of 8 cents a kilowatt-hour. This means the batteries will save 44 cents per day or $160 a year and pay for themselves in 7.5 years. While this isn’t a particularly good return, I expect the price of home lithium-ion battery storage to be under $600 a kilowatt-hour.

    Also, you say that mention that people how people will need more than 2 kilowatt-hours of storage if they don’t want their computers and lights to go off before bedtime. Yes, it’s very unlikely that anyone would disconnect from the grid with only two kilowatt-hours storage unless their electricity needs were very modest. Of course we don’t want people to disconnect from the grid.

  99. Chris, you mentioned that you had trouble finding cheap li-ion batteries online. Did you try looking up how much 18650 cells bought in bulk from China cost? They can be surprisingly cheap. Of course sometimes you get what you pay for. (By the way, there’s about 8.1 watt hours in an 18650. Or at least there should be.)

  100. @quokka

    You write: “Despite policies that have enormously favoured renewables for more than a decade and continue to do so.”

    In point of fact, energy policies have favoured nuclear and fossil fuel power with enormous subsidies since the 1960s. All the significant R&D for nuclear was done in military budgets. Nuclear power was and is funded and indemnified by governments for the most part. Fossil fuels have been the beneficiaries of endless subsidies that put 10 years of recent modest subsidies to renewables in the shade.

    Global fossil-fuel subsidies exceed those for renewables —$523 billion to $88 billion, according to the International Energy Agency.

    “The latest estimate of global fossil fuel subsidies comes from the IMF. In a report earlier this year, the IMF valued global fossil fuel subsidies at a staggering $1.9 trillion, or 2.5% of global GDP. The IMF estimate is a lot higher than previous estimates from the Earth Policy Institute ($620 billion) and IEA ($512 billion). This is because the IMF includes lost revenue from failure to apply efficient taxes to fossil fuels.” – The Conversation.

    Britain subsidises its coal, oil and gas industries by $4.2bn (£2.6bn) a year.

    “In Australia, a comprehensive 2007 study identified fossil fuel subsidies of between nine and ten billion dollars. More recent work by the Australian Conservation Foundation estimated that fossil fuel incentives amounted to $11 billion in 2010-11.” – The Conversation.

    So it is time to drop the oft-repeated lies about where the subsidies really go.

  101. @Ronald Brak
    I think you are forgetting life-cycle cost. Lithium batteries don’t last that long. Your laptop is generally a lithium battery, as is your cell phone. A coupled hundred charge-discharge cycles and their usefulness declines. I know my laptop is a couple years old now, and the battery that used to last 3 hours lasts about 30 minutes. And I deep cycle it about once a week. I doubt very much you could get 7.5 years of life out of Li-batteries. I would expect on the order of maybe two years of cycling – 3-4 years at the outside. (This is a major reason why it’s a far better deal to hook directly up to the grid and drive your meter backwards for part of the day. Battery banks cost a lot, they have to be replaced, and Li-batteries can catch fire.)

    Tesla is going to be dealing with this soon. I wonder how well they are going to weather it? I wonder if replacement battery packs are part of the purchase deal?

  102. @Ronald Brak
    The idea that an inverter will average to 93% efficiency would need serious proof before I would believe it.

    To start with – the inverter draws power whenever it’s running. So, let’s say your inverter draws 20 watts (pretty normal). If you use 20 watts of power for some period, then at best you will operate at 50% efficiency or that period. If you use nothing, and the inverter is on, then you have -100% efficiency for that period. You can turn the inverter off, but then it won’t come right on when you flip a switch, so there will be periods when the inverter is running with no load. But usually, in a house, there is always some level of low-load. For instance, during the night when only clocks and the refrigerator are running, and things like computers and cell phones are charging. So a large part of the 24 hour period, the total load might be 10-30 watts, thus delivering an efficiency during that period of 33%-60%.

    That ignores things like whether the inverter has a clean sine wave. Appliances that depend on AC power sine wave may consume 20% more power to operate.

    Inverters only operate at peak efficiency when they are under their peak design load. If your inverter draws 20 watts, and has a peak load of 200 watts, then it is running at 90% at peak load.

  103. Home batteries would need to be quite large to power air conditioning at night or resistance heating in winter. There was talk of using refurbished 13 kwh lithium batteries from the Chevrolet Volt for this task. Google it. At 180 kg the battery may be too heavy for wall mounting. To get the daily 22 kwh used by the average Australian home the panel array might need to be 10 kw to cover winter needs (varying by State) with most output curtailed in summer. It would be prudent to keep paying $1 a day or whatever for grid connection in case of an extended overcast period.

    That gets us back to realtime generation and the needs of pensioners in heatwaves. I had an email just this morning about a distant relative who refused to use air conditioning in 45C heat last week for fear of cost. Their Federation style home may have saved them. I suggest you still need a non-coal based way of supplying at least 20 GW of centralised power-on-demand to the eastern grid. Home batteries are not for everyone even if they become cheaper.

  104. At #8

    “In the future a group of perhaps 10 houses may pool to form a micro grid, and have one line connection for the set with the cost of that shared between all houses, and that line being primarily for backup charging.”

    To elaborate on t hat a little, the “line connection” is a line to the street grid. The set of houses are otherwise of grid and share power from their Rooftop solar amoungst themselves with shared energy being monitored by micro meters for inter property billing.

  105. Brian, according to you solar inverters run at 50-80%. Let’s use the midpoint of that range which is 65%. Apart from a satisfied humming sound that inefficiency is going to end up as heat. Three kilowatt solar systems are pretty common here in Australia. Go put your hand on a 3 kilowatt solar inverter at around noon and discover if it is putting out 1,000+ watts worth of heat, which is more than a small bar heater and what it would be doing if it was running at 65% efficiency.

  106. People dropping off the grid is a threat that Australia needs to avoid. It is not a good thing and action needs to be taken to prevent it. It is not a good thing because we want people to stay on the grid an supply their excess solar energy to others. Unfortunately with the way things are done now once home and business energy storage becomes cheap enough people will have a financial incentive to drop off the grid or never get connected in the first place. The simplest way to prevent this is probably to remove the supply charge component of the electricity bill. This will increase the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour but will prevent people from saving money by going off grid. It will have the disadvantage of removing the subsidy the poor, who use little electricity, pay to the rich, who tend to use considerably more. However, I am sure some way can be found to compensate the rich for this heinous insult.

  107. @Ronald Brak

    Go put your hand on a 3 kilowatt solar inverter at around noon and discover if it is putting out 1,000+ watts worth of heat, which is more than a small bar heater and what it would be doing if it was running at 65% efficiency.

    With waste heat like that it might be worth attaching some sort of Stirling Engine type device to drive a magnet and generate power. Yes you’ll lose some of it but 80% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

  108. Interpolating from an ABS graph it seems Australia must now have something like 10m households. Many will be in multistorey and rented dwellings. For each household to have adequate winter PV and a large battery it’s hard to see the cost going below $30k per household. I’ve mentioned the house nearby that ran out of roof space for a large 40 panel system. I suggest most people can’t afford $30k without some special financing deal. 10m X $30k = $300 bn a massive private cost but we would still need backup centralised power plant to cover rainy weeks. In the US utility companies are doing PV deals with households but I haven’t heard of it here, not in TV ads at least.

    Let’s not forget that crude oil has peaked so we will need to electrify transport which takes 43% of Australia’s primary energy demand according to BREE. Then there’s industry demand as well as household. That’s why the large coal stations aren’t going anywhere and why we are not making anywhere near adequate emissions cuts.

  109. @Ikonoclast

    All the significant R&D for nuclear was done in military budgets

    Just wrong. In 1947 in the US, the control of peace time development of atomic science and technology was transferred from the military to the Atomic Energy Agency setting in course the separation of the military and peaceful use of nuclear power. With the outcome that for a long time there has been little connection. In 1974 the Atomic Energy Agency was split into the Energy Research and Development Administration and the Nuclear regulatory Commission and in 1977 the Energy Research and Development Administration became the Department of Energy. Government funded nuclear R&D spending in the US has been through the system of National Laboratories funded by the DOE and it’s predecessors and not via military budgets. Government R&D spend on renewables has also been via DOE.

    The proliferation of false claims has been a defining feature of the anti-nuclear movement.

  110. @Hermit

    A more viable model might involve leasing space on the rooves of suitable shopping centres and warehouses. The net extra land would be zero, and especially on the higher structures, even the visual clutter would be low. You could probably even justify having a mechanism to orient each of them optimally for the sun as it passed overhead. People could buy bonds in it, or buy equity, or the state could hold some and market the output. On that scale, one could have batteries or output the power to pumped storage or even have a deal with the local retailer to onsell the output for a modest commission.

  111. Fran, the waste heat from a 65% efficient inverter could be used to run a hot water system. But I think the most important thing to do first would be to remove it from the wall so it doesn’t burn the house down.

  112. @Ronald Brak

    Fran, the waste heat from a 65% efficient inverter could be used to run a hot water system.

    Yes, that would be the most efficient use assuming one didn’t have solar hot water or those shower rosettes that heat water as it emerges from the faucet.

    But I think the most important thing to do first would be to remove it from the wall so it doesn’t burn the house down.

    Indeed.

  113. More on wild claims about the massive historical injustices done to renewables in R&D and direct subsidies in comparison to nuclear. In the US in the period 1978 to 2012 US DOE R&D spend:

    Nuclear: 36.9%
    Renewables: 16.5%
    Energy Efficiency: 14.7%

    Over that period, nuclear power produced massively more power than non-hydro renewables and the allocation is not at all unreasonable. Nuclear was already proven to be viable and for most of the period wind and solar were in the “maybe” category.

    Source: US Congressional Budget Office – Renewable Energy R&D Funding History: A Comparison with Funding for Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, and Energy Efficiency R&D

    In terms of direct subsidy, mainly by tax preferences, fossil fuels and renewables received nearly all and nuclear power received very little. See Figure 1 in

    US Congressional Budget Office: Federal Financial Support for the Development and
    Production of Fuels and Energy Technologies

  114. @Ron Brak – No, you didn’t follow. What I said is that the efficiency depends on the load, versus the energy consumption of the inverter.

    Go look up how many watts an inverter consumes.
    Then, look at a readout of the energy consumption of the home (the load) over the course of a day. Most of the time it will be pretty low – for instance – when nobody is home.

    To figure out the actual efficiency of an inverter, use this formula.

    E = efficiency; iW = inverter Wattage; L = load

    E = L / ( iW + L )

    Work it out. Do the math for a few problems and see what numbers you get for E.

  115. @quokka

    Over that period, (1978-2012) nuclear power produced massively more power than non-hydro renewables and the allocation is not at all unreasonable. Nuclear was already proven to be viable and for most of the period wind and solar were in the “maybe” category.

    I’m going to dispute the reasoning here. If wind and solar were in the maybe category they almost certainly did need more R&D support Ceteris Paribus than an established and viable technology such as nuclear. Once TMI and Chernobyl happened of course and enthusiasm for the technology waned, and the problem of how to manage the hazmat in a way that was politically acceptable persisted, the arguments for R&D for nuclear, apart perhaps than for 3rd or even 4th Gen or fusion reactors weaken. Of course such R&D would by definition have nothing to do with existing Gen 2 output, save as it related to hazmat sequestration or plant operation. In short, it would have been because these technologies were also in the maybe category.

    One can see early on why FHC got such support — the focus was on energy independence and to some extent the mandates of the Clean Air Act and the more general desire to burn less fuel. Once GHG abatement became an issue, the rationale for such subsidies ought to have declined.

  116. @Brian

    I have an Aurora inverter on my domestic 5kW system. The display indicates “power in” and “power out”. I’ll assume that power out is the same as “load” in your maths above. Typically, when the system is going flat out, the difference is about 150-200W out of 5kW. So, E = ~96%.

    This matches the efficiency stated on the data sheet. So it would seem your equation is in the same ballpark as theirs.

    Secondly, the load is always at max. Whatever is not being used at home (regardless of how many of us are at home) is being exported.

    Finally, I’ve done Ronald Brak’s test and put my hand on the inverter. It turns out the device has a heat sink to help disperse the ‘lost’ power. No burns for me. 🙂

  117. @quokka

    Military R&D kicked off practical nuclear development. Government R&D progressed it. The point is massive government subsidies established nuclear power and underwrote it. That’s the fact you try to avoid.

    You completely miss my points about subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuels being orders of magnitude higher than subsidies for renewables both currently and historically.

    In another post, you want to remove hydro from the mix before talking about renewables. Talk about stacking the deck to suit your argument.

    But why do I bother? Nuclear proponents are impervious to evidence.

  118. Brian, if 3 kilowatts of electricity are going into an inverter and 2 kilowatts are coming out then where is that extra kilowatt going? Fairyland? Today in Adelaide a 3 kilowatt solar system could easily produce over 20 kilowatt-hours. You say that solar inverters can be as little as 50% efficient which mean over the course of the day such an inverter would give off more heat than a small bar heater run for ten hours. So are you saying that there is magic involved and the law of conservation of energy has somehow been broken, or are you saying that our solar inverters actually do give off this much heat and we just haven’t noticed because we’re tough or something?

  119. @Fran Barlow

    I’m going to dispute the reasoning here. If wind and solar were in the maybe category they almost certainly did need more R&D support Ceteris Paribus than an established and viable technology such as nuclear.

    Why?

    Historical choice is between options X and Y. Option X has proved to be viable at large scale with much potential for further improvement for the foreseeable future. Option Y has never been shown to be viable at large scale or cost effective. Where’s the money going to go to? There’s no point in trying to inject any claims derived from hindsight into it.

    The largest nuclear R&D spend of that era was the Integral Fast Reactor and the work preceding it. It’s doubtful than any commercial nuclear industry entity ever derived any financial benefit from that. Some DOE funds went to GE and they also put their own money in, but certainly haven’t made any money out of it.

    You also need to sort the nature of the “maybes”. They mainly lie in the areas of engineering feasibility and economics. Only rarely are they decisively “overdetermined” by politics.

    Even now there’s scope for funding useful R&D to maximise benefits from LWR technology and it goes on. For example in development of new fuel technology that should be able to provide power uprates of 20% or more on existing plant. This is non-trivial benefit. Another area is in life extension of existing plant.

  120. @quokka

    “In the US in the period 1978 to 2012 US DOE R&D spend:”

    IIRC, no US nuclear plant commissioned in the period since 1978 has yet been completed. So, R&D money spent since 1978 has resulted in zero additional production (except maybe for some tweaks to older plants, which benefitted from R&D spending between 1945 and 1978).

  121. On the subject of throwing good money after bad I see the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is dispensing easy finance despite the PM’s request to desist. Some projects seem like a long shot, for example wave power and seawater greenhouses. Perhaps straight grants for proof of concept would be more appropriate. The problem is if a commercially unviable idea keeps asking for soft loans the day must come when some money has to be repaid. When Ferguson was energy minister he threw at lot of money at clean coal and dry rock geothermal. The latter have a small pilot plant in the middle of the outback with no customers for the electricity. All good I suppose if people notice what works and what doesn’t.

  122. Chris O’Neill, BilB was actually referring to your suggestion that home energy storage would cost $600 a kilowatt-hour as being a gold plated system. But even at $600 a kilowatt-hour with a ten year lifespan, a 5% discount rate, a kilowatt-hour of grid consumption displaced per kilowatt-hour of storage per day, the forgone opportunity cost of an eight cent a kilowatt-hour feed in tariff and system loses it will still provide storage at about 27 cents a kilowatt-hour which is less than the marginal cost most Australians pay for grid electicity. But I do think that the Sunnyboy SMA and similar systems will be sold at less than $600 per kilowatt-hour of storage.

  123. Military R&D kicked off practical nuclear development. Government R&D progressed it.

    WWII military research fired off a whole bunch of new technologies. “For a radar free Australia!”

    The point is massive government subsidies established nuclear power and underwrote it. That’s the fact you try to avoid.

    So how massive then? Well from 1948 to 2012 the US government spent $95.69 billion US 2011 dollars on nuclear R&D. That comes to an average of $1.47 billion per year or to really put it into perspective, we’ll assume an average US population of 250 million over than period and calculate a per capita spend of 5.88 cents per person per year. That’s in 2011 dollars. Not very “massive” then. Reference already provided.

    In contrast in Germany now, domestic electricity consumers pay a renewables levy of more than 5 euro cents per kWh on every kWh of electricity they consume regardless of whether it came from lignite or wind.

    But why do I bother? Nuclear proponents are impervious to evidence.

    Cognitive dissonance.

  124. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel%E2%80%93iron_battery

    “Nickel-iron batteries have long been used in European mining operations because of their ability to withstand vibration, high temperatures and other physical stress. They are being examined again for use in wind and solar power systems where battery weight is not important.

    Many railway vehicles use Ni-Fe batteries.[8][9] Some examples are London underground electric locomotives and New York City Subway car – R62A.

    The technology has regained popularity for off-the-grid applications where daily charging makes it an appropriate technology.[10][11][12]” etc.

    There are also other batteries using Iron which may be useful, particularly for those wishing to use them for home storage.

  125. As far as I am aware money spent on research in the past can’t be unspent. So I guess the question really is should money be spent on nuclear power research now? Well, a nuclear plant and a coal plant share similarities. They both make steam to turn turbines. But the need to safely contain radioactive material in practice makes a nuclear plant much more expensive than a coal plant. Currently there is no realistic way to make a nuclear plant cost less to construct than a coal plant. And since new coal plants, even ones that paying only a few dollars per tonne of coal, cannot compete with new wind and solar it seems completely pointless for Australia to invest money in nuclear power research. And any developments in construction or materials technology that makes it possible to lower the cost of coal and nuclear plants should also be able to be applied to wind turbines and solar panels and other low emission generating capacity. And since wind and solar have much smaller unit sizes than coal or nuclear it should be much easier to apply improvements in construction and materials to them.

  126. @Ronald Brak

    An Australian with rootop solar might pay a marginal cost of 30 cents per kilowatt-hour for grid electricity

    That’s pretty expensive. Mine this year will cost 22 cents per kWh.

    This means the batteries will save 44 cents per day or $160 a year and pay for themselves in 7.5 years.

    Or in my case, 28 cents per day or $102 a year and pay for themselves in 11.74 years, i.e. long after the lithium-ion batteries have failed.

    While this isn’t a particularly good return, I expect the price of home lithium-ion battery storage to be under $600 a kilowatt-hour.

    That may happen some time but even then it will be a waste of money.

  127. Ronald Brak :
    The simplest way to prevent this is probably to remove the supply charge component of the electricity bill. This will increase the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour but will prevent people from saving money by going off grid. It will have the disadvantage of removing the subsidy the poor, who use little electricity, pay to the rich, who tend to use considerably more. However, I am sure some way can be found to compensate the rich for this heinous insult.

    LOL!

  128. Chris, the Sunnyboy SMA has a design life of 10 years. This means that it is likely to continue working beyond 12 years time although with reduced performance. Unlike an electric car home energy storage does not need to drive anywhere and so can still be used even when the batteries have suffered a lot of degragation. It just won’t save as much money as when it was young and fresh. (And just to save on confusion I’ll point out that I’m not saying it can be relied on to continue functioning beyond its design life, but I do expect it to on average work for at least several years beyond a decade, but I could be WRONG!)

    At $600 per kilowatt-hour home energy storage is around the break-even point for many Australians. But for some reason you say that energy storage cheaper than this would be a waste of money. Could you explain your reasons for thinking this, or did this thought just spring into your mind fully formed as Athena from the head of Zeus and you decided to share it with us without first checking if it had any bearing on reality?

  129. @Hermit

    The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has certain duties in terms of the Act of Parliament that created it. Neither that act nor any other act authorise the prime minister to direct the corporation not to perform its legal duties. Are you seriously proposing the constitution be amended to empower the prime minister to command that an organ of state not carry out its statutory duties? Or perhaps you would prefer to empower the prime minister to repeal Acts of Parliament at his own pleasure?

  130. @Ronald Brak

    Did you try looking up how much 18650 cells bought in bulk from China cost? They can be surprisingly cheap.

    How long they last might be a surprise too.

  131. @Ronald Brak

    the Sunnyboy SMA has a design life of 10 years. This means that it is likely to continue working beyond 12 years time although with reduced performance.

    With a cost commensurate with its lifetime no doubt.

  132. @Ronald Brak

    It just won’t save as much money as when it was young and fresh.

    OK, so it would only save me $102 maybe in the first year and continue declining thereafter. Thus the payback period would extend beyond the 11.74 years assuming zero degradation. This does not help your case.

  133. @Ronald Brak

    At $600 per kilowatt-hour home energy storage is around the break-even point for many Australians. But for some reason you say that energy storage cheaper than this would be a waste of money.

    It’s easily a waste of money at $600 per kWh. This means it’s a waste of money at $599 per kWh. $599 per kWh is less than $600 per kWh.

    did this thought just spring into your mind fully formed as Athena from the head of Zeus and you decided to share it with us without first checking if it had any bearing on reality?

    Maybe you should ask yourself the same question sometimes, especially if you’re going to ask someone else.

  134. @Hermit
    Oh lord I am sorry to be rude but you are talking so much cr-p and it’s so painful to listen to you. I am a one person household ( the most energy intensive kind) with a 1.5kw solar array. At present it’s producing about 6x as much as I’m using, and will produce more than I use most of the year (apart from the winter months June till August). The embedded energy in my flat and possessions will be paid off over time, especially as I’m a great recycler.

    The only problem is storage, as has been discussed extensively, and I’m sure that can be solved. So why do you go on with your arguments? What is in it for you?

  135. Seriously, for us in the lucky country of Australia, the future is right here, and it’s solar. The only people who will lose are profiteers. It’s amazing how much influence they wield.

  136. @BilB

    http://www.solar-electric.com/unba100amagm.html
    $400 will give a nameplate 2.4 kwhr storage capacity assembly with a 600 watt safe draw rate.

    Lead-acid is still far more economic than Lithium-ion. I think the Sunnyboy Lithium-ion based systems are for people who don’t care about the cost and want something that’s small and light and will fit into their small apartment (such as is common in Germany).

    So when I think about a battery storage system, I definitely think about the type of battery that you cite.

    I’d like to set up a battery storage system, and it wouldn’t be any technical problem for me (seeing as how I’m an electrical engineer and all 🙂 but lead-acid batteries don’t last a real long time and the depreciation cost is substantial. Also, the two possible sources of cheaper energy, solar cells and off-peak grid, still have issues and there is also the issue of getting approval for connecting the storage system to the grid.

    In the case of using off-peak grid power as an energy source, the main issue would be getting approval to allow you to do this, because I believe this method is rarely used, even though it’s probably cheaper and would make better use of your battery storage than solar cells.

    In the case of using solar cells as an energy source, the cost of electricity they produce is still not really cheap so the total cost of solar cells+storage is not particularly competitive with the grid. Ideally, solar cells will get cheap enough that their electricity cost is relatively small in which case I hope the storage cost will be competitive with the grid.

    However, as someone above mentioned, people get tired of looking after their battery systems after a while.

  137. The problem with nuclear electric power is that if unattended the recently spent fuel rods will boil off their cooling water and release vast amounts of ionising radiation and deadly isotopes, that and the geologic time scale for neutralisation of isotopes even if everything operates according to plan, plus the stations are about as sensible for reducing greenhouse gas concentrations as putting a dog collar on a tiger snake and just imagine what would happen with an even limited nuclear conflict with standard electromagnetic pulse weapons taking down civilian infrastructure that supply water and electric power and labour to nuclear electric power plants globally times 100s and you begin to get the picture.

    It’s easy to deride the denialist delusionists as they are clearly either misinformed, stupid, lying or crazy but I detect in those that supposedly accept the science a sort of complacent inability to comprehend either intellectually or emotionally the real state of the science and its implications for the future of our species and the other life with which we share this planet or should I say from whom we have taken so much of this planet from. Accepting anthropogenic global warming is seen as something that you do in polite society in a not dissimilar way to not stating that you are not in favour of slavery. That is to say that proclaiming a belief in global warming is a fashionable opinion with not much depth for most people.

    The most harmful delusionists ultimately are in fact those that are in an influential position with a public profile who understand the science and its implications but who soften and dilute the message out of fear for their own position or because they tell themselves that people won’t understand or for whatever reason they fail to tell the full unvarnished truth of catastrophic ecosystem and climate collapse. If you read the work of Clive Hamilton for instance and accept it then the contemporary understanding of anthropogenic global warming is understated and as delusional as the denialists.

    I think we should take the position of the doctor in a consultation with a patient who is ill. It is the responsibility of the doctor both morally and professionally to tell patient the truth that they have a disease and how they handle that knowledge is ultimately up to them.
    However the 1st thing to remember about politics or life in general is that people are full of it which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as this is caused by people conforming to social norms to not be overtly selfish.
    And the reason why people are full of it is as every 6 year child with a brain learns that you are more likely to get what you want if you couch your selfish needs in social terms, so that instead of saying “I want that box of lollies” they learn to say and think lines such as “well if I get those lollies everyone else in the family will be happy too” and “it will help the economy” and so forth but of course the most convincing lies are those you convince yourself you believe.

    Who cares if in 300 years there will be 1000 km band around the equator where temperatures and humidity will be consistently so high that many higher forms of life including humans will be unable to survive due to heat stress.

    So pretending that we are going to cope by adapting is another form of lie. For a whole host of reasons technical, societal, political, economic, business, psychological, oh and let’s not forget physics, preventing catastrophic climate change is simply impossible and the best we can hope for is to reduce its severity slightly. And who’s to say anyway that global warming is a bad thing, If you were to the ask the more than 99% of other species on this planet about our stewardship of this beautiful little blue green ball that’s just floating around the sun what do you think they would say? And what about the countless species that have become extinct or endangered or had their range restricted due to our activities? Can you just sense how keen they are to have us around? And we actually believe that we are somehow special or superior or something because of our intelligence (try explaining this to the highly educated and academics whose sense of self is derived in large measure by the competitive assessment of their own intelligence compared to others). Don’t people understand that science and technology are the problem, increasing our efficiency and productivity so that we can breed even more humans to pollute even more. Or as Ernst Mayer said ” Intelligence is an a fatal mutation”
    To use contemporary speak, we are unsustainable as far as we know, in any form other than a pre-civilisation hunter gatherer society.
    It’s time to face reality. From a systems viewpoint the human species or specifically human civilisation is a disease, a disease that needs to be, must be, and will be eliminated by natural forces beyond our control and no amount of wishful thinking or intellectual defence is going to change that.
    Carbon dioxide is a component of the self regulatory mechanisms of the planet that has evolved over deep geologic time which have a ‘wisdom’ of their own. Do these people, these hubrististic temporal blow ins, these self-important miscreant intellectuals actually presume to know better than the planet itself manifested through its feedback mechanisms.

    In life if you have integrity you have to choose which side you’re on. Are you really with the 1% or the 99%? Me? Personally I’m on the side of 99%. Truly, honestly. I love people individually and can see the universe in their eyes but the sooner the human species is exterminated collectively the better. And this is not a new idea by the way. As Alfred Russell Wallace wrote in 1869 in his widely popular, proclaimed and influential book ‘The Malay Archipelago’ in reference to Birds of Paradise species of New Guinea.

    “I thought of the long ages of the past, during which the successive generations of this little creature had run their course — year by year being born, and living and dying amid these dark and gloomy woods, with no intelligent eye to gaze upon their loveliness; to all appearance such a wanton waste of beauty. Such ideas excite a feeling of melancholy. It seems sad that on the one hand such exquisite creatures should live out their lives and exhibit their charms only in these wild inhospitable regions, doomed for ages yet to come to hopeless barbarism; while, on the other hand, should civilized man ever reach these distant lands, and bring moral, intellectual, and physical light into the recesses of these virgin forests, we may be sure that he will so disturb the nicely-balanced relations of organic and inorganic nature as to cause the disappearance, and finally the extinction, of these very beings whose wonderful structure and beauty he alone is fitted to appreciate and enjoy. This consideration must surely tell us that all living things were not made for man. Many of them have no relation to him. The cycle of their existence has gone on independently of his, and is disturbed or broken by every advance in man’s intellectual development; and their happiness and enjoyments, their loves and hates, their struggles for existence, their vigorous life and early death, would seem to be immediately related to their own well-being and perpetuation alone, limited only by the equal well-being and perpetuation of the numberless other organisms with which each is more or less intimately connected.”

    Indeed.

    And also as last words, addendum to later editions

    Substitute the word animal for human in the following.

    “We permit absolute possession of the soil of our country, with no legal rights of existence on the soil to the vast majority who do not possess it. A great landholder may legally convert his whole property into a forest or a hunting-ground, and expel every human being who has hitherto lived upon it. In a thickly-populated country like England, where every acre has its owner and its occupier, this is a power of legally destroying his fellow-creatures; and that such a power should exist, and be exercised by individuals, in however small a degree, indicates that, as regards true social science, we are still in a state of barbarism.”

    Oh! and have a happy New Year everyone,
    Look after yourself and look after someone else.
    Have a good time, have a good time.

  138. It’s a cheap hit but am taking it anyway, the unintentional comparison between the latest reactors and the Joint Strike fighter…dates again pushed back, expenses up again.

    This seems to be where the energy argument goes wrong, where corporate capitalism steps in and seems to corrupt a process in the way it does also in examples in other sectors, say defence, mining/fracking, big pharma and chemicals; also use of rivers and forests in a sustainable manner of use.

    The term, “bolt-on” keeps circulating in the back of my head, but the amount of conflict over projected cost and returns figures for different alternatives and varying estimates from different advocates on a given process, has me suspicious that at least someone is trying to sell me a pup.

    I wonder how things will go, if the US ever invents a flying nuclear reactor?

  139. Chris O’Neil, I’ve given the values I’ve used to calculate that at $600 a kilowatt-hour home storage will save many Australians money. Where are yours? What values have you used? Do they differ from mine? Have I overlooked something? Have I made a mistake? If you don’t understand the calculation I used I can go through it with you. Can you help me to think better? Do you have anything to contribute?

    But if you are going to tell us that home energy storage is a waste of money simply because you say so, then that’s not good enough. This is not Sunday school. This is not a sports match. This is not a schoolyard fight over whether or not Batman could beat Superman. There is an objective reality out there. Or at least my life goes better when I assume that there is one. A reality that can be investigated, measured, and discussed. It’s this outside reality that I’m intersted in talking about and not your internal one, no matter how personally important your own feelings, thoughts, and beliefs may be to you. So I’ll ask you again. Do you have any reasons to believe that home energy storage at under $600 a kilowatt-hour is a waste of money?

    I’ve given you my figures. Where are yours?

  140. Fran, I’ve thought of another use for a 65% efficient solar inverter. It could be used as an oven. It would be great for people who like to do big lunches. At anytime during the day they wanted to cook the oven would be preheated and ready to go.

  141. @Val
    I’ve had PV since 2005 but I’ve failed..I had to pay the power company $11 last year. Sometimes I drive a car for months just powered with modified chip oil. I’m working on a couple of other energy projects. Clearly I’ve gone wrong somewhere.

  142. @Hermit
    Apologies Hermit, my reply to you was less than civil – I had people round for tea and had a few glasses of wine, and much as I try to remember not to make comments in those circumstances, sometimes I forget. Glad that you are doing so much on the energy front, though if we’re getting into a competition, I don’t even own a car!

    But given that, I still fail to understand why you make some of the comments you do. Pardon me if I’m paranoid, but I’ve had a previous bad experience with a pseudo-environmentalist pro-nuclear advocate who actually turned out to be a right wing climate change denier, as discussed in my comment to Fran above. Also I have been doing a lot of reading about climate change denial and there are staggering amounts of money being poured into it, so I am somewhat suspicious of the motivation of people who disrupt discussion on renewables by saying it will never work, we have to go nuclear, etc.

  143. Above I wrote:

    from 1948 to 2012 the US government spent $95.69 billion US 2011 dollars on nuclear R&D. That comes to an average of $1.47 billion per year or to really put it into perspective, we’ll assume an average US population of 250 million over than period and calculate a per capita spend of 5.88 cents per person per year.

    The 5.88 cents per person per year is clearly wrong. Should be $5.88 per person per year. Assuming average 8 kWh per person per year electricity consumption in the US over that period that’s a spend of 0.0735 cents per kWh of supplied electricity on nuclear development.

    The arithmetic might have been lousy, but the comparison with the renewables levy on all domestic electricity consumption in Germany of over 5 euro cents / kWh remains telling.

    I’d like to say I’m surprised that nobody pointed out the error, but I’m not surprised.

  144. Quokka

    The arithmetic might have been lousy, but the comparison with the renewables levy on all domestic electricity consumption in Germany of over 5 euro cents / kWh remains telling.

    I’m not quite sure why you’re comparing long run (since 1948) subsidy figures for the USA to much more recent figures for Germany. Surely it’s more germane (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) to compare similar time periods in each jurisdiction. One also needs to keep context in mind. The subsidies for nuclear power in the US were designed not for abatement but for the supply of cheap power.

    Now personally I’ve never been a huge fan of bantering about subsidies from the government for infrastructure. Yes, one needs to keep this in mind when considering the actual cost of one solution or another so that one can evaluate which at any given moment, is likely to prove better value for money over its likely commercial life. The resort by anti-nuclear folk, who tend to be left-of-centre to the “nuclear power got/gets a leg up through government subsidy” is really the flip side to the right saying that renewables are about if government and not letting the market sort it out, or trying to argue that if we were true environmentalists we’d be cheering on nukes. It’s an attempted wedge. The right figures most on the environmental left hate nukes and the left hears the right complain about big government and subsidy. The right raise nuclear power to disrupt the push for decarbonisation, and the left raises subsidies to stop the right wedging it with nuclear advocacy and to use it to split away their backing by the fossil HC crowd.

    There’s nothing wrong in principle with subsidies. Sometimes, subsidies from the state can be a good thing. As always, it depends on whether a given subsidy offers adequate benefit to he community as a whole.

    I’d like to say I’m surprised that nobody pointed out the error, but I’m not surprised.

    It may well be that people aren’t following your posts as closely as you’d like. People who are hostile to nuclear power and/or time-poor might not read your posts or do the maths needed to show that you were out by orders of magnitude.

  145. Val is failng to think globally. Yes, grid-connected solar pays off for her. But that is partly because it is subsidised at the expense of non-solar users but mostly because the incremental addition to grid power from people like her does not yet have to be stored, because it is currently not large in relation to other forms of grid power. Those subsides, BTW, are an incredibly expensive way to reduce CO2 emissions – simple conservation measures (eg the much maligned Pink Batts program) can reduce emissions by more at a tiny fraction of the cost.

    The argument is not about whether solar power is currently worth it to individuals (yes it is) or even whether it will be, like wind, a modest but handy supplement to other forms of electricity generation (yes it will) but whether it will ever be feasible as the principal way of meeting population electricity needs.

    In turn that last question is ALL about the costs of storage, whether at the household or grid level. And I’m with the sceptics here who think that storage on the required scale will always be far more expensive (and, surprisingly, more ecologically damaging and more lethal too – have a look on YouTube at some battery fires) than nuclear ever could be.

    Which doesn’t make me a nuclear fanatic – yes it does have its own problems, even if opponents overstate them (especially the radiation safety ones). But if we want to keep an industrial civilisation without baking the planet then nuclear might do a Bradbury and end up as the best option. My view is that the first priority is to get a decent price on carbon and then we will be in a position to let the best renewable technology win. Get the prices right and it really is amazing how well markets can work.

  146. @derrida derider

    These claims don’t stand up to scrutiny

    The subsidy from the absence of time-of-day pricing is equally applicable to people who use energy conservation at times when the social cost of electricity is low, and turn on their aircond when the cost is high. (The PC just estimated that non air-cond owners, as a group, pay around $300 a year to subsidise aircond owners

    With the exception of aircond, which has clearly driven most of the increased cost, it’s essentially impossible, in the absence of cost-reflective pricing, to tell who is subsidising whom, and also impossible to predict the economics of storage. For example, as I mentioned a while back, storage can be achieved by such simple measures as remotely turning on central heating in the late afternoon of winter days, rather than waiting until you get home after dark and then cranking it up: the house itself acts as a store of heat and cool. But with a uniform price, there’s no reason to bother.

  147. @paul walter
    I think the defence industrial establishment should get involved with the nuclear industry particularly in SA. When the air warfare destroyer program is completed the contractors should turn their attention to a new project like SMR assembly. Some propose re-employing car industry workers for example building new diesel subs at the ASC using ex Holden staff. The military connections run deep, for example one proposed mine that includes uranium ore is Carapateena inside the Woomera rocket range.

  148. Derrida

    My view is that the first priority is to get a decent price on carbon and then we will be in a position to let the best renewable technology win.

    I agree that a robust and ubiquitous price on emissions that reflects their likely anticipated community cost is key. Given that this is unlikely any time soon however, I don’t accept that we should be leery of building low footprint technology out of state funds or regulating emitters or engaging in value for money subsidies for those willing to contribute to the low carbon mix.

    I agree that programs that would shield those unable to participate in solar energy and other renewables should be devised. While a tenant can’t in practice put solar panels on his or her roof, if the state funded the capex needed for a co-op to build on the roof of a shopping centre or industrial complex and sell the power to the grid, and allowed low income tenants to get a share by chipping into the co-op for the recurrent costs and repayments to the state of capex then that gets around any inequitable cross subsidy.

  149. @Fran Barlow
    Yes Fran and as I’ve noted on my blog, there are a number of community solar projects, most operating on a coop model I think. However they face great administrative difficulties due to existing legal and regulatory systems. That is another way the state could get involved in supporting such projects, by setting up a better regulatory regime.

    Also people on Centrelink benefits may currently be eligible for No Interest Loans Scheme Loans under the Home Energy Savers Scheme, which they could use to invest in solar. Unfortunately the federal government is ending the HESS scheme in June this year, a year early, an outrageous decision given the known issues around vulnerable groups and the cost of heating and cooling. I intend to write to the minister, when I find time, and would urge others to do so also

  150. @derrida derider
    Actually you are wrong, not just generically, but specifically. I am very low user of electricity, so most of the power I generate, for most of the year, will feed into the grid. Because I installed the panels recently (as I live in an apartment, this involved a lengthy and complex process of getting approval) I will only receive an FIT of 8c per kWh, which is much less than my energy retailer charges. So yes, I got the RET subsidy, but over the longer term the benefit is to the retailer, which is selling my energy for considerably more than it is paying me.

    If you would like to know more about this, I suggest you look at John Davidson’s blog – I don’t have the link to hand but I’m sure you can google it.

  151. See http://www.ironcorebatteries.com.au/page2.php for data from an Australian supplier.
    Nickel-Iron batteries will cost you approx $700 for 1.2Kwh so Ronald Braks calculations are within bounds. However, these batteries last for 30 years. They are just too heavy to use in cars but for static home use who cares? Also, they are not affected by deep discharge. I would suggest these are currently a superior solution to batteries using Lithium. Given their long life, they would last as long as the solar panels and the economics becomes much better.

    If I need to offset my evening use of peak electricity, about 5Kwh would be enough. Then, I only need to pay the off-peak tarriff for night-time use – about 20-25 cents/Kwh. So I end up getting about 40 X 0.8 (efficency loss) = 32c for each Kwh generated in excess of my day-time requirement, and used for charging the batteries.

    As for owners of aircon being subsidised by others, this may not apply if those owners who have solar panels. By cooling the home all day while the sun is shining, no extra load is placed on the grid, if the solar generation more or less covers the extra consumption.
    In fact, such solar owners are helping to reduce the daytime peak. So solar subsidies are actually helping to keep electricity costs down. Of course detailed analysis is required to work out just how much this effect is.

  152. Ronald Brak :
    Chris O’Neil, I’ve given the values I’ve used etc etc etc But if you are going to tell us that home energy storage is a waste of money simply because you say so, then that’s not good enough.

    @Ronald Brak
    Ronald I can only feel for you. I don’t know what the answer is, but it seems to be a waste of time arguing with people who produce calcs that they simply don’t understand (more accurately, they don’t understand how to do the calcs or what they mean, they just pull calcs out of the air). It’s just too easy for them to pick a few random word or figures you have put up and make up some more or less random calcs in response. You have the disadvantage in that you have to think to answer them.
    (Getting off topic, but we’ve gotten close to it in this article:) The fact that most discussions as to whether wind farm ratings are peak of avg seem to not have a conclusive answer is testimony to the fact that technically apt people are in the minority and that proper calcs, and more importantly properly defined figures/ratings, are of little use in arguments.
    (FN. I assume that wind farm ratings are annual avg’s but turbine ratings are output in the wind speed range they are designed for which only occurs about 30% of the time. That would be reasonable.)

  153. Some proposals may be stymied by the gradual demise of the quarter acre block 0.1ha. This applies to heavy battery packs, off-street electric car charging, rainwater tanks and vegie gardens. Nickel iron or lead acid batteries will need a ventilated safe room or secure corner of a garage on a concrete floor, not wall mounting. There is a parallel between rainwater tanks and batteries apart from space requirements; I know of one council which does piped water ‘top ups’ for rainwater tanks, the tanks getting a capex subsidy. Either way the homeowner hopefully gets to store some useful stuff acquired cheaply thereby avoiding high prices later.

    The problem is when that store of value runs out, drought in the case of rainwater tanks and ironically a rainy week in the case of home batteries. The centralised facility (water supply, power station) sells fewer units to spread its fixed costs so user charges may increase. In Europe some peaking plant operators are asking to be paid standby fees, the so called ‘capacity market’. Google it. The overall savings may not be as great as supposed.

  154. Iron-nickel batteries could certainly be used for home and business energy storage. However, I think they’ll have trouble competing with lithium batteries. While I’m certain their cost would come down with increased production I doubt they would be as ammenable to rapid price decreases as lithium batteries. Also, their charge/discharge efficiency is considerably lower, although it may be possible to increase this with careful electronic monitoring. But I think that one of the biggest problems for on grid acceptance is that unlike lithium, iron-nickel batteries aren’t maintenance free. I think the ability to install and forget will be an important selling point, especially for people who might only be buying a few kilowatt-hours of storage. But I don’t know which battery chemistry will end up the most popular and iron-nickel is one possibility. It certainly could be the best choice for off grid home storage.

  155. @Hermit
    I don’t think the demise of the quarter acre block necessarily leads to these consequences. Good examples of sustainable apartment blocks near me in inner Melbourne are being built with inbuilt (structural) rainwater tanks, which I assume also provide an insulating effect. Often they have small vegie gardens, but there are also an increasing number of community gardens.

    The car situation is mixed in that the most radical developments which are aiming for really high sustainability may provide very little car parking, assuming that not all owners or tenants will have cars (this is actually a trend amongst young people in Melbourne, driving or owning a car does not appear to have the social cachet it once did) and/or encouraging car share schemes. However most new blocks I think do still have some off street parking.

    I don’t imagine anyone has looked at the issue of space for batteries yet but there is no reason why it should not be included in future.

    Definitely I agree there can be some real losses with the loss of suburban blocks – loss of safe and accessible outdoor space, loss of contact with nature, loss of garden etc – but good urban planning and design can overcome many of the issues you mentioned and provide other amenities that the suburban block may not. The trouble is more that we don’t have enough good urban planning, I think.

    I have written quite a bit on my own blog about the issue of solar panels and apartments, which is very challenging, but as Fran has noted above there are also ways of responding to this. We have loads of un-utilised roof space in this country, much of which could be used for communal purposes, hopefully with a strong equity consideration.

  156. Another problem with home batteries is the replacement cost problem. A homeowner may be flush with funds or working full time when the batteries are acquired. Less than a decade later that may have turned around. I know some bush block people barely getting by with casual work but who now need to replace a lead acid battery bank. I think they are using a straight through diesel generator to run appliances at night. God forbid that could happen in the suburbs.

    Fortunately nickel, lead, lithium, acid etc are all toxic or expensive so batteries can be traded in for recycling. As I’ve said before what’s so bad about the centralised French system where electricity is reliable, low carbon and affordable?

  157. Hermit

    As I’ve said before what’s so bad about the centralised French system where electricity is reliable, low carbon and affordable?

    Nothing, except for the fact that

    a) it’s not available for reproduction here on anything like a reasonable timeline
    b) most people (or at any rate enough people who are not Greens) don’t like the idea of it, and in a system where one side can wedge the other, that’s fatal to policy.

  158. Retrying.

    The most striking feature of recent Australian discussion, beginning with the Australian Energy Technology Assessment from 2011 is the claim that “small modular reactors” represent an appealing option for Australia. AETA listed these as being one of the cheapest options for 2020. with an estimated levelised cost of between $75 and $125/MWh. That’s both ambitious and remarkably precise for a technology that does not yet exist, even in prototype form.

    There actually are already small modular reactors, used for research purposes and isotope production. It’s unlikely that these particular ones that already exist can be scaled up for power production, but these and existing power reactor designs do provide some basis for extrapolating like this. Frankly, in engineering terms it shouldn’t be too hard to get power reactors on the proven CANDU principle up and going on a two to five year time scale, regulatory environment permitting, even if the design had to be adapted to fit within the submersible barge concept (the most practical “modular” approach I’ve seen, in that the modules don’t have to be small so much as readily installed and removed for servicing). It may be practical to modify the CANDU approach to have lower set up costs and faster deployment by using a supercritical carbon dioxide moderator or a carbon monoxide fluidised sugar charcoal moderator instead of a heavy water moderator, perhaps with (suspension?) homogeneous fuel rather than distinct fuel rods, possibly at the price of lower efficiency, but only the heavy water/fuel rod CANDU approach is currently proven (by the way, cutting the uranium with thorium in the right proportion can stretch the life of CANDU fuel).

    Ronald Brak accurately stated at January 21st, 2014 at 17:31 that “Currently there is no realistic way to make a nuclear plant cost less to construct than a coal plant”, but that is misleading since his “But the need to safely contain radioactive material in practice makes a nuclear plant much more expensive than a coal plant” isn’t an inherent issue so much as a consequence of current regulatory compliance. With submersible barge design allowing all such work to be done at sites with more natural safety, and the sharing of overheads between modules, the inherent costs ought to be much lower. See also Brian’s remarks about this of January 19th, 2014 at 05:39 – and he is right about some modular kinds already being around (and no, the lack of cost effectiveness of nuclear submarine modular designs doesn’t discredit modular designs in general, since the criteria used in those particular ones were different again).

    Fred Struth stated at January 21st, 2014 at 21:56 that “The problem with nuclear electric power is that if unattended the recently spent fuel rods will boil off their cooling water and release vast amounts of ionising radiation and deadly isotopes…”.

    What fuel rods, and what cooling water? Only certain designs use those. Even CANDU reactors don’t precisely use single fuel rods so much as horizontal feeding of (short) rod sections, each of which is far more manageable. Placed in fusible salt baths, they can be left unattended with no risk of boiling whatever.

  159. @Chris O’Neill

    Yes the bottom line is no-one significant is interested in nuclear energy in Australia, political support for Carbon emission reductions is intermittent and won’t be substantial for a long, long time, and very few Australians will be interested in paying to reduce their Carbon emissions.
    So it’s pretty much business as usual for the next ten years at the very least.

    I forgot to mention, global warming from business as usual, here we come.

  160. @Ronald Brak

    I’ve given the values I’ve used to calculate that at $600 a kilowatt-hour home storage will save many Australians money. Where are yours? What values have you used? Do they differ from mine? Have I overlooked something?

    I wish you would pay attention. I wrote my figures in comment #40: https://johnquiggin.com/2014/01/18/a-few-more-observations-on-nuclear-power/comment-page-3/#comment-219779

    “Or in my case, 28 cents per day or $102 a year and pay for themselves in 11.74 years, i.e. long after the lithium-ion batteries have failed.”

    You then tried to claim there would be significant battery storage in existence at 11.74 years (your figures assume 100% battery efficiency by the way) but you still haven’t shown that there will be enough battery life remaining at 11.74 years and beyond to break even. What is your battery capacity vs age model? Until you have one, your assertions are worthless.

    if you are going to tell us that home energy storage is a waste of money simply because you say so

    No, I said it (Lithium-ion) was a waste of money based on the capacity vs age model I was using. You are claiming it’s worthwhile because you say so.

    I’ve given you my figures.

    Your figures are garbage because you assume the weighted average lifetime of your batteries exceeds 11.74 years (along with your assumed peak electricity price, which I’ve already pointed out).

  161. @Ronald Brak

    I’ve given the values I’ve used to calculate that at $600 a kilowatt-hour home storage will save many Australians money. Where are yours? What values have you used? Do they differ from mine? Have I overlooked something?

    I wish you would pay attention. I wrote my figures in comment #40:

    “Or in my case, 28 cents per day or $102 a year and pay for themselves in 11.74 years, i.e. long after the lithium-ion batteries have failed.”

    You then tried to claim there would be significant battery storage in existence at 11.74 years (your figures assume 100% battery efficiency by the way) but you still haven’t shown that there will be enough battery life remaining at 11.74 years and beyond to break even. What is your battery capacity vs age model? Until you have one, your assertions are worthless.

    if you are going to tell us that home energy storage is a waste of money simply because you say so

    No, I said it (Lithium-ion) was a waste of money based on the capacity vs age model I was assuming. You are claiming it’s worthwhile because you say so.

    I’ve given you my figures.

    Your figures are garbage because you assume the weighted average lifetime of your batteries exceeds 11.74 years (along with your assumed peak electricity price, which I’ve already pointed out).

  162. Chris O’Neil, I didn’t work out how much $600 a kilowatt-hour storage would save you, I worked it out for an Australian paying a marginal rate of 30 cents a kilowatt-hour for grid electricity, a 5% discount rate, a ten year system lifespan, receiving an 8 cent a kilowatt-hour feed-in tariff, and an assumed average of one kilowatt-hour being drawn from from storage for each kilowatt-hour of capacity per day with some occuring during daylit hours and most after sunset. Do you agree that using these figures that $600 a kilowatt-hour would save money? Now maybe the figures I’ve used are too optimistic. Maybe I’ve overlooked something or gotten something wrong. If you think one or more of these things are true, please point it out. But with the values I’ve used do you agree that it is a money saver?

  163. Hermit, I’m going to tell you straight out that nuclear power plants will never be built in Australia. This is because there is no realistic prospect of them being cheaper than coal plants and coal plants cannot compete with wind and solar in Australia. We will never see a new coal plant built in Australia because they simply cannot pay for themselves given the competition from renewables and so we will never see a nuclear power plant built. And nuclear power has no ability to economically meet peak demand, or provide electricity in remote areas, or otherwise play a cost effective role in suppling electricity to this continent.

  164. ” As I’ve said before what’s so bad about the centralised French system where electricity is reliable, low carbon and affordable? ” – Hermit @24, 16:59

    not as reliable as you imply.

    hot river / lake water in heat waves forces shutdown of nuclear reactors

    some cases of nuclear power plants shut down during heat waves due to cooling water being too hot, not complete:-

    (1) france – 2003
    gov’t considered rationing when “engineers warned that they can no longer guarantee the safety of the country’s 58 nuclear power reactors because the heatwave is defeating efforts to cool them. ”

    ” temperatures of reactor casings in some plants [approached] the 50C safety limit and attempts to cool them by spraying water from the outside … largely failed. ” [from the independent, uk]

    (2) illinois, minnesota – 2006 – river / lake water too hot

    (3) alabama (browns ferry) – 2007 – tennessee river too hot

    (4) germany – 2009 – 8 reactors shut down at the same time, river water too hot

    (5) france – 2009 – had to buy electricity from england after national plants were shut down due to river water too hot to cool the reactors

    (6) connecticut – 2012 – river water too hot

    (7) new york, pennsylvania, north carolina, maryland – 2012 – rivers / lakes too hot

    (8) massachusetts (cape cod bay) – 2013 – water in bay too hot

    all shut down during heatwaves due to overheated river or lake water normally used to cool them.

    in 2012:-
    (1) 40% of the fresh water in the usa went to cool 104 nuclear plants that supply 25% of electricity used.

    (2) 62.46% of the usa land area was classed as experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions (us drought monitor).

    australia is hot and dry, can’t buy power from england, where’s the juice going to come from when it gets too hot to safely run the reactors? -a.v.

  165. @Ronald Brak

    I worked it out for an Australian paying a marginal rate of 30 cents a kilowatt-hour for grid electricity

    So it was purely hypothetical.

    a 5% discount rate

    I didn’t see anything about 5% discount rate in your statement:

    This means the batteries will save 44 cents per day or $160 a year and pay for themselves in 7.5 years.

    Is it somewhere else? I don’t see anything in your figures about lost opportunity cost of capital.

    a ten year system lifespan

    The best number of cycles I’ve seen is 3,000 (in a “1,000 to 3,000” statement) which is just over 8 years worth. 10 years does not appear realistic for maximum charge-discharge every day for 10 years.

    an assumed average of one kilowatt-hour being drawn from from storage for each kilowatt-hour of capacity per day

    for 3,652 days. Suspect assumption.

    If you think one or more of these things are true, please point it out.

    I did already but it didn’t seem to achieve much. By the way, I’m not particularly interested in unrealistic hypotheticals.

  166. @Ronald Brak

    coal plants cannot compete with wind and solar in Australia

    while the wind’s blowing or the Sun’s shining. Unfortunately they often don’t do these things.

    We will never see a new coal plant built in Australia

    Maybe but the question is, are any of the existing ones going to be closed any time soon?

    nuclear power has no ability to economically meet peak demand

    At least nuclear power could be relied upon to supply part of peak demand, unlike wind and solar. Not that Australia will have nuclear power stations anyway.

  167. RBrak

    And nuclear power has no ability to economically meet peak demand,

    I don’t see how this can be right. The marginal cost of operating a nuclear power plant is fairly trivial. One might as well operate it at or near its maximum thermal efficiency and sell as much as one can at the prevailing price. It may well be that it can’t supply power economically at any level, but whatever cost that is isn’t going to vary much.

  168. Fran, let’s say a small country wants to meet all electricity demand with nuclear power. First they build enough nuclear capacity to cover baseload supply. They get the same deal as for Hinkely C which means the minimum wholesale price is 15 cents a kilowatt-hour which is roughly three times as much as the average wholesale price in Australia, but it’s not too bad. They buy a little less Justin Bieber merchandise than they would otherwise and economise a little on power and get by. Also, everyone in this country has the mutant X gene so they don’t need to pay for insurance. If there is a nuclear disaster they just get new superpowers. Anyway, so baseload is covered for a wholesale price of 15+ cents a kilowatt-hour, but they want to meet all demand with nuclear so the next plant they build only operates half the time because there is simply no need for its power during periods of low demand. And since its fuel cost is low this means it saves very little money when its switched off. This means this nuclear plant will be producing electricity at about twice the cost of the baseload plants or about 30 cents a kilowatt-hour. Then the next plant is less a load following plant like the previous one and more a peaker and only operates one quarter of the time and the electricity it produces costs about four times as much for a wholesale price of about 60 cents a kilowatt-hour. Then the next nuclear plant operates 10% of the time and its electricity is about $1.50 a kilowatt-hour and then you get the real peaker nuclear plants that only switch on a few days a year and the cost of their electricity is about 100 times as much or a minimum wholesale price of about $15 a kilowatt-hour. So as you can see, nuclear power doesn’t work very well for suppling peak demand. The most cost effective way to run a nuclear plant is to run it as continuously as possible in a baseload mode. And the best deal the UK could get for that is around three times as much as the average wholesale price of electricity in Australia before the cost of insurance is included when they have existing nuclear experience and expertise and an existing nuclear site with support facilities to build it on. So it’s not good for baseload either, but its absolutely ridiculous for meeting peak demand. And I’ll mention that a fully paid off nuclear plant in the US that only had to meet its marginal costs of production recently shutdown (or is shutting down) because it could not make money given the low wholesale cost of electricity on its grid, so the marginal cost of nuclear power isn’t necessarily that good either.

  169. This means this nuclear plant will be producing electricity at about twice the cost of the baseload plants or about 30 cents a kilowatt-hour.

    People keep putting up the strawman that nuclear power is no good for peaking generation. Of course it’s not meant for peaking generation. And neither are wind or solar. But wind and solar INCREASE the need the need for peaking generation compared with nuclear power stations because they can’t be relied upon for their average power during peaks but nuclear can. So wind and solar have a need for greater associated peaking generation than nuclear.

  170. @ Ronald Brak as far as I can see all the big coal stations in the Hunter and Latrobe valleys will need replacing by 2030 or so. Are you saying we will have solved the intermittency problem by then? That is to say Australia’s electricity needs can be met 24/7 without fossil fuels in a rainy overcast week or when a continent wide high pressure system becalms the wind.

    @ alfred venison some SMR models in development allow for air cooling like a car radiator or the Kogan Ck and Milmerran coal stations in Qld. The efficiency penalty could be as high as 20%. Logically new nukes should be on the coast for seawater cooling, with seawalls to protect against tsunami which we don’t seem to get anyway. We’ve got more coastline than NIMBYs.

  171. oh come on Hermit

    that’s:-

    (1) cape cod BAY – had to close the plant (pilgrim) because the north atlantic ocean – at cape cod BAY – got too hot to cool it – 2012

    (2) long island SOUND – had to close the plant (millstone) becuase the north atlantic ocean – at long island SOUND – got too hot to cool it – 2013

    they’re going to cool reactors with air during a heat wave? water can get too hot but air will not get too hot?

    so while its not ok during heat waves to return overheated water to river and ocean ecosystems, it would be ok during heat waves to return overheated air to the atmosphere of the poor people suffering in the heat wave? -a.v.

  172. RBrak

    Putting aside the improbability of the regulatory environment changing enough by tomorrow to permit nuclear plants to be built here, and the reality that there’s not going to be any space for them in the market for power for probably at least 15 years when some of the oldest coal capacity starts to be retired …

    One suspects that nuclear plants here that were not load following would be scaled to cope with the maximum likely demand. A series of units within each facility could be built so as to “cover” scheduled maintenance time when another unit or units might be offline. By slightly tweaking the output of several units operating at once, one could mimic the load-following of open cycle gas plants. As the presence of solar is beginning to prejudice the economics of coal plants by pushing the high price period late into the afternoons it’s probable that nuke plants would be chosen for their ability to supply this load while pushing the remaining coal plants into redundancy.

    On a side note, I was listening to Peter Martin speaking on ABC radio last night and he was making the point that the system we have is scaled to meet maximum demand durning heatwaves which occur in NSW for about 40/8760 hours per year. The cost of this provision works out at about $7000 per customer and adds about 25% to the typical consumer’s bill. Apparently, each new air conditioner (excluding those replacing old air conditioners) adds about $300 to the bill of every customer each year, whether you have an air conditioner or not, so there’s a massive cross-subsidy from those of us choosing not to have them to those running them whenever they feel a little put upon or even keeping them running when they are on holidays some place else. Apparently, even those who do have air conditioners and run them cross subsidise those with ducted systems chilling the entire premises. This rather puts cross-subsidies for solar panels in the shade especially since it seems that large swathes of rooftop PV have gone into fairly plebeian postcodes.

  173. Hermit, you may have noticed that Australia’s grid performed very well in the recent heatwave. Why was this? What is the main reason there was very little in the way of power interuption? The main reason is that in Australia we pay people to meet the demand for electricity. As long as we continue to pay people to meet demand it will continue to be met. If we want demand to be met without greenhouse gas emissions then we need to have a high enough carbon price to make sure this happens. But it doesn’t matter if the carbon price is high or if there is no carbon price at all, nuclear power is still too expensive to use. If there is no carbon price then wind and solar will continue to expand and put downward pressure on wholesale prices as they are cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity but existing fossil fuel plants will continue to be used. If the carbon price is high then a lot of new wind and solar capacity will be built and this will keep the average wholesale price of electricity low. Too low for nuclear power and in fact lower than if there were no carbon price. So we have the funny situation where a high carbon price actually makes things worse for a low emission source of electricity. Not that nuclear had a chance in the first place. Now I don’t know exactly how Australia’s electricity demand will be met in the future, but it won’t include nuclear because the average wholesale electricity price will be too low for it to make a buck.

  174. Fran, nuclear power plants can’t be tweaked to provide peak power. They have their maximum safe output and that’s what they operate at whenever possible. Whenever they go below their normal output they lose money because the fuel cost is only a fraction of a cent. So nuclear plants can’t suddenly provide more power to meet an increase in demand when operating at normal output and they can’t sit around operating at reduced output ready to meet an increase in demand without losing money. Because the fuel cost of nuclear power is low it only makes sense for a nuclear plant to shut down or reduce output once wholesale cost of electricity drops to or close to zero.

  175. Chris, thank you for you critique of the numbers I used. What I am wondering is do you agree that with my numbers $600 a kilowatt-hour storage will save money for people paying a marginal cost of 30 cents a kilowatt-hour for grid electricity? I’d like to see if we are both on the same page or if you used a different process to arrive at your conclusion than I did and if you are using a different process I’d be interested to know what it was. I know you wrote you’re, “…not particularly interested in unrealistic hypotheticals.” But this particular hypothetical certainly seems to have got your blood up.

  176. Chris O’Neil, with regards to Australian coal plants you asked, “Maybe but the question is, are any of the existing ones going to be closed any time soon?” Coal power capacity that has been shut down and not replaced in the last few years in Australia include half of Tarong (700 megawatts), Playford B (250 megawatts), Swanbank B (125 megawatts), Munmorrah (600 megawatts), and Yallourn (360 megawatts) for a total of over 2 gigawatts. And if you want to throw in half of Northern power station’s capacity as it is now a seasonal load following plant and only operates half the year, that brings it to 2,295 megawatts. South Australia now only has one operating coal plant and spends half the year completely coal free. And I may have missed some closures so the actual reduction could be higher. Did you stop paying attention for a few years? I’ve done that myself at times.

  177. @alfred venison
    Funny how the Habanero geothermal plant in the outback implies that it can cope with 50C ambient heat. Mind they weren’t operating a week or two ago so we don’t know. According to Wiki pressured water thermal plant likes 550C steam outlet temp and 30C condenser temp. Most open ocean frontages in Australia should be able to get cooling water under 25C in the height of summer. If not suck in deeper water from further out.

    I do recall that nukes on the R. Loire in France were asked to get cooling towers, reason presumably hot fish. OTOH certain species of fish seek thermal plant water outlets. Evaporation could be an issue with cooling towers. Our ABC likes to show steam arising from towers as an example of uncontained radiation. They could be right if there is a coal ash dump nearby.

  178. Ronald, Its not that nuclear plants can not run load following. After all a nuclear submarine gives you instantaneously more power. That’s why they like it so much. you want more steam you take it. This reduces the moderation of the fuel and gives you more power instantaneously. The reason that you would not load follow is because you have a billion dollar plant sitting there. Typically they like to run them 90% of the time. The cost of power ( at least at the Columbia power station) is .05 us per kWh. So its capital expense that is the difference. In a good wind site the wind turbine is generating power 30% of the time. A solar site is 20%. So your capital use in wind and solar is terrible. add to that a storage system of some kind and the costs add up. Really the only economical storage for the grid right now is pumped hydro which is only about 17% efficient. Usually they have to add a gas turbine instead of storage.
    Those that say how expensive nuclear power is and yet ignore the capital of wind and solar that are idle most of the time are not being honest in the math. They think nothing about idling a billion dollars worth of solar and wind turbine capital equipment.

    That being said, I do not believe nuclear power will come to Australia soon. The regulation,political will and other support institutions are not there.

    But if they develop molten salt reactors or small modular reactor which promise to be cheaper to build the whole game could change.

  179. Brent: The Hinkely C minimum wholesale price is about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.
    At a 5% discount rate new wind in Australia can produce electricity at under 5 cents a kilowatt-hour and point of use solar in Australia outcompetes any grid supplied electricity even if it somehow had a wholesale price of zero cents per kilowatt-hour. Anyone who pretends that electricity from wind and solar is not much less than the cost of electricity from new nuclear is not being honest. And I’ll also mention that anyone who pretends that the cost of insurance for nuclear disasters does not need to be included in the cost of nuclear power is also not being honest.

    And again we have the repeated lie that pumped storage is 17% efficient. Where did you get thit lie from Brent? You are being deceived. But I’m probably being too hard on you. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about otherwise you wouldn’t have written down that figure. Anyone who knows what they were talking about would know that that pumps and generators are more or less around 90% efficient and that friction of water in large bore pipes is fairly negligible and so would know that 17% is nowhere near a realisitic figure for pumped storage efficiency.

  180. Hermit, air cooling could be used for nuclear reactors, however it is less efficient than it is for say the Kogan Creek coal plant because of nuclear power’s lower operating temperature. While Kogan Creek is a modern coal plant and a low cost producer of electricity its cost per kilowatt-hour is higher than it would be if it didn’t have to rely on air cooling and the cost of air cooling for a nuclear plant would be even greater per kilowatt-hour produced. But this is irrelevant. Nuclear power simply will not be built in Australia because it simply cannot compete with other generating capacity no matter what the carbon price is. There is simply no way it will not lose money. Australia’s average wholesale electricity price is around 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour and it is not possible to build a nuclear plant that can produce electricity for less than that. Hinkely C in the UK has a minimum wholesale price of 15 cents a kilowatt-hour and that doesn’t include insurance. Even for a modern nuclear plant the cost of insurance alone could be much more than 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour.

  181. According to the latest pdf version of Australian Energy Technology Assessments (AETA) on the BREE website it shows on Table 5.2.1
    Gen 3+ nuclear $94-99 per Mwh
    onshore wind $111-122 per Mwh
    PV solar $212-264 per Mwh
    solar thermal various techs $295-402 per Mwh

    Check this yourself. Therefore I’m mystified how nuclear can’t compete. Even more so if we divide by capacity factors like 0.9 for nuclear, .25-.35 for onshore wind and say 0.4 for different forms of solar thermal.

    When Hazelwood and Bayswater have rusted away, all the gas has been sold to Asia and when only intermittents are allowed things will be crook. I imagine a still frosty night in Melbourne with people burning the floorboards for warmth.

  182. Hermit, I am of the opinion that reality trumps the Bree asessments. Hinkely C has a minimum price of 15 cents a kilowatt hour before the cost of insurance is included. Olkiluoto, Flammenville, Vogtle are all massively over budget and behind schedule and without the cost of insurance factored into what will already be highly expensive electricity.

    Meanwhile at a 5% discount rate, which is a rate generally used for nuclear power estimates, Macarthur wind farm produces electricity at about 6 cents a kilowatt-hour. Snowtown II will produce electricity for under 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. Rooftop solar produces electricity at a lower cost to consumers than any grid supplied electricity. The BREE assessments do not have reality changing magic that alters that. I went through the cost of electricity for the Macarthur wind farm with you step by step. You must have forgotten. Also note that increasing the discount rate doesn’t help nuclear as it is a high capital source of electricity with an extremely long start up time. So I think the only charitable reason you can be mystified is because you have forgotten these things that have been brought to your attention in the past.

  183. John, I think you’re unduly pessimistic about the contribution nuclear power will make to carbon abatement. Even at the growth rates in the IAEA forecast you cited, it’s quite likely that nuclear will still be producing more low-carbon electricity than wind and solar will 30 years from now.

    The low-case IAEA estimate for nuclear generation in 2030 is 3426 terrawatt-hours, rising a bit to 3548 TWh in 2050; the high-case estimates are 5689 TWh in 2030 rising to 8971 TWh in 2050. But how about wind and solar? The data Quokka cited upthread (p. 3 # 6) from the IEA (different acronym!) for 2035 are 2251 TWh for wind and 802 TWh for solar PV and CSP. Putting those two estimates together implies that in 2035 nuclear will still be producing more low-carbon electricity than all forms of wind and solar combined.

    Wind and solar combined would likely outstrip the low-case IAEA nuclear estimate by 2050, but perhaps not the high-case IAEA estimate of 8971 TWh. So it’s quite possible that in 2050 nuclear will still be producing more low-carbon electricity than wind or solar separately, and perhaps even combined. Obviously there are great uncertainties in these estimates, but your conclusion that “nuclear power won’t play any significant role in decarbonising the electricity sector” seems unwarranted, unless you make the same conclusion about wind and solar as well. And these forecasts are all heavily dependent on political constraints, which can change. Green politics should fight for all forms of clean energy, nuclear as much as renewables.

    You also write on p. 1 # 17: “Solar PV installations are predicted to rise to 50 GW this year…(even allowing for lower availability) much more than we are going to see from nuclear any time soon, even disregarding closures. Wind is…likely to be around 40 GW.” Again, this is probably too pessimistic an assessment of the nuclear buildout. Nuclear capacity this year will probably grow faster in absolute (though not relative) terms than solar and possibly wind capacity, once you factor in the much greater productivity of nuclear gigawatts compared to solar and wind gigawatts.

    The World Nuclear Association anticipates about 15 gigawatts of new nuclear coming on line in 2014 (not counting the new Japanese reactor that definitely will not). (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Plans-For-New-Reactors-Worldwide/) Let’s assume that delays cut that to 10 GW. With an average global capacity factor of 85 percent, those 10 GW nuclear will have an “effective” generating capacity of 8.5 GW on average. Compare that with 50 GW of new solar capacity, with a global average capacity factor of 15 percent for an “effective” generating capacity of 7.5 GW. The new nuclear capacity will thus likely produce more low-carbon electricity than all the new solar capacity. 40 GW of new wind at a global average 25 percent capacity factor would have an effective generating capacity of 10 GW. If 12 GW of WNA’s forecast 15 GW of new nuclear get commissioned this year, then the year’s new nuclear capacity will generate more electricity than the new wind capacity.

    So new nuclear construction is ramping up and keeping well apace of new solar and wind capacity, once you factor in nuclear’s greater productivity. (And providing a much higher quality of power, because it is reliable and dispatchable.) It’s a mistake to disparage the contribution of nuclear to carbon abatement when it is clearly doing at least as much as wind or solar—and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

  184. Ronald Brak :
    … Nuclear power simply will not be built in Australia because it simply cannot compete with other generating capacity no matter what the carbon price is. There is simply no way it will not lose money. Australia’s average wholesale electricity price is around 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour and it is not possible to build a nuclear plant that can produce electricity for less than that. Hinkely C in the UK has a minimum wholesale price of 15 cents a kilowatt-hour and that doesn’t include insurance. Even for a modern nuclear plant the cost of insurance alone could be much more than 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour.

    I know you are not doing this deliberately, but this cost problem is simply only the case if and only if the various costs also fold in the additional burdens that have been (deliberately?) thrown on the nuclear industry. It is not an essential feature of nuclear power as such. I’ve mentioned CANDU reactors elsewhere, mainly because they are a proven technology; if they were run in certain special locations that wouldn’t suffer if there were ever any adverse consequences, reactors of that sort could be set up with much smaller costs. I only present this to show the engineering feasibility, since actually running them there would almost certainly not be worth it as the energy would be “stranded” – but submersible barge units could readily be built and maintained like that, i.e. at much lower cost, particularly if there were many units serviced there that could share overheads, while still being operated as sealed units at the more convenient sites. And that’s even before looking into other promising designs that are not yet proven (I personally like the possibilities of a fluidised sugar charcoal suspension homogeneous reactor).

  185. I don’t want to discuss nuclear power in a thread on GM food, so I’ll bring up a point here on continuing to use existing nuclear power plants. I’m very confident that if nuclear power plants had to pay the full cost of insurance to cover nuclear disasters then every single one would shut down in short order. In a purely “dollars and cents” evaluation it makes no sense to keep reactors operating in Europe, Japan, and I would think probably every country in the world. However, the moral case is different. I’m not saying the moral case is separtate from the economic case, but it does hinge upon the value one puts upon human life. Nuclear disasters can be incredibly costly, but outside of a disaster stricken nuclear plant radiation released is likely to kill slowly and so for the most part people can probably be safely evactuated from contaminated areas. So shutting down nuclear powerplants for for the most part protects property in rich countries and not lives. But carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere kills people through altering the climate and most of the people killed are in poor countries. So if one values human life equally regardless of wealth or origin then I would say it is probably better to keep nuclear plants that meet high standards of safety operating than to shut them down if that would result in higher greenhouse gas emissions. If the world suddenly became a fair and reasonable place I’m sure we would rapidly decarbonize electricity production to save lives and then rapidly shut down nuclear plants and replace them with other low emission capacity. But if it is not possible to do both these things then it would be better to decarbonise the electricity sector and keep the safer nuclear plants operating.

  186. @Ronald Brak

    I’d like to see if we are both on the same page or if you used a different process to arrive at your conclusion

    I used the same process as you which you would have realized if you had paid attention: https://johnquiggin.com/2014/01/18/a-few-more-observations-on-nuclear-power/comment-page-3/#comment-219779 . I’ll quote the comment here just for you, but I can’t be bothered reformatting it just for your benefit:

    “An Australian with rootop solar might pay a marginal cost of 30 cents per kilowatt-hour for grid electricity

    That’s pretty expensive. Mine this year will cost 22 cents per kWh.

    This means the batteries will save 44 cents per day or $160 a year and pay for themselves in 7.5 years.

    Or in my case, 28 cents per day or $102 a year and pay for themselves in 11.74 years, i.e. long after the lithium-ion batteries have failed.”

    But this particular hypothetical certainly seems to have got your blood up.

    Maybe you could stop tediously and pointlessly badgering me with it.

  187. @Ronald Brak

    total of over 2 gigawatts

    Gee, 2 GW out of 30 GW. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the rest.

    By the way, how much has the actual energy generation and Carbon emissions from coal generators declined?

  188. Are you okay, Chris? You seem bitter. Is there anything bothering you in your personal life that you’d like to get off your chest? If you need to talk, there are people here for you.

  189. @Hermit

    When Hazelwood and Bayswater have rusted away, all the gas has been sold to Asia and when only intermittents are allowed things will be crook. I imagine a still frosty night in Melbourne with people burning the floorboards for warmth.

    That solar electricity won’t look too cheap at 8.30 in the evening during the domestic peak. On the other hand, since there isn’t any, it’s cost will be zero. Just a pity that everything will be off.

  190. @Ronald Brak

    Ronald, you continue to ignore virtually all of the flaws I have pointed out in your arguments. To reiterate, they are:

    1. Your peak domestic electricity price is too high. A lot of people, e.g. everyone in Melbourne, can get it for substantially less than 30c.

    2. You assume Li-ion batteries last for the equivalent of 3,652 full cycles. They don’t.

    3. You completely ignore lost opportunity cost of capital employed.

    4. You assume that charge/discharge cycles are 100% efficient. They are not.

    5. You assume that Li-ion battery costs are going to rapidly decrease when the rapid decrease occurred years ago and the decrease has slowed right down.

    Is there any reason why I shouldn’t just consider you to be nothing more than a battery pollyanna?

  191. @ Ronald Brak
    I think estimated prices for future windpower should include the LGC subsidy of 3-4c per kwh omitted from the AETA study. That subsidy along with transmission, retail margins, GST etc goes into the retail price but is specific to commercial wind and solar. Nuclear electricity if it ever happens won’t get that particular subsidy.

    On insurance I think a government indemnity after the first few billion or so in liability would be standard practice as per the US Price Anderson Act. The WA and federal govts have indemnified Chevron in case any of the 120 Mt of CO2 to be injected under Barrow Island WA leaks out. If it all erupted due to an earthquake at the current price the carbon tax alone would be 120 Mt X $24.15/t = $2.9 bn. Chevron won’t pay a cent.

  192. @Will Boisvert
    Will: your numbers only work for the next couple of years. On the 10-year timescale for new nuclear plants like Hinkley Point, the relevant comparison is with solar and wind a decade out. Trade estimates for global solar are around 45 GW this year, up from 35 GW in 2013. By 2023, global PV installations will be running at >300 GW a year just projecting this historically typical one-year growth rate. This would on your parameters be equivalent to an annual addition of 44 GW continuous capacity or 52 GW of nuclear, which is clearly not on the cards. The scenario is just a thought experiment, but I challenge you to propose a historically plausible 10-year scenario in which solar doesn’t strongly dominate nuclear.

    Your 25% capacity factor for wind corresponds to the current US average. It’s much too low for new turbines, which are not only bigger and taller but have been tuned for higher capacity factors at the expense of peak output. 40% is not unusual.

  193. An article in theenergycollective by Gail Tverberg makes the point that the emissions reduction from wind and solar is not as great as hoped. To paraphrase the key reasons are suboptimal operation of the backup power source and the emissions embodied in the construction and replacement of wind and solar. If a renewables quota obliges nonrenewables to throttle back at times there is not only duplicated capacity but poor use of fuel from stop-start operation. An example I’d give is running a combined cycle gas plant as a single cycle. Wind and solar also take silicon, rare earths, steel and cement which if sourced from China were probably made using a lot of coal. Plant lifetimes for wind and PV solar may be 25 years only half that of large thermal plant, therefore need more frequent renewal. Tverberg also points out that so far wind and solar have barely had any effect on the looming transport energy problem.

  194. @ James Wimberley,

    Do you have a source for your estimate of 300 GW of solar installations per year in 2023? I’m a bit skeptical of that. If you’re just assuming that the current yearly increment will compound forever, that’s doubtful. The difficulties of ramping up production to that level will be extreme, integrating that much solar into grids will be a nightmare; there are just a whole host of reasons to doubt such numbers, especially since solar subsidies in Europe are now being cut with the express purpose of slowing deployment.

    As for this decade, there’s little question that new nuclear will outstrip new solar. Currently there are 75 GW of nuclear under construction and due on line by 2020, the equivalent of 425 GW of solar. China alone will likely break ground on a further dozen gigs this year, and with its standard 5-year build times bring all of them online as well by 2020. Mass production really advantages nuclear.

    In fact, a deployment of 52 GW of new nuclear per year is not as outlandish as it sounds. In the 1980s the world deployed about 20 GW new nuclear per year. Given that the world is now richer, more industrialized, technologically sophisticated and motivated to build clean energy than it was in the 1980s, I don’t see why we couldn’t build nukes at many times the 1980s rate–provided that governments make a serious committment to doing so, as they have with renewables. Politics is the real barrier, not logistics.

    The 25 percent capacity factor is the global average for wind, the current US average is about 30 percent, and has been stuck there for several years. No national wind fleet gets 40 percent on average. It’s actually likely that global capacity factors for onshore wind will stagnate or decline in the future. New taller turbines are better at harvesting winds, but that has been partially offset by mass deployments resulting in sites of poorer and poorer wind quality being developed. Because geographic diversification will be an important strategy in coping with wind’s local unreliability, more turbines will be sited in regions of weak winds–sometimes wind power in Alabama will fill in for slumps in Nebraska, but the Alabama turbines will have dreadful CFs. And there’s the problem of diminishing returns; at high penetrations the grid will be unable to absorb all the wind power during peak generating periods, so much of that generation will be curtailed, further tanking CFs. We can expect offshore wind to be more productive than onshore, but it’s also much more expensive, so no cost gains there.

  195. Hermit, Large scale Generator Certificates do not increase the cost of building windfarms. If I built a wind farm without LGCs and then suddenly decided, “Wait a minute, I actually want them,” then once I obtained them it wouldn’t suddenly increase the price I paid to build the wind farm. How could it? Time travel?

    Hermit, do you believe that because TEPCO did not have insurance to cover the cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that disaster didn’t cost anything? Because there was no insurance to cover it the costs just disappeared? Because if you do that’s just plain nuts.

  196. @Ronald Brak
    I’m saying LGCs increase the retail price of wind powered electricity in a way that other forms of generation don’t. Therefore it’s disingenuous to exclude the LGC from the levelised cost. Interestingly pre-1997 hydro doesn’t get LGCs, perhaps a tacit admission that it’s reliable.

    I don’t what the insurance situation was with Fukushima. Some believe the evacuation zone was four times larger than really necessary. Surely the role of the Japanese government was to conduct an orderly response. Instead they stage managed fear and loathing like a kabuki play. Remember the mortality figures; missing or drowned 20,000, serious radiation doses 0. It affects us because since then the Japanese have bought a third of the world’s LNG, a price we will have to match from next year with our east coast gas exports. Japan like Germany and California has increased emissions since prematurely retiring nuclear plant.

  197. Indian 220MW reactors are the most cost effective small reactors in the world. One is likely to cost 500 million dollars or so. With supply of uranium from Australia to India now being negotiated, good business synergy is likely to develop.

  198. Chris, you say the electricity price I used in my estimate was too high. But I wasn’t trying to see if the Chris O’Neils of the world paying a marginal cost of 22 cents per kilowatt-hour for grid electricity would save money from home energy storage, I was trying to see if people who pay a marginal cost of 30 cents or more a kilowatt-hour, as many people do, would save money. So there’s not a problem here.

    I went out and found some more information on the Sunny Boy SMA and with a suitable rooftop solar system it is expected to have a storage throughput of over 8,200 kilowatt-hours in its lifespan of ten years, and a storage system efficiency of over 90%. So using these figures and your figure of $600 per kilowatt-hour of storage and assuming an eight cent a kilowatt-hour feed in tariff and that one fifth of the storage system loss occuring from solar to storage and four fifths from storage to AC gives a price of about 28 cents per kilowatt-hour of grid electricty consumption avoided using a 5% discount rate. Or to put it another way, a person paying a marginal cost of 30 cents a kilowatt-hour for grid electricity would make over a 5% return on their investment. In fact the return would be about 7%. This is very close to my original estimate.

    I assume you are okay to do the calculation yourself and confirm that I am correct.

    It is reasonable to expect a manufacturer to use the best figures they can for a product so the performance of the average installation may not be as good as they suggest, but it does seem likely that for people paying a marginal cost of 30 cents a kilowatt-hour, with a feed in tariff of 8 cents a kilowatt-hour, and a discount rate of 5%, home energy storage at $600 a kilowatt-hour is around the break even point. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I expect home energy storage to be available in Australia for under $600 a kilowatt-hour before long.

  199. Hermit, pre 1997 hydroelectricity did not recieve LGCs becaue the purpose of LGCs is to encourage the building of new renewable energy generating capacity. Existing hydroelectric capacity didn’t need encouragement to be built because it was already built. I’ve told you this before. You must have forgotten.

  200. @Ronald Brak

    But I wasn’t trying to see if the

    people of Melbourne and other places

    paying a marginal cost of 22 cents per kilowatt-hour for grid electricity would save money from home energy storage

    Good, your hypothetical example is totally irrelevant to the people of Melbourne and probably lots of other people. At least we agree on that.

    I went out and found some more information on the Sunny Boy SMA and with a suitable rooftop solar system it is expected to have a storage throughput of over 8,200 kilowatt-hours in its lifespan of ten years

    Of course that’s more than 2 kWh of battery if it’s coming through in ten years. Why don’t you give us a citation so we can find out what the facts are?

    assuming an eight cent a kilowatt-hour feed in tariff and that one fifth of the storage system loss occuring from solar to storage and four fifths from storage to AC gives a price of about 28 cents per kilowatt-hour of grid electricty consumption avoided

    OK, so you’re moving the goal posts again. You haven’t explained in detail how you came up with your 28c.

    Also, just because there are Li-ion batteries available for $600/kW doesn’t mean the Sunny Boy batteries are that cheap.

    Let’s see how the deficiencies in your argument now stand:

    1. Your peak domestic electricity price may be relevant to a few people. It’s irrelevant to lot of people, e.g. everyone in Melbourne. Probably everyone in Sydney and Brisbane too I guess.

    2. You haven’t cited Li-ion batteries that last for the equivalent of 3,652 full cycles. 8,200 kWh might be the Sunny Boy 5.5 kWh capacity system for all we know.

    3. You completely ignore lost opportunity cost of capital employed. I haven’t seen any indication that you understand what this means.

    4. I don’t know how you incorporate <100% efficiency in your calculations. But I'll agree that this would only make about 1c/kWh difference when the input cost is 8c/kWh.

    5. You assumed that Li-ion battery costs are going to rapidly decrease when the rapid decrease occurred years ago and the decrease has slowed right down. You assume an expected battery cost of $600/kWh soon without giving any citations but imply they'll last 3,652 full cycles equivalent.

    You're still a battery pollyanna.

  201. The latest news on Fukishima is not good. I leave people to google it. You will find as many or more disturbing news items as I did. The bottom line is that nuclear power is too dangerous and too damaging for humans to handle. The empirical track record shows this.

    In the era of industrial decay we have now entered, the dangers of nuclear power stations exploding or melting down will only increase. It will not be possible to safely build, maintain or properly decommision nuclear reactors.

    I would argue that we have entered the era of industrial decay. Peak energy and then decline of energy available as exergy (energy for useful work) from all sources will mean that the trend to greater disorder will predominate over the process of ordering (building and maintenance of complex structures and systems) which requires energy.

    Reaching peak energy is not really about reaching peak volumes of oil, gas and coal production (the main fuels in the world energy mix). There are two other factors involved. These are the decline in the quality (energy density and purity) of the fuel and the rise in the difficulty (energy expenditure) of obtaining the fuel. Thus peak production volume will not coincide with peak energy production. Peak energy production will precede peak volume production, possibly by as much as a decade. Simply counting barrels of oil, cubic feet of gas and tons of coal does not enable calculation of peak energy from fossil fuels.

    Reaching and passing peak energy from fossil fuels is a physical certainty. The first question is whether other technologies can be deployed fast enough to increase energy supply or at least stabilise it at a plateau sufficient for a modern world of say 8 billion or 9 billion people if we can stabilise population at that level. The second question is scalability. Can the solutions scale up without reaching material resource limits of their own? The third question is transition costs in energy terms. Is there enough dirty fossil fuel energy left to power the transition? Remember, getting a net energy return from renewables, solar and wind, takes a long time, typically at least 3 to 5 years. During a relatively rapid ramp-up transition period, say 20 years, we could be in constant “energy return deficit”. That is the energy investment in ramping up renewables fast enough would exceed energy returns until the system matured and reaced a critical production mass. In the meantime, while ramping up we would have to energy fund both the ramp-up and all other ongoing energy needs. It would not be simple or easy and it is by no means clear that it is ultimately feasible.

  202. @Jagdish
    Such is US ‘soft power’ I suspect the only reactors that would be considered are those approved by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The US is saying they won’t have an SMR ready for export until 2022. By that time Australia will have burned or exported another 2-3 bn tonnes of coal. If a gas price shock comes early say 2015 coupled with extreme weather we will be looking for low carbon dispatchable power much sooner than 2022. Perhaps small reactor developments in India, Russia and China will force the US to get a move on.

    According to the WNA article on Finland that country (also a buyer of Australian uranium) has ordered a Russian reactor. I wonder if that was influenced by delays and cost overruns with the French designed reactor still offline years late. That shows the US and France can’t assume the West will automatically prefer their models.

  203. @Chris O’Neill #19:

    I live in Melbourne and pay 39.16c/kwh for peak (7am to 11pm). Anyone who has solar will be offered peak/off-peak. I don’t understand why you think 30c is irrelevant to the people of Melbourne. That is the lowest peak price you could possibly find.

  204. Ronald.
    Just because you call me lair does not make me one. If you ignore the efficiency of the generator you used to generate the power in first place you get the higher efficiencies. We are talking about generating power and then storing it verses generating it online. Every time you change the state of the energy you lose something. Every time you ship power any distance you loose something. …of course you do need water to do pumped hydro storage. Last I heard Australia is short on water. I should think evaporation alone would be a significant loss factor.

    As for costs of nuclear power . here is an URL
    http://www.energy-northwest.com/ourenergyprojects/Columbia/Pages/Regional-Value.aspx
    from this site:
    Projected Levelized

    Cost of Power (2014-2043):
    4.7 – 5.2 cents/kWh
    Comparison Costs*:
    Natural Gas: 6 – 14 cents/kWh
    Wind: 7 – 10 cents/kWh
    Solar: 11 – 42 cents/kWh

    Now the cost you pay can be higher or lower depending on if your government will tax you or subsidize you on the energy generated.

    Nuclear power insurance costs are not subsidized. That is a misunderstanding of how it works. True they limit the liability but the company gives up a lot of their rights. its more like getting an insurance policy and then letting the insurance carrier ride with you. Then allowing him to fine you every time you drift over the speed limit.

    Now if the government subsidizes any energy source …does the costs somehow change? no… it just means someone else is paying the part of your bill.

    Wind and solar price does not include the cost of storage so you will be limited to how much the grid can handle. Unless you can live with you factory power going up and down with the wind.

  205. Hermit, Right now the US NRC can not approve a hole in the ground called yucca mountain that they have been designing for 30 years. So, do not look for the designs to come out of the US unless you see some political changes.

    The French had cost overruns in Finland but their reactor is more complicated. Look to the south Koreans. They seem to be big payers in nuclear power.

  206. Chris O’Neill, I apologise for being so snarky. I used a simple levelized cost of energy calculator to work out the cost of storage. If you tell me what method you used to determine that energy storage at under $600 a kilowatt-hour is a waste of money I will use it to demonstrate that I am wrong and apologise profusely.

  207. I don’t want to bring up nuclear power in the GM food comment thread, so I will respond to Wills Boisvert’s comment on nuclear power being cheaper than renewables in China. I particularly want to reply as John says he is going to write on this topic.

    Will, wind power is much cheaper than nuclear power in China. China can build nuclear power more cheaply than richer countries but it can also build renewable capacity more cheaply. Wind power in China now appears to be about $670 per kilowatt:

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2014/01/chinas-wind-power-sector-foresees-a-recovery-in-2014

    The 22% capacity factor you give for wind power in China appears to include wind curtailment due to inadequate transmission which currently results in about 10% of Chinese wind farm production being forgone. Currently electricity equal to about 23% of wind power’s total capacity is utilised. But using the 22% figure you gave for wind and the $2500-$3500 per kilowatt price you give for nuclear, wind is still cheaper than nuclear power in China and this is the case even before the cost of insurance is included. Just how much cheaper depends on estimates of various expenses and, Will, please feel free to provide us with estimates of these expenses over the lifespan of the Chinese reactors. All else equal, in absolute terms it would be cheaper to provide insurance in China than in a richer country, but it will still be expensive and China is rapidly growing richer and is on its way to becoming a developed country. Now it is possible, Will, that you think the appropriate thing for the Chinese government and Chinese citizens to do in the event of a Fukushima type nuclear disaster is nothing, apart from perhaps avoid licking any burning chunks of reactor core that happen to land in their town. However, nothing is not what the Chinese government or people in China would do and there would be considerable costs involved in such a disaster and if insurance is not paid it does not make the risk go away.

    I don’t know what the cost of installing solar power is in China, but they certainly have the capacity to install it at a lower cost than Germany and at German installation costs and using the 14% capacity factor you gave, point of use solar provides electricity at a lower cost than the average cost of grid electricity (http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/graph-of-the-day-average-electricity-prices-around-the-world-24207) which means it out competes nuclear power. That’s using a 5% discount rate but an interesting thing about residential solar in China is that most Chinese people have a negative real return on their savings so the correct discount rate to use for many people might be zero or even negative. Last year China installed 12 gigawatts or more of solar capacity, most of it utility scale in the sunny western end of the country where in some places it is possible for fixed solar PV to have a load factor of over 25%. With a 20% load factor those 12 gigawatts alone would produce as many kilowatt-hours as 2.7 one gigawatt nuclear plants. Next year’s target is to install 14 gigawatts.

  208. @Ronald Brak

    If you tell me what method you used to determine that energy storage at under $600 a kilowatt-hour is a waste of money

    Just using your method with a 22c/kWh peak domestic cost is enough to do that.

    According to the cited website from the wikipedia Li-ion article, the best number of cycles is 1200, so on the optimistic assumption that this is achievable from a $600 a kWh battery (the Sunny Boy ones cost more than this I guess), each cycle of such a battery costs 50c, i.e. 50c a kWh.

    The cost of the just the battery itself is at least 50c for each kWh it delivers. (Even this ignores lost opportunity cost of capital employed.) Add the net 9c/kWh for lost feed-in and the system will cost at least 59c for each kWh, still ignoring lost opportunity cost of capital employed.

    Pity you don’t even try to answer my questions. Not even supplying a citation for your claimed battery throughput. That is the behavior of a troll.

  209. @ totarum.. Why are you paying so much for power in Melbourne? With all of the coal and natural gas Australia has why is power so high? Is the Australian dollar so much lower then the us dollar? I think not. Have the power rates always been so high? I pay .056 kwh 24 hour a day 7 days a week.

    http://www.energy-northwest.com/ourenergyprojects/Columbia/Pages/Regional-Value.aspx
    from this site:
    Projected Levelized
    Cost of Power (2014-2043):
    4.7 – 5.2 cents/kWh
    Comparison Costs*:
    Natural Gas: 6 – 14 cents/kWh
    Wind: 7 – 10 cents/kWh
    Solar: 11 – 42 cents/kWh

  210. @ totarum… sounds to me like someone is artificially keeping your energy prices high and telling you suck it up its for the planet.

  211. Chris, I have checked my method and I have made a mistake. I’m sorry. You were certainly right that I was wrong and I apologise for being wrong. It was a stupid mistake and I behaved stupidly in making it and then not catching it. I now see that using the latest figures I provided for the Sunny Boy SMA home storage would not make money for someone with a marginal grid electricity cost of 30 cents a kilowatt-hour and a 5% discount rate until the cost of storage per kilowatt-hour was about $550. I was much too arrogant in my assumption that I was correct and far too childishly defensive of my opinion that I was correct. I apologise for my mistake and for defending it without checking it and for assuming that you were wrong when you were not.

  212. Brent, you wrote: “Really the only economical storage for the grid right now is pumped hydro which is only about 17% efficient.” That is not correct for the efficiency of pumped storage is not 17%, as Fran pointed out earlier in the thread. If you happen to be talking about a system where lamas are used to carry water to the upper resorvoir then you need to point that out as that is not what is generally understood by the term pumped storage. (I get an efficiency of about 17% for lama ported storage.)

  213. as was implemented at Fukushima

    Sure. But this is a management problem, not a technological one: you want nuclear power to be safe, you have to design management systems that can, sustainably-long-term and reliably, manage low-probability high-cost outcomes, and will do so if implemented in any cultural and regulatory framework, you have to design management systems that aren’t susceptible to the sorts of management failures that happened at Fukushima.

    But we’ve got pretty solid evidence from a wide variety of fields of endeavour that building management systems that avoid — reliably and over the long term — the sorts of management failures that happened at Fukushima is an intractable problem. Designing systems to manage low-probability high-cost outcomes is not something we really know how to do. The systems we can build simply don’t work reliably. We have a pretty good idea of exactly how they fail, but we don’t know any way to avoid that failure mode.

    Unless our management technology — not our reactor design technology — improves, nuclear power will remain unacceptably dangerous. “As was implemented at Fukushima”. What happened at Fukushima made the reactor unsafe. So: what are you proposing to do to stop the sorts of management failures that happened at Fukushima? How are you going to stop TEPCO being TEPCO, the japanese regulators being japanese regulators?

  214. I’ll go out on a limb and predict changes to our energy mix by 2020. There will be no built nuclear just more of what energy technology we have already but more expensive. With 0.2m a year net population increase we will have over 25m people. Our oil import dependence will go from what I believe is currently 60% to over 70%. Petrol will be over $2 a litre but road traffic will be less. Our emissions will still be over 500 Mt net CO2e a year, meaning we’ve virtually achieved nothing.

    Due to reduced incentives we won’t get from 1.2m solar roofs to 2m. With or without the RET wind capacity growth will slow, less than 30% from now I’d guess. Reasons being subsidy fatigue, takeup of good sites and nimbyism. The smart meter rollout will head Australia wide. LNG exports will be restricted (contrary to current policy) to keep the gas price down.

    This is somewhat different to the wind and solar powered nirvana some dream about. The public mood will be bitter and resentful eg at the cost of food, of driving and of keeping cool in summer. That’s why I think many will welcome nuclear power.

  215. @Collin Street

    One of the difficulties is that decisions about initial placement of a reactor system, i.e. the choice of site, are made with a standard economic model of cost in mind. Low frequency, high severity, risks just don’t figure into the calculations. I’ll be bold and say they are too easy to ignore through ignorance or through unbridled optimism (and bonus-related greed); furthermore, how does one truly assess the cost of an accident like Fukushima, at the time of site selection?

    To be blunt, the cost of an accident like Fukushima only matters if it is on your watch, and for those in charge of the original decisions that lock in the risks, there is very little likelihood of them being on that watch.

    Having said all that, to build a nuclear reactor so close to the shore and so close to sea level, at a location known for tsunami risk, knowing full well that the whole area is earthquake prone; well, that takes some breath-taking denial, I’d say. Obviously they want to be as close as possible to the shoreline in order to minimise cost of water access, among other things: pumping water 40m up land to a safer site is much more costly in terms of building and in terms of energy use during the plant’s lifetime, although in the big scheme of things it would seem like very cheap insurance against tsunami risk.

    Human factors get us time and again.

  216. @Brent
    Thank you for that very interesting link to the Columbia Generating Plant, Brent. But if you think your electricity is cheap because of that nuclear power plant you’d be mistaken. Construction on it started in 1975 and it took nine years to build. It had 2 billion dollars in cost over runs which is about $4.5 billion US in today’s money. So with a 5% cost of money and a 90% capacity factor over a sixty year lifespan the the capital cost of the cost over runs alone would come to about 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Add to that the plant’s extremely high operating and maintenance cost which apparently comes to 3.6 cents a kilowatt-hour and the cost per kilowatt-hour comes to 6.1 cents which is higher than the average wholesale price of electricity in Australia and that’s before the cost of waste disposal, decomissioning, insurance, and even the pre-over run cost of the plant is included. So it looks like you are paying the marginal cost of electricity from the nuclear plant plus about 50% and not the full cost.

  217. Google fukushima-daini-model-of-a-safe-shutdown for an example of things going right. I understand that power plant was slightly more elevated. Excuse acronyms but ZCA like the idea of a high capacity HVDC cable crossing the Nullarbor to join the NEM to the WA grid. In that case perhaps nuclear reactors could be located on the Nullarbor coast (ie Great Australian Bight) such as at Ceduna SA or Esperance WA. In a sense that would fulfill Rex Connor’s dream of unifying the energy resources of both sides of Australia. Unfortunately the resulting Khemlani affair brought down the government in 1975.

    Since the GAB is well away from the Pacific ‘ring of fire’ I would expect tsunami and quakes to be rare to put it mildly. The main problem might be lack of network redundancy with a single cable. In past heatwaves HVDC rectifier substations have overheated. An alternative is putting reactors in existing coal fired stations using as much already in-place hardware as possible. In future summers I expect Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne to all hit 50C. Reliable power in extreme weather is a matter of public health not just affordable electricity bills.

  218. I’m going to say one last thing on this topic and then remain silent on it until there’s some new reason for discussing it.

    If the only criteria for assessing low ecological footprint stationary energy infrastructure were questions of engineering, then nuclear power would be a fabulous tool. If, tomorrow or even over the next 15 years, every fossil HC station contributing or likely to be called upon to contribute to a grid, in the parts of the world that have per capita emissions above 2tCO2e per person or as a jurisdiction more than 0.5% of world emissions were replaced by equivalent nuclear capacity, there would be a massive cut not merely in CO2e emissions, but in a whole lot of other airborne pollutants as well. If all motor vehicles then sourced their energy directly or indirectly from the grid, there would be an even larger cut. And if bulk carrier ships all switched to nuclear-powered motors, the seas would also be massively cleaner as well as cutting the carbon miles in goods transport.

    But that’s really only one of the questions to be considered. Firstly, as a matter of practice, the nature of nuclear power technology would be accompanied by a massive ramping up of the security state. It doesn’t really matter how ‘at risk’ nuclear plants would be from ‘you know who’. In practice the mere perception of their risk profile would demand increasingly bonapartist measures ‘for the public safety’ and all manner of secrecy since this would fall very definitely under ‘national security’. I regard it as fair to ask whether this is a cost most people would want to bear. I doubt most would, and in any event, it would impinge on accountability for the plants, and therefore our confidence that prudent provision was being made. The record in Japan has not been good.

    Moroever, it is very doubtful that a conversion program on this scale would even be technically feasible on such a timeline. There’s a limited amount of industrial engineering capacity for nuclear plants, and of course the capacity for independent and skilled examiners to oversee progress.

    Then there are the economic challenges. Almost all the FHC assets in stationary energy are privately owned, often held by trusts or pension funds. You couldn’t close them all down and hand their market share to nuclear plants without compensating the equity holders. So each new plant would have to begin its development on a timeline when an FHC plant of comprable capacity was likely to close, or else, the cost of the new plant would have to include the cost of decommissioning the FHC plants. That radically affects the cost-feasibility of new plants and the rate at which they can be built.

    Very few states have shown a serious interest in building new infrastructure out of public funds, and certainly not on the scale of a 15-year transition to nuclear power.

    Regrettably, such a speedy transition isn’t going to occur. There would be massive opposition, and a bill to make projects like the NBN seem like trifles. So it’s not going to happen.

    What we ought to do is to focus on things that can happen. By all means let us preserve whatever feasible nuclear capacity we have and welcome new and well-conceived nuclear projects if and when they arrive. Let’s give them all the R&D they need and do our bit (for a suitable fee) to accept waste and develop either reprocessing or storage. But let’s also build low footprint infrastructure that can replace FHCs in stationary energy in the next 15 years. Whatever that costs is going to be cheaper by far than nuclear, not opposed by many people, and of course, far quicker in doing the business of pushing FHCs off their patch.

  219. Earlier I stupidly typed in Colarado instead of Columbia, just another in a long list of mistakes I have made in my life, and in doing so I came across an article on the Fort St. Vrain nuclear reactor. It’s interesting because while some Americans are perhaps quite justifiably proud of the high load factor of their nuclear plants, there may be a strong survivorship bias. After eleven years of construction Fort St. Vrain came online in 1979 and shut down only 10 years later. In 1996 it was converted into a natural gas plant. And anyone who thinks that Australia can turn coal plants into nuclear plants should note that America can’t even manage to turn a nuclear plant into a nuclear plant. The plant implemented some new advances that were technically very successful except for various flaws resulting in the destruction of vital and expensive plant equipment. Perhaps this is a situation where the expression, “The operation was a success but the patient died,” could be is used? There were also problems not related to the new design such as contractors starting a fire that damaged control lines and then not telling anyone about it for five hours.

    Another US nuclear plant that shutdown long before its expected lifetime which I learned about today was the Trojan nuclear plant in Oregan. It came online in 1976 after only six and a half years of construction but was shut down for nine months in 1978 to fix construction errors and to improve its earthquake resistance. After a breakdown in 1992 the plant was shutdown for good as it was deemed not safe to operate. It was shut down after only 16 years service, or really 15 since it took a nine month break. The decomissioning of the plant is not complete and is estimated to cost $230,000,000.

    So it seems pretty clear that in addition to taking account of many other expenses and risks, the cost of nuclear power will need to reflect the very real chance of a plant having to shutdown well before its planned lifetime. And the risk of it suffering an early death is increased if it uses new technology. And some people have promised us an awful lot of new technology.

  220. @ Ronald… The Columbia generating station published power costs would include any cost over runs during construction. So the cost should have been less not more then published.

    As for ft st Vrain was a first of a kind gas cooled reactor. They had problems with the gas bearings in the turbine. Once they had the problems figured out the stockholders pulled the plug. So you had first of a kind reactor and first of a kind turbine. The reactor worked but the turbine didn’t. The lesson is do your home work and weight all the financial risks.

    The discussion has been about using small nuclear reactors in Australia. Using the same disign over and over. Larger mega projects are subject to mismanagement. Small mistakes grow into large ones.

  221. @Ronald Brak

    until the cost of storage per kilowatt-hour was about $550.

    This would reduce the minimum battery cost from 50c/kWh delivered to 46c/kWh delivered.

    You never give up, do you?

  222. @ Ronald Brak on the cost of nuclear, wind and solar in China,

    Ronald, no, you misunderstood the article you cited above. The price of $670 per kilowatt is the “bid-invitation” price for the purchase of a wind turbine from the supplier by the developer of the wind farm, to wit: “developers have realized that they can no longer so viciously cut the bid-invitation price for wind turbine generators.” That’s just the price of one piece of equipment, not the the total capital cost of the installed wind capacity, which also includes building the concrete foundation pads, transporting and erecting the turbines, building access roads and transmission lines to take the electricity to the grid, all the labor costs, site prep, etc.

    Total capital costs of new wind and solar projects are indeed in the range of $1500-1700 per kilowatt, as I reported. Bloomberg estimates that China is investing about $27.2 billion per year to build 16 to 18 gigawatts of wind. (http://about.bnef.com/press-releases/china-was-worlds-largest-wind-market-in-2012/) The 1.4 gigawatt Three Gorges Wind farm, for example, will cost $2.18 billion, or $1557 per kilowatt. (http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/24240). China’s build of 35 GW of solar by 2015 will reportedly cost $50 billion dollars, or $1425 per kw, but that doesn’t include subsidies. (http://www.scmp.com/business/commodities/article/1412862/solar-industry-bouncing-back-mainland-china-after-prolonged). Those prices may apply only to utility-scale developments. This article by the same author you cited puts residential rooftop PV installations at $2500 per kilowatt in China (http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/07/residential-solar-pv-systems-experiencing-slow-adoption-in-china?cmpid=rss), but another article puts a larger Beijing installation at $1506 per kilowatt, with a 12 percent capacity factor.

    I also high-balled the nuclear costs. The nuclear capital costs of $2500-3500 that I reported are for first-of-a-kind Gen III AP1000s and EPRs currently under construction. China’s homegrown Gen II+ CPR1000s cost less, about $2000 per kilowatt, but they are being phased out in favor of the Gen IIIs. But China’s mass deployment program aims to lower the cost of its AP1000s and derivative designs to about $2000 per kw and even less, so 20-40 percent declines in the nuclear capital costs I quoted are in the offing.

    Given the hugely greater productivity of nuclear, 88 percent capacity factors vs. 22 percent for wind and 14-15 percent for solar, there is simply no way wind and solar can compete on price. That is reflected in Chinese feed-in tariffs: nuclear gets 0.43 yuan (7 US cents) while wind gets 0.51-61 yuan (and still needs must-take rules to get grid managers to buy it). (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-07/02/content_16710593.htm) (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/09/us-china-windpower-idUSBRE8880J720120909) Solar gets 0.75-1.15 yuan per kwh FIT. (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2013-03/14/content_16307608.htm) The disparities are even larger if you count the additional system costs of wind, like the $billions spent each year stringing power lines out to distant prairies, or factor in the many decades the nuclear plants will spend producing electricity at much lower rates after their capital costs are paid off.

    No question about it: Chinese nuclear is cheaper than wind and solar.

    –On capacity factors, Ronald, the 22 percent capacity factor for wind is after factoring out curtailments and the fact that much of China’s wind capacity is not connected to the grid. The raw production figures are much worse. In 2012, China produced 100.4 TWh of electricity from 62.7 GW average of grid-connected turbines for a capacity factor of 18.2 percent. As for solar, MIT says 13.6 percent CF, Scientific American 15.2 percent. (http://globalchange.mit.edu/files/document/MITJPSPGC_Rpt242.pdf) ((http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=china-scales-up-solar-power-50-percent) Can you provide a source for your claim of 20-25 percent capacity factors for Chinese solar?

  223. @ Fran Barlow,
    Fran, the polities with the highest proportions of nuclear generation include France, Sweden, Switzerland and Ontario, all of them very open liberal democracies. Your argument that nuclear power fosters an over-weening security state that impinges on freedom is clearly without foundation.

    I don’t understand your argument that deploying nuclear plants would have to wait for the slow retirement of existing fossil plants, or else require compensating their owners. I don’t think we do need to do that, but in any case why wouldn’t that principle also apply to replacing fossil plants with renewable sources?

    Your belief that renewables can accomplish a faster decarbonization than nuclear is also unfounded. Just look at Germany. This past week the new Social Democratic economy and environment minister announced yet more subsidy cuts and deployment slowdowns for the Energiewende, citing insupportable costs. In 2023, when the last German nuke closes, Germany will be generating about 38 percent of its electricity from renewables, providing it meets its targets, which is iffy. In 2010 its low-carbon fraction of electricity was 38.8 percent–so 13 years with no progress whatsoever on decarbonization.

    By contrast, the places I cited above all achieved 60-90 percent decarbonization of their electricity generation by prioritizing nuclear and hydro, with deployments that were much faster and cheaper than Germany’s program and with no resort to Bonapartism. Decarbonizing an industrial democracy using nuclear power is so easy and routine that it’s positively banal.

  224. @Will Boisvert

    Erm, what about all the oil they are still burning, especially in the transport sector? How do you de-carbonize that?

    Also, have you heard of peak uranium? Fissile uranium will run out. Breeder reactors are highly dangerous.

    As at 2010, 80.6% of world total power was provided by fossil fuels, 16.7% by renewables and 2.7% by nuclear. Nuclear power is all but neglibible. Renewables are killing nuclear, producing over 6 times as much power.

    Note: It is misleading to just talk about generation of electricity. It is total energy use that counts and the figures and facts show that nuclear is dangerous and near-useless in the total mix.

  225. @Ikonoclast
    I think you’ll find that half the renewables can be accounted for by hydroelectric dams built between 1950 and 2000. Sure wind and solar have grown strongly funny what quotas and subsidies can do. In Australia’s case there are shortfall charge penalties if you don’t meet the interim quota. Germany and other countries seem to be showing us it will get a lot harder integrating wind and solar from now on.

    The big white hope with transport energy other than inner city battery runabouts may have be hydrogenated fuels of which there are a number of types. Unfortunately none cheap. The big question is whether we can eventually adapt to fuels costing several times what they do now. We’ll need a low carbon energy source that can not only keep the lights on but get us to work, power tractors etc. We’ve flogged underground carbon to excess maybe the future energy source that can do the heavy lifting is based on E = mc^2.

  226. I’d just like to apologise once more. I’ve been making a string of stupid mistakes lately, although to be fair on myself I think I’ve mostly confined them to the period ranging from now back to the time I started breathing.

  227. Brent, if you look at the site you linked to you’ll see that for the Columbia nuclear Generating Plant they give the, “Projected Levelized cost of Power (2014-2043): 4.7 – 5.2 cents/kWh” when the plant started operating in 1984. That’s a neat accounting trick. You’ll find most forms of generation are pretty cheap if you work out their levelize cost from halfway through their lifespan.

    You also gave us their comparison costs which were: “Natural Gas: 6 – 14 cents/kWh Wind: 7 – 10 cents/kWh Solar: 11 – 42 cents/kWh” Now I don’t know how much these things cost in Colarado, sorry, Columbia, but new wind and solar are quite a bit cheaper here. Our Macarthur wind farm in the state of Victoria cost one billion dollars, has 420 megawatts of capacity and has a capacity factor of 35%. The Snowtown II wind farm under construction in South Australia will be 270 megawatts and will cost $436 million Australian and will have a capacity factor of about 42%. Is it reasonable to include a wind farm that’s still under construction? Well, since they haven’t even started construction on any nuclear power plants in Australia, I’d say yes. The lifespan of both windfarms is 25 years. I’ll let you do the maths to work out the cost od electricity per kilowatt-hour as I’ve been rather maths challenged lately. With regards to solar thanks to our high retail electricity prices rooftop solar is the cheapest source of electricity for Australian households and would be cheaper for consumers than nuclear power even if its cost was zero cents per kilowatt-hour. Rooftop solar, without any subsidy, outcompetes any form of grid based generation. As for the cost of natural gas here, you can discuss that with Hermit if you are interested, as it is something he is terribly concerned about.

  228. @ Ikonoclast,

    The 16.7 percent of renewables in the total energy supply is almost entirely hydro and, mostly, biomass. That latter is mainly people in the third world burning wood and dung for heating and cooking, which is horribly unhealthy, polluting and destructive to the environment. The world will be a better place if most of that 16.7 percent goes away. Nuclear produces many times more clean energy than solar and wind combined. Think a little harder about the statistics you cite, Ikonoclast.

    As for transport we can electrify trains with nuclear (old hat) we can run ships with nuclear reactors (also old hat) we can power automobiles with batteries (old hat in the 1920s) charged by nuclear power; we can distill liquid fuels from the atmosphere with electric power. Lots of ways to skin that cat. And no we’re not going to run out of uranium, there’s billions of tons of it in the oceans, in ores we haven’t yet mined, in phosphate deposits that we used to mine for uranium until uranium got too cheap, and elsewhere, with lots of good technical developments on getting it. People were saying peak uranium in the 1940s, its just gotten cheaper and more available as the years pass. Billions more tons of thorium, which is a great nuclear fuel. Breeders are not dangerous, some of them have been running for decades.

  229. Brent, I’ll also mention that in 2012 ratepayers paid the Columbia nuclear Generating Station $418 million for electricity that cost $218 million at market rates. So it appears that even now, 30 years after it starte operating, your local nuclear plant is still costing you money.

  230. @Will Boisvert

    Both you and Hermit want to discount hydro. Why is that? Hydro is renewable within current definitions. But you want to discount it because hydro is a big part of the reason that renewables outrank nuclear energy already.

    The very fact that you imagine that uranium can be separated from seawater and used to produce a positive energy return tells me you don’t understand the exreme diluteness of uranium in seawater and the whole issue of the energy cost in recovering it. The issue is EROEI (energy return on energy input).

    According to IEA scenarios, the next peak of uranium from Reasonably Assured Resources is about 2015. The real peak was 1980. No projected scenario shows more production than occurred in 1980. Real peak uranium was in 1980! Imagine that! The fall-off after that was dealt with by using the fuel from decommisioned nuclear weapon cores. A new ramping up of mining will give the secondary 2015 peak which will still be lower than the 1980 peak.

    Thorium is a dangerous pipe-dream. Thorium breeders have not even got off the speculative drawing board. Breeder reactors themselves are bedevilled with problems.

    The International Panel on Fissile Materials (who I find far more credible than pro-nuclear bloggers lacking basic scientific literacy and technical knowledge), said “After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars, the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled and efforts to commercialize them have been steadily cut back in most countries”. In Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, breeder reactor development programs have been abandoned.

  231. Footnote:

    Even the Gen IV International Forum dedicated to developing Gen IV reactors says; “Depending on their respective degrees of technical maturity, the Generation IV systems are expected to become available for commercial introduction around 2030-2040.”

    This is a not a timeframe that will save us quite frankly. By these dates more than +2 C rise in global average temperatures will be locked into the climate system unless we have successfully ramped up renewables massively by those dates and also cut back greatly on fossil fuels.

    Our chances are slim. Renewables give us some chances. Nuclear = Assured Disaster.

  232. @ Ikonoclast I think we’re screwed with or without nuclear, an idea some won’t accept. It’s just that nuclear could steer us towards the least-worse path. Wind and solar won’t keep industry running 24/7 nor make the materials to replace themselves. Since I’m involved in setting up microhydro I can tell you there’s only limited room to expand in Australia.

    On Gen IV nuclear it seems that Russia and China will take up the running. The US seems to have convinced itself that fracked gas will last forever. The GE-Hitachi Prism reactor is on the shortlist of two to burn up the UK’s plutonium stockpile, enough for 500 years they reckon. If it gets the nod things could move faster. Thorium an element of which we have plenty in Oz can also be used in some Gen III nuclear plant. We’ve got the most uranium so we should be OK til mid century.

    The big picture is 7 bn of us are consuming an unevenly distributed 15 terawatts of power, directly or indirectly over 2kw per person. Of that say 12 Tw comes from burning fossil carbon. By 2050 we’ll want say an efficient and frugal 25 Tw for 9 bn people, but say 22 Tw of that from low carbon. There’s little sign we’re on that path or even that the people in charge grasp the simple arithmetic.

  233. @Totaram

    I live in Melbourne and pay 39.16c/kwh for peak (7am to 11pm). Anyone who has solar will be offered peak/off-peak.

    To get any benefit from these higher prices (by generating it yourself), you first have to give up a lower peak price that anyone in Melbourne can get. And by peak price I mean the price you can get during peak times, not the price you would have to agree too if you wanted a differing peak time/off peak time pricing regime. I use the terminology “peak” price because that is what they call it on my electricity bill, even though it’s the same all day.

    So to get the possible benefit from a higher “peak” price, I first need to put myself at a disadvantage by shifting to time-of-day dependent pricing. What I’m doing is comparing what I’m getting now with what I would get with a battery. I’m not comparing what I would get if I put myself at a disadvantage compared with using a battery. That’s because switching to time-of-day dependent pricing would not be a rational choice for me and probably not rational for most people in Melbourne either.

    In any case the most optimistic figures I’ve seen, using the price of cheap Li-ion batteries and the performance of the best Li-ion batteries, yields a battery cost of at least 50c/kWh delivered.

  234. @Hermit

    Since I’m involved in setting up microhydro I can tell you there’s only limited room to expand in Australia.

    Even though there’s a limited amount of energy that can originate from hydro in Australia, its limit for storage purposes is only limited by cost. Cost is the issue with hydro storage because you’ve basically got to set up two generating systems instead of one for the same consumed energy AND you have to set up two transmission systems instead of one (generator to hydro storage + hydro storage to load) for that same energy.

  235. @Hermit

    South Australia could build Solar Convection Towers which make power 24/7. Keep your wind gens and solar panels on-line and add Solar Convection Towers and maybe some Solar Concentrating with Molten Heat Storage. South Australia would not need any other stationary power.

  236. @Chris O’Neill

    In theory yes, but as always, it depends on the system. A seaboard pumped storage system that used wave energy or marine or wind turbines to force seawater into a pump and up a feeder pipe to a reservoir would not be an energy generating system but rather a harvester of kinetic energy. The generator would be the hydro-system alone. If this were placed near a grid connection point at the coast, then the connection costs would be modest.

    The cost of building such a system without favourable land contours and geomorphology would be considerable. You’d probably want at least 100 metres of head pressure and scope to store very significant amounts of seawater — implying very strong bedrock underneath. There wouldn’t be many locations ticking all of these boxes and I’d guess many of the locals in any place that might fit would think it an ugly monstrosity.

  237. @Chris O’Neill
    I tried to ask you again about taking into service charges into account, but had security troubles posting – don’t know if this will go through. I calculate that as a low user, when you take the service charge into account, I’m paying over 80c per kWh most of the year (av use about 2 kWh per day for nine months of year, usage charge 24c per kWh, service charge $1.15 a day).

    There’s a big incentive for low users to go off the grid at that rate.

  238. Will Boisvert

    the polities with the highest proportions of nuclear generation include France, Sweden, Switzerland and Ontario, all of them very open liberal democracies. Your argument that nuclear power fosters an over-weening security state that impinges on freedom is clearly without foundation.

    I’d be stunned if the management of these facilities and their hazmat handling protocols didn’t fall under their national security laws however liberal they happen to be. Certainly in this country, which in these matters, tends to ape the US, a robust and brutal national security regime would be part of the package. Right now, our governments are devising swingeing laws to restrain those protesting destruction of native forests, involved with motorcycle clubs, and are on a declared “war footing” over irregular maritime arrivals and asserting a right to keep it all hush hush.

    I don’t understand your argument that deploying nuclear plants would have to wait for the slow retirement of existing fossil plants, or else require compensating their owners. I don’t think we do need to do that, but in any case why wouldn’t that principle also apply to replacing fossil plants with renewable sources?

    Because each new renewable project merely nibbles at the market currently served by FHC plants. However, if you started peeling off 25GW IN 3-5 GW chunks the only way that loan guarantees for a project that would conservatively take seven years before the first watt-minute of sent out power hit the grid would be if there were a guaranteed market share. If the state declined to become involved the project wouldn’t get finance.

    State finance would be the obvious way to go, but again, the state would want to be sure it wasn’t investing in a white elephant. Absent a serious carbon price, coal is cheaper than nuclear.

    If the state ordered the shutdown, then in practice, if not in theory, compensation would be payable.

    In NSW coal assets continue to be owned by the state (from memory this applies in SA and WA as well) and if the states wanted to flog these off for a reasonable price there would probably have to be a deal on allowing them to operate for 15+ years at least probably with concessional coal thrown in.

    Your belief that renewables can accomplish a faster decarbonization than nuclear is also unfounded.

    The cost for new wind and solar these days is there with coal and gas. It will likely continue to trend lower. It’s already unlikely that any new coal plants will be built in Australia because the high priced peak energy is being increasingly supplied by solar and wind which is prejudicing the viability of coal. The lead times for new wind and solar are a fraction of those for nuclear too and these come in on time and on budget. Renewables allow a far smoother phased conversion than nuclear.

    This in turn allows those investing in coal assets to start jumping ship just as the assets start to near the end of their useful commercial life, so compensation is not needed.

  239. Chris, sorry again for making a mistake and then making a mistake when I told you about my mistake. I was was prideful when I thought I was correct and slothful when I didn’t check my result. If father O’Flannery is correct I’ve significantly increased my chance of strange red men poking me with forks. I thought your objections were only to do with the values I used. I didn’t realize that my calculation was all messed up.

    Anyway, here is where I got the information on the performance of the Sunny Boy SMA:

    http://www.solarenergystorage.org/en/mehr-wirtschaftlichkeit-mit-kleineren-speicherkapazitaten/

    I don’t actually know what electric car makers pay per kilowatt-hour for batteries. There appears to be a fair range of opinion on this. I also don’t know how rapidly batteries for electric cars are decreasing in price. One estimate I read was 10-15% a year. I have no idea if that is true, but if the price decrease is 10% a year then that is extremely rapid. It would only take about 7 years for the price to halve. So if we take the figure you gave of $600 a kilowatt-hour as the current price then we might be looking at $300 a kilowatt-hour by 2020. I’m not saying this will happen but I don’t think it is a crazy suggestion because we know that right now it costs less than that to mass produce batteries for laptops and other applications. And I’m certain that battery durability will also increase over that time.

    The Sunny Boy SMA will apparently undergo over 4,000 cycles and that’s an awful lot for lithium batteries. However, their durability has improved a lot. We can see this from eight year/160,000 km warranties for electric car battery packs. (Although this doesn’t mean the battery pack is undergoing a full cycle each day.) So either the SMA batteries are amazing, which I guess might be possible though you’d think they’d have made more noise about it, or perhaps they’ve just oversized them a little so the system will keep functioning within spec for ten years. After all, unlike for some applications, it can still do useful work even if the battery is quite degraded and also I have no idea how performance at year one would compare to year ten. Oversizing will of course increase their cost, but provided they continue to decrease in price this will only delay the point at which home energy storage becomes profitable.

    I am confident that provided retail electricity prices remain high and feed in tariffs remain low that home energy storage will become popular in Australia. I don’t know when this will happen and it may be based on a different battery chemistry than lithium, but I don’t think it will take very long and it may take off in rural areas first where grid electricity prices can be extremely high and may people are already familiar with energy storage.

  240. @ Ronald Brak,

    In case you missed it (it was held in moderation for a while because of all the web links), my reply to your comment on my data on Chinese wind, solar and nuclear prices is on page 5, #43. You misunderstood the article you cited; Chinese wind and solar prices are indeed in the $1500-1700 per kilowatt range that I reported.

  241. @ Fran Barlow,

    Fran, most countries have militaries, national police forces, secrecy and espionage laws, anti-terrorism paramilitary units, restricted no-go sites, all the panoply of a security apparatus. There is simply no connection between the extent and virulence of the security apparatus and respect for civil liberties in a country and the presence of nuclear power stations. By your own account Australia is sprouting draconian security laws with nary a nuke in sight. Your argument that if nuclear, then Orwellian police state–and say goodbye to your motorcycle clubs!–is absurd and borders on demagoguery.

    Again, your argument that incursions of nuclear are more disruptive than renewables to fossil fuel assets doesn’t make any sense. It’s wrong on the facts: All large-scale renewable programs involve massive state subsidy and financing along with state-guaranteed market shares for renewables that are explicitly meant to crowd out existing fossil-fueled plants. Even in the US, most states have renewable portfolio standards that legally require utilities to source large portions of their electricity from renewables. In Germany, after decades and colossal government subsidies and mandates, renewables are finally starting to put pressure on gas generators (though coal is thriving). The result is that the government is preparing to subsidize fossil generators through capacity markets so as to keep them in business for the weeks on end when wind and solar collapse entirely during the dead of winter.

    Your reasoning is also incoherent. You claim that renewables offer a faster and “smoother” transition to low-carbon energy (which is also wrong on the facts, as I’ve noted upthread.) But then you contradict yourself by arguing that fossil generators are content with renewables “nibbling” around their edges but dread massive, quick displacement by nuclear. Isn’t that a good reason to support nuclear–especially because nuclear won’t require lingering “backup” from fossil fuels the way wind and solar do? Don’t you want fossil generators to be massively and quickly displaced? Isn’t that the whole point?

  242. Don’t want to spoil any preconceptions, but I am a Scientist, and so I accept the reality of climate change and the desirability of nuclear power, because in both cases the Physics and the numbers are there, and coincidentally one is the solution (and the only practical one) for the other.

  243. Will Boisvert, thank you for your reply. You wrote that wind costs $1,500-$1,700 a kilowatt and provided a link which supports that. I find this odd because right now in South Australia we are constructing wind power for $1,625 a kilowatt and it seems bizarre to me that China would not have an advantage over us. Australia has no domestic wind turbine industry and imports every turbine and even most of the pylons and we also have some of the highest labour costs in the world. I was under the impression that any engineering we can do, they can do cheaper, they can do any engineering cheaper than us. I do know that in the past it has been difficult to estimate how much Chinese projects cost in other countries’ currencies and perhaps this is still the case. So if wind does cost around $1,600 a kilowatt in China then it seems to me that they must be doing something wrong, or several things wrong, and that would mean they have the option of not doing them.

    But even at $1,600 a kilowatt wind power still appears cheaper than nuclear power in China. Building a nuclear power plant is a multi year project even in China which significantly increases the cost compared to the months it takes to build a wind farm. How much cheaper it is hard to tell given China’s low interest rates and rationing of capital via other means, but there certainly seems to be a strong preference for electricity sooner rather than later. And then there is the real risk that a nuclear plant will suffer problems and be forced to shut down before its expected lifespan is over. We know from history this risk is real and one that increases with new designs. This is a bigger problem for nuclear than for wind due to due to the high cost of decommissioning nuclear. And a nuclear plant that does operate for 60 years will spend most of its life in a developed country and is likely to have developed country expenses. Its difficult to tell, but nuclear and $1,600 wind might be within a cent of each other on cost per kilowatt-hour. And then the cost of insurance will make wind cheaper than nuclear.

    Now I know from comments you made on another thread, Will, that you may think that nothing needs to be done in the face of a large scale nuclear disaster such as at Fukushima, but that’s not the opinion of the Chinese government. In fact, I think they’d probably be quite aware of how the official response to the Chernobyl disaster discredited the government of the Soviet Union and contributed to its downfall. They are certainly not oblivious to the danger as plans to build reactors in densely populated areas were cancelled after Fukushima. After a disaster there will be a response as in any developed country consisting of evacuation and decontamination. China may be able to deal with this more cheaply than a developed nation now, but it won’t be long before China will become a developed nation. So even with modern nuclear reactors, the cost of insurance will still be considerable.

    If wind is $1,600 a kilowatt in China then it would appear to have a lot of room to come down in price. The cost of wind power has decreased rapidly and I’m sure it will continue to do so. How long this trend will continue I don’t know, but I am certain that wind power will become considerably cheaper in the time it would take to build a Chinese nuclear plant from start to finish.

    With regard to solar, it doesn’t matter what it costs to install at the moment, we know that China definitely has the capacity to install it at a lower cost than Germany and at German prices it will be quite competitive. China has less roof space per person than many other countries, but there is still plenty of room for residential and business solar to compete with other forms of generation.

    And Will, note that I did not claim that the capacity factor of Chinese solar was 20-25%. I instead pointed out that there are areas in China where fixed PV operates at over 25% capacity and that if the solar capacity installed last year operated at 20% of capacity it would produce as many kilowatt-hours as 2.7 one gigawatt nuclear plants. I don’t know what the average capacity factor of the solar PV installed last year was, I only know that a lot of it was utility scale solar in the sunny western and south western areas of the country.

    Also, if you are going to say things like, nuclear plants will spend decades producing electricity at much lower rates after their capital costs are paid off, I will point out that nuclear power has a considerable marginal cost. One that is much higher than Australian coal while the marginal cost of wind and solar are close to zero. So once the capital costs of wind and solar are paid off they will produce electricity at a much lower rate than nuclear. Next to nothing, in fact.

    I hope that China can build nuclear plants very cheaply and very safely, but I doubt Chinese nuclear will be able to compete with other low emission generating capacity, particularly given how rapidly wind and solar power have been coming down in price.

  244. Stephen Kennedy, if the numbers are there for nuclear economically then why will electricity from the Hinkely C nuclear plant cost a minimum of 15 cents a kilowatt-hour which is great deal more than Australian wind? Also, wouldn’t the numbers for solar be even better seeing that rooftop solar outcompetes any utility scale generation in Australia?

  245. Watching one of the TV docos on ‘filthy cities’ it occurred to me how much the despised baseload power keeps those rivers of sewage flowing. Many of the citizenry may not care two hoots about heavy industry but I’m pretty sure they don’t want blocked drains.

    To those hung up on the cost of future sunny daytime solar vs dispatchable power I suggest a thought experiment… how much solar could we rely on if it was free? That’s a yes assumption with a no assumption being that we cannot store enough solar energy for when it is not sunny daytime.

  246. Hermit, if solar power was free we would meet our entire daytime demand with it. We’d set up enough capacity to meet demand during cloudy conditions and enough east and west facing panels so all our electricity would be solar from sunup till sundown. ‘Cause it would be free. We could even run a high capacity HVDC line between eastern and Western Australia and run the eastern states off solar into the evening and Western Australia before their sunrise. So maybe 75% or more of our electricity would come from solar given current pricing arrangements, but of course a lot of industry and water pumping and so on would switch to daytime consumption of electricity to take advantage of lower prices, so over 80% I suppose.

    You’ve suggested this scenario before. Where you still unclear on what would probably happen?

  247. @Hermit

    LOL! You NEVER listen m8!

    1. Molten salt energy storage combined with solar concentrating thermal can produce power 24/7. It is working now in Spain.

    2. Solar convection (updraft) towers produce power 24/7 and produce even MORE power at night. Why? They rely on the temperature differential between the surface and the top of the tower and this temperature differential typically INCREASES at night.

    3. Wide distribution of solar, wind, wave and hydro including pumped hydro energy storage can smooth fluctuations and help ensure power 24/7 along with the above technology in points 1 and 2.

    Replacing our stationary power capacity (electricity generation) with 100% renewable is fully technically and economically feasible at the Australian level. 24/7 power availability is easily achieveable.

    You really need to read up on developments. Your knowledge and assumptions in this area are at badly out of date.

    Having said the above, replacing stationary energy is not our real big problem. Replacing oil and gas for transport is a much tougher problem as will be coping with climate change and general limits to growth.

  248. @Ikonoclast
    You don’t read my posts. At #49 I said BREE estimated that solar thermal would be in the range $295 to $402 per Mwh. Uncarbontaxed brown coal is something like $40. From memory BREE covered parabolic trough, dishes and mirror towers with and without thermal storage but not updraft towers. My understanding is the biggest updraft tower in Spain is just a mockup not actually working. At least granite geothermal has a small pilot plant in the middle of the outback but so far no customers within a few hundred km.

    I have read most of the all-renewables proposals like ZCA. It’s just that I don’t think running power stations on hay bales instead of coal is practical for Australia or properly costed. Perhaps you should read the detailed critiques e.g. by Ted Trainer. I agree that transport energy or peak oil is the sleeper that will drag the economy down taking coal with it due to forced inactivity.

  249. @Ikonoclast
    Again see Ted Trainer. The problem is continent wide cloud cover and low sun angle for fixed axis PV. On the June long weekend they have the blessing of the snows at Thredbo since a major westerly normally sweeps in around that time. They could use candles for warmth.

  250. @ Ronald Brak p. 6 #17, on costs of nuclear, wind and solar in China:

    1. Okay, we’ve established (per p. 5 #43) that Chinese wind and solar capital costs are $1500-1700 per kilowatt according to published sources, not the $670 per kw you wrongly claimed upthread. (Note that the $2500-3500 per kw cost of nuclear that I cited includes interest accrued during construction.) Nuclear is four to six times as productive as wind and solar, so capital expenses, the main cost components for these sources, are much lower for nuclear.

    You still insist that wind is cheaper than nuclear anyway, despite my citations showing that feed-in-tariffs for Chinese nuclear are about 20 percent lower than wind FITs, and half of solar FITs. Your claims just don’t make any sense, and they’re contradicted by the facts.

    2. You contend that “it doesn’t matter what [Chinese solar] costs to install at the moment” [!] because at German prices it will be competitive. But I think Chinese solar is already as cheap as German solar. The most recent data I could find for German utility-scale solar puts it at about 1200 euros per kilowatt, which at today’s exchange rate is about $1644 per kilowatt. (Germany has stopped building utility-scale solar because FITs have fallen too low for them to be profitable.) Even at $1000 per kw, Chinese solar would still have capital costs going on twice those of nuclear. And of course the Chinese plan to reduce nuclear costs by 20 percent and more.

    I provided three citations showing Chinese solar capacity factors to be in the 12-15 percent range.You still didn’t provide any evidence that most solar, much solar or any solar in China gets 20-25 percent capacity factors.

    3. Nuclear plants do not have higher “marginal costs” than coal. You’re confusing “marginal costs” with “operating costs.” Nuclear has essentially zero marginal costs, just like wind and solar, because its operating costs are all overhead: a nuke saves no money by reducing reactor output and spends no money ramping back up. Coal plants have higher marginal costs because for every extra kilowatt-hour generated they must buy extra coal.

    And no, nuclear does not have higher operating costs than coal. According to the US Energy Information Agency, in 2012 total operating expenses for US nuclear plants were 2.5 cents per kwh compared to 3.2 cents per kwh for coal plants, so nuclear was 20 percent cheaper than coal. Wind and solar may have lower operating costs or not, depending on the estimate. The US Dept. of Energy’s 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report puts wind’s operating costs at 1 cent per kwh. But Britain’s Dept. of Energy and Climate Change in its 2013 Electricity Generating Costs forecast expects onshore wind to have total operating costs of 23 pounds per MWh, offshore wind 32-36 and PV 24 pounds per MWh, compared to new nuclear’s 21 pounds per MWh, which implies that nuclear operating costs will be slightly lower than renewables costs. Anyway, because nukes last a lot longer than wind and solar generators, 60 years vs. 20-30 years, they will spend more time in the low-cost regime after the mortgage is paid off. And of course, we haven’t even gotten to the large extra costs of transmission and back-up that wind and solar impose on the grid.

    Again, Ronald, it’s pretty clear that Chinese nuclear is cheaper than wind and solar. I can’t understand why you keep denying this in the face of conclusive evidence.

  251. Will, maybe you should go back and read through what I wrote again, but more slowly this time. Then after that if there are still things you don’t understand you can write some questions.

  252. US EIA data does not support Hermit and Will.

    http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/electricity_generation.cfm

    Wind and hydro already knock coal and nuclear on the head cost-wise. Solar PV aint that far behind and improving all the time. Off-shore wind is unsurprisingly expensive. Solar thermal admittedly looks a bit ugly. Solar convection isn’t even costed but would probably look ugly if costed now. I am sure coal and nuclear negative externality costs are not included in the US EIA data. If it were they would look far uglier than any renewable tech.

    Further technical advances will likely make ALL renewables look a lot better cost wise. Wind and hydro are already significantly better. ALL renewables are already a lot safer for the environment than coal or nuclear.

    The bottom line is how ever well we get renewables to work that is as good as the future will be. Coal and nuclear wreck our future. Coal by global warming, nuclear by making whole regions radioctive like Chernobyl and Fukushima following the inevitable and numerous nuclear accidents if we seriously scale up that technology. Nuclear fuel runs out too. Peak uranium is past. Gen IV reactors won’t be ready before 2040 if ever (far too late to save the planet).

  253. @ Ikonoclast,

    Think a little harder about those EIA stats you cited, particularly EIA’s warning that LCOEs for intermittent wind and solar generators are “not directly comparable” to those of dispatchable generators like coal and nuclear.

    The stats forecast that the LCOE of new nuclear in the US at $108.4 per MWh will be considerably cheaper than solar PV ($144.3/MWh), solar thermal ($261.5/MWh) and offshore wind ($221.5/MWh). They say it will be more expensive than hydro and geothermal, which is uncontroversial—I’m all for hydro and geo, as I noted upthread. The EIA also forecasts costs of wind, at $86.6/MWh to be lower than nuclear costs.

    But EIA assumptions on renewables are optimistic, particularly on capacity factors. EIA assumes an average capacity factor of 34 % for wind, for example. (The actual US CF was 32.2 percent in 2012, 5 percent lower.) In most parts of the country wind capacity factors are considerably lower. The EIA stats include regional variation in CFs, but their lowest modeled regional CF is 30 percent, way too high. 2012 CFs for California was 27 %, Washington 28.5 % and Oregon 26 %. Pennsylvania had 25.1 %, New York 23.6 % and Tenessee 18.7 %. If you assume California’s 27 percent CF, onshore wind costs rise to $109.5/MWh, slightly above average nuclear. Tenessee’s 18.7 % CF implies wind costs of $157.54/MWh, much higher than high-case nuclear LCOE’s of $115.3/MWh.

    What this means is that there are many places in the US where nuclear will be cheaper than onshore wind. In China, the point of contention, average onshore wind CFs are 22 %, and in Germany about 17 %, so wind is more expensive than nuclear in those places if you generalize from the EIA data. Wind LCOEs may conceivably be cheaper in places with great resources like the US Great Plains and Australia, but why impose that model on regions where poor resources make it uneconomical?

    EIA’s guesstimate of solar PV CF at 25 % is also way too high, appropriate only for the high desert, and doubtful even there. It’s much lower in most states of the union. In China it’s 14-15 %, in Germany about 10 %. So EIA’s estimate of solar PV LCOEs, already considerably higher than nuclear’s, are unrealistically low and will be much higher still almost everywhere in the world.

    All EIA’s CF factors are for low penetrations of renewables. As penetrations rise, poorer wind and solar sites will be developed and curtailment will start to erode wind and solar production, so wind and solar CFs will fall considerably and LCOEs rise.

    EIA also doesn’t count the extra system costs of intermittent wind and solar. Their transmission investment costs are only for the hook-up to the grid (you can tell because they vary as the simple inverse of the capacity factor.) They do not count the costs of extra long-distance high-voltage transmission, which will be much greater with intermittents than with nuclear that plugs right into existing well-developed grids. EIA also doesn’t count the cost of backing up wind and solar when they collapse over huge geographical areas for days on end; extra dispatchable capacity equal to the entire effective generating capacity of the intermittents must be maintained, at high cost and with ongoing massive carbon emissions.

    –“All renewables are already a lot safer for the environment than coal or nuclear”
    False, Ike. Every large hydro dams drowns hundreds of square miles. Biomass is much worse. Renewables plans envision harvesting millions of square miles of forest and farmland for wood and crops to burn. That will ravage wildlife habitat and crowd out farming, thus driving up food prices and imposing more hunger, disease and death in the developing world. Biomass, which is a pillar of renewables plans, is an environmental catastrophe—much worse for people and the planet than nuclear could ever be.

  254. –Peak uranium, Ikonoclast? Green alarmists have been promising us for many decades that uranium was about to run out. But their promises never came true; in fact, uranium reserves have only gotten more abundant.

    Reserves are calculated by what’s profitable to mine; when the price of uranium climbs, mining and prospecting get more profitable and reserves increase. At a price of $260 per kg, uranium reserves would be about about 7 million tons, up 30 percent from 5 years ago. (Pretty pricey, but uranium is such a small component of nuclear costs that it would have a negligible effect on costs.) And there are undoubtedly huge undiscovered deposits in the regions of the earth—seafloor deposits, deep deposits—that have never been prospected because uranium is cheap. More billions of tons are available from seawater extraction, now estimated to cost about $2-300 per kg.

    There’s not much prospecting these days because uranium is dirt cheap. The current spot price is about $36 per kg—that’s the same as it was back in 1980, in nominal dollars; in constant dollars it’s drastically cheaper than it was 35 years ago.

    So the Green promises about peak uranium just can’t be trusted. Uranium is getting cheaper and reserves are increasing all the time.

  255. I have a question some of the nuclear buffs on this thread may be able to help me with: Why haven’t the CANDU-style heavy water reactors entered into more widespread use? They seem (to my layman’s mind) to offer some distinct advantages over light water reactor designs – particularly the ability to utilise non-enriched uranium. So what holds them back in comparison to light water designs? Is it economics, or some engineering drawback?

  256. Tim Macknay :
    I have a question some of the nuclear buffs on this thread may be able to help me with: Why haven’t the CANDU-style heavy water reactors entered into more widespread use? They seem (to my layman’s mind) to offer some distinct advantages over light water reactor designs – particularly the ability to utilise non-enriched uranium. So what holds them back in comparison to light water designs? Is it economics, or some engineering drawback?

    I have looked into this. Because that design has a decades long track record of proven success, it struck me that any problems are likely to be political (including any difficulty in getting the Canadians to transfer their hard won expertise to others they fear might use it to proliferate). There is one other possibility: the heavy water presents a sizeable capital cost, and would present a sizeable delay in sourcing it locally if it could not readily be bought (however, it also struck me that it may be possible to vary the design to use an alternative moderator at a small price in efficiency, e.g. supercritical carbon dioxide laced with carbon monoxide or carbon monoxide fluidised sugar charcoal powder, perhaps transitionally before switching to a heavy water moderator – but those lead the way to yet another approach, homogeneous reactors).

    CANDU reactors do offer another advantage, which hasn’t yet been tried out on a production scale: by cutting the uranium they use with thorium, particularly if the design is an enriched uranium variant, enough breeding occurs to extend the fuel’s life (but, as others have pointed out, uranium supplies aren’t currently a serious constraint; it would really only help the variants that are optimised for enriched uranium, as the supply of that is a constraint).

  257. Heavy water CANDUs can not only use thorium and low enriched uranium but I understand they load follow better as well ie don’t mind operating on half throttle then dialling up when needed. For some reason even the Canadians sometimes prefer other reactors I suspect because of high capex. Outside China an AP 1000 light water reactor will cost perhaps $5 a watt but the CANDU I think is nearer $10 including heavy water procurement. An outstanding achievement helped by CANDU is the province of Ontario phasing out coal something others talk about but never achieve.

  258. Chris O’Neill, I need to appologise again. I was walking to the supermarket when I realized I’d actually made my mistake when I checked my figures and my original result should be correct. So using the values I gave earlier, someone with a 5% discount rate should be able to make money with $600 a kilowatt-hour home energy storage. I apologise for my confusion.

  259. @Ronald Brak

    Seriously Ronald … You’re a lovely chap but perhaps you ought to have dipped out of this topic a couple of apologies ago …

    I’m half expecting you to re-correct this correction in a few minutes.

    Maybe you just stipulate that in the long run you think it’s worth it and that people regularly buy stuff that doesn’t really meet good NPV tests because they can’t do the calculations or simply because they like the idea.

    Years ago, over a couple of years I spent about $8000 getting orthodontic work done on my second son. I wasn’t and couldn’t be sure at the outset of the out of pocket expenses nor whether the results would be perfect as this depended on me successfully getting him to wear various devices while not eating consistently and of course even if it turned out perfectly there was no guarantee he wouldn’t walk into a pub and become the victim of some thug who’d knock out those expensive teeth. I had no idea how much his quality of life would be improved and still don’t now.

    He was my son, and that was enough.

    If you like the idea of a cleaner planet perhaps you will recycle and have solar panels and use tank water and avoid out of season fruits and buy organic and use LEDs in your home even if none of it is as good in ROI terms as going long on pork futures in the commodity market.

    Yes you probably can’t ignore basic financial questions. It’s still much too expensive for hubby to replace the Fiesta with a Nissan Leaf even if it does feel very warm inner glow. But it’s not all about the economics, and for most people, perhaps not even mostly.

  260. Scotland last year provided 40% of its electricity from renewables and is on track for 100% by 2020, including phasing out all nuclear.

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/going-green-record-40-of-scotlands-electricity-is-coming-from-renewables.1387457034

    If they can do it, we certainly can.

    I wish the nuclear lobby in Australia would just give up. No matter how genuine some of you on this site may be, the dispute muddies the waters and prevents us from getting on with the real tasks, which are
    Reduce consumption
    Move to 100% renewable.

    Please pro nuclear people, just give up. I know the saying “it’s time to move on” can be offensive in some circumstances, but in this case I think it’s certainly appropriate. These disputes just split the anti fossil fuel lobby, and meanwhile Big Coal keeps stuffing up the planet. I urge everyone to support the Leard Blockade instead (check out #Leardblockade for updates if you are on twitter).

  261. @Val
    Why not make Iceland our shining example? 100% of their electricity comes from renewable sources. Mind you petrol is the equivalent of $2.40 a litre.

    Here’s a novel thought which I suspect you will quickly dismiss. Suppose it was not practically possible for Australia to have more than 20% renewable energy including transport. By pushing impractically high renewable penetration you are in reality prolonging the reign of coal. Here’s 100% again… I’m 100% certain you’ll reject that idea.

  262. @Hermit
    Dear Hermit

    I don’t own a car, and my electricity usage (even before I had solar panels installed recently) was less than half that of a comparable average Victorian household. So I feel 99% confident you are talking to wrong straw woman here!

    Generally I try to practise what I preach, and I also think that if I can do it, so can other people.

    (Admission in the interests of transparency – I have a daughter living in Germany so I do unfortunately travel by air more than I would like to. Hopefully she will be coming home this year, but it’s an example of a major social issue that is hard to address, unlike reducing car travel and lowering electricity consumption, which are pretty low hanging fruit really, if we really made the effort).

  263. @Hermit
    btw the reason I’m only 99% confident is that I’m a public health researcher and we’re not allowed to be 100% confident of anything!

    anyway nice as it is chatting, I’d better do some work.

    (Stop pushing nuclear! I didn’t put that in caps because it’s rude, but you are free to imagine it that way.)

  264. @Will Boisvert

    I always feel I have entered a parallel universe when I am told non-renewable reserves “only get more abundant” the more they are used. This absurd premise states that “recoverable reserves” increase as one uses a resource. This adverts to the fallacy that redefining “recoverable reserves” actually increases recoverable reserves. Thus reserves of lower concentration and more difficult recovery are redefined as recoverable reserves. This is done ultimately in defiance of the laws of physics and thermodynamics. Below a certain concentration all reserves are essentially non-recoverable. If they are energy reserves they become an energy sink i.e. it takes more energy to recover them than they produce when utilised. If they are mineral reserves they become prohibitively expensive to recover primarily in energy terms and secondarily in financial terms.

    There is a great difference between business analyses of recoverable reserves and scientific (physical-thermodynamic analyses) of recoverable reserves. It is clear you are using business anlayses as authoritative. Business analyses are based on orthodox business management principles and orthodox economic principles. These principles assume that financial analysis is the most fundamental analysis which can be applied to resources and resource recovery. This is false. The most fundamental analysis which can be applied is physical quantitative analysis and the laws of thermodynamics. Attempts to run resource recovery in a manner which ignores physical laws will rapidly collapse.

    The fact that you keep repeating the fallacy about getting uranium from seawater simply demonstrates to me that you have no idea about energy costs (energy return on energy input). Recovering uranium from sea water (where it exists at 3 part per billion) is impractical and an energy loss making enterprise.

    Nuclear energy proponents (outside the military-industrial establishment with their own agenda) are almost invariably physics illiterates.

  265. The fact that you keep repeating the fallacy about getting uranium from seawater simply demonstrates to me that you have no idea about energy costs (energy return on energy input). Recovering uranium from sea water (where it exists at 3 part per billion) is impractical and an energy loss making enterprise.

    Nuclear energy proponents (outside the military-industrial establishment with their own agenda) are almost invariably physics illiterates.

    I’m not sure that’s entirely fair, Ikon. Uranium extraction from seawater certainly has immense practical challenges, and may not be feasible, but it’s not at all clear that it’s an energy loss-making enterprise. Ugo Bardi, for example, estimated that it has an EROEI of 2.5, which is low, but positive. He concluded that it probably wasn’t feasible, but did acknowledge that the figures were quite speculative, and that there was scope to improve the efficiency of the process.

  266. @Val

    service charge $1.15 a day

    Wow, that’s huge service charge. Mine’s 73c a day but I haven’t tried to get a better deal again.

    av use about 2 kWh per day for nine months of year

    There’s a big incentive for low users to go off the grid at that rate.

    The problem with going off grid is that your solar cells will have to provide enough energy through the winter so your solar power station will not be cheap for your average energy usage. Bang goes your incentive.

  267. @Ikonoclast

    24/7 power availability is easily achieveable

    replacing stationary energy is not our real big problem

    It’s so easy it will be 100% renewable any day now.

  268. @Chris O’Neill
    I don’t think you can be right Chris. At #5 you said

    In any case the most optimistic figures I’ve seen, using the price of cheap Li-ion batteries and the performance of the best Li-ion batteries, yields a battery cost of at least 50c/kWh delivered.

    And I said that taking the service charge into account (Origin Energy) I appear to be paying about 80c per kWh delivered for most of the year. Actually I have now done the calculation for the whole year and it comes to (av 3.3 kWh day x usage charge 24c + daily service charge $1.15/3.3) 58.8c per kWh delivered.

    So by your calculations it would be cheaper for me to go off the grid. Of course this is all theoretical now because I have solar which changes all the price structure, but as a quick guesstimate, the most FIT I’m likely to get most of the year is about 50c per day (leaving aside winter because that’s completely different) so I’d still be paying Origin over 50c per day even though I’d be using less than 1 kWh from them. Probably have to go away and recalculate all this, but it still looks as if it would be cheaper to go off grid, if your calculation of 50c per kWh from battery is right.

  269. Val, if you want to go off grid now, you’ll probably find the best overall deal available to you involves some battery chemistry other than lithium, such as iron-nickle. These other chemistries won’t be maintenance free but for people off grid that’s generally a minor concern. But please don’t go off grid. The rest of the world needs your surplus solar electricity. Each kilowatt-hour of solar generated electricity you send out into the grid is a kilowatt-hour of electricity that’s not generated from coal or gas. (More than a kilowatt-hour actually, due to the lack of transmission losses.)

  270. I don’t want to take my solar power off-grid but I would ideally like to have battery back-up so I could have power during blackouts. Currently, even a daytime blackout means no power as my solar set-up switches off to protect people working on the grid. It’s called “anti-islanding” meaning they don’t want solar generating “islands” electrifying a blacked-out grid and electrocuting workers. The workers should be able to assume the grid is out until they restore power. Clearly solar power alone also cannot meet a household’s fluctuating demands when combined with the intermittency of solar itself.

    Thus the ideal set-up (excluding capital cost issues) would be to have a grid connection, power feed to and power take from the grid, combined with a battery back-up system for blackouts. I suspect power flow control issues would be quite complex. Given that I get a high solar feed in tarriff, my system would logically feed all excess solar power to gridand the batteries would be charged / re-charged from the grid at a cheaper rate. In daylight hours, a smart system would feed power from my batteries to the house whilst all solar power would go to the grid to gain the high feed-in tariff. My battery system would then re-charge at night.

    A blackout at or after dusk on this set-up could encounter depleted battery banks. Therefore the control system would have to place a limit on discharging batteries by day such that some minimum of energy was left for a blacked-out night. This energy should be able to run a fridge, a few lights and maybe a computer or TV for about 6 to 8 hours. Clearly one would still have scale back electricity use during the blackout. Most days would be sunny enough to begin recharging the battery bank and to continue the above level of use safely. Hot water would continue to come from the solar hot water heater.

    To my mind this would be an ideal set-up provided it is technically feasible and that the capital costs are not excessive. Currently, blackouts are rare enough that the capital costs seem unjustified. If we enter an era where brownouts are common this might change one’s assessment.

  271. Ikonoclast, given concerns you’ve mentioned about the future, you may want to consider investing in iron-nickel batteries as they can keep operating with marginal deterioration for over 30 years. Once you’ve got them you could purchase extra solar panels to charge them instead of running them off your current set which is locked into a high feed in tariff arrangement. This means no feed in tariff for any extra electricity produced by your new panels but that’s not really a problem given the low cost of solar these days and the high cost of grid electricity. And if you really want to be sure of having electricity you could purchase a very small generator. It would only need to be small as you could use it to charge your batteries rather than run appliences directly.

    Another thing you could do is install “anti-islanding protection” or whatever it is called which will let you use electricity from your rooftop solar during a blackout. But from a purely dollars and cents point of view it may be best to wait until your high feed in tariff is over and then see what the best options available to you then are.

  272. If you live in the suburbs whatever you do don’t get a diesel backup generator. Sure hospitals have them to use for half an hour a year. Even people with jet skis will think it’s too much.

  273. @Ronald Brak
    Good point Ronald. Actually going off the grid is more of a theoretical question for me at present, mainly because I’m so fed up with my energy provider (origin) – they are not only paying me 8c for my solar and charging others 24c for it, but they are also lobbying to get rid of the RET.

    I can just imagine all these fat cat execs on $1/2 million (and more) per annum, sitting round complaining about how the renewables are messing up their business model. Overpaid dinosaurs.

  274. @Val

    58.8c per kWh delivered.
    So by your calculations it would be cheaper for me to go off the grid.

    Well, no. I said it would be at least 50c for the battery + 9c for the net cost of lost feed-in plus various other costs that have been ignored.

    And 50c/kWh for the battery cost is also based on the optimistic assumption that the battery is fully utilized every day of the year for its entire life. Getting close to that is possible if you only rely on the battery for part of your non-solar cell power so that it can be fully utilized but if you are off-grid then your battery will not be fully utilized if it’s big enough to avoid the risk of running flat.

    So 50c/kWh is a very optimistic approximation.

  275. @Chris O’Neill
    Yeah I already acknowledged that having solar would change the calculations. But I think the broader point – in the context of this thread – is that when you take into account the cost of being on the grid (service charge) for low use householders the cost of renewable + battery is already similar to the cost of being on the grid.

    I think we also need to factor in here that in our current grid system, low users subsidise high users, which is not equitable, but also very counter-productive from a sustainability point of view.

    My preferred solution would be localism – local renewable systems shared amongst say a few hundreds/thousands of households, businesses etc in a geographical area (not being a specialist I don’t really know the best figures) .

    Anyway again I argue we can shift to 100% renewable within a relatively short space if we really put our minds to it, and advocating for nuclear is at best a distraction.

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