Updated 13/10/2009, based on post comments. Bottom line: 2050 power demand will be ~10 TWe of electrical generating power — a 5-fold increase on today’s levels, requiring the construction of ~680 MWe per day from 2010 to 2050.
Before we look in detail at the various low-carbon energy technologies that may provide the means to move away from fossil fuels, it is worthwhile considering what our future energy targets are likely to be. That is, what are plausible energy demand scenarios?
In the developed world (US, Europe, Japan, Australia and so on), we’ve enjoyed a high standard of living, linked to a readily available supply of cheap energy, based mostly on fossil fuels. Indeed, it can be argued that this has encouraged energy profligacy, and we really could be more efficient in the mileage we get out of our cars, the power usage of our fridges, lights and electrical appliances, and in the design of our buildings to reduce demands for heating and cooling. There is clearly room for improvement, and sensible energy efficiency measures should be actively pursued. More on that in later posts.
In the bigger, global picture, however, there is no realistic prospect that we can use less energy in the future. There are three obvious reasons for this.
1) Most of the world’s population – collectively, the developing world – is extremely energy poor. Over a third of all humanity, some 2.5 billion people, have no access to electricity whatsoever. For those that do, their long-term aspirations for energy growth, to achieve something equating that used today by the developed world, is a powerful motivation for development. For a nation like India, with over 1 billion people, that would mean a twenty-fold increase in per capita energy use.
2) As the oil runs out, we need to replace it if we are to keep our vehicles going. Oil is both a convenient energy carrier, and an energy source (we ‘mine’ it). In the future, we’ll have to create our new energy carriers, be they chemical batteries or oil-substitutes like methanol or hydrogen. On a grand scale, that’s going to take a lot of extra electrical energy! This counts for all countries.
3) With a growing human population (which we hope will stabilise by mid-century at less than 10 billion) and the burgeoning impacts of climate change and other forms of environmental damage, there will be escalating future demands for clean water (at least in part supplied artificially, through desalination and waste water treatment), more intensive agriculture which is not based on ongoing displacement of natural landscapes like rainforests, and perhaps, direct geo-engineering to cool the planet, which might be needed if global warming proceeds at the upper end of current forecasts.
In short, the energy problem is going to get larger, not smaller, at least for the foreseeable future. To project just how much energy will be needed is a widely debated topic. I cannot possibly provide you with “the answer”, so what I shall instead do is provide “my best guess”, for situation in the year 2050 — about four decades from now. Realistic or not (that’s a judgement call), I’ll use this as a reference scenario for later TCASE posts (although I may modify it, depending on what comments I get in this thread). For definitions of power and energy, please read my energy primer (TCASE 2).
At present, the primary world energy demand is very roughly 500 exajoules (EJ). Most of that is thermal energy, with electricity generation equivalent to a mere 60 EJ. To put that in terms of power, 1 gigawatt (GW) = 0.000000001 EJ/s, so a 1 GW nuclear power station, running at 90% capacity factor, yields 0.03 EJ/year. As such, to meet today’s world electricity demand requires 60/0.03 = 2,000 GWe — the equivalent of 1,750 of the new AP1000 reactors. Note that there is currently about 4,000 GWe of installed electrical generation capacity, but the global average capacity factor is ~50%.
Next, consider this. The 2009 human population size is 6.8 billion, so per capita primary energy use = 0.0000000735 EJ (for Australia, it is 5.77 EJ/21 million = 0.000000274 EJ per person, or 3.7 times the global average). I assume that by 2050, the global population will have stabilised at 9 billion (i.e., 1/3 larger than today).
The Energy Information Agency’s International Energy Outlook 2009 projects total world consumption of marketed energy to increase by 44 percent from 2006 to 2030, or 1.5% per year, with the largest projected increase in energy demand coming from non-OECD economies, as expected. If this continues, by 2050 demand would have grown by 1.015^41 = 1.864 or 86.4%. (See figure on the left. Note that 1 EJ is fairly close to 1 quadrillion British thermal units [BTU], or ‘quads’ — this being the unit being expressed in the figure, which is another commonly used unit for large-scale energy. Another you may hear is a cubic mile of oil = 160 EJ.)
This gives a 2050 projected demand of 930 EJ, but given the gross uncertainties involved in any such prognostication, I’m going to happily round this to 1000 EJ, or a doubling of today’s demand. This gives 0.000000111 EJ/person. Very clearly, this assumes that the developed world still hasn’t caught up to today’s living (energy) standards of the developed world, but Australia is pretty energy profligate. By comparison the French have a per capita use in 2002 of 0.00000019 EJ per person, which is a bit closer to the global 2050 figure). Still, there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a long road to global energy equality.
In 2050, my decarbonised world must be close to 100% electrical, because human activity should be emitting very little carbon dioxide. (I count, in my ‘electrical-powered definition’, any synthetic process to manufacture fuels, and also processes like flash distillation for desalination which make use of waste heat resulting from electrical generation. There will also be some contribution of biofuels.) So, now, let’s say that by 2050 we have managed to achieve the following:
a) Transition to an all-electric society with nuclear power meeting the greater fraction of our demand;
b) Use nuclear power and renewables to create our energy carriers (e.g. batteries, hydrogen, ammonia, boron, whatever), and also use waste heat from thermal reactors for desalination; and
c) Increased technological development means that we get 30% more efficient at using energy to do work (e.g. cumulative improvements in electrical appliances, but excluding transport, see below) — that’s an 8% improvement per decade (one imagines that in reality, the biggest efficiency gains will come in the next two decades, with diminishing returns thereafter).
Now some additional calculations. Current thermal energy derived from coal = 140 EJ, oil = 190 EJ, natural gas = 120 EJ, nuclear = 30 EJ, other (biomass, solar etc.) = 5 EJ, and then hydropower provides an additional 5 EJ of direct electrical production. To derive the expected electrical power requirement in 2050, I assume an 87% increase in energy demand, a 30% improvement due to general energy efficiency and a 75% improvement due to the switch from oil to electric vehicles. I also assume that 60% of the thermal energy from coal, nuclear and other thermal-to-electric is dispersed in producing electricity. For natural gas, I assume that 1/3 is currently used to produce electricity and 2/3 is used directly for heating, cooking etc.
On this basis, the world in 2050 would demand 700 EJ in thermal energy, which translates to 290 EJ of electrical energy (which I round up to 300 EJ). This would require 300/0.03 = 10,000 GWe of generating capacity. As you can see, under some pretty heroic assumptions, we are likely to need a 5-fold increase in electricity generating capacity by 2050. If we assume all existing power plants (fossil, nuclear and renewable) will be retired by 2050, then we have to build 10,000/(365*40) ~= 680 MWe every day for the next 40 years (2010 to 2050), to meet this challenge. (By the way, the scale of the problem doesn’t diminish if you favour renewables or ‘clean’ fossil fuels over nuclear — indeed, it gets substantially larger due to overbuilding required for technosolar and the efficiency losses involved in carbon-capture-and-storage [CCS]).
By the year 2100, we may want double this figure again — to 1,400 EJ of thermal power or 20 TWe of electricity generating capacity — which would give the global population of 7 billion (let’s assume we stablise our numbers due to improved standards of living and education levels, and then gradually decline), a per capita energy use of a little less than the French enjoy today. This would allow for global economic growth (in energy terms) over the next 91 years of a few percent per annum, and agrees fairly well with the World Energy Council’s scenario A for 2100.
102 replies on “TCASE 3: The energy demand equation to 2050”
In my 2050 decarbonized world, we’re 100 percent non-fossil-fuelled, but not necessarily all electrical. Gigawatt-year-per-year solar dishes, if some way is found to build them, and nuclear reactors produce high-grade heat, and this can be converted mostly to low-grade heat, but substantially converted either to electricity or to fuel-plus-oxygen.
Electricity isn’t always the most useful form of energy, after all. Liquid hydrocarbon plus liquid oxygen did the big initial lift to get, IIRC, 27 men to and from the moon, and nuclear plants can make much more oxygen and liquid hydrocarbon than can ever be mined from the air and earth.
(How fire can be domesticated)
My only disagreement is that it has to be totally decarbonized, totally non-fossil fuel world by 2050.
First, we all know that’s not going to happen. Nor is that necessary. We want to *head* in that direction but we don’t have to be there. There will always be some fossil fuel production and usage. It’s never going away for ever.
Secondly, if Gen IV takes off, we can rapidly, but not THAT rapidly, head toward synthetic fuel production from atmospheric CO2.
Thirdly, clearly, the book is still out on electrical vs liquid fuel production. It’s my big stumbling block because battery storage just isn’t there yet and neither is Gen IV in terms of deployment. Which one will prevail? I don’t really know. I’m rooting for battery storage, personally, but I’ll take either one.
The Energy Tribune… a big fossil fuel advocacy site, notes that China leads the way in synthetic Methanol production and it is widely used there. Unfortunately this is synthesized from *coal* using *coal* as a energy source. Bummer. Their motivation in this case is energy security not lower CO2. But it’s interesting nevertheless.
I see little evidence that liquid fuels will be replaced in time. Currently the world uses 85 million barrels a day of liquid fuels (petroleum, condensate, tar sands, biofuels) with a barrel ~159L. By 2020 some believe production could be as low as 60 mbpd. That may cause an economic contraction that will also reduce the need for coal. The rich will experience a fall in living standards while the poor stay poor.
To maintain activity level electric transport and alternative fuels will need to grow strongly every year. That is, when conventional fuel is 60m barrels the alternatives will need to be 25m barrels equivalent. None of the contenders like plug-in cars and next generation biofuels are showing that kind of growth.
I question whether it is now even politically possible to do that since the required investment will take money away from retail consumption, the military and so on. The public mindset is not ready to be challenged with ideas like a quadrupling of the number of reactors. It seems both the economy and the climate will have to deteriorate a while longer.
According to the EIA, total installed electrical generation capacity is 4000 GW (http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/ieoecg.html)
Of course, the present capacity doesn’t matter if you assume that ALL current capacity has to be replaced.
I think that eventually you’re going to have to come to the same conclusions as David MacKay in his (UK-centric) report, that the only viable solution is a significant reduction in energy consumption, especially by the ‘profligate’ parts of the world’s population.
I most strongly disagree with you. Not all “4,000 GWs” has to be replaced at once. We are really talking almost a century.
#Dams are good for 100 years generally and probably a lot more.
#Nuclear power plants are generally good, for the current fleet, for 50 to 60 years and maybe longer in some cases.
#Newer nuclear power plants are all being built with 60 to 80 year lifespans.
#Coal plants are just plain stupid in how long they can last with lots of maintenance.
Plus, generation IV reactors and building them assembly line/modularity should present no insurmountable challenge.
The option of “using less” is simply not an option and no nation on Earth is taking that POV. In fact, you will find among us Generation IV supporters, to be amazingly shameless optimists in providing *ever increasing amounts of energy per capita* for as long, and as much as it takes to lift accomplish two related goals:
1. Eliminate carbon as a source of energy and
2. Eliminate underdevelopment and poverty.
#1, GLRC: right, I was counting any synthetic process to manufacture an energy carrier (boron, hydrogen, whatever) using an electrical energy source as part of my ‘all electric’ wrapper, but if you use waste heat, then technically it’s just thermal energy.
#2, #3: Same deal as #1, except I should have said “no net carbon”. I’m certain we’ll be using biofuels for some purposes and/or synthetic hydrocarbons.
#4: Good point, but 2000 GWe is the average output, with 4000 GWe being the peak capacity. So, in effect, the world’s generation system is run at an average 50% capacity factor. My scenario assumes a 40% increase in energy efficiency, most of which will happen in the developed world, but that this will be overcome by growth in demand.
#5: To be fair to William, I did say: “If we assume all existing power plants (fossil, nuclear and renewable) will be retired by 2050” so he was only responding to this. You’re right David, that not all installed capacity today will be replaced. Maybe 2/3 of it, which leaves the task of about 18,000 GWe, give or take a terawatt, to be built by 2050. So the task is pretty much unchanged by these details…
I think I might have to modify the above to take account of these valid gripes :)
We don’t need to replace the energy content of FF with a similar energy content of electricity, case in point, only about a third of the energy of coal is converted to electricity.
Petrol has about 30MJ/liter, but can be replaced by 2.5kWh in an electric vehicle(9MJ).
The scaling problem is reduced by building both nuclear and renewable(solar and wind) at maximum rate. This seems to be what China is doing, as they realize that they cannot build nuclear fast enough in next 10years to even keep up with increased electricity demand let alone replace present coal-fired( or should I say coal-fried)?
Neil, you raise an interesting point about coal. The 1/3 of energy content of coal is due to throwing away heat, and that will be case if the primary source of electricity I’m thinking of (nuclear fission) or thermal renewables like CSP (if they help) is used. But perhaps you’re right here — in which case the above calculation for what this means in terms of electricity needs a big revision (downwards!). Any other comments on this? It strikes me as a very important point (potentially).
The petrol to electric gains are built-in as part of my 40% gain in energy efficiency on total primary energy. That’s why I said: “Increased technological development means that we get 40% more efficient at using energy to do work (e.g. cumulative improvements in electrical appliances, by using battery electric vehicles, etc.)”
You’ve also nicely anticipated my next post, about required build rates. Diversity can help, sure, especially given that we cannot build Gen IVs fast enough without a huge addition of Gen IIIs for reasons of fissile loading — but that’s the topic of yet another post.
Neil, your description of the Chinese projects is very accurate. “everyihng” is their guiding concept.
On the assumption that they will be successful getting their first units on line in 2013 at cost and scheduling already alluded to here, you may be surprised at how fast they add to their projected 130 GWs/2030.
They have their own little-into-large multiplier factor going on as the develop their own components manufacturing and training faculties. The investment numbers are very high. It’s triangulated between Japan, China and Korea, I should add, since this is where most of the component manufacturing is occurring.
3 to 5 years is also the training regimen for operations, maintenance and construction skilled trades to journey-level from apprentice. In effect, I wouldn’t count out an exponential increase in Chinese nuclear. We can revisit this question again in about 3 years.
The gain in moving from oil to electricity is going to account for about 400% gain in efficiency if we compare todays fuel efficiency fleet. I was comparing a Prius or Volt running on petrol or electricity, these are already 100% more efficient than average vehicles.
In addition losses of energy during oil refining not considered.
The projected 130GW of nuclear in China by 2030 is only going to make a small contribution to the projected >800GW of new demand. It will be interesting to see if nuclear additions ever catch up to additional solar and wind in any year before 2030.
Neil, #10, even so, we need to throw away 2/3 of the thermal heat when creating the electricity, account for transmission losses etc. But I’m thinking how I might better incorporate your important points in the above.
While it might be that electric drive systems for transport are more efficient the limitations are when long range on-board ‘fuel’ or high power to weight are required. That applies equally well to combine harvesters on the WA wheatbelt as it does to aircraft. I fear with plug-in cars that people will find them too expensive as well as having limited all-electric range.
Therefore I suggest at best only x% of hydrocarbon fuels can be replaced by electricity. Nobody seems to have net energy data for hydrogenated synfuels like dimethyl ether so it is not clear to what extent electricity can be ‘bottled’ by that approach.
Best CCGTs are 60% efficient in converting heat to electricity; more typical installed base is 50% efficient.
Best coal burners are about 45% efficient at that; more typical installed base is much lower.
Neil, China will far out pace wind and solar in GWhrs. You should know this by now. They have to actually *tie* their wind into the grid, which it’s not, right now, first off. All their advances in wind, the real alternative energy, have the same issue as wind everywhere: capacity. I think honestly it’s too early to tell how well they will do. Their industry in this area is only now getting off the ground even though they’ve built a land of stranded wind. But I make no predictions yet, on that score.
First, I doubt we’ll seen an additional “800GWs”. I’ve seen different numbers on this as well, because it assumes uninterrupted growth, which I doubt they will have, and growth in areas that demand increases in power. I know other consultants, albeit all Western, who have doubts as well. The common number I’ve seen is 1,000 GWs more by 2050.
Secondly, unlike wind, Neil, for every nuke they build, it represents a coal burner not built. One for one as always. So I only hope that the 130 GWs by 2030 is a *low* estimate. If it’s not…then we are in trouble because they will never ramp wind and solar into base load for what is needed if they really need another 800GWs: they are screwed.
David B. Yes, that is accurate. Most CCGTs are not 60% however. Very few are. The only two I know of that are installed are two of GE H Frame units (a single shaft device where the gas turbine, steam turbine and generator are all on the same shaft, VERY cool), one in Wales and one in California someplace. 99% of those ordered are in the 44% to 50% range. Still very good, but not 60%.
David Walters (44) — Thanks. According to the GE site, they have installed the one in Wlaes, now two in Claifornia (side by side) and are doing the third in Japan right now (beside the first two and a number of older E & F units).
Ah…you went to the GE web site then? Thanks I haven’t visited them in over a year (I was researching who made the biggest commercial generator. Answer: Alstrom with a 1800MW unit).
I hadn’t realize the California unit was “units”. Interesting. These GTs (tons of GTs are going in throughout California) ought to drive up the price quite nicely for people like T. Boone Pickens who was complaining about the low price for gas (he wants to see “$9 Gas” again.
Anyway, that makes 4 H frames.
Jevons Paradox, refined and restated in the ’80’s as the ‘Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate‘ works against any major effort to reduce over all consumption of a fuel by increasing efficiency. The postulate states that “energy efficiency improvements that, on the broadest considerations, are economically justified at the microlevel, lead to higher levels of energy consumption at the macrolevel.
The most effective way to legislate fuel efficiency is to tax consumption in essence raising unit prices. The effect of higher energy prices, either through taxes or producer-induced shortages, initially reduces demand but in the longer term encourages greater energy efficiency. This efficiency response amounts to a partial accommodation of the price rise and thus the reduction in demand is blunted. The end result is a new balance between supply and demand at a higher level of supply and consumption than if there had been no efficiency response.
As counter intuitive as this is it has played out over and over in history, and is a well established phenomenon in ecconomics.
While reducing energy use appeals to some residual Calvinistic guilt that seems to be a part of Anglophone culture, in the long run it is in and of itself a dead end. Thus talk of ‘profligate’ consumption is counterproductive in the discussion of future energy demand
DV82XL — I suspect you are right, EE may slow growth in energy use, but not cause a reversal, even in the OECD. My scenario above with an 87% growth in primary energy use by 2050 includes higher growth rates in non-OECD countries compared to OECD, be all grow, even with efficiency gains.
A question for GRL Cowan as I muse further on the primary vs electrical energy replacement — what do you expect the conversion efficiency to be in the boron cycle for vehicular use? I’m thinking of the step from electricity for reduction, through to energy realised as work delivered to the wheels.
Neil, could you explain a little more about your anticipated 400% gain in going from the IC engine to a BEV? (also taking account of John’s point in #12 about battery weight). I know this has been discussed on previous threads (and will be the topic of further TCASE posts), but I just want to get the rough numbers correct here before I revise the above post.
@David Walters #5
I agree obviously many current installations have a long life still (I was implicating the OP).
As for reductions in energy usage and/or the applicability of Jevons paradox (#18) : the evidence is that current per capita energy usage / CO2 emissions in the likes of USA/Australia are quite excessive in comparison with (e.g.) Japan, France, Italy. What are they doing differently? Better public transport; smaller cars; nuclear electricity; and perhaps better insulation (and/or more modest expectations about heating and cooling).
William T @20 the U.S., Australia and Canada use more energy per capita because the distances we must travel are much greater than Japan, France,and Italy and our climates require more heating and cooling of our living spaces than those other countries.
To assign the difference in consumption to some difference in philosophy is simply wrong.
When it’s -20C out side my door, modest expectations about heating, means mere survival, comfort costs more.
William, I don’t disagree, a variety of European countries (not heavily nuclear and low carbon France, however) and the US could do a LOT better.
There are some real issues for the US that are not easily overcome, and that’s the car culture spawned by most Americans living in suburbs. The transportation aspect of US CO2 emissions is only topped, per-capita, by, I think, Australians. Basically we have the same problem Oz has but 20 times as big. Only 6% of Americans use public transportation and there is no way to make public transport more than, say, about 100% more efficient, that is reaching twice as many people. I don’t see a solution beyond EVs and, carbon-neutral liquid fuels.
Also, our summers are a lot worse than Europe’s, anywhere, including Spain and Italy. Thus air conditioning is a major cause of higher energy use. My view, of course, is that this can be solved by an huge increase in non-carbon generation.
I believe within a few years we will have to ration both liquid fuels and HVAC for the non-elderly in extreme weather. That is based on oil depletion rates referred to earlier and predictions of several hot years in the period 2010-2015. If fuel and low carbon electrical energy ever became abundant again perhaps levels could be restored.
Since I think demand management is easier to achieve near term than increased energy supply I could live with aspects of the Australian Greens Party variant on the ETS
It needs to include nuclear power and exclude feed-in tariffs.
John Newlands@23 – Demand management has never worked in a market economy except on a very limited short-term bases, and your premise about energy shortages simply not supported by fact,. The only thing that is in short supply is clean energy and we can have that with modular, centrality constructed nuclear reactors in almost no time if the gates where opened.
What will happen, in the absence of clean energy, is that carbon will continue to grow as the primary source of power, and any government that tries to stop it will find itself out of office. What you nit-wit Greens can’t seem to fathom is that the majority of the population does not want to follow you into a low energy lifestyle, and won’t tolerate being forced to.
The choice is nuclear vs. coal & gas. These is the only two routes the public will let us take.
John @ 23
At last a plus for being elderly:) You would be aware that some other health problems, not necessarily limited to the elderly, also require moderate temperature e.g. thyroid disease. The other group at risk of dying from heat stroke/dehydration are babies and infants, which means that families with such children would also be exempt. There are many such families, and many more who just miss out on whatever criteria are decided upon, thus the question of rationing becomes fraught. Far better, if we wish to avoid social animosity and disruption, to develop a nuclear power system which can provide the necessary electricity so there are no winners or losers.
The phrase “just thermal energy” obscures the distinction between high-grade thermal energy that can efficiently be converted into electricity or fuel, and waste heat, which cannot.
High-grade heat to drive energy, about ten percent; probably with little use of electricity. For each kilogram of air that is heated 1 K in the wake of a boron-burning vehicle, 9 kilogram-kelvins of heating will occur elsewhere in the system. If that seems like a lot of heat, there are two consolations.
First, for the mentioned world population of 9 billion, the planet’s thermal budget, in the EJ per person-year units you use above, is 0.00040. If we forbid ourselves to add more than one percent to that, more than 0.0000040 EJ per person-year, that’s still 55 times the 0.0000000735 you computed.
Second, although David Walters says gasoline will be used forever, it won’t. Even boron won’t be used forever. Starless, moonless, world-freezing night is scheduled, 10^(a reassuringly 20-ish number) years hence, to arrive, and once arrived, it will not be leaving. The sky will still be full of stars, but they will all be blacker and colder than a certain former pediatrician’s heart. So any surfeit of heat is strictly temporary!
(How fire can be domesticated)
Suppose all cost, political, bureaucratic and NIMBY/legal barriers to rapid nuclear deployment were removed, leaving only necessary safety issues, what constraints would remain from an engineering perspective? What would the timescale likely to be relative to Barry’s desired scenario?
I have gained the impression the IFRs could be quick to build (modular and low pressure) but that, if developed too fast, there would be insuffient material to fuel them. So we need Gen 3s as well. As far as I understand, these require high quality pressure vessels and these currently can only be constructed in limited facilities in limited numbers. Also, how long would it take to train adequate staff to build and run the systems and supervise their safety? Finally, the pyroprocessing for IFRs. Will this be a time constraint?
I am looking for a layman’s guide as to how serious the engineering constraints are likely to be if all other constraints were to be removed. Could Barry’s targets be met?
Douglas Wise #25,
I’ll jump in with a quick and incomplete reply.
Sixty-five years ago, in 1944, when there was a perceived need to act quickly, the USA built a 250 MW (thermal) nuclear reactor in 15 months. It was running in 15 months from the start of construction.
That reactor (Hanford B) ran for 24 years and its power was increased by a factor of 9 over those years (to 2250 MWt).
If we could do that 65 years ago, for a first of its kind technology, imagine what we could do now if we perceived the need to do so.
You also included the caveat
This is a really important issue. What do we mean by “necessary safety” I suspect if we mean anything more stringent that we require for other industrial plants then the current problems of bureaucracy, legal, NIMBY etc will continue indefinitely.
From my perspective, industrial nuclear accidents, even as bad as Chernobyl, are nowhere near as bad as chemical accidents, or for that matter, the normal operation of plants that release chemicals. From my perspective, chemical contamination is far worse than radioactive contamination. (see the two risk charts at https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/13/wind-and-carbon-emissions-peter-lang-responds/ )
“1.33 GWe every day for the next 41 years, to meet this challenge”
That would be the completion of more than 1.33 1GW AP1000 reactors (or equivalent of) every day through to 2050. My question is…is that technically possible?
I’d like to hear an engineer’s response to the possibility of such a feat.
I’m beginning to think Ted Trainer is right…only, a massive powerdown just isn’t going to happen.
“William T @20 the U.S., Australia and Canada use more energy per capita because the distances we must travel are much greater than Japan, France,and Italy and our climates require more heating and cooling of our living spaces than those other countries.”
I would question that.
You would have to differentiate between stationery energy and transport energy and with that end use e.g. does a greater proportion of Australia’s population actually drive their cars further than the same in France.
French urban areas can experience extremes like Australian urban areas but it may be that Australian housing is not designed for the environment. Look at all the McMansions without any shading…
I’m a bit suspicious of Jevons paradox and not just because its used by economists with their reliance on inductive reasoning. Yes, efficiencies will be eaten up in a situation of continued expansion but continued expansion is a philosophical outlook/decision in developed countries but people have only so much time in the day to do more things allowed by the liberated efficiencies.
People aren’t controlled by things like Jevons paradox unless you believe in a deterministic universe where the rules are set by economics……….
@29 Teekay, no, I don’t believe that building *LWRs* can be done at the rate of 365 per year. But I believe Generation IV reactors can if they are LFTRs (I can’t speak to the production of IFRs).
But again, I don’t believe we have to produce that many *by* some point like “2050”. We need to be headed in that direction, that’s all.
@26 G.R.L. Cowan,
“Forever” is the technical term for “A helluva lot more than ‘it all stops at peak oil'”.
Peak oil is just that. It means consumption goes higher than production and, as we’ve seen, is a *totally* relative term based on the ups and downs of economic growth, ergo bad economies equal lower consumption and the push the peak out to the right further.
I generally believe that peak oil is somewhat accurate but almost is useless in overall planning. When I say there will “always be oil” I mean that for the next 100 years or more, oil re-accumulation, new fields, etc are always coming into play. Will it be enough to avoid social chaos if we don’t do something about it? Absolutely not, but the idea that there will be no fossil fuel is simply ludicrous, especially if you include tar-sands/oil shale, smaller older wells and the fact that NEW fields are being discovered. That it might cost $500/bbl is hardly relevant to the existence of the oil. In fact, the higher the price means more prospecting.
Secondly, by 2050, it’s *highly* likely we will have all sorts of commercial quantity syn fuels and bio fuels available that makes the decling in oil production less problematical. I’m simply not a doomer on this question like most Peak Oilers are.
Okay, this is the value of ‘peer review’ and why I love this blog. Neil #7,10 pointed out something that should have been obvious to me, but made a big difference to the above calculations. Because a lot of the primary thermal energy the world uses is ‘thrown away’, the 60 EJ of electrical energy the work currently uses is a decent component of the total thermal EJ. In addition, there should be significant savings in moving from the oil-driven ICE to BEVs. We will need to use electrical heat pumps or CHP plants to replace natural gas. I’ve tried now, with broad brush strokes, to better represent that. It makes quite a difference.
The above has been added to the post (and some things amended):
Updated 13/10/2009, based on post comments. Bottom line: 2050 power demand will be ~10 TWe of electrical generating power — a 5-fold increase on today’s levels, requiring the construction of ~680 MWe per day from 2010 to 2050…
Now some additional calculations. Current thermal energy derived from coal = 140 EJ, oil = 190 EJ, natural gas = 120 EJ, nuclear = 30 EJ, other (biomass, solar etc.) = 5 EJ, and then hydropower provides an additional 5 EJ of direct electrical production. To derive the expected electrical power requirement in 2050, I assume an 87% increase in energy demand, a 30% improvement due to general energy efficiency and a 75% improvement due to the switch from oil to electric vehicles. I also assume that 60% of the thermal energy from coal, nuclear and other thermal-to-electric is thrown away in producing electricity. For natural gas, I assume that 1/3 is currently used to produce electricity and 2/3 is used directly for heating, cooking etc.
On this basis, the world in 2050 would demand 700 EJ in thermal energy, which translates to 290 EJ of electrical energy (which I round up to 300 EJ). This would require 300/0.03 = 10,000 GWe of generating capacity. As you can see, under some pretty heroic assumptions, we are likely to need a 5-fold increase in electricity generating capacity by 2050. If we assume all existing power plants (fossil, nuclear and renewable) will be retired by 2050, then we have to build 10,000/(365*40) ~= 680 MWe every day for the next 40 years (2010 to 2050), to meet this challenge…
If people still see problems (overlooking necessary large roundings — the above is only meant to be very approximate), please let me know.
TeeKay #29, the revised figure is 680 MWe per day. Still a large challenge, but achieveable, as I’ll detail in future posts in the TCASE series (heck, even 1.33 GWe was theoretically possible…)
Jeremy in 30 – refer to the works of Newman, P. and Kenworthy, J. regarding transport energy use vs urban density, and general urban sustainability indicators, as yes indeed Aussies and US folks certainly do drive their cars much further than the French.
OK Matt, accepted…….. but are people any happier because they drive their cars further……
Jeremy C @ 30 – There is no question that places like France have a more compact transportation profile than North America and Australia, but that is an historical accident, and converting our countries into something like France is just not practical, nor would it be something the masses would likely take if we tried.
The expense of converting would also be greater than just building more nuclear plants are well, so there is no real saving there ether,
As to Jevons Paradox, Greens like to point out its flaws the same way creationists like to hammer on the flaws of Darwin’s initial theories and ignore the fact that there has been 150 year of development and refinement in the field. Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate, is just that sort of refinement and it can be shown to hold true in all cases.
The ‘tighten our belts’ crowd doesn’t like this I know, but it is just the way things are and will continue to be so no matter how much it irritates the West’s vestigial Protestant ethic.
Sorry mate to believe that Jevons Paradox and its asscociate the Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate are laws is to believe there is no free will. I don’t subscribe to that.
You can give into it or you can decide not to………..
A couple more points, one of which, to take seriously, you will have to accept as an instance where a few, including me, are occasionally, wearily repeating sense while just about everyone else energetically and, in some instances, lucratively talks nonsense.
That is the energy requirement of CCS. It doesn’t take much. The same point is made in section C of MacKay’s chapter 31, “The last thing we should talk about”.
Since, compared to bolt-on or weld-on devices that attach to CO2-emitting machines, this takes less energy, since the CO2 is definitely down to stay, and since it does not require a whole new fleet of CCS-ready emitters to be built — all the existing ones are ready, just as they are — it is hard to see how both options can seriously be discussed, and, indeed, people who can get printed and broadcast seem to discuss only the nonsense option, as if the sense one were wholly unknown. Out in the Alberta tar patch, the Canadian government seems to intend to put a percent or two of its tar-derived income into actual nonsense hardware.
Again, the CO2, as alkaline earth carbonate, or as bicarbonate ion in the sea, is down, on or near the surface, to stay. All the to-and-froing about whether buried fluid CO2 will stay buried is wholly idle and stupid, therefore — except, somehow, it isn’t, because no-one gets called on it.
My second point is that heat engines don’t really throw heat away. They start with high-grade heat, whose highness of grade is because it is concentrated. It wants (so to speak) to disperse, and heat engine designers make it go through their hoops to do so. It goes through those hoops quickly, and — again, so to speak — with a will. The longer you have been paying attention to the fuel-cell car and battery car stories, the more elegant heat engines look.
(How fire can be domesticated)
Jeremy C @ 37 – Rubbish. Economic ‘rule’ of this type are observations of the behavior of large numbers of people, it has nothing to do with individual free will and is in fact a consequence of independent rational decisions made by free will actors. You can’t make it go away by hand-waving just because the majority of these free will actors make decisions that are different from you.
The point is that irregardless of what you do, or want this is how the bulk of the rest of the participants in the economy will act, but it does not force you to follow, making your contention that these theories violate free will devoid of logic.
DV82XL I think you are coming down on the side of what’s called neo liberal economics………. just one school of thought.
Jeremy C @ 40 – It has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with historical observation. The theory is not some sort of wistful thinking, nor is an attempt to enforce a particular discipline on the economy á la Chicago School, its just a reflection of the way thing have happened in the past.
It’s simple really, just provide counterexamples and a theory like this is invalidated.
A bonus of voluntary energy frugality is that the savings can be spent on other things. That can be basic items not living the high life. If you can learn to get by with 20% less kilowatt hours that will be handy when carbon taxes raise the cost back up again to what it used to be.
A question for the technotopians; what if modular IFRs don’t arrive til 2030? The period 2010-2030 will see severe oil depletion, massive population growth, dangerous weather, disrupted food production and erratic water supply. Learning to live with less could be a wise move.
John Newlands – people learn to live with less when they must. No one is ever happy about it, and thus there is pressure by the market to create more of what ever is in shortage. That’s how it works. We don’t need any self-appointed nannies telling us what to do here.
A more detailed explanation of oil fuel transport changing to electric;
In Australia passenger vehicle fleet average 8-9L/100km. Hybrids essentially double this (Prius 4-4.5L/100km) when in petrol mode.
PHEV would be expected to be in EV mode about 80% of time using 15kWh/100km(3.6×15= 48MJ). Allowing 5% for trnsmission losses this is about 50MJ/100km . One gallon(4.3?L) has 130MJ plus uses about 20MJ in refining and 10MJ in transportation and distribution or 160MJ( some of this is electrical energy up to 5kWh/gallon) There are also refining losses( petroleum coke).
HEV have lower fuel consumption becasue they have smaller engines and recover braking energy, so our fleet now uses 2gallons(320MJ)/100km that can be repalced by 16kWh or 51MJ energy.
PHEV are going to be higher cost and may involve more energy in construction but present vehicle construction accounts for 10-15% of life-time energy use so will recover this in 1-2 years use. The payback on fuel savings is fairly fast at prices today in Australia($1.20/L). As we have a decline in oil production those prices are going to rise rapidly, making PHEV or EV’s the only choice that most of us will be able to afford( many of us will only be able to afford a used vehicle as is the case with ICE vehicles, these will have lower range as batteries age but still will be better than paying $10/L for petrol).
The problem of extended range is only a problem when all vehicels are PHEV( ie replaced most of our present fleet) then we will need better batteries to have longer range EV or fast charging, or CNG/EV or other technologies to be ready when no oil is available.
John Newlands @ 42
“A question for the technotopians; what if modular IFRs don’t arrive til 2030?”
That’s where the synergy of Generation III (LWRs) and Generation IV (IFRs) comes in to play. Gen III offers a relatively short term solution – if the world got its act together today we could probably see a massive transition to nuclear power by 2020, albeit unlikely.
Gen IV offers the mid to long term solution, once established and proven to be economically sound.
The “severe oil depletion, massive population growth, dangerous weather, disrupted food production and erratic water supply” will be true regardless of whether we have IFRs tomorrow or by 2030. Having a substantial energy supply from Gen III in the shorter term would help to solve or alleviate many of these problems.
Neil, China will far out pace wind and solar in GWhrs. You should know this by now. They have to actually *tie* their wind into the grid, which it’s not, right now, first off.
I think China has completed one reactor(1GW?) in last 3 years,and has another 6-7GW? due to come on line by end of 2012.
In last 3 years >12GW of wind capacity(4GW average) has been built. Of course some of that 6GW built in last 12 months has not been connected that doesn’t mean it will never be connected or even remain unconnected in next 12 months.
All their advances in wind, the real alternative energy, have the same issue as wind everywhere: capacity
Not sure what you mean by this? China has 150GW of hydro capacity used at 33% capacity factor doesnt seem to be a problem, and should enable considerable wind capacity to be absorbed onto the grid. The cheapest storage is excess hydro capacity.
Thanks Neil for that explanation. I plan to do a post on this in the future, so we can discuss the detail further then, but as you see, I’ve allowed for a 4-fold improvement in my revised figures above.
Here’s something interesting — I’d read it a while back, but forgotten the numbers until now. Here is what Dan Meneley said in “Transition to Large Scale Nuclear Energy Supply”:
“Today’s worldwide fleet of nuclear plants comprises about 430 units that in total generate less than 400 Gwe. These plants are accommodated on more or less conventional sites. However, if plants with a projected total capacity of 5,000-10,000 Gwe are to be installed over the next decades the choice of plant sites will become a substantial problem. Very large sites (up to ~50 Gwe each) will be preferred. These sites would be large enough to sustain a broad array of technical expertise as well as fuel cycle support and security facilities. Comprehensive security systems would be a necessary and affordable feature. Recycling, waste management and disposal systems would be included. Secondary industries such as hydrogen production and synthesis of liquid transportation fuels could be established on the same site. Distribution of energy from such sites will require a large infrastructure – not unlike that surrounding large oil and gas production centers such as those in the Persian Gulf. Manufacture of satellite power systems10,10a also may be undertaken. These satellite systems can be considered as a further means of distributing potential nuclear energy from these large central sites.”
“World Nuclear System by 2100
It is possible to imagine a world energy supply system operating in about 100 years. That system could consist of 10,000 Gwe of generation and associated peripheral systems, located on 100-200 sites worldwide. Some of these sites might be dedicated to production of synthetic petroleum liquid and gas as well as a wide range of other industrial processes. At the low-temperature end of production cascades one might find food-related installations such as fertilizer production and fish farming. This network of large energy parks might be interspersed with smaller, independent installations using sealed “nuclear battery” power systems. Reference 10a outlines an extension of this concept.”
This matches with my projected figure in the above post.
David Walters (17) — Five H units installed:
2 Southern CA
One more under construction right now in Japan.
I obviously am in favor of rapidly building lots more to retire coal burners over the next decade (to the extent that Gen IIIs are not the better solution).
Like nuclear, they are generally being built for peaking power and intermediate load times, not for shutting down coal plants, although they could.
David, I love the technology, it’s amazinginly mature, cheap to build, fast to start up. But the problems will be HUGE if we continue building them even as we have now…(the F frame units are the ones we are building, obviously, by about 100 to 1 versus the H frame)…the price will be outrageous as gas prices will skyrocket. It will be like California was in 2000 but on a planetary scale.
David Walters (49) — Surely you meant “unlike nuclear”. At least in the USA, all nuclear generators run constantly, I have been told.
Well, we both agree that H Frames are a good idea. I don’t think the natgas supply would be a problem, since I’ve already speced out a biomethane, closed carbon loop, to run a CCGT 24/7. The price is probably competative with natgas at around $5 per trading unit. Maybe this means some tax incentive is required for the algae farm.
The land area required is considerable. I’m suggesting doing some gas repalcement for coal and some Gen III replacement for coal.
Or whatever else could replace coal.
Stop burning coal, please…
Neil, at #46,
I think China has completed one reactor(1GW?) in last 3 years,and has another 6-7GW? due to come on line by end of 2012.
In last 3 years >12GW of wind capacity(4GW average) has been built.
After having recently worked through Peter Lang’s analyses, this comparison of GW nuclear build to GW wind build does not strike me as an apples to apples comparison, if what we care about is coal plants retired or not built, or fossil fuels not burnt.
Of that 1 GW nuclear built in the last three years, how much coal or gas has that displaced? Near enough 1 GW. Of the 4GW wind power built, how much coal or gas has been displaced? Near enough 0 GW, if Peter’s analysis is correct.
2 VVERs came on line in 2007, per schedule. But what you have to look at are the plants under construction, about 16 are under construction right now, and, another 20 due to start this year through 2011, 2 years away. All are due to come on line 2013-2014. For a total 50 GWs take or add a few.
The bottom line is that as of now, they are on schedule, growing *exponentially* and will have scads of GWs on line by 2015. So nuclear, in China, is the technology to beat, as “50GWs” are 50 real GWs for 50GW years, plus or minus a few. Wind won’t come close, neither will solar.
But the reality is that there is no real competition given the different types of energy quality, or market, wind, solar and nuclear serves. The Chinese are rapidly incrasing their hydro as well, but no pump storage is being planned to soak up any storage needs for either wind or solar, at least not that I know of. So the 30% capacity for wind, 15% for solar, will be investing in sub-standard, or, should I say, sub-par, capacity.
@David Benson, no I actually meant nuclear as well. Nuclear, with the exception of China, is being used to provide baseload power, but not *for* phasing out coal. Only the province of Ontario has come up with a plan to phase out coal with nuclear. Building nuclear certainly mitigates the building a coal plant, MW per MW, for sure. But they are not being built to actually shut down a particular plant. We need to really expand it to do that.
@John, you write a confused statement on mitigation. As I explained above, generally nuclear doesn’t displace *existing* coal. That’s very true. But for each GW of nucelar built, it means a coal plant, likely, was NOT built so in fact 1GW of coal or, if used in the U.S, 1/2 GW of coal and 1/2 GW of natural gas.
You have to ask: “If the GW of load was going to be built with something other than nuclear what would it be built with?”. So…EVERY GW of nuclear displaces an equal or slightly higher amount of fossil from coming on line. Not to shabby.
Now…the oranges. Does 1 GW of wind power coming online equal a 1 GW of fossil not being built? No, in fact, just the opposite in fact…more fossil comes on line to back up the wind. And that is why I’m pro-nuclear and not pro-renewable.
David, you should re-read what John Morgan said. You are agreeing with him completely (or alternatively, he’s agreeing with you)!
@Prof. Barry Brook, re: thermal energy:
It goes both ways. For example, switching from natural gas* heating (e.g. domestic water, industrial) to electric (resistance) heating would increase primary energy demand. 1 J of natural gas (heat) would be replaced with 1 J electricity or ~3 J primary (nuclear) heat. The EV efficiency savings is at best some -50% for transport, but here we have a factor of 300% for heating, six times bigger!
*(They use other things in the developing world – wood? Kerosene?)
I don’t know how far heat pumps can go economically; I know they certainly will never work for high-temperature industrial heat (Carnot’s theorem). Replacing natural gas with electricity will necessarily demand a huge increase in primary energy. Perhaps you could build major industrial processes around nuclear reactors, to use their heat, but to what extent?
I’m just saying their are factors that push in the other direction as well, when phasing out fossil fuels; the sum isn’t straightforward. I’d give up entirely and stick to order-of-magnitude estimates. Plus there are even bigger uncertainties, like the increase in demand per capita (future technology?), and the industrialization of the third world (how fast?).
@Teekay, David Walters, re: 1 reactor/day
This is silly; of course the world can build 1 LWR per day. Consider that ~1% of the world’s population built ~4 reactors/year over a 10 year period (France, 1980’s). That’s per-capita the same rate as the world building 1 reactor per day.
Yes, David’s actually reiterating my point. Wind development might well be outstripping nuclear power development in China, but unless its displacing FF generation, it doesn’t matter.
I noticed Senior ALP Figure Bob Carr (former NSW Premier) talking positively about 4th Generation Nuclear as a viable solution and bagging coal on the ABC Midday News.
The logic of 4th Gen Nuclear is starting to get broader traction and media attention.
Does Australia have the capacity to co-develop this technology?
Do we have to wait for the US, China India etc to make it happen?
Geoffrey, I don’t think Australia will develop Gen IV until it has been demonstrated elsewhere, no. But we could be hot on the coattails, and it’s still not beyond the realm of possibility that our first reactor will be a Gen IV rather than Gen III.
The Age has a big review of nuclear power today:
An interesting quote (I wonder if they’ve been reading this blog):
“While no proposal to explore nuclear energy has been prepared or is under consideration for cabinet, senior Government figures are speculating about what Australia’s options might be if renewable energy technologies and carbon capture don’t deliver sufficient cuts in emissions and adequate energy supply.”
I) world economy is NOT equal to energy. Energy is required for economic growth, but is not the only economic engine.
II) oil is not providing us only fuel, but many other things…
III) can we maintain food production in oil daclining world?
IV) betting more energy will not solve deforestation, soil degradation, overfishing, deathzones and myriads of other problems…
Not sure about your point I.
GDP and Energy consumption are directly related (see this chart at Gapminder.org.) Press play to see the change over time, but notice that the relationship is maintained throughout.
many thanks, I have seen Gapminder several times, it is great source of information… I agree, that GDP and energy consumption are tightly correlated – but this correlation assumes I think also availability of other sources…
I think the graph above shows that up to now, most limiting to economic growth is energy. This may not hold true in coming decades… but I may be wrong,
I am interested in your comment:
I presume you are suggesting that in coming decades the limiting factor for economic growth may be something like shortage of fresh water, or adverse effects of climate change. Is this what you are getting at?
I was once told that everything we have is due to energy and human ingenuity (and capital). Capital meaning the planet’s non-renewable resources. This makes sense to me (although I am stepping way outside my area of expertise).
I’d like to test the concept. Before man started mining the planet, were there any other inputs other, than energy an ingenuity, needed to give him everything he possessed. An example would be his shelter. His shelter was built from rocks and sticks, which he required his energy to collect and errect and his inginuity to design. Is there anything missing?
If this statement is correct, then energy is a fundamental constraint to economic growth.
I suspect there will be some highly qualified people here that will tell me that I am out of me tree, get back in. However, this might be a good place to test out what responses come back.
“…something like shortage of fresh water, or adverse effects of climate change.” Exactly – and I would add also mainly deforestation and soil erosion. Can energy “per se” ensure us enough food? How long can deforestation and soil degradation continue?
And maybe the crucial point: Is not plenty of energy *source* of our environmental problems, rather than solution to them?
Lets make thought experiment. Lets assume, we have cheap and available energy ensured forever. What would happen to the rest of the planet?
Sine we are dealing with unlimited ‘ifs’., I’ll play.
With unlimited cheap energy for all on the planet, we’d have:
unlimited fresh water
unlimited health and education facilities
ability to reforest and reclaim the deserts
ability to feed the whole world from a small area of chicken houses and hydroponic factories
no need for wars.
everyone is happy
peace on Earth
Im tend to agree… but there is other part of the equation. I do not believe people are only rational creatures.
Your suggestions remind me “technology can save us” approach, and I think this is only partly right. Yes, we need technology, but technology per se will not bring (IMHO) sustainability. We have increasing amount of energy since the beginning of industrial revolution, and we are not approaching sustainability – but quite the opposite. I think technology is bringing us further, not closer to sustanability, but this is not fault of technology, but it is our misuse of this technology… but these are only my opinions ;-) I hope, I am wrong, but I fear, I am not… :-)
As an engineer if I had a buck for every time someone has told me, ‘that piece of technology will fix it’ I would’ve been able to finance George Bush’s election campaigns several times over.
Technological determinism……. a primitive thing.
If world ‘progress’ so far has been predicated on increased energy use the implications for the future are profound. An 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050 implies (absent CCS) fossil fuel reductions of ~2% a year. The Australian government thinks it is desirable to increase population by another 2% a year. Therefore we need to find around 4% more low carbon energy each year to maintain average consumption.
However crude oil has already peaked and it is thought coal will peak globally around 2030 based on 2007 production rates. Perhaps rigidities in the system mean that shortages of liquid fuel will also drag down coal consumption. In addition to the limiting factors mentioned in other comments there is also Peak Phosphorus. While increased energy might desalinate water and grow food in controlled conditions it won’t reverse the dispersal of some key nutrients. Therefore with or without Gen IV there are still other limits to global population, perhaps already exceeded.
Peter #64 – I think you’re forgetting something here – which is that the distribution of wealth/income/energy is highly skewed – always has been, and there’s no reason to suppose that it will ever be less highly skewed with more energy available – in fact it may even get worse. So even if the total available energy becomes effectively ‘infinite’, it is highly likely that most of this will end up being consumed by the top few percent of the population as at present, with the ‘long tail’ sharing out a (finite-sized) smaller amount. It only takes a few people taking ‘nearly infinite’ amounts of energy to use up most of the available ‘infinity’.
You just need to look at the last 100 years progress – the amount of energy (per person) used today is orders of magnitude greater than 100 years ago, but for the ‘bottom half’ of the world’s population there is probably no real increase at all. For the ‘top’ few percent the increase in energy consumption is many orders of magnitude – compare a ‘jet setting’ lifestyle today with its equivalent 100 years ago. If you had said in 1909 ‘what would the world be like with 100 times the energy availability per person?’ I am sure that you would have come up with some utopian ideal – the reality is rather different for most people on the planet today.
This relates back to the OP, where it is postulated that the ‘developing world’ can rise to the level of the ‘developed world’ if sufficient energy can be made available. Sadly, it is not a simple technological problem, but a political problem. And there is no simple political solution that can reduce the steepness of that global inequality curve
Alexander #65 said:
I totally agree. That is why we've had 40 years of blocking nuclear power in the developed world, and the people with the same beliefs want our governments to mandate wind and solar energy and biofuels.
That proves your point.
Conclusion: don't take any notice of the irrational creatures. They will lead us down the wrong path everytime.
“Now…the oranges. Does 1 GW of wind power coming online equal a 1 GW of fossil not being built? No, in fact, just the opposite in fact…more fossil comes on line to back up the wind. And that is why I’m pro-nuclear and not pro-renewable.”
I think you are not understanding hydro in China. China has 150GW hydro capacity( used at about 35% capacity factor) and >100Gw of new capacity under construction.
Every kWh of wind energy can result in a kWh less hydro being generated(saving water for hydro to be generated at a future time when less wind is available). Add to that China is building wind over 4,000km geographical spread( the best areas in NE and SE).
Peter Lang was talking about data from 11 wind farms covering about 1200km spread in SE Australia with OCGT as a back-up rather than hydro pumped storage, or one solar PV farm in a rather poor winter location(Queanbeyan). China has very little OCGT operating so this is not really relevant.
China now has plans for 100GW of wind capacity by 2020 ( about 35GW average) and to build about 30GW of nuclear. Add to this the 100GW average of hydro and it’s clear that nuclear while important is by no means going to make the major contribution to preventing coal-fired power.
If China does build 135GW of nuclear by 2030, it will not contribute as many kWh’s as renewable energy will be by 2020. If you include solar hot water China is probably generating more power from renewable now than it will from nuclear by 2020.
The issue is not what is being built, its how much CO2 is not being released by having an additional 1GWh of wind power. In China’s case 1GWh of wind will save 1000 tonnes of CO2 from coal, the same as 1GWh from nuclear.
In Australia’s case I think Peter Lang has shown that we could build considerable hydro pumped storage using existing dams that could allow wind power to replace most FF use( for example his suggestion of Tantangara/Blowering would provide 8GW for a total >500GWh storage). The argument is one of costs and ability to build this infrastructure by 2030.
Peter’s earlier posts on wind and solar were assuming OCGT back-up.
Peter Lang @ 62 said – “I was once told that everything we have is due to energy and human ingenuity (and capital).”
I think your right but don’t forget cooperation. A high energy society may have the ability to offer unlimited health and education facilities (for example), but without a cooperative society it is still too easy for large sections of the populace to miss out. Whats more high cooperation can to some extent mitigate the deleterious effects of being low energy.
By way of example low energy Cuba is a high cooperation society. It has a universally available public health system and as a result it’s adult mortality rate is 104.0 deaths (between 15 to 60 yr olds) per 1000 population, the high energy, low cooperation (no public health system) USA has an adult mortality rate of 109.0.
The ideal of course is high energy and high cooperation.
Just sticking to the same continent, Canada’s adult mortality rate is 72.0.
Imagine what Cuba could do if it only had more energy, or the US if it showed a little more concern for the welfare of it’s fellow citizens.
That is not what the figures show. In fact they show the opposite. The gap is closing. The world is becoming a better place for humanity. And energy is the major reason for it. You can find all this by researching the UN statistics. GapMinder is one way to chart many of the most relevant UN stats. But start with this:
Here’s David J.C. Mackay on alkaline earth silicate minerals:
(How fire will be domesticated)
Neil Howes (#70),
You have provided many comments on the Solar Power Realities thread, and I believe I addressed all of them, in detail. You now seem to be taking issue with the capacity factor figures for the most overcast days at Queanbeyan. I believe this is the crux of your comment about the Queanbeyan Solar farm. I agree that other areas (eg deserts) will have higher minimum insolation than Queanbeyan, but by how much? Is it sufficiently different to increase the economics of solar power by a factor of twenty? If not it is irrelevant. If you have alternative figures, could you please provide the reference to them. You did not offer alternative figures for the minimum capacity factor in any of your previous posts.
On the matter of hydro, we discussed that in detail too. Australia has little, suitably sited, hydro capacity left to develop. And, hydro is unacceptable for environmental reasons. The paper “Solar Power Relities” https://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/lang_solar_realities_v2.pdf, p14, shows how much area would have to be inundated to provide the energy storage needed. Likewise, there is little hydro capacity left to develop for most of the world (in context of the amount of generation capacity needed). IEA provides the figures, and its projections do not show much increased hydro capacity.
From our discussion of pumped-hydro, I believe you now understand that pumped hydro is high cost (but still the least cost energy storage option for large amounts of energy). I believe you also understand that pumped-hydro is not suitable for storing energy supplied by intermittent generators.
Lastly, this comment:
Another way to spin that would be: “all the wind farms in the world’s largest integrated electricity grid, across four states (NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland)….”
The wind industry and the researchers used to argue, based on statistical analysis using optimistic assumptions, that “the wind is always blowing somewhere” so widely distributed wind farms could be relied upon to provide reliable base load power. This statement has been proven wrong all over the world. Furthermore, the cost of a properly integrated transmission system over 4000 km is ignored.
Good point. I agree. I’d include cooperation in the ‘human ingenuity’ category.
So still three categories: Energy, Human Ingenuity and Capital
David Walters — I don’t know about China, but the French, having essentially nothing but nuclear power generation, cycle some of their plants for load following.
I was not implying that any more hydro dams would be built in but that does not exclude more capacity( more turbines) or the addition of pumped hydro.
The wind industry and the researchers used to argue, based on statistical analysis using optimistic assumptions, that “the wind is always blowing somewhere” so widely distributed wind farms could be relied upon to provide reliable base load power. This statement has been proven wrong all over the world. Furthermore, the cost of a properly integrated transmission system over 4000 km is ignored.
The 11 wind farm data you used in your article included one site (30MW) in NSW one site in TAS(140MW) and none in QLD(?). While this provides useful information about output from a small region it’s not what would be expected from the NEM grid having say >50% energy from wind with 50 farms located from SA/WA border to SE Tasmania and to Cape York.
The 18 sites presently reporting data indicate that wind is always blowing somewhere in the 1200km region of these farms( 78MW-1275MW), but the real issue is how much back-up capacity is required and how much total storage is required to retire all coal-fired power. I think you would accept that at least until 2030 we are going to be using some NG for either electricity or space heating what ever scenario is followed. If the actual use of NG back-up is small(say 5%) it doesn’t matter if its OCGT or CCGT.
You continually state that wind power cannot be used to supply pumped hydro. This is wrong because wind power is fed into the grid and there will always be >5GW of hydro spinning reserve available, more than enough to stabilize 30-40GW of wind power without any FF back-up. TAS Hydro has 2.2GW and the Snowy 3GW potential spinning reserve not involved in pumping.
Solar CSP with back-up molten salt or oil thermal storage is in operation ( in other countreis). Another option is NG back-up. The issue is the low seasonal insolation at Queanbeyan, but a look at the solar insolation map shows that many sites in W Queansland and NT have a much more uniform seasonal output and about twice Queanbeyans winter level.
Cloudy conditions are usually associated with low pressure fronts and higher wind conditions, while low wind is usually associated with high pressure and low cloud cover, so a mix of wind and solar is not going to need very much NG back-up ( in CO2 released) although it may require a high capacity back-up of NG and hydro pumped storage(in total).
I accept that it may be more expensive to build 12GW of solar and 40GW and wind and adequate pumped hydro back-up than 25GW of nuclear but we are building some wind and solar capacity now and still zero nuclear, and it will be zero nuclear for at least 9-10 years if we start tomorrow. When can we have 25GW of nuclear? Are we going to be able to build at a faster rate than China or Japan ? What would a crash program cost?
Marion Brook @ 71
Excellent point! Well researched and eloquently put.
Thanks Perps :)
It appears we have made no progress in all the discussion to date on the two threads at https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/#comment-30675 and https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/10/solar-realities-and-transmission-costs-addendum/ . It seems we are going to repeat the same discussion again. But here goes. I refer readers who want the background to these previous threads.
I showed in previous discussions that more turbines means does not mean any morwe energy. We can have more power but for less time. The amoiunt of energy is controlled by the dams and water inflows. More turbines means more power station, more tunnels, more head works and tail workks and in most cases more storage. The cost is high. In most of the cases we looked at, using existing dams in the Snowy Mountains scheme, the proposal was not economic. The best option we looked at was Tantangara-Blowering at a cost of $7 to $15 billion for about 3 hours generation per day. We’ve analysed this and it is not viable – about $2,00/kW on top of about $2,500/kW for wind farms that have a capacity factor of 30% and that supply intermittent power that is totally unsuited for pumped hydro.
Small region? The 11 wind farms were the data available from NEM when the chart was posted. I then provided a link to all the data for all the wind farms on the NEM (spread throughout NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia). The intermittency pattern that was revealed in the original chart was confirmed for all wind farms. The data confirms what is being found everywhere around the world. Wind is highly intermittent and has rapid rates of change, no matter how large the area. Furthermore, the fact that the wind does not blow anywhere, sometimes, over very large areas, is confirmed. The same has been demonstrated in the EU and USA. It is complete nonsens to say the problem of intermittency would be removed if we had “say >50% energy from wind with 50 farms”. Regarding linking in WA, this was also discussed at length (refer https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/ ). The cost of the transmisions system is prohibitive. It would not be viable for high value energy (such as nuclear) let alone for an intermittent supply such as for wind and solar. This argument is pie-in-the-sky stuff and totally devoid of any cost analysis. I am still waiting for any of your cost analyses for any of these proposals.
That looks like data cherry picking. Did you choose the windiest months of the year to make that analysis. Have you looked for the period with the minimum output over the past say five years?
Yes, back-up is the issue. I don’t know where you get the idea that the back up is only 5%. The paper at https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/08/does-wind-power-reduce-carbon-emissions/ explains the amount of back up required, the cost and the emissions from wind power with gas back-up.
It seems you do not understand this. Put bluntly, wind power is not suitable for pumped hydro. I’ve explained this numerous times. But here we go again. Pumped hydro needs continuous steady power for hours at a time. These are continuous hours from about 11 pm to 6 am. The revenue for generation needs to be about 4 times the cost of the electricity for pumping. The steady power can be provided by fossil fuel and nuclear power, but not by intermittent renewables. The low cost power for pumping can also be provided by nuclear and fossil fuel generation from 11 pm to 6 am when the demand is less than their capacity. However, wind power needs $90 to $140/MWh to be viable. The cost of wind power is already about three to five times the average cost of power (and less than half the value of baseload power). The idea that the pumps will use wind power when the wind blows and the coal or nuclear power station will simply shut down and not get paid is naieve. The fossil fuel or nuclear power station must still be paid. I am not sure if you really do not understand this, or simply do not want to accept it. Regarding spinning reserve, the hydro capacity we have is insufficient to balance the current system. We would needed many times more spinning reserve to attempt to balance a system that had a large proportion of intermittent wind generators. This whole idea of wind power providing the power for pumped storage is rediculous. It is another of the wind advocates dreams. It is nonsense.
Yes, it is in operation – but in small, demonstration and highly subsidised plants. It is totally uneconomic (see NEEDS report). NEEDS projects that we may be able to store 16 hours of energy by 2020. That is not even sufficent for one night in winter. We need days of storage to get us through periods of extended overcast weather – and dust storms. Solar thermal is not yet viable to provide basload power with any type of storage. Even if it was, the cost would be prohibitave. See https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/
Neil, you know that this was tried in the USA under the President Jimmy Carter Administration. Massive public subsidies were provided. When the subsidies were stopped the power stations went bust. Who is going to pay to pipe the deserts of Australia so NG can back-up for the solar thermal power stations?
It is true that the minimum energy output from the solar power station, over the period for which we have storage, is the limiting factor for solar power. So, Neil, do you have actual minimum output figures for solar power at the sites you suggest. We need the actual half hourly output figures for the days with the mimimum energy output. Again, I refer you and other readers to this: https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/ and this https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/
Neil, you say ‘usually’. The fact is we can get overcast periods with no wind. You seem to be suggesting a mix of wind power, solar power, energy storage, natural gas back up, massive transmission line costs, all to avoid nuclear. Have you calculated the cost of your alternative to nuclear?
It will be zero nuclear for as long as people like yourself continue to oppose and slow the development of nuclear. We’ve been having the same discussion for decades. So, for decades we keep convincing the population that there is an alternative and it is wind and solar.
I understand you are saying that we will avoid more GHG emissions by going with wind and solar now, than by following an alternative path. I disagree. I estimate we will produce lower cumulative emissions to 2030 and beyond, and the system will cost less, by moving to implement nuclear (by which I mean low-cost nuclear, not high-cost nuclear) as quickly as possible. We will build CCGT from now until nuclear has caught up with the demand. We will build some pumped storage capacity as and when needed. I see little role for wind power. It is a high cost, low value nuisance. More important, it is a major distraction from the real solution.
These are good questions. But you should also need to answer the question: when could we have the equivalent of 25 GW of nuclear provided by wind, solar, storage with no fossil fuel?
The answers to your questions are,as always: ‘it depends’. Japan has been building to meet growing demand, not to replace fossil fuels, and building in a world that is largely anti-nuclear. It is also building high-cost nuclear power stations which also is due to the anti-nuclear sentiment. If we really want to build nuclear rapidly, I see no reason why we could not build low-cost nuclear faster than France built high-cost nuclear 30 years ago. You asked about the cost? I’ve provided the cost for high-cost nuclear here: https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/ . Low-cost nuclear could be far cheaper. Another way to look at your question is: Even high cost nuclear is cheaper than wind and solar power. So why should we keep wasting our resources on wind power? If we can build wind power at a given rate, we should be able to build nuclear faster (on a comparable energy output basis) since it is cheaper.
Neil, I would really welcome costings for your proposals. A great start would be the cost estimates you mentioned you had done for your proposed doubling or trippling of the Tumut 3 pumped-hydro power station.
Neil, I’m not doubt the 35% capacity you are getting for Chinese hydro but if you could supply footnote, that would be swell. I know that built up ‘capacity’ from *potential* capacity is about 30% so I’m wondering you are confusing two. I’ve actually looked to see if capacity of hydro was as similar…to that of wind and I’ll be honest, I’ve had a hard time trying to find it. Here is what Wiki states:
That would be, based on this, over ~60% capacity, not 35%. But it would be cool if you have the actual numbers, I’ll defer to you.
Yes, 1GWhr wind is equal to 1GWhr in wind. And, certainly, if it can be used to save hydro, there is a definite role for it, since there will be a lot of it, in any event. But I’ve seen no indication of a truly national wind/SG at all. More incremental integration. I think again, the whole unreliability issue is…and issue, and probably why you will see a limit on wind in China in terms of expected real power delivered. The same with solar PV/CSP. I also think they have not worked out their plans yet, so, it’s only speculation on my part. I know Guondong province, which is building a lot of wind, has not provincial plan, yet, but is working on one.
I think the point about solar hot water is a good one, and, especially if it can be used to mitigate wood burning for hot water, something that is common in central and south China (even though it’s technically ‘renewable’ it’s totally not managed and, it’s a huge cause of particulate and air pollution).
It think it all goes to China’s true plan: massive diversification away from coal by any means necessary and available.
China’s installed hydro capacity in the first half of 2009 was 172GW and constituted about 24% of total power generation capacity. In 2008, hydropower generated 563TWh, which was equivalent to 16% of China’s total and 85% of primary electricity generation
I calculated capacity of hydro as total generated(563,000GWh)/capacity(173GW)x 8760h)=563,000/1,515,480=0.34(34%).
I only have time to reply to a few of your points today, but will get back later on the others.
I have always been in favour of a nuclear power program in Australia, but not if we use the WWII standards that were applied to Oak Ridge and Hanford. I lived in Oak Ridge for years and can assure you we don’t want to have the type of contamination that still exists at dump sites surrounding Oak Ridge. Nuclear should be built to the higest safety standards as it is in Japan and France and most other nuclear operating countries. The issue is how quickly can we go from one research reactor to 10 or 25 power reactors? This is also an issue for solar but less of an issue for wind as we are actually building considerable capacity at present.
I was not being selective on the 18 wind farms as they have only been operational since August. However on the lowest few hours of output(78MW) the original 11 farms would have had a lowest output at this time of 30MW. The high variance of each farm indicates that as more locations are added, lowest output will rise faster than total capacity.
The issue with NG back-up is not total capacity but use, if you re-read what I said I implied only 5% of power generation would need to come from NG back-up. Similarly if CSP solar has thermal storage NG back-up for those few consecutive cloudy days in winter.
We don’t need half hourly figures for solar insolation if we have 12-24h thermal storage but only if we consider all power will be generated from solar PV. Daily figures should be fine to determine if we need 300Gwh, 600GWh or 1200GWh total storage( ie thermal, hydro pumped etc). You had demonstrated that Tantangara/Blowering pumped hydro could have 8GW capacity and >500GWh storage. Other sites also exist so several days storage is feasible without any more water consumption or new dams.
Whenever we have widespread dust storms( once in 20 years?) we have lots of wind as data shows, so again a mix of wind and solar is complementary. Until we have data of >10 solar locations it will not be clear how cloud cover is going to impact solar performance, but it should be better than one site.
Well this goes and shows you why capacity is not always the best judgment of something far more important: availability. And, why capacity is actually not used in contracts or ISO deliberations except as the broadest out look of what’s available.
Because hydro, more than coal, loses nothing by being dispatched as on demand, load shifting plants, and the benefits of retaining higher head level allows it also to be used in a sort of peaking capacity as well, actually MWhrs produced by hydro are not always the determining overall availability. This is not unlike CCGTs which are used for both peaking, baseload and load following. The ‘real’ capacity can be well over 90% that is, it’s “availability”, which is what’s important. So the fact that it’s only being dispatched at half load, doesn’t really lower it’s true capacity.
Because French nuclear can load follow, it’s ‘official’ capacity rating is well below the US’ 92%. But it’s availability rating is actually somewhat higher, which is real world ‘what counts.’
What lowers a hydro unit’s capacity, or it’s availability, is maintenance and low head pressure due to drought.
It would be interesting to parse this out more and do further investigation.
I think continuing this discussion without costs is futile. We’ve been over and over this discussion simply repeating the same statements. I disagree with most of what you say. Can you provide cost estimates for the entire system you are proposing? It is the only way to have a rational discussion.
I do not agree that nuclear should be built to higher safety standards than is required for other industrial plants, based on an equivalent risk basis. We are overbuilding nuclear plant in comparison with the risk we accept from other plants. This makes nuclear far more costly than it needs to be. The overbuilding is being done on the incorrect assumption that nuclear accidents have worse consequences than chemical accidents, and that radioactive contamination is worse than chemical contamination. It is not. The opposite is the case.
You repeated again your comment/question “how fast can we build nuclear?”. You did not answer how fast can we build equivalent renewable energy capacity (on an equivalent energy basis without fossil fuel). I am very interested in your answer to that question. You posed the original question, so you should be prepared to answer the question for renewables.
Neil, do you dispute that wind generation can be near zero over the NEM sometimes? If so, on what basis.
Your argument about 5% back-up does not make sense. A total cost for the system you propose is needed.
Re CSP and NG back-up. Again, a cost for the entire system is needed. (wind power and storage, solar and storage, NG back up, transmission, gas lines as well as maintaining the coal fired power stations for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine).
The more I read your posts and the more I try to answer, the more I realise that it is a pointless discussion unless you are prepared to do the cost analysis. It seems to me that you have no understanding nor interest in the costs.
Surprised no one has noticed this:
…does not compute. World population = 6.7 billion, 1/4 of that is about 1.7 billion.
Good point, it should say “more than a third”. I’ll amend.
1/4 of humanity. OK. The other issue, perhaps even bigger, is the generalized under utilization of energy by *most* of humanity, in developing countries and countries that provide minimum amounts of power for parts of the day.
Real development can occur, and living standards rise, when electricity that is currently dear for a variety of reasons: costs, grid degradation, existing but limited generation, limited fuel, usually oil or diesel, all combine to prevent industrial development and all that goes along with this.
The problems *most* of humanity faces is the ability to ‘taste’ electrons but not make a meal of it. Growth remains stunted, the masses remain in poverty.
[…] TCASE 3: The energy demand equation to 2050 […]
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Just a quick question.
The 10 terawatts that you mention we need by 2050. I assume that is a worldwide figure? Is that figure based on everyone staying at their present economic level, ie Australians stay as comfortable middle class and say Indians stay poor? Or does it take into account all 6 billion people on the planet having say an economic level equal to say Australia?
never mind i finally found the relevant section thankyou. looks daunting
Alistair, yes, the projection of 10 TWe is certainly imperfect, but tries to take account of both efficiency gains and large growth in energy demand in the developing world. I suspect energy demand, by 2050, will increase 25 – 50 % in the developed world and 200+ % in the developing world – if we make a big effort at energy efficiency and conservation.
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