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Emissions Open Thread

Open Thread 6

Open Thread 5 has spooled off the BNC front page, so it’s time for new one.

The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.

Given the recent discussion on BNC in various threads, a topic worth collecting up here is the merits/demerits of imposing a price on carbon, rather than simply pursuing policy to lower the costs (and regulatory burdens) of low-carbon energy sources. In reference to past discussions on BNC about the form a carbon price might take, read about cap-and-trade vs carbon tax and fee-and-dividend. An argument NOT to impose a carbon price is given here. An argument FOR a carbon price is outline here.

Finally, for those in Adelaide, I here’s a head’s up to a couple of talks I’m giving in the near future:

On Thursday 16 September 2010 at 7.30 pm I will be talking on “Sustainable energy solutions for successful climate change mitigation” at the Campbelltown Function Centre, 172 Montacute Road, Rostrevor (rear of Council Offices). Click on picture for details — it’s a free event.

On 18 October, I will be teaming up with Ziggy Switkowski at the Hilton Hotel, Adelaide, to talk about the near- to medium-term  future of nuclear power in Australia, and also to discuss some of the key technologies that will likely underpin this next-generation revolution in atomic energy, and chart a possible course for their development and deployment over the next 40 years. Details are in a flyer you can download here. This is also a FREE public lecture, so don’t miss it!

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

655 replies on “Open Thread 6”

But come on! We *all* know Tesla invented an electric car that just ran off the earth’s electro-magnetic field, and did thousands and thousands of miles without a single recharge.

It’s a conspiracy man. The big oil companies have bought up all this tech to stop themselves going bankrupt, maaaan.

(big wink)

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Some further comments on the NBN and the ideological and political rubbish that is being peddled by The Australian and the LNP. This is not unrelated to nuclear power as it concerns issues of free market fundamentalism which could well prove quite damaging to the prospects for nuclear power. Historically nuclear power has just about in all instances required substantial state involvement and it is perilous to not comprehend or ignore that experience and instead wander off into an ideological dreamland.

Objectives of NBN

As I see it the objectives of NBN are

1. Provide Australia with a national state of the art broadband infrastructure.

2. Universal access. This principle was always applied to the POTS (plain old telephone service) and I believe, legislated for. No such principle has ever been applied to other telecommunication services and operators have been more or less free to cherry pick their markets. It is very arguable both in terms of national development and in terms of feasibility due to technological development it is time to adhere to the principle of universal access for broadband.

Point 2 has bearing on the following discussion about competition and the context in which competition occurs.

NBN and Competition

Accusations are flying thick and fast that the NBN is anti-competitive and it would all be better left to “market forces”. It is mostly exceedingly poorly informed abstract nonsense that doesn’t even begin to touch the reality of providing telecommunications services.

To understand the model for competition in the NBN, you have to understand the nature of the network. The NBN will provide, in technical terms, Layer 2 access. This is very important. The term comes from the OSI Seven Layer Model of data communications.

In brief terms Layer 2 (the Data Link Layer) provides point to point transport of frames containing a stream of bits. Most Layer 2 protocols also provide reliable delivery – errors are corrected for. An example of a Layer 2 service is what goes on between an ADSL modem and the DSLAM at the exchange it is connected to. That’s it – just delivery of bits point to point, and in isolation is not all that useful.

Things get a lot more useful to users as we move up the stack to Layer 3 – the network layer. For internet access, this layer is implemented by the Internet Protocol (IP). This allows us (or our applications such as browsers) to send data to or receive data from any cooperating computer with an IP address anywhere in the world. This network service is the basic service we get by subscribing to an Internet Service Provider. The NBN will not be providing Layer 3 or higher services

In NBN terms Layer 3 and all higher layer services will be provided by Retail Service Providers (RSPs) – very much analogous to current ISPs. Along with the network access, these entities will provide the services normally expected of ISPs such as email, web hosting, DNS and time servers, possibly voice over IP, video and TV etc etc. Just to make it clear – the NBN will carry this traffic, but not be responsible for service provision.

These RSPs will pay the NBN for the Layer 2 service and be free to compete amongst each other according to their individual business plans. They will do so on a level playing field where none of them will have a monopoly control over the national network infrastructure. The RSPs will have to provide and operate their own infrastructure such as routers, mail, web and DNS servers and to organize their peering or transit arrangements with other operators and for overseas links etc.

Analogies always have their limitations, but one could compare the situation where the entities operating train services are separate from the entities operating rail infrastructure (track, stations, signalling etc). The analogy is pertinent in that it would be economic lunacy to operate a free market for the infrastructure with multiple side by side tracks doing exactly the same thing. Just so for the base broadband network infrastructure.

It is really not hard to understand how all this relates to the principle of universal access and (as far as practical) with uniform quality of service.

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One further comment on competition and the NBN. As I understand it, a consumer will be able to subscribe to services from multiple Retail Service Providers simultaneously delivered over the single fibre link into the premises if they so wish.

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Quokka,

you say “Some further comments on the NBN and the ideological and political rubbish that is being peddled by The Australian and the LNP.”

I take that as a statement from a technician who works in the industry, loves his product, understands the technicalities but doens’t understand the busioness aspects, the financing, or the public funding consequences.

I also suspect that if the LNP tried to do anything similar you would be screeming about pushing through without visibility etc.

What is going on with trying to hide the real costs to the public of the NBN is an absl=olute discrace. It is worse than Whitlam. We’ve never seen anything like this before.

There is an enmormous amount of cover up going on that needs to be exposed.

Thank heaven at least one newspaper is doing what they should all be doing – exposing government incompetence and worse.

The Pink Bats fiasco, the Building Education Revolution waste, and the many other government programs that have been an absolute disaster since Labor came to power pale into insignificance compared with the NBN. You are blkind if you can’t see it. Or perhaps you don’t want to.

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Quokka,

You may have missed a number of comments I’ve made on the subject of private versus public sector ownership and operation of NPPs in Australia.

I’ve made suggestions about how I see as the most plausible way forward.
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-104625

And I’ve asked repeatedly for those advocating for public sector ownership to explain how we could achieve it in practice in Australia. So far no one has stepped forward with any viable way to do it.

1. How could we reverse the privatisation of the electricity industry that is already completed over the past 20 years and the continuing trend to complete it? Tell me how we could actually reverse that. Consider the politics of doing so.

2. Would we have a mix of public and private power stations? How would that work?

3. Would the government buy back the electricity industry?

4. If the government decided to own and operate the electricity industry, how would it finance it? Not just simplistic statements like “with government bonds” or some such statement.

5. What would be the consequences for all the other things the government has to fund if it took on providing electricity?

6. What would be the effect on security of supply (like subject to control by unions as has happened before)?

7. What would be the effect of the downward trend to inefficiency that is inevitable in public owned enterprises? (I agree they worked once, many decades ago, but those days are long gone).

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Some further comments on the NBN and the ideological and political rubbish that is being peddled by The Australian and the LNP. This is not unrelated to nuclear power as it concerns issues of free market fundamentalism which could well prove quite damaging to the prospects for nuclear power. Historically nuclear power has just about in all instances required substantial state involvement and it is perilous to not comprehend or ignore that experience and instead wander off into an ideological dreamland.

Oh no. While I have sympathies for Quokka’s views on the NBN, I don’t think I can stand an all out debate over Political Economy of the Welfare state.

Thing is, depending on my state of mind I can agree with both political economy perspectives! When I’m down and cynical about political stupidity, I tell myself that maybe they’ll crack nuclear SO cheap that the marketplace will tell pollies what to do. When I’m down and cynical about the state of the technology not being uber-cheap Gen4 yet, I tell myself that maybe our politicians will wake up to the crisis and just fast-track nuclear, no matter what the cost, and get the job done!

So I *really* can sympathise with both views.

But arguing the case with nuclear bloggers and activists… ho hum. It won’t be long before the accusations start flying between Quokka and Peter Lang. All the cliché’s will come out.

“You fascistic communist control freak! Do you want the nanny state controlling whether you breast-feed or bottle-feed your baby in your big brother idealistic fantasy!!”

“You tobacco chewing right wing neocon redneck! Do they play the banjo while your Corporate friends tell the 3rd world to bend over and squeal!?”

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Quokka,

You may have missed a number of comments I’ve made on the subject of private versus public sector ownership and operation of NPPs in Australia.

I don’t know how the laws of physics allow that Peter. To read BNC is to be *amply* and *repeatedly* exposed to your free market rants. Isn’t that what BNC stands for?

Bullish Neocon eConomy?

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Quokka,
You may have missed a number of comments I’ve made on the subject of private versus public sector ownership and operation of NPPs in Australia.

Seriously Peter, are you so enamoured with your own writing that you can ONLY assume that Quokka hasn’t actually encountered one of your ‘beautiful’ neocon exposes? Is that the only possibility that you can imagine? Because surely ANY sane person that has come across your poetic economic rationalism must surely give way before the tide of logic and the promise of a Brave New Economy?
It’s more than an opinion with you isn’t it Peter? You’re not actually a trained economist?

How did you end up with a right-wing position SO strong that it causes peak oil DENIALISM when you work in that industry? Of all the people on this blog, YOU should be able to admit the world oil situation. Yet you shut your eyes and close your ears. The implications don’t quite fit with your political bias. Eyes wide shut.

So how did you end up with a political bias so extreme it’s more like a religion? You go into battle over questions of political economy stronger than you do nuclear power. It’s off. And you actually think you’re going to change other activist’s lifetime’s of political thinking!?

Why can’t you just agree that we’re FOR nuclear power, whatever form the delivery takes?

I think I need a 2 week break from BNC, as this self-delusional junk is taking over and littering my in-tray.
(Shudders).

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Oh no. While I have sympathies for Quokka’s views on the NBN, I don’t think I can stand an all out debate over Political Economy of the Welfare state.

That’s not going to happen. And what have nuclear power or telecoms got to do with social welfare other than in the most indirect sense?

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I guess what I’ve seen before with Peter is that someone raises something that smells slightly ‘left’ and anything is up for grabs. In Peter’s world, any government intervention on his ‘holy of holies’, the free market place, is BAD.

So who knows where this will go? Previous BNC threads have been totally taken over by Peter and Fran sparring over left V right political economy. Any and every political quip you could think of were thrown into the mix. And the thing that really gets up my nose? Peter’s incredulity that some people can possibly think governments can roll out nuclear. (Coughs… hello, China anyone?)

I quickly unsubscribed from those threads, and now I’m leaving this one.

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China is a dictatorship.
How would you compare that to a democracy?

Nobody knows if their strategy will have a future. Maybe the best option would have been to keep production in western contries and thus stop the rise of China. They would not need that much energy and the negative effects would have been less.

America will reduce its energy needs on its own.
Why would Australia need more energy in the future?

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One to watch. From the maiden speech of the new Member for Kooyong, Josh Frydenberg, yesterday:

The third challenge I wish to address today is responsible sustainability. The reduction of our per capita consumption of energy and non-renewable resources is necessary. But part of being responsible is knowing what it will cost, who it will impact and how communities and businesses will need to react. There has never been a better time for innovative technologies, practices and solutions. It seems inexplicable that in Australia we have yet to have a constructive and thorough debate about nuclear power, the only baseload, carbon neutral energy source. More than 30 countries have successfully embraced the nuclear concept and more are coming on stream every day. It is a curious moral, economic and environmental position that we find ourselves in where we are prepared to supply uranium but not use it. Surely it is time to move on from the ideological battles of yesteryear.

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@Peter Lang way above, I don’t know precisely what you’re referring to, so can’t add all that much. Except to say that, as I believe you’d be well aware, there is a world of difference between ‘targets’ and ‘mineralisation’. A ‘target’ connotes no more than an idea where to stick a drill hole.

The other thing I could say is that 1000 m is starting to approach the limits of what’s currently technically possible to detect in terms of direct indications of mineralisation, depending on the circumstances. Even that is only one of the exploration risk elements, some others being that a) not all uranium mineralisation is conductive, and b) even more to the point, not all conductors are uranium mineralisation. Very, very far from it, in fact.

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Mark,

Thanks for that. My comment became dislocated from the point being discussed earlier. Previously there had been a discussion about whether it was fair to say there was insufficent uranium to supply our future energy needs based on the currently known economic reserves. The point I was making was that the reserves will grow as we explore for more, and exploration methods improve, and mining and extraction methods improve, as lower concentratiosn become economic ore bodies, etc. These trends for all minerals (excl. fossil fuels) have continued since man first controlled fire and dug minerals out of the ground, so they are not going to change any tme soon.

The point I was making with the reference to the Geoscience Australia’s geophysical searches and ‘finds’ is that exploaration methods continue to improve, and will in the future. So ore bodies will continue to be found.

That was the background to my comment.

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@Duffett: you state that the Australian MHR Frydenberg is “one to watch” in regard of his support of nuclear energy.

This is interesting in regard of this man’s other activities, his ethnicity and the reasons underlying current US intervention in the fossil-fuel rich region of West and Central Asia:

Frydenberg spends the first 5 paras. of his speech as cited by you on BNC describing his Jewish ancestry specifically in the light of the Holocaust.

Observers of geopolitics know that this rhetoric started to enter the Anglosphere under the Reagan presidency 30 years ago and is now an emblem of the neoliberal New Right, for reasons to do with the nature of US dependency on fossil fuel imports and the strategic location of Israel as a land-based aircraft carrier helping to monitor/correct the stability of oil-exporting Muslim countries nearby.

Note that Frydenberg recently requested in Federal parliament that the Prime Minister of his country discipline a senior trade unionist for having questioned the official Bush/Obama/Howard/Gillard version of 9/11 on a Melbourne radio show hosted by a hostile Jewish compere.

Note also that on 6.4.2002, the German Federal Intelligence Service states explicitly in a document available since that time and not denied by the German govt., that Israeli intelligence was not only aware of the pending 9/11 attacks (para. 3 on p.8 of the German original) but actively worked towards them by means of agents infiltrated into Arab groups working on US soil.

Note further that the ex-President of Italy Sr. Cossiga and the head of Pakistani Military Intelligence Gul have said the same thing.

For space reasons, I do not address here the civil engineering and other physical science evidence eg presence of nanothermite (explosive) dust as ascertained by Prof Jones et.al.

Frydenberg’s motive as Israel supporter in wanting to adhere to the Coincidence Theory of 9/11 is clear; his support of civilian nuclear energy less so.

This is because as a blogger on “Depleted Cranium” noted recently, development of civilian nuclear would on trend make access to Iraqi and Central Asian fossil fuel less necessary for the USA.

But is it not true that the less important Muslim oil becomes for the USA, the less its foreign policy towards them can be instrumentalised by Israel?

We shall now see whether Brook adheres to the Washington-London-Tel Aviv-Canberra party line prevailing in his country – and challenged only on the Internet – by “banning my arse”, as he threatened some time ago.

Given the inverse relationship between 1. the strength of Western control of Central Asian fossil fuel deposits, even if only to hamper China, and 2. the size of the current chance to develop civilian nuclear, such a ban would however be ironic.

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Note also that on 6.4.2002, the German Federal Intelligence Service states explicitly in a document available since that time and not denied by the German govt., that Israeli intelligence was not only aware of the pending 9/11 attacks (para. 3 on p.8 of the German original) but actively worked towards them by means of agents infiltrated into Arab groups working on US soil.

Are you saying that there were Arab groups (presumably terrorist groups) acting in the US at the time in collusion with US agencies to frame themselves by assisting in faking a terrorist attack?

It’s all so much clearer now.

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Could an Australian public sector organisation run our electricity industry?

Big question?!

Experience with other public sector organisations says no.

We waste billions on public servants employing public servants who then at the bottom of tree employ stacks of consultants and contractors to actually get something done. The public servants can’t do anything for fear of doing anything and getting blamed if something goes wrong.

Look at examples like the NSW ferries, the NSW railways, and the NSW electricity industry.

Then look at the fiascos with the federal government’s attempts to run programs like the Pink Bats home insulation, the Building Education Revolution and building houses for indigenous Australians in central Australia (6 houses built in 3 years and all the money wasted on public servants and consultants reports).

And the latest is the $43 billion National(ised) Broadband Network. The government wants to avoid any scrutiny. They don’t even want to let the Productivity Commission investigate it.

The government reckons the NBN will cost $43 billion. But almost all pioneer projects blow out by 2 to 5 times their early estimates. Already massive costs are being added to try to improve the take up rate. The revenue projections are based on a 709% to 80% take up rate but so far they are 10%. NBN has now said it will wire all apartment blocks ($3 billion). It is also offering $300 per customer to join (another $3 billion).

Its cost $37 million for the first 500 homes. Extrapolated at that rate to 10 million customers the cost would be $740 billion. I accept the cost rate will not be a straight extrapolation, but what are the real figures? Where can I find them? Why is the government trying to prevent the Productivity Commission investigating the costs and benefits of this project?

Given all this, how could we trust the government to run our electricity industry? There is not a chance of it being able to do so. It would be a total disaster.

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Around here there are investory owned utilities, such as the one providing me with electricity + natgas; there a Public Utility Districts (PUDs) owned by the customers in the PUD; there are utilities owned and operated by municipalties; and finally there is BPA, wholesaller to about 147 retail utilities and a branch of the federal government since its creation in about 1936 or so.

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@Finrod: your habitual sneering and belittling is par for the course but yes, your statement is correct, except for the detail that apparently Israel broke its agreement with the USA to inform them of what it was discovering from those Arab groups once the US had agreed to let Israeli intelligence operate within the USA , so that the collusion was not with US agencies. Source: the BND report I cited.

Note that (Arab) persons engaged in what they think are actions eg bombings, beneficial to their cause are often outsmarted by those (Israaeli) who help them, because the latter can see the bigger picture. In this case: the need to manipulate US/Western public opinion into supporting an attack on Muslim countries incl. Saddam Hussein while also securing West/Central Asian FF sources (Unocal pipeline, Turkmenistan gas, etc.)

BNCers are stronger on natural science than on the methods of intelligence operations; there is however a long history of so-called false flag operations such as 9/11. For example, in 1965 the Aust. electorate was entirely fooled by the Gulf of Tonkin non-incident; 500 Aussies died in Vietnam thereafter, remember?

But my point was rather that Aust. MHR Frydenberg is quoted favorably by Duffett on BNC as a pro-nuke. He is a man who supports a country with ca. 200 nuclear weapons, (source: CIA estimate) which raises certain questions. He also worked for John Howard (source: Frydenberg website) during an Aust. government which saw the controversy over exporting uranium to the US ally and nuclear power India, inasmuch as China, the main adversary of the USA, is the ally of Pakistan, also a nuclear power and India’s enemy.

You recall that the Bush govt. “permitted” that export under the foreign ministership of A. Downer.

It is not clear to me if Frydenberg has Israeli nationality, but pursuant to the Law of Return of that country and based on paras.1-5 of his maiden speech in the House, he is entitled to it.

Concluding, I have said before that while there may be lurkers from DFAT or Lowy Institute (Sydney) on this blog, they are currently content to keep quiet and must be smiling fit to crack their jaws at BNC naivete.

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Here’s an interesting trio of articles in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning:

Solar rate cut to stop costs going through the roof

NSW cuts feed in tariff from 60c to 20c. This scheme was going to cost us $4b. Now its only $1.5b, for ~2-300 MW. Solar panel installers warned yesterday that many will be bankrupted by the change, which could leave them with warehouses full of unsellable panels.

Green win signals shift in mine approvals

A coal project on the outskirts of Sydney has been rejected due to impacts on wetlands and watercourses that are beyond remediation:

.. a scathing review by the state’s Planning Assessment Commission found that society would be better off if the coal remained in the ground .. the commission also deciding that remediation by the company would not be able to make up for the environmental damage it would cause.

And thirdly, the Green’s Senator Scott Ludlum has figured out that natural gas is a climate change disaster:

Greens accuse gas industry of hiding real effect of carbon emissions

Solar economically unviable. Coal too damaging to mine. Gas a ginormous CO2 emitter. Its all there on one page. Just when is the penny going to drop?

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Next Ludlam will discover flying Perth to Canberra return every week creates a lot of CO2.

How convenient for the gas industry to omit already dissolved CO2 that is sieved out at the well head. Note Gorgon plans to inject that CO2 into an aquifer – let’s hope it stays there. I have a few other gripes with the gas industry. For starters they got 60% free permits under the Rudd ETS since they were allegedly ‘trade exposed’. That I presume is the gas burned in local compressor stations for LNG export. No case in my opinion.

Another gripe is the way they quote combined cycle CO2 savings w.r.t. coal when a lot of gas will be burned in open cycle gas turbine only units. Yet another gripe is glowing reserve estimates and we know how that caught up with the Brits and their North Sea estimates. In particular I’d like to know if Victoria really has enough gas to replace Hazelwood. Maybe their reported gas reserves are 10X too high.

My main gripe is that the gas industry wants to get max cash flow asap with little thought for the future. Gas is the last cheap hydrocarbon resource post peak oil so we should hasten slowly using it.

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I posted this at Sceptical Scientist, but was deleted. I reposted it and it was deleted a second time. I don’t know why.
http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?p=1&t=53&&n=428

Marcus@29, you said

“By contrast, Andasol-in Spain-has an installed capacity of 100MW & cost US$380 million-or a cost of $3800 per MW of installed capacity.”

This is an example of misinformation.

Firstly, Andasol does not have a capacity of 100 MW. It has a capacity of 50MW. It has only just been completed. They recently started development of a second plant of 50MW. So to say it ‘has’ a capacity of 100MW is dishhonest.

Secondly, the cost of Andasol 1 was 300 million euros or $5,000/kW, not $3,800/kW. Again, dishonest.
http://www.nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/project_detail.cfm/projectID=3

Thirdly, it is wrong to compare capacity of solar and nuclear. Nuclear provides power whenever the demand calls for it, 24/7/365. Solar provides power when the sun shines, in the day time and mostly in summer. Without storage it has a capacity factor of about 13% to 20%. With storage, at huge cost, this can be increased somewhat. The claim that solar thermal with energy storage is a basload power station is a complete distortion. Dishonest!

Therefore, nuclear and solar must be compared on a properly comparable basis. The proper way to do this is with levelised cost of electrcity (LCOE). However, that is complicated. For simplicity, let’s compare Andesol 1 with a nuclear plant on the basis of the average energy they can supply per year.

I’ll use the contracted cost for the new nuclear plants being built in the UAE because these are a recently signed contract, and the power station is the ‘first in country’ (which is higher cost than the ‘settled down cost’. The cost is $20.4 billion for 5,400 MW, or $3,800/kW. Based on experience with the units in Korea we expect a capacity factor of about 90% (use 85% to be conservative). The cost of aveage power is $4,400/kWy/y.

What about Andersol 1?

50MW (rated peak capacity),
$5,000/kW
capacity factor = 36% (‘expected’ but will no doubt be much lower in practice)
cost of average power = $13,000/kWy/y
On the basis of that rough calculation, the cost of electricity from solar (unreliable electricity at that) is 3 times the cost of reliable electricity from nulcear.

Levelised cost of electricity:
nuclear = $60-$100/MWh (of electricity that is always available)
Andasol 1 = $400/MWh (for electricity that is available part time)
On this more acurate basis, the cost of electricity from solar is 4-7 times the cost of solar.

If we want to cut CO2 emissions, we must embrace nuclear – like France has. France has about the lowest cost electricity in europe, by far the lowest CO2 emissions from electricity of any major country, exports more electricity than anyone (which demonstrates it is cheap and reliable). 76% of France’s electricity is generated by nuclear power.

Nuclear versus renewables is no contest for anyone who is rational!

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Peter, that’s very strange. I’d be greatly disturbed in skepticalscience.com were in a habit of deleting sensible, fact-based comments like this (since I hold this site in high regard). Very disturbed.

Ed: I see it got posted – it must have just been held up in moderation. Good.

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@Peter Lang,

John Cook has a very strict policy about what might be constructed as personal attacks. Your last sentence might be sufficient to get your post deleted.

He is a tremendous asset to the debate over climate and works tirelessly for free and demands a rigorous approach. (I’m not saying what you posted was not rigorous).

SkepticalScience has a wide readership and a lot of respect, and I’ve been wondering how long it was going to be before the issues of energy cropped up as inevitably they had to.

Anybody posting on SkepticalScience needs to acknowledge it’s (enforced) style of debate. And I’m not exempting myself from criticism here either as one of my posts possibly sailed too close to the edge.

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quokka and Mark Duffett,

Thank you for pointingout those defects. I’ve fixed those and reposted. Im’ actually glad the earlier veriosn was rejected because I made a number of calculation errors in the first two attempts. I’ve fixed them (I think).

http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?p=2&t=53&&n=428#29362

Marcus@29, you said:

“By contrast, Andasol-in Spain-has an installed capacity of 100MW & cost US$380 million-or a cost of $3800 per MW of installed capacity.”

There severl inaccuricies in this statement.

Firstly, Andasol does not have a capacity of 100 MW. It has a capacity of 50MW. It has only just been completed. They recently started development of a second plant of 50MW. So to say it ‘has’ a capacity of 100MW is false.

Secondly, the cost of Andasol 1 was 300 million Euro (US$400 million) (50MW) or $8,000/kW, not $3,800/kW.
http://www.nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/project_detail.cfm/projectID=3

Thirdly, it is wrong to compare capacity of solar and nuclear. Nuclear provides power whenever the demand calls for it, 24/7/365. Solar provides power when the sun shines, in the day time and mostly in summer. Without storage it has a capacity factor of about 13% to 20%. With storage, at huge cost, this can be increased somewhat. The claim that solar thermal with energy storage is a baseload power station is not correct.

Therefore, nuclear and solar must be compared on a properly comparable basis. The proper way to do this is with levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). However, that is complicated. For simplicity, let’s compare Andasol 1 with a nuclear plant on the basis of the average energy they can supply per year.

I’ll use the contracted cost for the new nuclear plants being built in the UAE because it is from a recently signed contract, and the power station is the ‘first in country’ (which is higher cost than the ‘settled down cost’). The cost is $20.4 billion for 5,400 MW, or $3,800/kW. Based on experience with the units in Korea they expect a capacity factor of about 90% (use 85% to be conservative). The cost of average power is $4,400/kWy/y.

What about Andasol 1?

50MW (rated peak capacity),
$8,000/kW
capacity factor = 36% (‘expected’ but will no doubt be much lower in practice)
cost of average power = $22,000/kWy/y
On the basis of that rough calculation, the cost of electricity from solar (unreliable electricity at that) is 5 times the cost of reliable electricity from nuclear.

Levelised cost of electricity:
nuclear = $60-$100/MWh (of electricity that is always available)
Andasol 1 = $400/MWh (for electricity that is available part time)
On this more accurate basis, the cost of electricity from solar is 4-7 times the cost of solar.

If we want to cut CO2 emissions, we must embrace nuclear – like France has. France has about the lowest cost electricity in Europe, by far the lowest CO2 emissions from electricity of any major country, exports more electricity than any other country (which demonstrates it is cheap and reliable). 76% of France’s electricity is generated by nuclear power

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@heavyweather:

Nuclear funding is too high. We need the money elsewhere if we really want to reduce GHGE.

Rubbish. Nuclear power is far less expensive than the oft-touted alternatives like solar and wind, it provides scalable, reliable high-capacity-factor electricity, and it does not receive the massive handouts and subsidies that solar and wind do.

@John Morgan:

Here’s an interesting trio of articles in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning:
Solar rate cut to stop costs going through the roof
NSW cuts feed in tariff from 60c to 20c. This scheme was going to cost us $4b. Now its only $1.5b, for ~2-300 MW. Solar panel installers warned yesterday that many will be bankrupted by the change, which could leave them with warehouses full of unsellable panels.

Sounds like exactly the same thing we heard from the insulation sellers when the government scrapped the insulation handouts scheme.

All these guys have sprang up overnight to sell solar PV systems, to take advantage of the massive government subsidies and tarrifs for these systems.

They did not have any business before the subsidies existed, and they do not have any kind of viable business model without the subsidies.

When the government realises that it’s completely economically unfeasible and basically achieves nothing and they wind down the scheme, these installers claim that it is destroying their business – but they didn’t have any business in the first place before these subsidies came along.

A 60 c/kWh is a pretty astonishingly high tarriff for electricity.

Imagine if you built a nuclear power plant, and you could sell the electricity into the grid for 60 c/kWh. Let’s say your plant has a pair of 1100 MW modern LWRs at 95% capacity factor. That’s an income from the electricity, at that rate, of 11 billion dollars a year, which is roughly the entire cost of such a plant, paid for in one year!

I could imagine a lot of companies and organisations lining up for buying and installing micro-fission systems like Hyperion or Toshiba 4S, if they could get the same feed-in tarrifs that solar gets!

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Peter Lang, on 28 October 2010 at 1:02 PM — A small point for the sake of complete accuracy: Nuclear power is only available when the reacor is up and running. There is always scheduled downtime for refueling and there is unscheduled downtime averaging around one incident per year.

Even NPPs require a rolling (ready) reserve because of unscheduled downtime. As I understand the avilability (or capacity) factor for NPPs is close to 90%.

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David B. Benson,

If there are 11 or 12 NPPs to provide power equivalent to 10, then nuclear provides power to meet demand 24/7/365. However, that is not the case with solar thermal even with energy storage. That was the point. I could also write that we need reserve capacity and probably better to use pumped hydro or gas for peak load generation and we’d need to determine the optimum amounts on a loss of lodd probability analysis and ….

But the message gets lost if I attempted to write all this and more every time I want to make a simple point. By being too pedantic when writing for an audience that doesn’t have a basic understanding of the concepts will not help to transmit the message – renewables don’t work and cost a fortune where as nuclear is proven, it works, it’s reliable, and can be low could be low cost if we want it to be..

I agree not providing all the caveats every time gives those who want to denigrate the message the opportunity to do so. I get the point.

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Peter Lang, on 29 October 2010 at 9:37 AM — Right on. I agree that keeping the message the main one is most important. Maybe for the full dosage, just providing a link?

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