I note that there has been some interesting discussion here on costs of electricity, especial the comparative value of fossil fuels versus nuclear (and renewables). This is a point I will revisit from a number of perspectives over the next few months, because I agree with commenters like Arthur Dent, Peter Lang and DV82XL that this is a critical issue (though not the only one). For now, here are a few interesting points to inject into the conversation.
First, I have a paper coming out shortly in the journal Energy, co-authored with Martin Nicholson and Tom Biegler. It is called “How carbon pricing changes the relative competitiveness of low-carbon baseload generating technologies” (DOI: 10.1016/j.energy.2010.10.039), but is not yet available online — when it is, I’ll write up an overview of it on BNC. The core message of this paper, based on a standardised meta-review of the last 10 years of authoritative assessments of levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) and life cycle emissions (LCE), is that nuclear is the lowest-cost option for mitigating carbon emissions; moreover, is already competitive with pulverised fuel coal (under the right conditions). I’d like to say more now, but I’ll have to wait until it’s been formally published online. Press releases etc. will be forthcoming…
Still, there are other things I can point out for now.
Exhibit #1: IEA/OECD projected nuclear costs for 14 countries — 2010 update:
Exhibit #2: 2016 Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources from the Annual Energy Outlook 2010:
Exhibit #3: OECD electricity generating cost projections for year 2010 on – 10% discount rate, c/kWh:
|country||nuclear||coal||coal with CCS||Gas CCGT||Onshore wind|
Exhibit #4: Electricity prices by country (selection — have more than 5 million people), with % energy generated by nuclear and technosolar* renewables (only domestic generation is counted):
*Wind and solar. Hydro and conventional geothermal are not listed here as they are highly location-specific and not scalable to replace fossil fuels.
A super-crude multiple linear regression of these data yields the following equation:
Electricity price (c/kWh) = 20.5 – 0.1*N% + 0.5*T%
i.e. baseline cost is 20.5 c/kWh, with each percentage unit of nuclear reducing the price by 0.1 c/kWh and each % of technosolar adding 0.5 c/kWh to the price. (Don’t draw any serious conclusions out of this super-simplified analysis).
This is data from the real world. Yes, there are caveats — aren’t there always? Draw your own conclusions.
259 replies on “Electricity costs exhibits”
Ah, were it that simple…
Being from the US I looked at the Advanced Nuclear cost in the first two charts. I read the first cost as $48 to $77/MWattHour and the second as $119 (both for Advanced Nuclear in the US). Am I looking at the wrong numbers or is this leveled costing business so approximate that a factor of 2 is within reason?
It may come as surprise to some that there is still a significant amount of undeveloped traditional hydro potential left undeveloped in the world. The National Hydropower Association (U.S.) river basin studies show a potential of 73,200 MW of additional U.S. hydroelectric capacity in 5,677 undeveloped sites. The situation is the same for Canada, including the Far North where eight major rivers draining into the Arctic Ocean are considered ripe for exploitation. Scandinavian hydro resources as well as a large number of watersheds in Northern Asia also draining into the Arctic Ocean have yet to be fully exploited.
Of course this is emphasizing engineering feasibility and some economic analysis, but no environmental considerations. Despite the widespread belief that hydro is the ideal clean source of renewable energy the bald fact is that it is hugely destructive to local environments and can and does create disruptions to the hydrology of an area several orders of magnitude greater.
Nevertheless these potential sources must be taken into account, as they use a mature technology, as does the long transmission networks to bring the power to market. Indeed if you look at the lower priced places for electric energy, the contribution of hydro is probably the major reason.
The down side of new major hydro projects, is that the low-hanging fruit is been plucked, and the capital investments needed for developing the resources listed above are astronomical. However the same was said of hydro developments in the James Bay region, and North-west Labrador, yet both areas are now producing power for export to the States.
Nope, these are projections from a world with an OECD carbon price of $30 per tonne, which is not the real world and not relevant to the technology that the developing world will use for industrialization.
As demonstrated in the linked thread, coal is still cheaper than nuclear and therefore WILL be used by the developing countries that will generate the overwhelming majority of emissions over the next few decades UNTIL nuclear (OR SOME OTHER FUTURE TECHNOLOGY) is ACTUALLY cheaper than coal.
The fact that nuclear is the least cost clean energy doesn’t mean that the majority of the population, still on less than $2 per day, can afford to end up using it – and if they don’t then it simply does not solve the problem.
In view of high capital costs for nuclear it will be even harder to displace gas for intermediate and peak loads, so it is still critical to find something cheaper.
Of course solar is more expensive with or without a $30 carbon price as is well known (and wind is just a euphemism for gas ;-)
The conclusion should still be to focus on R&D for reducing costs of clean energy. That may well result in nuclear fission getting there (it is closer than I thought). But nuclear isn’t there yet and we don’t know what the results of massive R&D would be over the next few decades. Fission is a “mature” technology with less scope for significant cost reduction. It could still be overtaken by fusion or by something currently unknown.
Every extra dollar spent on nuclear instead of coal is a dollar that should have been spent on R&D instead. The fact that even more would be wasted by solar does not excuse diverting attention from the need for massive R&D to ACTUALLY solve the problem rather than make gestures at it.
Carbon prices just displace coal with gas in developed countries. At least this type of wind doesn’t emit methane.
I don’t understand what you mean, Arthur, could you please clarify?
Although, your theory about the developing world is too simplistic. If, for instance, they lack a significant domestic coal reserve, then fuel price and importation limitations becomes a significant determining factor, irrespective of the existence or otherwise of a carbon price.
BTW its interesting that Belgium has lower electricity prices than France – presumably because of having stuck to coal instead of mixing in too much nuclear (or solar or wind like germany and spain that are more expensive than France).
Nuclear cheaper than coal in Australia. How?
Here is another of my really rough, ‘back of an envelope’ calculations.
I have argued here https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-105862 why the peoples of the world need low-cost electricity, and why low-cost clean electricity will reduce the world’s emissions faster than higher cost clean electricity.
Below I argue why I believe nuclear can be the least cost way to generate electricity in Australia in the future without resorting to a Carbon Tax or Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Adding a carbon tax or ETS will add more government imposed regulatory burdens on industry, without removing any of the mess of state and Federal government imposed conflicting regulations, tax breaks, subsidies and other incentives and disincentives that exist now. Rather than adding to this mess we should remove all that are unnecessary or distorting the market. That means cleaning up and removing all the regulations and other incentives and disincentives that favour one technology over another.
We will also have to pass legislation that makes it clear to investors that the rules for new power stations have changed, and the change is permanent. We must convince investors that their investment will be secure and future governments will not renege. By sending this clear message the investor risk premium will move from nuclear to coal, over time.
To do this we will have to invest in (subsidise) the first nuclear power plants.
There are several parts to my argument:
1 Assume as a starting price for new nuclear the latest contracted price for new nuclear in a country building its first nuclear power plants, UAE.
2 Assume this price will decrease as a country develops the expertise and as prices come down world wide.
3 The government can change the investor risk premium from nuclear to fossil fuels by the legislation it enacts and the messages this sends.
4 The community is prepared to contribute (subsidise) the first plants for: a) the long term benefits of lower cost cleaner electricity, b) energy security, c) because the higher cost now is a result of bad policy decisions in the past (anti nuclear) and we have to bear a cost to correct those errors, and d) the precedent has been well established by the subsidies for renewable energy and also for nationalising the Australian communications network.
5 The community is prepared to invest in the plants as a means to demonstrate to the investors that the community has a substantial financial investment in these plants. This is necessary to send the message to the investors that their investment is relatively secure against the government changing its mind and reneging on deals. (This is important because of the messages often sent by people who believe it is OK for the community to renege on deals with investors as has happened frequently, and is often advocated by some groups such as Greenpeace and the Greens).
6 The government will remove all the impediments to a level playing field for electricity generators. (I recognise the conflict with the previous points – needs to be nuanced)
1. New coal power plants would cost $2,100/kW in 2015 under the assumptions used in the analysis (ACIL-Tasman, Table 35, p58)
2. New nuclear plants would cost $5050/kW in 2015 in Australia under the assumptions used in the analysis (ACIL-Tasman, Table 35, p58)
3. The capital cost of nuclear will decrease by 15% in the five years following the commissioning of the first unit and cost reductions will continue at a declining rate (ACIL Tasman, Table 35, p58, Nuclear 2024-25 to 2028-29)
4. A better current estimate for capital cost for the first nuclear power station in a new country (to use instead of the ACIL-Tasman cost) is the recently contracted price for the UAE nuclear power station. For this assumption to be valid we would also have to assume that Australia will adopt a regulatory environment that is no more onerous than UAE’s and we will address the investment risk so that the investment environment for nuclear in Australia will be as attractive as it is for nuclear in the UAE.
5. The UAE plant is 4 units of 1350MW for a total capacity of 5400 MW. The capital cost of the UAE plant, including initial fuel load and technology transfer is US$20.4 billion, which is $3800/kW
6. Investor risk premium in the USA for nuclear compared with coal is 26% (MIT, 2009).
7. We could expect the investor risk premium to be considerably higher in Australia given that we have no nuclear industry and given the strong anti-nuclear sentiment in Australia. I’ll assume it is 30% in Australia.
8. I assume we will remove the impediments to nuclear and remove the incentives for fossil fuel and renewables so we can develop a ‘level playing field’ for all technologies. There are many regulations, hidden subsidies and other buried incentives that advantage fossil fuels and renewable energy in Australia. Here is a list of some examples: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-86256 And here is a list of some of the government subsidies for different generation types for the USA, Texas: http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/energy/subsidies/index.php . This does not include the major component of the subsidies for renewables such as feed-in-tariffs, Renewable Energy Certificates, and the higher price renewables receive because the power generated by renewables is ‘must take’.
9. I assume the community will accept and support that it needs to provide a climate for investors such that it minimises the investor risk premium for nuclear.
Effect of the policy on Capital Cost on Nuclear and Coal
Based on the above assumptions I calculate the capital costs of nuclear and coal power stations in 10 years from award of the first contract for NPP in Australia as follows:
Starting price for nuclear = $3,800/kW
Reduce by 15% over 5 years (say 25% over 10 years) = $2,850/kW
Remove the investor risk premium of say 25% = $2,300/kW
Starting price for new coal = $2,100/kW
Reduce cost by 1.5% over 10 years = $$2070/kW (ACIL-Tasman for 2025)
Add investor risk premium to coal (of say 25%) = $2,600/kW
How much subsidy would be needed to get nuclear started?
Starting price for nuclear = $3,800/kW
Starting price for new coal = $2,100/kW
Difference = $1700/kW
However, nuclear has lower fuel and operating costs than coal, so allow (rough guess) $300/kW.
Therefore the subsidy needed for the first plants would be $1700-$300 = $1,400/kW.
This would reduce to zero by say the 8th reactor, so the average would be $1400/kW for the first 4 reactors and $700/kW for the next 4 reactors.
Subsidy for 5400MW @ $1,400/kW = $7.56 billion
Subsidy for 5400MW @ $700/kW = $3.78 billion
Subsidy for the first 10,800MW = $11.34 billion
Click to access 419-0035.pdf
Thank you for this new post. It is really good. And very timely.
Look at the LCOE for nuclear in Korea $29 and $33/MWh (Exhibit 1).
I want one. You can stick it in my back yard … Please Do!.
Actually Barry’s link for exhibit 3 is NOT to the OECD (IEA) data discussed in linked thread. It is to a “cooked” World Nuclear Association version.
The * next to the rows for Russia and China has a footnote which explains that WNA added $25 per MWh to the coal costs for those countries as a carbon price to reflect the world as WNA would like it to be.
That is the ONLY way they can get nuclear to look cheaper than coal.
We could spend 50 years or more doing R&D on things like nuclear fusion. And 30+ years on Gen IV before it is as mature as Gen III is now, or much longer hoping to make a breaktthrough with energy storage and renewables.
we could spend 5 years researching why Gen II and Gen IIi is too expensive (hint: regulatory regimes in western democracies and excessive IAEA restrictions as well).
We could remove those impediments to nuclear for the cost of a public education campaign (plus a few bribes to special interest groups here and there).
I see that as the best way to move forward in Australia right now. If we could get broad agreement for that I’d be prepared to agree to bribes splashed around all over the place including for massive increase in funding for RD&D.
Click to access BEELEC.pdf
To get the subsidy into perspective (Peter Lang, last line, above): $11B is less than 1% of Australia’s annual GDP and is clearly marginal when spread over ten or twenty years.
To think that this country can afford a hugely bloated and expensive banking and commercial services sector, yet not respond effectively to its share of the GHG and climate change challenge is sickening.
Off topic a little, but a good motivational read is Dyer, Gwnne: “Climate Wars”, Scribe Publications, Vic, 2008.
Containing extensive quotations from world leaders in many discliplines and a healthy review of the IPCC process, it gives one perspective of what the next 3 or 4 decades hold in store for us.. It is a little pessimistic (I hope), but comes down strongly in favour of immediate rational action in the hope of avoiding eventual climate, food, population and energy wars.
Those who think that there is plenty of time for more research (eg CCS or fusion…) and to play with rooftop PV toys should stay away from this book – it might upset them.
Those, such as Peter Lang, who are continually frustrated by Australia’s failure to adopt the only clearly effective clean energy option available right now, will not be happy to consider that the window for exercising this option may well close very firmly and very soon due to geopolitical events.
My fear is that Australia will seek to follow a nuclear option, only to discover that our little country has wasted too much time while the trade systems of the world progressively are stressed and fail during the next decades. Who cares whether the Koreans, the Chinese, the French or the Canadians have the best NPP designs, if none of them want to do business half way around the globe and resource wars are breaking out around them?
For mine, just get on with the first 20 to 40 NPP’s at any cost, Australia. Rip out a few coal fired generating plants and construct the new as brownfield plants, using existing workforces, transmission systems and cooling water supplies. Failure to do so represents the highest cost path, by far – it could well cost us our futures while we remain fixated on cost differentials of less than 1% of annual GDP and/or a non-existent radiation threat to health.
Let us be absolutely clear about fusion power. There is no plausible scenario in which fusion power can prevent dangerous climate change.
By 2050, mid range IPCC projections show atmospheric CO2 concentrations at around double pre-industrial levels http://www.ipcc-data.org/ddc_co2.html . That is a climate change commitment of around 3C. It could be worse.
According to the ITER web site the earliest date for a grid connected demonstration fusion plant is 2040. http://www.iter.org/proj/iterandbeyond
Who knows how long after that it may be before there are commercially deployable fusion plants and what the cost may be?
This is not to say that fusion power is not worthy of research funding, but that it is extremely unlikely to be of any practical import before 2050 at the very earliest. And most optimistically, a couple of decades after that before making any serious impact on emissions.
A lot of hand waving about increased research funding backed by absolutely no detailed analysis of time lines or anything else is treating science and engineering as magic.
If it takes one programmer one year to develop some piece of software, the proverbial aircraft hanger full of programmers will NOT do it in a day. In engineering, this is even more true because there are physical constraints on elapsed time. For example, if you need to study the behavior of materials in the hostile environment of a reactor core, you need time to do it. To be sure, you can speed things up with multiple facilities working on different materials etc, but the facilities also need time to be constructed. Pilot plants need to operate for a period of time … otherwise there is no point in building them. It all takes time as well as money.
If you cannot put any plausible time estimate on whatever you might be proposing, your position is just reckless advocacy of burning more fossil fuels for the foreseeable future masked by the most transparent of fig leafs. It is purely ideological and not fact based, other than the rather banal observation that in some circumstances coal is (a bit) cheaper than nuclear. And I might add, indistinguishable from libertarian ideologues.
Excellent AEMO/NEMMCO reference at the foot of your contribution, Peter.
Many thanks. I guess that this afternoon will include a couple of hours digesting it.
I think we should be very wary of the low LCOEs from Korea and China in Exhibit #1. They really are outliers from the rest. The medians are 58.53 at 5% and 98.75 at 10%.
Nor is it clear which are FOAK costs and which are n-th build.
From the IEA 2010 data, we can say that at a carbon price of $30 then n-th build nuclear will be comparable with coal without CCS.
There are those who argue that the IEA is very pro-nuclear so any costs from them might be viewed skeptically.
John Bennetts, on 7 November 2010 at 11:46 AM — Good advice, methinks. Hard to convince people on this side of the Pacific.
What he said.
There is no question of the importance of removing unnecessary obstacles to nuclear and leveling the playing field. But it is not necessarily useful to become embroiled in interminable debates over the costs down to the last tenth of a percent of GDP.
Politically we need a narrative of the national interest. Support for the NBN has got nothing to do with arguments over the fine details of GDP percentages. It is seen as in the national interest. Whether it is or is not is quite irrelevant to this core observation.
It is a political mistake of the first order to not phrase this narrative well.
I think this statement should not have been said. It needs to be balanced.
The people who are saying that are renewable energy advocates. On the other hand, people in the industry point out how ridiculously biassed are the IEA’s renewable energy reports. They publish the renewable industry advocacy goups reports, such as the solar projections. Look at the Australian one for solar for example and look where it came from.
They key is that the meta-review that Martin and I are about to have published avoids any need to be concerned about the ‘predilections’, in one direction or another, of a given organisation, since all (reasonable) assessments contribute to the central estimate of LCOE and LCE.
“It is a political mistake of the first order” to not recognise that a large proportion of the community (perhaps more than half) do not trus the baggage that comes with accepting the agenda of those saying the costs don’t matter, we shouldn’t worry about what the government does with the money, it will delay roll out if we do a cost benefit analysis, no one should query us because we are the government and we know what wea r doing, and the IT industry supports what we are doing.
Sorry, this is nonsense. The advocacy of irrational schemes, preventing visibility, preventing scrutiny, and advocacy for re-nationalising industries we’ve spent two decades opening up to competition scares the hell out of those who have some understanding about finances and business. And scares many others as well who have a sixth sence that all is not well with the management of the kitty.
“It is a political mistake of the first order to” not realise why there is such strong opposition to ETS, and Carbon Tax (and other new taxes).
“It is a political mistake of the first order to” not realise that the concern for letting this government proceed with any big spending program is because of the tax and waste in just 3 years so far, and historically. Miining Resource Rent Tax, and the mad spending spreee this government has embarked on concern people.
So when you say just spend x% of GDP, it worries me and I expect many in the community because I can see there is little concern by those saying it of the consequences. Furthermore, those same people advocating such actions block scrutiny.
I’d suggest, if you want to appeal to more than just the Hard Left, it would be wise to understand what influences the majority of the voters (hint: it is not socialist policies).
“For mine, just get on with the first 20 to 40 NPP’s at any cost, Australia”
“… just get on with the first 20 to 40 NPP’s at any cost, Australia”
I agree with John Bennetts.
Peter, I’m unsure where you got the idea that this appeals to the “hard left” or that John Bennetts is advocating socialist policies.
It would be economic madness not to stop burning fossil fuels. John summed it up well again by saying, “it could well cost us our futures while we remain fixated on cost differentials of less than 1% of annual GDP and/or a non-existent radiation threat to health.”
Looking at price points for domestic electricity in isolation is not telling the whole story by a long run. If you look at France and Spain, it looks to be the same, however the average cost of industrial power in Spain is €0.085 to France’s €0.065 , ~31% difference.
As well France is currently under its Kyoto target by some 6%, while Spain is 33% over.
As a final added insult, France has a larger portion of its electricity generated from renewables (due to legacy hydro) than Spain does.
In many places, quoting the cost of electric power is meaningless without quoting the current price of gas in the same region.
While I think this approach may be a valid one, I caution looking at these prices myopically, and out of context.
Suggesting that the wide scale implementation of nuclear power would require some draconian type of government is hyperbole of the worst kind. Governments have been passing legislation on what technologies will be used to solve some large problems adversely effecting the population at large since before Tarquinius Priscus ordered the construction of the Cloaca Maxima in Rome, and continuously ever since. Simple legislation can bring about large effect. As I mentioned in another thread, the various governments in Canada have ordered the closure of this country’s remaining coal burners, and that is that. I cannot see that this is out of reach for any government worthy of its name.
Don’t worry, Tom. When Peter says that he needs a subsidy of $11B it is clearly justified and is a rational response to a demonstrated need.
When anybody else says that they want the government to spend money, it is an indication of a deep red socialist at work in cahoots with green elves. It’s nothing personal – he applies this universally. I get quick a humorous kick out of this quirk of his.
This, even when we might all absolutely agree with the expenditure proposal… in this case, getting the NPP show on the road asap.
1. The real world is one in which both the largest emitter (USA) and largest per capita (Australia) in the OECD do not have a carbon price and key developing countries are outside OECD and WILL continue to rapidly rollout the cheapest technology whatever OECD says or does. In these circumstances it is simply misleading to “include” an arbitrary “projected” $30 carbon price in technology cost comparisons. There is no excuse for this after the collapse of Copenhagen. It simply mixes two separate issues together.
Its gets really desperate and bizarre when the WNA has to add in a carbon price to IEA figures for Russia and China because IEA only did so for OECD. This is the kind of “costing” that ZCA does for renewables. Sales promotion, not engineering economics.
2. I have said (twice) in linked thread, that there is a niche role for nuclear in places that have no local coal and transport bottlenecks. This obviously applies to both developed and developing countries. I also said that it makes perfectly good sense for both to preserve or prepare a nuclear industry and skills base as a hedge in order to be able to expand it more rapidly in future. This also applies to both developed and developing (the example I gave for both aspects was China – developing and with a local transport bottleneck in the south). What’s simplistic is discussing the willingness of developed OECD countries to pay for clean energy as though it is somehow relevant to avoiding a massive increase in carbon emissions over the next few decades in a world where most of the population is developing from current living standards of less than $2 per day.
Martin Nicholson (and Barry)
3. There does seem to be a problem with IEA figures. I noticed it (like Peter) in the way they get quoted by renewables advocates. This indicates the problem is not being “pro-nuclear”. The problem might simply be in the nature of “projections”. As discussed by EPRI, “projected” technology costs are reliably lower than “actual”. This would tend to bias against established technologies like coal. But the inclusion of carbon prices in a way that makes them harder to separate out could be related to IEA’s origins in OECD’s concerns about energy indpendence, which would strongly orientate them towards carbon prices.
Either way (or neither way), a meta-study taking medians of projections merely mitigates against outliers. It DOES NOT solve the problem that carbon prices should be added in separately to facilitate meaningful separate discussion of both technology options and carbon pricing while any “median” of an arbitrary mixture is itself an arbitrary mixture.
Scott (from previous thread)
4. 10% discount rate does not reflect a special risk premium for nuclear but is closer to actual capital costs for utility infrastructure. Playing around with lower discount rates because they favor capital intensive technologies gets quite comical with renewables. You could end up like ZCA finding their 2020 plan was far too expensive at 8% so trying 6% and then going to the ludicrous Stern report 1.4% (then taking the result and applying a 10% utility rate to turn into a nice small looking rise in electricity prices)!
5. Lets say $30 per tonne is something like $25 to $30 per MWh for coal. Unless I’ve misunderstood I think it depends more on the (locally varying) grade of coal than on whether the steam generator is ultra or just super critical. In these sort of comparisons different transport local costs for fuel clearly have a much bigger effect than any improved precision in emissions costs.
6. Belgium has far less nuclear than France and far cheaper electricity. Both have cheaper than neighbours with ludicrous renewables subsidies because nuclear is merely a big more expensive than coal rather than completely ludicrous like renewables.
7. I completely agree with you (!) on the decades long timescales for fusion and the difficulties of accelerating R&D. That is all the more reason to accelerate R&D on both fusion and any other possibility (including fission). If the consequences of the likely delay alarms you then you should be keener to throw in some geoengineering as it is very clear that the developing world IS going to keep on using the cheapest technology for the next few decades of rapid development so emissions WILL rise and the climate WILL grow warmer. Being alarmed about it doesn’t change it. Only R&D (eventually) can.
There are also major lead time problems for accelerating R&D. To shift from the pathetic 3% of GDP currently spent on R&D we also have to expand education etc. Better get moving instead of wasting the meager amounts of “disposable” surplus on more expensive energy technologies.
I’ll respond to Peter later.
What is the source for the electricity prices by country in Table 4? I checked the wikipedia link, and the source for the Belgian price is down or no longer available.
http://www.energy.eu/ gives some very different figures.
– DOMESTIC ELECTRICITY PRICES –
€ per kWh electricity
Consumption: 7500 kWh/year
(30% during nighttime)
Belgium: € 0.152
France: € 0.117
– INDUSTRIAL ELECTRICITY PRICES –
€ per kWh electricity
Consumption: 24000 MWh/year
Belgium: € 0.107
France: € 0.067
And going on DV8’s advice,
– INDUSTRIAL GAS PRICES –
€ per kWh gas
Consumption: 11.5GWh/year (1.05 million m3 of gas)
Belgium: € 0.021
France: € 0.025
DV8, I’m not sure I understand this properly:
“In many places, quoting the cost of electric power is meaningless without quoting the current price of gas in the same region.”
Do you mean that by quoting gas prices, it approximates potential electricity cost, if said country were to use gas for baseload electricity generation?
Tom Keen’s figures from energy.au should obviously be taken as more authoritative than wikipedia’s. (Somebody should update wikipedia and point the reference for EU countries to this source).
These figures do refute the idea that Belgium has cheaper electricity.
Also indicates that France’s lower price is not due to a cross-subsidy from industrial.
The two figures provided for 3500 and 7000 kWh per year in each country should enable precise estimation of a block tariff with fixed rental plus variable costs per kWh.
This might shed light on whether or not there is some subsidy or cross subsidy from distribution in France.
At any rate my response on France and comparison with Belgium currently stands refuted.
The prices of electricity can be much more volatile in districts that use gas for baseload electricity generation. In some cases electric power base retail prices might be artificially low due during some periods, but cannot be raised due to process, (required approval by a utilities commission, and such.) However a fuel surcharge can and is added to the consumer’s electric power bill.
I agree with the majority of what you say here. I think it is well worth others taking seriously.
The only point I don’t agree with is delaying economically rational policies to cut emisisons while we do gear up research. I’d argue we can ramp up research, and pay for it, as long as the policies we implement are economically rational. I think you (Arthur) agree with this so I am writing it for others.
To BNCers (not addressed to Arthur):
I’m going to post another comment relating to the above on ‘Open Thread 7’, then leave you all to consider for a while. The subject of the comment has been developing in my mind for a while, partly as a result of what’s been happening on BNC (and not happening!) and partly from the responses on the John Quiggin and Skeptical Science web sites. I hope you will try to understand the message I am sending, rather that just flame out.
Barry, I think the thread you have started here is one of the most valuable for a long time. Excellent!
To the extent that anyone is interested, there are other tables online that emanate from the report from which Barry obtained his opening one. Two relate to LCOE coal/nuclear comparisons. Scott gave the link in the previous thread:
If one subtracts $25 from OECD states, but not from Russia and China, one might hope to have eliminated the effects of carbon tax on the comparisons.
FWIW, it appears that nuclear is cheaper than coal at both 5% and 10% discount rates in Russia, Korea and Japan. In other countries, it is around 5% more expensive at 5% and considerably more at 10% (5-45% range). Unfortunately, China appears to have less economic incentive to move from coal than most other countries cited, despite the fact that her nuclear costs are already almost the lowest.
I think a useful metric may be a carbon cycle cost index calculated as unit fuel cost X CO2 intensity. If the index uses consistent units it can be used to make relative comparisons of different technologies. It won’t matter if carbon taxes are $23 or $30/t so long as they are proportional to CO2.
I thought of this specifically to answer the question about replacing Hazelwood with combined cycle gas. For unit fuel cost I take $/GJ which for brown coal is $0.6 ( ~10 GJ/t costing $6) and for gas I’ve assumed $6 assuming future supplies are tight but still adequate. For CO2 intensity I assume 1.4 kg/kwhe for brown coal and .65 kg/kwh for CCGT. That gives a ratio
(6 X .65)/(.6 X 1.4) = 4.6
That is taxed carbon costs for combined cycle gas will be at least 4X higher than for brown coal fired since the higher fuel cost overwhelms the lower carbon intensity.
For NP the carbon intensity will be near zero and carbon cycle cost ratios will be unflattering to gas and supercritical coal. Those technologies however will win on other costs, notably finance costs.
I thought DV82XL made a good comment regarding the decision by governments in Canada to shut down coal plants.
In all the discussion of the necessity of carbon taxes to promote nuclear it is usually not mentioned that the countries that are most likely to undergo a massive expansion of nuclear are China and India, which have no carbon tax (or am I wrong?) and plenty of coal reserves.
Although China has an authoritarian government it seems they have simply decided that the external costs of coal require development of nuclear. India of course is a democracy. Although neither have yet halted construction of coal plants I think it is possible that they may do so in the future, if their nuclear programs develop as planned.
“I think we should be very wary of the low LCOEs from Korea and China in Exhibit #1. They really are outliers from the rest. The medians are 58.53 at 5% and 98.75 at 10%.”
Averaging numbers together without understanding is not useful. If anything, those “two” datapoints (plus the Japan figure) are the MOST meaningful of the entire table. They are not single datapoints, but tens of nuclear reactors each. Whatever estimating methodologies are involved elsewhere, the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese numbers have a very sound basis: those countries have been prolifically building nuclear power plants over the last few years, and have current, real cost figures.
And it is hardly a coincidence that the countries building all the nukes have cheap costs: they’ve got the experience and have (relatively) mature nuclear construction industries. You say Korean reactors look suspiciously cheap, well, go look at how many they’ve built recently, how quickly those were built, how many fell over budget or behind schedule, and tell me if it’s still “suspicious” they cost less than e.g. the French estimate (one reactor — Flamanville #3 — FOAK, many problems, two years behind schedule).
(A competing hypothesis is that these countries are building so many reactors *because* they are cheap there, because of other factors such as political climate).
Look up “Update on the Cost of Nuclear Power” here:
Appendix lists cost figures for COMPLETED nuclear reactors — all of them in Japan and Korea (again, because that’s where they’re being built).
To add to my last comment,
Tables of commercial reactors in each country. What Martin Nicholson calls Asian “outliers” represent the large majority of recent nuclear construction. Conversely, most of the countries on that IEA table have zero construction, and high(er) cost estimates.
Just found this interesting page on cost comparison nuclear vs. coal.
Unfortunately there are no references for the table. I’m assuming these are figures for the US. Does anyone have any more up-to-date/accurate figures of this sort? Anyway, here are the prices:
$/MW-hr, nuclear the first price, coal the second.
Fuel 5.0 – 11.0
Operating & Maintenance – Labor & Materials 6.0 – 5.0
Pensions, Insurance, Taxes 1.0 – 1.0
Regulatory Fees 1.0 – 0.1
Property Taxes 2.0 – 2.0
Capital 9.0 – 9.0
Decommissioning & DOE waste costs 5.0 – 0.0
Administrative / overheads 1.0 – 1.0
TOTAL 30.0 – 29.1
Is the figure given for “total” representative of the real world situation in the US? I suspect not. But just looking at this, it looks like the main reason nuclear costs are (marginally) more than coal is decommisioning & waste costs. Again, I’m sceptical here, as it claims no cost for coal plant decommissioning.
I agree with Arthur that there should be more investment in nuclear R&D, but this should not delay a roll-out of Gen III.
Had R&D funding continued to fission moltern salt and liquid metal reactors and fusion reactors the US would have all three options now. The IFR project was to have a demonstration plant operating by 2010. In the 70s the US fusion program alone planned a demonstration plant by 2000. According to Rob Goldston at Princeton, the $30B development cost of the project has not changed, only the rate of investment has not kept to the original timeline, see p. 25 of http://fire.pppl.gov/dev_path_goldston.pdf.
George, I agree that there should be more investment in nuclear R&D on the off chance that it will remain the best we can do or eventually become cheaper than coal. However neither the presence or absence of such nuclear R&D could ever be what inhibits the rollout of Gen III (or even Gen II).
Don’t be taken in by the absurd histrionics in Australia. What prevents a nuclear rollout worldwide (as opposed to some nuclear hedging, demonstration and niche roles) is the simple fact that coal is generally cheaper than nuclear. There’s no realistic possibility that capital costs for nuclear could ever become comparable to much simpler coal plants even in the most benign regulatory environment and its difficult to make up for that with fuel improvements since the fuel is already so much cheaper. (The Chinese figures showing nuclear close to coal should be taken with a grain of salt until confirmed).
Since it is unlikely that nuclear will ever become cheaper than coal, developing countries WILL continue using coal for as many as decades as we don’t have anything cheaper. So we also need to do research on ANY other possibilities. Massive research since there is nothing plausible currently on the horizon – and including geoengineering research because there is no reason to expect solution before we have emitted vast amounts of additional greenhouse gases.
While some may dispute the difficulty of getting nuclear LCOE below coal, I don’t think there’s any serious argument that the high capital costs of nuclear preclude it becoming cheaper than gas for intermediate and peak loads unless some form of dramatically cheaper storage is developed. So we certainly need R&D on storage to also get rid of the rest of the electricity emissions from gas and to tackle transport.
Its going to take decades and it has to be a global project paid for by developing countries because nobody else can afford it and there’s no plausible way to recover the R&D costs given that the aim is a price low enough to displace cheaper hydrocarbon based energy technologies.
So spreading illusions that nuclear can solve the problem is less ludicrous than pretending that wind and solar can, but still a distraction from actually tackling a massive problem that will last for decades.
The historical injustices to nuclear are irrelevant since the results of removing them, will still not make it generally cheaper than coal and so it still won’t get used by countries moving up from living on $2 per day. (Incidentally those countries are far more likely to relax regulatory and security standards way more than they should than they would be inclined to preserve the high cost US and EU regimes, but it still won’t be cheaper than coal, let alone gas for non-baseload.
That’s pretty much my reply to Peter Lang too. What Australia does for its own power supply is simply irrelevant to the global problem. Wasting any of the financial contribution we MUST make to global R&D on more expensive local power instead is pure vanity gestures.
A very sound argument, but one possibly based on a false premise.
Why are you so certain that nuclear power can never be cheaper than coal power in developing nations? I accept that, as I mentioned upthread, China appears to have very low cost nuclear power relative to Western nations ($68/MWh versusus $80-110 at 10% discount rates)), but $68 is still 35% above power produced from its very cheap coal. However, its coal will become more expensive and the costs of generating power from it will also rise as emissions standards are improved. Furthermore, I cannot accept that nuclear R&D will not be capable of bringing a 35% reduction in LCOE with new nuclear designs relative to those currently used.
The R&D should be paid for by developed nations (or globally) despite the fact that LCOE differentials are far less between coal and nuclear in those states. This would not be a grandiose gesture, more an exercise in economic survival.
It seems self evident that the figures HAVE to be wrong. They show equal capital costs per MW despite the obvious fact that coal plants are much simpler than nuclear.
Coal is simpler?
Nuclear needs no coal handling plant, no bunkers, no boilers, no grinding mills, no conveyors, no FD fans, no ID fans, no chimney stack, no ash handling plant and no ash disposal system, for starters. These represent substantial costs and are also site-specific, thus at least partially are always OFAK.
In exchange, nuclear has a more complex heat source and containment.
It ain’t as easy as just saying that coal is cheaper because… Facts have a tendency to get in the way of simplistic arguments.
And no precipitators or fabric filter dust collection bag houses.
If I was certain I would not have said:
I would instead have said we should not devote scarce R&D funds on nuclear because it has no chance and would just be an extravagent waste like wind.
I said we should ALSO do massive R&D on anything else that MIGHT be a possibility because it is so unlikely that nuclear fission could ever be cheaper than coal and virtually impossible that it could be cheaper than gas for non-baseload.
If you can’t visualize how much more inherently expensive a nuclear plant is than a coal plant, consider the comparison with a gas plant. They both have similar power blocks, with turbines. The gas turbine simply burns gas. The nuclear plant requires the addition of a nuclear reactor. No amount of research will ever make that additional nuclear reactor cost free. A peaking gas plant only burns gas for a small proportion of the time, so, unlike the baseload situation, the fact that the gas is much more expensive than coal or nuclear fuel doesn’t really matter. Its the capital cost of the plant that is decisive in this case.
As long as we keep using gas for intermediate and peak loads we will continue to be adding to greenhouse gases. Its certainly worth tackling the much larger baseload emissions first, but by the time we’ve dealt with them, the goal will have to be to eliminate virtually ALL emissions. Unless developing countries have already reached reasonable living standards by then, they will keep using whatever is cheapest which will never be nuclear for non-baseload.
As far as I know nobody seriously claims that nuclear could displace gas without a carbon price (not that I am impressed by claims that it could displace coal without a carbon price).
Your arguments are too simplistic, to the point where you erode the credibility of your sensible points. Fuel price, and security of supply, are strong determinant of the price of coal-fired power and decisions to build it. None of the Middle East countries, like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait etc. are contemplating building coal plants. They’re planning nuclear — mostly because of fuel considerations (as well as reliability and cost [vs renewables]). Nuclear fuel, by contrast, is a tiny and insensitive determinant of nuclear electricity costs, especially so for fast reactors or LFTRs. As to peaking plants, there are many sensible way to deal with this in a nuclear-powered world, and this might include synfuels to replace natural gas, and multiple uses for the reactors, where they are switched from electricity generation (where needed) to multi-stage flash distillation, boron reduction, synfuel production, etc. There is no reason, in a future world, of ever letting the plant stand idle.
I should also add that there are no other ‘magical’ energy sources out there to discover. There are no perpetual motion machines, or freely harvestable anti-matter. We have only 2 choices for energy on Earth. One is to use nuclear fusion, either by harvesting sunlight (direct dilute incoming radiation or some stored form), or by recreating a mini-sun on Earth in a fusion reactor (Tokamak, whatever). The other is nuclear fission (either directly, in fission reactors, or indirectly, via geothermal). Yes, there are trivial amounts from gravity etc. but they’re not worth considering. That’s it for energy, Arthur. That’s as good as it gets. All the future R&D in in the world won’t change these basic physical laws.
I could go on, but I’ll leave it until Thursday’s debate.
It’s not just nuclear power plants. Xihoumen Bridge – the second-longest suspension bridge ranked by the length of the center span.
Completed in 4 years for $1.7B.
They just have a lot of people now that know how to carry out a major construction project.
Gas plants for peak power? Here is the statement from Areva on load following for the Atmea Design:
100 – 30%, 5%/min, including automatic frequency control, instantaneous return to full power capability, and effluent reduction by variable temperature control.
Is this false? Is it unique? Does it mean that nuclear can meet all needs, not just baseload? Experts?
Your list of things that a coal plant has still sounds a lot simpler and cheaper than a nuclear reactor to me.
Both are “mature” technologies and there is no obvious reason to expect incremental improvements in coal plant design to lag behind those for nuclear reactors if they were ever subject to serious competition.
1. Low construction costs and times for Chiese bridges and nuclear plants apply equally to Chinese coal plants. Reversing the gap between coal and nuclear plant costs is what seems highly unlikely.
2. There’s no doubt that nuclear plants can load follow. They usually weren’t designed to because they are intended to compete with coal for baseload and have no hope of competing with gas for load following. They can’t compete because of the higher capital cost which stands unused for most of the time in a peaking plant, not because of any lack of maneuverability. (Presumably it hasn’t cost much to add the maneuverability anyway, and it may be a marketing plus in some situations).
A $30 per tonne CO2 price is about equal to $11-$12 per tonne rise in coal price. With sea transported thermal coal currently at ~ $100 per tonne, that’s say 12% increase in fuel cost for coal fired electricity. Which is neither here nor there in view of the fact that coal prices have risen hugely over the last decade (300% ?).
For nations without abundant domestic coal supplies, relying on imported coal looks quite risky over the life time of new coal plants, both in price and security of supply.
Countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam must surely have taken account of this in opting for new nuclear.
Arthur you say,
“There’s no doubt that nuclear plants can load follow. They usually weren’t designed to because they are intended to compete with coal for baseload and have no hope of competing with gas for load following.”
Isn’t this a bit irrelevant? Doesn’t the need for load-following gas turbines arise from the fact that coal plants aren’t so good at load-following? So if you instead have baseload plants that are also capable of load-following, doesn’t it reduce the need for extra load-following facilities, which in turn reduces capital costs? And given that gas turbines are generally expensive to operate, wouldn’t this also reduce operation costs?
Please note, these are questions.
Also, I believe gas turbines are more often used for peaking than load-following.
This is one of the reasons to believe that nuclear will become increasingly price competitive in Asia:
They are not spending $175 billion without anticipating very substantial growth of nuclear power.
quokka ABARE reckon a tonne of thermal black coal generates 2.4 tonnes of CO2. Therefore 2.4 X $30 = $72. I’d guess very few long term supply contracts have black thermal coal at anything like the $100 spot price but they must gradually head upwards as China and India run out of coal.
Logically if Australia has a domestic carbon tax it should slap a levy on exported fossil fuels – thermal coal, coking coal, LNG and the proposed brown coal pellets. Since carbon tax is meant to be revenue neutral the importing countries could ask for the money back if they promised to do green things with it. However I think there is buckley’s chance of an export carbon levy. Australia is a shameless international carbon pimp. Coal exports complement iron ore exports and pay for increasing imports of oil and food.
Given that about 50% of the European Union’s carbon imposts are voided by offsets I’d guess any carbon tax will allow generous deductions. I’d also guess we won’t see carbon tax in the remaining term of the Gillard government. We’ll engross ourselves with troop pull-outs, troop pull-ins, Logies nights and such. Let’s hope the next El Nino is a doozie.
Well said John Bennetts and Tom Keen. Just get on with building 20-40 NPP’s.The rest of the world is currently building 54 of the things. They must reckon it’s cost effective. Do we in Australia want to reduce our CO2 emissions soon or not? If we do , then we have to phase out coal and phase in nuclear. And stop wasting any more dough on Rand D for the renewables. Use it to initiate some nuclear build. Take note Wayne Swan
You need to see a bigger picture.
Germany: What wind and solar do is take down prices in extreme market situations.
All the Data in Leipzig shows that. Prior to massive fed in solar power power companys made good bussines on hot summer days. Now they got solar power they need to buy off the consumer/producer.
When you take in account price correction by feed in solar it costs 1.8B a year without even exploring further positiv effects in the German job market, export and technology leadership.
Prices did not climb either the last years. Only the profits of RWE and therelike did.
You can see that in marketprices which are not passed on to the consumer. Industrial clients have also not seen any rise due to solar or wind capacity instead prices have droped for them.
Levelized produktion cost sometimes means nothing.
I would like to see analyses of busineses by companys. Pit their profits, cash flows, investments against their generation park, their consumer base, the market price, competition and all other aspects of the business.
Steve, Arthur and Tom and everyone else …. Apologies to those who know all this already.
A quick heads up for those perhaps not fully familiar with electricity demand profiles and how they are serviced:
Electricity demand is generally categorised as baseload, intermediate load and peak load. Baseload takes up most of the load and doesn’t tend to change significantly over time. Intermediate load does vary but is predictable and influenced by time of day such as weekday mornings and evenings. Peak load is much less certain and is often influenced by climatic conditions.
All generators, including baseload, need to load-follow to some degree because the load changes continuously throughout the 24 hours. Some generators are better at it than others depending on ramp rates (the rate of change of output, both up or down, in MW/minute). A generator must be part loaded to load-follow. All generators lose some efficiency when not run at full load. Hence the least cost way to provide baseload is with generators that run continuously close to full load. Cold starting steam boilers can take several hours, so best to run them continuously if you can.
Because baseload generators are ideally run continuously at close to full load, then new capacity needs to be started to handle intermediate load. Technically, the baseload generators could supply intermediate load as well, but then they would need to run perhaps 70% loaded during the night and this would reduce the returns. Most networks chose to run intermediate load generators (like gas turbines or hydro) that are cold started at around 6 am and shutdown in the late evening and may not even be needed on weekends.
Peak load is something else. It is inherently variable day to day. It can be predicted 24 hours ahead but not with certainty. It requires some quick start generator like diesel, OCGT, hydro or storage systems that can ramp up quickly on very short notice. These are generators that may be idle much of the time so need to have low capital cost to go with the low capacity factors.
It seems unlikely that nuclear plants will ever fully service peak load economically. So we can expect gas turbines and hydro (were available) to be used for many decades to come with a greater emphasis on storage systems where cost effective.
In response to German’s post above, I offer the following:
Can Solar Energy Crash the Grid?
According to the Berliner Zeitung, the head of Germany’s energy agency DENA is warning that there is a real danger that solar power, could crash Gemany’s aging electricity grid.
The problem is the amount of electricity produced by solar panels varies according to location, time of year, time of day and cloud cover. They are most productive when the sun emerges, which you will not be amazed to learn, is during daylight hours. But that is when demand for electricity is lowest.
As a consequence there can be huge power surges as tens or hundreds of thousands of small solar installations export their surpluses back to the grid.
1. No. Gas would be used for load following in intermediate loads and peak loads even if coal plants were more maneuverable (even though it is ALSO true that coal plants are technically hard to maneuver as it takes hours to ramp them up or down). The existence of a peak and therefore also the existence of intermediate “shoulders” means there HAS to be extra capacity standing unused most of the time. The power system delivers both a power capacity and “energy”, each of which has its own costs. Adding to capacity with extra plant that is more economic for providing the “energy” is more expensive than doing so with plant that is economic for providing capacity that doesn’t get used most of the time.
2. The key point in Martin Nicholson’s longer explanation is that the lower capital cost of gas means it is less expensive to have gas plant standing idle for most of the time even though it is more expensive per MWh to run it for a smaller portion of time. This is even more true for nuclear baseload than for coal baseload since nuclear has the higher capacity cost and coal the higher running cost.
3. I would emphasize the economics over the technical limitations more. eg I don’t think Martin is correct that faster startup times is the reason for preferring simple cycle OCGT gas for peak with CCGT for intermediate load following. CCGT can actually be more maneuverable than OCGT and either have a similar fast start or be ramped up and down from running below capacity during the shoulder period to also cover peak. CCGT is also more efficient so cheaper to run. The reason for preferring OCGT as peakers (and sometimes diesel) is once again that being simpler it has a lower capital cost so despite higher running cost it is more economical for plant capacity that stands idle nearly all the time and only gets used for a short period each day at peaks (whereas CCGT gets used for a longer period of ramping up and down to the peaks as well as during the peaks and coal gets used all day). Incidentally at the moment CCGT is also getting used for some baseload as about three times as much maneuverable gas as wind is required to accommodate variable wind that utilities are forced to buy. Hence the gas/wind alliance. Also uncertainty over carbon prices is already adding a risk premium to coal plants that is delaying coal builds and resulting in extra gas builds.
4. Bottom line is in Martin’s final paragraph. Since it is “unlikely” (I would put it stronger) that nuclear will ever be economically competitive with gas for peak, we can expect carbon emissions to continue for as many decades as we have not done the R&D to find something cheaper (even though emissions would be massively reduced if it was economically feasible for nuclear to replace coal for the much larger portion of baseload emissions). Hydro is fine but limited resources available and will be needed for its high ramp speeds in providing stability eg when a large generator or transmission line suddenly cuts out.
5. Note also Peter Lang’s point that cheaper electricity would be needed to accelerate shift from oil based transport and gas based heating. “Just” becoming competitive with coal isn’t enough.
In this region we have one NPP, Columbia Geneating station, a 1,150 MW BWR. It entered service in 1984 CE and load follows with busbar prices of US$0.0275/kWh. New NPP construction in this region might have an LCOE (busbar) as low as US$0.065/kWh, higher than my retail price; there is no interest in new NPPs around here.
Extreme sensitivity to electricity prices in the USA is evidnced by an article in todays TNYT. The article mentions one state’s regulators rejecting a wind farm proposal because it would raise rates by 0.2%; another state had a similar rejection because rates would increase by 0.7%; this latter despite the utility badly wanting the extra source of power.
Stay focussed. The real issue is not how much OCGT gas is needed to follow a load curve: this can be achieved in a number of ways, right down to load shedding. All forms of generation can follow load curves, given time and favourable pricing.
To spend endless effort trying to explain why one form of energy is good or bat at load following is to forget that the cost of load following is managed through the marketplace. It boils down to the price that the generators put on load following, rather than the theoretical cost which any given generating unit might incur as it load follows.
This can be seen clearly from the bid prices which reach up to $10,000 per MWh for energy sent out. This is the price that the generating corporation bids for something which the break-even cost might be $40, $400 or whatever. The market price bears little relation to actual costs.
This is why a solar PV FiT of $0.60/kWh ($600/MWh) in a market where the average price of power is $50 didn’t result in a market meltdown. Here we are all, having conniptions about the last one cent per kWh generation cost for nuclear Vs coal, when the real question is nothing of the sort.
The real question is and will remain: “What is the cheapest, safest, cleanest available means of generating energy, in order that every single fossil fuel generating plant can be permanently parked?”
The question is about safety and climate security, not a billion dollars here or there.
If the Federal Government had the cojones and the means to actually develop policy and enact legislation (three big if’s), it would enact legislation to achieve three objectives:
1. Outlaw construction in Australia of fossil fuelled fixed generating plant of any type at all – coal, brown stuff, gas, OCGT, CCGT, diesel… with possible exceptions on a case by case basis for backup power supplies in hospitals, etc.
2. Repeal all Commonwealth legislation which bans or cripples nuclear and other clean power technologies, subject to the necessary environmental safeguards relating to site selection, etc.
3. Pass legislation setting sunset dates for last operation, set by set, of all existing stationary fossil fuel generating plant. I suggest that the dirtiest should go first and that this should/must be as soon as a safe, clean alternative is available. Then the next, and so on.
Unless and until these three things come to pass, anybody who sees benefitial use in NPP’s is bound to fail.
So, tell me again… why should I give a fig what the actual or estimated cost of FF power generation might or might not be, or what the market price if the real price is environmental, not dollars?
Arthur we can indeed expect carbon emissions to continue for many decades. But we don’t need to get emissions down to zero to achieve the 2 deg max temperature rise.
We need to get the total emission intensity for electricity down to around 50kg/MWh by 2050. We can handle 12% of electricity coming from gas plants with an emission intensity of say 400kg/MWh. It could be more if they ever get CCS to work commercially. That would probably be sufficient to handle all the standing reserve demand – along with hydro and possible storage systems.
“We need to get the total emission intensity for electricity down to around 50kg/MWh by 2050”
Won’t that depend strongly on how much generation capacity there is globally by 2050? What is the projected capacity for this CO2 intensity?
– John Bennetts, 9 November 2010 at 11:46 AM,
Very well said. I like the way you think.
My recent research has revealed that in 2007, Germany allocated 1.5billion euros [$2billion US] for solar subsidies and in 2008, 1.7billion Euros [$2.3 billion US] and that was to get exactly 0.7% of their electricity. In 2008, nuclear produced 23.8% of Germany’s electricity and paid plenty of tax to support the alternatives [solar etc]. If that’s not wasteful, indeed economically irresponsible, I don’t know what is. The kindest thing, I believe that can be said about Germany’s energy policy is that it is “confused” And to think that they were considering phasing out nuclear is really quite incredible.
Well said again John Bennetts.. Agree totally with your three points above. The cost of NPP’s is not putting off the 20 countries currently building them. They want a secure, emissions -free energy supply. Nuclear is the only one available at the moment that can deliver that. Why are we agonizing over costs etc.? Moverit!!
1. Emissions are essentially cumulative due to the long atmospheric retention period. So eventually we do need to get net emissions down near zero.
2. There’s very little chance of meeting 2050 targets. The world WILL get warmer.
Because half the population of the world living on less than $2 per day don’t give a fig what you think they should pay for electricity while industrializing or what Australia does when already industrialized and WILL use the cheapest technology available in dollars, not in future environmental costs.
4. Repeating things that are well known and I have already confirmed that I understand and agree with concerning fuel prices to accuse me of being “simplistic” may be a viable debating tactic but doesn’t help deal with the actual issues between us.
5. I also agree (but have not previously mentioned) that extra off peak capacity could be used by selling discounted power to additional uses. This is rather obvious since we already do it with aluminium smelters and brown coal in Victoria. It doesn’t change the fact that as long as the costs of providing dispatchable power to the grid favor fossil fuels they will continue to be used by the developing countries that will be installing most of the new plant over the next 50 to 100 years. It certainly hasn’t resulted in any reduction of brown coal use in Victoria!
6. There may even be a role for Concentrated Solar Thermal with heat storage in similar applications for desalination, synfuels, hydrogen etc if some plant is willing to accept shutdowns during extended cloudy periods in remote locations where this is infrequent. All this stuff is peripheral to the central question of reducing emissions from the new grid generating plant that will be coming on stream over the next 50 to 100 years, mainly in developing countries where costs are critical.
7. Your opinion that we have discovered all there is to know about energy was more widely held in the eighteenth and even at the end of the nineteenth century. It seems rather quaint in the 21st century. I would prefer to find out by massive R&D than rely on your judgment.
8. You mentioned fusion and I already mentioned I am more inclined to believe it will eventually become cheaper than fossil fuels than that fission will. Fusion has been 40 years off for about 50 years now so there’s not much chance of it happening before significant warming and we need massive R&D just to try to hurry that up and provide for some geoengineering in the meantime, even without also hoping for something entirely new.
9. It is a bit “simplistic” to list UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait “etc” and explain their interest in nuclear as entirely due to fuel economics despite massive local gas resources. A less simplistic list should include Israel and Iran. Additional aspects may come to mind when considering the less “simplified” list.
No Arthur, comparing 19th century scientific knowledge to today is not a rational comparison, and my opinion on this point is not quaint. To quote you: this “a viable debating tactic but doesn’t help deal with the actual issues between us”. Your view on energy R&D is, to all intents and purposes, reliant on ‘magic’. That’s quaint. Your faith in R&D is touching, but far removed from reality.
Your point 5 contradicts your earlier concerns, and your point 6 is irrelevant to my argument, as I wasn’t discussing the use of CSP in this role multiple-use role. Your argument about fusion potentially being eventually cheaper than coal violates your argument that fission is inherently more complex and so can never be.
Frankly, you’re all over the shop. Arthur’s have you really got a point, or are you just an absolute contrarian?
1. Fundamental science and R&D is not “magic”. It requires effort which will cost billions and take decades. First we have to get rid of the magical thinking that by slapping a tax on things as an incentive, “the market will provide”.
2. My point 5 does not contradict pointing out that nuclear won’t displace gas. It illustrates it by giving the example that more than a quarter of Victoria’s baseload capacity is discounted for aluminium smelters but we still also use gas peakers (and intermediate).
3. There is indeed a similar problem for fusion to become cheaper than coal as for fission. Current R&D funding seems to be oriented towards eventually providing something competitive with coal as coal becomes more expensive. We’ll have to do much better than that. Hence the need for massive and broad based R&D.
Arthur, you’re not listening (reading). If you’re hoping for a new, fundamental form of energy to appear in this universe, beyond nuclear fusion and fission — we ain’t gonna find it (unless you mean the energy that powers Harry Potter’s wand, hence my reference to magic). If you’re hoping for a more efficient way to capture fusion or fission energy, then we’re back to reality, and there, we’re talking about Gen IV nuclear or space-based solar.
Your point 3 in your latest comment remains contradictory with your earlier statements.
Arthur we don’t need to (and can’t) get emissions down to zero. The IPCC are calling for 85% reduction in emissions from 2000 levels by 2050 – not 100% reduction.
What reduction we need from electricity is not easy to calculate because although energy use will rise, we will gain some efficiency by switching from oil to electricity for much of our transport (either directly or indirectly through another energy carrier like synfuels or hydrogen).
The figure of 50kg/MWh has been thrown around by people like Treasury as an estimate of where the electricity emission intensity needs to be by 2050 to meet the IPCC reduction target. I think it would be naive to think we will not be using fossil fuels somewhere in the world by 2050. Like you I doubt we will get the emission intensity down to 50 kg/MWh on a world-wide basis. We might manage it in Australia with enough effort.
1. Since we are agreed that we are unlikely to meet IPCC reduction targets on a world wide basis, why can’t we also agree that what Australia does in the way of meeting those targets is pretty irrelevant, the world will continue warming until we come up with some way for developing countries to meet similar targets eventually.
2. I think I understand the renewables advocates – some of them just don’t get it and others actually want to hold back development. Pointless gestures are attractive to both. I also understand why the nuclear industry advocates nuclear – for the same reasons that the wind and gas industries advocate wind and gas. But for people here concerned about global warming, in favour of development and progress and reasonably knowledgeable about power economics I honestly don’t understand the value attached to gestures by Australia. If it isn’t a blind spot or parochialism you still haven’t spelled out the rational argument that is supposed to connect Australia reducing its emissions to the developing world not increasing them rapidly while industrializing.
3. Contributing billions towards global R&D may or may not deliver results that could speed up the developing world becoming able to move to clean energy (either by offering cheaper clean energy or by contributing to more rapid development generally so that they can afford the switch earlier). Spending the same billions on more expensive clean energy in Australia doesn’t help solve anything. Its just a gesture.
4. Wishing that nuclear fission could do it is certainly more plausible than wishing that renewables could do it. But until clean energy actually is cheaper than coal please focus on what needs to be done to make it cheaper or on a clear and compelling explanation of your reasons for believing that is not essential.
In advocating massive R&D I am supporting:
5. Possible (though rather unlikely) reduction of the costs of fission to below those of coal through Generation IV, V, VI or whatever it takes.
6. Possible (though also uncertain and certainly taking longer) introduction of fusion cheaper than coal in however many decades that takes. I have already agreed that is difficult for the same reason it is difficult for fission to become cheaper than coal. Pointing this out for one of them and not for the other is, as you say, logically contradictory. Why on earth then are you persisting with it?
c) More controllable and less risky forms of geoengineering than we have available now since it seems highly likely that we won’t be meeting any desirable timetables and will need to do the best we can about that.
d) Ditto for adaptation and any other forms of mitigation that are cost effective in reducing damage.
e) Ditto for new ways to exploit chemical, biological, elastic, electromagnetic and other forms of energy for generation, transmission and storage of electrical energy.
f) Ditto for whatever new forms of energy we are able to develop as a result of overcoming dogmatism and improving our understanding of fundamental physics beyond the level we have been stuck at since about the mid 1970s.
Arthur, re: 6, I consider the harnessing of fission energy to be far simpler than fusion, that’s why. After all, it was first harnessed 60 years ago, and it requires relatively low temperatures and quite manageable materials science. You seemed, inexplicably, to be implying that fusion is comparable in the level of technological sophistication required. That is poor inference.
Once again, I point out, you’re the one who’s being logically inconsistent, not me. Your options in (e) are all lower energy density than fission or fusion. Your option (f) once again appeals to ‘magic’ (which is something that, if real [i.e. indistinguishable from magic for us today], is so far into the future as an applied energy source as to be irrelevant to this discussion). I suggest you read Smil.
Sorry, Arthur, but as your posts become longer they lose focus.
I tried a few posts up to explain why I am convinced that Australia should progress and in what way. Money is far from the only consideration, because there is always someone who will hold out hope that just another bit of R&D and a few more years and things might change.
Things won’t change for the better due to more R&D – that I am sure of. By all means engage in research, but first and foremost stay focussed on reduction of GHG emissions now by the best means available now.
If Australia cntinues to do diddly-squat, things won’t change for the better. Our little nation will continue to be perceived (rightly) as amongst the heaviest per capita carbon villains, both at home and, through coal and gas exports, overseas. That is important. Very important.
Read again mine of 11:46am today. Action is the only thing that will improve our performance or, through example, that of others. Talk won’t do it. Research won’t do it. Wishing and hoping won’t do it.
Building clean, safe, low carbon power stations can do it. “It”, of course, is retiring for ever fossil fuel power stations, one at a time. Decommissioning. Dismantling. For ever.
Sadly, while I write this, nothing is happening that makes me think that this simple goal will be met any time soon, at any price. This isn’t war – it’s much more important than that – and wars are not won by novel application of R&D while the troops are kept in the barracks.
The entire basis of your argument is that nuclear is not/will not be price competitive with coal. It is merely an assertion of what you think and has two aspects:
1. The price of nuclear cannot drop
2. The price of coal will not go up and or not go up substantially.
The first is highly questionable, even for PWRs.
The second is more than questionable. Coal prices have risen dramatically this century. Spot price of thermal coal is currently ~ $100 a tonne.
In a world where you envisage rapid coal powered development for much of the planet what possible mechanism is going to stabilize coal price? It could well double or more within a decade, let alone by 2050. And why would planners in third world countries not be well aware of this risk.
Your argument is based very shaky ground indeed, and is based on little more than your opinion.
Coal may rise 12 percent next year
And what happens if we cannot get the cost of fission or fusion beneath that of coal? Do we simply give up and accept climate change instead of increasing the wholesale cost of electricity by what? 20%?
Quokka, that 12 % relates to new and rolled over contract prices, rather than to the industry as a whole. Some contracts extend well beyond a year and goodness knows what the spot price is going to do.
That 12% may approximate an upper bound rather than an average, however I agree that the short term trend is north.
Arthur, on 9 November 2010 at 11:10 AM said:
1. No. Gas would be used for load following in intermediate loads and peak loads even if coal plants were more maneuverable (even though it is ALSO true that coal plants are technically hard to maneuver as it takes hours to ramp them up or down).
Either Arthur doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is mischieviously passing on rumours.
It is not unusual for coal to be able to follow load at a rate of 10MW or 20 MW or even more per unit, per minute. It happens every day. That is not hours – it is minutes. All that is required is for the unit to be on line and not fully loaded. This is not, contrary to some opinions, unusual. Loading at 80% is far more common than at 100% of nameplate. Thus, 20GW of coal (or any other number you like to pick) should be able to follow the market up and down, within limits, at a rate of 200 or even 400 MW/minute.
Looked at another way, if spinning reserve in the NEM is equivalent to 4 or 5 large units, ie 2 to 4 GW, additional energy can be very quickly found to follow a load swing of 2GW over 5 or 20 minutes. That’s up or down.
Let’s hear no more about coal and nuclear not being able to load follow. It is a furphy which is not supported by the marketplace facts or the engineering reality.
Meeting very sharp peaks is another thing. That’s where hydro worked very well from 1960 to 1990, when significant GT capacity came on line to assist. There are good commercial reasons for adding OCGT a bit at a time in lieu of major Bayswater style developments worth billions of dollars and delivering 2660MW or more. I won’t expound here, except to say that the threat of OCGT has been very good at scaring new power out of Victoria and NSW because it can be constructed very fast. A blast of new OCGT potentially queers the business plan of big coal or big nuclear, simply because it could change the market outlook by introducing ig scary lumps of commercial risk.
Mind you, it need not be constructed to achieve this – it needs only to be possible to work as a believable threat.
Several OCGT and CCGT developments have gained planning approval and have simply been sat on as a threat to new entrants, while the existing generators then win from a constrained market. It is better NOT to construct the GT’s than to actually construct and run them.
On a communication channel such as this blog I expect mistakes to be made and for misconceptions to creep in. What I do not happily accept is repetition of inaccurate myths about the performance characteristics of competing options which suit a point of view but which serve no other purpose.
By way of a footnote, yes, I have long experience in construction and operation of coal fired power stations. I have also project managed a few GT installations and played a role in site selection and design opton studies in both OCGT and CCGT. What I have said here is the truth. Regarding the manipulation of the NEM electricity market, this is an old story and much-argued. There must be market experts out there who can nail this down tight as a drum
Last. Please consider. If a serious nuclear power proposal was to emerge within Tas/Vic/SA/NSW/Qld, would the existing players just stand to one side and say “Watch this!” or would they threaten to smash the NPP’s market opportunities by every means at their disposal, including by threatening their funding providers with war in the marketplace specifically aimed at the weaknesses of NPP and by construction of a fleet of OCGT power stations which they have no intention of ever constructing? The structure and dynamics of the marketplace are, in my opinion, much more significant than an additional real or imagined percentage point on the NPP construction cost.
I understand what you are saying. I don’t know much about coal, but there is a big expansion in the traded volume of coal futures on ICE and the US exchanges. Is this a reflection of an evolutionary change in which coal is traded to become more like oil?
Anyway here is another piece this time on China coal prices – currently at $127 per tonne, and projected to go higher over the winter. As you say, price certainly going north in the short term.
Quokka, I am not expert in this area. Beyond pointing out the possibility that Bloomberg’s figures are not likely to be indicative of the whole market, year on year, I can add little here.
Barry may have a mate who is better connected to the business of marketing coal internationally. I am sure that it is a cutthroat business and that false trails and rumour mongering abound.
The volatility of coal prices is quite possibly as large a commercial risk as a carbon tax, possibly also introducing very large subjective variation in option pricing nuclear Vs coal. How much more or less is the future price of enriched uranium, I wonder? Could the relative stability of uranium price be a positive selling point for PWR’s and Type IV’s?
@Arthur; 12:45pm today.
So, tell me again… why should I give a fig what the actual or estimated cost of FF power generation might or might not be, or what the market price if the real price is environmental, not dollars?
Because half the population of the world living on less than $2 per day don’t give a fig what you think they should pay for electricity…
Arthur needs remedial reading classes. I didn’t put words into mouths of the world’s poor. I referred to the relative merit of a livable environment versus the possibility of a cheaper electricity bill while the environment disintegrates around us all. My opinion on this isn’t about to change any time soon.
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs and all that… better to be alive and paying a steep price for electrons under pressure, rather than the converse. Please, Arthur, do try to read and understand what is before you. As it is, some are probably doubting your intellectual capacity… why post nonsense and remove all doubt?
Nevertheless anybody less qualified to speak off the top of their head than John Bennetts can simply lookup the data for themselves like I did.
10MW per minute is 600MW per hour. 20MW per minute is 1200MW per hour.
The AEMO National Transmission Network Development Plan Consultation Appendix B provides in section B.4.8. Generator ramp rates, the actual rates for every generator in the NEM as used by the NEMDE for actual despatch and in models for planning.
The only plant units that can do 1200MW per hour are hydro. The default rate for gas is 600 MW/h, for coal it is 180 MW/h.
Some coal examples include:
Hazelwood 120 MW/h
Loyang A 600 MW/h
Loyang B 600 MW/h
Yallourn 240 MW/h
These are not for individual units but for very large multiple unit plants.
The point scoring was of course also entirely irrelevant since I was explaining that it was NOT technical restrictions but economics that was more relevant to the load following and peaking role of gas and confirming that there is NO technical problem load following inherent to nuclear.
For background on Australian power industry economics I strongly recommend the extensive AEMO and AER documentation.
Instead of bluster John should consider a direct response to my very simple assertion that his proposals for Australia would not make any difference to global warming until the developing countries that will be generating most of the emissions over the next few decades are both able and willing to use clean energy.
Others have offered such responses without bluster and I will respond to them more politely.
Terry Krieg, The link below shows that the accumulated liability for the renewable energy subsidy in Germany totals over 100 billion euros as at 2010 for about 7% of their electricity production. Could build a lot of nukes for 100 billion euros!
John Bennetts I am enjoying your informative posts.
I agree that fusion is far more difficult than fission. Likewise fission was far more difficult than combusion. It does not follow that that fusion energy when achieved will necessarily be more expensive than fission, just as it does not follow that fission energy when achieved would necessarily be more expensive than combusion. As it happens it is still the case that fission is more expensive than combustion and that may well remain the case. Likewise it may remain the case that fusion will remain more expensive than fission (as well as currently being impossible). But you have not offered any rational basis for your certainty on these things to the exclusion of R&D into other possibilities.
Thanks for the reference to Smil. It looks useful and I will probably read it before writing anything serious for publication but obviously I won’t have time to read it before Thursday’s debate.
I think in offering that reference you are working from the reasonable and understandable assumption that any solution to global warming has to be within the framework of the energy technologies we already know and understand. That is certainly the widespread general assumption, so any other view is naturally “contrarian”.
But dismissing anything else as “magic” goes beyond a natural assumption to an irrational prejudice.
On your assumption it is reasonable to conclude that there is no solution unless it turns out that fission is cheaper than combustion. That is not surprising since we have relied on hydrocarbon based fossil fuels for the past few centuries, have not industrialized more than half the world and on becoming aware of the problem over the last couple of decades have found it to be intractable. In particular nuclear fission has been available for half a century yet after more than two decades of alarm and international agreements about global warming it has made no headway against combustion of fossil fuels (although there are signs that the actual decline in nuclear relative to fossil fuels may be coming to an end).
One irrational response is to have faith in renewables.
A more rational response is to have faith in nuclear fission.
But you have not demonstrated that nuclear fission is likely to displace coal and gas in the countries that will be generating the most electricity over the next few decades. Instead you seem to be insisting that it HAS to, because otherwise we are stuffed.
Although less irrational than faith in renewables that is still irrational.
Putting the available resources into cheapening nuclear fission is obviously more likely to accelerate adoption of fission in developing countries than simply adding some nuclear power stations in Australia to those already demonstrated in France, North America, China, Japan, India etc etc.
In case nuclear fission R&D doesn’t make it cheap enough it is obviously worthwhile having a plan B. That is fusion. I agree with you that fusion could not possibly deliver before fission. But we still need a plan B. Your resistance to R&D for a plan B seems irrational.
In my view we also need a plan C with known unknowns and plan D with unknown unknowns. Once you agree that opposing a plan B is irrational I think you would have to concede that we also need to put resources into a plan C and plan D since you already have very little confidence in plan B.
But where are these R&D resources to come from if we are wasting them on pointless gestures like reducing emissions in Australia? Why isn’t that as irrational as wasting them on rooftop solar panels, windmills etc?
There simply isn’t any reason at all to be complacent about doing it with the technology we have relied on in the past or that is described in any current textbook one could refer anybody to. We may have to write new textbooks about energy technology and that means massive R&D since the old ones are the product of several centuries wisdom.
My point is precisely that if we can’t get the cost of nuclear below coal we do not give up on reducing emissions from the development of the developing world but instead keep doing R&D for a solution that they will adopt.
Are you proposing that we should simply raise our wholesale electricity prices, reduce Australian emissions and just give up on the extra coal plants coming online every week in India, China etc?
My assertion is that nuclear currently is not and is very likely to remain generally uncompetitive with coal (except for niche situations, with transport bottlenecks, as a hedge etc).
The outrage about that here seems a bit mystifying. Far from being “contrarian” my understanding is that this view is widely shared by the nuclear industry and its hopes for a renaissance are based largely on the hope of a carbon price to overcome that lack of competitiveness without a carbon price.
Far from believing that the price of nuclear cannot drop I advocate massive R&D in an attempt to bring it down via Gen IV, V, VI for however many decades it takes. (I am however somewhat pessimistic).
If the cost of coal goes up enough, there is no problem. So far there have been lots of predictions that it will rise enough to make nuclear competitive, but with no such results. So I advocate preparations for the possibility that it won’t.
Arthur, there’s no point trying to explain it to you any further. You’re locked in a fixed position and are ignoring and misunderstanding (either deliberately or through ignorance) what I’m (and many others, Quokka, John Bennetts etc.) are saying. All laced with a string of evidence-free assertions. I suspect that you’re so used to calling out hypocrisy and irrationality in others when you see it in others, but are blind to it when it comes home to roost on your own perch. You are also putting words in my mouth, which is a shallow debating tactic that I hope you eschew on Thursday.
But if I got nothing else out of this little exchange, it was the amusing sight of seeing Albert Langer trying to defend something for once, rather than just being anti everything.
That’s just what it is – an assertion. Why do you think anybody is interested in your assertion when your assertion is clearly at odds with, for example, the IEA projections that Barry had provided above. If you look at the China, Korea and Japan figures, nuclear is quite clearly competitive. In fact it’s competitive or more than competitive just about everywhere with a $30 per tonne CO2 price. That in itself should suggest to any thinking person that any cost advantage that coal has could evaporate in many countries with a percentage rise in coal price far less than occurred in the first decade of the 21th century – carbon price or no carbon price.
In countries without political impediments to nuclear power, planners today are thinking about the implications of the fuel price sensitivity of coal or gas and the fuel price insensitivity of nuclear. Coal plants last decades – it’s not a decision to get wrong. Quite poor countries, desperately short of electricity such as Bangladesh and Vietnam are going for nuclear – why is that? It looks very much as if the Philippines will too. But there are a long list of countries looking (and acting) right now from Sth Africa to Turkey to Italy and quite a few more.
The fact is that people want action on climate change – right around the world – and are prepared to make some sacrifice. If nuclear were three times more expensive then that would probably be a bridge too far. But that is in fact, very far from being the case – nuclear is competitive now and the impediments to nuclear are mostly historical and political, not economic. Here’s one hint – Chernobyl.
As for being “outraged”, I have limited patience with concern trolls. I recall reading on your web site some years ago your opinion of AGW which went along the lines of not liking AGW because it went against Marx’s view of man or something to that effect. After cleaning the coffee from my keyboard and reflecting that the great man must surely be turning in his grave (he did after all profess a certain high regard for science), I decided I’d seen enough. This is functionally identical to libertarians who don’t like AGW because it interferes with the free market and by implication their view of man.
It’s all transparently obvious – talk down the prospect of nuclear power -> promise totally unspecified technological marvels -> delay action on climate change. Just another denier.
It is very clear that
sure…silvio berlus,oni is contemplating nuclear power becauae of climate change…
1. Translation: nuclear would be competitive if coal cost $30 more per tonne than it does. In other words nuclear is generally not competitive at current coal prices.
2. Even the quoted spin is not what the figures sIEA how. You seem not to have actually looked at table 4.1b (10% discount rate) or followed the discussion about it. It has been clearly explained that the figures for China (a non-OECD member for which IEA did not “project” a $30 carbon price but WNA did) show that coal is still cheaper in China even though China has the cheapest nuclear. All three IEA figures for Chinese coal are significantly cheaper than all three figures for nuclear. You getting that wrong is not your fault (although you could have read the whole thread more carefully). It shows that blatant tricks like the WNA publishing its own cooked version of the IEA figures actually do work in misleading people. You might want to think about why they do things like that.
Likewise it has been pointed out that after removal of the $30 carbon price that was added by IEA to their figures for Korea and Japan, nuclear is indeed roughly comparable to coal but that is an example of a niche market for nuclear as they have to import coal by sea (from Australia – which they still do, in rather huge quantities).
Yes they are. China and India are important examples of careful planning because its an important decision for them. No political impediments to nuclear, no irrational anti-nuclear policy like Australia, no excessive regulatory costs like EU and USA. Result is a rational hedging by some nuclear deployment and overwhelming reliance on cheaper fossil fuels.
They are also “going for” coal and gas and doing so much more extensively. There is a long lead time for developing a nuclear industry and skills base. So, as I said, it makes perfectly good sense to hedge against the possibility of needing to do so (eg due to the possibility of rising coal prices as you mention) by having some nuclear even while continuing to rely on fossil fuels as both those countries do.
What does not make sense is not doing R&D to hedge against the possibility of fossil fuel prices not rising enough despite the fact that the world is still overwhelmingly continuing to build mainly fossil plants and very very few nuclear plants. Poor countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam cannot contribute much to that global R&D hedge so it is up to countries like Australia to do it.
Given the strong advocacy of carbon prices and the collapse at Copenhagen followed by policy shifts in both USA and Australia, resort to shouting more angrily instead of planning for the possibility of the carbon prices you hoped for not being achieved seems rather silly.
[confirmation of extreme silliness by incoherent ranting that trails off to incomplete sentence ignored]
Arthur is trying my patience again.
A ramp rate of 20MW/min as bid into the market is per unit, within a band or bands. Not per power station, because this is simply silly. At any given time, some units might be off line, under test, restricted or fully loaded. Yes, Arthur managed to find some indicative figures in the Capacity Statement, but that is not the manual for driving the NEM. Daily bids are, hour by hour, unit by unit.
The actual number of large units on line at any given time in the NEM is close enough to 50.
Each unit is capable of flexibility either or both up and down, each able to move 10 or 20 MW/min, for a price.
Even half of this is of the order of a couple of hundred MW/min. That’s quite a lot per hour. The practical upper limit depends on the amount of spinning reserve in the system. The lower limit is… heaps low. Get out the candles.
That’s my point… load following relies on numbers of generating units moving in harmony, rather than an assumption that there is only one way for it to be done, and that is to start up or stop a GT. There weren’t GT’s a few decades ago, yet the system coped with a bit of help from the Snowy and other hydro, perhaps with a bit of load shaping courtesy of the aluminium customers (for a price). It has been said that wind power is another way of saying “OCGT”, but nicely. Wind and solar have increased the instability of the system and dramatically increased the need for GT backup, but that has been dealt with elsewhere on this site. Surely Arthur doesn’t want to go there again right now.
AEMO rates are not written in stone – the market bids essentially re-set the prices and ramp rates daily, because a price is put on everything.
Arthur should try harder to keep up.
For those who advocate sitting on the sidelines as the world fails to act, I offer the following.
There are only two types of problems in this world. Some problems are of a type where the outcome can be influenced by my action.
Most cannot be influenced by me.
I choose to focus on the former and to leave the latter to the likes of Arthur, who insists on acting last. Think: actors and bystanders; players and the audience. It is perfectly reasonable to expect Australia and Australians to do what they can in the face of a world-destroying threat, regardless of anything that may or may not be achieved by others, whose actions I have no way of influencing… apart, perhaps, by setting a good example.
I do not live on $2 per day, as Arthur’s target audience might. I can afford a reasonable additional impost to pay for nuclear power, as also can Australia as a whole. It is the actions of others that prevent me from being able to do so, and for this I am exceedingly disappointed. My grandchildren will hate me and my generation because we achieved so little when we had the knowledge and the opportunity to act, but chose not to do so.
To not act with determination against AGW by all available means, on the pretext that somebody else, somewhere else, is not pulling his weight is tantamount to murder… of the planet.
As I said before, R&D will not win this war, and a war it is.
I’m afraid John Bennetts has gone way past trying my patience. Zero content, pure (and pointless) bluster. No further response seems necessary.
Thanks Tom Bond. Subsidizing renewables in the light of the German experience is just plain economic vandalism. Wayne Swan needs to see that article and then divert all of his $642million renewables R+D to nuclear.
Thankfully and unlike some, I have no idea who Arthur is. Please don’t enlighten me.
To clarify one small aside:
I really do support R&D to the hilt, but not as an excuse for inaction. Australia can well afford to pull its weight in pure and applied research and should do so, if for no better reason than to maintain a thriving pool of talented and well-informed folk who can be relied upon to develop new and better solutions as they emerge and to use evolving knowledge to our advantage.
If a world class banking CEO (gambler with others’ money) is worth tens of millions, think of the value of a good research school or ten.
John Bennetts, on 9 November 2010 at 8:24 PM — I hadn’t considered that. Thank you.
My “fixed position” is that both renewables and nuclear fission have not and most likely will not displace fossil fuels as the technology used in the overwhelming majority of new electricity generation in the developing world over the next few decades. Consequently emissions will continue to grow rapidly as the developing world industrializes, climate change will accelerate and targets to contain and start reversing it will not be met until, perhaps as a result of this failure and its consequences, there is a fundamental change in approach.
Evidence of this is the actual history of the results of two decades of efforts since Kyoto culminating in the collapse at Copenhagen and defeat of carbon pricing policies in both the USA and Australia.
I see no reason to believe that this will change until clean energy technology becomes available to developing countries at costs lower than or at least comparable to fossil fuels. Once that happens the switch to reducing emissions will occur without further exhortation, simply because it is cheaper.
There is no sign that exhortation to impose a carbon price will succeed. Nor should it in most of the world where people are still living on less than $2 per day and quite sensibly prefer to industrialize first and let future better off generations deal with the resulting environmental problems including climate change – just as people in the developed world did, and are also still doing.
Consequently all efforts should be put into a massive R&D program to develop cheaper clean technology whether nuclear fission, fusion, renewables or something else including something currently unknown. This could be very difficult and could take many decades, during which emissions will continue to accumulate and the climate will continue to change.
Consequently we should stop denying the failure of current approaches and start that new approach as soon as possible.
No resources should be diverted from that difficult and decades long massive R&D effort to pointless gestures deploying more expensive energy technology in the few developed countries that can afford to either make pointless gestures or else contribute to such a massive R&D program.
Advocates of pointless gestures should be fought, isolated and exposed as the most effective allies of the fossil fuel industry working to preserve it.
After carefully studying their comments I am quite certain that neither Quokka nor John Bennetts have the slightest interest or capability to make any serious attempt to refute this position so I have lost interest in anything further they have to say.
I would be more interested in a refutation from Barry. But if you think a refuation that ought to persuade anyone not already onside has been presented in this thread, I have indeed failed to understand it, and am therefore unable to respond to it, let alone change my “fixed idea” as a result of it. Nor do I understand how anyone else not already onside could be convinced by a refutation that I have failed to perceive.
Leaving the interpersonal shenanigans aside just this once…
“No resources should be diverted from that difficult and decades long massive R&D effort.”
The point is, that there are not decades to waste. The whole world may already be locked into severe, unprecedented and deadly climate change events. Certainly, Arthur does not know whether this is not so – he clearly hopes that it is, but that hope is founded on nothing concrete except a childish expectation that tomorrow is soon enough for action… today let’s play in the lab.
Ross Garnault yesterday put this issue into clear focus.
By all means, keep up the R&D. My argument is that, regardless of the outcomes of R&D programs, the right now situation justifies concerted application of dollars, effort, legislation and social change if our little blue and green world is to remain recognisable and habitable into the future. This is not scare-mongering. It is rational interpretation of the facts as we know them. This is not the time for time for prevarication, pointscoring and more effin’ delays due to a rival cheer squad on the sidelines.
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, Jordan, Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Turkey and Uzbekistan are all countries that have or are looking at developing nuclear power domestically, and while one might argue the status of some of them as Third World countries, they are hardly nations as well off as Australia. In several cases there are cheaper supplies of carbon-based fuels, and clearly with several it is not a just a case of creating a fig-leaf to cover a weapons program.
As it has been pointed out ad infinitum on these pages, the bulk of the expense, (as opposed to the cost) of a nuclear power plant, is in the bureaucratic burden placed on these projects in many countries. Without that, the price of a nuclear plant, like a CANDU, is competitive with that of an advanced coal plant. ( I’m using CANDU as an example here because it does not require an enrichment facility.)
Most of the delay in these countries is now due to rather onerous demands being placed on them by the anti-proliferation apparatus, that have forced many into developing their own domestic programs, when they would have been just as happy to buy technology from off-shore vendors.
Between these three observations, it is difficult to see where you have an argument.
“most likely will not displace fossil fuels as the technology used in the overwhelming majority of new electricity generation in the developing world over the next few decades”
Because it’s “unlikely”, we obviously shouldn’t even bother trying anything in the near-term to reduce world emissions.
“… until clean energy technology becomes available to developing countries at costs lower than or at least comparable to fossil fuels”
As is evident in France, and now increasingly in China, that clean technology (nuclear) is already competitive. coal prices are on the rise.
“Consequently we should stop denying the failure of current approaches and start that new approach as soon as possible.”
Yes, we should cease this futile attempt at cutting emissions with renewables only, and remove the ban on nuclear.
“Advocates of pointless gestures should be fought, isolated and exposed as the most effective allies of the fossil fuel industry working to preserve it.”
Pointless gestures? Like ignoring what is currently the only cost($) competitive technology, delaying any action for decades, and placing faith in some “magic” source of energy for the future?
No one here is against R&D. A massive expansion of nuclear now is the best R&D excercise we could possibly hope for. To do nothing now and then stand by to wait and watch is folly.
As I understand it, at least some people “onside” with your views, believe that an adequate refutation of my position consists of asserting that the situation is so urgent and desperate that even though we should “continue” long term R&D we should also put major efforts into doing whatever we can wherever we can.
[I will refrain for now from directly responding to or quoting an example, “not a million comments from here” as that comment indicates that diversionary personal attacks will still be continued and have been suspended in an attempt at actual and relevant argument with less bluster only for just one comment]
I honestly don’t know if that attempted refutation is also your position. It seems more or less identical to the position taken by advocates of renewables in the face of the facts you are familiar with the pointless gestures made by diverting resources to wind turbines, rooftop solar panels etc.
I presume there are also people who advocate that in the face of urgent and desperate situations we should resort to the power of prayer.
I just don’t see how reducing emissions in countries like Australia by nuclear could be seen as doing something useful to have an impact on global warming once it is grasped that the overwhelming majority of emissions over the next few decades are expected to come from rapidly industrializing less developed countries who will continue to use the cheapest technology available regardless of what cleaner but more expensive technology developed countries use.
My speculation about such arguments is that they simply don’t get it, perhaps because of a parochial outlook that imagines local action could preserve their local climate environment rather than being part of a global response or a parochial outlook that results in being quite ignorant of the actual situation in developing countries.
But that is just speculation.
If my speculation is correct more effort is needed to educate people about the global facts and the consequences of such parochialism.
If there is some other background to this sort of position than simple ignorance or parochialism I would be interested in an elaboration of it from Barry or others.
Arthur, I am a member of the Science Council for Global Initiatives and an associated (very active private) group (IFRG) for a good reason.
DV82XL, on 10 November 2010 at 12:49 PM — Interesting. Where can I find about plans for NPPs in Argentina and Chile?
Arthur — Take a look at “New solar-powered process removes CO2 from the air and stores it as solid carbon”:
This R&D is underwsay and we’ll hope it scales up. But in the meantime, progress os sustainable power means building NPPs right away.
1. I have agreed (repeatedly) that it makes good sense to preserve or establish a nuclear industry and skills base as a hedge to shorten the lead time for future expansion in case it does end up cheaper. That seems to be happening while at the same time confirming that the same countries still generally find fossil fuels cheaper and overwhelmingly continue to use them.
2. There is strong evidence that the hostile environment based on proliferation and other regulatory concerns is a major factor increasing nuclear costs that could be significantly reduced. But even in China where that issue doesn’t arise, fossil fuels remain cheaper. Surely industry advocates would have mobilized more effectively than they have if there were fortunes to be made and the only obstacle was this stuff rather than the unexpectedly continued low cost of fossil fuels.
3. We agree on the need for R&D to continue lowering costs of nuclear and we agree on the futility of renewables and getting rid of the ban on nuclear.
4. But having got rid of the ban in Australia and removed hostile regulatory environent etc how does spending cash on deployment in Australia while coal still remains so cheap here contribute to either R&D for research on cheapening nuclear fission or reducing long term global emissions more than spending the same funds directly on R&D? What would the additional Australian plants contribute to R&D not already demonstrated in numerous other countries with existing nuclear industries?
5. Why should the R&D only be on cheapening nuclear fission and not also other possibilities in case that doesn’t succeed in bringing it below the cost of fossil fuels or takes so long as to require geoengineering?
6. PS signing off for a while – any further responses from me may be delayed or very brief.
David B. Benson
The nuclear program in the Argentine
Nuclear power in Brazil
While Chile does not yet have a power reactor they are seriously considering having up to five by 1035 to offset the loss of gas from the Argentine due to exhaustion of the supply.
The Chilean Strategy for Assessing the Nuclear Power Option
Arthur – Why then are these places building nuclear at all, or looking into it?
BTW you are not the first socialist that has gotten the idea that the energy/AGW issue is an ideal opportunity to advance your political ideology. Several have come here trying to convince us how necessary this is, and all have failed.
DV82XL, on 10 November 2010 at 2:12 PM — Thank you! I found want I need about Argentina, but unfortunately the link regarding Chile comes up 404, not found.
David B. Benson – It has a stupid URL, just drive the title into Google, it’s the first hit to come up.
Add me to the crowd of people arguing in favour of getting on with building the next 20-40 nuclear plants as quickly as possible.
I wouldn’t say “at any cost”, but in practice, the point is moot. Let’s get a solid sovereign-risk free regime in place, establish efficient, non-arbitrary standards for evaluating environmental feasibility, concentrate on brownfields sites where this is simplest, and tender away. By the time we have built the 20th or the 30th the cost for all that capacity will almost certainly be similar enough to what it would have been for coal for nobody to quibble.
“What would the additional Australian plants contribute to R&D not already demonstrated in numerous other countries with existing nuclear industries?”
How would a large expansion of the nuclear industry, including a large increase in nuclear physicists, engineers, operators, researchers and research facilities, influence R&D on the only viable competitor to coal?
Think about it.
Thanks to all but especially to Arthur for the posts on this thread. I single out Arthur not because I necessarily agree with you but because your comments provided a lightning rod against which others could respond, and did . The fact that this was mostly carried out on all sides without personal invective made it that much more enjoyable for passive readers.
As fas as my own position- I’m with Fran Barlow- let’s just get on with building some nuclear as soon as possible, using existing technology, as cheaply as feasible. Yes, we need more applied R&D in Australia on all aspects of energy. But this should be seen as a means to a future end, not an end in its own right.
David B Benson,
Thanks for the link to solar-chemical process for CO2 removal from air. Looks interesting. Presumably similar processes using cheap grid electricity instead of solar energy could also be possible. I gather there are also proposals for genetically engineered algae or bacteria to “eat” CO2 and excrete something more useful or at least storable.
These are all examples of research that could be well worth pursuing along with making fission and/or fusion and or something else a viably cheap energy source. Since reducing emissions looks like its going to take quite a while, we’ll certainly be wanting a way to start removing those that have accumulated in the meantime.
I would assume its a lot easier to capture CO2 concentrated in flue gases in chimneys than to capture already dispersed CO2 from atmosphere as suggested in that report. Since CCS is so difficult with all the hopes placed on it by coal industry and allied governments like Australia’s I would assume removal from atmosphere is much harder and will take much longer. But we will certainly need it eventually.
Once the proposals from fixtheclimate.org and “The Hartwell Paper” become part of the wider debate it should be possible to have more constructive arguments about which research programs should be given larger shares.
Meanwhile I would have thought it would be to the advantage of nuclear advocates to be vociferously demanding public funding of research to make nuclear fission cheaper (and objecting to the wasteful deployment of solar and wind turbines instead).
Once you ACTUALLY ARE cheaper there’s no way rollout could be stopped in most of the world and Australia would eventually follow suit.
Meanwhile attempts to make the figures look better won’t sell nuclear plants to utilities etc actually buying them.
Lets give more priority to the united front for more research and less priority to the divisions over which research is more important since the latter allocations will ultimately not be made by public opinion mobilization anyway.
Until we do, the renewables fraud grabs all the funds available for both deployment and “demonstration” (and “awareness raising”) and the gas industry continues to prosper.
As Bill Kerr explained you’ve got this backwards. It would be much easier to mobilize public opinion in favour of research, including nuclear research. Combine that with higher education export for countries that have more expensive fossil fuels and are preparing their nuclear hedges by getting a few plants that need a skilled workforce with tertiary training in nuclear engineering. We then have the beginnings of a lobby, though nothing like the gas/wind lobby.
Once you’ve got some research institutes and training for nuclear engineers it would be a lot easier to get a plant or two as a hedge to enable future expansion (though still pretty hard in Australia in view of the low priority of such a hedge in the light of how cheap our fossil fuels are). Could perhaps even push for it as needed for research and training.
As you are more confident than me that nuclear fission is already close to being economically competitive and could get there quickly with a bit of a push, that strikes me as a much more viable path to get what you hope for than demanding a large expansion now. It would break the barrier of ignorance and hostility without appearing so threatening.
If you turn out to be wrong and some other solution gets cheap enough for rapid global deployment before fission, have you really lost anything or have you gained along with the rest of humanity?
Thanks. Yes its been mostly an enjoyable discussion. Certainly refreshing to be arguing with people who want and are confident in an energy intensive future rather than wanting a more cramped lifestyle and preaching doom. (Though the more irritating parts seem to be closely related to “doom is nigh” preaching).
I just re-read the previous original thread and thought it was more constructive before we got bogged down in disputes over whether IEA and WNA figures indicate nuclear is already price competitive.
Was amused to notice that when not arguing about current relative costs I had been much more explicitly anti-capitalist in that first thread, with passing remarks like:
Its fascinating that you went out of your way explicitly endorse all that with this positively enthusiastic tribute:
Your first critical post came only after my reply to your post about the Vietnam war protests. You might want to reflect on that.
I have already answered that countries like Argentina and Brazil with 3-6% nuclear energy are very sensibly hedging to reduce the lead time for a possible future expansion if nuclear actually does become cheaper and Chile is very sensibly assessing whether to do the same. I don’t see the point of you asking the same question yet again.
Perhaps it was just a preface to:
I wouldn’t dream of trying DV8 but I bet I’m the first hard core commie you’ve gone to the trouble of announcing your complete agreement with ;-)
Fran Barlow (and Leigh),
You aren’t going to get 20-40 nuclear plants as quickly as possible unless you first get a research institute and school for training nuclear engineers. How about starting on that and making it supportive of fission research and other fundamental science as a first step?
It could be “an end in itself” or a step towards other goals or a step towards your goals. But it would be a big step, which the antis would find harder to block.
Arthur – Unlike some, I am not an ideologue, and I happy live in and support the mixed economic path Canada follows. Any rational examination of the facts forces the conclusion that there are areas where collective action delivers a superior outcome, and those that would ignore this, and persist on demanding that individuals should be left to take care of thing themselves in the name of some political/social philosophy are fools.
On the other hand there are indeed domains where individual effort, based on the desire to gain personal wealth, are more efficient, and there those that care to follow that path, and invest their capital in some enterprise, should be left in peace and not subject to onerous regulation.
Oh, and most of my family on my mothers side were communal Mennonites, who were commie long before Marx was a tadpole in a jampot. And I agree with many of their ideas.
So there is no conflict agreeing with some of your earlier posts, and arguing against some of your latter. Thus while your observation that not enough is spent on R&D is accurate, your contention that nuclear energy cannot be launched without more R&D funding is demonstrably wrong, as is your contention that the fundamental issue preventing growth in nuclear energy is cost.
It is that simple.
DV82XL, on 10 November 2010 at 2:50 PM — I followed your suggestion to use Google and located a paper which I could read. It seems that Chile is planning to conduct a site location study, most necessary as Chile is one of the most earthquake prone areas in the world.