Climate Change GR Nuclear Policy Renewables

Tunnel Vision at the Climate Council

GR_April2015_CCCGuest Post by Geoff Russell. Geoff recently released the popular book “Greenjacked! The derailing of environmental action on climate change“.

The Climate Council has a new report out. The Global Renewable Energy Boom: How Australia is missing out (GREB) is authored by Andrew Stock, Tim Flannery and Petra Stock. The lead author is listed on the Climate Council website as a “Non Executive Director of several ASX listed and unlisted companies in the energy sector, ranging from traditional energy suppliers to emerging energy technology companies.” He’s also a chemical engineer.

Page 6 of the report begins by claiming “Globally, renewable energy’s contribution to global capacity and generation has climbed steadily upwards (Table 1)”.

Here’s line 4 from Table 1 except that I’ve added a column in red for 1973 using data from the IEA:

The percentage isn’t so clearly “climbing steadily upwards” now is it?

This table is one of a number carefully chosen or designed to enhance the images of wind and solar power and to misleadingly exaggerate their ability to prevent further destabilisation of the climate.

Misusing words

Page 8 follows with a claim in a large red font: “Global wind and solar capacity is growing exponentially”. This is accompanied by a graph which I’ve repeated here; but with a few annotations … in black. I’ll discuss them later.

Who think the graph supports the claim? It doesn’t. Exponential growth, by definition is growth with a regular doubling time, not regular increments … big difference! Growing exponentially is pretty easy for something trivially small, but it soon becomes hard and the graph shows clearly that both wind and solar are now only growing linearly; after about 2010 for solar PV and 2008 for wind.

The lead author is an engineer, so why call something exponential growth when it isn’t?

As the wind and solar contributions to an electricity grid grow, engineers expect stability problems to which there are currently no answers. AEMO’s 2013 report into 100% renewable electricty in Australia recommended underpinning wind and solar with either a biomass or geothermal baseload system to reduce the volatility; the sudden swings in supply. Germany obviously understands this and is now just burning half her forestry output annually. That’s about 30 million tonnes. This provides more electricity than either wind or solar.

Germany certainly had exponential growth in both wind and solar for some years, but that’s long gone. It took just one year to double the PV output for 2005; but the output from 2011 still hadn’t been doubled by the end of 2014. This slow down is despite solar providing just 6 percent of electricity. The wind power growth slowdown is even more advanced; it took eight years to double the 2004 wind output. Closer to home, South Australia has a higher renewable penetration than Germany, but no biomass baseload component, hence the stability risks which I suspect are behind the back-flip by long time nuclear opponent Jay Weatherill with the establishment of a Royal Commission into (almost) all things nuclear.

Understanding renewable growth

But am I being too cynical? The wind and solar growth lines above still look impressively steep. How can that be when Table 1, in contrast, shows a negligible percentage growth between 1973 and the present?

A few reasons:

  • Table 1 includes hydro electricity and this has, as a percentage, declined since 1973. Wind and solar have simply expanded at about the rate required to compensate for that decline, no faster.
  • The above graph means nothing without knowing how fast other sources of electricity have grown and table 1 implies that they have collectively been growing much faster. Meaning far more additional electricity generated each year.
  • Why “much faster”? Between 1973 and 2012, global electricity production went from 6,129 TWh/yr (tera watt hours) to 22,668 TWh/yr with most of that growth, in absolute output (the stuff that matters), coming from coal. Oil as a source of electricity declined in both absolute and percentage terms; being replaced by natural gas and nuclear.

Imagine if the growth had been plotted in TWh with the vertical axis showing the full 22,668 TWh? The solar and wind lines would run along the bottom as a thin hardly visible band. Here’s just such a graph from the IEA with wind and solar only making an appearance as part of the odds and sods category in the top strip.

What’s missing from the above graph? Population and wealth. The global population has nearly doubled during the 40 years represented. So adding a terawatt hour per year of additional generation in 1973 is double the per capita addition of a similar amount of generation in 2013. Increased wealth and technical capacity are also missing. Engineers don’t design and build with slide rules anymore. The latter is tricky to factor in, but population is easy and roughly halves the apparent growth in solar and wind over the past decade.

Another set of graphs

Here’s another set of graphs that says much the same thing but tells us something interesting about hydro electricity. The set is also from the IEA in a report called “Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2014”. For the IEA, clean energy includes nuclear power, but lets focus on understanding how the Climate Council has mislead with its charts and words on wind and solar.

Look first at the vertical axes. If they had all shared the scaling used in the hydro power graph (top left), then solar, wind and bioenergy growth would look much smaller than they do. For example, solar growth would look four times less steep.

The blue lines on the graph represent the OECD total and the yellow is everybody else. You can see that hydro will expand substantially during the current decade but not in the OECD. Hydro is pretty much built out in OECD countries. A little digging will show that most of the hydro expansion will be in South America, primarily Brazil, and its environmental cost will be massive. Hydro is renewable, but apart from its direct ecological and often social destruction, it isn’t usually clean (ie., climate friendly). Hydro exploits loopholes in international agreements that don’t count methane emmissions from the large flooded areas usually associated with big hydro schemes.

Nuclear-equivalent gigawatt units

Now let’s go back to the first graph which I annotated. It’s fundamentally dishonest to compare different kinds of things without making some attempt to convert to commensurable units. Nobody compares lettuce to lentils using volume. Nobody compares cars, trucks and bicycles using seat numbers. So why use capacity as a measure of growth for an energy source? Capacity is a useful unit for comparing baseload generators, but not for intermittent sources which aren’t available on demand.

So I’ve annotated the map by converting the wind and solar capacity growth figures into “nuclear-equivalent” numbers. A gigawatt of solar PV will on average get you about 15 percent of the electricity that you’ll get from a gigawatt of nuclear (or coal or hydro) power. Similarly, a gigawatt of wind will get you about a third of what a gigawatt of modern nuclear power delivers.

It would have also been reasonable for me to add some kind of penalty factor for wind and solar not being “available-on-demand”. In South Australia for example, for every mega watt of wind capacity added, less than 10 percent will be available at least 85 percent of the time to meet peak demand.

Recasting failure as success

The Climate Council report doesn’t just use capacity once. It continues a little later with what I can only describe as a breathtakingly brilliant example of using graphs to mislead.

Looking at this graph would have you thinking that solving our climate problems is a done deal. Another decade like this and the red line will be at 100 and the yellow at zero … problem solved! We can go back to frittering away our evenings watching reality TV.

So what’s happened to global greenhouse gas emissions during that same decade? Here’s the inconvenient truth (from here using data from the Global Carbon Project).

The methods the Climate Council uses to sugar coat our clear and major problems are straight from the climate change denial handbook. Choose dates carefully; know when to slip deftly between percentages, increments and absolute numbers, and pretend that all gigawatts are created equal. Comparing solar gigawatts with nuclear gigawatts is like comparing trucks and bicycles: “Look we’ve added a million bicycles to our roads this year and only half a million cars, trucks and minivans, our streets will be empty in no time … if only we had more money … we’re missing out on the bicycle boom!”.

Why? Please explain

Why would an organisation dedicated to fixing our climate stoop to such adulterated statistical swill? I suggest the other members of the Climate Council ask the authors for an explanation. I suggest the authors resign for incompetence and bias.

The Climate Council should have exactly one vested interest. It’s the same one we should all have. To prevent further climate destabilisation. That requires a balanced assessment of problems and tools. The lack of Climate Council balance is easily established by looking at its treatment of nuclear power.

What treatment of nuclear power? Exactly.

Nuclear isn’t just missing from this report but from the entire Climate Council website. In its place are the usual sycophantic stories about pissant renewable projects. For example, in September 2014 the Climate Council republished a gushing story about a floating solar plant being built in Japan. It was described as a “successor” (despite being much smaller) to the Kagoshima solar farm which was described as “the country’s largest”. Kagoshima? Large? You’d have to build 350 of Kagoshima sized solar farms to replace the electricity that used to be generated by Fukushima Daiichi. And as for the floating plant? They are still building the first one, and they’ll need another 2,100 to match the Daiichi output. How long before people work out that pissant solar farms shouldn’t be called large simply because they cover a lot of ground (or water)? They are best described as monster toys whose principle purpose seems to be to mop up renewable energy subsidies. Why are there no stories on the Climate Council website about the 4 or 5 large reactors that China will bring on-line this year, and the next, and the next. Each is equivalent to over 480 of these shiny floating toys.

Nuclear power growth and growth potential

The slow global growth of renewable energy would be irrelevant if there were just a single sizable success story. But compared to the nuclear decarbonisation of French electricity in the 15 years between about 1975 and 1990, there’s nothing in the renewable camp but failure. There’s no doubt that there’s a boom in renewable electricity investment, but it’s clearly not being matched by performance and looks more like snouts sucking at the trough of public money than a serious attempt to tackle climate destabilisation.

Is nuclear power dead? Is it worth investing in? What is its potential growth rate? If the Climate Council was serious and wasn’t, apparently, dominated by renewable energy interests, it would be doing reports about nuclear. It would be lobbying to end our nuclear isolation. It would be working to bust the anti-science myths surrounding nuclear power and radiation risks.

A little internet research will show that there is a resurgence in nuclear technology, but more than a few people are watching the wrong countries. The people who’ll build the nuclear plants of the future are the same people who build our phones and cars. The Chinese and South Koreans.

Currently, the biggest solar farms on the planet each generate about 1 TWh of electricity per year. You can count them on one finger challenged hand: Topaz, Ivanpah, Desert Sunlight. Currently there are 63.5 gigawatts of nuclear plants under construction and they’ll generate as much electricity as about 500 of these largest of solar plants. About half of these are in China.

Is the Climate Council merely pandering to public opinion so that the donations keep rolling in? Do these particular authors have serious financial interests that interfere with their powers of rational thought? I’ve no idea, but the public and the planet deserve better.

By Barry Brook

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

75 replies on “Tunnel Vision at the Climate Council”

Excellent article. As a very early and continuing contributor to the Climate Council I await their response, which should appear here on BNC within a week.

And they will, if they are serious.

Sadly, it is probable that CC will lose me and others over this fiasco.

One small further comment: If the left axis of Graph 1 was converted to logarithmic scale, then a hyperbolic increasing function would appear as a straight line angled upwards to the right.

The real world data would appear as an almost horizontal line, thus clearly demonstrating the difference between reality and story-telling.


Geoff, you better make sure that the Climate Council read your critique of their performance. Otherwise you a preaching to the converted. Post them a hard copy if you have to. “Flim Flammery” needs to get your message about his sloppy reporting but more importantly that the Council MUST consider nuclear power if they are going to be taken seriously.


Clear, brilliant and concise. I almost never let a Climate Council tweet go past without rubbing their nose in their position as major shill for wind/solar. They are appalling, and this analysis should be stapled to their foreheads.

Well done Geoff.


Thanks Geoff and very well done. As Martin Nicholson has said, send the CC and that “Flummery” person a hard copy of your critique of their performance. You might also add that at this moment, there are 32 countries generating about 15% of the world’s electricity in 436 reactors, those countries and 17 others are building 70 reactors right now, 174 reactors have been planned and 301 proposed for the future according to the WNA October 2014 newsletter. That will be one of the final points I make when I appear before Weatherill’s Royal Commission. My submission will be based on my 4 Ockham’s Razor talks given on ABC Radio National and I’ll be tabling many documents to support my case. And despite their lies etc about what the sun and the wind can deliver tell the CC the following fact as well.
Over the past 20 years, the world has spent $367BILLION ON SUBSIDIES FOR THE RENEWEABLES, GOT 2.8% OF ITS ELECTRICITY FOR THAT AND NO DISCERNABLE REDUCTION IN GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS. I’ll be making that point in my submission as well.




The Climate Council lost me a while ago. From the moment they were defunded by the Abbott Government and thus reliant on direct public support, their output took a sharp turn for schmick infographic renewable energy (i.e. solar and wind) cheerleading, and much less of their purported ‘independent and accurate information on climate change’. I needled them about this on their sponsored posts that kept bubbling up on my Facebook feed, to little effect. The writing has been on their wall, so to speak, for quite some time now.


Geoff Russell has tackled an important matter in his post here – as he does elsewhere too. He is on a mission to help answer the single most important question in the energy debate in the public arena: Can renewable energy fully replace fossil fuels? Almost every political difference on energy policy and climate action (including whether or not one favours nuclear energy) ultimately reduces to the protagonists’ answers to that question. It’s that critical.

I am happy to agree with Geoff’s criticisms of the latest Climate Council report. But I am less happy with his contribution here towards what I regard as the real challenge, as defined above. How much does his article help to resolve the big question, the future role of renewables? It does expose the naïve optimism about renewables shown by the Council, which like many advocates of renewables focuses on growth rates rather than relative contributions. But I think Geoff falls well short here (his other work may well do it better) of providing the crisp clear definitive insight needed into the fundamental limitations of renewables in powering the planet.

Obviously, renewables have wide political support. That is, lots of voters love them. These voters mostly know nothing about energy. Their political leaders don’t either, but that’s another matter. The popularity of renewables is a tribute to their marketing over some 50 years: that little red square on the map that could ‘supply all our energy needs’ from the sun; the ‘huge resource’ embodied in sun, wind, waves and deep hot rocks; the ‘free energy’ that strikes earth all day; the zero-energy household; and so on.

Overcoming those decades of brilliant marketing success is the real energy policy challenge. The debate must be framed in terms that the public can understand. It has to be kept simple. No numbers, no graphs. It’s a mighty ask. But it must be done if we want to have a rational energy future.


Tom, I just want Governments who can make rational decisions and sell them, rather than pander to polls. It’s not really that complicated, renewables are failing today just like they failed in the 70s and 80s. The extraordinary methods used to mislead about their performance used by the CC says it all. You don’t need to play those games when you have a winning technology.

Robert Russell … interesting. I know two Robert Russells … one is a relative and the other I used to work with. Which one are you? Or perhaps you are neither!


Hi Terry … The great thing about the Royal Commission is that it will give people like yourself the opportunities that our commercial media have been denying for years.


Little less than half of the territory of Australia is needed to produce all the energy that the world need from wind power and even less if you combine with solar.

(I do understand that that is not a likely or desirable option).

The average 20 year Power Purchase Agreement for wind power in USA Interior was in 2013 $0,021.

Subsidy for wind in USA is currently Production Tax Credit, which amounts to 30% of project cost.

After 20 years wind turbines will still be in working order and when they are finally decommissioned most of the materials can be recycled and the grid connection, the foundation and maybe the tower is reusable.

In just five years wind LCOE has gone down 58% and the trend continues. The three major wind power companies are all based in stable democratic countries and half a dozen qualified competitors are also located in the free world.

The capacity factor for modern wind turbines is far higher than the average capacity factor.

As for running a stable grid on 100% renewable you are absolutely right that this is only feasible if you have significant dispatchable power available and/or you establish widespread HVDC grid and/or if you establish power dump options such as Synfuel production based upon extraction of CO2 and hydrogen from seawater.


Jens Stubbe:  Please spare us the handwaving and empty rhetoric.  SHOW US WHERE IT’S BEEN DONE.

France went to 80% nuclear electricity in 15 years, with most of the balance being hydro.

Show us ONE example of an industrial country at 80% wind plus solar.  JUST ONE.


From Wikipedia the state of Iowa generates about 30% from wind, which conveniently tends to be strongest in the afternoon. The article indicates that Iowa is running out of unused transmission. Unstated are the good interconnects to nearby states.

Not all regions are as well able to use wind. We shall see just how much wind Iowa can actually use and still have a reliable grid.


Good article in the sense that people who talk up limited successes should be called out. I wholeheartedly agree that the CC should have stayed with just advocating the science rather than begin to create energy policy. Particularly since it lost it’s government funding. Keep this in mind when reading my criticism below.

However this is a bad article in the sense that it paints BNC again into the pro-nuke/anti-renewable corner (juxtaposition of renewable effort so far), and the snide comments that the CC is somehow tarnished because of renewable donors, which no evidence was presented they have a single one.

Fore example the attacks upon Andrew Stock are completely unwarranted, as you should know these documents are edited before publication. No doubt there was a Communications/Media/PR officer that wrote “exponential”. Furthermore since you are from Adelaide you should know what Andrew Stock is involved in seeing as he has majority of his executive positions there.

You can’t complain that people who discuss Nuclear lack rigour but then go about forming arguments that are based on here-say.

TL;DR Tone down the snide comments and character assassination attempts, and it’d be a great article.


@IC: “No doubt there was a media … officer… that wrote exponential” … did you read the report? Exponential isn’t merely in a title but also in the text. But if that was the only thing wrong with the report, I’d have never written the article.

@jens: did you have a point with your statement about enough land to power the planet? That’s like saying there’s enough water in Sydney Harbour to irrigate the whole of Australia and enough uranium in the ocean to power us for thousands of years. So what?

The problem for solar farms isn’t the lack of land or sunlight. Both are plentiful … it’s the trucks and the panels and the driving driving driving to deliver the panels panels panels concrete concrete steel steel steel and more steel and the water to mix and lay the concrete and the steel and driving driving driving get another load of steel and another and another … do the sums … its billions of kilometers of driving driving driving … all too slow, dangerous and destructive. Please see


@IC: Barry has indicated that he will be happy to post a response from CC and if they can explain why capacity isn’t a grossly misleading measure of renewable growth then I’ll apologise. I believe in full and frank discussion and that’s what I think the article was. I’ve got no idea what you are referring to as “ad hominem”. Please show me.


Hi Geoff

Not much of a point, just stating that it is possible albeit completely unrealistic to power the world from Australia because all parts of the world will want energy supply security.

About your interesting piece on the colossal task to deploy solar you should look into this homepage. They claim to have solved several key problems including the deployment issue. The key guys are all assistant professors at the leading Danish technical University.

I think solar cost will trail behind wind for at least another 10-15 years and it is a fact that solar will never catch up with the capacity factor of wind, so if you want to run a grid or a Synfuel plant, solar should not be the bulk energy source.

Modern wind turbines approach 60% capacity factor on good locations (world record presently 84%) and will probably improve on that count due to improved aerodynamics based upon morphing wings, advanced blade coatings, higher towers, longer blades, better maintenance procedures and better pitching software with input from wind park scale LIDAR systems. (All the technical progress mentioned is either ready to enter the market or in trial stage.) Also the availability for quality wind turbines is now above 99% and will probably continue to grow because the quality of the wind turbines keep improving with better designs and better materials science and better maintenance procedures.

IKEA thinking permeates the wind power industry at the moment because the best way forward towards lower LCOE is scaling and scaling increase transportation problems unless you can assemble on site.


@jens: The suntube design is interesting but doesn’t solve the “81000 truckers” problem or the loss of wildlife habitat problem and it remains to be seen how it scales … a 6kW pilot is tinier than tiny. You still have thousands of trucks doing billions of kilometres between plant(s) and sites … or you need to build a rail system first for delivery and handle multiple handling. In contrast one truck with a small modular reactor and a hole in the ground solves all these problems far more elegantly. And wind? Energy density is still the killer and real capacity factors are nowhere near the 60% figure you mention.


Hi Engineering Poet

I cannot show a feat similar to France if you limit renewables to solar or wind. If you include hydro power and geothermal it is another case entirely.

The information that is interesting in my first post is that wind is cheap and getting cheaper fast.

IEA made a report in 2012 where they analyzed 9 forecast on wind LCOE with baseline 2011 onto 2030. None of these forecast are interesting anymore because the most realistic predicted 30% LCOE drop by 2030 and this has already been exceeded.

The brand new Fullenkamp report based on industry interviews states that near term wind turbines can become 30-50% cheaper just from rationalization of production. So it is pretty obvious that wind has a chance to stay competitive.

In a much slower pace than what France achieved Denmark aim at 100% renewable by 2050 despite the fact that our fossil production match our energy consumption. Presently approximately 40% of the electricity is wind. The slow pace makes sense to me because we use approximately 0,2% of GDP to support renewables with the bulk of the support going to offshore wind.


David Benson

It is a very valid point that you make about the grid capacity limitation in for instance Iowa and probably a key reason that wind has to sell at no higher than $0,021 per kWh in USA Interior. At that price point utilities can still make good business with wind power even though they have to sell wind power at a loss when the supply is too much for the natural demand. If USA had a more modern grid like in Europe or China where the HVDC grid makes remote markets accessible the adoption of more wind than 30% would most likely be feasible. Instead of just doing the logic infrastructural investments USA is gone into a storage frenzy. The benchmark the storage industry chase is to deliver stored electricity at the same price point as peak power plants based upon tracking gas. Currently storage economics improve 17% annually and the forecast for 2015 is a 250%market growth relative to 2014. If Elon Musk delivers on his word storage from Tesla’s coming megafactory will be 70% down compared with the 2014 baseline for storage cost, which is in tune with the current 17% annual cost reduction.


@ Jens Stube:
Quote: in Denmark “Presently approximately 40% of the electricity is wind.”

I would like to see the source for that statement. Are you saying that 40% of nameplate rating is wind, or perhaps that 40% of electricity generated in Denmark is from wind power? Has this been adjusted for energy imported from sources which include nuclear, hydro, wind, coal, lignite, wood and crop wastes, municipal wastes and/or gas?

Perhaps you meant that 40% of the energy used in Denmark is directly generated from wind power? That last would exclude wind power sent across international borders to pumped hydro, or to consumption in Germany, etc.

A single figure of 40%, without explanation and impeccable references demonstrates little: it will be shot down in any serious discussion in seconds.

That said, I would be pleasantly surprised and delighted if 40% of Danish electricity which is directly consumed within Denmark comes from Danish wind generators.

Even then, the remaining 75% or so of total energy consumed in Denmark, including heating, land transport, air transport and industrial loads plus such emitters as cement production needs to be decarbonised. Much of this can be achieved by nuclear power plant, eg community heating, but not by wind.

What is Denmark doing about the nine-tenths of Denmark’s total energy use that remain even if 40% is, as you affirm, wind powered.


@ Jens Stube:
Quote: “Currently storage economics improve 17% annually and the forecast for 2015 is a 250%market growth relative to 2014.”.

Says who?


Regarding Denmark: this is probably the best, most recent analysis of Denmark’s schizophrenic success with wind power.

Regarding wind capacity factor: I must insist on a source for this claimed 84% wind capacity factor. Not because I don’t believe it (ok I admit to a certain scepticism) but primarily because Australia should switch immediately to this revolutionary technology. Such a high capacity factor would effectively do away with the issue of intermittency. So, please include a relevant link in your next reply.


Singleton Engineer

A little above 40% of the electricity produced in Denmark is indeed from wind turbines. Please note that the link for the record does 2014 numbers and there has recently been added more wind turbines. Denmark is unlike Australia not an Island and we support Sweden, Germany, Holland and Norway by having several connections. Norway is dependent upon wind energy to power them throughout the winter and in years where precipitation is not enough to cover their entire power usage by their hydro power stations. Sweden has an unstable grid, which is also supported from Denmark. So the inland usage of this 40% wind electricity is of cause much less, but so is true for any other European country because we all support each other and there has been implemented a free market for electricity in EU.

When Hornsrev3 goes online wind will provide more than 50% of the Danish electricity consumption.


@jens: “sweden supported from denmark” … I don’t think so. Denmark is a tiny country with a tiny output … about 30 TWh/yr … and she uses most of her wind output … she’s a net importer of electricity but exports about 10 TWh

Sweden isn’t exactly huge, but she’s over five times bigger than Denmark … 160 TWh/yr … so you are suggesting that 10TWh of Danish wind keeps helps stabilise Sweden’s grid? And Norways as well? Impossible.


The wind resource determines capacity factor, so Australians cannot expect 84% capacity factor. The wind turbine in question is on a peer on Gran Canaria with mid atlantic trade winds and it is a standard Gamesa wind turbine.

Most modern land wind projects would be lucky to see even half of 84% but as stated the development towards higher capacity factors is very swift at the moment.


Geoff Russell

I quote accurately about the best capacity factors and it is also correct that these capacity factors will increase in the next few years. In fact many wind turbines in operation will also benefit form the new technologies being developed. For instance it is expected that wind parks can increase achieved capacity factors by up to 3% just from pitching accurately to the oncoming wind and by deflecting the rotors slightly to diminish wind shadows – this is in full scale testing at the moment and will when released be possible to implement on all wind parks where the software can control the yaw mechanism and the pitch of the blades.

However 60% capacity factors are in Danish context only achievable offshore. I have not bothered to find an Australian wind map but I would expect good steady wind resources in the south west.



here is a link to the projected growth

Note that it is from an almost standard start.

Here one of many who forecast battery storage cost.–stored-electricity-at-005-kwh_100016581/#axzz3Wu928vEi

Note that all battery storage providers target the attractive market for diurnal supply/demand mismatch, which makes the cost for electricity in and out look better than it really is.

Here is a recent article that is even more bullish about storage performance and batteries.

In everyones best interest better batteries would be positive and potentially they can increase the amount of intermittent electricity generators as well as the amount of in flexible base load generators that can be handle by the grid.

This will be good news for both renewables and nuclear alike provided they both deliver electricity at the right price point.



Sweden has a less stable grid and has frequently relied on Danish supply. Their primary sources are nuclear and hydro and as much of the hydro dams run dry before just before spring in dry years a calamity with one of the nuclear power plant send the system into problems. Further in Sweden they use electricity as the primary source of heating, so running the hydro power dam dry is a problem. Denmark has amble capacity from multiple sources and strong grid connections to the continent, so despite your fast research you are not correct in assuming Denmark does not help out Sweden.


I followed Jens’s first reference re batteries. It leads to Greentech Media (GTM). The “about” page and editorial policies appear to advocate fair, unbiased, authoritative editorial content, but is it?

It is not.

Any expert who uses MW as a unit of energy is no expert at all, yet that is frequently and consistently the case in the linked article.

I didn’t digest the following articles; one was enough.

I am not convinced.


Go happy go lucky and stay less informed if you like.

I too is skeptical about storage. The fact that every cycle of storage is likely to cost you 25% of the energy makes it obvious that you should not consider storage as really good stand alone solution for intermittency.


@Jens Stubbe

You make a number of extraordinary claims, but the evidence you proved is significantly less than extraordinary.

“Little less than half of the territory of Australia is needed to produce all the energy that the world”

The power density for wind isn’t that great. Here is one sources that estimates for really large wind farms the power density would only be around .5 to 1 watts per square meter.

The area of Australia is 7.692 million km² (or 7,692,000,000,000 meters squared).

So if you covered Australia with wind farms you might hope to get between 3.8 and 7.7 Terawatts of power. There are 8,765.81 hours in a year so covering Australia with wind turbines you could hope to get between 33,000 and 67,000 Terawatt hours a year.

In 2013 the world used 13,217 Mtoe.

13,217 Mtoe equals 153,714 Terawatt hours.

Obviously the world can not be powered by Australia’s wind.


The numbers are from former Siemens CTO Henrik Stiesdal, so I would not bother with your second hand data set if I were you.

The calculation is here 131 * 10^12 kWh/år / (10 * pi kWh/år/m^2) = 4 169 859 km^2 and the numbers are 2012 number which I think is representative today because whatever slight increase occurred since probably have been more than offset by the productivity increase in modern wind turbines since 2013.

The area of Australia I got wrong however. A relative used to be at the Danish embassy and always told that Australia was 200 times bigger than Denmark and that is sadly no the case 7 692 024. Australia is in fact only about 178 times bigger – sorry for that inconsistency.

So the fact of the matter is that Australia could power the world using wind power only but with the important distinction that electricity is more worthy than coal, oil and other primary forms of energy. And using electricity in cars etc. is much more efficient.


Calling Mr. Stubbe’s evidence “less than extraordinary” is being charitable.  Many of his claims are simply false.

None of these forecast are interesting anymore because the most realistic predicted 30% LCOE drop by 2030 and this has already been exceeded.

LCOE is an irrelevant metric for unreliable sources.  If you aren’t at least using LACE (levelized avoided cost of energy), you are ignoring all of the costs of integrating unreliables into a reliable grid.  Those costs escalate with increasing penetration.  So do emissions from more frequent starts and less-efficient operation of the backup plants.

The example of Denmark is instructive.  After 25 years of effort Denmark has yet to exceed 40% wind power on its grid (the official Danish figure is 39.1% for 2014, not “over 40%” as you claim)… and this is with massive interconnections to the hydro resources of Sweden and Norway, which dwarf the peak demand of the Danish grid.  The rest of the world has no such luxury.

I cannot show a feat similar to France if you limit renewables to solar or wind. If you include hydro power and geothermal it is another case entirely.

Thank you for pointing out that “renewables” are a granfalloon, a term for things which have nothing in common but the term itself.  Wind, solar, hydro and geothermal are radically different sources of energy.  More to the point, impoundment-fed hydro and geothermal draw at will on large stockpiles of energy.  Wind and solar are limited to tapping unreliable flows of power; if any is to be stockpiled against later need, it costs extra (often a prohibitive amount).

Your handwaving rhetoric implies that Norwegian hydro resources or Icelandic volcanism can be manufactured to order worldwide.  This is, of course, impossible.  If you were honest, you would realize that such an assumption is ridiculous and not even raise the issue in the first place.

And what would you get if you actually turned the entire world into Denmark?  You’d have a world grid that slowly creeps from 39.1% wind in 2014 to a projected 50% in 2030… or less than 1% per year improvement, with the bulk of the remainder coming from coal, and such high costs that fossil substitution in the rest of the economy is impossible.

If you turned the entire world into France, you’d almost fully decarbonize all electric grids in less than 2 decades.


Is Iowa really getting 30% of electricity from wind? Wikipedia is notoriously unreliable on such topics because of starry eyed wind enthusiasts who do not understand the difference between name plate capacity and energy delivered.

I suspect, but am curious to know, whether Iowa gets 30% of electricity from wind or whether wind simply accounts for 30% of name plate generating capacity.

Similarly, the last time I heard a reliable number, Austin, TX received 28% of its electricity from the South Texas Nuclear Project. Now, Austin has grown, and its share of STNP has not, so that number should be lower now. However, the utility newsletter recently claimed that Austin was only getting 10% of its electricity from STNP. I have not been able to find reliable numbers, but am almost certain that some anti-nuclear wank at Austin Energy just totaled up name plate capacity for that comparison, as Austin’s electricity demand has not tripled in the last several years.


Jeff Walther — Wikipedia cites a Department of Energy report. Iowa is a special case but even there nearly maxed out. There appears to be a prediction of but 35% by 2050.

Where is the remaining 65% to come from?



Your initial comment highlighting wind capacity factors of 60% and up to 84% was relatively concise. Did you choose not to include the extra information – with which you replied to me – for brevity?

Industry figures reported to the IEA put Australia’s average wind capacity factor at 35%. As you eventually clarified, capacity factor is location dependent. Australian operators will not be slinging undersea HVDC from the coasts of Denmark or some jetty somewhere.

The Climate Council concerns itself with lobbying for Australian wind and solar. Why bring capacity factors from elsewhere into the discussion?

If I claim that nuclear stations can be built in 4 years for under $4000/MW, but neglect to specify that this has only happened in South Korea and China, I will be rightly pulled up on it. The difference is that it is not outside the realms of possibility that policy settings and financing could allow Australia to at least approach similar figures.

But we will physically never have 60%+ capacity factor wind.



Your initial comment highlighting wind capacity factors of 60% and up to 84% was relatively concise. Did you choose not to include the extra information – with which you replied to me – for brevity?

Industry figures reported to the IEA put Australia’s average wind capacity factor at 35%. As you eventually clarified, capacity factor is location dependent. Australian operators will not be slinging undersea HVDC from the coasts of Denmark or some jetty somewhere.

The Climate Council concerns itself with lobbying for Australian wind and solar. Why bring capacity factors from elsewhere into the discussion?

If I claim that nuclear stations can be built in 4 years for under $4000/MW, but neglect to specify that this has only happened in South Korea and China, I will be rightly pulled up on it. The difference is that it is not outside the realms of possibility that policy settings and financing could allow Australia to at least approach similar figures.

But we will physically never have 60%+ capacity factor wind.


Jens Stubbe — In northern climes hydro operators usually reduce the resevior height to near the minimum at the end of winter so as to catch the spring runoff. I am sure that this is done for the same reason in Sweden.

As for power trading, note that the Nordic and Baltic countries have a combined power grid, with sharing done via
There is nothing unique about wind from Denmark in this scheme.

But for many good reasons the eastern Australia power grid is substantially different than the Nord Pool grid and few lessons for Australia can be obtained from it. In particular Australia does not possess, and maybe never can possess, the massive pumped hydro available in Norway.

WIthout that pumped hydro, there would be no good backup for the wind turbines. Indeed it is so good that Denmark pays Norway to wheel away the excess generation so that Denmark can again pay Norway to have it back when required — that is my current understanding.

So I strongly doubt that your (hastily explained, at best) examples regarding Denamrk’s unusually good wind availability provide much guidance for Australians. I also opine that I understand Scandinavia’s electric power situation better than you; I suggest you study quite a bit more before posting further.


Let’s remember that we are talking about a leadership group within a global community that believes there are solutions to climate change. We have that much in common.

Australians do grant credibility to Prof Tim Flannery to bring science to the wider community, and to Prof Will Steffen at a more academic level. Both of them know what methane does to the greenhouse and both of them know what nuclear doesn’t do to it. Neither of them is a direct author of the pseudoscience that offends scientifically educated people.

However in a country where most of us are accumulating unreasonable wealth from the export of LNG (through universal superannuation), it is clearly not politick to debunk wind-plus-gas or solar-plus-gas.

Eventually global realisation of a mounting rate of climatic disasters will seep through into the Australian consciousness and the time will be ripe for these gods to speak out.

Then the purveyors of windmills and panels will no doubt move on to sell prayer wheels and rabbits feet to the less educated among the fearful.



LACE is not relevant in the market place because the low PPA level for wind factor in that it is less valuable than power you can get on demand.

I did not claim more than 40% for 2014 but more than 40% now, which is a fact.

I am not suggesting hydro power to become more wide spread on the contrary actually because there are huge environmental problems associated with hydro power.

Geothermal is in so far limited to certain areas where there is sufficient heat and water available underground and water over ground to handle the cool side of the generator. I think that geothermal makes sense but not as a major source of power everywhere.

Hornsrev3 with 400 MW capacity is in late stages of commissioning and there are several other projects brewing so the 50% mark is within sight.



If you have an average capacity factor of 35% for wind power in Australia then you are in a good bracket for wind power.

However Australia is a continent so if the wind turbines you have are located where the very best wind resources are then that would imply that the general average will be poorer. On the other hand wind turbines march on towards larger capacity factors so if the average wind turbine is older and smaller than modern wind turbines then you could end realizing a higher capacity factor in Australia.

Future capacity factor development depend on continued scaling as the higher the wind turbine becomes the stronger winds it will catch and development of new longer blade designs with stronger and lighter principles and materials. Further morphing blades and more advanced coatings will add significantly to the capacity factor i part by improving aerodynamics and in part by lowering the wind load on longer blades above the cut of wind speed.


David Benson

The electricity trade between Denmark and the neighboring countries goes both ways.

For the Norwegians the trade is just as benign because there are frequent dry years and frequently the spring is late.

Windpower delivers more energy in the winter due to colder and thus denser air and stronger winds.

Further electricity export import between Germany and Norway pass through Denmark.


In the US there is a production tax credit of US$0.021/kWh (although the rate may have gone up slightly). This is independent of the contracted wholesale rate between the wind farm and the utility. Those contracts used to be around US$0.08/kWh but appear to have declined. These are must-take contracts and it appears that FERC has ruled that if the generation is refused the utility then owes the production tax credit to the wind farm.

The method used in Spain is much more sensible, since some wind can be curtailed in order to avoid excess wear of the dispatchable generators as those become more fully loaded.

(All this is mentioned in case some readers actually attempted to follow what Jens Stubbe wrote about this US$0.021/kWh.)


An innovative use of low priced electricity, which might be of use in Australia, is making ice. The ice is then allowed to melt during the period of the day that air conditioning is desired.

So excess wind or solar derived electricity could be used for that as well as desalination. But I find determining the economics overly daunting so leave it to others.


DBB, yes, there are such systems in Oz. I guess you could call them “systems for storing cold“. Reading between the lines of the article in the link, the value of the systems seems to be not so much economic as symbolic, providing green credentials to impress the public.


This is a valid debate, but would agree with another commentator that it would have greater credibility if some of the emotive put downs were not included. This hard core warfare locks in two groups at opposite ends of a debating spectrum when their interests should be the same. And, when we think about it, both groups of people (renewable enthusiasts and nuke enthusiasts) are basically technological optimists. The Climate Council produces many reports, most of them devoted to climate science and likely climate change impacts.

That said, I think the begging question is, and always has been, the extent to which dilute energy forms can sustain society as we know it. That’s an issue not eagerly sold because it’s easy to excite interest in supply side energy choices, but much harder to do the same with behaviour and cultural change. My answer is no, by the way. But my extended answer is that meeting energy demand by any means doesn’t fix the larger sustainability issue.

I keep an eye on nuclear development and listen to its proponents and hold out hope that newer safer technology can overcome its (real and perceived) downsides. But then I read articles like the link below and the question that comes back to me that if it’s obvious that the nuclear solution can overtake the renewable one why doesn’t it?

At the other end of the debate, yesterday I met a German TV crew who are creating a documentary showing that Germany’s widely purported renewable energy solution is dramatically failing, new lignite mines being licensed, solar growth now virtually stalled and planned nuclear shut-downs delayed. They aren’t pushing nuclear… just annoyed that there’s a grossly false story going around the world built upon wishful thinking.


@ Chris Harries:
Talk about “emotional put downs”! Chris is not above some of his own, about extremists.

There are also extreme views of sustainability and it is evident that Chris is a proponent of same.

“Sustainable” is a pleasant-sounding, comfortable word, but is meaningless without a time frame.

Clearly, all fossil fuels are unsustainable at their present rate of consumption over a timetable of a century or two, if that.

Solar PV and Thermal encounter resource unsustainability within a similar timeframe.

Batteries come in all shapes and sizes, but again resource sustainability is a consideration in all cases.

Fission incorporating fast neutron digestion of all uranium isotopes is technically mature. It was first demonstrated in the 1970’s and commercialisation is under way in several countries. So, it is an option that will potentially provide affordable energy for hundreds of thousands of years with minimal safety and environment footprints.

I would say that on the basis of sustainability, fission is the most sustainable current energy technology for a civilised world. It cannot be swept aside by a simple untested assertion that it is unsustainable. It is nothing of the sort.


@chrisharries: “if it’s obvious that the nuclear solution can overtake the renewable one why doesn’t it?” … It is. The Chinese are doing it. We only have to look at Japan to see why nuclear isn’t doing it elsewhere. Just look at the companies lining up to take money for doing the Fukushima “cleanup”. If you follow Leslie Corrice’s blog, you’ll know what I mean …

Fear over insignificant radiation risks has been a licence to print money and a yoke around the neck of the industry for decades. The nuclear industry operates rather like the auto industry back in the days when a person ran in front of the vehicle carrying a flag to warn people.


Thanks Geoff.

So I’ve read repeatedly, but for the average person out there in consumer land, the solar panels and wind turbines that they see all over the place are like glittering advertisements for successful business. They never actually see glittering hardware for new nuclear, so this option appears to be fictional. What you don’t ever see can also be imagined to be really scary.

That’s what the nuclear advocacy movement is up against. I don’t think this status quo will change much until such time as people in TV land see glittering evidence before their eyes.

Meanwhile, I do argue in environmental circles that if the ‘keep it in the ground’ coal divestment campaign is really successful then we’ll see a significant jump in the economic viability of nuclear energy and also in the political acceptance of it. There’s a general presumption that nuclear energy is permanently on the skids – mainly, I think, because that’s what is hoped for.


Yes, Chris. When I talk to normal people (ie., not those heavily involved in advocacy on either side) I find most are dumbfounded that any electricity at all is required except what they see on their bill. So you are absolutely right, they see panels and they think its a big deal and that climate change will be fixed once everybody has enough panels. I blame Tim Flannery for plenty of this. He and his black balloons and turning off lights. What was he thinking?


David Benson

The average 2013 PPA contract for USA Interior was $0,021

The PTC is explained here

As wind PTC has a duration of 10 years and a modern wind turbine has a design life of 25 years and the majority of the PPA contracts has a duration of 20 years the PTC the PTC contributes between $0,0092 cent and $0,0115 per kWh.

If you add the subsidies to the $0,021 average 20 year PPA contracts you can calculate that owners of wind parks enter into contracts where they are obliged to sell electricity in a twenty year timeframe including all production costs, profits etc. for between $0,0302 and $0,0325.

The buyers of wind power enter into the same contract with the hope that their wholesale electricity prices in a 20 year forecast will leave them a reasonable profit margin.

The price of solar and wind is coming down rapidly, which is worrisome if you have entered into a fixed price PPA or have assets in the form of power generation plants that are at risk of becoming sunk assets. But the expansion of HVDC grid opens larger markets and the fast progress in storage improve the economics of both intermittent sources of electricity and inflexible sources of electricity such as nuclear power plants.

The really interesting price point for both nuclear and renewables is when they can compete directly against oil.

This brilliant article explains the potential.


Singleton Engineer

“Solar PV and Thermal encounter resource unsustainability within a similar timeframe.

Batteries come in all shapes and sizes, but again resource sustainability is a consideration in all cases.”

False solar can power the world many times over without experiencing any shortage of materials or useful space.

False batteries not only comes in all sort of shapes and sizes but also in all sorts of chemistries, so there will never arise a situation with shortage of batteries.

Your belief in yet to be commercially proven reactor technology is interesting given your unjustified disbelief in solar panels and batteries that are actually produced in volume.

Obama has just put $12,5 billion into small nuclear reactors and NREL has just transferred all US Government knowledge on molten salt reactors to the Chinese. The subsidy and the collaboration with the Chinese both indicate that the task of turning theory and initial successful trials into a viable energy generation technology is not trivial.

If you consider the competition between various sources of energy with low carbon footprint then I think it would be useful to analyze which price point they respectively can be expected to reach when they are mature.

I for one acknowledge that wind technology is far from being fully mature and expect continued scaling and introduction of a number of technologies and materials that combined will lower LCOE.

The same is most definitively true for solar.

Could you provide reasonable guesstimates about:

When will Gen 4. enter the market
What will be the price point per kWh initially
What will be the stay out price point for mature Gen 4.


Jens makes many accusations and affirmations but provides little information. I’m going to leave him to his delusions.


We should put magnets on Jens’ hands and coils all around him, or something like piezoelectric elements in his sleeves.  His large and regular hand-waving motions would be an excellent source of renewable energy.

Your belief in yet to be commercially proven reactor technology is interesting given your unjustified disbelief in solar panels and batteries that are actually produced in volume.

Funny, there was a well-financed commercial effort to produce a gigawatt-scale molten salt reactor in the USA… until it was spiked by a heavily-slanted report out of Washington.  It appears that the forces behind the Clinch River LMFBR didn’t want a thorium-based breeder at a tenth of their price.

The subsidy and the collaboration with the Chinese both indicate that the task of turning theory and initial successful trials into a viable energy generation technology is not trivial.

Sending MSR data to China is recognition that anti-nuclear hysteria promulgated by people like you makes it impossible to do any further work on MSRs in the USA.  The MSRE operated more or less as designed for 5 years, and the metallurgical problems revealed have been solved.  The problem is politics, especially the network of pressure groups almost certainly financed by fossil interests like the Rockefeller foundation.

it would be useful to analyze which price point they respectively can be expected to reach when they are mature.

I know you didn’t intend this as a joke, but you should have.  Wind and PV can NEVER reach a point where they can produce power on demand, regardless of calm or darkness.  Never.  As an example of a point already reached, the EBR-II demonstrated totally passive shutdown on loss of cooling and loss of heat sink, and both powered and heated the Argonne (now Idaho) National Lab site for much of its 30 years.  It did this with an active core volume roughly the size of a soccer ball, and bred more fissile fuel than it consumed.  The EBR-II demonstrated a totally sustainable energy system for all of humanity.

So of course the Democratic party killed all advanced nuclear research in 1994.  Can’t have abundance, the established players lose their monopoly rents!


The American Wind Energy Association states that the average PPA for wind contracts is around US$40/MWh. Indeed it is less in the interior.


Getting back to Geoff”s post, above, it sounds like the Climate Council is being accused of omission of the nuclear option, rather than overt hostility towards it. The article more or less points this out.

In which case, I’m wondering if anyone has formally approached the council with a request to meet up their board members and ask them about their position? I would be amazed if it hasn’t been discussed at some level. A bottom line that seems reasonable is: “In the face of likely catastrophic climate change, should nuclear energy be on the table as a supply side energy option?”

Regarding their likely (but unknown) incipient attitude to the subject, it’s not as if the Climate Council is an extreme oddity, the whole world has been struggling for decades on its relationship with nuclear power, including some of the world’s biggest economies – Japan, Germany and the United States.

It could be that a friendly approach has been made already, but my reading is that this debate is being carried on by lobbing of hand grenades from behind barricades, locking in a ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture war. That seems to go both ways and it is not a healthy, nor mature, way to move forward.

Just wondering.


Jens Stubbe — A good place to discuss matters which are actually off-topic for this thread is
which already has many single topic threads more appropriate to your concerns and interests. I visit there about every other day to see if there is some question I might answer or starting a thread on an interesting link.

This thread is supposed to be about Geoff’s post, about which I eventually hope to comment without my reply being lost in the chaff.


Chris Harries, yes, I did approach and get an answer from the Climate Council. I had been alarmed by one of their reports, written in the voice of the renewables industry, so tried to post the protest (below). But they lack a respectable website, so I sent it directly to the Climate Council, and after a period that suggested it went around the councillors, received a reply. Here they are, trimmed…

To Climate Council:

Steady on guys! The Climate Council has a mandate to warn the world about anthropogenic global warming. It certainly must warn us how the three main greenhouse gases are accumulating.

However we want the Climate Council to be warning everybody in the community, not just those who believe that renewables can power the world, not just those who think that more natural gas means less greenhouse gases, not just those who think that nuclear energy is evil. We want to reach everybody. That certainly must include anybody who is concerned for their grandchildren, including those who are afraid of leftist ideals.

If this report is a contribution to the work of the Climate Council by those who believe in gas and renewables, of course it is welcome. But it must not become the policy of the Council itself.

Reply from Climate Council:

The Council does not endorse any specific policies, we seek to empower a range of top scientists and experts to contribute to the debate on climate change & solutions, and are committed to reaching the broadest audience of Australians possible.


“Barry has indicated that he will be happy to post a response from CC and if they can explain why capacity isn’t a grossly misleading measure of renewable growth then I’ll apologise. I believe in full and frank discussion and that’s what I think the article was. I’ve got no idea what you are referring to as “ad hominem”. Please show me.”

I take it then the questions surrounding the authors integrity were rhetorical? Why were they even published if there was no reason. Even a quick Google search yields the boards and from are companies the authors worked in. If you wanted to work that angle there is plenty of information available.

Aside: If my comment wasn’t deleted I could go into more depth, but it’s gone and I can’t recall it.

If your wondering why capacity is used, it details how much is installed/invested in. Electricity production is the function of the asset, granted, but it’s talking about capital investment of an asset. It is less complex to determine capital investment looking at the direct asset.

Criticism should focus on their lack of rigour in the frame of reference they chose. By expanding it to global, instead of Australia, and focusing on MWh instead of MW it changes the goal posts of the discussion. Which is something I hear consistently when discussing Nuclear in Australia and someone changes the goal posts to include Chernobyl.

At the end of the day don’t expect a response from the CC because of the snide attitude. The concluding questions that are posed are loaded to gear the reader to a particular opinion. It’s an attempt to accuse someone of something by planting a question mark at the end to absolve responsibility. I suppose I’ve used ad hominem incorrectly, however my point is still valid. Using loaded questions to attack integrity is not very professional or mature.

I hope I’ve misread and most is sarcasm.
The only comment which was deleted contained a four line attack on the integrity of the author. Such comments do not add to the discussion and violate the BNC Comments Policy. In future please address the content of the post and not the author.


“The only comment which was deleted contained a four line attack on the integrity of the author. Such comments do not add to the discussion and violate the BNC Comments Policy. In future please address the content of the post and not the author.”

Thank you for clarifying that. Although it is a bit interesting that I criticise the tone and logic of the author, while the author (Mr Russell) can get away with phrasing “attacks” on the integrity of another author (Mr Stock) through the use of loaded rhetorical questions. Is there a code of conduct for 3rd party authors posting to BNC, as there exists for commentators?

To the question that Mr Russell proposed to myself and was subsequently deleted; Yes I did read it, and I agree with him that it was exaggerated in parts. But I don’t agree with how he approached his criticism. If there is a problem with a persons integrity find evidence to support it otherwise don’t say it at all.
Isn’t that the standard that is advocated here on BNC? Evidence first, conclusions second.
The job of the Moderator is to make sure commenters follow the Comments Policy and not to edit or censor blog author’s posts. Please answer Geoff’s criticism of the CC report if you wish to post further comments. Your present approach fails to do so. Future personal opinions on the author’s intentions will be deleted.


@irregularCommentator: my critical comments were based on the evidence I presented. Some people might choose to call misleading analysis simply misleading rather than use a loaded term like “statistical swill”. I’d do that with a high school student I was tutoring. But these are well qualified people who shouldn’t be making such mistakes.

@RogerClifton: The CC’s response to your question is belied by a look at the website.

site: renewable … 326 results
site: nuclear … 13 results

Digging deeper only confirms that they do indeed, by their choice of coverage, clearly endorse specific policies. Any pretence at neutrality is just that … pretence.


Geoff, you have proved your point with that comparison of browser hits. Almost all of the references to “nuclear” on the Climate Council site were negative. A notable exception was the use of the word “nuclear” in comments, in a reply by Terry Jones to Mark Duffett !

However the fact that we can now make comments on the Climate Council site does raise it into my category of “respectable”, an improvement on using Facebook.


@David Benson

PTC is for 10 years and $0,023 per kWh so the average support for a wind turbine park over a 20 year PPA contract period will be $0,0115 and thus a little less in the projected 25 years design life.

In 2013 the average 20 year wind PPA contract in US interior was $0,021 per kWh we can deduct that the production price per kWh wind electricity including everything from land lease, equipment, maintenance, insurance, financial cost and profits was $0,0325 per kWh.

The new numbers for 2014 has not been released as of yet.

According to this pro nuclear homepage these subsidies are some of the important subsidies available for new nuclear in USA.
• Production tax credit of 1.8 or 2.1 ¢/kWh from the first 6,000 MWe of new nuclear capacity in their first eight years of operation.
• Federal risk insurance of $2 billion to cover regulatory delays in full-power operation of the first six advanced new plants.
• Rationalised tax on decommissioning funds (some reduced).
• Federal loan guarantees for advanced nuclear reactors or other emission-free technologies up to 80% of the project cost.
• Extension for 20 years of the Price Anderson Act for nuclear liability protection.
• Support for advanced nuclear technology.–Nuclear-Power-Policy/


@David Benson

I find my comments to the point and perfectly in tune with Geoff’s post, which I too find interesting.

There is one funny error in the post however. Geoff should not complain that the capacity of wind power has been chosen to illustrate the growth of wind power because if they have shown the growth in energy production the rise of wind power would actually resemble an exponential curve better because of the rise of capacity factor in the much larger modern wind turbines.



I do not joke about the question of when MSR and other Gen 4. Designs will be ready or whether they will be competitive.

I think we can agree on the credibility of Alvin Wenberg, so I quote from the Weinberg Foundation homepage.

“We’ve followed China’s Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) programme closely, and members of the Alvin Weinberg Foundation team toured the Chinese MSR facilities in 2012. China leads the world on MSR R&D, with both a molten salt-cooled pebble-bed reactor, and a molten salt-cooled and fuelled reactor in the pipeline. The South China Morning Post reported earlier this year that the Chinese government had brought forward the completion date of the MSR programme to 2024, and that researchers on the programme were under ‘unprecedented ‘war-like’ pressure to succeed’.”

By 2024 we should have a good indication whether the MSR concept will be viable for commercial nuclear reactors. Assuming that the process of commercializing the concept also requires time I think it is fair to anticipate the first commercial MSR reactor to go online no sooner than 2030.

My question about the price point should be considered because MSR and any other interesting Gen 4. Designs that are brewing at the moment are chasing fast moving targets.

The unsubsidized market price for wind power in US Interior was in 2013 $0,0315 per kWh. All the major companies in the wind power industry operate with a generation plan and challengers such as Samsung, Alstom, Arreva and Mitsubishi all run ambitious research projects in an effort to enter the market and the same goes for a host of Chinese producers. In the last five years the price has dropped 58% and unlike the solar industry the major companies are in reasonable financial state.

Wind power is just ahead of solar power that scale from the smallest integrated solar panel to the largest solar power plants without difference in efficiency and further can deliver power behind the meter. In the last five years the price of solar power has dropped approximately 80% and the quality of all components has risen steadily.

John Morgan has written this brilliant piece on the development of the possibility of replacing oil as the source of liquid hydrocarbons.
If you accept the viability of the technologies presented in the post and that any electrons wherever they come from are equally useful, then you can over provision the grid and use Synfuel plants as a way to store excess electric energy.

According to John Morgan the cheapest currently available Chinese Nuclear power is $0,0204. This assessment is not shared by–Nuclear-Power/ “In July 2013 the NDRC set a wholesale power price of CNY 0.43 per kWh (7 US cents/kWh) for all new nuclear power projects, to promote the healthy development of nuclear power and guide investment into the sector. The price is to be kept relatively stable but will be adjusted with technology advances and market factors, though many consider it not high enough to be profitable. It is reported that the price for power from Sanmen may in fact be about 5% higher.”


Quote re a tour of Chinese MSR facilities in 2012: ” think we can agree on the credibility of Alvin Wenberg.”

Maybe so, except that Alvin Wenberg died 6 years earlier.



Ooops. Sorry to hear that. I suppose however that we agree that the Weinberg Foundation is a trust worthy organization that would not mislead anybody to believe that MSR is not going to happen or for that matter exaggerate the timeline.


In an interviewon ABCTV this week, the Climate Council served its function of warning the world about the consequences of climate warming. The message was clear and compelling. The word “renewables” did not appear once, because the author was Tim Flannery himself, a skilled presenter of climate science to the people.

If that other times the Climate Council logo appears on sales literature for prayer wheels, we only need to check who the author isn’t before we start to worry.


This was an excellent post, and I find everything in it convincing. I have just one minor quibble. In the paragraph below the last graph, there are units of energy (about 1 TWh of electricity per year) mixed in with units of power (63.5 gigawatts of nuclear plants under construction). While it appears that a large portion of your commenters are engineers, some readers who aren’t might find that paragraph a bit confusing. I had to read over it a couple of times. This post did do a lot of explaining about how things like capacity can be confused (and did it well).


In sharp contrast to the sales literature referred to above, Climate Councillor Professor Will Steffan <a href="”>has recently written that the world must have reduced ” fossil fuels” by 40-60% by 2030. That is a halving every 15 years, as the IPCC warned us must be done. This virtually precludes installing more gas power, even to back up windmills.

A quibble – I would rather he said “fossil carbon” rather than fossil fuels. After all, there is an indefinitely large amount of fossil non-carbon fuel – uranium and thorium – available.


In sharp contrast to the sales literature referred to above, Climate Councillor Professor Will Steffan has recently written that the world must have reduced ” fossil fuels” by 40-60% by 2030. That is a halving every 15 years, as the IPCC warned us must be done. This virtually precludes installing more gas power, even to back up windmills.

A quibble – I would rather he said “fossil carbon” rather than fossil fuels. After all, there is an indefinitely large amount of fossil non-carbon fuel – uranium and thorium – available.


Dealing with the political resistance to nuclear power

Inadequate attention has been devoted to dealing the political resistance to nuclear power. Scientists are not the best qualified people to deal with that even though their input is important.

To overcome the resistance to nuclear power it will be necessary to formulate EFFECTIVE arguments rather than simply promulgating technical information. To do that will require a conference of psychologists, marketing experts, AND scientists. Trial arguments should be authored and tested for effectiveness on focus groups. Once effective arguments have been found they can, although with some difficulty, be promulgated via the media and other means.

I am confident that by utilizing experts in swaying public opinion much of the opposition to nuclear power can be overcome.


Leave a Reply (Markdown is enabled)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s