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On It Was $40 Billion Cheaper to Install 32GW of Solar Globally in 2013 than in 2012

Stephen, according to your chart 37GW of solar capacity cost $60 billion in 2013. Given a global average capacity factor of 11.5%, solar costs $15 billion per gigawatt installed - or a capital cost five times higher than nuclear.

There's little doubt that

In cumulative terms, the world is falling further and further behind its low-carbon and climate-resilient investment goals.

There's no doubt that investing in solar energy is a reckless and foolish use of the money we do have.

November 26, 2014    View Comment    

On Why Wind Farms Can Be Relied On For Almost Zero Power

Clifford, Norway is a country with just over 5 million residents. All of Iceland has 330,000 residents, or three times as many people as the town in which I live.

Renewables are fine for tiny clusters of people who happen to live nearby abundant natural energy resources. But there is no other country in the world close to being able to match what these countries have accomplished. All of Norway's hydro, operating at the worldwide average capacity factor of 44%, can't  generate half the power required by California on a typical day. California is responsible for 80% of geothermal generation in the U.S.;  its rock solid contribution makes up less than 3% of the state's peak demand.

Believing renewables can scale to meet the world's energy demand is wishful (and foolish) thinking.

November 26, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy from Ice and the World's Largest Battery; Texas Looks to Join the Energy Storage Game

Good point Mark, except that because renewables and battery capacity are still a long way from meeting demand grid-wide, the 5-10% of renewable energy lost in storage will be replaced by dispatchable fossil sources.

November 25, 2014    View Comment    

On Torrefaction via Radio Waves

Robert, one of my clients is a consultant for Los Angeles and other municipalities on ways to turn municipal waste into energy. This is something which would interest him, although the variety of materials in municipal waste obviously compounds the problem of what frequency (or frequencies) to use. His experience is similar to yours - making these processes economical is the tough nut to crack.

November 25, 2014    View Comment    

On Keystone XL Loses Another Round

Geoffrey, I couldn't agree more with you on the value of Barbara Boxer's theatrics - they're harmful to her cause. There are enough good reasons to stop Keystone XL - enabling the destruction of thousands of square miles of wilderness; polluting rivers and lakes; no significant benefit to the American economy. Even if liberated carbon from Albertan tar sands doesn't compare to that of Chinese or Indian coal, a line has been drawn: now is the time to stop moving in the wrong direction. If the most privileged nation on earth can't take a stand on carbon, no one will.

The argument about it not being that critical is ultimately self-defeating - if not, why are Republicans in Congress bordering on hysterics in their quest to approve the project? Ironically, it's because rejection of Keystone XL puts a price on carbon - the exact route we need to take to address climate change. That price is being deducted directly from oil company profits, and because Citizens United has essentially legalized bribery, elected representatives are more than ever pitted against the interests of the people they were elected to represent.

November 25, 2014    View Comment    

On Inside SoCal Edison's Groundbreaking 2.2GW Grid Modernization Plan

Jeff, I can almost hear the champagne corks popping over at GreenTech Media, but what is it exactly we're celebrating?

  • 100% carbon-free generation from San Onofre is being replaced by five times as much fossil fuel generation as renewables
  • Not one of the storage projects you cite is charged using exclusively renewable electricity, meaning efficiency losses are resulting in carbon emissions which are worse than they are now

The biggest advantage of the storage SCE is installing is it might result in lower rates for customers six years from now. The second biggest advantage is it appears to have temporarily silenced GTM's monotonous "utility death spiral" drone.

Now - what do you propose to do about the 8 million tons of extra carbon emissions you've helped bring about?

November 24, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy from Ice and the World's Largest Battery; Texas Looks to Join the Energy Storage Game

Hops, California's electricity mix is currently made up of about twice as much fossil energy (coal and gas) as renewables and nuclear combined. Between 5-10% of stored energy is wasted, so it's dirtier, by a similar proportion, than using electricity as it's generated.

November 23, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy from Ice and the World's Largest Battery; Texas Looks to Join the Energy Storage Game

Lexie, apparently you're unaware, or are deliberately concealing, what all of this storage will be storing: mostly dirty energy generated from fossil fuels. The remaining 90% of SCE's new "generation assets" are new natural gas plants, and there is no energy coming "from" ice -  it's more energy stored from the combustion of natural gas, cheaper but far less efficiently than burning gas alone.

The fossil fuel industry must be ecstatic they've been able to enlist the renewables movement in this deception with such facility. Including believing that commissioned public relations, from "The Brattle Group", deserve to be identified as "studies".

November 23, 2014    View Comment    

On Why Wind Farms Can Be Relied On For Almost Zero Power

Clifford, are you referring to Mark Jacobson, the Stanford professor who includes carbon emissions from incinerated cities, supposedly the result of nuclear proliferation, in nuclear energy's carbon footprint? Like Arnie Gunderson, Robert Alvarez, and Helen Caldicott, he's an antinuclear crackpot whose claim to fame is validating the irrational fears of others like him. If you're going to attempt a legitimate scientific discussion and quote any of them as your source, our conversation is through.

November 22, 2014    View Comment    

On Why Wind Farms Can Be Relied On For Almost Zero Power

Spec Lawyer, the hopes of renewables activism depend on the assumption that somehow

a balance of offshore wind, hydropower, onshore wind, solar PV, geothermal, biomass, tidal power, wave power, efficiency, demand-response, pumped-hydro, over-building, connections with other grids...

will add up to enough energy, when there's no evidence that's the case. Instead of accepting the fact that renewables will never constitute a significant source of generation, activists instead kick the can down the road into some future utopia where physics plays by different rules.

Bah. We can substitute this tangled web of Rube Goldbergian nonsense with nuclear, and be done with it.

November 22, 2014    View Comment    

On A Carbon Tax on Me: How to Cut Emissions, Save Money, Invest for the Future and Help End Energy Poverty

David, one resource I'd like to add to your list is Mike Berners-Lee's excellent book, How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, which is guaranteed to deliver at least one shock to every reader's carbon awareness. Some examples:

  • A paper bag has two to four times the carbon footprint of an equivalent plastic bag
  • A single red rose (non-seasonal) has the same climate impact as ten pounds of bananas
  • A pair of cotton jeans is ten times as carbon intensive as an equivalent pair of nylon pants (if you accept the idea that nylon pants can be equivalent to cotton)
  • Cycling is excellent low-carbon activity - unless you're fueled by air-freighted produce, in which case you're better off driving a Hummer

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-bad-are-bananas-mike-berners-lee

November 22, 2014    View Comment    

On Why Wind Farms Can Be Relied On For Almost Zero Power

Clifford, if it were up to me I would set a timeline to ban fossil fuels in the U.S., for most applications, by 2030.

I can hear the hue and cry emanating from the American Petroleum Institute now - "civilization will perish", etc. There would be many difficulties, but even more innovation. Renewables will be incapable of making a significant contribution to energy, so we would have to come to terms with widespread and aggressive adoption of nuclear power. Carbon-neutral gasoline derived from N2F (nuclear to fuels) technology could help people and businesses avoid some hardship in a transition to electric transportation.

What we lack is not technology nor resources, but the will to get it done.

November 21, 2014    View Comment