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Sunshine Might Be Free But Solar Power is Not Cheap

Sunshine Might Be Free But Solar Power is Not Cheap

Mississippi residents are consistently told that renewable energy sources, like solar panels, are now the lowest-cost ways to generate electricity, but these claims are based on creative accounting gimmicks that only examine a small portion of the expenses incurred to integrate solar onto the grid while excluding many others.

When these hidden expenses are accounted for, it becomes obvious that solar is much more expensive than Mississippi’s existing coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants and that adding more solar will increase electricity prices for the families and businesses that rely upon it. One of the most common ways of estimating the cost of generating electricity from different types of power plants is a metric called the Levelized Cost of Energy, or LCOE.

The LCOE is an estimate of the long-term average cost of producing electricity from a power plant. These values are estimated by taking the costs of the plant, such as the money needed to build and operate it, fuel costs, and the cost to borrow money, and dividing them by the amount of electricity generated by the plant (generally megawatt hours) over its useful lifetime.

In other words, LCOE estimates are essentially like calculating the cost of your car on a per-mile-driven basis after accounting for expenses like initial capital investment, loan and insurance payments, fuel costs, and maintenance.

We can estimate the LCOE of new solar facilities in Mississippi by using overnight capital cost estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Electricity Market Module and other state-specific factors. We can then compare the cost of solar to the real-world cost data for the coal and natural gas generators at the Victor J. Daniel Jr. Generating Plant, and the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant using the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Form 1 database.

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Can We 100% Get Rid of Fossil Fuel?

Can We 100% Get Rid of Fossil Fuel?

The Energy Transition Will Run Through the Copper Gauntlet

And it may not survive

Since the 2018 IPCC climate report laid out the calamitous consequences of our unbridled carbon emissions, every pathway published by academics and think tanks that claim to save us from ourselves involves the expansion of solar and wind farms as well as net-zero and carbon capture dreams of unbridled optimism.

Net-Zero, the idea that we can keep emitting greenhouse gasses only if we somehow capture or offset those emissions by some yet-to-be-determined means was a dubious proposition at best. It relies on untested-at-scale projects such as carbon capture and sequester (CCS) as well as accounting fantasies that pretend a young sapling that takes 50 years to grow offsets the carbon released from the burning of a mature tree today after being shipped overseas.

Net-Zero plans also assume a rapid and universal deployment of renewable energy-capturing machines a.k.a. solar panels and wind generators. Unfortunately, contrary to their portrayal in mainstream media, solar panels and windmills do not produce renewable energy. These are machines designed to capture and transform energy (electromagnetic or kinetic) available to them and they are manufactured, installed, maintained, and replaced using fossil fuels.

It’s astonishing how the continual absence of any credible carbon removal technology seems to never affect net-zero policies. Whatever is thrown at it, net zero carries on without a dent in the fender.

James Dyke

Senior Lecturer in Global Systems, University of Exeter

Many other metals and rare earth elements have received a great deal of attention due to their exotic-sounding names, relative scarcity, and utilization in cutting-edge technologies, but one of the most critical minerals to the energy transition that is essential to curtailing the most serious effect of climate change is also one that the human race has learned to work earliest — copper.

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Energy requirements and carbon emissions for a low-carbon energy transition

Energy requirements and carbon emissions for a low-carbon energy transition

Abstract

Achieving the Paris Agreement will require massive deployment of low-carbon energy. However, constructing, operating, and maintaining a low-carbon energy system will itself require energy, with much of it derived from fossil fuels. This raises the concern that the transition may consume much of the energy available to society, and be a source of considerable emissions. Here we calculate the energy requirements and emissions associated with the global energy system in fourteen mitigation pathways compatible with 1.5 °C of warming. We find that the initial push for a transition is likely to cause a 10–34% decline in net energy available to society. Moreover, we find that the carbon emissions associated with the transition to a low-carbon energy system are substantial, ranging from 70 to 395 GtCO2 (with a cross-scenario average of 195 GtCO2). The share of carbon emissions for the energy system will increase from 10% today to 27% in 2050, and in some cases may take up all remaining emissions available to society under 1.5 °C pathways.

Introduction

The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C concludes that we can still meet the 1.5 °C target and that by doing so, we would reduce climate impacts and limit the risk of exceeding the tipping points of the climate system1. The report provides a range of low-carbon energy pathways compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. However, at present, there is no estimate of how much energy would be needed to build and maintain a low-carbon energy system, or what amount of greenhouse gas emissions would be associated with such a transition2,3,4. This is an important gap in knowledge, as previous research suggests that rapid growth of low-carbon infrastructure could use a substantial amount of the global energy supply5,6. Moreover, since the global energy supply is currently derived mostly from fossil fuels, the transition itself may become a source of significant emissions7,8.

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Addressing Climate Change Will Not “Save the Planet”

Addressing Climate Change Will Not “Save the Planet”

The dismal reality is that green energy will save not the complex web of life on Earth but the particular way of life of one domineering species.

A boiler tower is surrounded by mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert on August 26, 2022 near Nipton, California.

A boiler tower surrounded by mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert, Calif., on Aug. 26, 2022. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

CONSERVATION BIOLOGY FINDS itself in a terrifying place today, witness to mass extinction, helpless to stop the march of industrial Homo sapiens, the pillage of habitat, the loss of wildlands, and the impoverishment of ecosystems. Many of its leading figures are in despair. “I’m 40 years into conservation biology and I can tell you we are losing badly, getting our asses kicked,” Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Barack Obama, told me recently. “There are almost no reasons to be optimistic.”This might explain the discipline’s desperate hitching of its wagon to the climate movement. Climate, after all, is the environmental cause du jour, eclipsing all other sustainability concerns, increasingly attractive as a rallying cry for a public that has canonized it as one of the major political, social, and economic issues of our time. Mainstream climate activism of the Bill McKibben variety points toward a grandly hopeful end within the confines of acceptable capitalist discourse: decarbonization of the global economy, with technologies driven by profit-seeking corporations subsidized by governments. Taking up this banner of optimistic can-do-ism, the environmental movement has convinced itself, and sought to convince the public, that with a worldwide build-out of renewable energy systems, humanity will power its dynamic industrial civilization with jobs-producing green machines while also — somehow — rescuing countless species from the brink.

“But this happens to be a lie,” Ashe told me. “The lie is that if we address the climate crisis, we will also solve the biodiversity crisis.”

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Visualizing The World’s Largest Hydroelectric Dams

Visualizing The World’s Largest Hydroelectric Dams

Did you know that hydroelectricity is the world’s biggest source of renewable energy? According to recent figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), it represents 40% of total capacity, ahead of solar (28%) and wind (27%).

This type of energy is generated by hydroelectric power stations, which are essentially large dams that use the water flow to spin a turbine. They can also serve secondary functions such as flow monitoring and flood control.

To help you learn more about hydropower, Visual Capitalist’s Marcus Lu has visualized the five largest hydroelectric dams in the world, ranked by their maximum output.

Overview of the Data

The following table lists key information about the five dams shown in this graphic, as of 2021. Installed capacity is the maximum amount of power that a plant can generate under full load.

 

At the top of the list is China’s Three Gorges Dam, which opened in 2003. It has an installed capacity of 22.5 gigawatts (GW), which is close to double the second-place Itaipu Dam.

 

In terms of annual output, the Itaipu Dam actually produces about the same amount of electricity. This is because the Parana River has a low seasonal variance, meaning the flow rate changes very little throughout the year. On the other hand, the Yangtze River has a significant drop in flow for several months of the year.

For a point of comparison, here is the installed capacity of the world’s three largest solar power plants, also as of 2021:

  • Bhadla Solar Park, India: 2.2 GW
  • Hainan Solar Park, China: 2.2 GW
  • Pavagada Solar Park, India: 2.1 GW

Compared to our largest dams, solar plants have a much lower installed capacity. However, in terms of cost (cents per kilowatt-hour), the two are actually quite even.

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Switzerland, Facing an Unprecedented Power Shortage, Contemplates a Partial Ban on the Use of Electric Vehicles

Switzerland, Facing an Unprecedented Power Shortage, Contemplates a Partial Ban on the Use of Electric Vehicles

It turns out that you can have battery-powered cars, or you can have renewable energy, but you can’t have both.

Schöne Aussichten? Windräder, wie hier in Rammertshofen, sind in Bayern eine Seltenheit. Quelle: SZ-Photo

The Swiss Confederation usually imports electricity from France and Germany to keep the lights on over the winter, but this year neither country has any power to spare. Many French nuclear power plants are down after years of postponed maintenance, while in Germany we suffer from a superfluity of idle wind turbines and a (self-imposed) shortage of natural gas.

The Federal Council of Switzerland has therefore published draft legislation, which outlines four tiers of escalating measures to conserve electricity and avert potential blackouts. The first prescribes a lot of temperature restrictions for things like refrigerators and washing machines. The second includes more unusual rules, such as the demand that heating in clubs and discotheques “be set to the lowest level or switched off completely,” and that “streaming services … limit resolution of their content to standard definition.” The third foresees cutting business hours, banning the use of Blue Ray players and gaming computers, and also limiting the use of electric cars, which should be driven only when absolutely necessary. A fourth and final tier mandates closure of ski facilities, casinos, cinemas, theatre and the opera.

A lot of these rules look unenforceable, but they said the same thing about contact restrictions during the pandemic. It turns out that the state really can prevent you from socialising with people in your own home if it wants to, especially when there’s no shortage of prying neighbours eager to snitch.

Feasibility isn’t the point, though. It’s the optics here that are most astounding…

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BP weighs ending its 70-year-old Statistical Review of World Energy

BP weighs ending its 70-year-old Statistical Review of World Energy

An illuminated BP logo is seen at a petrol station in Gateshead, Britain, September 23, 2021
An illuminated BP logo is seen at a petrol station in Gateshead, Britain, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Lee Smith/File Photo

LONDON, Nov 28 (Reuters) – BP (BP.L) is considering ending the publication of its Statistical Review of World Energy, over 70 years after it first published the benchmark report, as the energy major focuses on its shift to renewables, the company told Reuters.

The Statistical Review has been a go-to resource for the wider energy sector since it was first published in April 1952, providing detailed data on global oil, gas and coal production and consumption.

However the report has been seen by some BP executives as detrimental to the company’s new direction, sources told Reuters.

A BP spokesperson confirmed the company has launched an internal review of the report.

“We’re looking at options for publishing the annual Statistical Review of World Energy, but as yet we’ve taken no decision,” the company said.

“The world of energy is changing fast and becoming ever more complex, and our energy and economics team are focused on understanding different elements of the energy transition and their implications for BP.”

The company added that “the Review is a valuable source of objective and comprehensive data, and ensuring this continues is an important consideration.”

Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney has radically shifted BP’s focus since taking office in 2020, aiming to sharply reduce oil and gas production while rapidly building a renewables business in order to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

The company has in recent years also cut its ties with several oil and gas associations and has sought to raise its profile as a clean energy provider.

“Put simply, it (Statistical Review) is bad PR,” one company source said.

The report is compiled by BP staff and in recent years with the help of the Edinburgh, Scotland-based Heriot-Watt University.

BP Statistical Review
BP Statistical Review

Conditioned To Believe

Photo by John Fowler on Unsplash

Many of us believe firmly in a Star Trek world to come, where technology and science would eventually have an answer to every problem we face today: from cancer to infinite growth on a finite planet. (Not that these are two different things at all.) This vision of the future certainly makes enduring life easier: it’s not unlike Promiseland here on Earth. It is giving people the hope that their descendants — far-far into the future — will have a better life, without the toil and suffering. Heck, in the big scheme of things fans of high-tech can even feel proud that they are part of this success story right here and now! A story of a single species from a fairly uninteresting planet conquering the entire Universe, bringing freedom and democracy even to the farthest reaches of the galaxy…

Is it possible though, that all this is but a magician’s trick, and we have been lured to believe in a future which might never come?

Remember Pavlov from biology class, who trained dogs by ringing a bell whenever he gave them food? After a few repetitions his dogs started to salivate in hopes of getting tasty bits just by hearing the bell ring. This is a perfectly normal reaction universally observable across all mammals, humans included. According to Britannica:

conditioning is a behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement typically being a stimulus or reward for a desired response

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The Renewable Energy Transition Is Failing

Not sustainable: Vast quantities of minerals and metals are required for the renewable energy transition. (Photo credit: AleSpa/Wikimedia Commons)

Renewable energy isn’t replacing fossil fuel energy—it’s adding to it.

Despite all the renewable energy investments and installations, actual global greenhouse gas emissions keep increasing. That’s largely due to economic growth: While renewable energy supplies have expanded in recent years, world energy usage has ballooned even more—with the difference being supplied by fossil fuels. The more the world economy grows, the harder it is for additions of renewable energy to turn the tide by actually replacing energy from fossil fuels, rather than just adding to it.

The notion of voluntarily reining in economic growth in order to minimize climate change and make it easier to replace fossil fuels is political anathema not just in the rich countries, whose people have gotten used to consuming at extraordinarily high rates, but even more so in poorer countries, which have been promised the opportunity to “develop.”

After all, it is the rich countries that have been responsible for the great majority of past emissions (which are driving climate change presently); indeed, these countries got rich largely by the industrial activity of which carbon emissions were a byproduct. Now it is the world’s poorest nations that are experiencing the brunt of the impacts of climate change caused by the world’s richest. It’s neither sustainable nor just to perpetuate the exploitation of land, resources, and labor in the less industrialized countries, as well as historically exploited communities in the rich countries, to maintain both the lifestyles and expectations of further growth of the wealthy minority.

From the perspective of people in less-industrialized nations, it’s natural to want to consume more, which only seems fair…

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384 billion serfs

384 billion serfs

Why it’s so hard to scale down fossil fuels

oil rig and red line

In an 8-hour workshift, a healthy 35-year-old man can generate about 75 watts of mechanical power per hour, enough to keep a bright old-fashioned light bulb going. In a year, he can generate about 140 kilowatt-hours.

How does that compare to the energy embodied in a barrel of oil?

A standard 42-gallon (159-litre) barrel of oil can perform 1,700 kilowatt-hours of work. Modern oil-driven power stations are about 37 percent efficient, since they produce lots of waste heat. So one barrel of oil has the same work potential as the physical labour of 4.8 human men over a year.

Oil is a super-concentrated form of energy!

oil versus people

Fossil fuel serfs

In 2019, before lockdowns began, the world consumed about 35 billion barrels of oil, corresponding to the services of 165 billion labourers.  Oil makes up two-fifths of all the fossil fuel energy the world consumes, the rest being mostly coal and natural gas. Our total fossil fuel use in 2019 amounted to the work of 380 billion men.

Those fossil fuel-equivalent workers are always on tap, don’t take holidays, don’t need to sleep and don’t go on strike. They have no rights. Let’s call them our fossil fuel serfs.

You can think of a fossil fuel serf as the work capacity of a full-time human labourer for a year, measured in terms of oil, coal or natural gas.

A Ford Focus, for example, has a 52-litre (11.5 gallons) fuel tank. One barrel of oil would provide the petrol for three fill-ups. Each fill-up corresponds to 1.5 fossil fuel serfs.

Those 380 billion fossil fuel serfs power our cars and factories, keep the lights on, heat or cool our houses and cities, produce fertilizer for our fields, help to make the concrete, steel and asphalt in our buildings, roads and dams, and provide the plastics, synthetic clothing, tyres, detergents and hospital equipment that make our lives so convenient…

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Getting real: It’s time to crunch the numbers on the transition from fossil fuels

Getting real: It’s time to crunch the numbers on the transition from fossil fuels

What is needed for a transition to a clean energy environment?
What is needed for a transition to a clean energy environment?
Analysis: We are used to hearing world leaders talk in blizzards of numbers about targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and activists bidding higher, demanding the world move faster to net zero.
But has anyone sat down and done the calculations on the physical requirements of completely retooling an industrial system that was built over more than 100 years on coal, oil and gas?
Fossil fuel doesn’t just power electricity systems and run cars, it is embedded in the manufacture of steel, cement, plastic and the ammonia used to fertilise the world’s crops.
Physicist and former Australian mining engineer associate professor Simon Michaux has spent years looking at the hard data on making this transition. He now works for the Geological Survey of Finland and set out to answer the question: what kinds of minerals and in what quantities will be required to supply the incoming lithium-ion battery factories of Europe?
He then expanded his work to look at the size of the task of meeting the stated emissions reduction ambitions of the European Union, China and the United States. Take one example – what will it take to run the estimated global fleet of 1.416 billion vehicles on batteries when right now only 0.51 per cent of it is electric? And an electric car demands seven times the critical minerals of a conventional car.
In conversation with Nine News, Professor Michaux says he found there are not enough global mineral reserves to manufacture even the first generation of the planned non-fossil fuel industrial systems.
“The nature of the task in front of us – when we actually start looking at the numbers, the reality of what we are looking at – it’s simply not going to go as planned,” Professor Michaux says.

Simple answer is we can’t do renewable energy the way it is being ‘planned’

Simple answer is we can’t do renewable energy the way it is being ‘planned’

The Renewable Energy ‘Paradox’: A More Costly Way Forward

The Renewable Energy ‘Paradox’: A More Costly Way Forward

A California-based leading eco-modernist has disputed the widespread claim that renewables are a cheap and clean energy source, arguing that it’s the opposite.

Michael Shellenberger, founder of Environmental Progress, said one of the “most misleading ways that renewable salespeople sell their technology” is they claim the electricity produced by wind and solar is cheaper.  

However, the paradox about renewable energy is when deployed at scale, they actually make electricity production more expensive, Shellenberger told CPAC Australia in Sydney on Oct. 1. 

“There are basically two reasons,” he said, “It requires more machines, more backup power generators, more transmission systems, and more people to manage the chaos of an electrical grid with a large amount of unreliable weather-dependent energy.”  

Shellenberger pointed to a prediction by German economist Leon Hirth that the economic value of wind and solar declines significantly as they take up a larger proportion of the electricity grid.  

In a paper for Energy Policy in 2013, Hirth estimated that when wind turbine power generation comprises 30 percent of the grid, its value declines by 40 percent; while solar power’s value declines by 50 percent when it reaches 15 percent.  

“The reason is easy to understand,” Shellenberger noted, “Solar and wind produce too much energy when you don’t need them and not enough energy when you do, and both of those impose costs on the electrical grid.”  

Epoch Times Photo
Steam rises from cooling towers of the Neurath coal-fired power plant as wind turbines spin over a field of rapeseed on May 05, 2022 near Bedburg, Germany. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

He said the ideal situation was for the electricity supply to keep up with demand at “all times.”

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Is the Energy Transition Taking Off—or Hitting a Wall?

Forecast cloudy: Solar panels are wiped off for peak performance at The Wash Basket Laundromat, in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, in 2011. The business qualified for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program assistance to add 72 photovoltaic panels to reduce electrical demand by a third. (Photo credit: Lance Cheung, USDA/Wikimedia Commons)

With the Inflation Reduction Act, the federal government is illogically encouraging the increasing use of fossil fuels—in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) constitutes the boldest climate action so far by the American federal government. It offers tax rebates to buyers of electric cars, solar panels, heat pumps, and other renewable-energy and energy-efficiency equipment. It encourages the development of carbon-capture technology and promotes environmental justice by cleaning up pollution and providing renewable energy in disadvantaged communities. Does this political achievement mean that the energy transition, in the U.S. if not the world as a whole, is finally on track to achieving the goal of net zero emissions by 2050?

If only it were so.

Emissions modelers have estimated that the IRA will reduce U.S. emissions by 40 percent by 2030. But, as Benjamin Storrow at Scientific American has pointed out, the modelers fail to take real-world constraints into account. For one thing, building out massive new renewable energy infrastructure will require new long-distance transmission lines, and entirely foreseeable problems with permitting, materials, and local politics cast doubt on whether those lines can be built.

But perhaps the most frustrating barriers to grid modernization are the political ones. While Texas produces a significant amount of wind and solar electricity, it is unable to share that bounty with neighboring states because it has a stand-alone grid…

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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