Yes, I can appear hyperbolic, but I’ve joined the energy debate for most of my adult life. The first few years I was very nuanced, but this did not help. Then, when the subsidy racket started on large scale, I become a little more pointed. And since Fukushima, which allowed the anti-nuclear propagandists to kill nuclear power in many countries, I have decided that clarity is far more important than nuance. I call BS whenever I see it, and I do not attempt to soften my message. We need to put our foot down, or nothing will change. Anti-nuclearists need to feel hounded. They need to understand that they will be held to account sooner or later. That is why I call fraud when I see fraud, even though many might find the use of words like ‘fraud’ to be uncivilised or too heavyhanded. I don’t believe it is. It’s a matter of life and death now.
30% wind/solar would be the limit above which the costs for curtailment/storage start rising exponentially. Even before reaching 30%, profile costs start soaring already. Details can be found in the presentation and underlying report that I linked above.
Solar and wind power should only be installed along with a budget for funding their entire integration costs, and this total cost must be born entirely by the owner of the installations. This is the opposite of what is happening today. Today solar and wind power are financed almost completely by the public (and disproporitonately the poor, who pay the most relative to their income!), while the benefits are funneled into the pockets of the well-healed owners. This is a recipe for failure on multiple levels: environmental, social and financial. It’s a disgrace. It needs to be stopped immediately. See Spain as an example of how stopping this anti-social subsidy racket can be done quick and hard.
Environmental and economic constraints demand the building of cheap, clean energy. Solar and wind power have no role to play because they cannot deliver what is demanded, not now and not in the future. They only serve to complicate the task at hand, increase the cost of energy and magnify social inequality. Cui bono? Follow the money.
It is correct that all energy sources receive some form of subsidization, but it is the relative magnitude that is in question here. In the link you provided, renewables received 12.2 G$ from 2002-2008 while fossil fuels received 70.2 G$. In that time period, non-hydro renewables produced 155 Mtoe while oil, gas and coal produced 6397, 4073 and 3958 Mtoe respectively (BP Statistical Review). Per unit energy consumed, renewables (primarily relatively mature wind) therefore received 16 times the support of fossil fuels (if renewable electricity is converted to primary energy by dividing by 0.37).
I don’t think anyone disputes that the grid can accommodate small amounts of variable renewable generation without too many problems, especially in ideal wind locations like the central US. The problem is that serious issues start to materialize between 10 and 20% contribution of variable renewables and these issues get rapidly more acute from there. Somewhere around this point, renewables will most probably stagnate like nuclear did in the late 80s through the classic S-curve followed by all new technologies.
If we agressively expand subsidy programs and manage to increase wind and solar power by a factor of 10 by 2035 (roughly the time when we blow through the 2 deg C carbon budget), we would have just about made it to this saturation point (20% of electricity or 8% of primary energy) and fossil fuels will still supply around 80% of our primary energy.
The point is just that renewable energy is the slowest and most expensive way to combat climate change. For example, a recent study found that renewable energy subsidies cost 17 times more per unit CO2 avoided than an ETS.
As far as I can see, our best hope is for this senseless technology forcing to be replaced by a technology-neutral CO2 abatement mechanism. The market will quickly establish which is the cheapest way to cut carbon in different locations around the world and we would not even need to have this conversation because the market would do the talking for us. I strongly feel that greens should drop their fanatical support of wind and solar and instead push for technology-neutral climate policy. Otherwise we may very well wake up one decade from now and discover that the ideological pursuit of wind and solar power has done much more harm than good in the sustainability crisis of the 21st century.
Source: Schalk Cloete.
I enjoyed Joris van Dorp’s comments on “Energy idiocy”: Solar Panel Tariffs. Here’s a lightly-edited reprise of the dialogue:
The tariff’s are imposed because the Chinese state has been heavily supporting the Chinese solar manufacturers financially. Chinese panels makers have been earning only 2$ for every 3$ in costs, with the Chinese state making up the difference. That is called dumping, and the EU and USA are fully in their right to impose tariffs in order to protect their PV manufacturers, who cannot operate similar structural loss making enterprises as the Chinese have been able to do for years.
I invite criticism of my reply:
I agree with all your facts. I also agree with John Cochrane’s main thesis, but I will try to state John’s observations on “Silly Policy” from a “Who benefits?” perspective.
To promote internal growth China has been subsidizing their solar and wind manufacturers. Hence China is literally delivering a “free lunch” to global solar consumers (which basically means heavily taxpayer subsidized PV projects). By “free lunch” I mean a transfer from China’s savers/taxpayers to e.g., German taxpayers/consumers. I mention China’s savers because the financial repression imposed upon the savers is a central part of the Chinese government funding, direct taxes are relatively small.
The Chinese subsidized solar isn’t fun for a German PV manufacturer – but these companies are only in business because of a transfer from German taxpayers to the company. For a German PV installer the Chinese subsidy is a win – their costs go down a bit (not hugely, because the PV cells are a modest part of the life cycle cost of PV solar). Of course the German taxpayer and consumer win.
So there are mostly winners from the Chinese subsidy, unless you are a Chinese taxpayer/saver. Chinese citizens benefit from more jobs, more village farmers employed in the over-sized solar factories.
My personal long run view – I don’t think these Chinese PV companies have a future. How long will OECD taxpayers be willing to continue funding a “feel good” energy policy that obviously doesn’t work?
Today’s update on the “policy that obviously doesn’t work” Cost of German Solar Is Four Times Finnish Nuclear. This is a very instructive analysis of a truly silly energy policy. The true cost is much worse than 4X – see the graphic depicting life cycle costs at the end of the article:
Lastly, if anyone knows of a study demonstrating a solar project that is economically competitive with nuclear without subsidy please comment. By viable I mean all-costs-inclusive life cycle costs. I’m not aware of any PV projects in the first world that would have been built on purely economic grounds). It’s not easy to obtain objective data on any of the wind/solar projects because they are all intrinsically political – and it is definitely not in the politicians’ interest to publish the facts.