Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Marginal Cost of Electricity


There has been, of course a lot of Clacking and Jacobsoning about and there are also long running issues about whether nuclear energy is needed or not.  Willard has pretty well disposed of the Breakdown nuclear guys, but they do have something of a point, which perhaps Eli can illuminate with a little model.  FWIW the discussions about fossil fuels, wind, solar and hydro and nuclear often come down to the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), which basically is what a watt or a megwatt or whateverwatt costs, and on that basis today, wind is the cheapest.

But that does not capture the complete picture because of intermittency, not that nuclear and coal plant don't go off line now and again, so Eli would suggest a second metric, the marginal cost of electricity.  As Enron taught California in the early part of the century, the marginal cost can be a lot higher than the levelized cost, which really is the cost of the first watt.

So here is a simple model.  Start with the maximum possible supply, call it M, then see what happens if the % useage is u.  To keep this simple let the MCE = 1/(M-u) which is not unreasonable.  If M=u you have a short in the market and the price zooms.  Looking at three case M = 150%, 125% and 100% you get a useful model



A bunny could do even more useful things with this model by increasing the cost as a function of maximum power for any sort of mix you want.  You can diddle with scaling, etc but the take home is that as long as costs scale linearly with capacity you don't want to skate close to the edge.

50 comments:

Canman said...

M (maximum possible supply) could use a better description. You have three values that are percents -- percents of what?

Le 'usband said...

1) If wind is cheapest, why is the cost of electricity in Germany, Denmark and South Australia amongst the highest innthe world?

2) If wind requires 100% backup of (spinning) conventional power sources, how can it possibly be cheaper? In effect you have doubled the infrastructure.

EliRabett said...

The cost of electricity has always been sky high in Germany and Eli expects the same for Denmark. A lot of that is distribution. Right now, of course, in Germany, brown coal is still the principle power source, and gas comes from Russia.

Fernando Leanme said...

Wind is not the cheapest in real life, where intermittency and the inability to follow a load are considered, and where there's no penalty assigned to co2 emissions.

Electricity is extremely expensive in Germany because they have nutty people running things. They close nuclear plants, build new coal plants, subsidize solar and wind. This is a toxic combination.

The Spanish grid runs with renewables maxed out unless they build more gas turbine plants (this is needed to compensate for intermittency). The system works well using hydro back up for solar and wind (hydro only runs when solar and wind are underperforming). But adding more wind and solar isn't feasible unless more gas turbines are included (the hydro is maxed and there's only mini hydro sites available).

Left wing parties are constantly whining about the government's lack of additional support for renewables, but they also bitch because electricity is too expensive. Like all good European leftists, they advocate doing something that will hurt the economy, lead to either more taxes, and cause unemployment. The only reasonable solution is to build solar in 10 years (when solar technology should be cheaper) and install pumped hydro to back up solar at night. This of course will be opposed by greens who hate hydro,

The other long term so,ution is nuclear power.

Todd De Ryck said...

The people that created and operate http://www.electricitymap.org wrote a detailed post about European electricity operations for summer 2017. A key comment, I believe is "Obviously, what matters for the climate is not to produce more renewable electricity, but to be able to turn off fossil-fuel power plants." https://pro.electricitymap.org/reports/summer_2017

DeWitt said...

Levelized Cost of Electricity is a lousy metric for intermittent non-dispatchable sources like solar and wind. Science of Doom has done some analysis on this.

Start here: https://scienceofdoom.com/2015/07/30/renewable-energy-i/

There are 18 more articles at the moment.

jon said...

Fernando.... The problem in Spain is that we have way too much Gas turbine power installed right now. It is being used at around 10% its nominal capacity. Do you really try to convince anybody that we need "more" of it? I guess Endesa, Iberdrola, EDP and so on are not going to buy your suggestion.

DeWitt said...

Eli,

"The cost of electricity has always been sky high in Germany...."

The average price for electricity in Germany has gone up about 50% since 2006, from €0.1946 to €0.2916 in 2017 for a household that uses 3,500kWh/year. Most of that increase has been the renewables surcharge, which went from €0.0086 in 2006 to €0.0688 in 2017. Meanwhile, the AfD party, which wants to end the Energiewende, received 14% of the vote in the last election and at least one poll showed that while Germans support CO2 emission reduction, 61% wouldn't pay even €0.01 more for it.

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/what-german-households-pay-power

Fernando Leanme said...

Todd de Ryck: excellent link. I would love to see the map and statistics for the current week. We are having a very nice storm, there's snow all over the place, days are short, it's cloudy....

Jon: the gas turbines are underutilized because the market is controlled to reduce costs. This means burning coal instead of clean burning natural gas. It's a government decision.

If you read again what I wrote, I suggested that in 10 years, when solar power is cheaper, they can install more, build pumped hydro, and use gas turbines. Electricity will cost more, so they probably need to cut taxes for the lower income groups, say the poorest 20% of the population. The other option is to tell the EU to leap through the window and refuse to reduce emissions. It's clear that, in real life, installing more renewables right now would be crazy. It's cheaper to pay Poland to buy a nuclear plant.

Todd De Ryck said...

Fernando, If you click on a country here and then "electricity generation", should provide what you are looking for. I believe one can view earlier and longer timeframes as well. http://energodock.com/

Nigel Franks said...

Wish I had a Euro for every bit of bollocks spouted by the Dunning-Krugerites who pontificate about the German electricity market without doing their own research. Take at look at this and then tell me that renewables are responsible for high electricity prices in Germany... http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/refreshTableAction.do?tab=table&plugin=1&pcode=ten00117&language=en

Common mistakes made by the ignorant are to think that the green transition levy (EEG) is a tax. It's not. It's a levy that initially was poorly implemented because it didn't take into account the merit order effect. For those of you who, even after all these years, aren't aware of it, it's the fall in wholesale electricity prices that occurs as more renewables come on line. Google it for a more rigorous explanation. Suffice to say that it's a real effect and you can see it working in Germany here:https://www.energy-charts.de/price.htm

Back to the levy, it was poorly implemented because it was calculated on the difference between fixed feed-in tariffs and the (variable) spot market wholesale price. This lead to the undesirable situation that as more renewables entered the market, the spot market wholesale price dropped, so the levy had to be bigger...
Another anomaly was that small users paid a levy of up to > 6 cents/ kWh, large industrial users paid 0.05 cents! No that was not a typo. This should have been addressed by the 2014 reform.

In addition, as part of the green transition, energy efficiency had a prominent part to play, so the average German uses about 1200 kWh per year: what's yours?

So how much is the levy costing Germans? At 6 cents per kWh that means it's costing the average German about 72 Euros per year to finance the green transition. That's less than 2 dollars per week. So you can perhaps imagine the disgust that some people feel at seeing the supposed most technologically advanced, free nation in the world getting hysterical at the prospect of using renewable electricity.

Nigel Franks said...

Here's another link to counter the bollocks being talked about how electricity is produced in Germany:
https://www.destatis.de/EN/FactsFigures/EconomicSectors/Energy/Production/Tables/GrossElectricityProduction.html

All coal and nuclear falling, renewables and gas increasing.

And can we finally lay to rest the myth that intermittency is a problem: any grid has to cope with fluctuating demand and supply. Germany's grid is extremely robust, the fourth most reliable in Europe:https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-electricity-grid-stable-amid-energy-transition Oh and it's about ten times more reliable than the one (s) that power(s) the most technologically advanced country in the world.

You can also see from this chart that the forecasting of solar and wind is pretty reliable: see how the day ahead price matches the spot price quite well https://www.energy-charts.de/price.htm

And while you're at it: take a look at the wholesale price give by the scale on the right. Now on the left change the year to 2011/2/3 etc. Notice how in the early years the price is near to the €50/MWh whereas more recently it's more often below...

Nigel Franks said...

Eli: one strategy to cope with demand approaching maximum is decreasing demand. For example payments to large users such as steel, aluminium and frozen food production plant if they curtail electricity demand at the request of the electricity suppliers.

Todd De Ryck said...

Nigel, in that link you sent "security of supply strongly correlates with the share of underground electricity cables. In Germany, 80 percent of its 1.8 million kilometres of cables are buried". So seems underground cabling can take most of the credit.

It looks like Germany, averaged on an annual basis, emits about 530 grams CO2 per kilowatt-hour https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/themen/klima-energie/energieversorgung/strom-waermeversorgung-in-zahlen?sprungmarke=Strommix#Strommix

France, Sweden and Switzerland are well under 100. When can we expect to see Germany's number below 100? https://www.electricitymap.org

Also, coal is still the dominant source of electricity, when can we expect nonCO2 emitting and non-polluting renewables to be the dominate generation? https://www.energy-charts.de/energy_pie.htm

Beakers said...

Many thanks for the rebuttal Nigel. This 'what about Germany' tosh is a standard reactionary response in the UK. Germany does have a problem with emissions but it is thanks to being (justifiably) scared of Russian gas blackmail plus some good old fashioned caving to coal special interests. If they had not added wind and solar, the Russians would still be dangerous to rely on for gas, but they would need to burn even more gas and coal. I think they were wrong to close working nuclear plant, but they did not do this because they had wind and solar, they did it because they did not want the nuclear running any more.
We all need to add lots more low carbon generation, and add it quickly. We are unlikely to be embarrassed by having too much low carbon generation any time soon. As soon as current electricity demand is satisfied, there are so many more other fossil fueled demands that need to come over to low carbon electricity. Transport and domestic heat are obvious transitions, but a globally massive one is N fertiliser. Instead of Gulf States gas, this can be an opportunistic user of 'surplus' (AKA cheaper) electricity for a product that has to be stored for seasonal use anyway. Add to that the ammonia produced in step one is a good energy storage media itself.
So maintain nuclear capacity and add lots of the cheaper and quicker to add renewables.

Fernando Leanme said...

France uses nuclear power and buys excess wind from Spain when it's available. The Scandinavians have hydropower. Germany is spending a lot of money but its emissions aren't falling much (a lot of what they achieved since 1990 was associated with the end of communism).

Bernard J. said...

I was halfway through this thread and was going to post "FH, renewable energy is not a communist plot." Then I reached the end and saw that the horse was galloping over the hill...

Todd De Ryck said...

If anyone is interested in reading a detailed, thorough explanation of the German energiewende, (10 minute read), read this. "Germany’s energy transition is coming at a very high cost to energy consumers and to the German utility industry. Energy systems are complex amalgams of technologies, institutions, markets, regulations, and social arrangements. Nations have little experience intervening in such socio-technical systems to steer them in desired new directions over specified periods. To date, the Energiewende offers strong lessons about the unintended consequences of such interventions, but whether Germany can meet its goals of creating a clean, affordable energy system remains unknown." http://issues.org/33-2/inside-the-energiewende-policy-and-complexity-in-the-german-utility-industry/

Bernard J. said...

FL, for all of your issue with communism as a Thing, and for all of the manifold valid examples of its failure due to corrupt and inept regimes, you need to confront a strong likelihood: communist government(s) will very probably become the leading superpower(s) of the 21st century.

China is fast becoming the unchallengable dominant force across the planet, and in a few decades time it will own the planet not only economically, but probably technologically as well. In no large part this end will have been manifested and hastened by Donald Trump's irrational determination to remove the USA from every point of leverage that it might have had - the TPP, the Belt, Paris, the Middle East, the UN,ad infinitum... And going to the moon again at this jucture, after pushing through tax cuts that will already raise the deficit by a 13- (yes, thirteen-) figure sum, is a triumph of machismo over scientific and economic common sense.

All that the USA will be, is an also-ran with a lot of nukes.

China and Russia are laughing at every word that Trump utters, at every giant-marker stroke that he flourishes, and at every vote that the Republicans make. They are watching in fascination as American hangs itself with the rotten rope that communism sold them, and the only thing worse than communism marching inexorably to future global geopolitical domination is that it was given a free ride by blinkered US "democracy", in large part courtesy of the Republicans.

And you stand on the sidelines effectively cheering this travesty on. If you really want to limit the negative aspects of communism (and yes, there are many), you'd not underestimate or misrepresent what some communist powers are achieving whilst you throw your tantrums in the corner.

Deal with your issues, and learn to see what's actually staring you down whilst you otherwise gaze at your navel. And that means putting aside your ideological resistance to renewables, and actually contributing positively to the energy revolution that is required if the USA and the rest of the world are to survive the 21st century. It also means forever putting aside fossil fuels, the sooner the better, and dealing with the fact that old Western economic models will also have to be reshaped.

We now return you to your regular programming.

DeWitt said...

If I wanted to reduce CO2 emissions, I wouldn't be bragging on how little electricity Germans used. For a 3 person household, only 30.6% of the monthly energy cost is electricity. The rest is fossil fuel, mainly gasoline and diesel/fuel oil: 3,500kWh/year electricity, 1,400L fuel oil for heating and 840L of gasoline. To get to zero emissions, all of the household energy currently supplied by fossil fuel needs to be converted to renewable electric power. Good luck with that.

See Figure 3 here: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/what-german-households-pay-power

Canman said...

NF: "And can we finally lay to rest the myth that intermittency is a problem:"

The notion that the problem of intermittency is a myth, can be refuted with two words: "Calm nights". Renewable advocates are being willfully blind to this fact and not just rhetorically. Mark Jacobson gets a supposed "grid integration" study published in in the prestigious PNAS journal. When someone actually looks at his model runs, they find that they require a staggering 15 times more hydro generation than what actually exists! When called out on this, Jacobson says this can be solved with more turbines or other "lowcost" solutions like CSP or batteries (yes, he actually describes these as "lowcost").

DeWitt said...

By the way, when converted to megajoules, that 30.6% cost for electricity represents 13.3% of the household energy used.

Fernando Leanme said...

Nigel is in denial. Maybe I need to coin a new term "intermittency denier".

bjchip said...

The current cost is actually not that damned important. The real cost comes when (and it is when not if) the CO2 emissions are priced into the generation costs and the emitters get switched off by people pulling power plants apart so that one brick is not standing on another. Climate has already zorched the Georgia Peach, but when it really starts harming the general public in ways that cannot be explained away by the vested interests, then real change to the supply economics will happen and it may not be peaceful or planned. So the supply will crash and the demand will remain and so the price will do as you point out, go "zoom".

So as ATTP says, we build the nuclear plant for our grandchildren, but more important to me is that the current economics of the plants and the electricity are irrelevant to the need to build them. The amount of energy required to replace even half our fossil use is something like a 700% increase in renewables and nuclear together and we're going to be looking at that requirement in little more than a decade. That's 700% to achieve extreme austerity and serious poverty... we need every erg.

Remember that our current economists cannot tell you what money is. They do not remember that the GDP is supposed to exclude Finance and Advertising. They do not honor the warning not to use it to measure the economic health of nations. Yet their rules dictate our response to the greatest challenge to humans in the history of human civilization... to work together to protect the environment we depend on... (but we can bail out the bankers for a trillion dollars?)

Instead we get the unholy spawn of the fiction of Ayn Rand and the fictional Gordon Gekko. Greed really is NOT good. Growth really is NOT a sacrament. Economics is clearly NOT a science (though it could be).

We'd best get on with it. Our Children really do need the power.

BBD said...

Eli: one strategy to cope with demand approaching maximum is decreasing demand.

Not likely to happen. Decarbonisation means a shift from FFs to electricity, so increasing electricity demand.

And then there's the data monster guzzling ever more power:

Global computing power demand from internet-connected devices, high resolution video streaming, emails, surveillance cameras and a new generation of smart TVs is increasing 20% a year, consuming roughly 3-5% of the world’s electricity in 2015, says Swedish researcher Anders Andrae.

In an update to a 2016 peer-reviewed study, Andrae found that without dramatic increases in efficiency, the ICT industry could use 20% of all electricity and emit up to 5.5% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2025. This would be more than any country except the US, China and India.

He expects industry power demand to increase from 200-300 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity a year now, to 1,200 or even 3,000TWh by 2025. Data centres on their own could produce 1.9 gigatonnes (Gt) (or 3.2% of the global total) of carbon emissions, he says.

“The situation is alarming,” said Andrae, who works for the Chinese communications technology firm Huawei. “We have a tsunami of data approaching. Everything which can be is being digitalised. It is a perfect storm. 5G [the fifth generation of mobile technology] is coming, IP [internet protocol] traffic is much higher than estimated, and all cars and machines, robots and artificial intelligence are being digitalised, producing huge amounts of data which is stored in data centres.”

US researchers expect power consumption to triple in the next five years as one billion more people come online in developing countries, and the “internet of things” (IoT), driverless cars, robots, video surveillance and artificial intelligence grows exponentially in rich countries.
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“There will be 8.4bn connected things in 2017, setting the stage for 20.4bn internet of things devices to be deployed by 2020,” says the leading internet analyst firm Gartner.


But of course, baseload demand is a myth.

BBD said...

Nigel Franks

And can we finally lay to rest the myth that intermittency is a problem: any grid has to cope with fluctuating demand and supply. Germany's grid is extremely robust

The reason Germany manages okay at the moment is that it has enough conventional FF capacity to compensate for W&S intermittency. This won't last if the FF capacity is removed and W&S increased over time. Eventually, you have to pay twice: once for the W&S and again for the FF reserve that takes over when W&S occasionally drop out in tandem for a week or more at a time during winter. Or you could subsidise a huge gas reserve to stand mainly idle except when needed. But this is still paying twice. So this double cost needs to be included in the true cost of a W&S-heavy energy mix.

Beakers said...

"This won't last if the FF capacity is removed and W&S increased over time." Renewables and nuclear do not require the dynamiting of existing fossil fuel plants. There is no one in one out rule on the grid. If you add a wind turbine to a grid, the existing gas plant and its eventual end of life replacement is still there - but burns less gas. This cuts gas consumption, cuts CO2 emissions, extends the life of existing gas reserves, reduces electricity market sensitivity to gas price volatility and much else beside. It has no significant impact on the fixed cost of the gas plant, but spend less on gas. If you dont add the wind turbine, the existing gas plant and its eventual end of life replacement is still there with no discernible difference in fixed costs, but it burns more gas with all the additional costs that entails.
Priority 1 is cutting fossil fuel use. Nuclear, wind and solar achieve this. Wind and solar have significant advantages in cost and speed of deployment, but if you have an existing nuclear sector, it still makes sense to maintain and replace that capacity as we need everything and are unlikely to ever be embarrassed by excess production.
Getting rid of gas capacity is way down the priority list. It will be achieved not for its own sake, but will happen as we progress along the cost curve. First we will displace gas from routine generation, then progressively cut the frequency and duration of intermittent generation, mothballing and decommissioning gas plant in managed decline. This latter step will be partly achieved through storage - storage that we dont yet need as we currently have sufficient, and the cost of several of the new storage options is falling.

BBD said...

then progressively cut the frequency and duration of intermittent generation, mothballing and decommissioning gas plant in managed decline. This latter step will be partly achieved through storage - storage that we dont yet need as we currently have sufficient, and the cost of several of the new storage options is falling.

This latter step will *entirely* depend on storage since we will not be able to make the sun shine or the wind blow at will. Or get rid of NH winter. Since only PHES will provide the necessary storage capacity to compensate for week-long W&S dropouts, we will need a lot of it which means we need to start building it now in order to be able to phase out gas by, say 2050. You didn't get this last time so I know you won't get it now, but it remains true all the same.

Furthermore, a gas reserve capable of meeting something like 50% (or quite possibly more) of Germany's national demand for a week cannot be maintained for free. In fact I doubt it can even exist. Gas extraction is a continuous process and requires a continuous demand for it to be economically sustainable, never mind feasible from an engineering standpoint. As I said last time around, I think you ideas are unrealistic, to be kind about it.

Beakers said...

"Since only PHES will provide the necessary storage capacity to compensate for week-long W&S dropouts, we will need a lot of it which means we need to start building it now in order to be able to phase out gas by, say 2050. You didn't get this last time so I know you won't get it now, but it remains true all the same." Flow cells, Sodium Sulphur batteries, ammonia - these, as you know, are all storage techs that we know already work, can deploy at a variety of scales, can deploy in a distributed and embedded manner around the grid adapting to changes in the grid, and are additional storage that we do not yet need while their cost of deployment is falling.
Add to that for ammonia, we already have to convert its production to nuclear and renewables because we can not continue burning gas for fertiliser.
"Furthermore, a gas reserve capable of meeting something like 50% (or quite possibly more) of Germany's national demand for a week cannot be maintained for free. In fact I doubt it can even exist." The UK has gas storage that is sufficient for approximately 2 weeks demand. Also remember that massive recent gas leak in California, that was a store, not a well. Your doubt is misplaced.

BBD said...

Flow cells, Sodium Sulphur batteries, ammonia - these, as you know, are all storage techs that we know already work, can deploy at a variety of scales

But at orders of magnitude less than required to meet ~50% of UK or German national demand for a week. Once again, you simply dodge the point when you hit a hard problem.

The UK has gas storage that is sufficient for approximately 2 weeks demand. Also remember that massive recent gas leak in California, that was a store, not a well. Your doubt is misplaced.

Which *again* completely dodges the point, so I will repeat it: gas extraction is a continuous process and requires continuous demand for it to be economically / logistically / technically feasible.

You keep on doing this dodge thing. You did it last time around when confronted with hard problems. It doesn't inspire confidence.

Beakers said...

"But at orders of magnitude less than required to meet ~50% of UK or German national demand for a week." Actually no, they are all scaleable, so you can build a massive capacity store, you can deploy lots of smaller stores embedded in local DNO grids, you can build a store that you progressively increase the size of as the demand evolves, or even all of the above. Pumped storage is great but now we also have a diversity of other storage tech that offer advantages in cost, scalability, speed of deployment and flexibility.
"gas extraction is a continuous process" better go tell Grangemouth as they have that offshore pipeline they are about to repair at great expense, not knowing that by suspending production during repairs, the well is stuffed and the repair pointless - unless...

Fernando Leanme said...

Bernard, China is post Marxist. Post Marxism involves the gradual disappearance of state ownership of the means of production, and replacement by private ownership, foreign investors, and native capitalists. China began this process in the 1970's when the Chinese leadership realized that communism just didn't work and caused poverty. They chose to move gradually towards a more capitalist economy with tight central control. This puts them today more on the neofascist camp. If we look at them closely (I worked in China and my daughter worked and lived there for years) we can see they are nationalist, somewhat racist, imperialist, have a centralized dirigiste economy, and seem to be aiming at controlling the world in a very subtle fashion. In other words, they are more simile to Nazi Germany than to the USSR or Mao's China.

Communism is an enormous threat because all of its outcomes are awful. Communist regimes evolve into hereditary dictatorships such as Cuba or North Korea, Neo Nazi clones like Chna and to some extent Russia and other former soviet nations, or Narcostates ruled by a blend of communists and criminals like Venezuela. And these guys don't stop, in a sense they are like a virus, a disease that strikes anywhere and anytime, destroys a society and installs a hellish nightmare. I think they can be stopped, but it won't happen if the USA is focused so much on protecting Natanyahu's interests and is run by idiots like the last four presidents.

BBD said...

Actually no, they are all scaleable, so you can build a massive capacity store

This is basically crap, Beakers. Go find me anything that backs up the claim that battery storage on the order of 1200GWh* is technically or economically feasible. With particular emphasis on the latter. Seriously. Post it in your next response. Batteries are for short-term compensation, hours not days. Everybody else knows this and recognises that PHES is the way to deal with longer periods of intermittency, so I'm puzzled that you keep on suggesting otherwise.

*1200GWh is the approximate reserve required to compensate for a 5 day windspeed lull affecting a 30GW UK wind fleet (capfac 30%).

"gas extraction is a continuous process" better go tell Grangemouth as they have that offshore pipeline they are about to repair at great expense, not knowing that by suspending production during repairs, the well is stuffed and the repair pointless - unless...

Oh boy. It's costing them a fortune in lost production. If they don't get the pipeline fixed - and quickly - then the operation would indeed go tits up. Because... the notion of large-scale but intermittent gas production is make-believe. Look, you cannot run a business with large and continuous operating overheads but ever-declining revenues. Unless... you subsidise it year-round to cover its costs. Which would mean paying twice - once for renewables and then again for gas. And you still can't deep-decarbonise until you pay thrice - for the PHES you should have invested in in the first place.

DeWitt said...

About 90% of Jacobson et.al.'s planned proposed storage for 100% renewably generated electricity in the continental USA, by the way, is not pumped hydro, it's Concentrated Solar Power stored in a Phase Change Material (CSP-PCM). This is pie in the sky squared. The Moroccan large concentrated solar power plant that came on line this year, for example, only has a few hours of energy storage and it's not phase change.

Canman said...

One of Jacobson's early proposals called for 387 CSP's for the sunny state of ... New York! They didn't survive his subsequent plans for all 50 states.

bjchip said...

I still regard the aluminium battery format as being significant. These things

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2142693-nano-aluminium-offers-fuel-cells-on-demand-just-add-water/

... "but they're not rechargeable"

No... but if you ship the used battery back to the smelter the aluminium oxide is able to be re-used, re-smelted and turned into a new battery, 10 x more potent than a Lithium Ion? Like you ship them out and when you stop at the gas now battery station you swap them out and you are on the road in minutes, as now. Hmmmm....

Thing we need is storage. I could have a couple of charged up energy blocks in my house for the times when the earthquakes turn the lights off.

Musk is doing wonders, and the other tech is waiting, but we haven't solved anything and we seriously need to get on with it. As someone said up-thread. We are unlikely to ever be embarrassed by a surplus of clean energy. This is something most people would agree with, but the reason why is interesting. Real Money represents work done. That clean energy is work done, and adds, always, to the economy of the country that has it.

The problem is that the CO2 price isn't paid at present, it is accumulating as environmental debt, and anything we can do to get that CO2 price in place is what we need to do. Soon as that happens, the market can start working for us, instead of against us.

Craig Allen said...

Le 'usband,

South Australia had high electricity prices long before it had renewables. The prices were jacked up when a former conservative government privatised electricity generation. The generation companies have been gaming the system by creating artificial shortages in order to hike the prices they bid into the network.

But in the past year the wholesale electricity prices have been depressed by the large amount of wind power (>50%) and rooftop solar, which is preventing the gas generators from effectively gaming the system. The new Tesla Batter will help this further, as will a lot more wind and large-scale solar generation that will be installed in the next few years.

South Australian wholesale prices are now comparable to the coal-dominated states of New South Wales and Queensland: See details here: http://reneweconomy.com.au/charts-week-busting-electricity-market-myths-87178/

There are more details about all this here: http://reneweconomy.com.au/busting-more-myths-about-south-australias-wind-and-solar-61495/

Mal Adapted said...

Canman: The notion that the problem of intermittency is a myth, can be refuted with two words: "Calm nights".

The notion that those two words refute anything is refuted with four: "Continental-scale smart grids".

BBD said...

Mal

You know (I think/hope) that I'm in no doubt about the urgent need for decarbonisation and that I'm equally clear that wind and solar are the renewable technologies with by far the largest potential to scale. They can, must and will be used as big levers in decarbonisation.

But.

The notion that those two words refute anything is refuted with four: "Continental-scale smart grids".

This just will not do. My geographic perspective is UK and Ireland and Western Europe. What I say *may* not be true for Australia or the US but I would expect similar large-scale windspeed lulls to occur from time to time.

Here in N Europe in winter we get prolonged, large area windspeed lulls because of winter anticyclonic conditions. These really do knock down national wind output for days at a time, in winter, when solar output is also at its annual minimum. This year's event in Germany was a real doozy: ten consecutive days of very low wind (and solar) output, 15 - 25 Jan (click >> to view week 4). This happens. It cannot be denied. It *is* a problem and it needs a solution (and you know what I think about that, if you've read this far). Far, far too much is riding on making this work to settle for old stock phrases about continental-scale grids. Consider also the assumption in that meme - that there will always be an export surplus available on the supergrid sufficient to meet even prolonged and profound wind output dropouts like the one in Germany this year. Even the more common 3 - 5 day events would require very large import spikes to cover. But what if the nations of Europe are all scraping by on their wind (not solar) capacity during winter? Which seems to be the likely case.

We need to address these issues, not pretend that they do not exist.

bjchip said...

The grid helps but does not SOLVE the intermittency problem and I really wish that advocates of "pure" renewables would get a handle on the scale of the problem that they are waving their arms about.

This isn't going to be solved with wind and solar alone. It isn't going to be solved by nukes and austerity alone. It isn't in fact, tractable without all of them together and a global effort not dissimilar to the effort that goes into a

world war.

This is necessarily going to come out of the profits of a certain class of individuals who are used to collecting economic rent from every other person on the planet and who believe that their immense net worth is due to some intrinsic quality that they alone possess, rather than a bit of work and a LOT of dumb luck.

Which is why they are fighting so hard to prevent the masses from knowing just how bad this problem might well be, and how much is really at risk.

Arguing about how much of what to build is dumb when the problem space is such that if you build all you can of everything you can think of you are still more likely than not to fall short enough to have a partial failure of human civilization and a measurable chance of completely forking the pooch. I remember South Australia. The sun hits it like a hammer on an anvil. Big empty spaces. Burning coal.

There isn't a choice involved here. Every damned thing we can think of is the minimum we need to be doing. Naomi Klein says "this changes everything" but it could be that it changes things in a manner that not only ends the current consumption based pseudo-capitalism but also our current civilization and (oh by the way) half or more of our species population... with the survivors living a medieval existence and wondering WTF happened. Either way the "pseudo-capitalism" ends. The only variable is who survives the event.

BBD said...

The grid helps but does not SOLVE the intermittency problem and I really wish that advocates of "pure" renewables would get a handle on the scale of the problem that they are waving their arms about.

You and me both.

This isn't going to be solved with wind and solar alone. It isn't going to be solved by nukes and austerity alone. It isn't in fact, tractable without all of them together and a global effort not dissimilar to the effort that goes into a world war.

Yup. All of everything, starting yesterday.

Canman said...

As long as nuclear plants don't melt down, they're better than pretty much every other form of electricity generation in every respect. They use the least amount of land and other resources. Waste is really a nonissue. There's a tiny amount of it that is shielded in big indestructible cylinders. It may even become an important source of energy for new reactor designs. Michael Shellenberger has pointed out that nuclear is the only source of energy where all the waste is collected.

Beakers said...

"They use the least amount of land and other resources." The problem facing us regarding energy is not the space taken up by infrastructure or the scarcity of concrete. When it comes to decarbonising, the limited resources we worry about first are cash and time. For Nuclear, an additional limiting factor is the capacity of the nuclear engineers to build the reactors needed (Westinghouse/Toshiba having crawled off to lick its wounds, EDF wishing it did not have its existing build and maintenance commitments never mind additional ones).
So yes add new nuclear to the generation mix to at least maintain existing nuclear capacity, but dont bet the farm on it as it is expensive, slow to deploy and highly vulnerable to long delay and budget blowouts.
I think the 'all the waste is collected' is a bit of a reach. No doubt if I said what about wind and solar waste, Canman would start off on rare earth metal mining contamination claims. If so, is the sourcing of raw material for construction and acquiring nuclear 'fuel' really so pristine?

Beakers said...

"Yup. All of everything, starting yesterday." Some of everything that works, but for the projects like nuclear, big dams and PHES, take care in getting over reliant by such Grands Projets (the ones politicians love to be photographed cutting a ribbon in front of) that take so long to commission, they risk being partially stranded once eventually delivered. Less of a risk for generation as we are confident we can always find a productive use for more, and because geography plus nuclear civ.eng. capacity limit our ambition. But a massive PHES rollout risks facing minimal use as other storage tech is faster to deploy, more flexible (many smaller ones embedded in distribution grids and fewer larger ones on high voltage grids) and cheaper - not least because you dont have to start paying to build it a decade before you think you may need a fraction of its total capacity.

Beakers said...

"The grid helps but does not SOLVE the intermittency problem and I really wish that advocates of "pure" renewables would get a handle on the scale of the problem that they are waving their arms about." Intermittency is not yet a problem though is it. Just the same way that nuclear inflexability is not a problem for virtually all grids that use it as they keep its penatration below baseload. France had this 'problem' so invested in lots of trading and transitioning other energy consumers to electricity - problem solved plus additional benefits gained.
As for the 'advocates of pure renewables' who are they? Do they have any meaningful control over energy management or policy? Germany certainly is not pure as they routinely soak up French (and other) nuclear excess to further displace their own fossil fuel use. South Australia is far too far behind with nuclear to bother trying to catch up, but can usefully continue down the 'pure renewables' route without that purity being an end in itself.

BBD said...

Beakers

Intermittency is not yet a problem though is it.

Because W&S are free riders on existing spare FF capacity as I have pointed out to you before. This free ride will stop once W&S scale beyond the ability for existing capacity to compensate for intermittency. Since the object of the exercise is to remove coal and scale back gas while expanding W&S, there will come a point when quite large amounts of non-FF reserve need to come online in order that the decarbonisation process does not stall. That's why the build-out of PHES needs to start now. Because only in magic bunny land can something like the existing gas infrastructure be maintained in reserve in the face of dwindling revenues.

And will you please stop bullshitting about batteries. I asked you to back your hand-waving up in your next comment here and instead, you just repeat it - because there is no support. Here is what I wrote:

Go find me anything that backs up the claim that battery storage on the order of 1200GWh* is technically or economically feasible. With particular emphasis on the latter. Seriously. Post it in your next response.

Repeating stuff doesn't magically stop it being nonsense. And it looks like bad faith.

You need to rethink your position from the ground up.

bjchip said...

Intermittency is not yet a problem though is it.

I was not discussing intermittency mate, I was saying what I said. The scale of the problem we faces is that about 80% of all the energy we use has to be replaced with non-CO2 emitting forms of generation.

Build all the wind and solar we can in the next 15 years and we are still short.

Build all the nukes we can in the next 15 years and we are still short.

Cut back on power availability (conservation and rationing) and we are still short.

The German Greens in particular take a serious cussing from this NZ Green every time I consider their sick failure to understand what they are "accomplishing". The shutdown of nuclear in Germany is an indication of their political power but I find them opposing hydro power schemes and onshore wind as well and they are damned effective in that. What little power we have as Greens should not be misused.

The answer is NOT to prescribe or proscribe a technology!!! The answer is to put a price on the emission/introduction of fossil Carbon into the environment that is so high that the only things that nuclear, wind, geothermal, tidal, solar and conservation are competing with are each other. That's when you can claim that one is not economical. Yet at that price for Carbon and given the demand we have to satisfy, they all are. The market does work if it is given a clear cost signal to respond to. The currently subsidized price of fossil fuels in generation and transportation is a disgrace.

Worried about waste? You should not be, it can be fuel for the molten salt reactors we are apt to be building in as little as 5-10 years. Moreover, the waste is a LOCAL problem when the threat is to human civilization... globally.


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