Our baseload power needs soon coming from an Eveready battery?

With the present government moving quickly towards an ETS and the opposition looking like it will follow in lockstep after some huffing and puffing can someone help me answer some questions?

1. If ETS is supposed to be a signal to the market to start producing emissions free or relatively emissions free energy how are we going to achieve this without nuclear reactors being allowed as a reasonable option to produce baseload?
2. If the idea is that we shouldn’t penalize users or producers for consuming energy how are we supposed to do this without nuclear power?

3. If nuclear reactors aren’t allowed does it therefore mean that cheap and abundant energy is a thing of the past in Australia?
I am assuming that renewable will continue to be in infancy in 2010 producing no more than 5% of our energy needs. So before anyone suggests that a solar panel or a wind turbine will do the trick please remind us of the great strides of progress these two sources have achieved in Europe which has had an ETS scheme for about 10 years now.

I am genuinely interested in an answer.

74 thoughts on “Our baseload power needs soon coming from an Eveready battery?

  1. Actually JC, solar has made huge efficiency gains over time (and nuclear also), but it started off being hugely more more expensive. I imagine in the very forseeable future it will become cheaper for some things (i.e., non base-load electricity), in which case we’ll start seeing it more and more (I wouldn’t see it as independent from nuclear — you could easily have a mix of both). The other reason it hasn’t popped up in Europe as much is that, in the parts of Europe where renewables are more popular than nukes (e.g., Germany), they don’t have vast amounts of space and sunny deserts, so you have to use these little shitty rooftop generators (also getting better), rather than more efficient ones.

  2. Conrad – Solar voltaics is not really suitable for baseload. It is also very expensive. Solar thermal offers far more promise in this area.

    JC – What about gas fired power stations?

    Personally I don’t think a pure ETS could survive politically. There will have to be some relief valve in the ETS system or else politics will create one. As I understand it they are talking about an upper limit on the price of permits. This might be a sufficient relief valve for the ETS system to survive. Presumably at the upper price point there is as many permits available as the market wants at that price. Which means that we may simply pay more for electricity and moderate some demand. Not a nice scenerio but the most likely one I fear.

  3. If the Liberals don’t get on to it, someone else will – exporting the Australian economy to other countries won’t survive politically. I doubt if even a low price for permits will be acceptable as long as other countries are the beneficiaries.

  4. Efficiency increases in solar photovoltaics lately has seen them go from 15% energy conversion to 45%.

    All without a carbon tax…do we really need one to promote this kind of technology?

  5. Sorry conrad

    Unless you think Rudd can make the sunshine at night time Solar isn’t going to cut it for baseload.

  6. JC –

    I can foresee no lack of the abundance of low cost energy that has provided Australia with advantages that overcome our relatively small, scattered population and remoteness from other major markets and population centres – such that we ( generally ) can live a lifestyle comparable with the major northern hemisphere developed economies – albeit our cost of living seems relatively higher.

    And I mean both in current, conventional energy terms and likely future developments in energy – presumably parallel developments in a number of areas. Australia will be well placed to capitalise on both the existing and future sources of energy, the optimist caveating – if innovation and the market are allowed to run their course 😉

    However – the pessimist fears that vested political, social and commercial interests are singularly focussed upon restricting the abundance of energy and ramping up the cost of energy.

    Hence – with or without nuclear power – I would suggest right now that the politcal juggernaut is rolling and your third point seems the most likely outcome – abundant and cheap energy will be made history in Australia.

    Good luck to all of us when that day arrives.

  7. Wind power has to be ruled out and avoided. Not only is it costly, intermittent and generates only a small amount of electricity, but it creates all kinds of new problems connecting it to the existing grid, as seen in Germany:

    http://www.countryguardian.net/eonwindreport2005.pdf

    At the end of the report they discuss the potential for grid instability, and cheerfully note that if they are not careful, they may blow up pieces of the Polish, Netherlands and Czech power supply.

  8. JC,

    I don’t think you need to solve every problem at once. Obviously baseload issues are a big deal, but so are non-baseload issues too. I don’t see why you can’t have a combination of nukes (or whatever else) for baseload + everything else for non-baseload. Things like solar are exceptionally good in Australia, because they provide the most power when there is peak energy demand. Even reducing the non-baseload fluctuations would reduce carbon based energy consumption a great deal, and is a good start as other technologies get better and cheaper.

  9. Conrad:

    Good you agree with nukes. Try talking the ALP trogs into allowing it as an option. Meanwhile the 1/2 baked spruiker they’re paying to produce an economic report left out nuke power as a option. If Garnaut had given me that report i wouldn’t have paid him as it was substandard crap.

    regarding solar.
    I’ll believe it when i see it. Solar has been the perpetual promise of the past 50 years so sorry if i remain unconvinced despite all the claims about how great it is.

    You still require heavy subsidies to make it work in addition to all the rorts going on such as allowing people to sell energy back to the grid at retail rates. Great idea! Subsidize the shit out of solar panels, mandate retail resale and then call it a success. Only an ALP government such as the one in Queensland could think this was a good thing.

  10. To my knowledge, the options for renewable baseload power are –

    # geothermal

    # biofuels

    # hydroelectric

    Geo. & biofuels probably have a lot of upside potential for investors. Hydroelectric has the same planning and regulatory bias that nuclear faces.

    Deregulating the energy sector is still probably our best bet.

    Future options for baseload renewables include the use of batteries – see the use of batteries in the Tesla car or a global or several global or simply intercontinental power grids. That way we could use wind, solar, tidal and so on 24/7.

    So the key is then to get infrastructure or technology cheap again – lasseiz faire is the best option here. Cut taxes and pursue other supply side reforms.

    Don’t forget the northern, developable fringes of the Antarctic (Tasmania, Tirra del Fuego etc) have massive potential for baseload wind power on their own. This has been discussed recently in New Scientist or Nature I believe.

  11. Jono-
    We could utilise the ‘roaring forties’, the winds between Tasmania and the Mainland. The power could be used to convert seawater into hydrogen, another facet of the hydrogen economy of the future. You would still need to watch out for the orange-bellied parrot, ot the yellow-bellied minister, but it should be feasible.

  12. If wind power is uneconomical, using it to create hydrogen (which uses more energy than results in burning it) would be even worse.

  13. What I find amusing is the Greens bullshit in all this. As a group they would have to be the most anti-market trogs in both hemispheres and they’re the ones saying that the market should be allowed to find alternatives. Brown wouldn’t know a market if he fell into a bunch of fruit stands.

  14. Whatever, let the free market sort out how and whether it utilises wind power.

    As long as you’re not suggesting connecting wind power to the existing grid ?

    I think the point has been made that this is a seriously bad idea. And yet our politicians are boastful of their target to generate (and replace) 5% or 10% of our current power capacity with this failed method.

  15. Mark – short of reverse pump hydro I don’t see any large scale energy storage solution that is even close to economically viable. I think batteries will improve in leaps and bounds over the next decade and I personally think they will revolutionise transportation but I don’t seem them making any meaningful contribution to making baseload power out of intermittent power sources such as solar cells or wind. Also I’m not sure why you include geothermal as a viable baseload source but not solar-thermal. Both look reasonably promising as baseload technologies, all be it somewhat more expensive than coal.

    Conrad – If an energy source is not useful for making baseload electricity then it is only really meaningfully in large scale grid terms if it is dispatchable in a controlled fashion on demand like hydro or gas fired generation. Solar voltaics fails on this count also. So does wind. The only hope of solar voltaics or wind making a meaningful contribution is if they can be aggregated on scale to produce the equivalent of baseload or stored (eg in reverse pump hydro). I am cynical about this possibility except in a few rare instances where natural wind and solar fluxes are increadibly consistent whilst also being close enough to market or where there is lots of option for reverse pump hydro. In other words not very often.

  16. Mr Hill:

    I am not aware of any advance in solar energy anywhere in the world that reports a reliable 45% conversion to energy. The industry benchmark is 15%, and even so small an amount as that appears to be wishful thinking. Can you tell us who has successful solar conversion at 45%?

    Perhaps observing nature would help us. Chloroblasts in all photosynthetic green plants convert solar into chemical energy at 95% efficiency; plus, the green plants suck up carbon like a drunken sailor. Biochemistry technology might well surpass all other alternative energy ideas.

  17. Terje:

    With due respect we’ve been hearing how solar is just around the corner for the past 50 years, so i apologize if the latest link doesn’t excite me.

    There are serious engineering constraints to solar. There simply isn’t enough sunshine in the area of the panel to convert into lots of cheap power and quite frankly it looks impossible to get around even if the panels were given away. The other issue is something we have discussed earlier which is the diseconomies of scale that we would get with solar or any energy source that wasn’t cooked up at a central point.

    Let’s do one thing. Let’s talk about solar when someone has come up with a panel that actually doesn’t need a tanker load of subsidies to pretend to make it work. In other words I wanna see solar stand up without a subsidy. Before that time it simply is a waste of time talking about it as every jack , Jill and harry’s promise turns out to be another hand sticking out for cashola.

    I make a distinction here though. We can of course pretend to make it work if we set the carbon hurdle rate high enough.

  18. Perhaps a ETS so you can offset the burning of coal with the plating of trees, just a suggestion.

  19. JC, it’s fair enough to be sceptical about unproven technologies, but you can’t ignore the clear trend in solar price-per-watt.

    I applaud your desire to see solar “stand up without a subsidy”, of course. But your allusion to pretence is transparent. A carbon tax is a straightforward Pigouvian solution to a market failure, not some sort of Green fakery.

    “The other issue is something we have discussed earlier which is the diseconomies of scale”

    You mean where we all found out that you don’t actually know what ‘diseconomies of scale’ are? 😉

  20. No, I’m generally very optimistic about technology and it’s potential. However when it comes to solar I draw the line because I can’t see how serious engineering limitations can be over come that will translate to cheap energy. I think it’s a con.

    I applaud your desire to see solar “stand up without a subsidy”, of course. But your allusion to pretence is transparent.

    Transparent in terms of what exactly, that I want to see proof solar can work? Why?

    Furthermore shouldn’t the shoe be on the other foot? Shouldn’t you be the one presenting the proof because as I’ve said solar has been around the corner for the past 50 odd years.

    A carbon tax is a straightforward Pigouvian solution to a market failure, not some sort of Green fakery.

    What market failure exactly are you talking about? I would take the opposite view in that the market has been very successful providing cheap and abundant energy. If you think that’s market failure then you really don’t understand success. First world modern civilization is based on cheap and abundant energy.

    I don’t see this change as anything other than a desire for people to move away from carbon based energy production because there may be a problem down the road. Let’s not carried away now.

    Let’s watch when the bill come in.

  21. Charles:

    Are you still digging that hole hoping to make it to the Beijing Olympics in time? Dude!

  22. The market failure is really more a tragedy of the commons, if you prefer. And it’s the pollution of the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning that I’m referring to, not the energy production itself, which on its own is unequivocally good.

    A carbon tax (or the inferior option, an ETS) is an attempt to solve the problem of externalities in the classical Pigouvian manner. It’s not an arbitrary “hurdle” that will make solar “pretend” that it works. It may not help solar power much at all (if other ways are better), but that’s fine, because we don’t want to pick winners anyway.

    And what “serious engineering limitations” are you talking about? And why don’t engineers and scientists see them?

  23. The market failure is really more a tragedy of the commons, if you prefer.

    What’s tragic about the atmosphere, doodlechops? Don’t confuse a desire to change the way we manage our energy needs with market failure. In fact there’s no such thing as market failure. What we have is a desire to move away from carbon based energy production.

    A carbon tax (or the inferior option, an ETS) is an attempt to solve the problem of externalities in the classical Pigouvian manner. It’s not an arbitrary “hurdle” that will make solar “pretend” that it works.

    Well who sets the price for the credits at the outset? So of course it’s arbitrary.

    And what “serious engineering limitations” are you talking about? And why don’t engineers and scientists see them?

    They do, they know however that subsidies will help them through.

  24. It’s not market failure because we previously chose the cheapest alternative available. That’s common sense, doodlechops.

    Where’s Charles? Charles, stop digging. You’re not going to make over there in time dude and if you go further you’ll hit the core which is not advisable unless you’re wearing a fireman’s suit.

  25. What’s tragic is that the atmosphere is being polluted, and those doing so don’t bear the direct cost, and thus impose costs on others. This is called a negative externality, a problem which Arthur Pigou suggested could be solved through charges or taxes to rectify the disparity and ensure the market worked efficiently.

    The price for credits isn’t “set”, that’s part of the point. I hear they will have a ceiling, though. And the parameters aren’t arbitrary – they are designed to bring about a specific outcome, namely slowing the release of CO2 in the atmosphere, and eventually bringing the levels down.

    So what are these insurmountable engineering limitations on solar power, then? I’m all ears.

  26. Terje wrote:
    “I think batteries will improve in leaps and bounds over the next decade…”

    Proposed hydrogen fuel is essentially that: a clean battery. You use the energy to create hydrogen (from water) and then use the hydrogen. Other batteries may be cheaper, but hydrogen is certainly cleaner. Even using coal to produce hydrogen might be preferable, since it avoids burning off polluting fuels in urban areas (eg, as with petrol… or even wood). I think hydrogen fuel has a future – but only if we have a cheap and abundant source of energy to create it.

  27. What’s tragic is that the atmosphere is being polluted, and those doing so don’t bear the direct cost, and thus impose costs on others.

    Don’t be blind, Jarrah. It’s us polluting. Every single one of us, so smacking Origin over the head is just silly. And if you’re talking about the cost we all bear the cost and the benefit of turning on a light or watching TV or using a computer.

    The price for credits isn’t “set”, that’s part of the point. I hear they will have a ceiling, though. And the parameters aren’t arbitrary – they are designed to bring about a specific outcome, namely slowing the release of CO2 in the atmosphere, and eventually bringing the levels down.

    Okay so how much will they cost and why?

    So what are these insurmountable engineering limitations on solar power, then? I’m all ears.

    There’s a BTU limit of solar energy hitting the earth per sq inch or whatever unit of measurement you want to use. The energy then has to be converted over to another form of energy. There’s physical limitation in all that which simply can’t be overcome. You can try to make the panels cheaper which is the way they are trying to compensate for that limitation however I believe that even if you gave the panels away it still can’t beat a steam turning turbine to produce cheap power. You also have large economies of scale in producing for large scale energy demand whereas the reverse is true with solar or stupid wind power, which is the second derivative of solar. Wind is just another form of converted solar power.

  28. What’s tragic is that the atmosphere is being polluted, and those doing so don’t bear the direct cost, and thus impose costs on others. This is called a negative externality, a problem which Arthur Pigou suggested could be solved through charges or taxes to rectify the disparity and ensure the market worked efficiently.

    Jarrah, your argument is valid if you accept that CO2 release is unqualified “pollution”. The problem is it is also an essential plant nutrient. We used to call sewage and tin cans pollution too, but they are now called organic fertiliser and steel scrap. No Pigouvian taxes were required to transform them – the market did it.

  29. since it avoids burning off polluting fuels in urban areas

    Are you going to compensate the people whose backyard you transfer all that pollution to.

  30. JC:

    “With due respect we’ve been hearing how solar is just around the corner for the past 50 years, so i apologize if the latest link doesn’t excite me.”

    A Duoist asked a question about Marks solar efficiency figures and I funished the information. No need to read anything more into that.

    JC:

    “There are serious engineering constraints to solar. There simply isn’t enough sunshine in the area of the panel to convert into lots of cheap power and quite frankly it looks impossible to get around even if the panels were given away.”

    If you limit your comment to photovoltaics then I readily agree with your sentiment even if I don’t agree entirely with your reasoning. Which is why I said earlier:-

    TERJE:

    “The only hope of solar voltaics or wind making a meaningful contribution is if they can be aggregated on scale to produce the equivalent of baseload or stored (eg in reverse pump hydro). I am cynical about this possibility …”

    And before that I said:-

    TERJE:

    “Solar voltaics is not really suitable for baseload. It is also very expensive.”

    As such I’m not sure why you are directing your solar panel cynicism at me. Singing to the choir perhaps.

    Whilst I agree with your sentiment I don’t agree entirely with your reasoning. With sunlight typically offering over 1000 Watts per square metre and 1000 Watts frequently considered to be the average electricity power requirements of a typical home the problem is not with the amount of energy in sunlight but relates entirely with the cost of harvesting and storing it.

    JC:

    The other issue is something we have discussed earlier which is the diseconomies of scale that we would get with solar or any energy source that wasn’t cooked up at a central point.

    I don’t recall ever disagreeing with this point. In fact it’s a point that I make frequently.

  31. I’m sorry Terje, I mistakenly replied thinking it was you when in fact it was Jarrah. Sorry.

    Whilst I agree with your sentiment I don’t agree entirely with your reasoning. With sunlight typically offering over 1000 Watts per square metre and 1000 Watts frequently considered to be the average electricity power requirements of a typical home the problem is not with the amount of energy in sunlight but relates entirely with the cost of harvesting and storing it.

    By “harvesting” you mean converting it to another form of energy, right? We don’t have the know how nor the technology to convert energy from one form to another without a large amount of loss doing so which is why I keep saying wake me up when we’ve done it rather than telling me we’re about to do it “soon”. I’m from Missouri on this one.

    Furthermore since when have we now begun to anticipate expected technological advances as though it’s a given especially in an area so vital as cheap and abundant energy production?

    How many people expected the Iphone five years ago?

  32. JC – efficiency of energy conversion is not really the key issue. The key issue is cost. If you can convert 10% of incident solar energy to electricity then so long as land and the conversion technology you use is cheap enough you could be on a winner. However at the moment cost is a major hurdle. And that cost factor does not really relate much to land.

    As a point of comparison an electric car is significantly more efficient than a convential car. However energy efficiency is not the deciding factor.

    Also most proposals for solar thermal power plants are significantly less efficient than photovoltaics, however they seek advantage through substantially lower capital costs. If your efficiency is one tenth that of your rival, but your capital cost is a hundredth that of your rival then you are still way ahead.

  33. I mistakenly replied thinking it was you when in fact it was Jarrah.

    It seems somewhat unlikely that Jarrah triggered your comment #19 instead of me. Basically because Jarrah hadn’t said anything prior to your comment #19. He didn’t enter the fray until comment #21.

  34. JC – efficiency of energy conversion is not really the key issue. The key issue is cost. If you can convert 10% of incident solar energy to electricity then so long as land and the conversion technology you use is cheap enough you could be on a winner. However at the moment cost is a major hurdle. And that cost factor does not really relate much to land.

    Terje, what we’re talking about here is economic efficiency, which in a nutshell means not being wasteful. You’re simply repeating what I have been saying and insinuating that I am somehow at variance with that comment when it’s not true. I’ll repeat it again in different words which may help…..

    1. At this stage solar is full of promises and has been for the odd 50 years.
    2. At this stage only subsidies allow solar to work its way into the energy production system
    3. Solar has some very difficult engineering issues, which I think will make it unviable.
    4. Even if the cost of a panel was set at close to zero diseconomies of scale could still make in unviable in the same way that if I gave you a horse and buggy for free would make you reluctant to use them instead of a car at your own expense.
    5. I want to see it meet non-subsidy standards before I will believe it can work.
    I hope that’s clear for you now.

    As a point of comparison an electric car is significantly more efficient than a convential car. However energy efficiency is not the deciding factor.

    ECONOMIC EFFICIENCY IS.

    Also most proposals for solar thermal power plants are significantly less efficient than photovoltaics, however they seek advantage through substantially lower capital costs. If your efficiency is one tenth that of your rival, but your capital cost is a hundredth that of your rival then you are still way ahead.

    Whatever. There are all sorts of ways to see if it is economically functional. Until that time and using past history as a guide I’m happy to wait and see what happens. Until then I think we can all be realistic and say it still isn’t working, pretend it is nor will be “ soon”.

  35. And by the way when you’re making all these calculations it is also worth taking into the cost of junking existing technology – plant and equipment- before life end as that has a cost associated too which no one seems to mention.

  36. JC at #29, I realise that we all use polluting power, both directly through electricity and indirectly through purchasing things made with electricity. The point is, we don’t have to pay for that pollution directly – through electricity or goods prices – but indirectly through climate change and all its ills (including stupid political decisions). That is a bad way of arranging things, wouldn’t you agree?

    “There’s physical limitation in all that which simply can’t be overcome.”

    Well, obviously, just the same as there are physical limitations to all forms of energy production. But the physical limitations aren’t really a big problem, and you are saying they are. Of course, you haven’t specifically said WHAT they are, but that’s probably because you don’t know. And why should you? You’re not an expert. Neither am I, which is why I look to people who are. And they say it is perfectly possible.

    Total Sun energy hitting the Earth is several orders of magnitude greater than our current energy needs. Making all sorts of conservative assumptions, we only need about 100,000 square kilometres of PV. That’s roughly the size of Iceland, for God’s sake. Double it (Kyrgystan), triple it (Philippines), even quadruple it (Paraguay), and it’s still a tiny amount of surface area – 0.27% of the globe, to be precise.

    The real problem is cost. And while we have a distorted market, we’re not going to have proper resource allocation. That’s basic economics. Hence my support for a Pigouvian carbon tax.

    In answer to your points at #37;
    1. Solar has decreased in cost massively in the last 50 years and is closing in on traditional energy sources that benefit from subsidies and uncosted externalities.
    2. You ignore subsidies for fossil fuels, see 1.
    3. Name them, with regards to my points above.
    4. Please don’t embarrass yourself with your lack of understanding of what ‘diseconomies of scale’ means.
    5. See 1 and 2.

  37. DavidL, I’m sure you know that too much fertiliser burns the plants you’re trying to help! 🙂 Please tell me that I don’t have to debate the basic science here like I did with GMB at Catallaxy.

    Fact: We are increasing the greenhouse gases in the air, and therefore the greenhouse effect.

    Fact: This is a problem (how much a problem is up for debate, but the experts are worried).

    Your point about tin cans or sewage is specious and misleading. Human waste applied properly to fields is fertiliser, but in a river is pollution. Tin cans collected and compressed are a resource, but on the beach they are rubbish. CO2 in the form of dry ice or bubbles in Coke is useful, but too much in the air is pollution that is causing problems now, and that’s the situation we find ourselves in. Possibly in some far-off future it could be a resource, but that’s not an option right now.

  38. Jarrah:

    you can have Paraguay and Kazakistan, Jarrah, and I’ll take Manhattan 🙂

    1.Look, don’t tell me about solar as I don’t want to hear any more bullshit stories. When it becomes economically efficient and doesn’t need subsidies like it does now talk to me about it, otherwise there’s no point in trying to sell something that just isn’t there.

    2. What subsidies for fossil fuels do we have?

    3. You keep mentioning I didn’t understand the term dis-economies of scale. This is a laughable comment as it’s patently untrue.

    Here’s my comment:

    http://catallaxyfiles.com/?p=3461&cp=all#comments

    Solar and wind are dilute energy sources that actually induce diseconomies of scale. They are also extremely labor intensive in comparison to coal-fired stations.

    This statement is correct. It was clear you had no idea what you were talking about then and don’t now.

    a web version of a definition:

    Diseconomies of scale occurs when Average Costs start to rise with increased output. Therefore there will be decreasing returns to scale

  39. JC – my comment about the efficiency of solar technology was in response to your point immediately prior where you said that we can’t convert energy from one form to another without large losses of energy. Clearly a discussion about energy loss during energy conversion relates to energy efficiency and has nothing to do with economic efficiency.

  40. To avoid collapse without coal and nuclear we’d all have to become workaholic misers. Our businesses would have to pay no taxes or dividends. Our society would have to be already libertarian with all those bureaucracies a thing of the past. And we still couldn’t make it work.

    I’ve never seen a more concerted attempt to destroy a nation outside of Israel.

    Yes its true that we can theoretically run the whole deal out of renewables ONCE THE INVESTMENTS ARE ALREADY MADE. But since they aren’t already made this emissions trading will bring on a collapse for sure.

  41. “Are you going to compensate the people whose backyard you transfer all that pollution to.”

    Pollution from a coal plant (I mean real pollution, not this CO2 nonsense) is pretty bad for the community, so maybe they should be… Are they compensated now?

    Nuclear would be a better option of course… but even with the cheapest energy production now available, hydrogen is expensive.

    I was only speculating possibilities though – I wasn’t suggesting any intervention.

  42. Jarrah,

    You would be right except that no mitigation scheme has passed a reliable cost benefits scheme – yet.

    The best solution is simply to allow a small amount of variance between marginal private and social costs.

    As for David L’s comments – no market solution seems to be within sight. But – recently the UN/member states banned iron seeding, which mitigates carbon and increases fish stocks and can regenerate areas of formerly ecologically dead waterways.

    The Government is prohibiting us from converting pollution into something useful Jarrah.

    I think the UN screwed the pooch there. They used the precautionary principle as their basis to do this – even though it could have mitigated carbon without a wasteful experimental bureacracy.

    JC – nuclear has made the same promises as solar as well. Yes there is a physical limit on solar. Until fusion generation becomes reliable, nuclear also has a constraint and costs comparable to coal.

    Modern solar technology has efficiency up to the point I noted, (45% conversion). I think over time microgeneration might give us cheap and abundant energy and save the planet – without any need for Government intervention.

    The reality is modern nuclear and solar are very promising.

    A global infrastructure system is what could make renewables work. As for the engineering challenges of solar and wind, take a look at these turbines Graeme Bird has been checking out…

    http://graemebird.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/why-is-wind-power-suddenly-doable/

    Why could these not be set up en masse on Cape Barren Island, Tasmania?

  43. Gosh!! They look real pretty! Are they safe for kiddies? And do they come in pretty colours?
    Put a few hundred of those in Bass Strait, and we could have a viable hydrogen generation scheme!

  44. JC, I’m sure you read the news. And here’s the report it refers to.

    And thanks for the link to your previous demolition. I particularly like #26 on that thread as a classic example of your inabilities.

    “Diseconomies of scale occurs when Average Costs start to rise with increased output.”

    Good enough definition to go on with. So why is solar prey to this phenomenon, but fossil fuels are not? Tell us how a 10 megawatt station has higher average costs than a 1 megawatt station. Tell us how a factory churning out a million PV panels has higher average costs than one producing 10,000. This could be your pathway to a Nobel!

    And I note you are yet to explain the mythical “engineering” problems you keep bringing up.

  45. Mark, I don’t know much about iron seeding, but you have to wonder what that could do to the ocean’s ecosystem. And what cost/benefit studies have been done on it?

  46. The engineering problems aren’t mythical. But there are simply ways to get around them.

    Solar might be more vulnerable as the technology is newer and it would probably steeper marginal costs. Oil wells can be teased into more production with well known techniques such as fracturing and water and air pressurisation. The technology is known. Extracting more efficiency out of solar cells requires more risk, and this fits in well with those steep marginal costs.

    Maybe though. Once the technology is developed, then solar would become economical. But you already know that.

    Wind generation and hydrogen generation seem viable. Why won’t that create baseload power? Why have batteries when we have gas tanks?

    Subsidies to alumina has been talked about previously by Terje. It’s bad. Subsidies to coal etc also make nuclear not viable. What is important to be honest about all subssidies and not pepper the information with industry specific biases.

  47. What could it do? Regenerate dead areas and have no impact compared to the overwhelming amount of iron seeding that occurs naturally.

    So basically, you’re opposed to carbon mitigation that also reduces acidification and which regenerates ruined parts of the sea because you “don’t know what it will do to the oceans”.

    No wonder JC wants to clip you over the ears.

  48. I’m not opposed a priori, don’t be insulting. You are talking about introducing massive (and it will have to be massive) amounts of iron into the ocean that wouldn’t otherwise go in. You can’t pretend it will have first-order effects only. Where’s the research about it that has put your mind to rest?

    And what about the cost/benefit studies? Surely you aren’t waiving them for this mega-project when you insist on them for others.

  49. Please tell me that I don’t have to debate the basic science here like I did with GMB at Catallaxy.

    I know something about science, but I’m not qualified to debate the finer points of climate science. I haven’t read your CV, but I doubt if you are either.

    Fact: We are increasing the greenhouse gases in the air, and therefore the greenhouse effect.

    False. Rising CO2 is the only undisputed fact. Whether this is causing a greenhouse effect is quite controversial. Even if temperatures are rising (which is now in doubt), the connection to human generated CO2 is theoretical rather than factual. Temperatures have risen previously when human activity could not have been a contributor.

    Fact: This is a problem (how much a problem is up for debate, but the experts are worried).

    False. The problem remains theoretical, not factual. Moreover, some experts are worried, some are not, and the dictatorship of the majority does not apply.

    There is sufficient doubt to recognise that screwing up people’s lives, making some businesses unviable and artificially supporting others may not be a good idea. The government barely manages to avoid stuffing up the existing economy despite substantial certainty.

    The market has converted other forms of pollution into useful resources. It’s got a better chance of doing that with CO2, if it is a pollutant, than any government could manage.

  50. “Whether this is causing a greenhouse effect is quite controversial.”

    No, it’s not. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Increasing it increases the greenhouse effect. This is not controversial, except for those like GMB who live in a universe where the physics is different.

    “the connection to human generated CO2 is theoretical rather than factual.”

    Incorrect. This is all readily available information, you know.

    “The problem remains theoretical, not factual.”

    Also incorrect. Problems are manifesting now, like glacier retreat, that are having an impact right now. Future problems remain theoretical, but ‘theoretical’ doesn’t mean ‘made up’ – there is solid reasons to be worried.

    “some experts are worried, some are not,”

    Misleading. The incredibly vast majority of experts are worried, and a tiny tiny minority have some doubts. You accept majority opinion of doctors, don’t you? The majority opinion of engineers? Economists? Why so reluctant about climate science?

  51. Mark, you’re getting all sensitive about your pet idea. I didn’t ‘pooh pooh’ it, I raised legitimate questions about the effects of dumping huge quantities of minerals into the ocean.

    Got to go to work now, I’ll return to the discussion later.

  52. It’s not a “pet” idea. I defend it because the criticisms are so lame – paticularly criticising it using the PC whilst worrying about AGW using the PC. You should read the interview before you form your opinions.

  53. I’m not opposed a priori, don’t be insulting.

    Well you’re being insulting by suggesting you are not opposed when you clearly are.

  54. You accept majority opinion of doctors, don’t you? The majority opinion of engineers? Economists? Why so reluctant about climate science?

    Majorities are for democracies, not scientific debates. Science progress does not rely on majority opinions.

    In 1612 a majority of astronomists believe the sun moved around the earth rather than vice versa. Galileo did not agree and said so, leading to his torture until he recanted.

    In 1844 a majority of doctors believed puerperal fever was due to bad air. Semmelweis was ostracised for claiming the cause was contagion (with empirical evidence)and ultimately lost his job.

    In 2008, any climate scientist who disputes the majority opinion on global warming will be ostracised, may lose his/her job and would have a hard time attracting funding.

    There are other explanations for glacial retreat apart from global warming, just as there are other explanations for global warming itself. We are not likely to hear them though, because those who mention them are in danger of being tortured to recant.

  55. One of the major obstacles in my opinion is that the prices that utilities can charge per kilowatt-hour are capped. Over here in WA, the State Government just recently had to bail out the state-owned generator, Verve, to the tune of $800 million due to a political arrangement a few years to freeze the tariffs for a number of years (in agreement with the Liberals in Opposition at the time to allow for Western Power to be separated into different entities, being generation (Verve), network (Western Power), retailer (Synergy), and rural services (Horizon Power)). This will mean that there will have to be a major rise in costs instead of a more politically-palatable gentle rise once the freeze expires. My understanding is that over east, the prices of electricity are also capped, but feel free to correct me if this is incorrect. Imagine what $800 million dollars or whatever is being spent to bail out generators that are constrained by uneconomic price caps could be better put use to.

    While a major rise in electricity prices will sting the battlers more than other consumers, it’ll provide renewable energy generators with a more competitive footing with fossil-fuel energy generators. This would also reduce the likelihood of needing a feed-in tariff for renewable energy. I think some charitable organisations would be better placed to help those who are struggling (through providing energy-efficiency audit and retrofit services for low-income households) than government departments. Pricing water at a higher cost instead of subsidising it will also allow for the true cost of energy to be realised (steam turbines require a fair amount of water to run and for temperature control, so subsidising the cost of water is in effect subsidising the cost of electricity). This will result in renewable energy generation units having shorter payback periods. It’d have the effect of making nuclear power generation more expensive due to the huge amount of water required to keep temperatures stable, so that would dissuade nuclear power without needing regulation to ban it.

    Solar panels are also gradually getting cheaper (approaching $6/W with some of the Chinese and Indian panels starting to come out onto the market). The main problem has been the cost of producing the silicon at the required grade (approx. 99.99999% purity, which is slightly less pure than that required for computer chips) and the lack of available silicon available, due to high demand and little supply. My belief is that once more silicon-refining capacity comes online, panels should start to get much cheaper to produce (as the silicon currently accounts for approximately 50% of the costs of producing a panel). While they won’t be effective enough for a baseload supply (without a more effective energy storage device than what is currently available, in terms of cost and capacity), they are better suited to assist the stability of grids with peak loads in times of high demand (i.e. a roaring hot Summer’s day with a million or so A/C units running at full pelt). In my opinion, it won’t be long before photovoltaic installations will not need rebates to be viable, particularly if they are packaged with new homes. Some people are even jumping on the bandwagon due to the feel-good factor alone, with the rebate only being a sweetener. With true costs of energy being realised, people will sit down, do the sums and work out what is more cost-effective for their situation and go from there.

    For baseload power, there is currently exploration and testing being conducted for possible geothermal plants in the north-east part of SA, which would be good for nearby mining operations due to reduced transmission losses as a result of being located nearby. Couple this with solar-thermal units using molten-salt thermal storage units in tandem with wind-turbines using graphite heat-storage (a relatively new technology) using steam turbines, wave power in suitable locations (using the CETO technology that captures wave energy via moving underwater balloons or similar technologies) and with a significantly distributed generation capacity (to allow for weather-affected sources such as wind and solar to better provide more reliable generation capacity), that should go a long way to providing a baseload source derived from renewable energy (with reserve fossil-fuel generation if required). This would also be best suited with a major upgrade of the national grids (i.e. more 330kV lines, upgrading transmission and distribution lines to higher capacity lines, etc.) to reduce energy losses in the networks (perhaps with the spare $800 million or so that I mentioned earlier 😉 ).

    In short, to allow for renewable energy to be competitive, removing all market distortions in favour of fossil-fuel derived generators will allow for a more competitive market overall, which would allow for renewable energy to flourish more easily than with the current status quo without requiring subsidies to be competitive. While this will result in higher costs of electricity, this is a necessary pain to allow for a freer electricity market. It would also have the additional benefit of making energy-efficiency measures and retrofits more cost-effective by reducing the payback periods for each measure put in place. If you include pricing water at its true cost, that would also have the tertiary benefit of making water-efficiency devices and measures more cost-effective. Basically, the cascade effect would make resource-use efficiency measures more viable and have flow-on effects for the entire economy.

    As for an emissions trading scheme, I think if the above measures were put in place, you wouldn’t really need one unless you really wanted to internalise all airborne externalities resulting from energy generation that have an apparent effect on the enhanced greenhouse effect, which would be the only argument that would hold water.

  56. DavidL, that’s a bankrupt argument, and you know it – or at least I hope you know it.

    Mark, I read the interview, and it goes some way to answering my question. But what about the cost effectiveness?

    JC, given up? Wise move.

  57. DavidL, that’s a bankrupt argument, and you know it – or at least I hope you know it.

    You’re perfectly entitled to have a different opinion. I’m only concerned to ensure you recognise the difference between opinion and fact. It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, or how many other people agree with you, but an opinion is still an opinion.

  58. People who think that the earth is warming or cooling and this is driven by or causes CO2 emissions could decisively prove their case either way with more advanced statistical methods than what are used by climate modellers at present.

    What is more important is that mitigation schemes have not passed a rigourous CBA yet.

  59. A few reasons.

    1. Time Series Issues

    Spurious (meaningless) regressions can exist in times series data if unit roots are not accounted for. There are also differences in short and long run effects. The persistence of an effect can be examined. The causation, either one or two way can be examined to see if it exists at all.

    2. Recent claims of cooling

    If we have cooled since 1998, then it should be obvious. Two reliable methods can be used to see if this is true or not: i) testing for structural breaks (related to unit roots above) and ii) testing for the “nestedness” of the alleged post 1998 equation in the pre 1998 equation. Essentially method ii) asks if the explanatory power of a specific model is explained in a more general model. If post 1998 is nested, then there would appear to be no cooling. A positive result in a structural break tells us that the parameters have fundamentally changed.

    If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up on wikipedia.

  60. I don’t think many countries recognise our antarctic claims… under terms of the Antarctic Treaty:
    Article 4 – does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial sovereignty claims and no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force

    Could be lots of oil there, but the socialists have locked it up:
    The call for an environmental protocol to the Antarctic Treaty came after scientists discovered large deposits of natural resources such as coal, natural gas and offshore oil reserves in the early 1980s.

    Hey, look at all these resources… let’s prevent them from ever being used!

    Antarctica is considered to be part of the theoretical super-continent known as Gondwanaland, which separated near the end of the Paleozoic era and consisted of South America, Africa and Australia. And, because it once was completely covered in vegetation, many scientists believe it may hold one of the last supergiant oil fields yet to be discovered. The continental shelf of Antarctica is considered to hold the region’s greatest potential for oil exploration projects, and although estimates vary as to the abundance of oil in Antarctica, the Weddell and Ross Sea areas alone are expected to possess 50 billion barrels of oil – an amount roughly equivalent to that of Alaska’s estimated reserves.

  61. Bah – you deleted one of my duplicate messages, but you deleted the one with the proper formatting.

    So hard to find get editors these days…

  62. What I was saying is that parts of Antarctica are the same giant oil field that Texas and Saudi Arabia were a part of. Where Gondwanaland split up and drifted apart. Antarctica can be expected to just dwarf anything that will be going on in the Arctic in terms of oil and other resources.

  63. So, we get lots of oil with which to heat up the rest of the world, and drown them! Win for us! And the rest of the world is a mess, so the Earth will get to restart!

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