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The View from Germany: Tackling the real questions

Posted on 31 October 2012 by gws

Spending a lot of time on the internet, you do not come across it often. It lurks on some webpage, but most URL content lures you away from it. Your friends try to remind you of it at times. You turn on the TV, but while nine out of ten channels claim they have it, they don't. You get a good dose of it on PBS, but that can be depressing.

Still it is all around you, and you need to face it fairly regularly ... Reality.

If Frontline's recent Climate of Doubt has shown anything, it is that an effective PR strategy funded by the usual suspects is all it needs to create a lala land completely obscuring what actually matters, reality.

To make some progress, we need to accept it first, and then may even embrace it. In a recent blog post by John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist, states that

"... battle lines have been drawn far from the places where society needs to be having intense discussion, ..."

Meaning, far from what the reality of global warming requires us to discuss, such as

“What’s the best way to prepare for the day when fossil fuels are no longer our primary energy source?”

Thanks to much denial of reality in political America, these questions do not get asked, and thus arguably much ground is lost to countries that have started facing reality, such as Germany:

Aside from a few simplifications, such as about nuclear energy (which Germany decided to phase out earlier than previously planned, and with large parliamentary majority last year), the clip contains some simple realities worth repeating here:

1. There is a problem with the current (fossil fuel dominated) energy supply: It runs out sooner or later and it pollutes our atmosphere

2. Ignorance of the issue is not an option (in Germany ...)

3. Renewable energy sources are an obvious solution already at hand; a smart combination of technologies acknowledging the challenges and opportunities allows tackling the problem (and is being pursued in Germany ...)

Want to know more? Sure, one example ...

Combine that with the economic benefits from tackling the problem, the fact that it is the German middle class that drives and profits from the development, and you realize ...

Hey! Reality is cool.


The first clip is part of the WissensWerte Project of the german non-profit organization / e.V.
By Jörn Barkemeyer and Jan Künzl
Editor Laura Hörath

For more information about the WissensWerte project:

"Wissenswertes" is German for "Things worth knowing", from Wissen=Knowledge and Werte=Values

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 56:

  1. If Germany were serious about tackling global warming, it would phase out coal rather than nuclear power. Suppose that renewable energy sources could supply all of our energy needs in 50 years. If we phase out coal and continue to use nuclear power we could stop using coal in 25 years. If we phase out nuclear power and continue to use coal, we will be puting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for all 50 years. Until renewable power can supply all of our energy needs, the choice is not between nuclear power and renewable power. Why not use both? The choice is between nuclear power and coal.
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  2. I'd be pleased if there were more general acknowledgement in the U.S. that a problem exists; dealing with reality in other words. It's hard to have a discussion about how best to handle a problem if half the people won't acknowledge that a problem exists.

    I wonder if part of the problem is that nothing really bad has happened to the U.S. for too many generations for the general populace to realise that bad things can happen. Universally, no one wants to believe that bad things will happen to them as individuals; and if the cultural memory of past events has grown dim, maybe there is a cultural reluctance to believe what is happening.

    I mean, for example, WWII was not a good time for anyone, but the U.S. never experienced substantial bombing or foreign troops on its soil, and a lot of countries did. Most of our wars that anyone can remember have been fought on television in some remote place. You have to go back to the 1930s to find large impacts felt at home, and there isn't much living memory of that time.
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  3. Don't believe every Fox (aka Faux) News blurb you read or hear.

    "Opponents of renewables in North America are pouncing on the news of a new coal plant in Germany, especially because German Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier cut the ribbon, so to speak.

    Altmaier said Germany will need the conventional fossil power plants for "decades to come," though he did not say it was, as Fox Business put it, to "complement unreliable and intermittent renewable energies such as wind and solar power."

    In fact, he stated that "fossil energy and renewables should not be played as cards against each other" and that we have to move beyond "making enemies of the two."

    It took six years to build the plant, meaning that the process started in 2006. It is by no means a reaction to the nuclear phaseout of 2011. And as Altmaier himself points out, the new plant can ramp up and down by 150 megawatts within five minutes and by 500 megawatts within 15, making it a flexible complement to intermittant renewables.

    In the area, 12 coal plants more than 40 years old have been decommissioned, and the new 2,200 megawatt plant is to directly replace 16 older 150 megawatts blocks by the end of this year, so 2,200 megawatts of new, more flexible, somewhat cleaner capacity (the new plant has an efficiency of 43 percent, whereas 35 percent would be considered ambitious for most old coal plants) is directly replacing 2,400 old megawatts.

    Germany has a target of 35 percent renewable power by 2020, rising to 85 percent by 2050 – meaning that 65 percent of its power supply will be conventional in 2020, and the country will still have 15 percent conventional power by mid-century. Obviously, Germany needs to build some new conventional power plants to reach even that ambitious goal for renewables."
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  4. will

    Germany does need conventional power, but it does not need new coal power. All Germany has to do is retain its nuclear power plants and build new ones. By mid century, assuming that they would be including hydro under renewable, all of the conventional power could be nuclear.
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  5. jyushchyshyn
    Indeed, Germany "does need conventional power" now. Not disputed. Equally obvious is that coal must be phased out eventually. As energy production is not everything that drives a society, phasing out something that used to provide a large section of the population with work is no simple task. So a timeline for phase-out makes a lot of sense, especially if you stick to it. It is much more costly changing plans all the time, so I consider it unlikely that Germany will change plans again and bet big on the nuclear power road.
    It is like a ship: Speeding up is more easily accomplished than turning around ... aka installing decentralized renewables with a large labor compoenent is quicker and societally more accepted than large central power production that takes a long time to plan and build, and a smaller workforce to operate.
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  6. Germany is phasing out nuclear power because while coal kills you continually, nuclear plants are perfectly fine until they melt down and you have to evacuate a small city for a century or two. The tradeoff sucks, and we can argue which way it goes, but both technologies are very dirty.
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  7. gws

    Yes, Germany is like a ship that does not easily change direction. The same can be said of the United States of America, a hot bed of global warming denial.

    Do you take global warming seriously or not? The notion that we have to choose between nuclear power and renewables is a straw man argument. No proponent of nuclear power is against renewables. Some question whether renewables can provide baseload power. If you can prove such concerns to be unwaranted, more power to you, no pun intended.

    Anyways, the question is not whether to phase out coal, but when and how fast. You can replace coal in half the time frame using both nuclear and renewables than you could using renewables alone or nuclear alone. And then, if it looks like renewables could provide all of our power needs, then we can consider phasing out nuclear power, without hoping that Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen are right.
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  8. It's a pity Germany is so (over)sensitive to nuclear that they prefer to build new coal-fired power stations. The public don't seem to grasp that the two major nuclear accidents (Chernobyl and Fukushima) were essentially one-offs. Chernobyl was due to a combination of an inherently unsafe Soviet reactor design that was never used in the West together with reckless management. One can question the wisdom of building nuclear plants on a tsunami-prone coast, but with many thousands of people drowned and whole towns washed away the damage to the power stations seems rather small.

    I would suggest that if a disaster big enough to compromise a nuclear power station was to happen in Europe, the nuclear aspect would be the least of our worries.
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  9. Don't get me wrong-- we're truly in "all of the above" mode when it comes to modernized post-caveman energy systems (and some of my best friends are nuclear plants)-- but virtually all accidents are "one-offs."

    From the paltry total collection of nuclear power generation plants on the planet we can see the emergence of a standard rate of messy failure, each failure being unique. There are many unexplored failure modes available. Scaling up nuclear deployment will result in more messes, each accompanied by acute 20-20 hindsight. Whistling past this graveyard of future demises is silly; better to confront 'em rather than pretend they won't happen.
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  10. Perhaps one-off isn't the best term, but what I mean is that I think it's wrong to oppose nuclear power on the basis of an accident at a shoddily designed Soviet plant which couldn't have happened at a modern reactor, or one involving a 1-in-1000 year tsunami (or whatever it was).
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  11. I agree that ditching nuclear power on the basis of single or multiple failure modes is hasty and premature.

    The overarching problem with nuclear power isn't technical, it's to do with innate human nature. We're terribly fallible even when trying to do the right thing. Chernobyl failed because of a botched safety test; lousy though the particular reactor design was, no samples failed spectacularly because of a technical failure. Fukushima failed not because of a technical fault but because of human wishful thinking about construction budgets versus the odds of natural disasters.

    Read NRC incident reports and you'll find a litany of sloth and complacency, the same sliding habituation to compromised behavior Feynman identified at NASA. The passage of time without routinely having the holy c--p scared out of us inevitably causes this to happen. After the first shuttle loss NASA headed down the same road again, leading to a another entirely novel but in hindsight avoidable disaster.

    In a way the very fact that so many nuclear plants have not conspicuously failed despite being attended to by primates with a limited attention span is a tribute to their designers. However, careful attention to documentation of our many modes of monkey misbehavior clashing with the extraordinary complexity of these machines should tell us we're not quite up to snuff in their proper implementation despite being able to design and build them.
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  12. It is instructive to read the UK government's Climate Change Committee The Renewable Energy Review. Page 75 shows scenarios for decarbonized electricity supply in 2030 with a highest renewables scenario of 65% which they consider to be the limit of technical feasibility by 2030. All scenarios contain substantial amounts of nuclear generation.

    The required build rates for nuclear in any of the scenarios are considered feasible and less than what has previously been achieved in France.

    The UK has superior wind resources to Germany with on-shore wind achieving a capacity factor of 26-27% compared to about 18% in Germany.

    There is a very strong argument for decarbonization of electricity supply at the earliest opportunity with high priority, not only for emission reductions in that sector but as an enabler to achieve most benefit from the displacement of fossil fuels by electricity in transport and heating. Cost of electricity is important as lowest cost will provide more incentive in the displacement of fossil fuels in these sectors.

    In the context that full decarbonization of electricity supply by 2030 or so looks infeasible without large contributions from nuclear or hydro, current UK policy of support for new nuclear would seem to offer more potential to achieve what needs to be done. How that pans out in practice remains to be seen.
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  13. Some personal notes:

    I'm from Germany. Interesting to get an outside view.

    There is a lot of fighting about these issues internally, about price of course, about speed, need, feasibility ...
    I would like us germans to go much faster. I do my best, to productively use every possibility I have, to bring forward the issues of climate change, resource depletion, biodiversity, fairness (both now geographically and towards future generations) and change options.
    There are SUV cars, holiday flights, non vegetable food, etc. in big proportions here as well. The people need to be made sensible for these issues and trained. Sks does a pretty good job in one specific area for this (I posted the escalator graphics on dozens of sites and linked to them at every possible occasion: this is the kind of thing that sticks, even with people driving an SUV: they will of course continue to do it, but it will bring a little nagging piece of science in their mind (I have seen this effect coming up in one face: since then I am sure it works to some (big) degree).

    We are a global community supporting the sustainability issue: fairness now and with future generations. This is not a socialist european idea, it does not oppose the american dream, it supports it: equal opportunities for all.

    Three notes on nuclear:

    1) Many Germans don't like nuclear, because we were a lot nearer to Tchernobyl, than you americans, australians, british ... were: in Munich/Bavaria, where I live, you could no longer buy milk, cheese, ... because they were heavily contaminated: the cloud was raining off right here. In school, we were told not to sit in the grass (Cäsium, Strontium and the like). Lobbyists who gain millions from outdated nuclear plants lobbied to forget the threat. Fukushima brought back the frightening past. You still have to be careful with mushrooms, deer and the like in this area ... Just imagine to be next door to Fukushima, say your neighbor town (you cannot, but you may try).

    2) Nuclear hinders the renewables from growing, because it has a tendency to deliver all the time and cannot be easily be turned on/off for balancing the grid.

    3) We already have enough of the nuclear waste, which lasts ten thousands of years and more: in Germany, there is a nuclear dump, which is threatened by break down and severe leaking ("Asse") and costs billions in urgency redrawing of the wastes. I don't know where the deadly waste is kept elsewhere in the world.

    If Germany could be an example of replacing both coal and nuclear at the same time, I think it would be worth a lot of short term investment, which would pay off many times, because the oil/coal/gas bill will go away ... And it would be worth the thing: the world needs proof of concept.

    Two notes on storage:

    they currently start "wind gas": storing of wind electricity surplusses as methane, in the already existing gas network (you already can buy that, if you are an advanced consumer willing to pay for progress). This still needs time for scaling up.

    Electric vehicles (+grid) could be another surplus option: charge them only if there is surplus. This asks for consumption pattern changes however (not be able to use the car if there were no surplusses or pay a lot for charging).
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  14. That second video is crying out for some perspective on PV. There is, as I understand, about 70 GWp of PV installed around the world. There is about 60 GWe of new nuclear power under construction. Assuming average worldwide capacity factor of about 13% for PV and 90% for nuclear, world PV capacity will need to expand by a factor of 5-6 times to match new nuclear capacity.

    All of these things need to be seen from a perspective of where we need to be and how fast we need to get there.
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  15. Good discussion, glad we had this posted.
    jyushchyshyn @7: I did not put up a strawman, and in fact I do strongly agree with the notion that it is not an either/or question between nuclear and renewables. But, come on, there are plenty of folks who argue pro nuclear and against renewables, e.g. most nuclear lobbyists do so, citing the "base load" problem.

    "Anyways, the question is not whether to phase out coal, but when and how fast."

    Indeed. Better to phase out coal much faster than currently pursued. The limit should be the fastest growth rate of renewables that can be accomplished. And for that, Germany and other countries have pioneered the feed-in-tariff among other things. IMHO, first forecasted by Hermann Scheer, the development just needed to get started, then becomes unstoppable as prices for fossil fuels keep rising, while those for renewables keep falling. Time to get on the bandwaggon ...

    Nuclear? Currently stuck in old, intrinsically unsafe technology, only getting worse with reactor age. So phase-out is inevitable and needed. Unless the industry demonstrates that its new, supposedly intrinsically safe, reactor designs are viable, both environmentally and economically, see my comment above. Aka I will not comment on this thread on nuclear again.

    I wrote this to demonstrate that Germany (one could also pick Denmark for instance) is a country that does tackle reality, and that, despite obvious challenges, shows both political and private will to make a difference. Thank you Jonas!
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    This is a graph of Co2 emissions by various countries. Please note the difference between Germany and France. I rest my case your honour.
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  17. Taken from the IEA monthly electricity stats archive are some figures on German electricity production. The first number is the production by combustible fuels, the second is total electricity production. Units are GWh.

    2005: 372,086/581,251
    2006: 354,871/569,943
    2007: 388,834/584,939
    2008: 380,334/607,286
    2009: 357,134/571,397
    2010: 374,080/580,849
    2011: 354,178/551,348

    In the period Jan-July 2012 electricity production by combustible fuels was up 4.2% on the corresponding period in 2011. Total production was up 3.5%. The situation appears approximately static.

    Assuming that combustible fuels includes biomass, the situation should be a little better than the figures indicate at first glance. But that also raises environmental concerns over the large scale use of agricultural biogas, it's carbon footprint and issues of scalability.

    Claims that Germany does or will show it is possible to do without nuclear and fossil fuels have a long way to go before they could be proven. Most likely decades and that is far too long.

    This is not an anti-renewables comment, it is a pro arithmetic comment.
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  18. Pete @16: What is your case?
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  19. I think Uncle Pete's point is that per capita C02 emissions in France are lower than Germany's. That said, the difference seems underwhelming:

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  20. @doug_bostrom

    The latest figures I could locate are for 2011 are:

    Germany 9.9 tonne CO2 /person
    France 5.7 tonne CO2 /person

    Which by my calculation makes Germany's per capita emissions 73% higher than those of France.

    Trends in Global CO2 Emissions page 27.

    I would not call that underwhelming.
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  21. That should be page 29. Also important in making comparisons is energy use per capita. Germany and France have almost identical Energy Use per Capita, though France's electricity consumption per capita is higher.
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  22. Maybe "surprised" would be a better word than underwhelmed.

    Mystified also; given the mix of electrical generation capacity in France, what sector is propping up C02 emissions to that extent? I was expecting something more dramatic. It's actually a pretty depressing statistic considering France has effectively squeezed hydrocarbons (particularly coal) from their mix to the point HC combustion is only about 1/10th of French generation capacity.
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  23. @doug_bostrum,

    Yes, it is in some ways depressing and indicative of the difficulties of getting to where we need to be. France's emissions in electricity generation are about 85g CO2/kWh. Going substantially lower than that without lots of hydro would be really difficult, and the only nations that do beat that are in fact those with lots of hydro.

    I would think that relative difference between France and Germany's emissions are representative of what can reasonably be expected by decarbonizing electricity supply in an industrialized western nation with some variation depending on national characteristics.

    As for decarbonizing other sectors such as transport, the outlook is bleak with little substantial action other than perhaps some improved fuel efficiency.

    The frequently touted reduction of electricity consumption via conservation and efficiency hardly matters if you have a low carbon electricity supply. Take the example of Sweden with lower emissions than France but huge electricity consumption. Nuclear+hydro is the key there.

    Ultimately a low carbon electricity supply at low cost is the key as the only reasonably plausible path to decarbonizing other sectors is maximum electrification.
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  24. Well explained quokka. Yes we must of course work on decarbonizing transport. And again I draw the attention to France , where the Auto- Libe car share / hire scheme started operating last year. It is essential though that the car batteries are charged with zero emission electricity, which in France means nuclear. All I meant to say is that it is possible to make significant reductions in Co2 emissions, with proven and existing technology, without necessarily wrecking civilisation as we know it.
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  25. The frequently touted reduction of electricity consumption via conservation and efficiency hardly matters if you have a low carbon electricity supply.

    Hmm. I don't mean to sound contrary but my nephew in-law is currently in Ghana w/the Peace Corps and has been existing w/a ~3W solar panel for about a year now. This provides light to read and cook by and keeps his phone charged but he does not leave the light on all night or his phone switched on.

    Efficiency absolutely matters, always.
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  26. Oops-- Guinea, not Ghana. Same insolation so no biggie. :-)
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  27. Oh the memes ...
    It is, unfortunately, not true that nuclear is a CO2 emissions free technology, aside from its other issues. Uranium mining, and building, maintaining and deconstructing nuclear power plants safely, has a significant CO2 footprint.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Based on life-cycle considerations, it is a low emission source, but still worse than small-scale combined heat&electricity plants burning natural gas ("Erdgas-Blockheizkraftwerk"), as promoted in Germany since about two decades now.

    Currently, nuclear produces about 6% of global energy consumption, and only as electricity. You can check the source above or calculate on your own how many nuclear plants you have to build to make a serious dent in CO2 emissions, with or without electrifying transportation ... with current nuclear technology (PWRs) you quickly run into resource issues of
    - building safely, high quality parts fast enough
    - finding qualified personnel for construction and operation
    - finding enough uranium
    - storing waste
    - preventing proliferation
    - operating safely under competing water demands.

    Does France consider this a serious option? I doubt it. They imported electricity from Germany last year when it got too hot in France and cooling demand exceeded availability (a problem all such plants face during heat waves).

    So no nuclear? The industry's announcements have almost always topped reality. Once they actually achieve what they claim, e.g. build and successfully operate the new generation reactor that will use nuclear waste, we can talk again.

    So I come back to my original comment:
    Installing decentralized renewables with a large labor component is quicker and societally more accepted than large central power production that takes a long time to plan and build, and a smaller workforce to operate.
    Reality says: Huge growth rate in renewables worldwide, near zero growth rate for nuclear. Hmmh.
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  28. @gws
    Based on life-cycle considerations, it is a low emission source, but still worse than small-scale combined heat&electricity plants burning natural gas ("Erdgas-Blockheizkraftwerk"), as promoted in Germany since about two decades now.

    I presume "natural gas" means bio-gas. At least in Australia, it normally means fossil gas.

    Whatever the life cycle emissions are, this is a self limiting technology unless you wish to cover the planet in maize farms.

    Installing decentralized renewables with a large labor component is quicker and societally more accepted than large central power production that takes a long time to plan and build, and a smaller workforce to operate.

    You claim this, but it is not necessarily true. There is, for example, considerable resistance to on-shore wind in parts of the UK. It is hard to see this not increasing, simply because of the large land requirements of wind (and other renewables). But in the end, the bottom line is cost regardless of how many people are employed.

    As for build rates, France managed to displace fossil fuels in electricity generation far faster than any deployment of non-hydro renewables has in any nation. Of course it is very challenging, but that applies to all technologies.

    Reality says: Huge growth rate in renewables worldwide, near zero growth rate for nuclear. Hmmh

    There is about 60GWe of new nuclear capacity under construction world wide. There is, as I understand, about 70GWp of PV installed worldwide. Given their respective capacity factors, PV would have to grow by a factor of 5-6 just to generate as much electricity as that new nuclear capacity. Perhaps it will, but it needs to be reality not promises.

    Meanwhile, industry associations in the UK for nuclear, renewables and CCS have joined forces in a letter to the government calling for specific carbon targets supported by investment in nuclear, renewables and CCS
    Industry letter calls for decarbonisation target in energy bill

    Somewhat to my surprise, Greenpeace has supported the letter. (Maybe they didn't read it properly). A step in the right direction and an important development. It doesn't have to be renewables OR nuclear. It can be renewables AND nuclear and we get the job done sooner. And worldwide, that is by far the most likely outcome.
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  29. quokka
    "I presume "natural gas" means bio-gas. "
    Actually, no. "Erdgas" is not "biogas", that is the next line down in that table and shows a negative number due to it offsetting FF emissions. "Erdgas" is good ol' FF natural gas.

    I did not go into biogas, although that is an obvious contributor to a renewables portfolio. Here as well, there are challenges: Food production should not be affected. But that is a straw man. 30-yr old technology is used in many places already to convert animal feces into biogas. One just has to multiply that effort. We need to highlight these positive efforts, not talk them down.

    So where are those nuclear 60 GWe installed and why?
    (Hint: highlight the positives!)
    Carbon targets? Good for planning! Not much moves until you set a goal and the rules of the game, such as a price on carbon. Making a start is crucial ... we are waiting for that in the US ...
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    China is following France's example
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  31. Actually, no. "Erdgas" is not "biogas", that is the next line down in that table and shows a negative number due to it offsetting FF emissions. "Erdgas" is good ol' FF natural gas

    I've got to be skeptical of that emissions figure and would like to know how they are doing their carbon accounting.

    If a CCGT running at about ~50% thermal efficiency generates electricity with emissions of about 350 g CO2/kWh, I really cannot see how any sort of CHP plant could manage < 50 g CO2/kWh.
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  32. > I've got to be skeptical of that emissions figure and would
    > like to know how they are doing their carbon accounting.

    Documented here.

    "Die rechnerisch negativen Emissionen des BHKW mit Biogas ergeben sich, weil die Gutschrift für die in Kraft-Wärme-Kopplung erzeugte Wärme größer ist als die Gesamtemissionen des BHKW, das CO2-neutrales Biogas einsetzt. Dies zeigt die fol-
    gende Abbildung nochmals grafisch."

    ...and in Figure 3 it says, that the heat produced (in combined heat-power mode) is accounted as replacing oil heating.
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  33. @Martin Vermeer,

    If you are going to account for emissions by how much oil heating (or gas heating) is displaced, then you need to consider the whole picture. In France, about a third of homes are electrically heated and about 90% of new homes. It's viable due to the low off peak electricity costs due to nuclear power. If you then subtract the emissions saved in heating from the life cycle emissions of nuclear power you will end up with a very attractive figure - possibly negative. This would be a fair comparison with micro gas CHP. The above attempt to show that even gas CHP has lower emissions than nuclear is not valid because it's terms of reference are too restricted and designed to reach a particular conclusion.

    There are also a number of places around the world where nuclear is used to provide district heating as well as electricity.

    The UK CCC devotes a large section of the "The Renewable Energy Review" to renewable heat. Their clear preference is for electrification where possible by heat pumps and where not possible by resistive heating. They did consider CHP and district heating, but reserved it as a topic for further study with fairly limited potential.
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  34. Energy from fission, energy from fossil fuels. Apples and oranges. Biofuels , at best a niche product. For the heavy lifting in emission free energy the only answer for now is nuclear. I shall again quote my personal prophet Bob Dylan . "Let us not speak falsely now , the hour is getting late" (From all along the Watchtower)
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  35. Pete at @30
    "China is following France's example "
    Sounds like a leap. While the article you list sounds like China plans to make nuclear its main power source, current production largely satisfies increasing demand. And all PWR. Hmmh, possible in (non-democratic) China maybe, but the world? And oh, it happens so that China does renewables with similar speed and determination. So it follows Germany's example, right? Right.
    This and your comment @34 suggest that you have not considered the issues I listed @27, and explained in the source I gave. Maybe China has.

    Good to be skeptical (about lines 5 (CCGT) to 7 (block-CHP on biogas) in that table). Shoot the Oekoinstitut an email and ask, they will answer. These numbers go back to about 1997, so if they were seriously flawed, I am sure the nuclear industry had pointed that out yet.
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  36. Martin @32:
    ...and in Figure 3 it says, that the heat produced (in combined heat-power mode) is accounted as replacing oil heating.


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    Moderator Response: [DB] Accusations of deception and impropriety snipped.
  37. @Speedy

    Combustion of methane is 178g/kWh at 100% efficiency

    Thanks Speedy. I should have looked it up, but it is kind of obvious that this is in the ballpark that one would expect from quoted thermal performance of CCGTs.
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  38. Which has prompted me to actually look up the emissions per kWh from combustion of fossil fuels

    Combustion Fuels - Carbon Dioxide Emission

    Nat Gas: 0.23 kg/kWh
    Light Oil: 0.26 kg/kWh
    Crude Oil: 0.26 kg/kWh
    Kerosene: 0.26 kg/kWh
    Diesel: 0.24 kg/kWh

    Natural gas is not just methane which probably accounts for the discrepancy with the above methane figure.

    From these figures, it would seem that unless the laws of physics have been rewritten, the claims about CHP emissions are not believable.
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  39. quokka (Speedy)
    following your link shows that the listed "kWh" is the energy content in the fuel, not the electricity produced ...
    from that page:
    "Note! Heat loss - 55-75% - in power generation is not included in the numbers.
    Again: Contact the Oekoinstitut before you make any bias claims. They have a very high reputation in Germany, and will be happy to defend their choices.
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  40. gws:

    My point is that it's physically impossible for NG to be lower than 178g/kWh, so (-snip-).
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Accusations of impropriety and deception snipped.
  41. yes, your answers are "speedy", but does impressive highlighting make for them to be relevant?

    You have not followed through the comment from Martin @32 above, so here again (from that source, below Figure 3, translated for you):
    "To compare emissions from electricity-only options, like nuclear and wind, with options producing electricity and heat, like CHP, we have to consider the non-electricity but usable heat energy: For that we found the total emissions of the CHP process and subtracted the emissions of a heating process that would deliver the exact same heat"
    Your belittling of the choice of heating oil for that comparison makes a mountain of a mole hill; contact them, complain to them.

    And if you actually take the time to look beyond Figure 3, oh, what do you know, next page, you would have found Table 4, which lists your craved-for gross emissions comparison.

    Wasting my time here ...
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  42. @gws,

    I certainly have read Martin's comment and looked at the reference and it is utterly unconvincing. (-snip-). You would need ridiculously inefficient gas or oil heating that was (-snip-). There has to be some double counting going on.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Rather than continuing to issue assignations of deception and impropriety, please contact the source for clarification. That would be the "skeptical" thing to do.

    Continuing focus on this in lieu of due diligence now constitutes sloganeering and will force moderation of your comments. FYI.

  43. The Annual fuel utilization efficiency of gas or oil boilers/furnaces is ~80%. (-snip-).

    This incidentally, is what it should be about - looking at the numbers. (-snip-).
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Sloganeering snipped. Re-inventing the flat tire is unhelpful.
  44. yes quokka (and speedy), thanks, but no thanks for moving the goalpost one more time.
    Let me tell you what I hear from you (perception):
    1. But ... the source says this ...
    2. But ... I do not understand ...
    3. But ... they are biased / doing this wrong ...
    4. But ... you need to (re-)produce these numbers before I believe it.


    1. No it does not
    2. Go contact them
    3. If you think so, ask them. Argue nicely.
    4. No I don't. I refrain from reinventing the wheel. If you want to do that, see answers 2. and 3.

    And now that we have moved so far away from the topic of my post, I will let this go. Let us know though once you asked them what the result of your argument is.
    0 0
  45. Uncle Pete,

    Here in Florida we have a damaged nuclear power plant that is not economic to repair. They have wasted over $1 billion planning a new plant that will never break ground, it is not economic. In Los Angeles they also have a damaged plant, although it may be worth repairing. There are currently zero nuclear power plants being financed by private money in the entire United States. If nuclear is so good, why is no-one wiling to pay for it? If it is uneconomic to build it cannot do the "heavy lifting". This does not even count shut down costs and waste disposal. Fukushima proved how ineffective current waste storage is.

    Meanwhile solar and wind installation continue to increase.
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  46. (-snip-).

    Back to the numbers in the Öko-Institut report...
    When you see numbers for NG that's lower than what you get from burning methane at 100% efficiency, that's reason for heavy skepticism. Digging deeper, I now see how they got there, but (-snip-). At least they show their numbers.

    The numbers in table 3 are quite useless, IMO, since they're effectively putting oil heating at zero CO2 and then counting saved oil from CHP plants as negative emissions. Table 4 is better, but still skewed in favor of (bio)gas. One problem is that it assumes that the demand for heat is twice the demand for electricity. Things look very different during summer when demand for heat is next to zero. Another issue is the omission of nuclear CHP. It's rare today, but nevertheless an option. Also, why use oil for heating when you have clean electricity? Use electric heating instead, preferably heat pumps.

    A smaller issue is how to count the emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle, especially enrichment. It's typically calculated based on the energy requirement for enrichment and the average emissions for the local electricity supply. I think is better to subtract the electricity needed from enrichment from the output of the NPP, i.e. if a plant produces 1GW on average and 10MW (this is a made-up number for example only) is used to enrich its you, you calculate emission based on the NPP supplying 990MW. Importing enriched uranium will of course complicate this calculation.

    Onto German energy policy:
    The picture of the two new units at the Neurath power plant at the RWE site is a perfect illustration of Germany’s broken energy policy. A brand spanking new lignite plant, with some windmills in the background for greenwashing. To make matters worse, the hill the windmills are built on, Vollrather Höhe, is a spoil tip from the nearby Garzweiler open pit lignite mine.

    From RWE:
    In 15 minutes, each BoA 2&3 unit can increase or decrease its output by more than 500 MW. This helps offset fluctuations in the feed-in of renewable energy. An important contribution to Germany's energy U-turn.

    I also recommend the video on this plant, but take your blood pressure medicine before you start watching it.

    I stongly doubt that Germany will reach 35% renewables in 2020, and I'm absolutely certain that they won't reach 85% by 2050 (or any time at all really). I think this will go the way of California's 10% ZEV by 2003. (Nothing against electic cars, just an example of a well meant, but unrealistic political goal.)

    I used to be a much stronger supporter for wind and solar, but the more I've studied them, the less optimistic I've become, to the point that I think they're a waste of time and money for large scale grid integration due to the reliance of dirty and dangerous fossil fuels to ensure reliability and dispatchability, except in regions with lots of hydro. They can be very useful for small scale off-grid applications though.

    Nuclear power is not perfect, nor will it ever be, but it's the best we have. Thanks to the extreme energy density of nuclear fuel, nuclear requires very little resources compared to other energy sources. Managing spent fuel is a trivial problem compared to GHG and other emissions from fossil fuels, thanks to the tiny volume. Most of the spent fuel from current reactors, is also not waste, but usable as fuel in next generation reactors. There's also some valuable stuff, both radioactive and non-radioactive, among the fission products.
    Despite what you hear from anti-nukes, nuclear is the the safest energy source we have (measured in deaths/TWh). In fact, I'd much rather have RBMKs (Chernobyl type reactor) than any fossil fuels plants.
    There are 3.3 million annual deaths from air pollution, mainly from burning of fossil fuels and biomass, but the anti-nukes don't care nearly as much about them as they do about hypothetical deaths from nuclear.

    The best way to get rid of fossil fuels is to demand the same level of safety and waste management as nuclear power. Doing so would make prices skyrocket.
    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "nuclear is the the safest energy source we have"

    Actually, there is a study finding a preliminary link between Fukushima and increased mortality (~14,000 deaths extra) in the US (story here).

    Sloganeering and inflammatory rhetoric snipped.

  47. DB:

    That study has been thoroughly debunked: Sloppy statistics kill 14000 people. This is very good example of the anti-scientific "studies" that unite anti-nukes and climate deniers. I'm extremely disappoined that staff on a site that prides itself in debunking anti-science would post this sort of nonsense.
    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [DB] You have an interesting operational definition of the word debunked. Actually, you gloss over the use of the word "preliminary" in the Moderation Comment you express so much invective about. And then you post as a "rebuttal" a link to a blog-post-about-a-blog-post about the Mangano & Sherman paper furnished you. An interesting source, but hardly a definitive one.

    In the real world, as an example, cancer can take many decades from causative source exposure to mass development and detection. Attribution of said exposure can be difficult without proper data and methodological controls.

    Given that Mangano & Sherman believed, after data analysis, that an increase in incidence of mortality in the US was detectable after Fukushima, the appropriate and responsible thing for them to do is to then document it in a published paper. And to then undergo the following peer-review. For much, or even most, peer-review occurs post-publication.

    Mangano & Sherman will follow that orbit through the peer-review process. If their contribution, after being weighed via other analysis', is found to have merit and make a positive contribution to the literature in their area of expertise, then it will have served a useful role. Note that this is still true even if the results of Mangano & Sherman are found to not have merit.

    Perhaps in the field of pro-nuclear advocacy the leaping to conclusions by the excising of published papers not immediately adhering to preformed belief systems is de riguer; if so, that is disappointing to those adhering to the scientific method.

    In the meantime, the scientific method and the proper peer-review of Mangano & Sherman proceeds apace...and will achieve the resolution that said peer-review will ultimately come to, agendas notwithstanding.

  48. @michael sweet

    There are currently zero nuclear power plants being financed by private money in the entire United States

    As far as I am aware the Vogtle AP1000s build is privately financed. There is an offer of a federal loan guarantee, but it is not yet agreed and the senior partner, Southern, is saying that it may not be necessary as their financing costs so far have been less than projected.

    Southern Co CEO says nuclear loan guarantee less enticing

    Construction is underway, and I would ask for any evidence that Vogtle is not (mainly) privately financed.

    As I understand it there will be some customer levy to help offset financing costs. I can't see anything wrong with that in principle. In Germany the retail levy paid by consumers to support renewables is to rise to over 5 Euro cents per kWh. I see no problem in principle with that either. The question is whether the money is being wisely spent to achieve decarbonization as rapidly as possible. Surely that goal is the point of all of this.
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  49. At the risk of inviting moderation I am going to raise the CHP issue again. Here is an IEA report on CHP:

    Combined Heat and Power

    Figure 7 corresponds exactly with my understanding of CHP and shows a 21% improvement in emissions/energy efficiency over separate gas turbine and boiler installations. The IEA's 75% efficiency figure corresponds to ~297 g CO2/kWh assuming natural gas combusted at perfect efficiency has emissions of 223g/kWh.

    I regard the IEA as an authoritative source, and this is my last comment on this.
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  50. Thanks everyone for the contribution to this interesting post. My final comment is that we are all aware of the critical importance of reducing GHG emissions. It is in my view not a matter of either /or , but more of an all of the above. Whichever technology is suitable, should be deployed. And yes , for me ,I would gladly live under the cooling towers of a nuclear plant, having grown up within 2 kilometres of a sooth belching nitrogen fixing plant , fed by low quality coal.Not something I remember fondly !
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