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The Key To Slowing Global Warming

Posted on 10 January 2018 by Riduna

We all know that global warming is causing climate change characterised by increasingly severe weather events which damage property, destroy food crops and is likely to have catastrophic effects with multi metre sea level rise later this century. Strong winds and floods, forest fires and droughts are more common and cause damage which, each year, is more expensive to repair and may eventually be beyond repair.

We also know that the prime cause of global warming is human activity involving the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – to meet our energy needs for transport propulsion and electricity generation. At the same time, we are actively engaged in destruction of carbon sinks – forests and woodlands, warming oceans - in order to meet the needs of a burgeoning population, while also increasing the number of methane producing animals and crops such as cattle, chickens and rice.

Most of us realise that if we are to avoid catastrophic events in the future – or indeed survive as a species on this planet – we must, at the very least, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What has to be done?  It’s simple. Reduce and eventually stop burning fossil fuels, the major source of greenhouse gasses, and do so as rapidly as possible. We recognize the need to plant trees to replace those cut down and to modify our diet by replacing meat with other similar tasting nutritious products enabling reduction of animal herds and their emissions. Yet action taken globally is just the opposite of these measures.

There are two approaches to curbing use of fossil fuels: (a) make them more expensive by imposing a carbon tax on them and (b) provide an alternative renewable energy source which is cheaper, cleaner and more readily available.

A Carbon Tax

There are several problems with the first approach, the most significant of which are:

Participation: Although every country burns fossil fuels only 42 or 15% of 195 U.N Member Countries have any form of carbon tax. Those that do not have a carbon tax include Russia – a major emitter - most African nations and many Central, South American and Asian countries.

Application: Even when imposed, a Carbon tax is not always applied to all parts of a country. Japan is classified as having a Carbon Tax, even though it is only applied to the Greater Tokyo Area.

Tax Rate: The rate applied varies from country to country and in no jurisdiction does it appear sufficient to reduce emissions on its own. In some countries (Zimbabwe, South Africa) the rates are so low, they are totally ineffective and revenues tend not to be used to promote clean energy technology.

Exemptions: The tax is not uniformly applied to all sectors of the economy that produce carbon emissions. Several countries exempt their export sectors from the tax in order to maintain a trade advantage. Others only apply it to a single product, e.g. petrol or electricity generation but not both.

Oversight: There appears to be no international agency responsible for monitoring and reporting on the use/lack of use of a carbon tax by each country or its effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions globally.

Another problem is that a Carbon Tax penalizes users of fossil fuels, including the largest individual users, businesses. Producers and retailers of goods and services will pass those increased costs on to their customers and this can have an all-pervasive inflationary effects throughout the economy. Because of this its introduction is resisted by many countries and half-heartedly applied by others, making it ineffectual as a means of reducing fossil fuel consumption and not applied at all by a majority of countries.

There is no independent agency with responsibility for reporting on the way in which a carbon tax is applied or monitoring its effectiveness in reducing the emissions of individual countries. Consequently, there is no uniformity in the way such a tax is applied, no CO2 emissions reduction targets set and no uniform reporting of the extent to which they are achieved. As a result, emissions continue to rise and in 2017 are approaching 37 Gt/annum.

Clean Electricity

The second approach is to replace fossil fuels – used by every country - with energy generated from renewable sources - solar, wind, thermal, tidal and hydro, all of which are free. Solar and wind are available in all countries while thermal, tidal and hydro are available to most others. All offer an alternative to the use of fossil fuels, though at present, only thermal can assure continuity of supply sufficient to meet the growing, though fluctuating demand for electricity for domestic, industry and transport use.

In 2017 the cost of renewable energy continued to fall with wind energy in the USA as low as $20/mWh, solar thermal dispatchable falling to around $50/mWh with grid-scale photovoltaic below $40/mWh compared to existing coal-fired generation at $40/mWh and new coal fired generation at $60-$70/mWh.

The above shows that renewable sources are cheaper than new coal-fired generation and that the cost of solar is fast approaching that of existing coal fired power stations and is likely to be less by 2020. In Australia, where 75% of coal fired power stations are fast approaching their use-by-date(1), it is no longer commercially viable to replace them with fossil fuel generators. A similar situation exists in many other countries dependent on coal fired power.

Wind generation is already cheaper than burning fossil fuels and the cost of generating electricity by solar voltaic and solar concentrator technology is rapidly falling as its use increases. To ensure that electricity supply from renewable sources is both adequate and reliable, development of higher capacity and cheaper energy storage for quick and sustained release to the grid or major consumers during periods of sudden disruption and short term increase in demand, is essential.

This development is also essential to enable increased range of electric vehicles (EV’s) and reduction in their cost to the point where they are cheaper to own and operate than vehicles propelled by internal combustion engines. When this occurs - and it is likely within the next 5 years – there will be rapid and sustained uptake of EV’s for domestic, business and industrial use, expected to result in a decline in demand for and use of oil-based fuels, possibly by 50% by 2040 or sooner.

The singular difference between the two approaches, imposing a tax to discourage use of fossil fuels and replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy sources is that the former imposes an additional burden while the latter offers an incentive in the form of financial relief. Given the choice, nations and consumers will always resist additional costs but embrace measures which reduce their costs.

Energy Storage

Ability to reduce the cost and increase storage capacity of electricity is key to rapid displacement of fossil fuels as the source of generating electricity since it enables:

  • Solar and wind generators to provide dispatchable energy, making them a reliable alternative to use of fossil fuels to generate electricity.
  • Grid stability by both rapid and sustained discharge from storage facilities.
  • Use for transport propulsion providing high range and low cost will rapidly displace use of oil and its derivatives.

With the limited exception of solar concentrator facilities, solar and wind generators can only supply electricity when the sun shines and the wind blows. To meet demand, these generators must have capacity to produce and store electricity for release to the grid and consumers 24/7.

To this end, large scale storage may best be provided by pumped hydro where water is pumped to an elevated level using surplus energy generated when the sun shines/wind blows. Water is then released to spin a turbine during hours of darkness or calm, ensuring continuity of electricity supply. Most countries have numerous sites suitable for such schemes.


 The largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the world – built by Tesla at Jamestown, South Australia in 2017 - 2017 - has already demonstrated its importance as back-up for the Grid. Photo: Neoen. 

The facility has a total generation capacity of 100 megawatts, and 129 megawatt-hours of energy storage. The facility is capable of going from zero to 30MW (and vice versa) in 4 seconds and is able to ensure grid stability. Its capacity and versatility is expected to put downward pressure on electricity prices.

Grid-scale battery technology allows small but very rapid responses of less than 1 second to changes in grid stability, as well as providing much larger discharges for a limited period.

Vehicles of all kinds now propelled by oil-based fuels will, over the coming decade be replaced by motors fuelled by battery stored electricity. Technology advances have already increased the capacity of batteries enabling the building of road vehicles with a range of up to 500 km. However, battery costs, now around $140/kWh, need to fall below $100/kWh before the cost of electric vehicles (EV’s) can be priced at or below comparable vehicles propelled by fossil fuels.

When this occurs, likely before 2023, uptake of EV’s will be both rapid and sustained, displacing diesel, petrol and other oil-based fuels now used. Market forces will ensure that this change occurs. Given the choice of a fossil-fuelled vehicle or a cheaper to own and operate, equally reliable EV, consumers will buy electric.


As the effects of global warming increase (fires, severe storms, property loss, crop failures, floods), pressure will grow for all countries to adopt and apply financial measures (a carbon tax) which effectively curb CO2 emissions. There can be little doubt that financial measures can achieve this – but not the way they are currently applied. To overcome shortfalls described above, an international authority with responsibility for reporting annually on the effectiveness of financial measures and the performance of each UN Member Country, would appear to be needed.

These pressures, combined with market forces and national legislation banning fossil fuelled vehicles, will also put pressure on builders to produce and sell electric vehicles which are superior in terms of price and performance. This is beginning to happen with global electric vehicle sales likely to exceed 1 million in 2017. Sales are likely to rapidly increase and within the next 5 years cause a significant decline in the demand and use of oil-based products.

The transition from fossil fuel generation of electricity to renewable energy sources has already started and is irreversible. After 2020 it is unlikely that any fossil fuelled power station will be built anywhere in the world and, thereafter the use of existing stations is likely to decline with increasing speed. This trend will be enhanced by cheaper, denser and more compact storage of energy, enabling better management of local, national and international grids.

The present state of technology for improved battery storage, on which this transition largely depends, is not fully known since, for commercial reasons, advances in this area are kept secret. What is known is that battery costs continue to fall and their capacity continues to rise, giving more and more certainty it will result in use of fossil fuels ceasing before 2050, possibly sooner.


(1) The Retirement of Coal Fired Power Stations.  Engineers Australia submission to the Standing Committee for Environment and Communications inquiry. 10 November, 2016.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 58:

  1. Starts out good then lapses into the usual gobbledgook.

    Financial pressures is another way of saying more people becoming poor and loosing access. Renewables also mean more expensive any way you spin it. EV's are not cheaper to buy, they are way more expensive and will be until massive numbers are produced. Half of all Co2 emissions from the life of autos is generated before it rolls off the sales room floor, then there is the massive carbon intense infrastructure required.

    All of the authors "solutions" are assuming that growth continues unabaited and everyone continues to get wealthy enough to afford the future. All of which means continued global emission increases. The building out of the future outlined in the post will require every last drop of FFs to accomplish.

    The real solution??? We must all do LESS! Much less, like 80% less. Starting now.

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  2. Pay people to do less.

    Pay people to go to school.

    Pay people to farm and garden.

    Pay people to do art and entertainment.

    Pay people to travel the slow way.

    I can go on and on.....

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  3. I agree simple carbon taxes like that don't work very well, and aren't terribly popular.

    However without a carbon tax of some form, renewable energy would  require substantial subsidies to get going, as we have seen  in the UK for example, and this subsidy has to come from general taxation. This is a  limited resource, and would compromise spending on other projects.

    Carbon tax and dividend is another alternative that would help impel people towards renewable energy, help fund any subsidies, and would be more politically popular by giving something back to the public.

    Carbon tax and renewable energy are not mutually exclusive, and just have to be done properly.

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  4. Jef @2, in America a toyota corolla and a honda civic costs about $20,000, and the comparible size electric Nissan Leaf is about $32,000. However some states also offer subsidies, and the nissan leaf costs about $25,000. This is not "way more expensive."

    The electric car also has much lower running costs and maintainance costs, which should be considered. 

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  5. Jeff @1

    "Starts out good then lapses into the usual gobbledgook."

    This would more accurately apply to your own comments, and also rather unsubstantiated claims.

    For example, I have no idea why you are talking about paying people, god only knows what that means. And I can't see the point of cutting all consumption and activity 80%   and going back to the stone age, especially as much of that activity is not carbon intensive.

    Relatively affordable focused personal sacrifices would work. For example buying electric cars, taking the bus, and less air travel, or building smaller less carbon intensive houses, etc, would go a long way to solve the climate problem. Carbon tax and dividend would modify behaviour, while giving most of the tax back.

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  6. According to this article by JJoe Romm at ThinkProgress (a liberal web site), At a recent auction of wind and solar energy in Colorado the cost of wind with battery storage was cheaper than the running costs of any coal power plants in Colorado.  Solar was cheaper than 75% of the coal plants in Colorado.  These renenwable energy bids are lower than any fossil electricity in the USA.

    Jeff: please provide evidence to support your wild claim that renewable energy is more expensive than fossil fuels.  Renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels in most locations.  They do not have thousands of wind generators in Texas because they like the environment.  They are the cheapest source of energy.

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  7. Jef @1

    "Financial pressures is another way of saying more people becoming poor and loosing access."

    No they aren't going to become poor. The personal costs of large cuts in emissions might be $3000 a year in paying off extra costs of an electric car, renewable energy costs, and other costs.  If you bought just a slightly smaller home, and less expensive appliances, and flew less, and wasted less,  you would easily pay for the costs, and could even come out ahead financially. 

    It's about adjusting your priorities slightly.

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  8. Riduna

    "In 2017 the cost of renewable energy continued to fall with wind energy in the USA as low as $20/mWh, solar thermal dispatchable falling to around $50/mWh with grid-scale photovoltaic below $40/mWh compared to existing coal-fired generation at $40/mWh and new coal fired generation at $60-$70/mWh."

    Along with a few of the other posts on this blog, there is no discussion of the present alternative costs of natural gas in the US in the competition of alternative energy sources.

    Riduna, could you please provide the equivalent cost of natural gas per mWh?

    Policymakers will know this cost.  I think the sKs audience would also appreciate knowing this figure.

    michael sweet @ 6

    Are you suggesting that there has been a technological breakthrough with battery storage?  My understanding is that this has not occurred.  I do not fully understand the implications of the Tesla battery installation in Australia.  Perhaps someone can elucidate.

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  9. Sure carbon taxes are not universal, are open to manipulation and vary from country to country.  That does not mean that they don't work.  The Australian experience is that introduction of a far from perfect tax resulted in a drop in emissions and its subsequent abolition resulted in renewed increases.

    A properly designed tax and dividend scheme encourages reductions in carbon use where they are most effective (for instance more careful management of refrigerants - reduction in concrete use - more use of public transport).  Carbon tax revenues should not be used to further reduce emissions - they should be returned to citizens and/or businesses to ameliorate the impact of the tax on employment and living standards.  A carbon tax also encourages R and D in non emitting sources of energy so you get your option B anyway.

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  10. Norris @8

    Regarding costs of gas compared to renewable sources, refer to the Lazard analysis below for America, or costs of electricity by source on wikipedia. (These are all measured slightly differently from the article, and are average costs, not the lowest costs cited in the article, but the comparison is what is obviously most important)

    Key points:

    "Onshore wind has the lowest average levelized cost in this analysis at $59 per megawatt-hour, and utility-scale photovoltaic plants weren’t far behind at $79. By comparison, the lowest cost conventional technologies were gas combined cycle technologies, averaging $74 per megawatt-hour, and coal plants, averaging $109. These numbers are the average of Lazard’s low- and high-end estimates (see their study for more about their cost calculations)."

    Regarding the Tesla battery in Australia:


    Some points:

    "Less than a month after Tesla unveiled a new backup power system in South Australia, the world's largest lithium-ion battery is already being put to the test. And it appears to be far exceeding expectations: In the past three weeks alone, the Hornsdale Power Reserve has smoothed out at least two major energy outages, responding even more quickly than the coal-fired backups that were supposed to provide emergency power."

    "Fed by wind turbines at the nearby Hornsdale wind farm, the battery stores excess energy that is produced when the demand for electricity isn't peaking. It can power up to 30,000 homes, though only for short periods - meaning that the battery must be supported by power plants in the event of a long outage."

    IMO this is quite something for one of the first instillations. The article was in our local newspaper recently.

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  11. I didn't realize Skeptical Science was an anti-science blog. This article does not even mention nuclear power as a solution. The cost of energy storage required for renewables is an order of magnitude too high. One day of storage would cost more than an entire nationwide all-nuclear grid See

    I'll not visit this site again.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Your choice.

  12. I recently rode an electric motorbike in Taiwan and electric bus in mainland China.  The electric motorbike had all the power I desired, even with two riding, and the range on one charge was about 45 miles.  Stopping by the rental place, one could change out a battery in about 20 seconds.  I'm not sure they are completely there yet but this sunny and windy isle are well positioned to keep their large fleet of EV bikes charged with renewables.             I rode an electric bus in China that carried about 20 people.  It was peppy and quiet.   China is getting into EVs in a big, big way, and fast, because they see it as cheaper, cleaner and the future.  Taipai's transportation system demonstrates an efficient way to move a lot of people in a relatively small space.  It has a mostly modern subway that serves most of the city.  People use more motorbikes than cars, lots of buses, hybrid taxis everywhere, bicycles and walking.  The city is dense but it moves in an efficient and relatively clean way.  The still burn coal but are moving away from it.  

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  13. I agree w/ comments above that encourage the use of Revenue-Neutral Carbon Fee & Dividend with border-adjustments in an integrated (do both, push & pull) array of mitigation policies, but that RNCFD is an absolutely essential component of such a do all policy scheme. See RNCFD proposals by Citizens Climate Lobby or Climate Leadership Council (tax applied at the source, w/ border adjustments to promote global domino equal tax effect). I wish the author had included this particular sub-set of carbon taxation in their mitigation policy analysis.

    Switching to RE is not a net zero sum game. In other words, as RE advances & its capacity increases (but without cost pressure on FF's), then the economy will (in no small amount) "add on" the RE and not equally reduce FF consumption. The $/mwh costs given here do not show the costs on a $/GDP/mwh yearly trend basis (offsetting for inflation) and as a function of total or per capita energy demand. ... Reductions in FF consumption will cause downward pressure on FF price (i.e. supply & demand) and FF industries will react and by doing so, will maintain profitability while sustaining supply (even at the lower cost) by a) dropping off their higher cost sources and b) improving efficiency on their remaining operations. All of this will help FF's retain their current very large market leverage in the energy infrastructure network, making large-scale reductions too protracted. ... Evidence: Energy US efficiency increased by 58% between 1990 & 2015. Thus, FF usage should have dropped by 37% (1 - 1/1.58) in a zero-sum energy usage game. Population increases (21%) "chewed-up" 36% of this efficiency gain (21%/58%). But, since US CO2 emissions in 2015 are essentially equal to that of 1990, then this means that consumption "added on" the remaining 64% of these efficiency gains. Why? This is because of the downward pressure on the FF price resulting from the slight drop in demand due to the efficiency gains works to maintain FF's leverage. ... Why would the impact of RE's be any different? ... This tells me that relying on "replacement only" forces and not offsetting the supply & demand forces on lowering FF prices is not looking at FF consumption in a 'dynamically' appropriate way. And, continuing, policies that do not build upon the offsetting economic force of a carbon tax (and the political durability of the revenue-neutral tax sub-set) will fail to achieve the required reductions in a maximum allowed (30-50 year) timescale.

    Yes, carbon taxes are politically difficult & global attempts have not been very successful in large-scale reductions. But 1) this does not mean we should not politically fight-like-hell to install a well designed tax (note: the politics are becoming a bit more positive in the US, outside the WH, read about CCL's growing, 66 member, Climate Solutions Caucas) and 2) nor does it mean that all tax policies need to be poorly & timidly designed as most current global polices are (too isolated, in addition to subsidizing the very industries that they are designed to 'squeeze'). CCL's 100% revenue-neutral approach is designed so to foster & assure political durability, which then enables installation of a higher effective tax rate ($100/ton CO2) w/o causing undo economic regression. Once installed & ramped up (& business accept its perpetuity), then the economic forces would be powerful (investment, R/D, etc) in moving markets toward the best technological solutions (since then all carbon impact considerations would be "packed" into the price). Thus the best solutions that would achieve the fastest carbon reductions would be the most profitable solution enabling and forcing their genesis & implementation. This all works effectively because the carbon tax rate is  the same as its social cost (or future cost, or external cost) of carbon based energy (i.e. read: Pigouvian tax). ... Read 'The Case for a Carbon Tax' for further in-depth comparitive analysis.

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  14. 20 years ago the world got over 80% of its energy by burning fossil fuels. Then we built lots of windmills and solar panels. The result is today, we still get over 80% of our energy by burning fossil suels. What happened?? Well, the world uses a lot more energy than we did 20 years ago. 

    And, btw - I agree with Jef. I don't know how that is so confusing to some of you. If people get paid a living wage then they don't have to drive to work and consume fossil fuels. If they are paid to grow vegetables then we have to get less lettuce from Chile. And, the best part - we won't be able to afford to waste over a half trillion dollars a year, and all that wasted energy, bombing brown people on the other side of the planet who pose very little threat to us.  All I see is win-win-win...

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  15. robert.hargraves @11

    "I didn't realize Skeptical Science was an anti-science blog. This article does not even mention nuclear power as a solution"

    Nuclear power electricity generation is a technology, not pure science as such.

    Nuclear power is an expensive technology (refer "cost of electricity by source" on wikipedia) and slow to build and get regulatory approval, and this is why its not being chosen by generating companies or governments. I have nothing totally against nuclear power, although the thought of hundreds of reactors in developing countries does not fill me with confidence regarding safety.

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  16. Sunspot @14

    "20 years ago the world got over 80% of its energy by burning fossil fuels. Then we built lots of windmills and solar panels. The result is today, we still get over 80% of our energy by burning fossil suels. What happened?? Well, the world uses a lot more energy than we did 20 years ago."

    The reason for slow uptake of renewable energy is not really increasing demand for energy. The reasons have been political resistance to renewable energy, campaigns to spread doubt about renewable energy and climate science, and the high costs of early versions of renewable energy. Costs are much lower now, and growth in renewable energy has been much higher in the last 5 years or so, with both wind and solar power as in the link below. Solar growth has been near exponential since about 2008.

    "And, btw - I agree with Jef. I don't know how that is so confusing to some of you. If people get paid a living wage then they don't have to drive to work and consume fossil fuels."

    With respect this is not correct. A living wage is normally defined as a slightly higher version of a minimum wage (and its a good idea) that is paid by companies or subsidised by governments. People will still need to work to get this living wage, and to get to work driving something or by bus. So all the issues around renewable energy and electric cars remain.

    If you mean a "universal basic income" that people get as of right, this is  really for the unemployed and invalids, and is set at about the level of minimum wage or even less, so is very minimal. The vast majority of people will still work if they want to do more than merely survive. And money doesn't grow on trees, so a ubi has to be minimal, although I think its a useful idea.

    "If they are paid to grow vegetables then we have to get less lettuce from Chile."

    Nobody is going to pay people to stay home to grow vegetables. Money doesn't grow on trees. However I think you are right if you are promoting more self sufficiency in food, and less reliance on food imports, and associated transport costs.

    " And, the best part - we won't be able to afford to waste over a half trillion dollars a year, and all that wasted energy, bombing brown people on the other side of the planet who pose very little threat to us"


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  17. Suggested supplemental reading:

    Baloney Meter: will the Liberal carbon tax really mean paying more for everything? by Mia Robson, Canadian Press/National Observer, Jan 11, 2018

    Wind & Solar + Storage Prices Smash Records by Christopher Arcus, CleanTehnica, Jan 11, 2018

    Solar steam powers homes – and new jobs – in South Africa by Munyaradzi Makoni, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Jan 11, 2018

    Nuclear debacle energizes push for solar power expansion by Sammy Fretwell, The State (Columbia, SC), Jan 9, 2018

    As Trump's fossil-fuel 'energy dominance' plan founders, a crucial solar energy decision nears by Keith Schneider, Los Angeles Times, Jan 10, 2018

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  18. NorrisM @ 8

    Capacity and Performance of the Tesla Battery in South Australia are discussed here.

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  19. Another wedge among the potential solutions to climate change, which has not been discussed, is carbon content labeling.

    The global economy is predominantly (≈ 80%) fossil fuel powered. So long as goods and services are produced with fossil fuels, every dollar we earn, spend, borrow or loan; every way in which we participate in the economy, contributes to climate change. CO2 emissions dipped during the GFC. It's the economy, stupid.

    So, less economic activity is a pathway to reduced CO2 emissions. A truly inconvenient truth. More accurately, less fossil fueled economic activity is a pathway CO2 emissions reduction. If we knew the CO2 emissions attributable to, or embedded in, every transaction we made, we would be able to; chose a pathway of lowest emissions; measure and manage our total emissions; assess the emissions of different activities, businesses, companies, countries, and administrations etc.

    In buying a car, building a house, planning a holiday, choosing an employer or political candidate, I could be carbon informed. In all my economic activity I could exercise more ethical behaviour.

    We have the technology today to do this. Every transaction could give us an instant carbon content calculation. The carbon content of our lifestyle could be on our facebook page. Only what gets measured gets counted.  Like obesity and diabetes, high CO2 emissions is a triumph of marketing.  Marketing could go some way to redeeming itself, by promoting low emissions lifestyles.

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  20. agno@19,

    The currently developed global economy has definitely been over-developed in an incorrect direction regarding the burning of fossil fuels (and many other unsustainable and damaging trendy popular and profitable activities).

    Labelling for CO2 could help, but would require the vast majority of consumers to base their buying decision on Ethical Labels. And consumers who do not care would benefit relative to the more caring ones by buying cheaper items (the reason that development in incorrect directions happens).

    And the labelling would have to be adopted in all nations.

    An additional consideration is that methane emissions and many other results of human activity are significant parts of the problem.

    A rigorously applied Carbon Fee (accounting any activity impacts on GHG in the atmosphere) in all nations would be far more effective than labels. It would put the Carbon Fee into the price of everything with Carbon impacts in amounts relative to the magnitude of impact. And the people who do not care have 'no way around it' (the people who do not care being 'free to believe what they want and do as they please is the reason that development in incorrect directions happens).

    Also, a global carbon fee program does not require all nations to implement a consistent Carbon Fee system. An International Carbon Fee would be based on the scientific understanding of what is going on and what level of Fee is globally needed to have a decent chance (50-50), of achieve the agreed objective of 1.5C warming and a better chance of not exceeding the dangerous 2.0C warming. Trade tariffs and sanctions would be applied to any nation that did not implement a Carbon Fee, or having a lower carbon fee, or not having a comprehensive carbon fee program. The amount of trade penalty would be determined by the understanding of their national carbon impacts with special evaluations for specific high impact products. However, to be fair, the less developed nations would be assessed based on a lower carbon fee where the carbon intensity of activity was reasonable and the activity was seen as a short duration transition to more sustainable activity.

    When discussing the economics of ending the burning of fossil fuels it is essential to reinforce that the current perceptions of prosperity due to over-development in the incorrect economic directions are undeserved. The correction has to occur and may very well mean that the 'supposedly more advanced/developed who are laggards in correcting their incorrect economic development will lose some of their developed perceptions of superiority relative to others.

    It is also important to remember that Carbon Fees only help correct the incorrect developments in the economy. A Carbon Fee by itself would not achieve the required rapid ending of burning of fossil fuels. Assistance is required for the expansion and improvement of renewable energy systems. And staged blanket global termination of activities with highest impacts will probably be required to responsibly limit the harm being done to future generations by those in the current generation who do not care.

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  21. Another wedge among the potential solutions to climate change, which has not been discussed, is carbon content labeling.

    The global economy is predominantly (≈ 80%) fossil fuel powered. So long as goods and services are produced with fossil fuels, every dollar we earn, spend, borrow or loan; every way in which we participate in the economy, contributes to climate change. CO2 emissions dipped during the GFC. It's the economy, stupid.

    So, less economic activity is a pathway to reduced CO2 emissions. A truly inconvenient truth. More accurately, less fossil fueled economic activity is a pathway CO2 emissions reduction. If we knew the CO2 emissions attributable to, or embedded in, every transaction we made, we would be able to; chose a pathway of lowest emissions; measure and manage our total emissions; assess the emissions of different activities, businesses, companies, countries, and administrations etc.

    In buying a car, building a house, planning a holiday, choosing an employer or political candidate, I could be carbon informed. In all my economic activity I could exercise more ethical behaviour.

    We have the technology today to do this. Every transaction could give us an instant carbon content calculation. The carbon content of our lifestyle could be on our facebook page. Only what gets measured gets counted.  Like obesity and diabetes, high CO2 emissions is a triumph of marketing.  Marketing could go some way to redeeming itself, by promoting low emissions lifestyles.

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  22. Riduna @ 18

    Thanks, but I could not access the url.  Could you provide a full address for the site?  

    I am interested in whether this technology has the potential to replace what I believe is termed as "bulk storage" or is it just a short term replacement in the case of some unplanned shutdown of the renewable energy source.    I appreciate that the difference is really a question of capacity of the backup.

    From what I understand is that given the present technology, pumped hydroelectric storage represents more than 99% of current worldwide bulk storage capacity.

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  23. John Hartz @ 17

    Thanks for these references. I found second article (Christopher Arcus) discussing the Xcel Energy request for bids to replace 660 MW of coal-fired power capacity especially interesting but also confusing. Xcel Energy requested bids based upon wind, solar, natural gas and storage. It seems increasingly clear to me that if we are going to compare RE with natural gas generated electricity we need to include storage with any bid for wind and solar.

    Unfortunately, in comparing the various bids they received there was an “apples to oranges” problem (at least for me) when it came to comparing the quotes for combustion turbines and other fossil fuel bids compared to bids for wind, wind and solar, wind with battery storage etc. In the former case, the quoted measurement was $/kW-mo (I have no idea what that means) and in the case of the RE bids, the measurement was $/MWh.
    Can you provide some help in trying to sort through these different measurements?

    I have recently read a 2017 “working paper” by Peter Hartley, Ph.D. of Rice University looking at Texas to compare the relative costs of replacing fossil fuels as the base load with various possibilities including wind power and storage, nuclear power and storage, or some combination of wind or nuclear with backup natural gas. In all these cases, the measurement is the same based upon ₵/kWh.

    Could you help me with the relative conversions of the measurements in the Xcel Energy article with the measurement used in the Hartley paper of cents/kWh? Dividing MWh by 1,000 to get to kWh did not seem to make sense. Otherwise, the quoted cost of wind and solar and battery storage in the Xcel Energy article works out to $.03060 kWh.

    The Hartley paper is suggesting that the approximate cost of wind with storage (albeit pumped storage, not battery storage) is around $0.1513 to $0.24171 (dependent on whether the cost of capital is 5%, 7.5% or 10%).
    Something does not add up here unless there has been a massive breakthrough in battery storage which I would have thought would be front line news.

    I can provide a citation for the Hartley paper if anyone is interested. Supposedly Hartley has put this paper out for comment. He notes that it is a “work in progress and has not been submitted for editorial review.”

    Anecdotally, Hartley puts a price on what a carbon tax would add to the price of natural gas which is interesting. According to EIA data, burning one MMBTU of natural gas (about 1,000 mcf) emits about 53.07 kg of CO2. Thus a carbon tax of $10/metric tonne of CO2 is equivalent to a tax on natural gas of around $0.53 /MMBTU. The average price of natural gas in the US in 2016 was $2.89/MMBTU.

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  24. NorrisM @22 , the big new lithium battery in South Australia is certainly not what you and I would call "bulk storage".  Its capacity is quoted (by journalists) as only 129 Megawatt-hours.

    Nor have I seen its official cost — which is expected to be in the region of USD35million.

    Reports say that it is saving big dollars already : and at the present rate it will pay for itself in 2 or 3 years (i.e. in approximately 10% of its expected lifetime) . . . owing to the complex variable contractual arrangements that the various Australian power generation companies have on the national market.

    The main benefits of the big lithium battery are in its rapid response to national grid load, in stabilizing grid voltage/frequency, and allowing time for gas turbine generators to spool up in event of a big outage.  I gather that it has been so successful thus far, that a number of provincial regions are now planning to install similar (but somewhat smaller e.g. 20 Mwh) lithium batteries.

    The SA "big battery" is fed by nearby wind turbines.  But obviously a much bigger wind/solar generation system will need real bulk storage, likely in the form of hydrogen generation (for gas turbines or power cells) or Pumped-Hydro or salt/ammonia/hot-gravel etcetera.

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  25. One Planet Only Forever @ 20

    Let me add an "e" CO2e, and reiterate that I was suggesting this as a "wedge".  Taxation strategies will probably be a larger piece of the pie.

    It is somewhat similar to divestment, only at a personal level and targets all economic activity.  Your arguments against carbon labeling probably apply to divestment too?

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  26. Is Jeff a bored, tryhard upper middle-class white guy with an attitude trying to fit in with the boring upper crust suburb he grew up in?


    I bet Jeff can’t jump so instead he tries to play practical jokes on the human race.... 

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  27. Norrism,

    You are asking for renewable energy to provide more than you are asking fossil fuels.  Do coal and nuclear plants have to bid for baseload energy plus peak power?  Why do renewable energy plants have to provide extra support like storage? Fossil fuel companies require renewable to provide storage in an (unsuccessful) attempt to make renewable uneconomic.  Storage is not necessary in our current grid when renewable penetration is less than 50%.  As grid managers learn how to use renewables higher penetration is possible and less storage is needed.

    Currently existing peaker plants (mostly gas) are more than capable of providing back up for renewable energy on windless nights.  Storage is not needed.  Requiring current renewable energy plants to build out storage just increases the cost of power without providing any additional economic use.  

    The battery in Australia appears to be used primarily to regulate voltage.  In the past this use was not asked for but now fossil fuel companies are asking for voltage stabilization in an attempt to make renewable energy more expensive.  As demonstrated in Australia, renewables can easily be used to stabilize voltage.  From what I have seen, the battery is cheaper and faster than fossil voltage regulation.

    Pumped hydro is not the most efficient method of storing energy and not many locations are suitable.  Most existing pumped hydro was built in the 60's or 70's as storage for excess baseload power to provide peak power since nuclear and coal cannot provide peak power.  Gas peaker plants are currently cheaper.  Pumped hydro is unlikely to be widely built in the future.  When do you hear supporters of baseload power discussing pumped hydro storage of baseload power?  Yet they complain of storage of renewables.

    Mass battery storage is currently not economic.  Already existing gas peaker plants provide more storage than the grid needs.  All plans for future mass storage use some method to convert electricity into gas or liquid fuels that would then be stored in existing facilities for use in peaker plants. Requiring additional battery storage on current renewable plants is a scheme to make renewable energy more expensive so utilities can continue to stiff customers for more expensive fossil energy.

    If renewable plants must provide storage, fossil plants should have to bid for peak power also.  You are comparing renewable energy costs to provide all power to fossil costs which only provide baseload power and not peak power. 

    It is not necessary for renewable energy plants to provide all energy using the fossil fuel model of power generation.  The future grid will not have baseload energy.  It will have variable renewable energy and peaker plants (storage).

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  28. Norrism,

    This is apparently Hartley's paper.  You should link your sources.  The fact that he has not submitted it for publication tells us he thinks it is not accurate.  It appears to be written to be cited by deniers on the web.  Here is an article where Hartley supports coal and fossil fuels.

    Hartley models electricity production in a small part of Texas to make claims about generating all power in the entire country.  This does not make sense.  His paper is 20 years out of date.

    Hartley uses an energy storage method that is completely impractical and expensive.  (Hydro was primarily built to store nuclear energy).  Then you wonder why his cost of storage is so high.  Hartlley has used an industry cost for building nuclear plants and not the actual cost from Georgia and South Carollina.

    If you read the articles I linked for you previously you would see that no-one who is serious considers mass hydro storage for wind energy.  Hartleys' article is using 1960's technology to argue that wind will not work now.  For Hartley to be serious he must address the storage methods that renewable energy proponents actually propose using.  His paper will never be published in a reliable journal.  You should have recognized this.  Where did you find this bogus paper?  Why do you read such trash?  The $.03/kwh was correct for wind energy.  Storage is estimated at a fraction of generating cost.  Nuclear is much more costly.

    Hartley did not address the 15 reasons Abbott details why nuclear cannot be used to power the economy.  Since he did not, we must conceed that nuclear is completely impractical.    There is not enough uranium to run the nuclear plants and they are not economic.

    It is common for nuclear supporters to write long, unsupported statements why they think renewable energy has problems.  I suggest you read more articles from people who are researching renewables to see what they actually propose.

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  29. There is a wide variety of storage solutions out there and pumped hydro is not necessarily as worthless as was suggested above. This does not mean that the Hartley paper is of interest. It comes across as run-of-the-mill denier junk.

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  30. michael sweet @ 27 and 28

    Thanks for clarifying some things.  I should have tried to link the Hartley paper (I have been unsuccessful in the past in doing so).  If someone can again direct me to where on this website I can figure it out I will again try next time. 

    Interesting comments about the Hartley paper.  To answer where I found it, I do not go searching for these things.  It was referenced by Judith Curry on her website.  I will go back and see what comments were made on that site.  I did not read all of the posts.  The reason I did not just "post" the paper is that I agree that his reference to nuclear power made me ask what his responses were to the Abbott papers.  I was more using it to analyze costs.  He did use the EIA 2016 estimates of nuclear cost in his paper and the ERCOT 2016 Wind Integration Report so I am not sure what you mean by data 20 years out of date unless this only references his inclusion of nuclear power in the equation.  I do not want to get into a discussion of perhaps why the Georgia and South Carolina projects might not be illustrative of what could be done with a knowledgeable operator because I simply do not have any information and Abbott was pretty compelling on both the availability of uranium and the number of plants required.

    But to correct one misconception in your blogs, ERCOT statistics do not just relate to a "small part of Texas", it is most of Texas covering 24 MM households in Texas.  On its website here is what ERCOT says as to its coverage:

    "The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages scheduling on an electric grid carrying 90 percent of Texas' load. This section contains data about the grid and key measurements of its operation."

    Thanks for your clarification as to where the technology is as to bulk battery storage.  I thought that the Tesla information was "too good to be true".  It is used as a voltage regulator and not as bulk storage of RE.  That makes more sense.

    My underlying sense is that we need natural gas to provide the "backup" for RE and I realize that you have agreed with this in other exchanges.  To the extent that there are other natural gas plants in an area (rather than coal plants) I completely agree that there is no need to quote RE plus storage.  But the Xcel quote was to replace existing coal fired electrical generation.  It may be that there also were available natural gas plants.

    I have attempted to read the articles you previously provided.  The first one was so theoretical that I gave up.  Perhaps you can point to one that discusses these issues more generally than providing a massive number of formulas. 

    But if mass battery storage is not currently economic and if pumped storage is too expensive and not practical in many flat areas (even run-of- river hydro) then why can Jacobson make statements that it is presently possible to completely replace fossil fuels now?  Unless he is like my famous economist who makes assumptions about can openers when it comes to opening cans of beans?  Seems to me that Clack et al are more reasonable with their suggestion of an 80-20 mix of RE and natural gas for the US economy (and probably the world) until there is some breakthrough in bulk battery storage technology.   

    Could you help me with a conversion of $/kW-mo to $/MWh so I could compare all of the Xcel Energy bids?  I assume that "Combustion Turbine/EC Engines" references a traditional gas plant supplying electricity with gas-fired combined cycles being the kind of natural gas plant technology assumed in the Hartley paper.  

    I am assuming that in the summary of Xcel bids the "blacked out" bids were not considered to be representative because of the small number of them.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BW] Regarding embedding links: you can do that by using the tab called "Insert" in the comment box. The link-icon is available in its header and it works like in many other editor boxes: it becomes active as soon as you highlight the text you want to show as a link.

  31. NorrisM @23

    I agree with M Sweets comments.

    Lithium is too expensive for mass storage: just look at the cost per mw hour. It is being used In Australia for specialist applications as it provides very quick power in the event of power outages, as in the article I linked to at post 10. It has specialist applications suitable for power outages up to one hour, but not several hours, or extended periods of insufficient wind. 

    There is also unlikely to be enough reserves of lithium for massive bulk power storage instillations. Like all minerals, lithium carbonate is a limited resource mostly in places like Chile.There are enough reserves for the normal battery applications of electric cars etc, and it can be recycled.

    Having said, that the worlds oceans contain vast reserves of dissolved lithium salts, and these have been experimentally removed using a dialysis procedure. This is believed to be about 5 - 10 years from commercialisation. But again, even this is unlikely to be sufficient for bulk storage for power stations. Refer following article.

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  32. Norris M @30

    You are inquiring about electricity storage. The following is an excellent overview of all options written in plain language. As you can see there are many options. "Grid energy storage" on wikipedia.

    Please note that in addition to batteries and pumped hydro, there are systems that convert electricity to stored liquid fuels, flywheel systems, hydrogen storage etc.

    Right now gas fired makes sense as backup power because its the cleanest, and obviously you decommission coal and oil fired power first.  This might leave 10 - 20% of the grid being gas as you point out.The grid thus moves towards renewable sources and some gas fired.

    Eventually the remaining gas fired is replaced partly or completely with storage, whether pumped hydro or converting electricity into stored liquid fuels. By the time we get to this point, the  technologies will have improved, and likely become more economic.

    Remember wind intermittency can be partly dealt with by also having a surplus of wind generation, because the wind is always blowing somewhere, and the power can then be moved around. This minimises the need for either gas fired electricity, or storage options.

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  33. Norrism:

    I find it interesting that you found the Hartley opinion piece (it is not a paper since it has not been peer reviewed) at Curries blog.  It shows the lack of quality that she posts.

    You are correct about ERCOT.  It is still too small an area to compare electricity in ERCOT to all power in the entire USA.

    Natural gas can easily be manufactured from CO2 and electricity.  Connolly et al (2015) describe converting all power to renewable electricity and natural gas.  They then manufacture all the gas from CO2 and renewable electricity to get all renewable energy by 2050.  The gas is the storage.  I am thinking of writing a summary of Connolly for SkS.  One key point: they get 100% power from renewables at a reasonable cost and use a completely different method than Jacobson.  This shows that there are many pathways to 100% renewable power.  I found Connolly relatively easy to read.  Often I skip the details and read only the abstract and conclusion which are not as technical (I read all of Connolly).

    Jacobson uses hydrogen gas as his primary storage.  He stores additional heat in a variety of mechanisms that are less efficient.  Jacobson does not like natural gas because he feels the pollution during combustion is too great.  Natural gas is also less energy efficient, but it can be directly used in existing equipment.

    I doubt that conventional batteries will ever be able to store the amount of energy required for the world.  There are other methods of storing energy. The link Nigelj has from Wikipedia is a good place to start.  It is generally cheaper to convert the electricity to some other form than to build giant batteries.  The final storage mechanisms are the key to a renewable power system.  Jacobson and Connolly have shown that multiple solutions exist.

    I have not done the conversion.  Try Google.  Think Progess says the wind and solar bids are the cheapest energy in the USA.  They will be underbid this year by new renewable energy bids.

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  34. NorrisM @ 30

    "... help me with a conversion of $/kW-mo to $/MWh". ... I assume 'mo' = 'month' which, on average, contains 30.4375 days (365.25/12) or 730.5 hours (I'll round this to an even 730 hours). Therefore, converting by 'canceling units' would be as follows:

    $1/kw-mo x (1000kw/1mw) x (1month/730 hrs) = $1.37/MWh, or

    $1/MWh = $0.730/kw-mo

    But, if my assumption of 'mo' is not month, then my numbers are wrong. So, double-check my numbers by Googling or other cross-check.

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  35. saurerj @ 34

    Thanks.  It makes sense that to get to MW/h you would multiply by 1000 and divide by the number of hours in a month.  So the conversion factor is 1.37.  I will see if Google can confirm mo means month.  A little frustrating that the chart would not use the same measurement.

    This would mean Combustion Turbine (Gas Turbine or GT) proposals were at around $0.0657/kWh which does mean that the GT bids were higher than the wind and solar and battery storage which were at an average of $0.0306/kWh.  On the other hand, the Hartley article quotes an assumed cost of $0.0390/kWh.  

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  36. michael sweet and nigelj

    More reading!  Will definitely read the Connelly paper assuming it is not paywalled.  Also plan to look at the comments on Climateetc on Hartley because if this draft paper (article) it is so far off the mark then I have to confess a little disappointment with it appearing on the Curry website. 

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  37. NorrisM @ 22

    The URL I was given is
    It appears to work OK for me.

    You are right about bulk storage – that is storage to replace prolonged outage caused by failure of a generator for a day or more. That role is best served by pumped hydro

    Peaks in demand lasting several hours are addressed by Peaker Generators (gas or pumped hydro) but for immediate sub-second/second response, batteries of the type used in South Australia are the best way of maintaining grid frequency.

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  38. Riduna,

    According to Jacobson et al (2015), there is approximately 22.2 GW of installed pumped hydro in the USA.  Jacobson proposes building no additional pumped hydro storage.  New dams (for both regular hydroelectric power and pumped hydro) are one of the most flexible and useful sources of power or storage.  The consensus of most observers is that the ecoloogical and social damage from building the lake is not worth the usefulness of the dam.  It is virtually impossible to get locals to move so that a new dam can be built anywhere in the USA.  There is talk of removig existing dams.

    The amount of total existing hydro in the USA is enough to provide about 3% of power in 2050.  Pumped storage is only a small percentage of needed back up for renewable wind and solar.  In Jacobson's plan, storage of solar thermal power and concentrated solar power is about 600,000 MW while all hydro is about 90,000 MW.

    For 2050, if pumped storage is the "best" method of storage please provide a reference that states where all the storage and receiving lakes can be built, and their cost.

    Hartley's blog piece claims using pumped sotrage as the primary method of storage of all power in the USA.  This amount of pumped storage would greatly exceed the capacity of any concievable pumped storage lakes that could be built.  Since locals would refuse to move, it would be impossible to build even 10% of the capacity Hartley claims to use.  His analysis can be dismissed out of hand because it is impossible to build the storage he claims to use.

    In addition, pumped storage is much more expensive than alternate methods of energy storage.  His cost analysis is a straw man based on a method that is too expensive to use.

    While pumped storage is useful, it cannot be the primary means of power storage in a future renewable energy system.   Hartley has proposed a straw man to support his claim that renewable energy is too expensive.  Serious proposals use alternative methods of energy storage.

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  39. michael sweet

    Thank you for your contributions. I should have made it clear that my comments are influenced by the current position in Australia where over 20,000 coastal sites have been identified as suitable for pumped hydro. Although many of these sites could be threatened by rising sea levels, ad-interim they offer the best way of ensuring continuity of electricity supply during periods when renewable sources are unable to generate.

    However, I remain confident that battery technology will make significant advances over the next decade and that those developments will result in greater capacity and lower cost of battery storage. This is likely to make battery storage a major source of back-up for renewable generators in the 2020’s.

    A problem is that advances in battery technology are, for commercial reasons, seldom publicised. For winners in the race to produce the cheapest, highest capacity, most durable battery, the prizes are immense, hence the pressure to be first offering a great advance. I would certainly expect such an offering to be commercialised by 2025 but would not be in the least surprised if it appeared in 2020.

    Whatever the time-scale, there can be little doubt that advances in battery storage will prove key to reduced use of fossil fuels for both electricity generation in displacing use of fossil fuels for all forms of transport.

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  40. Riduna,

    I am interested in the sites you mention near sea level.  Are they pumped storage or tidal energy?  I know the tides around Darwin can be very large.   If you have a link to an article I would like to read it.  There are parts of Australia that have very few people so coastal areas can be used for projects that cannot be done elsewhere.

    15 years ago no-one thought that batteries would be as good as they are today.  Hopefully this will be an area where scientists discover remarkable new technology.  I think electricity to gas (either hydrogen or methane) looks very promising.

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  41. Good news from Down Under...

    Powering up: rooftop solar installations jump by half to hit record 1GW in 2017 by Peter Hannam, Envoironment, Sydney Morning Herald, Jan 16, 2018

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  42. Riduna @39

    I agree advances in batteries will inevitably improve the technology, and reduce prices. Two known prototypes are solid state lithium batteries and aluminium batteries. This will make electric cars a very attractive option indeed, and greatly help solve the climate problem. I just saw a Tesla model X parked down the road, an amazing looking machine.

    But a warning: I'm a born sceptic or everything. The tesla battery in Australia is 100 mw, and is reputed to have cost $50 million. That is seriously expensive storage, that would need to drop considerably to be applicable as general bulk storage. Right now it works cheaper than starting up gas plant for small power outages, but becomes uneconomic for large outages of more than one hour.

    Both lithium and aluminium are also limited resources. Some estimates have us running out at current rates of use well before the end of this century. Numbers I have seen suggest there is plenty for hundreds of millions of electric cars, and one estimate was one billion electric cars.

    However use of lithium or aluminium as bulk power station storage would be another thing, that would use very large quantities of lithium. The following picture gives an idea of the size of the tesla australian battery instillation. It's huge.

    I think pumped hydro would have to be cheaper than batteries, where the geography suits this approach and land is available. The various technologies that convert electricty to gas etc would probably be cheaper ,and use more abundant resources.

    But of course its all speculation. Reserves of lithium are probably larger than we realise, and experiments show it can be mined from sea water.

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  43. John!

    How do you find these things?

    Nice to see Queensland still leads the way with number of installations (parochial gloat!) though domestic battery uptake has been a bit slow. Many consumers are waiting for an improvement on the Tesla II offering and I don’t think they will have much longer to wait

    Total capacity of domestic rooftop installations in Australia now exceeds 6 GW.

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  44. michael sweet

    This article from ANU scholars may be of interest. It refers to 22,000 mostly coastal sites suitable for development of pumped hydro. At present only 7 sites have been surveyed in detail and, so far, only 3 (Spencer Gulf, South Australia, Snowy 2, New South Wales and at Kidston, Queensland ) approved for and being developed.

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  45. Riduna:

    Lots of scanning and speed reading.

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  46. Suggested supplemental reading...

    German power sector: coal and nuclear down, renewables up in 2017 by Graig Morris, Energy Transition-The Global Energiewende, Jan 11, 2018

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  47. Nigelj

    "Reserves of lithium are probably larger than we realise" . . . . . Yes, and the largest deposits appear to be in Australia!

    That said, it is fair to note that aluminium is far from a scarce product and what little has leaked out indicates that it could offer far higher storage than lithium.  Research in this area is being kept very hush-hush, as are other alternatives such as zinc-air or flow batteries.

    It seems likely that within a decade most households will have access to batteries which enable them to be 24/7 self-sufficient in electricity generated by roof-mounted solar panels. Grid scale generators would then be meeting the needs of the business and public sectors and heavy industries/transport, with continuity of supply provided by pumped hydro and battery storage.

    Where do you think the future lies?

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  48. michael sweet @ 38

    I have to agree that the Hartley article puts up a straw man in the form of pumped storage but he clearly acknowledges what he is doing.  In the first part of the article Hartley notes that he decided to use pumped storage costs as a measurement of storage costs because it was the only viable one given the much higher costs of battery storage.  See bottom page 11. He later acknowledges that there are a "limited number of sites ... suitable for storage" at page 17.

    I think why he provided the estimate in note 18 on page 23 that a carbon tax of $10/tonne is equal to a tax on natural gas of $0.53/MMBTU is to make the point that natural gas is cheaper even with, say, a $30 Carbon tax which would only equate to $1.59/MMBTU.   Pumped storage does not really come into his model unless the assumption is made that you completely exclude natural gas from consideration.

    But if the Xcel Energy quotes are correct which shows wind alone at around $0.018/kWh, then his Table 4 is incorrect in that wind does not even come into the picture in combination with natural gas in Table 4 even when natural gas prices are assumed to be 4.5 times the present price.  

    I think I might contribute a comment on the Curry website asking this question as to why some mix of wind and natural gas is not considered given the quotes for wind alone referenced in the Xcel Energy article by Christopher Arcus.

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  49. Norrism,

    I read a little more of the Hartley paper.  He chooses a wind only model for renewable energy.  Then he finds that an enormous amount of storage is needed.  This is a deliberate choice to maximize the amount of storage, and cost needed for renewable energy.  I have referred you to at least 8 renewable models.  Show me one that uses wind only with no solar power.  Honest people search for the lowest cost solution, not the highest cost one.  Since Texas has great solar resources the only reason not to use solar is to make renewable energy more expensive.

    Wind and solar complement each other.  There tends to be more wind at night and more solar during the day.  Solar is also more consistent in the summer while wind is better in the winter.  By using only wind Hartley requires much more storage to supply all energy.  If he used a model of half wind and half solar he would dramaticaly reduce storage and the cost of renewable energy.

    This is a deliberare choice  I am surprised that you doubt Jacobson's detailed model where he counts all the generators needed in every state while you accept a contrived model like Hartley which details nothing.  Hartley has ignored all the research on renewable energy to make his predetermined conclusion.  

    Hartely knows that his model is absurd, that is why he does not submit it for peer review.  His blog was written for deniers to use on the web, no serious person would consider it.  It is written in a scientific style to fool the uninformed.  It speaks volumes that Curry posted it on her site.  She has no excuse for posting such contrived garbage.

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  50. michael sweet @ 49 and nigelj

    I actually just came back on this site to reread the Arcus article on Xcel Energy before I post a question to Hartley on the Curry website (in between having to do some real work) so this helps as well.

    However, for a fascinating discussion of the problems of nuclear power in the US related to cost overruns, I highly recommend that you and  Nigelj read the comments of  Beta Blocker on the blog following the Hartley article.  He has 35 years experience in building nuclear power in the US and describes what has gone wrong with the projects in Georgia and South Carolina (I think I have the right states).  Another blogger on that site, Peter Lang, suggests that new nuclear power could be installed for 10% of the costs of the projected $25 Billion one of them will cost to complete if government regulations were to be reduced.  Beta Blocker blows this guy completely out of the water.   I am not sure where Beta Blocker is on whether nuclear power makes any sense now.  I would have to go back and reread his comments.  But anyone who has the slightest interest in nuclear power should read what Beta Blocker has to say.  For this reason alone, I am glad that Curry posted the Hartley article (you will see I am not using the term "paper").  I think the bloggers use the term "essay".

    Unfortunately much of the blog on Hartley goes off onto a discussion of nuclear power.  I want to get Hartley's views but I am also going to see if Beta Blocker will comment on the Abbott papers.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Mr Lang had a history here of unsupported assertions and sloganeering, when he chose to participate here.  The Burden of Proof was onerous for him in this, a moderated forum.

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