Canada’s green energy sector has grown so quickly and has become such an important part of the economy that it now employs more people than the oil sands.
About $25-billion has been invested in Canada’s clean-energy sector in the past five years, and employment is up 37 percent, according to a new report from climate think tank Clean Energy Canada to be released Tuesday. That means the 23,700 people who work in green energy organizations outnumber the 22,340 whose work relates to the oil sands, the report says.
6.5 million people are employed in the clean-energy sector.
energy has moved from being a small niche or boutique industry to really big
business in Canada,” said Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada.
The investment it has gleaned since 2009 is roughly the same as has been pumped
into agriculture, fishing and forestry combined, she said. The industry will
continue to show huge growth potential, beyond most other business sectors, she
While investment has boomed, the energy-generating capacity of wind, solar, run-of-river hydro and biomass plants has expanded by 93 percent since 2009, the report says.
Energy Canada says the industry’s growth has been accelerated by supportive
policies in a handful of provinces. However, despite its increased importance
to the national economy, clean energy is still not a priority in Ottawa, it
backing is crucial for this industry, Ms. Smith said, as it has been for our
other strategic industries. “Every major industrial sector in Canada –
from the aerospace industry to the oil sands – has gotten off the ground with
support from the federal government. But in the clean-energy sector, the
federal government is really missing in action.”
does the oil industry still get more substantial subsidies, she said, it also
eats up a good deal of the country’s diplomatic relations efforts – through the
lobbying for the Keystone XL pipeline, for example.
report acknowledges that Ottawa has set some groundwork for clean energy, by
supporting clean-energy demonstration and research projects, cutting energy
waste and discouraging the construction of conventional coal-power plants. But
it says the federal government needs to do a lot more. Ottawa should create tax
supports for renewable technologies, pump infrastructure money into new
electrical transmission lines and clean-energy projects, and put a price on
carbon, it says.
the provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan in particular should follow Ontario,
Quebec and British Columbia in getting into the renewable-energy game, Ms.
Smith said. Still, the necessity for this shift is beginning to gain some
traction, she said, noting that Alberta Finance Minister Robin Campbell said
last week that the province has to “get off the oil train.”
view shared by Kent Brown, chief executive officer of BluEarth Renewables Inc.,
a company that focuses on clean energy from the heart of the oil patch in
Calgary. This new sector is now “a huge piece of the economy,” Mr.
Brown said. “It creates a lot of meaningful jobs.”
which runs a portfolio of hydro, solar and wind projects in British Columbia,
Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia, has created 35 new jobs in the past four
years. That’s a small contribution but one that is being duplicated by hundreds
of other firms across the clean-tech sector.
generation is also not a slave to commodity prices and the subsequent boom and
bust cycle that regularly hits the oil and gas sector, said Mr. Brown, who
initially worked in the oil patch but developed a “deep
dissatisfaction” with the lack of sustainability of the petroleum sector.
While Alberta will remain a key oil player, it can also be a “true
leader” renewables, he said.
Energy Canada report notes that much of the investment for Canada’s clean-tech
expansion currently comes outside the country. Of the five largest investors
since 2009, just one, Manulife Financial Corp., is Canadian. Two Japanese
companies are in that top-five list, along with two German banking groups.
“The fact that foreign investors are coming to Canada to invest in our clean energy, tells us that we have a fantastic resource,” Ms. Smith said. “We need Bay Street to wake up and recognize this is where the puck is going.”
3,800 modules will be installed
on top of Genesis place
streets and atop Genesis Place lay hundreds of solar panels collecting sun to
help power the recreation centre during the day and not just prevent emissions,
but help pay for its own construction.
of Airdrie will soon be the proud owner of Canada’s largest municipal rooftop
is a city in Alberta, Canada within the Calgary Region. It is located north of
Calgary within the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor at the intersection of Queen
Elizabeth II Highway and Highway 567.
Reason, project manager for Capital Projects at the City of Airdrie, describes
just how many solar panels will be gathering sunlight energy for Genesis Place.
“3,800 modules will be installed on top of Genesis place. It’s a phenomenal amount of panels if you’re new to the solar world. We’ve gone up to Leduc and we’ve looked at their solar panel system and we fell in love with it and we absolutely had to have our own.”
“We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade,” says Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.
To meet that demand, largely fuelled by a booming economy, countries turned to an array of sources, including renewables. But nothing filled the void quite like fossil fuels, which satisfied nearly 70 percent of the skyrocketing electricity demand, according to the agency, which analyzes energy trends on behalf of 30 member countries, including the U.S.
now responsible for the majority of coal-fired power generation globally, and the
average age of power plants there is now just 12 years, meaning they have
decades to go before reaching their planned end of production in about 30 to 50
can also be considered another golden year for gas. But despite major growth in
renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that
more urgent action is needed on all fronts.”
emissions last year — 560m tonnes — is equivalent to the entire annual
emissions from the aviation sector.
the second consecutive year of rising emissions, after a period during which CO2
emissions were mostly flat between 2014 and 2016.
“It seems like a vicious cycle,” said Mr. Birol, pointing out that in India air conditioning had become a big factor in power demand. “Heating and cooling are one of the biggest drivers of energy demand growth.”
a new analysis shows that
around three-quarters of U.S. coal production is now more expensive than solar
and wind energy in providing electricity to American households.
“Even without major policy shift we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,” said Mike O’Boyle, the co-author of the report for Energy Innovation, a renewables analysis firm. “Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar. The fact that so much coal could be retired right now shows we are off the pace.”
study’s authors used public financial filings and data from the Energy
Information Agency to work out the cost of energy from coal plants compared
with wind and solar options within a 35-mile radius.
found that 211 gigawatts of current U.S. coal capacity, 74 percent of the coal
fleet, is providing electricity that’s more expensive than wind or solar.
By 2025 the picture becomes even clearer, with nearly the entire US coal system out-competed on cost by wind and solar, even when factoring in the construction of new wind turbines and solar panels.
Oxford PVTM – The Perovskite CompanyTM, the leader in the field of perovskite solar cells, announced a new, certified, world record for its perovskite-based solar cell.
Oxford PV’s 1 cm2 perovskite-silicon tandem solar cell has achieved a 28% conversion efficiency, certified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The achievement edges out Oxford PV’s own previous certified record of 27.3% efficiency for its perovskite-silicon solar cell, announced earlier this year.
Dr. Chris Case, Chief Technology Officer at Oxford PV commented, “Today’s record demonstrates the unprecedented pace of our technology development. We are continuing to push our perovskite-silicon solar cell technology, with a roadmap that extends beyond 30% efficiency. The solar cells we are developing are not only efficient but also stable. Similar devices from our research and development facility have passed at least 2000 hours of damp heat reliability testing, in line with IEC 61215 protocol.”
Frank P. Averdung, Chief
Executive Officer at Oxford PV added, “2018 has been a significant year
for Oxford PV. Alongside the pace of our technology advancements in both
efficiency and stability, our pilot line is routinely producing
commercial sized tandem solar cells for validation by our development
partner – a major manufacturer of silicon solar cells and modules. With
new collaborations with key industry players strengthening our
manufacturing capabilities, the foundations are in place, to move
perovskite photovoltaics into commercial phase.”
new study has revealed that the language used by the global climate
change watchdog, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
is overly conservative – and therefore the threats are much greater than
the Panel’s reports suggest.
Published in the journal BioScience,
the team of scientists from the University of Adelaide, Flinders
University, the University of Bristol (UK), and the Spanish National
Research Council has analysed the language used in the IPCC’s Fifth
Assessment Report (from 2014).
“We found that the main message from the reports—that our society is in climate emergency—is lost by overstatement of uncertainty and gets confused among the gigabytes of information,” says lead author Dr. Salvador Herrando-Pérez, from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute and Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.
“The IPCC supports the overwhelming scientific consensus about human impact on climate change, so we would expect the reports’ vocabulary to be dominated by greater certainty on the state of climate science—but this is not the case.”
The IPCC assigns a level of certainty to climate findings using five
categories of confidence and ten categories of probability. The team
found the categories of intermediate certainty predominated, with those
of highest certainty barely reaching 8% of the climate findings
“The accumulation of uncertainty across all elements of the climate-change complexity means that the IPCC tends to be conservative,” says co-author Professor Corey Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology at Flinders University. “The certainty is in reality much higher than even the IPCC implies, and the threats are much worse.”
“Uncertainty is to science what the score is to music—but it’s a two-edged sword: what the IPCC and the majority of the scientific community regard as a paradigm of rigour and transparency is exactly what the ‘merchants of doubt’ put forward as a weakness,” says Dr. Herrando-Pérez.
“However, climatic uncertainties are nothing but an expression of the climate risks we face, and should inspire action rather than indifference.”
The team says the IPCC reports should incorporate a clear connection between the certainty of thousands of scientific findings and the certainty that humans are vastly altering the Earth’s climate. The team recommends a new IPCC working group of communication specialists to oversee the language and effective dissemination, and convey the message accurately.
“Our evolutionary history tells us Earth will ultimately survive more aridity, more hurricanes, more floods, more sea-level rise, more extinctions and degraded ecosystems, but our society as we know it today might not unless we clearly articulate the magnitude of the threat it poses,” says Dr. Herrando-Pérez.
The novel wind and solar energy-harvesting flags have been
developed using flexible piezoelectric strips and flexible photovoltaic
The aim of
the study is to
allow cheap and sustainable energy harvesting solutions which can be
deployed and left to generate energy with little or no need for
The research has been published in the journal Applied
strips allow the flag to generate power through movement, whilst the photovoltaics is the best known method of harnessing electric power
by using solar cells.
study, conducted by researchers at The University of Manchester, is the most
advanced of its kind to date and the first to simultaneously harvest wind and
solar energies using inverted flags. The research has been published in the journal Applied Energy.
developed energy harvesting flags are capable of powering remote sensors and
small-scale portable electronics which can be
used for environmental sensing such as to monitor pollution, sound
levels and heat for example.
The aim of the study is to allow cheap and sustainable energy harvesting
solutions which can be deployed and left to generate energy with little or no
need for maintenance. The strategy is known as “deploy-and-forget”
and this is the anticipated for model that so
called smart cities will adopt
when using remote sensors.
Silva-Leon, from Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil
Engineering and lead-author of the study,
says: “Under the action of the wind, the flags we built bend from side to side
in a repetitive fashion, also known as Limit-Cycle Oscillations. This makes them perfectly
suited for uniform power generation from the deformation of piezoelectric
materials. Simultaneously, the solar panels bring a double benefit: they act as
a destabilizing mass which triggers the onset of flapping motions at lower wind
speeds, and of course are able to
generate electricity from the ambient light.
Cioncolini, co-author of the study, added: “Wind and solar energies typically
have intermittencies that tend to compensate each other. The sun does not
usually shine during stormy conditions, whereas calm days with little wind are
usually associated with shiny sun. This makes wind and solar energies
particularly well suited for simultaneous harvesting, with a view at
compensating their intermittency.”
used and developed unique research techniques such as fast video-imaging and
object tracking with advanced data-analysis to prove their flags worked. The
developed harvesters were tested in wind speeds varying from 0 m/s (calm) to
about 26 m/s (storm/whole gale) and 1.8 kLux constant light exposure,
simulating a wide range of environmental conditions. Under these operation
conditions, total power outputs of up to 3-4 milli-Watts were generated.
Mostafa Nabawy, co-author of the study, says: “Our piezo/solar inverted flags
were capable of generating sufficient power for a range of low power sensors
and electronics that operate in the micro-Watt to milli-Watt power range within
a number of potential practical applications in avionics, land and sea remote
locations, and smart cities. We hope to develop the concept further in order to
support more power-demanding applications such as an eco-energy generating
charging-station for mobile devices.”
Dr Alistair Revell, co-author of work, highlights current and future research directions saying: “We are currently making use of a novel computational framework for modelling and simulation developed at The University of Manchester, building on a long tradition of Computational Fluid Dynamics in the group. The use of computers to model fluid-structure interactions is increasingly referred to as virtual engineering, and plays a key part in device development by reducing the number of models which need to be physically manufactured and tested.”
Saturday, March 16, California set a new solar energy record. Just before 3 o’clock in the afternoon, solar output peaked
at 10,765 megawatts, the highest amount ever, though just a smidgen more than the previous record set last June.
According to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), demand at
that time, not including behind-the-meter solar, was around 18
gigawatts. Los Angeles and Sacramento are not part of the CAISO grid.
That meant solar was meeting 59% of the grid’s power needs at that moment.That’s wonderful news, but what should get solar proponents really excited is that CAISO was a net exporter of electricity to other systems at the time the record was set. As PV Magazine points out, CAISO is required by its existing contracts with out-of-state energy suppliers to import a certain amount of electricity even when it doesn’t need it.
happens, some of the locally generated electricity has to be exported, and in
extreme cases, the generation is just shut off or dumped, a process known as
curtailment in the industry. Since it is more difficult to decrease output on a
moment-to-moment basis from traditional energy sources like hydro or gas-fired
generating stations, the electricity curtailed most often comes from renewable
energy facilities, especially solar.
on market considerations at the time, sometimes CAISO actually has to pay other
utility operators to take its excess electricity, particularly during the
mid-afternoon when solar output is at its peak. But that didn’t happen in this
instance. Growing battery storage capability in California is one of the
from CAISO only tells part of the solar record story, however, since
behind-the-meter solar — which is estimated to be half as much as grid-scale
solar — is not included in those numbers. That means at that time on Saturday,
March 16, total available solar energy within the CAISO system was closer to 16
data from the US Department of Energy, PV Magazine calculates that 14%
of California’s annual demand for electricity was met from in-state solar
resources last year and that number is expected to be far greater this year as
California once again adds more solar generating capacity than any other state.
of solar and other renewables like to point out the cost of electricity in
California has gone up steadily in the past decade, which they attribute
entirely to the expense of building wind and solar generating facilities. What
they ignore completely is the money utility customers have been forced to
expend to keep unprofitable conventional generating facilities running and the
burden that existing contracts impose on everyone.
They also totally exclude any intangible but very real health and environmental impacts from drilling for, transporting, and burning fossil fuels to make electricity. In today’s superheated political sphere, half-truths and outright lies are considered business as usual. Despite their distortions, renewable energy is rapidly displacing conventional generating plants, something that means we can all breathe a little bit easier.
Members of the European Parliament voted last week on a non-binding resolution endorsing a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050 and increasing the European Union’s 2030 target.
a wide-ranging text adopted by 369 votes to 116 (and 40 abstentions),
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) expressed their support for
only two of eight strategic pathways “for the economic, technological
and social transformation needed for the Union to comply with the
long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement” — the only two
pathways which, according to the MEPs, “would enable the Union to reach
net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 at the latest.”
The text adopted states that achieving
net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 “requires swift action and
considerable efforts at local, regional, national, and EU level, also
involving all non-public actors.”
If the European Union is to achieve this
target of “net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 at the latest” then,
according to the adopted text, the 2030 ambition level must be raised
“and aligned with net-zero 2050 scenarios.” Specifically, MEPs supports
an update to the European Union’s Nationally Determined Contribution
(NDC) — the mechanism embodying “efforts by each country to reduce
national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change” (according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) — to an economy-wide target of 55% domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2030 (compared with 1990 levels).
“With people turning out in record numbers for the climate, MEPs have shown they take citizens’ concerns seriously, and want to step up climate action,” said Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office. “Their support for net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 2050 latest, and higher cuts by 2030, is an encouraging sign to EU Member States, who are currently considering the EU’s long-term climate plans and preparing their national climate and energy plans.”
The MEPs also welcomed demonstrations and student strikes across the EU, welcoming “the calls from these activists for greater ambition and swift action in order not to overshoot the 1.5°C climate limit.”
There are two persistent and overlapping trends in American
discussions of climate change, nuclear energy, and renewable energy. The first
is American exceptionalism, the idea that the USA is doing better than any
country in the world despite denying climate change and walking away from the
Paris Accord. The second is that Germany is awful, choosing to shut down its
nuclear plants, resulting in massive increases in greenhouse gases.
The US is not exceptional. Germany is.
Let’s look at some of the common types of statements that emerge. Michael Shellenberger, environmentalist and ardent fan of nuclear energy as the solution to global warming, likes bold statements like the following in a Forbes opinion piece:
All that German will have gotten for its “energy transition” is a 50% increase in electricity prices, flat emissions, and an electricity supply that is 10 times more carbon-intensive than France’s.
In the midst of a still struggling and fragile global economy, Germany has announced that it will shut down seven nuclear plants by the end of the year–which means that Germans will be left to run their factories, heat their homes, and power their economy with 10% less electrical generating capacity. Nine more plants will be shut down over the next decade and tens of billions of dollars in investment will be lost.
Equally, US exceptionalists such as the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, release glowing statements about the USA when it gets something right, but are silent on its failures and miss a lot context, and naturally these statements are picked up and trumpeted by conservative outlets as a reason for not actually doing anything:
Declines in CO2 emissions in 2017 were led by the US (-0.5% and 42 million tons, see chart above). This is the ninth time in this century that the US has had the largest decline in emissions in the world.
So according to nuclear advocates such as Shellenberger, fossil fuel
advocates such as Epstein, and conservative think tanks, the USA is green and Germany
is black and sooty. Oh that this were true. Of course, this is kicking in again
with AOC’s Green New Deal, which in an early fact sheet omitted to mention
either nuclear or fossil fuels with carbon capture as possible solutions.
As I pointed out in an article in early March, the USA is responsible for 26% of all of the excess CO2e in the atmosphere, is still the second biggest total emitter of CO2e after China, and has twice the emissions per capita as China. The article also pointed out the massive program of decarbonization of electricity and transportation that China is undertaking, built on the back of a lot of wind and solar generation installation.
But let’s compare the USA to Germany, shall we? First, how is Germany doing? This chart is from the Clean Energy Wire (CLEW), a German non-profit foundation funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation, to provide evidence-based support for journalism about the energy transition.
What does this tell us? Well, a few things. First, Germany has been on a
steady decline of CO2 emissions in absolute terms since 1990, currently about
28% off of 1990 emissions. Second, the country has had a steady increase in GDP
since 1990. Third, its actual power consumption is relatively flat in
comparison to GDP increases and GHG decreases.
What did Shellenberger claim? “Flat emissions” due to its policies. That’s
wrong both on the electrical generation front and on the overall GHG emissions
Shellenberger claim busted
What did Epstein claim? “During a struggling and fragile global economy,”
Germany was going to suffer due to shutting down nuclear and lose “tens of
billions of dollars in investment.” Well, the country shut down half of its
nuclear generation, and its economic growth has continued unabated with exactly
zero blips showing up in the economic results.
Oh, wait, the USA is up slightly from 1990? Not down 28% in a relatively
straightforward decline as Germany is?
What was the claim of the US conservative think tank again? The “US has had
the largest decline in emissions in the world.” But since 1990, emissions are
up in the US and down in Germany. That’s called cherry-picking from most
American Enterprise Institute claim busted
Maybe there’s a reason for that?
Oh, while Germany’s primary energy consumption is down 10% since 1990 due to
excellent efficiency programs, the USA’s primary energy consumption is up about
20%, heading in the opposite direction?
Why is this important? Another one of Shellenberger’s claims, that one of
the only things that Germany received from their policies was “a 50% increase
in electricity prices.” However, even the World Nuclear Association admits the
reality of Germany’s electricity prices.
Germany has some of the lowest wholesale electricity prices in Europe and some of the highest retail prices, due to its energy policies. Taxes and surcharges account for more than half the domestic electricity price.
Correct. Germany pays very low prices for its electricity yet charges its
consumers quite a bit more. This is called a market price signal, something you
would think that conservative commentators would understand. If you have
something that has negative externalities, you want to include the cost of
those externalities in the price paid by consumers to reduce consumption.
Germany’s price of electricity paid by businesses and citizens has made it much
more efficient in its use of electricity than the USA, exactly what a policy
should do. That Germany has very low wholesale rates alone kills
Shellenberger’s argument, but the result of the high consumer prices puts a
nice headstone on its grave.
Shellenberger claim busted
But did the USA and Germany start out from the same place? No, of course not. To give us absolute numbers, let’s look at an equivalent chart to US GHG emissions from the German EPA equivalent, the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA).
Germany’s total emissions in 1990 were 1,251 million tons of GHGs. What were
the United States’? About 6,200 million tons, about 5 times greater. Was this
because the USA had five times more people in 1990? Well, Germany had a
population of 80 million, and the USA had a population of 250 million then,
about 3 times the difference. Even in 1990, Germany’s GHGs per citizen were 36%
below USA’s emission levels. But what about today?
Germany’s population is about 83 million now, and the USA’s population is
326 million. Today Germany’s emissions per capita are about 43% below the
USA’s, so Germany continues to move further into the lead in absolute terms and
by this metric.
But what about GDP measurements? Surely the economic engine of the free world must be doing better based on GDP? Well, S&P maintains statistics on inflation-adjusted GDP for Germany and the USA. In 1990, Germany’s real GDP was $2.41 trillion USD, while the US’ was $9.31 trillion. Germany’s GDP to GHG ratio in 1990 was about 20% better than the USA’s. Today with GDPs of $3.38 and $18.22 trillion for Germany and the USA respectively, Germany’s lead on this ratio has increased to about 21%. To be clear, the USA’s GDP has grown more than Germany’s but as the first chart shows, Germany is an economic powerhouse and grew just fine.
What was Shellenberger’s claim again? “All that German will have gotten for
its “energy transition” is a bunch of things which have so far been debunked.
But Germany has also started well ahead of the USA and moved further ahead on
every measure of absolute and relative emissions.
Shellenberger claim busted
There’s one claim outstanding, Shellenberger’s claim that one of the only
things Germany received was “an electricity supply that is 10 times more
carbon-intensive than France’s.” You’ll notice that Shellenberger didn’t choose
USA for the comparison. His point is that nuclear is the only game in town for
carbon emissions — obviously false as Germany’s absolute and relative results
show — and that if Germany had only invested solely in nuclear, life would be a
bowl of already pitted cherries. Is he right?
Well, at one point he was close to right. In 2016, many headlines screamed things like “German electricity was nearly 10 times dirtier than France’s in 2016.” But what was that headline from? An Environmental Progress press release, which is to say the organization Shellenberger runs, which is pretty much devoted to pro-nuclear advocacy. But let’s give the numbers the benefit of the doubt for now. 560 grams per kWh vs 58 grams per kWh is close enough to 10 times that we could probably given Shellenberger this one, although trust in the numbers can’t be that high given their provenance.
But of course, time marches on, and it’s worth looking at what’s actually happening, especially from sources which aren’t run by Shellenberger.
The generation of one kilowatt-hour of electricity has produced an average of 489 g of CO2 in 2017, which is 36 percent less than in 1990, the Federal Environment Agency has calculated in a new publication on CO2 emissions trends in the power sector in Germany. A growing share of CO2 emissions is associated with energy exports, the UBA said. In 2017, electricity exports rose to an all-time high of 55 terawatt-hours (TWh). Between 2012 and 2017, the increase in power exports was higher (32 billion kWh) than the increase in net power production (25 billion kWh), the UBA added. If Germany cut its net power exports to zero, this would reduce emissions by 25 million tonnes, the researchers found.
So a 36% improvement over the years. And a drop of 71 grams per kWh in a
year, a drop of 13%, if we were to take Shellenberger’s 2016 claims at face
value. Power is actually one of the sectors in Germany which is on track to
meet 202o and 2030 emissions targets, and Germany started well ahead of the USA
and is pulling away.
That 25 million tons is interesting too. It’s about 3% of Germany’s total electrical generation emissions, so it would have been doing even better.
Germany’s electrical generation continued to shift rapidly to renewables.
Over 40% of Germany’s electricity in 2018 was supplied by renewables.
So what else did Germany get? 55 TWh of exported electricity for cold hard cash. That’s something Shellenberger and others tend to sweep under the rug. Germany has a lot of excess capacity and is well ahead of the transition compared to much of the rest of Europe. It’s supporting other jurisdictions with a lot of electricity. Including France.
In 2017, Germany exported a net of 13.7 TWh to France. And Germany’s exports
account for a substantial percentage of its emissions as discussed. France
soaked up just under 1% of Germany’s total electrical generation emissions.
That’s unsurprising. Nuclear is an inflexible form of generation and very
expensive to use for load following. As a result, France depends on other countries
for load following to a great extent, both with night time exports and daytime
imports. It’s cheaper for the country, and something that it can do because it
is surrounded by countries which don’t have inflexible forms of generation.
What did France’s electricity do in 2017? Well, EDF’s results for direct
generation for the year were 88 grams of CO2e per kWh (not 58, interestingly,
and going up). And France bought about 13.7 TWh from Germany too. But let’s
just take the 2017 numbers we have: Germany at 489 and France at 88. Hmm…
that’s only 6 times the emissions, not 10 (which Shellenberger had rounded up).
That’s a massive improvement in relative performance in a single year, and yet
the conservative press is dead silent on this. Surely Shellenberger issued a
Well, no. When all the numbers came in, Shellenberger managed to say that the situation had gone in exactly the opposite direction that primary sources show. He’s now claiming that Germany’s electricity is 12 times dirtier than France’s. At least that’s what he says in articles, but the source he points to is his own Environmental Progress site and it doesn’t support the numbers he cites either.
Okay, even his 2016 numbers are now highly suspect. Basically, he cooked the
books in 2016, overstated the cooked numbers, promoted them massively and
ignores net energy imports and exports.
Is 6 times better good? Absolutely. But the ratio is declining fast,
probably wasn’t even close to 10x, and it’s not what Shellenberger is saying.
Shellenberger claim busted
Shellenberger is fighting a rearguard and quixotic action to save an
expensive, slow to build, inflexible form of generation in the face of massively
better competitors, wind and solar. He cherrypicks his data, massages it
carefully, overstates it, and ignores a lot of important factors.
This wouldn’t matter that much if nuclear could be built quickly and cheaply. But even Shellenberger admits it takes ten years to build a reactor these days (the nicest possible interpretation of the numbers) and that innovation has only made nuclear slower to build and more expensive. His arguments on why nuclear really isn’t 3-5 times more expensive to build than wind and solar are equally lacking in merit. He admits freely that wind and solar are really cheap and then wraps himself around an axle to make that sound like a bad thing. He ignores the maintained or enhanced grid stability that Texas, Germany, and other high-renewable penetration places have been seeing empirically while wholesale electricity prices drop in favor of arguments that renewables are inherently unreliable.
I continue to assert that I’m happy for every nuclear plant that continues
to operate, for every nuclear plant China builds, and for every plant which is
refurbished. The alternatives in a lot of jurisdictions would be more
greenhouse gas emissions.
Epstein is merely a fossil fuel apologist, as is the AEI. It’s clear where
their interests lie. But Shellenberger claims to be an environmentalist, to
understand energy, and to care about global warming. If he did, he’d work from
facts, not the fictional narratives he creates. He’s an unreliable narrator.
He’s an unreliable analyst. He’s a nuclear advocate, not an environmentalist.
He’s shooting for a nuclear future when it’s a wind and solar future. He’s pretending that the conditions of the 1970s that favored nuclear in France exist today when even he admits that they don’t, speaking carefully from both sides of his mouth at once. He pretends that the nuclear non-proliferation and proscribed technology treaties should be ignored so that every nation on earth can enjoy the benefits of nuclear weapons, never mind nuclear generation. Yes, South Sudan, Congo, and Afghanistan would be immeasurably enhanced by nuclear technology. This is a truly surreal opinion, one that brings to mind Dr. Strangelove.