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1 Uraniabce  Apr 18, 2015 3:51:02pm

According to some investors, coal is already dead.

Link

2 CriticalDragon1177  Apr 18, 2015 5:13:45pm

lostlakehiker,

This is great news if true. Now this could really help us fight climate change.

3 palomino  Apr 18, 2015 8:17:49pm

“Within a decade, solar will have become decisively cheaper than coal. This means that the worst-case climate projections are off the table, for the simple reason that even with no treaties and no individual state actions to limit CO2 emissions, the emissions curve will bend down sharply and fairly soon.”

Good post.

Wish I could be more optimistic about the bolded parts. The transition from coal to renewable will take more than a few years, so I’m not sure we can toss out the most dire climate predictions just yet.

4 Tsuga  Apr 19, 2015 2:56:35pm

re: #3 palomino

“Within a decade, solar will have become decisively cheaper than coal. This means that the worst-case climate projections are off the table, for the simple reason that even with no treaties and no individual state actions to limit CO2 emissions, the emissions curve will bend down sharply and fairly soon.”

Good post.

Wish I could be more optimistic about the bolded parts. The transition from coal to renewable will take more than a few years, so I’m not sure we can toss out the most dire climate predictions just yet.

Yes. You have to distinguish between costs of installing different kinds of new power plants (one set of cost comparisons) versus the cost of actually closing and cleaning up old plants plus building new, cleaner ones (a different set of numbers). Economic inertia may keep quite a few coal plants burning coal for a long time. That’s all the more reason to enact a carbon tax to push these facilities out the door faster by making their continued operation more expensive, that is, by making them pay for what they are already doing to the commons.

5 EiMitch  Apr 19, 2015 5:13:37pm

re: #4 Tsuga

Yes. You have to distinguish between costs of installing different kinds of new power plants (one set of cost comparisons) versus the cost of actually closing and cleaning up old plants plus building new, cleaner ones (a different set of numbers).

Subsidies can easily solve this fiscal problem. The kind of politician who would oppose this approach would most likely also oppose a carbon tax. The subsidy approach would streamline the change compared to the carbon tax. And it’s more likely to happen because, let’s face it, the US government would rather subsidize businesses than tax them anyway.

6 Tsuga  Apr 19, 2015 5:35:37pm

re: #5 EiMitch

The other choice is carbon trading, which also avoids the tax issue.

7 EiMitch  Apr 19, 2015 5:53:03pm

re: #6 Tsuga

The other choice is carbon trading, which also avoids the tax issue.

The same politicians who would oppose a carbon tax would oppose that as well. Carbon trading would only work if there was some sort carbon limit in law, with meaningful consequences to offending parties. Its far easier to implement subsidies for closing aging infrastructure and building objectively superior replacements.

8 Tsuga  Apr 19, 2015 9:33:08pm

re: #7 EiMitch

I think the same politicians who oppose carbon taxes would oppose solar subsidies, too. You know, Solyndra, dirty hippies, “wasteful government spending”, commie global warming hoax to enslave us all, and a desire for ‘manly’ energy sources rather than soft, wimpy, feminine stuff like solar.

9 EiMitch  Apr 20, 2015 4:02:14am

re: #8 Tsuga

Unless you hammer home how much cheaper wind and solar have become and how much coal needs to be subsidized to stay afloat. That’ll counter the “wasteful spending” talking point easily. Between taxes, regulations, and subsidies, the third is the easiest sell in Washington DC. Giving establish for-profit companies (e.g. power utilities) free money is their MO. They do it all the time, rhetoric about waste notwithstanding.

Also, you’ve failed to counter my point about how carbon taxing/trading would be less simple than subsidizing the change. There are fewer steps involved in the later.

10 lostlakehiker  Apr 20, 2015 9:58:32am

re: #3 palomino

“Within a decade, solar will have become decisively cheaper than coal. This means that the worst-case climate projections are off the table, for the simple reason that even with no treaties and no individual state actions to limit CO2 emissions, the emissions curve will bend down sharply and fairly soon.”

Good post.

Wish I could be more optimistic about the bolded parts. The transition from coal to renewable will take more than a few years, so I’m not sure we can toss out the most dire climate predictions just yet.

I agree it will take more than a few years. Bad-cases are still on the table. What I meant was that the worst case, the one that assumes we’ll just burn as much coal as can be dug up, as much oil as can be drilled or fracked or mined from tar sands, and all that for several decades to come, that, I think, really is off the table.

Optimism is not my point. Especially, not Pollyana optimism. My point is that defeatism ought to be off the table. In a way, it’s like Winston Churchill’s sense upon hearing of Pearl Harbor. Survival was assured. But how long and hard the road might be was still totally up in the air.

11 Merkin  Apr 20, 2015 6:31:03pm

Unfortunately, this is nowhere close to being true. Solar power has one problem that if it were completely cost free it can’t overcome; night, when the sun isn’t shining. There is no inexpensive way of storing electricity. There is no reason to believe that there will be any inexpensive way of storing electricity for the 14 to 16 hours a day when little or no power is generated by solar. Not to mention cloudy days.

Currently we are hoping to mass produce batteries that will store a kilowatt hour of electrical energy for $100 that can be charged a thousand times before they have to be replaced, using the most promising technology. It is currently more than twice that. To put this into perspective coal powered electrical generators produce this amount of electrical energy at a cost of about 2¢. It doesn’t matter if solar power can generate power at the same 2¢ a kilowatt hour if we need a hundred dollars for each kilowatt hour to store the electrical energy for the night in batteries for three years before they are worthless. Even if there was an improvement of a hundred times, an impossible idea considering the state of the technology, the costs would be prohibitive.

With no practical large scale way of storing power no matter how much solar power you install the best that you can hope for is to generate less than one half of your power with it. Less considering cloudy days. You still need more than 100% back up generation that will be carbon emitting.

The only practical way to substantially reduce carbon emissions while meeting our need for electrical power is nuclear power. Rather than concentrating on impractical solutions like solar and wind we should be researching solutions to the much smaller and easier to solve problems of nuclear power generation, more efficient reactors and fuel cycles that produce little waste and burn the waste that we have already produced as fuel. Breeder reactors that produce more fuel than they consume, fuels that don’t carry the nuclear proliferation problems that enriched uranium fission reactors do.

As much as we decry the people who refuse to face the problems of carbon emission produced climate change we must also try to make people understand that nuclear power represents the only practical solution. Anyone who believes otherwise is as much of a problem for our future as the most ardent climate change denier. Sorry, but it is true.

12 lostlakehiker  Apr 20, 2015 6:58:35pm

Nuclear power ought to be part of the equation. But wind power is a nice complement to solar power, and on top of everything, batteries aren’t the only way to store energy. An artificial lake, paired with turbines and pumps, can serve as a kind of battery. This arrangement was already in use in Europe fifty years ago. It’s not newfangled or speculative.

So I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of forging ahead with nuclear power as well. But still—-a lot of demand occurs during the day. Meeting anything near half the total demand with solar means that something like half the problem has gone away.

In these matters, the search for the one perfect answer is the enemy of the search for a series of partial solutions which can cumulatively come together to form a whole. We are several billion strong. Even if we figure that only one person in several million has the knack for the kind of breakthroughs and advances we’ll need, we still have a few thousand such people. And that figuring is unduly pessimistic.

There will be piecemeal advances all over the place. Taken all in all, they’ll be tremendously helpful. Better, safer nuclear power will probably be part of that. But even better and safer isn’t working out to cheap, when it comes to nuclear power. So there’s a good chance that we’ll be wanting solar to cover a lot of the daytime load.

13 Tsuga  Apr 20, 2015 9:24:19pm

re: #9 EiMitch

Countering your points is simple. You’re making unwarranted assumptions about today’s Congress being rational, open-minded, and reality based. Now a few years down the road that may change somewhat, but I’m not holding my breath.

14 EiMitch  Apr 21, 2015 6:45:24am

re: #13 Tsuga

Now you’re just twisting my words and mentally compartmentalizing your own arguments. I was the one who brought up how corrupt Congress is when discussing why they wouldn’t accept the ideas you proposed. I explained why subsidies are relatively more likely to get passed by Congress than carbon tax or cap & trade.

If you have to forget your previous arguments entirely in order to attack mine, then why do you bother?

15 Rocky-in-Connecticut  Apr 21, 2015 11:54:39am

equally as important are government regulations and programs designed to save energy. Regulations and incentive programs encourage technological advances and make energy production advances much less likely to be merely a means to produce more waste.

16 RadicalModerate  Apr 23, 2015 8:00:48pm

re: #11 Merkin

Your math is a bit off on these calculations.

The latest published current costs shown for fossil fuel-fired generators is roughly 3.75 cents per MWH, when calculating for both fuel and generator maintenance. Keep in mind that this is just the raw generation cost of the power, and doesn’t include delivery and grid upkeep costs (which are factored in on your monthly electric bill) - both of which are close to zero for small-scale solar power.

This number is actually fairly comparable when calculating over-time costs with solar generation - the major difference being that solar has a large up-front costs, but over a period of a few years accounting for periodic maintenance, after about five years’ time, the numbers become almost equal.

Let’s go with your stated solar panel and battery storage costs at $250/MWH as an upfront price.

After 1000 recharges (your stated battery life), that number goes down to 2.5 cents per MWH. As materials for solar panels becomes both cheaper to produce as well as having upkeep costs dropping, upkeep numbers over time won’t be that full $250/MWH after each 3-5 year cycle.

Added bonus is that solar power, in comparison with fossil fuels has an environmental impact of next to zero.


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