No Minister

Archive for the ‘Renewable Energy’ Category

“Unforeseen” Consequences

The foremost concern of environmentalists is, of course, the health and well being of the environment.

It’s in their name and all.

So it’s always funny and sad when environmentalists do stuff that blows up in their faces. There are countless examples but in terms of large scale screwups Germany’s decision to shut down its nuclear power stations while also trying to switch the system to wind power is probably the winner. Some €500 million over less than twenty years and all they got was an unreliable network, power prices that have more than tripled, a lot of coal still being burned, plus constantly falling short of their GHG reduction targets. On that last it should be noted that the 2020 Chinese Xi Snot lockdowns and restrictions were a huge help, but that’s not going to be true of 2021 and beyond.

That chart is from 2017 but it’s 2020 forecast of 45 cents per kilowatt hour is not far off where it is right now.

But the latest news from another group of wind farm fanatics, California, is what is really delicious.

As more renewable power has crowded the state’s power grid with traditional power sources switched off, the grid has become more unstable and also unable to meet electrical demand even when its up and running. This has resulted in increasingly frequent summertime calls for people to lay off using power in the crucial 4-9pm slot.

Faced with this, companies and even individuals have begun to turn to, of all things, diesel generators. In fact the state itself has 2,773 stationary and mobile generators in its inventory. Now you would think that the uncompromising Eco-Stasi authorities would crack down on that quick smart. But of course they know if they forced people into that corner even the Liberal Luvvies would revolt. So instead, they’re allowing this to expand and continue. In fact, they’re even helping all this fossil fuel burning along, California wants air pollution rules suspended:

The state’s main grid operator wants the U.S. Department of Energy to suspend air-pollution rules for some natural gas-burning power plants in case their output is needed “to meet demand in the face of extremely challenging conditions including extreme heat waves, multiple fires, high winds, and various grid issues,” according to a filing. The last time California received a waiver of such length and breadth was 21 years ago during the Western Energy Crisis.

Genius. And here you were thinking that the following was just a joke.

Written by Tom Hunter

September 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

NZ Power Blows

After the recent power blackout, which did not affect me, I took a look at Peter Creswell’s long-time blog, Not PC, for his take on the situation.

It turned out that he had nothing new to add to warnings he’d made years, even decades, ago:

if I may continue a well-worn theme of previous posts over several years (No PowerNo power, againStill No Power‘More power!’ says India. ‘No power,’ says NZPower outrage ) and remind you of several famous power outages (such as Auckland 1998, 2006, 2009 … ) this news and that conclusion above simply confirms what should have been obvious years ago: in this country the lifeblood of production, energy, is running out. Not because New Zealand is short of resources with which to produce energy. But because politicians and earth-first worshippers have declared we are not allowed to use them.

That’s from 2012, although he did include this recent comment from one Hamish Rutherford.

“Between the decision to rip up the rules on the gas market, to the difficulty consenting renewables projects, to the threat to build hydro storage at Lake Onslow, the market is simply responding to the signals that the Government is sending it.”

Running through his old posts the most detailed was Meet the Enfeebled, which had lots of graphs on power production, like this one:

... over the years from from 1980 to 1998, the growth in New Zealand’s generating capacity matched the growth in demand, growing at an averaged rate of about 150MW per year.  Despite this, regular power shortages such as the famous outages of 1992 showed that even at this time capacity was near its limits — partly because of the lack of backup generation for the occasionally fickle hydro generators.

The basic thrust of the article was that since the turn of the Millennium (up to 2008 when the post was written) production growth had not matched consumption growth. You can read the detail of power stations built and closed:

TOTAL NEW CAPACITY 1993 – 2008:   1850.5 MW .

TOTAL DECOMISSIONED 1990-2008:       1333 MW


This while consumption grew by 2700MW. The margin was growing thin. But what’s happened since the mid-2000’s? This from the MBIE:

Luckily the consumption has also plateaued at tje same time to roughly the same level: 42,000GWh vs 44,000GWh production.

That is likely due to the steady conversion to energy saving devices such as LED bulbs and heat pumps, as well as the steady increase in insulated houses. But there will come a point where even slow economic growth of 2-3% per year will eventually outpace the improvements in energy efficiency.

But the greatest increase will come with the flip side of the renewable energy push: the electrification of everything. of everything. Below are the NZ consumption figures for 2018 in Petajoules (source MBIE report. pdf pages 14-15):

The supply figures are a little different, since we have to import most of our oil while we produce more than we consume for coal (38 vs. 25) and gas (172 vs. 74).

Current total electricity production from all sources in NZ is about 160PJ. So we’re talking about more than doubling our electrical production, and some 84% of it already comes from renewable sources. Geothermal has grown tremendously since 2005 but there are limits being approached quickly. Hydro reached its limits years ago; there have been more cancelled hydro projects to add to Not PC’s 2008 list – and most of those have been due to the Resource Management Act and the Environment Court

So that leaves Wind and Solar, which means an even greater increase needed from that slim red line below.

Basically from 8Pj to more than 300Pj – an increase of 3,750%.

I’m being generous in allowing that the remaining 82PJ might come from a mix of new hydro and geothermal, with a slight assist from residential PV (solar panels).

Moreover that’s just to replace current fossil fuel energy consumption.

Finally it must be noted that since Wind (and solar) are unreliable, tanking to zero on a regular basis, they will need backup generating capacity – 300Pj of it. Where will that come from? A doubling of hydro/geothermal power? In the case of Hydro it has problems itself, though nowhere near as bad as Wind, but Huntly was built to back them up in drought years.

To paraphrase Sir Humphrey, these are heroic assumptions.

There is one other possibility that should not be dismissed, even as crazy as it may sound. I’m not talking about Thorium Molten Salt Reactors, Fusion reactors or nuclear power in general on the supply side.

No, I’m talking about crushing the demand side. A policy of Zero Economic Growth, or even negative economic as all that fossil fuel energy is shut down to enable a Zero Carbon nation. Look how happy many Greens are with what Covid-19 has delivered to Fortress NZ: the huge reduction in airline flights to and from the nation and the subsequent massive drop in tourism and internal travel in general.

After all, as Robert Bidinotto explains:

Typically, the person who calls himself an “environmentalist” is really just a nature-loving “conservationist.” Appreciating the earth’s natural beauty and bounty, he is understandably concerned about trash, noise, pollution, and poisons. Still, he sees the earth and its bounty as resources–resources for intelligent human use, development, and enjoyment. At root, then, his concern for the earth is human-centered: he believes that this is our environment, to be used by people to enhance their lives, well-being, and happiness.

But the leaders of the organized environmentalist movement have a very different attitude and agenda.

Their basic premise is that human activities to develop natural resources constitute a desecration of nature–that, in fact, nature exists for its own sake, not for human use and enjoyment. By their theory of ecology, they see man not as the crowning glory of nature, nor even as just another part of “the web of life”–but rather as a blight upon the earth, as the enemy of the natural world. And they see man’s works as a growing menace to all that exists.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 19, 2021 at 11:00 am

Energy Charades

A previous post, Energy Realities, showed in clear, graphical detail, the status of energy production and consumption, both globally and for two key nations; the USA and China.

In this post I’ll link to a number of detailed reports, all published recently, that provide more context to the graphs presented in that previous post.

But first there are a number of points about the current energy situation that can be taken from those graphs and their data:

  • As of 2019, almost thirty years after the Kyoto Treaty was signed, the world still overwhelmingly relies on fossil fuels for its energy needs, from electricity production to transport, to the tune of 87%.
  • Renewable energy forms a small percentage of global energy, and the majority of that is traditional biomass and hydro.
  • Nuclear power forms an even smaller fraction.
  • In the USA, fossil fuel dominance is at 80%, even as coal has fallen to about 11% of total energy production.
  • Despite this, the USA’s CO2 emissions per person is 18% less than it was in 1949 and 50% less than the peak in 1973.
  • China’s coal production has exploded in the last twenty years by a factor of almost 400%.
  • The efficiency of wind power is very low, with actual output being a small fraction of installed capacity, and often falling to zero. The same is true of solar power.

So let’s look at some of the reports from just this year alone that explain those graphs, noting that fossil fuels already generate 86% of China’s primary energy consumption.

China’s 2020 coal output rises to highest since 2015:

The world’s biggest coal miner and consumer produced 3.84 billion tonnes of coal in 2020, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Monday.

China’s new coal power plant capacity in 2020:

China put 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity into operation in 2020, according to new international research, more than three times the amount built elsewhere around the world

Including decommissions, China’s coal-fired fleet capacity rose by a net 29.8 GW in 2020

There’s more to come:

China will invest more in coal to power its economy over the next five years, according to a government plan released Friday that only modestly increased renewable ambitions.

Two specific reports on that.

China’s Economy Is Based on Fossil Fuels:

China plans to build 250 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity to add to its current coal-fired fleet of over 1,000 gigawatts—more coal-fired capacity than the entire U.S. generating fleet. Last year, China opened the $30 billion Haoji Railway line, a 2,000-kilometer (1,243-mile) conduit to haul 200 million tons of coal a year directly from central coal mining basins to regions in the southeast.

The Chinese gap between Green and coal:

China approved the construction of a further 36.9 GW of coal-fired capacity last year, three times more than a year earlier, bringing the total under construction to 88.1 GW. It now has 247 GW of coal power under development, enough to supply the whole of Germany.

It’s sad to see in that last article, the claim being made that China is still holding to its commitment for reaching peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and the claim that these coal plants will become stranded assets, even as those actual figures are shown. Nobody, not even in infrastructure investment-mad China, would be stupid enough to build assets costing tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars that will be “stranded” within a decade. These things are built for thirty to forty years of life.

And it’s not just China.

Asia snubs IEA’s call to stop new fossil fuel investments:

Asian energy officials on Wednesday disputed the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) call for no new oil, natural gas and coal investments for the world to be able to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, viewing that approach as too narrow.

Europe turns to coal-fired generation as gas prices rise:

Europe is so short of natural gas that the continent — usually seen as the poster child for the global fight against emissions — is turning to coal to meet electricity demand that is now back to pre-pandemic levels.

Coal usage in the continent jumped 10% to 15% this year after a colder- and longer-than-usual winter left gas storage sites depleted

The return of coal is a setback for Europe ahead of the climate talks in Glasgow later this year. Leaders of the world’s biggest economies failed to set a firm date to end coal burning at the meeting of the Group of Seven at the weekend in Cornwall, U.K.

I assume this means the EU will be giving Poland less shit about its refusal to trash 65% of its energy supply as they attempt to recover from four decades of Communism and reach the wealth levels of the Western EU nations.

INDIA – Coal projected to be its largest source of power in 2040.

Coal is projected to remain the largest single source of electricity in India in 2040, according to Michelle Manook, Chief Executive, World Coal Association.

You would expect such a person to make such a claim, but their energy minister sounds like he’s backing it up, according to the BBC:

India lambasted the richer world’s carbon cutting plans, calling long term net zero targets, “pie in the sky.” Their energy minister said poor nations want to continue using fossil fuels and the rich countries “can’t stop it”.

As a result the following analysis is probably right on the money:

The world’s coal producers are currently planning as many as 432 new mine projects with 2.28 billion tonnes of annual output capacity, research published on Thursday showed, putting targets for slowing global climate change at risk.

China, Australia, India and Russia account for more than three quarters of the new projects, according to a study by U.S. think-tank Global Energy Monitor. China alone is now building another 452 million tonnes of annual production capacity, it said.

More stranded assets I guess!

You need to understand that the developing world is not simply being obstructive in all this. It’s not just that they need to develop their economies fast and that fossil fuels will power the way forward just as it did the West, it’s also the simple fact that renewable energy cannot do the job because of its inefficiency and base load instability, both a result of laws of physics that cannot be avoided, no matter how low the cost of wind turbines and solar panels fall.

Moreover, these nations are beginning to notice some of the problems arising in Western nations and regions that have pushed hard into renewable energy. Some more headlines:

GERMANY – Chipmakers lament high taxes and levies on electricity:

“The high electricity price makes the location unattractive,” Christoph von Plotho, head of chip supplier Siltronic, told Handelsblatt. Another main reason were high personnel costs in Germany. At the same time, a spokesperson of Germany’s largest semiconductor producer Infineon told Handelsblatt that a secure power supply without fluctuations was also a major factor in keeping production in Germany and Europe.

That comes after Germany has spent twenty years and some 500 million Euros in its Energiewende program to build a wind and solar power system. This has resulted in a huge amount of installed capacity that just does not produce and actually requires the old power system to continue beside it:

In 2000, Germany had an installed capacity of 121 gigawatts and it generated 577 terawatt-hours… In 2019, the country produced just 5 percent more (607 TWh), but its installed capacity was 80 percent higher (218.1 GW)

The new system, using intermittent power from wind and solar, accounted for 110 GW, nearly 50 percent of all installed capacity in 2019, but operated with a capacity factor of just 20 percent. (That included a mere 10 percent for solar, which is hardly surprising, given that large parts of the country are as cloudy as Seattle.)

The old system stood alongside it, almost intact, retaining nearly 85 percent of net generating capacity in 2019. Germany needs to keep the old system in order to meet demand on cloudy and calm days and to produce nearly half of total demand. In consequence, the capacity factor of this sector is also low.

The average cost of electricity for German households has doubled since 2000.

All this has not been helped by their insane decision to shut down nuclear plants. The result is that coal still generates some 37% of electricity and Germany has missed its CO2 emission reduction targets. This won’t get better either:

Germany’s solar farms will have to be rebuilt every 15-25 years. The wind farms will need to be rebuilt every 20-25 years.

Higher investment costs, higher running costs, both short and long-term, resulting in more expensive electricity – and all to deliver poorer CO2 reductions than the USA, which has done nothing nationwide like the acclaimed Energiewende.

But while the USA has largely relied on switching from coal to gas for generating electricity (thanks frackers) , California has been another of these “Green Energy leaders” – and the results are the same, Blackouts Loom in California as Electricity Prices Are ‘Absolutely Exploding:

Two inexorable energy trends are underway in California: soaring electricity prices and ever-worsening reliability—and both trends bode ill for the state’s low- and middle-income consumers.

Texas is not as well known for pushing wind power but it has, and the results – blackouts – were already seen during the February cold snap, and could be seen again with this summer’s heat.

New York is also not well known for Green Energy, but they’re trying. On April 30 it closed the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which reliably produced 1,036 MW of electricity.

And so just the other day…

There is no way that China and India or the rest of the developing world are going to accept the same results.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 4, 2021 at 7:08 am

Energy Realities

There have been some terrific graphs published recently that tell us much more about both the global energy situation and efforts to reduce AGW than any number of lengthy articles.

All these graphs but one are historical, showing how energy use has changed over time since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

First, some history of our reliance on different types of energy over the last two hundred years. Note that coal usage peaked around one hundred years ago and oil in the 1970’s. But note also how important they remain.

The reason for those changes can be seen in the next graph, which effectively demonstrates the energy content of the different types. It’s interesting to see that Biomass is churning out slightly more energy than ever, but as energy demands have risen it and other renewable energy sources have simply been left behind. Those fuels with higher energy density have taken over by massive margins.

The only exception to this is nuclear, which is still a pitifully small contributor despite having the highest energy density of all.

Those global figures have been driven by two nations in particular, the USA and China.

Here’s the US. Coal’s contribution has dropped by a huge margin in the last twenty years. The reason for that can be seen in the mirror-image increase in natural gas, which has steadily replaced coal for burning to generate electricity. That in turn has been driven by fracking and horizontal drilling that has unlocked huge reserves of gas on the continental USA, greatly reduced the long-term cost of gas, and thus caused power companies to shift over to using more gas, a process that will continue.

The result of all that has been the steady reduction of CO2 emissions per person in the USA over the last fifty years.

All without signing up to, and even rejecting, the Kyoto Treaty and Paris Climate Accord. So much for government “action”.

Unfortunately all this good work by the USA’s capitalist economy, with its relentless focus on increased productivity that demands getting more production with less energy, is being undone by China.

Not that you can blame them. They have 1.4 billion people that need to have their lives lifted to something approaching that of the West, and they are therefore following a similar path of energy production that the West has undertaken over the last two hundred years. It’s the only way for people to become more prosperous and comfortable in all aspects of life, especially food, housing, health, work.

Note how even the impact of a government lockdown of the economy had no effect on the burning of coal in China in 2020.

India’s 1.2 billion people are following China as fast as they can, as well as the rest of Asia and Africa.

If you want one graph to explain why renewable energy forms such a tiny part of all this, even after hundreds of billions of dollars and Euros of investment over the last thirty years, then the following graph is as good as any.

You just can’t beat physics.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 2, 2021 at 7:00 am

Less than 100 rounds of quick hits

I’ve been very mean to the Golden State over the last few months as I looked at their failures on poverty, water, fire, and energy in my California Screaming series.

But the Peoples Democratic Republic of California deserves everything it’s getting for allowing itself to become a One Party state ruled by the Democrats, who have gradually imposed more and more of their dingbat ideas on a willing population.

Today’s news from the state is back on the energy front, With Its Power Grid Under Pressure, California Asks Residents to Avoid Charging Electric Vehicles:

Amid a West Coast heat wave that includes triple-digit temperatures, California’s power grid operators have called on residents to not use as much electricity so as to put less strain on the state’s beleaguered grid.

This is entirely predictable and makes the following visual joke more a reality every day.

Also, that whole argument about electric cars being cheaper to run than petrol or diesel vehicles, may start coming under some pressure in California if the other aspect of combatting AGW, with “renewable energy” continues to push prices up at these rates, Blackouts Loom in California as Electricity Prices Are ‘Absolutely Exploding’:

Two inexorable energy trends are underway in California: soaring electricity prices and ever-worsening reliability—and both trends bode ill for the state’s low- and middle-income consumers.

Last week, the state’s grid operator, the California Independent System Operator, issued a “flex alert” that asked the state’s consumers to reduce their power use “to reduce stress on the grid and avoid power outages.” The California Independent System Operator’s warning of impending electricity shortages heralds another blackout-riddled summer at the same time California’s electricity prices are skyrocketing.

In 2020, California’s electricity prices jumped by 7.5%, making it the biggest price increase of any state in the country last year and nearly seven times the increase that was seen in the United States as a whole.

That’s on top of the already high prices they pay:

It could be worse. Imagine being stuck in the middle of this situation with an electric vehicle that’s running low on charge, courtesy of Not The Bee (the “Not Satirical” companion site to the Babylon Bee):

Why yes, that is a 100-round magazine on that machine gun, and yes, those are completely illegal in the USA and have been since the Firearms Act of 1934. One aspect of “gun control” rarely discussed in the USA by the Democrat party is the actual enforcement of the laws as they stand now.

Fortunately the young guy wielding it is about as good at handling an automatic weapon as all those jihadis you see waving AK-47’s over their heads as they hide behind brick walls. The mag apparently fell out and he was forced to resort to a semi-automatic pistol, as you can tell from the change in the shot sounds.

That was in the Peoples Republic of Chicago, specifically the South Side near the bullet-riddled neighbourhood of Englewood, and while Northsiders like me used to just shrug our shoulders at this stuff there are now shootouts occurring on the tony North Lake Shore Drive in the NorthWest of the city.

I’m sure Mayor Lightfoot will be right on it with more pressure on the White Supremacists who rule the place, especially since it’s starting to look like South Africa.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker

And it seems another Deep Blue stronghold is getting in on the action.

The Marine, Samuel Poulin, was touring the city with his family when a stray bullet ricocheted and hit him. He’s expected to make a full recovery, and his relatives sound like they’re an interesting group:

A relative of the victim — who was visiting the Big Apple from upstate Northville for a baptism — pulled the slug out and gave it to police, according to the sources.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his capitulations to the Far Left, including defunding cops, have produced a Times Square where a US Marine faces more danger than in combat.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 29, 2021 at 8:29 am

Your Saturday morning explosion (x2)

Who doesn’t like watching explosions? Especially when it’s destroying a wind farm, like this one in New Mexico. It’s also a brand new industry and one with a solid future.

The notes for the video say that having the 90 units felled permitted the wind farm owner to complete salvage of blades and drive-train elements from some of the wind turbines to provide replacement parts for similar units they operate at other wind farm locations.

But given the destruction we’re seeing here I just don’t see how what replacement parts they could be talking about. Enjoy the explosions.

These units look to be only twenty years old, judging by the design, but that does seem to be their lifespan, which is decades less than any other type of power station.

Each state has its own laws for cleaning up old industrial sites, which is probably why the following wind farm in Ohio has not been given the same treatment, instead being allowed to simply rot and make the landscape even uglier than when they were working. What a desolate sight.

I don’t believe there is anywhere in the U.S. where you can develop a mining project without putting up a bond or some other security to pay for the restoration of the site after the mine is closed. Obviously nothing like that was done with regard to the project you see in the video, but then it was probably built and then abandoned by a bankrupt single-purpose developer cashing in on the PTC every time it gets renewed:

“We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them.” Warren Buffet

Explosive demolition certainly needs to happen to the old, outdated wind turbines in the Altamont Pass that are such an eyesore seen from the I-580 interstate that leads to San Francisco. They look more like the old water pump windmills of American ranches.

Meanwhile over on the Beauty – both Nature and Human post, regular commentator Andrei wrote a paean to the beauty of human machinery and what can happen if it’s not taken care of, so I decided to add to this post with an example of that.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 5, 2021 at 6:00 am

Et tu Texas?

In recent years Texas has done very well economically, showing solid growth which has, in turn, attracted millions to immigrate there from other parts of the USA, like the benighted Progressive state of California. Texas emerged from the GFC faster and in better shape than almost any other state in the union, and its job growth was a major part of the reason for the steady reduction in the US’s unemployment rate after 2009.

One of the many attractions was that Texas did not appear to worship Gaia and as a result had low electricity prices and a reliable power system.

Unfortunately it turns out that Texas has been pushing down the same path as California in building Unreliable Energy, particularly wind farms, which now constitute 23% of electrical capacity in the state, with Natural-gas-fired power plants at 40% of Texas’s electricity, coal at 18% and nuclear at 11%. And so the inevitable has happened as a massive cold snap, the worst in decades, has hit Texas.

On the demand side Texas, like California, has its usual electrical peak in Summer because in the USA Winter warmth is almost exclusively provided via gas-fired central heating. But the cold froze up the logistics of gas production and delivery for homes (not power stations) so electricity was it, causing a massive increase in power consumption. At the same time the cold snap also froze those Texas windmills, producing a gap between supply and demand.

Then, because the grid had been rendered unstable by the loss of renewables power, it began tripping off reliable base-load power stations that were still operating, increasing the gap still further. ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) estimated that almost 34,000 megawatts of electricity was forced off the system. On average, a single megawatt can power about 500 homes. As a result they also reported that the spot price for electricity in Texas hit a stunning $9000 per MegaWatt-hour. Even in the summer months, $100 per MW-hr would be high. The only solution to stop the whole thing collapsing was rolling blackouts. Those baseload stations, whether gas, coal or nuclear, are not designed to stop and start on a dime. They can take days to be re-started.

But all of this was a short-term problem. The long-term problem is that Texas just did not have the base-load capacity required to fill the supply gap that always happens with renewable energy, as well as providing the excess capacity to keep the grid stable. The reason for that lack of base-load capacity, the root cause of the Texas blackouts, is a national and state policy that has prioritized the adoption of unreliable wind/solar energy over reliable energy.

In the last 4-5 years, Texas lost a net of 3,000 megawatts of thermal out of a total installed capacity 73,000 megawatts today. That was because operators couldn’t see a return on investment due to being undercut by wind and solar which is cheap not because wind and sun are free but because:

  1. It’s subsidized (at both state and federal levels).
  2. It doesn’t have to pay for the costs of grid reliability by purchasing battery farms or contracting with gas peaker plants to produce power when needed.

This subsidized wind and solar power have, as planned, pushed reliable thermal operators out of business or prevented new generation from being built as operators can’t make money in the market. This reduced the capacity margin. In 2009, coal-fired plants generated nearly 37 percent of the state’s electricity (now 18%) while wind provided about 6 percent (now 23). In the same period, Texas energy consumption rose by 20 percent. Just last week, the Republican Governor Greg Abbott proudly accepted something called the Wind Leadership Award, given with gratitude by Tri Global Energy, a company getting rich from those green energy subsidies.

Paradoxically these “wind and sun are free” power plants also produce higher power prices:

Because intermittent wind and solar can always go near zero – as we saw recently in TX – they don’t replace the cost of reliable power plants, they add to the cost of reliable power plants. This is why the more wind and solar grids use, the higher their electricity prices. To lessen the price increases from “unreliables” governments try to get away with as few reliable power plants online as they can get away with. TX is no exception. The Public Utilities Commission of TX has called their grid’s margin for error (“reserve margin”) “very scary.”

And here’s the real kicker: at the same time that pressure is on for 100% renewable electricity, the demand for electricity is increasing as more devices are created or converted to use it. Elon Musk has recently warned that even in good times, any push to electric cars would double electric demand worldwide. None other than the CEO of Toyota agreed with Musk. No grid anywhere is ready for that. California’s can’t even really handle its current load well but it’s pushing to ban gas vehicles. That’s idiotic.

And that’s just the cars. As this article points out the gas that’s burned in the USA represents a fantastic amount of energy:

In January 2019, U.S. natural gas demand set a record of 145 billion cubic feet per day. That record will be smashed during this blizzard, and daily volumes will exceed 150 Bcf. That is an enormous amount of energy. In fact, on the coldest days of winter, the amount of energy delivered by the gas grid is roughly three times as great as the energy consumed during the hottest days of the summer.

And as California has experienced in recent years, coping in summer now with significant amounts of renewable energy has resulted in blackouts, brownouts and grid crashes. Doubling the demand and more, while also pushing for 100% renewable would simply mean a system that would collapse often.

During peak cold events like this one, the gas grid delivers about 80 Bcf/d to homes and businesses. In energy equivalent terms, that’s roughly 83 trillion Btu, or the energy output of about 1 terawatt of electric generation capacity for 24 hours. Put another way, to equal the 80 Bcf/d of gas delivered during cold snaps, the U.S. would need an electric grid as large as all existing generation in the country, which is currently about 1.2 terawatts.

So another doubling. This is just not doable as a GHG emissions-free target short of a huge increase in nuclear power. And of course that’s just the USA: think of China, India, Asia, or Africa, which are on the same economic growth path that the West went through in the 20th century.

As an aside the electrification of everything has already had an ironic impact in the case of Texas in this cold snap, in that the natural gas pipeline operators, in trying to appease the Greens, have steadily replaced fuel-fired pumps that run on the gas in the pipe, (therefore are failsafe so long as the pipe has something in it and is intact) with electrically powered booster pumps. The gas only freezes at cryogenic temperatures, and the machinery has plenty of heat source in the pipe. Thus was an ultra-reliable and essential energy delivery system that would always continue to operate (short of physical destruction) turned it into yet another fragile system dependent on multiple outside elements. When any of those elements fail so does the natural gas delivery.

Still, even as they freeze there will be Texans who can get a grim laugh from the following.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 20, 2021 at 10:00 am