Here’s a 2017 New Year’s resolution I’d like to see the nations of the world adopt: an immediate international effort to invest in a world where 100% of our electricity will be generated by wind, water, and solar power by 2050.
His latest research on the subject was laid out in a series of talks last month in San Francisco at the annual meeting of The American Geophysical Union—the world’s largest conference on climate change.
During his talks, Dr. Jacobson outlined a plan to power 139 nations of the world for all purposes—including electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry, and agriculture/forestry/fishing—using a mix of approximately 37% wind, 58% solar, 4% hydropower, and 1% geothermal, wave, and tidal power.
His road map to a 100 percent renewable energy future uses existing generator technologies, along with existing electrical transportation, heating/cooling, and industrial devices and appliances.
The Last Gasoline Car Will Be Sold in 2035 – Replaced by Electric Vehicles in Order to Meet Climate Goals
A new study says the last gasoline powered car will be sold in 2035. However, gasoline cars will remain in service perhaps until the year 2100.
Excerpt: Transportation is responsible for 26 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emission and a new study has found that in order to reach global warming goals – set by world leaders last year – the last gasoline car would have to be sold by 2035… Continue reading Study: Last Gasoline Car to Sell by 2035
Around 90 percent of the funds needed to further develop China’s environmental industry are expected to come from private sources, requiring a new financial system to encourage more funds into the sector. Ma Jun, chief economist at the research bureau of the People’s Bank of China, said this as he revealed the findings of a study… Continue reading China – New System Required for Green Funding
Adding new jobs to the economy is always a good thing
In good times or bad, adding more jobs to the economy always equates to higher GDP, lower debt-to-GDP levels, lowered unemployment insurance expenditures, and higher revenues for governments from income tax and sales tax.
There are no examples where adding net jobs to an economy has resulted in a net loss to the economy
It’s positive for individuals too. Higher employment levels generally lead to higher incomes, small and large businesses notice increased revenue, and there is always the chance that companies may begin to expand their facilities and hire more staff to handle increased sales.
Which is why the case to add more renewable energy is so compelling
Over decades of time, mature industries have found ways to increase output with fewer employees.
In the Top 10 on the mature industry list, must certainly be hydro-electric power plants, followed by nuclear power plants, and gas-fired power plants. There we have astronomical installation costs and employment numbers — but once construction of the power plant is completed, only very low staffing levels remain to operate the power plant.
Which is very unlike the case with renewable energy. Why? Because once a multi-billion dollar hydro-electric dam is built, it’s built. You don’t need to build thousands of them per day.
It’s the same with multi-billion dollar nuclear power plants — all you need after the construction phase ends are a small number of highly trained people to monitor the various systems. And some security people. That’s it.
With solar panels, a factory must produce 1000 per day (or more, in the case of larger factories) every weekday. Suitable markets must be found, factories must be built/leased, production floors must be built, materials sourced, and the panels themselves must be designed and engineered, assembled, packed, shipped and accounted for. Accountants do what they must do, marketing people manage a steady train of media events, trade shows and advertising programs, and on and on it goes — and all of it is a part of the solar industry. That activity creates work for thousands of people, every workday of the year. (And that short description doesn’t begin to cover it)
Then there are the solar panel installers, the sales teams/estimators, and the companies that build the inverter systems, which is a whole other value chain.
The wind power industry can also make high employment/lower power plant cost claims — although wind turbines average about $1 million dollars each — as opposed to solar panels which mostly range from $10 each to $400 each, depending on their size and composition.
Renewable energy is hugely labour-intensive and many thousands of permanent jobs are created — quite the opposite of conventional power generation
It is worth noting that 2014 renewable energy employment numbers (once they become available) will show a significant improvement over 2013 numbers.
The entire industry is surging forward unequally, but renewable energy growth in some nations is trending upwards like the Millennium Falcon trends upwards.
Below is a breakdown graphic showing the labour intensity of the various types of renewable energy.
We can also look at a breakdown graphic of jobs per MegaWatt (MW) of electricity produced where we see that coal, nuclear, and oil & gas require very few humans per MW of generation.
There’s no doubt that global energy demand is growing, not only in the developed world, but in the developing world as well.
Each kind of energy (renewable and non-renewable energy) has it’s own pros and cons
One of them is that non-renewable energy requires far fewer person-years of employment over the lifetime of the power plant.
Renewable energy on the other hand, is a rapidly-growing manufacturing, installation, and marketing industry that requires evermore blue collar and white collar employees.
And now that solar power, wind power, and biomass power have reached — or are within months of matching (per kWh) price parity with non-renewable power plants — the question becomes;
Do we want to employ 1.3 persons full-time per MW, or do we want to employ up to 24 people full-time per MW?
For comparison purposes, the typical coal, gas, or nuclear power plant can supply 1000 MW (or 1 GigaWatt) of electrical generation capacity, while the average wind turbine can supply 1 MW each.
The average 1 MW wind turbine costs about $1 million apiece, so to get 1 GW of electrical generation capacity, you need to install 1000 of them (1000 x $1 million each = $1 billion total) and the installation and connection to the grid of that many turbines might take up to 24 months.
Each 1 GW installation of coal, gas, or nuclear power, costs well over $1 billion and can take up to 15 years to construction completion.
For example, the 2.4 GW nuclear power plant under construction in Vogtle, Georgia was originally planned to cost $14 billion, but due to construction and regulatory delays it may cost significantly more.
How much more, is difficult to say both in dollar cost and time frame.
At this point, the total cost may exceed $15.4 billion and it may take an extra year to complete — for a total of 2.4 GW of installed capacity over 11 years of construction and delays, at a total cost of $6.41 billion per GigaWatt. It won’t get any better than that, but it may get much worse.
The 10-year construction plan is already behind schedule by 14-months, and now faces an additional (up to) 18-month delay.
Southern Co. said the firms building its new nuclear power plant in Georgia estimate the project will be delayed 18 months, potentially costing the power company $720 million in new charges, company officials said Thursday. — ABC News
One point about Plant Vogtle (the official name of the plant) is that the two 1200 MW (1.2 GW) reactors are of the latest GE/Toshiba AP-1000 design, noted for their passive safety systems and many safety redundancies built into the power plant. If you’re going to build a nuclear power plant it might as well be the safest one!
As new capacity is added to global electrical grids, more of it is renewable energy
More utility companies are adding new renewable energy capacity as opposed to adding new non-renewable energy capacity due to faster installation time frames, fewer regulatory delays, the lack of fuel supply concerns going forward, and total installation cost per GigaWatt (GW).
It’s easy to visualize this in the chart below.
In 2013, of the 207 GW added to the world’s electrical grids — renewable energy accounted for 120 GW of new installations, while 87 GW accounted for non-renewable energy.
Once the 2014 numbers are released to the public, the renewable energy statistic will have improved over 2013’s numbers. And 2016 should easily surpass the 70/30 metric.
As renewable energy displaces non-renewable energy additions to the grid — remember that renewable energy gets only 1/4 of the subsidies that fossil fuel energy gets!
Imagine if renewable energy got the same subsidies per kWh, or per GigaWatt of capacity, as non-renewable energy
In practical terms, it would mean that 100% of all new generation would soon be renewable energy, everywhere that subsidy-parity was the law.
Also, the renewable energy manufacturing sector would need to quickly ramp-up to meet demand — meaning many hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs would be created immediately after the levelized subsidy was announced.
Between 2017-2019 — and even with the higher subsidies enjoyed by coal, nuclear, and oil & gas — it will cost less to install new renewable energy power plants than to install new non-renewable energy power plants.
Germany is one of the countries leading the transition to renewable energy
Due to German public pressure in the aftermath of the Fukushima-Daiichi incident in March 2011, Germany shut down nearly half of their nuclear power plants and were forced to accelerate their transition timeline to renewable energy.
This unexpected development created additional costs for Germany, but regardless, their Energiewende program is still a stunning renewable energy success story.
Although progress has slowed from the frenetic pace of 2011-2013, Germany is very much a world leader in the transition to renewable energy.
Renewable energy was the number one source of power generation for the first time ever.
Renewables gained slightly in 2014 and now comprise 27.3 percent of domestic demand.
Here is a nice chart courtesy of our friends at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.
There is no doubt that the world will transition to renewable energy, and even major oil companies like Shell and BP are in agreement that by the year 2100, almost 95% of all energy demand will be met by renewable energy.
In one scenario, Shell says that by 2060 the largest energy provider will be solar power.
How quickly that energy transition will occur — is what the present conversation is all about
Increasingly, the conversation centres around matching renewable energy subsidies with the (4x higher) subsidies enjoyed by coal, nuclear, and oil & gas power generation.
So get ready to breathe fresh air, because change is coming!
It boils down to this. If the U.S. Production Tax Credit (PTC) is renewed by the U.S. Congress this fall, then wind power is set to boom for the next five years.
If it isn’t renewed, we can expect a few more years like 2013 where due to the uncertainty surrounding the annual PTC expiry/renewal many projects in the U.S. were shelved, resulting in a dismal 1GW of wind installations across the U.S.A. that year.
Without the PTC renewal, 2015-2020 are likely to post similar results in the U.S. for new wind installations — at a time the rest of the world is setting yearly wind power generation and installation records.
European and Chinese wind turbine manufacturers are anticipating the decision as much of their future business could flow from the United States which has huge, untapped wind reserves, both onshore and offshore.
Fossil Fuel economic subsidies
Unlike the massive subsidies and tax breaks for the fossil fuel industries, which literally go up in smoke requiring constant subsidy dollars to continue along their present business model, wind production tax credits are not spent to lower rising fuel costs. Rather, the tax favour allows more wind turbines to be built and installed, resulting in fewer fossil fuel subsidy dollars going up in smoke.
Worldwide, the fossil fuel industry receives over $550 billion dollars of subsidy and tax breaks — and the U.S. alone gives $80 billion to their domestic oil, gas, and coal industries to lower fuel costs for consumers. That’s 1/7th of the world’s total fossil fuel subsidies, right there.
Fossil Fuel externality subsidies
That doesn’t include the implied subsidy of externalities, those costs to society from fossil fuel use that are not factored into the fuel cost and are not paid for by the oil and gas, or coal industries. Everything from the acid rain that eats concrete structures like bridges, skyscrapers, some roadways and concrete sculptures, to polluted water that must be treated before it can be used, to building filtration systems to remove airborne pollutants caused by fossil fuel burning, to medical costs borne by individuals, organizations and governments, and more. The final fossil fuel externality is, of course, the millions of premature deaths worldwide caused by the ever-increasing concentrations of fossil emissions in our atmosphere.
Fossil Fuel externality cost estimated at between $40-80 per ton of CO2
The cost of fossil fuel use is estimated to be on the order of $40-80 per ton of CO2 emitted and those costs are paid, just not at the gas pump. Governments and individuals pay that price — which varies widely depending upon where you live (city, country, downwind of coal power plants, or on the coastline with its usually fresh air).
If we included the externality cost of all fossil fuels, every type of fuel would double in cost. Our coal-fired electricity would double in cost, and removing the direct subsidies would double it again. The same would occur with gasoline and diesel for our cars.
Yes, it’s a lot of money. And one way or another, we’re paying it. Don’t deceive yourself, it is being paid, just not at the gas pump nor on your electricity bill. But we are paying those subsidies and externality costs in our taxes, and in other ways such as higher health costs and lowered life expectancy resulting from our fossil fuel addiction.
Wind PTC subsidy amounts to a paltry 2.3 cents/kWh (if renewed)
None of those externalities exist for wind power. Wind has no $40-80 per ton of CO2 externality. Wind is not asking for worldwide subsidies of $550 billion, nor is it asking for American subsidies of $80 billion dollars.
Wind power in the U.S.A. is asking for a paltry 2.3 cents/kWh over a 10 year period.
The current amount of the PTC is an inflation-adjusted 2.3 cents/kWh for ten years. For use in our levelized cost analysis, we levelized its value over twenty years, the average duration of a wind energy contract. — Visualizing the Production Tax Credit for Wind Energy, Syracuse University / University of California, Irvine / University of California, Berkeley
Here is an infographic that shows some of the ways that wind power assists the U.S. economy, which was provided to us by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
Wind Power jobs
As the graphic demonstrates there are many tangible benefits of wind power in the United States, not the least of which is providing jobs for Americans, attracting billions of dollars of investment, and adding new, clean electrical generation capacity to the utility grid.
Wind turbines, an additional income source for farmers
Many farmers augment their annual income by inviting utility companies to install wind turbines on their farms. While most crops produce between $150-600 per acre of land after costs are deducted, a utility company wind turbine pad rental with 24/7 access, pays approximately $4000 per acre of land, although this varies in different parts of the country. The extreme range for wind turbine installation payments appears to be $2200-6500 per acre, depending on regional wind flows and size and height of the turbine. Unfortunately for farmers, wind turbines and their towers are quite large, limiting installations to a maximum of one turbine per every few acres, depending on the size of the unit.
GE Space Frame Tower
General Electric too, is awaiting the decision and has an entirely new product line ready to deploy, both in turbines with their Brilliant wind turbine technology and their truck-transportable and easily-assembled Space Frame Towers.
Be sure to check out another graphic AWEA made earlier this month highlighting some of wind’s many other benefits by clicking here: http://bit.ly/1qtwHBc.
Help us spread the good news about wind power’s good deal by sharing this graphic with friends and colleagues.