A Different Perspective On Renewables

Though the U.S. appears to be marching towards its green future without much debate so far, that doesn’t mean that a few other parts of the world aren’t having a bit of reconsideration. A couple interesting stories have emerged from Europe — arguably far ahead of us in terms of implementation and perhaps wisdom born of experience. Interestingly, both concern renewables, a favorite of the Obama administration. 

EDF of France and E.On of Germany, both major electric utility companies, have said that the goal of 35% electricity generation by renewables is too high and would cause them to build additional carbon-emitting plants in lieu of new nuclear plants.

“The deployment of high levels of intermittent renewables for electricity generation will require the construction of additional carbon-emitting plant as back-up for when renewables are not available to meet demand,” EDF argued. “This is likely to be predominantly gas-fired and will therefore undermine efforts to reduce dependence on non-domestic fuel sources.”

“A 25% electricity target will provide the best platform for further decarbonisation of electricity generation in the period beyond 2020, through a combination of further renewables, new nuclear and coal and gas with carbon capture and storage.”

Naturally, the environmental movement is furious.

“The National Grid shows that there is capacity to take well over 30% percent of our electricity from renewables. EDF are trying to block efforts to deliver on the most important technology to the UK to tackle climate change and keeps the light on in order to protect their own vested nuclear interests.”

Friends of the Earth agreed. “The UK is the windiest country in Europe with the best wave and tidal resources,” said Andy Atkins, the group’s executive director. “We should be maximising renewables and harnessing as much of that clean, safe energy as we possibly can – not propping up the French nuclear industry.

“Nuclear power is no green alternative – it leaves a legacy of deadly radioactive waste that remains dangerous for tens of thousands of years. And nuclear power plants simply cannot be built in time to deliver the cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that science says are needed.”

Kind of like a renewables energy system or nothing at all. I can appreciate the problems with nuclear but the fact is they don’t produce all of the time. Backups are necessary and if those simply dump more carbon into the air, what’s the point.

Separately, Shell announced that it would no longer invest in renewable technologies and instead would focus on biofuels. It said that it did not consider renewables economically viable. Shell has been a major investor in wind power.

The company said that many alternative technologies did not offer attractive investment opportunities. Linda Cook, Shell’s executive director of gas and power, said: “If there aren’t investment opportunities which compete with other projects we won’t put money into it. We are businessmen and women. If there were renewables [which made money] we would put money into it.”

Once again, the environmentalists are unhappy.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) criticised Shell for freezing investment in renewables such as wind in favour of biofuels. “Shell is backing the wrong horse when it comes to renewable energy– biofuels often lead to more emissions than the petrol and diesel they replace,” the campaign group said.

Note the FoE reply does not attempt to refute the issue of profitability. It recites the mantra that releasing emissions is bad and renewables are good. At some point economics do matter.

I put this post up not necessarily to criticize the green movement but to highlight the fact that there are more sides to this issue than are currently being presented in either the MSM or the blogosphere. Plans are afoot here to spend a great deal of money on green energy and it seems to me that is increasingly being defined as energy derived exclusively from renewable sources. I think we need a big, broad talk about that.

Right now I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that the nuclear reactor on the edge of Phoenix is going to be providing my electricity when it’s 115 degrees this summer than I would were I counting on some whirling turbines in North Dakota.

more: here and here

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