As Nuclear steps aside, Renewable Energy steps up to power Europe

As Nuclear steps aside, Renewable Energy steps up to power Europe | 16/08/14
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Nuclear reactors are starting to shut down in Europe

It began in earnest in the wake of the Fukushima disaster when Germany inspected its problem-plagued nuclear power plants and decided to take 9 of its nuclear power plants offline in 2011 and the rest offline by 2022.

There is plenty of public support in the country for Germany’s planned nuclear closures, even with the additional fee added to each German electricity bill to pay for nuclear power plant decommissioning, which completes in 2045.

Switzerland likewise has decided to get out of the nuclear power business beginning in 2015 and decommission their nuclear power plants by 2045.

Other European nations are also looking at retiring their nuclear power plants. But the news today is about the UK, Belgium, Germany and Spain.

Heysham_Nuclear_Power_Station UK operated by EDF
Heysham Nuclear Power Station in the UK which is operated by EDF of France. Image courtesy: CleanTechnica.com

In the UK, four (French-operated) EDF reactors built in 1983 have been shut down after one of them was found to have a crack in its centre spine. (EDF stands for Electricity de France which is a French utility responsible for managing many nuclear reactors)

At first only the affected unit was taken offline (in June) but upon further inspection it was determined that the other three were at risk to fail in the coming months. Whether or not these four reactors can be repaired economically — all were scheduled to be decommissioned before 2020.

The shortfall in electrical generation due to these unscheduled nuclear power plant shutdowns has been met by 5 GW of new wind power generation, which has seamlessly stepped in to fill demand.

Additional to that, 5 GW of solar power has been added to the UK grid within the past 5 years. And that’s in cloudy olde England, mates!

In Belgium, 3 out of 5 of their nuclear power plants are offline until December 31, 2014 due to maintenance, sabotage, or terror attacks — depending who you talk to.

Belgium’s Doel 4 reactor experienced a deliberate malfunction last week and workers in the country’s n-plants are henceforth directed to move around inside the plants in pairs.

Also, their Tihange 2 reactor won’t be ready to resume power production until March, 2021. See this continuously-updated list of nuclear power plant shutdowns in Belgium.

Further, the utility has advised citizens that hour-long blackouts will commence in October due to a combination of unexpected n-plant shutdowns and higher demand at that time of year.

Belgian energy company Electrabel said its Doel 4 nuclear reactor would stay offline at least until the end of this year after major damage to its turbine, with the cause confirmed as sabotage.

Doel 4 is the youngest of four reactors at the Doel nuclear plant, 20 km north of Antwerp, Belgium’s second-biggest city.

The country has three more reactors in Tihange, 25 km southwest of the city of Liege.

Doel 1 and 2, which came on line in 1975, are set to close in 2015. Tihange 1, which also started operation in 1975 and was designed to last 30 years, got a 10-year extension till 2015.

The two closed reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were connected to the grid in 1982 and 1983. Doel 4 and Tihange 3, which came on line in 1985, were operating normally until the closure of Doel 4 last week.

The shutdown of Doel 4’s nearly 1 gigawatt (GW) of electricity generating capacity as well as closures of two other reactors (Doel 3 and Tihange 2) for months because of cracks in steel reactor casings adds up to just over 3 GW of Belgian nuclear capacity that is offline, more than half of the total.

In Britain, EDF Energy, owned by France’s EDF, took three of its nuclear reactors offline for inspection on Monday after finding a defect in a reactor of a similar design. – Reuters

In Germany, the nuclear power generation capacity missing since 2011 has been met by a combination of solar, wind, bio, natural gas, and unfortunately some coal. But that sounds worse than it is.

According to the Fraunhofer Institute, renewable energy produced about 81 TWh, or 31% of the nation’s electricity during the first half of 2014. Solar production is up 28%, wind 19% and biomass 7% over last year.

Meanwhile, with the exception of nuclear energy, all conventional sources are producing less. The output from gas powered plants was half of what it had been in 2010 and brown coal powered plants are producing at a similar level to 2010-2012. – CleanTechnica.com

Let’s see what our friends at the Fraunhofer Institute have to say in their comparison of the first half of 2013 vs. the first half of 2014.

German electricity production H1 2013 - H1 2014
Fraunhofer Institute compares energy production between the first half of 2013 and the first half of 2014.

Although unspoken by power company executives operating in Germany, Spain, and some other European countries, the panic felt by traditional power generators is due to the massive changes in ‘their’ market since 2009.

Things move slowly in the utility industry — ten years is seen as a mere eyeblink in time, as the industry changes very little decade over decade. Recent changes must be mind-blowing for European power company executives.

European-union-renewables-chart
European Union renewables by Eurostat — Renewable energy statistics. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons This map displays 2012 results with a total of 20-30% renewable energy for 2012, but in 2013 renewable energy in Portugal registered 58.3% overall. By 2014, Portugal expects that 70% of its energy will come from renewable energy.

It occurs to me that the end of the conventional energy stranglehold on Europe parallels the ending of Star Wars VI.

Help me take this mask off

It’s a mask to hide behind when conventional power producers don’t want the facts aired.

Fossil and nuclear don’t want their Subsidies or Externalities advertised. Global fossil fuel and nuclear subsides topped $600 billion dollars in 2014, while the externality cost of fossil and nuclear may be as high as $2 trillion dollars annually. That’s a lot of hiding, right there.

Fossil fuel and nuclear power power producers don’t want the subsidies they’re paid to be publicly advertised — and they don’t want the renewable energy industry to have subsidies at all

Externalities are simply another form of subsidy to the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries which often take the form of massive public healthcare spending or massive environmental spending to mitigate the gigatonnes of toxic airborne emissions, or to monitor or repair environmental catastrophes such as oil spills.

Spain has ended it’s Feed-in-Tariff subsidy scheme for renewable energy, while keeping conventional power producer subsidies in place.

Not only that, suddenly homeowners aren’t allowed to collect power from the Sun or harvest power from the wind unless it is for their own use. Electricity cannot be collected by Spanish residents and then sold to the grid for example, nor to anyone else.

Spain’s government has taken it yet another step in a bid to keep the conventional energy companies from drowning in their tears. After a meteoric rise in wind and solar capacity, Spain has now taxed renewable energy power producers retroactively to 2012 and ruled that renewable energy will be capped to a 7.5% maximum profit. Renewable energy returns over the 7.5% threshold becomes instant tax revenue for the government. (Quite unlike conventional energy producers in the country which can make any amount of profit they want and continue to keep their subsidies)

While all of this has been going on, Spain and Portugal have quietly lowered their combined CO2 output by 21.3% since 2012 (equal to 61.4 million fewer tonnes of CO2) thanks to renewable energy.

But you’ll die

Not only has European renewable energy now stepped up to fill the multiple voids due to nuclear power plant maintenance and sabotage shutdowns, it has scooped incredible market share from conventional power producers.

In January 2014, 91% of the monthly needed Portuguese electricity consumption was generated by renewable sources, although the real figure stands at 78%, as 14% was exported. – Wikipedia

Unwittingly, the German and Spanish power companies have provided the highest possible compliment to the renewable energy industry, which, if publicized would read something like this;

We can’t compete with renewable energy that has equal amounts of subsidy. Therefore, remove the renewable energy subsidy while we keep ‘our’ traditional subsidies, until we can reorient our business model – otherwise, we perish!

Nothing can stop that now

Ending the European renewable energy Feed-in-Tariff schemes will only temporarily slow solar and wind installations as both have reached price-parity in recent months — and that, against still-subsidized conventional power generators!

Even bigger changes are coming to the European electricity grid over the next few years. Nothing can stop that now.

Tell your sister; You were right about me

Conventional power producers in Europe provided secure and reliable power for decades, it was what has powered the European postwar success story — but having the electricity grid all to themselves for decades meant that Europe’s utilities became set in their ways and although powerful, were not able to adapt quickly enough to a new kind of energy with zero toxicity and lower per unit cost.

Renewable energy, at first unguided and inexperienced, quickly found a role for itself and is now able to stand on its own feet without subsidies. Quite unlike conventional power generators.

Considering the sheer scale of the energy changes underway in Europe, conventional energy has been superceded by a superior kind of energy and with surprisingly little drama.

Related Articles

‘Win-Win’ Megatons to Megawatts program concluded

by Guest Contributor Cliff Majersik

Megatons to Megawatts program
“All’s well that ends well.” 500 metric tons of Russian weapons grade uranium (uranium that is enriched to 20% or higher, is called highly-enriched uranium, weapons grade uranium, or in simple terms,  plutonium — and is for use in nuclear bombs) and was purchased by the United States beginning in 1993. Since that time, U.S. nuclear power plants worked to process it into 5% uranium (low-enriched) in order to be able to use it as fuel for U.S. nuclear reactors. The program cost the U.S. $13 billion dollars, but dramatically lowered the total weapons grade uranium stockpiles in Russia. Since 1993, about a third of all U.S. nuclear power plant output was powered by this high-quality Russian nuclear fuel.
Megatons to Megawatts was a great energy fix for its era. For ours, it’s energy efficiency.

This is a guest post by Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation

In 1993, the United States and the Russian Federation signed an agreement to convert 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium from Russian warheads into low-enriched uranium that could fuel U.S. nuclear reactors. The Megatons to Megawatts program was born. For 20 years, Megatons to Megawatts provided much of the low-enriched uranium that U.S. nuclear reactors needed—about one-third of it. And when you consider that nuclear plants supply about a fifth of the country’s electricity, well, that’s a lot of our meals cooked and homes heated by fuel from 20,000 former bombs. Meanwhile, the Russian economy got a $13 billion boost over two decades.

But all good things must come to an end, and Megatons to Megawatts is expiring. On Tuesday, Dec. 10, the New York Times reports, the last shipment of uranium from the program will arrive at the Port of Baltimore.

Looking forward, there is one great source to fill the fuel gap: energy efficiency. Inarguably, the cleanest kilowatt hour is the one you don’t consume. Energy efficiency has the potential to save far more energy than Megatons for Megawatts generated. In fact, John A. Laitner, a researcher at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), has found that since 1970, energy efficiency has met 75 percent of new energy service demands in the U.S.

Likewise, well-known research by McKinsey in 2009 showed that the U.S. economy has the potential to cut annual, non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020, eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in energy waste—more than double the upfront investment cost required. This reduction in energy use would avoid 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse-gas emissions every year, the equivalent of taking the entire fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off America’s roads.

Energy efficiency will help us avoid the emissions that worsen climate change, but it can also help us adapt better to the changes we’re already seeing. An energy-efficient building is a stronger and more resilient building.

Last year, Hurricane Sandy knocked out power for millions up and down the Eastern seaboard. Days after Sandy hit, cold temperatures worsened victims’ misery; officials in New York City set up warming shelters and handed out blankets to shivering residents. In an extended power outage like that one, a home that’s built to a high standard of efficiency (that is, it’s airtight and well insulated) will be more habitable, with an indoor temperature less affected by a cold snap or heat wave.

Cities around the country are moving to make their buildings more resilient, and energy efficiency will be a crucial component of their disaster-readiness. Efficiency also has major benefits at the scale of the neighborhood and region, not just for individual buildings. By reducing peak consumption, it lessens the strain on the electricity grid and helps prevent future blackouts.

Megatons to Megawatts was the ideal program for its era, finding an unexpected energy source in nuclear disarmament after the fall of the Soviet Union. In a new era that’s characterized by dwindling resources, climatic uncertainty, and the urgent need to reduce emissions, the best energy source is clear: energy efficiency.

Cliff Majersik is executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, that promotes energy efficiency in buildings. Under his leadership, IMT has expanded its work nationally and internationally and become a recognized leader in the energy efficiency field.

Majersik oversees IMT’s principal activities to advance energy efficiency in the built environment, including in the areas of building energy performance policy, energy codes, and energy efficiency finance. His work helped lead to the introduction of federal legislation in 2011 to account for energy efficiency in mortgage underwriting, and he helped craft the innovative building energy benchmarking and disclosure laws in the District of Columbia and New York City.

This article, Goodbye Megatons to Megawatts. Hello, Energy Efficiency, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Important Media Group

Guest Contributor is many, many people all at once. In other words, we publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. 😀

TEPCO President: Fukushima Was “A Warning To The World”

Originally published on Planetsave by Sandy Dechert

TEPCO workers are using a 91-ton cask to transport nuclear fuel from the damaged secondary containment pool at Reactor Unit 4. (Photo: TEPCO.)
TEPCO workers lower the 91-ton shielded transfer cask in preparation for relocating unused nuclear fuel. Photo courtesy of TEPCO

Today, officials at Tokyo Electric Power Company could breathe a sigh of relief.

Using remote-controlled cranes, workers at Fukushima Daiichi cleared some of the dangerously radioactive uranium fuel rod racks from the upper-story cooling pond of damaged Reactor Unit 4.

You can see TEPCO’s video of parts of the operation here.

Technicians loaded unused fuel assemblies underwater from the unit’s secondary containment into a specially designed steel-walled canister (see photo), which looks like a huge home hot water heater and must be decontaminated every time it is transferred from radioactive water to air. At 1:2

0 this afternoon (Tokyo time), the operators began the process of moving the cask onto the truck that would carry it to a safer storage location at ground level nearby. TEPCO has reported that the transfer has gone smoothly so far. After the fresh fuel rods are removed, the company will tackle the problem of moving the reactor’s spent fuel, which is hotter and more dangerous than fresh fuel.

“TEPCO has worked out individual scenarios to deal with stoppages of pool cooling, water leaks from the pools, a massive earthquake, a fire, and an accident involving the trailer, but not for dealing with a situation in which two or more incidents occur simultaneously. Therefore it must proceed in an extremely careful[ly] manner,” the Japan Times reported earlier today.

TEPCO president acknowledges miscalculations

The president of the utility, Naomi Hirose, told The Guardian this week that:

“What happened at Fukushima was, yes, a warning to the world.” Hirose stated that “We made a lot of excuses to ourselves” and unwarranted assumptions that others had discussed adequate “counter-measures” for large tsunamis.

“We tried to persuade people that nuclear power is 100% safe….But we have to explain, no matter how small a possibility, what if this [safety] barrier is broken? We have to prepare a plan if something happens.… It is easy to say this is almost perfect so we don’t have to worry about it. But we have to keep thinking: what if.…”

International oversight visit

Adequacy of international consultation has been an issue since the incident occurred. Concerns have increased since the revelation of TEPCO’s apparent bravado and inattention early in the process. Although TEPCO has performed nuclear fuel transfers before without incident, this is the first time the company has had to deal with a reactor damaged by earthquake, flooding, and explosions.

Apprehension will be mitigated somewhat when 19 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency visit the site from November 25 to December 4 to assess the success of this week’s mission and the current state of TEPCO’s efforts to prevent contaminated water from leaking out of multiple storage tanks. The Japanese government requested the visit. Hahn Pil-soo, the IAEA’s director of radiation, transport, and waste safety, will be on the team.

IAEA, the world’s clearinghouse and watchdog for nuclear operations, formed in 1957 as energy firms began installing nuclear plants across the world on a wide scale. Vienna is the agency’s headquarters. IAEA’s goal is to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

Next step in decommissioning

Japan News describes the second phase of the reactor decommissioning process, which will begin when the Unit 4 work has finished, possibly as early as 2015. The company then needs to tackle the problem of recovering spent fuel from Reactor Units 1-3.

These reactors were online at the time of the magnitude 9 Great East Japan subsea earthquake, tsunami, and explosions that killed more than 18,000 people in March 2011. They present unique challenges because at least some of their fuel melted down, the molten fuel’s location below the reactors is presently unknown, and its chemical composition is likely more toxic because it contains more plutonium and unstable isotopes. The tricky core meltdown work will probably start around 2020.

In a word of caution to the developers of eight proposed British nuclear generating stations and of similar facilities across the globe, TEPCO president Hirose offered the following advice:

“Try to examine all the possibilities, no matter how small they are, and don’t think any single counter-measure is foolproof. Think about all different kinds of small counter-measures, not just one big solution. There’s not one single answer.”

Hirose now feels that Japan will achieve its best electric power results through energy diversification, using oil, gas, and renewables as well as nuclear generation. Before the disaster at Fukushima, Japan had planned to expand nuclear power to supply half the nation’s energy needs.

TEPCO’s official position, stated on its website, is that “Nuclear power generation has excellent long-term prospects for the stable procurement of nuclear fuel and for effectively countering global warming problems.”

Forty percent of the company’s revenues have historically come from nuclear power generation

Presently, all 50 of Japan’s nuclear plants (17 of which are owned by TEPCO) have been shut down. Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-4 are unusable, and the company has just bowed to a government request that the other two reactors (5 and 6) on the site be mothballed.

Many in Japan, from ordinary people to three high former government officials, believe Japan should abandon nuclear power completely.

Uncertainty about nuclear renewal and the high cost of using carbon-based technology to fill in for the power previously generated by nuclear plants (one third of Japan’s electricity) forced the country this week to renege on an earlier promise and greatly lower its climate change goals.

This article, TEPCO President: Fukushima Was “A Warning To The World”, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

Double Standard For Nuclear Energy and Wind Energy In UK?

by Zachary Shahan

.

I’ll be honest — I’m not a “nuclear power hater.” But if you look at nuclear power objectively and calculate its costs — including insurance costs and waste management costs — it is simply a bad deal. It’s very, very expensive. The private industry would never develop nuclear on its own. The only way it gets built anywhere is from huge government support.

Dr. David Toke, Reader in Energy Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen, recently took a brief look at how nuclear power gets extra-special treatment from the UK government. First of all, he took a look at assumptions regarding the working lifetime of wind turbines vs. nuclear reactors:

Ed Davey’s excuse for limiting wind power contracts to 15 years whilst Hinkley C gets a whopping 35 year contract is blown away by some elementary history checking. Lots of wind turbines in Altamont Pass – installed during the so-called Californian ‘windrush’ – are still turning after 31 years. Davey claims that the contracts he has awarded are in proportion to the technologies’ design life expectancy. Yet the Altamont turbines will be turning until 2015, a 33 year lifetime, and only then taken down because of a repowering exercise, and also modern planning conditions which they did not have back in 1982. See http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/23757. I am given to understand by a leading authority on the subject that it is likely that quite a few machines built in the early 1980s are expected to carry on running past 2015….

Certainly one can expect modern wind turbines to last a lot longer than these efforts right at the start of the modern windmill era.

So using the Davey formula (about 60 per cent of lifetime as a contract length), using even 33 years as an example, wind power should get a 20 year contracts, not 15. But if this happened, the ‘strike price’ for wind (£95 per MWh at year 2018) would be reduced below that set for Hinkley C.This would breed trouble as the UK Government tries to claim that they are giving the same incentives to renewables as nuclear to pass through the EU’s state-aid regulations (see previous blog post).

Dave then touched on the under-discussed issue of nuclear power loan guarantees:

Then there is the loan guarantee for Hinkley C, all £10 billion of it, that constitutes 65 per cent of the capital cost of the 3.2GW development. If wind power got such guarantees, their costs could be reduced much further as well, since the borrowing costs would be a lot less. Indeed borrowing costs could be reduced by at least 2 per cent – which makes a big difference to the economics of wind power.

And then he did a simple calculation on what the overall price effect would be from if two things were made the same for wind power as they are for nuclear power:

I have calculated what the effects of these two changes – increasing the contract length from 15 years to 20 years, and giving loan guarantees for 65 per cent of the capital costs. The result is that if this was applied to wind power then a strike price of £75 would be the equivalent of the £95 per MWh the Government is offering wind power from 2018. This figure is considerably less than what the Government is giving to Hinkley C.

Dave included much more in the full article, including some comparisons with pricing in Germany, so check that out for more.

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, Double Standard For Nuclear Energy & Wind Energy In UK?, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

Related Posts

Screen-Shot-2013-11-04-at-5.51.40-am

Nuclear Energy Verdict: Very Disappointing

nuclear-fits

Nuclear Prices Itself Out Of The Market — Graph

hinkley c

Hinkley C Nuclear Power Plant To Get Twice The Rate As Solar PV From UK Government

Solar Deployment Is Faster Than Nuclear

by Guest Contributor Karl-Friedrich Lenz PhD.

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station.
Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station. Image License: Public Domain

Originally published on the Lenz Blog.

Climate scientist Jim Hansen has written another open letter in support of nuclear energy as a solution to global warming. Thanks to this tweet by Barry Brook for the link.

If you want nuclear as part of the solution, you necessarily need to explain why renewable energy won’t be able to do the job alone. This particular open letter says:

“Renewables like wind and solar and biomass will certainly play roles in a future energy economy, but those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires.”

We’ll have to wait a couple of decades to see if solar and wind are able to provide for 100 percent of energy. Contrary to what Jim Hansen (not an expert on energy systems) thinks, I expect that this will happen. But we already know one thing for sure.

Solar and wind have scaled up enough already to make nuclear lose in the market place. Even with nuclear enjoying the benefit of insufficient levels of insurance (leaving the remaining risk for the taxpayer), it just doesn’t make economic sense any more to build new nuclear plants.

And if you decide to build a new nuclear plant today, it won’t be able to deliver energy until ten years later, and will then have to compete for a couple of decades against wind and solar at the much more reduced prices these technologies will have then.

In contrast, you can build a large solar project in a couple of weeks or months. I am not sure why that is “not fast enough”, but it is sure faster than nuclear by a factor of over ten.

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, Solar Deployment Is Faster Than Nuclear, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Guest Contributor is many, many people all at once. In other words, we publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. 😀

Related Posts

It's so unfair.  Solar doesn't have to shield their giant reactor but we do.

Solar Power Cheaper Than Nuclear In Cloudy Old England