If people were serious about ACTUALLY reducing carbon emissions, then baseload power production would be nuclear.
Please look at France as an example.
France: 5.0 metric tons per capita (2013)
US: 16.4 metric tons per capita (2013)
Nuclear power is the largest source of electricity in the country, with a generation of 416.8 TWh, or 76.3% of the country's total production of 546 TWh, the highest percentage in the world.
They're unbelievably capital intensive and have a mean construction time of 7.5 years . I'm from the UK so it's easy to point to Hinkley Point C as an example of this. It's been in planning for a decade and certainly won't be in operation for a similar amount of time, and the currently proposed strike price is around £90/MWh, compared to the ~£60/MWh we've seen from offshore wind projects. Let alone mentioning those have the advantage of being independently deployable with how developers can generate income on a per-turbine basis rather than waiting for the entire farm to be constructed.
And while nuclear is certainly much less CO2 intensive than any fossil-fuel source even a pro-nuclear body's publication shows that wind produces approximately as much CO2/GWh over an installations lifetime as nuclear does .
 http://www.world-nuclear.org/uploadedFiles/org/WNA/Publicati... section 4
How about in space or on other planets?
> And while nuclear is certainly much less CO2 intensive than any fossil-fuel source even a pro-nuclear body's publication shows that wind produces approximately as much CO2/GWh over an installations lifetime as nuclear does.
And what if it's not windy?
Keep in mind, almost ALL the nuclear power plants built are based on 1950-1960s technology (designed for naval applications). That would be like comparing solar panels from that era with the panels designed/produced today. There is no comparison.
Solar struggles to provide a significant amount of energy in winter. Wind tends to blow or not for a few days or more at a time - meaning you need much more storage than just to carry you from one day to the next as you might in places with consistent solar.
I can't find any good source of UK historical generation data, but from looking at gridwatch the UK patterns tend to be similar to those in Germany, the data for which are available here: https://www.energy-charts.de/power.htm?source=solar-wind&mon...
There's a slight inverse correlation between solar and wind, but not that much.
I'd love to see a lot more renewable capacity installed as soon as possible, but I don't see how we can move away from needing a lot of backup conventional capacity in the near future. This is okay by me; let's halve our emissions and then see what we can do next.
Exactly. Nuclear plants are done, at least for the next 50 years.
People don't want nuclear plants, whatever the reason. I can see the case for continued nuke research, but the negative PR and scare factor is pretty insurmountable.
The coal industry had decades to invest in technology to make clean coal happen, and decided margins were more important.
Fracking will be the next victim, as more communities start to ban it and understanding of the negatives grows.
Same with hydro, at least in the US. We're only starting to understand the long-term effects of large dams.
I know there are tradeoffs with solar and wind. The eco cost of solar isn't zero from a production standpoint. There are downsides to living directly under a wind turbine. But the decreased cost and increased adoption of solar and wind give me hope that we have a chance at staving off cataclysmic climate change.
Also, this past December, the entire Pacific Northwest experienced a 10-day total wind lull and the 4GWe of capacity in the Bonneville Power Administration generated ~0 kWh. Backing that up alone would require a battery facility covering a football field 100 stories high and costing $90B that has to be replaced every dozen years. Now scale that by a few thousand and see how it looks. Baseload carbon-free energy from nukes is very valuable.
Look at the failure of VC Summer, and what seems to be the imminent failure of Vogtle.
Since no private company is willing to take on the financial risk of building nuclear power, the federal government provides massive loan guarantees. For the "nuclear renaissance" to take place, state governments passed special laws so that the utility's rate payers took on all the risk of the failed builds. And the failed VC Summer build in South Carolina accounts for double digit percentages of current electricity bills for the utility's customers.
If somebody can figure out how to do project management, engineering, and the logistics of construction, there are lots of communities eager to welcome nuclear. But the industry has failed to deliver capacity even when given every opportunity to build.
The best bet for nuclear in the US seems to be to have South Korea take over entirely. But they will then have to manage a US construction force, with all those risks. I really don't see how the industry is ever going to build a new big reactor ever again in the US. That's why nuclear fans are looking towards small modular reactors, an idea that in the past was considered less economical than the big ones.
The other risk of putting all your eggs in one basket by large deploys is the same design is what's happening right now in France with the "carbon segregation" problem:
20 plants are down, on the suspicion of a potential problem in the future. These types of problems are expected for any technology, but by having a very little variety in generation, any such small problem gets hugely amplified.
In general I have not found anybody who sees a path to building new nuclear in the US that does not simultaneously require a huge advancement in new tech. Solving the construction problem and the bad management problem is something that's swept under the rug and ignored in order to promote a favored tech.
The only plant being constructed in the U.S. right now is fraught with cost overruns; the builder, Toshiba, nearly went out of business. A plant that came online in Tennessee in 2016 was started in 1976.
The Minerals Council of Australia shows that the current worldwide uranium usage is increasing by about 4.8% p.a., projected to hit 97,900 tons in 2020. 
This will give us a little over 60 years until almost all of the economical sources of uranium are consumed, assuming conventional reactors.
Considering that timeframe along with the fact that plants take 7-15 years to bring online if they're started now, and the fact that they have dismal returns on investment, means there's little appetite for nuclear for economic reasons.
Also there hasn't been a lot of success with building any modern plants (technical issues and massive cost overrun, check the "Technical overview" section of the wiki page).
There's a lot of irrational fear about nuclear energy. An example is Germany (9.2 metric ton per capita) which decided to shutdown their nuclear facilities.
Yes, they replaced it with coal plants...
(2) Renewable + pumped hydro is much more expensive that just producing electricity directly from nuclear. The environmental impact of dam failures is also bigger than that of an nuclear accident.
For example the Banqiao+Shimantan dam failure killed 110,000, displaced 6,000,000. For comparison Chernobyl killed 9,000 to 93,000 (probably closer to the lower end) and displaced ~130,000.
Coal 100,000 (US: 10,000)
Nat. Gas 4,000
Hydro 1,400 (US: 5)
Nuclear 90 (US: 0.1)
Imagine a hypothetical scenario: California added 90 GW worth of new power plants, Texas added another 360 GW, and New York decommissioned old power plants totaling 350 GW. Assuming all other states remained the same, the national power capacity increased by 90+360-350=100 GW.
But if I say "California added 90% of net new electricity capacity," it gives a very misleading impression. The fact that this is silly is clear when we consider Texas: it added 360% of net new electricity capacity!
More fun happens if Iowa decommissioned additional 110 GW of power plants. Now the national net increase is -10 GW, and California contributed -900% of that.
DISCLAIMER: I'm not an electricity expert. Please correct me if I misunderstood anything.
Here's the EIA article it references:
Here's another EIA article that suggests that electricity derived from natural gas is on the rise in the US:
I'm all for renewables, but twisting the facts does not help skeptics take renewables more seriously.
Your second link cites 11.2 GW of new NG capacity for 2017, which is less than the 11.8 GW of retired fossil-fuel capacity over the same time (per the original article).
Besides which, saying that the vast majority of net capacity increase is in renewables doesn't mean that fossil sources aren't also going up. In fact, unless it's 100% of new capacity, fossil fuel sources are definitely going up, by definition. There's no real conflict or twisting the facts there.
A solar facility with 1MW of capacity will generate 1MW at it it’s peak moment, maybe, on a good day. Given the lat, weather and season, maybe you will get 8MW hours total for the day. Whereas a 1MW gas plant could produce 24MW hours for the day.
In other words you could have 100MW of renewable capacity and have 0 generation if it is too cold, dark or calm.
Sure, nighttime imposes a hard cap on the capacity factor of solar, but solar is not the only renewable power source. Natural gas plants may have a much higher theoretical limit, but in practice they are limited by more expensive fuel.
This is more important to most companies than cheapest price. It enables them to plan with more certainty.
For coal we should look at all the health costs cause by mining and burning coal.
For oil we should not only look at the tax breaks the companies get but also how much of the military (percentage wise) exists to protect oil interests.
The health costs of the renewables are a lot less.
Although, the USA is about 90% energy independent
> In other words it's capital investment taking out operational expenses. It's capital investment reducing the size of the economy.
I didn't know that coal or oil now produce pure energy by their mere existence, with no need for extraction, refining, transportation and combustion equipment and infrastructure. This is wonderful news and really changes everything. We should tell everybody.
It's not accurate, it's bullshit. Look at the graph here, which is based on the official US government figures:
Does it look like fossil fuel usage is slowing down to you?
Here is that additional data:
The sums of the fossil fueled columns (1-5), by yearly GWh, are:
Total fossil fueled generation is well below where it was a decade ago. The rapid rise of natural gas generation has been more than offset by an even faster decline in generation from other fossil fuels, coal in particular.
That's the problem I'm trying to highlight. The decline of coal is the ideal opportunity for renewables to rise to become a greater portion of the energy mix. Instead, we see natural gas taking its place. Natural gas is abundant and cheap, and causes less pollution than coal, but is still a polluting source of energy. Renewables now have to fight against a new, stronger incumbent, rather than taking the place of a dying one.
Renewables have been rising. See the same table I linked before. Maybe you'd prefer if all that declining coal generation had been replaced by non-combustion sources instead of mostly gas. So would I, but global solar manufacturing capacity in particular has grown so rapidly and recently that it wasn't even theoretically feasible until just a few years ago.
Gas plants are cheap to build and currently have low fuel costs too. But even at today's low fuel costs, most of their operating expenses come from fuel. As renewable and storage construction costs continue to decline, their very low marginal costs provide ample opportunity to steal more share from gas, even if gas prices stay low. It's already happening in California.
What you should be asking is, why are individuals investing more in natural gas rather than renewables? If we were being honest with ourselves, the problem is still battery technology. Investment in electricity storage is costly, and the batteries we have today become less effective the more they get used, resulting in regular replacements being required to maintain storage capacity. There are groups working on the grid storage problem, but it's far from resolved. Without it being resolved, there's a ceiling beyond which solar and wind are not likely to grow, as the most important factor in grid electricity is reliability, and storage is the only way to make a grid with the majority of energy coming from wind and solar to be reliable.
Of course renewables are much lower, as that table shows. But meeting current demand with new natural gas generation is still a big improvement over old coal generation.
The point is, there's no sign of the expansion of natural gas usage slowing down. Install base of power plants/generators running off natural gas is growing.
I haven't got all the figures to hand, but consider this report, which covers changes in electricity production in the southern states of the US:
In particular, look at this graph:
Can you at least admit that, in 2017, natural gas capacity grew faster than renewable capacity in southern US states?
Or that the comparison happens at too high a level?
If you'd like to write about the shift from coal to natural gas, that's probably worth drilling down to one level below this comparison, but that doesn't make this comparison invalid or misleading.
Unless you can come up with some stats that prove that all of the non-renewable production that was added was directly replacing old non-renewable production, and all of the renewable production was added just to meet new needs, then you have no case.
Is it fair to say that my meat consumption has increased by 20 pounds? Or is it unfair on the grounds that I've not mentioned a big shift from potatoes to carrots within the 50 pounds of vegetables? I mean, my potato consumption is way down, but my carrot consumption is way, way, way up. My carrot consumption has gone up by a bigger percentage than my pork consumption, for sure. Except... it doesn't matter.
My meat consumption went up, and my vegetable consumption remained flat. That's new meat consumption. Shifts from potatoes to carrots and pork to beef are irrelevant to the subject at hand.
In point of fact, as the article says, slightly less than half of new utility scale power production came from renewables (12321 out of 25041 MW).
It is titled "Nearly half of utility-scale capacity installed in 2017 came from renewables"
The new non-renewable electric producers are mostly replacing retired fossil sources. I suspect a lot of the churn in fossil-based plants is from age as well as newer regulations.
I do hope they subtracted out whatever amount of renewables were turned down, but I suspect it likely wasn't much (but I lack data).