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Macron says France will build new nuclear energy reactors (reuters.com)
784 points by julosflb 75 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 637 comments



The Chinese have committed to building over 150 new nuclear reactors. The British government will subsidize Rolls Royce. Japan will reactivate over 30 nuclear reactors.

It seems this is the biggest energy story of the year. The comeback of nuclear energy.

https://smallcaps.com.au/china-supercharge-uranium-race-150-...

The HN discussion on the China story:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29151741

Japan reactivating nuclear reactors:

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210501/p2a/00m/0op/00...

UK. Rolls-Royce gets funding to develop mini nuclear reactors:

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-59212983


It's not a comeback until you push the first kwh to the grid for the price you said you'd build the new generator for. Japan turning back on mothballed reactors is a Big Deal (and a quick win for avoiding CO2 emissions), but getting new reactors built in less than a decade or for less than billons of dollars is where the proof lies. Talk and promises are cheap, action has a cost and can't be faked.

https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-... (Lazard’s latest annual Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (LCOE 15.0) shows the continued cost-competitiveness of certain renewable energy technologies on a subsidized basis and the marginal cost of coal, nuclear and combined cycle gas generation.)


Comparing the cost of a non-intermittent energy source with an intermittent energy source excluding the cost of storage is comparing apples to oranges. Solar and wind are cheap, until you saturate the energy market during peak production hours. Then it gets exorbitantly expensive. The only viable storage solution at the moment is hydroelectric, which is geographically limited. Global lithium ion battery output for a whole year doesn't even add up to 1 hour's worth of the USA's electricity consumption.

When probed on how to address intermittency, many wind and solar advocates propose things like hydrogen storage, giant flywheels, compressed air, or other solutions that are currently in the prototyping stage and have yet to actually be deployed to a grid and demonstrate viability.

This is the chief advantage of nuclear power: it works and we have over half a century of production experience with it. Betting on one of those storage solutions panning out is betting on a big unknown.


The simplest energy storage solution is your hot water heater. Turning on everyone's hot water heater when there is surplus electricity, and turning them off when there's a deficit, is a very low cost solution.

The next level is using residential HVAC systems the same way. Comfortable temperatures are a range, so heating/cooling can push the temps to one end of the range, and when there is less electricity available, they can drift to the other end.

The charger for your electric car is another very practical sink for cheap electricity.

This is accomplished by having a spot price for electricity, and then people buying thermostats that query the spot price and turn HVAC, hot water heater, car battery chargers, etc., on and off.

This can be extended EVEN FURTHER by heating/cooling a pile of rocks to later use to heat/cool the house.

A battery consisting of a pile of rocks can't be expensive.

The idea is to not only adjust supply to the demand, but to shape the demand to the supply.

I am utterly astonished that this is never, ever discussed when talking about solutions to fluctuating supply. Having fixed electricity rates 24/7 is simply madness in today's electricity generation situation.


The problem with your great ideas, and "great ideas"generally is the lack of proven numbers.

As the poster above you pointed out the capacity of LI batteries is tiny. Yet you tout car batteries as though that were a new idea and a meaningful solution. And you ignore the fact that if you use car batteries as storage for the grid, that detracts from their use to, you know, run cars.

You also ignore the losses from your solutions. What is the round trip loss from heating up rocks and getting the energy back? It is huge. And you artfully forgot to mention all the equipment needed to get the energy back out in usable form such as electricity.

All the books and studies talk about load shaping, contrary to your "astonishment" that no-one is considering this "brilliant idea". The problems with load shaping are many. If you shut a factory down to spare the grid, then it is not producing. So all else being equal, you need more factories for the same production. Building and maintaining those extra factories takes labor, management, and energy.

Getting people to turn off air conditioning means that they are less comfortable, or perhaps unable to sleep, or unable to work. The South of the US more or less became viable economically due to air conditioning.

This is not unique to you, but I am really fed up with people spouting half-assed ideas and thinking that they constitute a solution.

As they said in the dot.com era - ideas are cheap.


> What is the round trip loss from heating up rocks and getting the energy back? It is huge. And you artfully forgot to mention all the equipment needed to get the energy back out in usable form such as electricity.

If you store the energy by heating the rocks, you can recover it to heat your house by simply blowing air over the rocks. No need to convert it to electricity, which would indeed be silly.

The same goes for air conditioning. Excess electricity could be used to cool the rocks, which then can be used to cool your house when electricity is expensive.

The detour through the rocks (or anything with thermal mass) costs next to nothing.

I am not talking about using the EV battery to run the house. I am talking about using the EV battery to run the EV. Simply charge it when electricity rates are cheaper. It's shifting the demand.

> thinking that they constitute a solution

They are perfectly and cheaply implementable, and are part of the solution.

> half-assed

I actually have a degree in mechanical engineering. You shouldn't be so hasty in your inferences.


I don't understand the animus in replies to your post. It's as if people want to deny that people like myself heat our homes in the winter by blowing air over hot water in a heat-exchanger. We can and many do heat that water during the day with the magic of the sun's rays or by burning wood (the only true renewable we have). Humans have been using thermal property of rock (not concrete, concrete doesn't match rock's efficiency) and water to heat ourselves and our homes for hundreds of years, and will likely continue to do so for hundreds more.


> The South of the US more or less became viable economically due to air conditioning.

I don't think that's the right way to phrase it. The South was clearly economically viable before A/C. It's kinda like saying that New York City wasn't economically viable until the invention of the safety elevator.

Overall I agree with your views on "half-assed ideas". I want to elaborate on this one topic a bit more, because it presses a button of mine.

On thing A/C did was make it possible to build cheap homes following northern tastes and styles, on the assumption power would remain cheap. Northerners could move in without having to adapt their customs and practices much.

Southern vernacular architecture includes high ceilings (so the heat rises above the people), lots of windows (to let the air go through and heat escape), and with the house raised off the ground (so cooling air flows underneath). This describes the A/C-less Florida house I grew up in. An even more traditional design would have a wraparound porch, to provide extra shade and let the windows stay open even when it rains.

OTOH, A/C encouraged house designs which require A/C to be comfortable - a sort of co-dependency. These vernacular features make the A/C bill higher, so they weren't included in newer homes. I tried living in a Florida home designed for A/C, but without using the A/C. Not only was it much less comfortable, as you write, but we started getting mold because of the humidity. A house made for A/C doesn't have much air flow.

So I don't think the argument is simply 'getting people to turn off air conditioning', but 'getting people to design houses which are a better fit for the local climate and have better long-term sustainability.'

That's of course hard, and expensive.

It's also hard to change lifestyles to fit the climate. Eg, the dominant US culture doesn't appreciate or tolerate siestas, even if it's locally more appropriate.

Oh, and this isn't unique to the South. It's cheaper to build a frame house in Arizona, which requires A/C to be livable, than to build an house (like an adobe house) with thick walls that moderate the temperature fluctuations.

Nor is it just A/C. Earthship designs, for example, show what is possible ... for people who are willing to put more work into daily maintenance. Which is part of the lifestyle change that's hard to do.

Okay, depressing button. :)


One thing to note about the A/C issue is that, as global warming progresses, passive cooling will become strictly necessary for survival - most parts of the South will start reaching higher and higher wet bulb temperatures.


> And you artfully forgot to mention

No he didn't, the rocks are for asynchronous heating/air conditioning, all you need to get the energy back is a water pump or air blower and tubes.

Your reply is unnecessarily dismissive and snarky. All of those ideas are easy to do projects for individuals.

The only thing you need to implement on a global/national/regional scales is a spot market for electricity accessible for everyone. Then you can lean back and watch people implement all those simple ideas and many more.

All in all, your reply is unnecessarily dismissive and snarky. Those ideas are not "brilliant ideas" (btw you should learn about correct quoting). Of course those won't solve the problem all at once, but they will have a huge impact.


Try not to get suckered into the notion that all ideas are cheap. Bad ideas are cheap and come from a place of either arrogance or ignorance. Great ideas are not cheap, as they typically come from folks who expended the required effort to become a subject matter expert, which gives them foundational knowledge and a better view of the whole picture -- both at a high and granular level.

That said, the parent comment's ideas are bad and ignorant, for the reasons you mentioned and more.


> That said, the parent comment's ideas are bad and ignorant, for the reasons you mentioned and more.

The parents comments are neither bad nor ignorant. They can be summarized as demand management.

Utilities hate demand management. If they run an efficient market with incentives to shift demand, profits drop. Their profits are based on cost, increasing costs is how they improve their margins. Same as healthcare, band-aids cost $1400 at a hospital. When profits are capped by regulation, this is the workaround.

Don't get suckered into fossil fuel narrative. All the narrative against any kind of progress comes from industry that benefits from status quo and regurgitated by media.


I never purported that fossil fuels are a good thing. In fact, I never mentioned them at all and was only discussing the concept of "ideas being cheap." Honestly, it's rather troll-ish and shameful that you've concocted this arrogant rant against an imaginary argument that nobody was making.

You also just bolstered my point about the OC's ideas being bad, because you admitted that the utility providers aren't motivated to do such a thing, which was the entire foundation of his argument -- that some imaginarily ethical regulatory organization is going to force utilities to be equally ethical, efficient and technologically progressive.

And just to be perfectly clear, using a pile of heated rocks as primary energy storage is beyond ridiculous and entirely ignorant of thermodynamics and physics in general.

So, yes, the ideas were both bad and ignorant.


You're being unnecessarily confrontational. You're also incorrect: there are already utility providers that have started pricing based on load (my provider bases rates on season, day of the week, and time of day, updated annually, so a sort of aggregate estimate that I suspect will become finer grained in the coming years), and thermal energy storage via mass is a very common technique: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_energy_storage

edit to add more specific link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storage_heater


How exactly am I being unnecessarily confrontational? The OC constructed an entire argument based around something I never said. That is called gaslighting and is the very definition of confrontational, and I have every right to defend myself from it. For you to suggest that I should just accept being gaslit, is both absurd and its own form of gaslighting.

Also, you just made the exact opposite point of the OC in regards to rates, and then provided a link about thermal energy storage that proves the only point I made, which is its inefficiency[1] at small scale -- and at large scale it is not a pile of rocks inside every home.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_energy_storage#Heat_st...


> using a pile of heated rocks as primary energy storage is beyond ridiculous and entirely ignorant of thermodynamics and physics in general.

Except there are many examples of such in common use. For example, passive solar houses use this technique.

> some imaginarily ethical regulatory organization is going to force utilities to be equally ethical, efficient and technologically progressive.

Current(1) regulatory organizations fix electricity rates. Electric utilities are already heavily regulated.


Again, just because people use the technique, doesn't make it the best or even most appropriate method. It is incredibly inefficient and no technology can make it more efficient, because it is limited by the laws of physics -- which you keep insisting don't matter for some reason.

And again, you're making a sweeping generalization about regulatory organizations that isn't even remotely true, and you have nothing to base it on. In the US alone, the majority of states have systems that combine both regulated and unregulated rates, and even in the states where the regulators decide on the rate, a utility can request rate increases at any time.

Your entire premise is based around some mystical altruism that doesn't actually exist in government or business.

https://content.next.westlaw.com/Document/Ieb49d7b91cb511e38...


> It is incredibly inefficient

Please elaborate how heating a rock, putting it in an insulated box, and taking it out of that box later to release it's heat to the air is "incredibly inefficient" compared to heating the air directly.


Because it takes 3-5x as much energy to heat rock than water, and at least twice as much as many other common materials. Sorry to say, even air is more efficient depending on the scale of time you're trying to solve for, though its ability to retain that heat is directly limited by the properties of the insulated box -- like a house, for example.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_capacity

https://theengineeringmindset.com/specific-heat-capacity-of-...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_energy_storage#Heat_st...

You're going to be tempted to reference the last link as evidence in your favor, but it's very much the opposite. It's saying the advantage concrete has is its ability to be heated to higher temperatures than water. Except it doesn't get to break the laws of physics and still requires 3-5x as much energy input, which is why it's really only practical for large scale operations that can safely heat the concrete to extreme temperatures, using massive amounts of electricity that would otherwise be wasted due to low grid demand. They are still losing at least 75% efficiency in that process, but it's slightly better than losing 100%, as long as you pretend there aren't any environmental impacts of producing all that extra concrete.

You'll notice the first installation referenced in this section actually uses 1,000 cubic feet of additional reinforced concrete and an entire home's worth of additional electricity to supply a single home with 50% of its heating and hot water. That's a second foundation's worth of concrete, for perspective.

And moreover, as we've already established, this concept isn't new at all. If it were legitimately more efficient and more practical than alternatives, every home would already be using its foundation as heat storage. But they don't, because it's not.


To quote, your comment's ideas are bad and ignorant. Not because they are incorrect, but because you blindly insist on them. The reasoning is valid merely for a rock/concrete oven or a vacation house.

I suggest you read up on laws of conservation. If you want to be less than 100% efficient, you have to lose energy somehow, somewhere.

I don't know where you're getting efficiency numbers from, but quoting from your reference, storage in Sorø will double as electricity storage while beating your numbers on electricity alone.

"A similar system is scheduled for Sorø, Denmark, with 41–58% of the stored 18 MWh heat returned for the town's district heating, and 30–41% returned as electricity."

BTW, when you switch rocks for concrete, of course it's expensive and makes no sense - people don't add tons of concrete for thermal storage. Though they do use it, if it's there, and add rocks, brick walls, water tanks, phase change materials etc, if they want more.


You are conflating physically and politically hard problems. It's hard to beat physics, but we absolutely should be talking about, considering and demanding practical yet politically hard solutions. All we have to do is ask, and the alternative is to quietly sink into an abyss.


Not gonna argue on the rest but

> And you ignore the fact that if you use car batteries as storage for the grid, that detracts from their use to, you know, run cars.

well, actually car are parked and not used most of the time, even more during nights when there is no solar energy. And TBH this is my mid-term plan: solar panels to charge it by day and use its battery by night for lights and electric appliances (moving to an electric cold/heat pump for heating it's out of my budget currently, I'm on natural gas)


Disclaimer: Founder of Electric Foundation (accelerate EV adoption), Conduit Foundation (require all new construction to be EV ready)

> And you ignore the fact that if you use car batteries as storage for the grid, that detracts from their use to, you know, run cars.

Most people drive about 20 - 40 minutes per day. In large cities, it is 2+ hours. The remaining 22 hours, EV is an energy sponge. Take the current peak load, produce more renewables than the peak, turn renewables to 11, absorb all the excess free energy. EV is primarily an energy storage device, some people take trips on them once in a while. None of this energy is wasted. There is no need to think of a round trip for this scenario. All energy for transportation can be free and clean, we are capturing excess production. Utilities are curtailing renewable production, this is a shame, we have built solar/wind farms, but not using free energy! This is a huge barrier for new renewables, producers have to consider growing curtailment.

> All the books and studies talk about load shaping, contrary to your "astonishment" that no-one is considering this "brilliant idea". The problems with load shaping are many.

Utilities are a monopoly, guaranteed a cost + profit formula. Utilities increase their costs to increase the profit. We see the same formula play out in health care, hospitals charge $1,400 for a band-aid. Energy can be a lot cheaper, and zero. It is entirely possible for Utilities to pay us for using our electric cars storage, they provide the best grid stabilization and smooth out demand and supply curve, flattening the peak rates. Instead of paying 10 - 20x for peaker gas plants, why can’t Americans be paid? There is a nexus of Utilities (generators, producers, distributors) and jacking up capital costs.

> All the books and studies talk about load shaping, contrary to your "astonishment" that no-one is considering this "brilliant idea".

Because these are produced by the utilities. Economists and scientists are funded by the industry to write their view. This happened and continues to happen. [1]

Lead is a gift of God. [2], this view was supported by scientists, surgeon general, AMA, public health and nearly all Govt bodies. Industry sets the rules for all of us so they can continue to extract profits for as long as possible. With this rule, we are all poisoned by lead for ~100 years. Lead poisoning is permanent! "lead does not break down over time. It does not vaporize, and it never disappears. modern man’s lead exposure is 300 to 500 times" [4]. We not only have polluted ourselves, but made a permanent toxic change for all of humanity. For what? To make the richest people a little bit richer?

Koheo's rule (put in place by the industry) was used and continues to be used for thousands of other toxins.

"Using the Kehoe Rule, Ethyl Corporation was a winner in either situation: if its product was actually safe, Ethyl would be seen as a responsible party. If, however, its product was unsafe, it would take decades to demonstrate that with certainty. The process of getting to certainty could be prolonged by challenging the methods and results and calling for more data, and while it was going on the product would continue to generate profits. Kitman indicates that the strategy taken by the lead industry, referring to use of the Kehoe Rule, similarly "provided a model for the asbestos, tobacco, pesticide and nuclear power industries, and other(s)... for evading clear evidence that their products are harmful by hiding behind the mantle of scientific uncertainty."[4] Kettering Laboratories under Kehoe's leadership also certified the safety of the fluorinated refrigerant, Freon, "another environmentally insensitive GM patent that would earn hundreds of millions before it was outlawed."" [3]

Innocent until proven guilty is for people. Should we use the same rule for stuff that harms us? How can we prove this harm when all the studies on harm are done only by the insiders?

The internet that we see today, all the things that are happening in the tech space directly result from the breaking up of AT&T monopoly. We went from circuit switched to packet switched networks, built the underlying networks to throw packets at each other."AT&T, a powerful gatekeeper, controlled innovation by controlling access to the resources needed to innovate – the wires – the physical layer of the telephone network. AT&T's view of Paul Baran's packet-switching design was: ‘It can't possibly work, and if it did, damned if we are going to allow the creation of a competitor to ourselves.’ [5]

The current configuration of the grid is a creation of this utility nexus. We must break this monopoly. If we can figure out how to sling IP packets at each other, surely we can imagine a reconfiguration of the grid that will let us throw electrons at each other. This will result in upto a thousand dollars/month saved for all of us (residential use), as well as making all the energy clean and renewable. Forever.

---

[1] https://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/industry-weaponizing-scie... [2] https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.75.4.... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Kehoe [3] https://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/the-hour-of-lead.pdf [5] ATT and packet switched networks: https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/mod/oucontent/view.php?...

[4] https://www.typeinvestigations.org/investigation/2000/03/02/... "Lead is poison, a potent neurotoxin whose sickening and deadly effects have been known for nearly 3,000 years and written about by historical figures from the Greek poet and physician Nikander and the Roman architect Vitruvius to Benjamin Franklin. Odorless, colorless and tasteless, lead can be detected only through chemical analysis. Unlike such carcinogens and killers as pesticides, most chemicals, waste oils and even radioactive materials, lead does not break down over time. It does not vaporize, and it never disappears.

For this reason, most of the estimated 7 million tons of lead burned in gasoline in the United States in the twentieth century remains–in the soil, air and water and in the bodies of living organisms. Worldwide, it is estimated that modern man’s lead exposure is 300 to 500 times greater than background or natural levels. Indeed, a 1983 report by Britain’s Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution concluded that lead was dispersed so widely by man in the twentieth century that “it is doubtful whether any part of the earth’s surface or any form of life remains uncontaminated by anthropogenic [man-made] lead.”

(edit: formatting)


This all reminds me of 18 months ago on HN when I pointed out how a Covid vaccine could be developed and released in 6 months.

Ridicule and condemnation was heaped upon me, all explaining how it simply must take 2 years at least.

And yet it was released 6 months later, more or less doing what I suggested.

I'm going to be proven right on this one, too :-)


This doesn't really work in a lot of places in the world, because the base things are already too expensive. Most of the world does not have HVAC at home. They don't generate heat with electricity either. Car battery chargers only matter if you own an electric car, own a house and have a charger at home. None of this is relevant to most people in the world. It might be in a couple of decades, but not yet. And this includes France.


> This doesn't really work in a lot of places in the world

Nothing will work in 100% of the world.

The point is, do it where it does make sense.


Smart appliances are a good idea in principle but rolling them out will take a long time. Water heaters last 10+ years. I don't think there are even any widely available on the market today which will automatically increase the temperature at mid day in anticipation of an electricity shortage later. And it's a safety hazard in homes with small children; hot water temperature should never be hot enough to cause burns when someone turns on the faucet.

Most homes don't have enough free space for a big pile of rocks to increase thermal mass. My home has pretty good insulation but on hot days we're going to be miserable without AC in the evening regardless of how much we chilled the house down earlier.


In France, every electric meter have been (or is going to be) replaced with a new one named Linky.

Linky is an electric meter connected to the grid through PLC but it embeds the required hardware to eventually drive appliances consumption.

It provides a dry contact which can be open or closed remotely via the grid’s PLC. So it can be open or closed even without internet.

You can imagine to use this contact to drive a power line dedicated to your water boiler, electric car …

IIRC, atm, the only provided possibility is to open/close the contact via a web API / a smartphone app. But in the future, it may become controllable by the electricity provider to be automatically opened / closed based on the grid’s state (and the electricity price)


That's great! While probably hard to watch anywhere outside of Germany, there is a mini TV series about what will happen when we all got our smart electric meters:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11470588/ https://next-episode.net/blackout-2021 https://www.themoviedb.org/tv/136365-blackout

And before anyone replies that it won't come that far, please consider three things:

- We are using an AC power network, not a DC one.

- The power grid is the backbone of modern society.

- Try to find one big technology deployment which was deemed "safe" and actually kept that promise. Because I can easily find countless counter examples reaching from the Titanic to your latest game console.


The dry contact I'm talking about is totally opt-in. It's a physical contact that is not used by default. You can, if you want, wire it to a power line on which you can plug a subset of your appliances.

So the surface attack of this feature is that an hacker could stop you water boiler to heat or your car to charge, but you'd just have to plug them to the rest of your (still working) network.

And yes, the electricity provider could probably switch off your provisioning remotely. But that's not a novelty. That was always possible. Now it can be done safely.

And I'd like to add that the Linky is NOT connected to the internet. It's connected to the electricity provider network so you need to control the electricity provider in order to hack the meter. But at this point, if you gain control of the network, there is no interest in hacking the meters.


> So it can be open or closed even without internet.

A binary solution is far less efficient than one where the consumer decides if he's willing to pay the spot price or not. Especially if that is controlled from afar.

Shaping demand with prices is how free markets work. Shaping demand via some remote bureaucrat's decision to randomly cut people off is socialism.


Rolling blackouts fit your definition, do you consider Texas socialist? They had remote bureaucrats cutting people off just last winter.


I don't know the Texas crisis in detail, but I recall that people who were paying variable rates were not cut off.

I call something socialist when government regulators set the price, or otherwise interfere with the price.


They weren't, they are just broke now. Not sure if it's a preferred alternative https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/20/us/texas-storm-electric-b...


> Any it's a safety hazard in homes with small children; hot water temperature should never be hot enough to cause burns when someone turns on the faucet.

That’s a matter of forced mixing. The temp coming out of the hot water heater itself should have very little to do with the faucet temp in 2021. (Yes I realize it still does)


The device is called a tempering valve. It's already necessary if you want a child-safe temperature in the bathroom, because such a temperature is below the leigonella-inhibiting temperature of the storage.


> Water heaters last 10+ years.

Again, we're just talking the thermostat for it.

> I don't think there are even any widely available on the market today which will automatically increase the temperature at mid day in anticipation of an electricity shortage later.

Why should there be? Electric rates are fixed 24/7. All the power company has to do is provide an API to get the spot price, and start varying the electric rates according to supply. The market will adapt.

> Most homes don't have enough free space for a big pile of rocks to increase thermal mass.

Criminy. Do I have to design it, too? Most homes have a basement or a crawl space.


Walter, the things you're saying are patently untrue. Many, many countries and municipalities do not have fixed pricing, so you're looking at this from inside a personal bubble, which does not reflect reality for the rest of the world. So with that in mind, what you're actually proposing is a solution that works for some homes, in some municipalities, under very specific circumstances.

I can't imagine anyone wanting to start a business strictly based around a last-mile solution, when other solutions already exist and are substantially more efficient and scalable.

You're also assuming that the regulatory bodies for each municipality inherently want things to be efficient and customer-friendly, but that's just not how it works. In the US alone, all you need is to look at the disaster in Texas this past winter, where prices jumped to 180x their usual rates -- and for brazenly nefarious reasons.


> Walter, the things you're saying are patently untrue.

Want me to show you my electric bill? Fixed rate, 24/7, in every place I've lived, for my entire long life. California, land of the rolling blackouts because they can't match demand with supply, also has fixed electric rates.

> is a solution that works for some homes, in some municipalities, under very specific circumstances.

Oh come on.

> I can't imagine anyone wanting to start a business strictly based around a last-mile solution, when other solutions already exist and are substantially more efficient and scalable.

Look at the endless variety of thermostat innovation for your HVAC system. Even internet connected ones. Why would you suggest that simply automatically adjusting the thermostat based on spot prices for electricity is inefficient and unscalable?

> You're also assuming that the regulatory bodies for each municipality inherently want things to be efficient and customer-friendly

I infer no such thing. I suggested making changes.

> where prices jumped to 180x their usual rates

And I bet none of those customers had thermostats connected to the spot price of the electricity.

Do you know that the pump price of gas varies every day? That's demand shaping. And it works.


Give me a break, Walter. I explain that you're viewing this from within a bubble, and your response is to insist that you're not in a bubble because you, personally, haven't lived somewhere without fixed rates? That's the definition of a bubble argument and self-centeredness.

If you really think your ideas are unique and revolutionary and "correct," then I recommend going down to your local utility and pitching them heated rocks, instead of trying to convince the internet that you're right about everything -- see how long it takes for them to stop laughing.

As an aside, my father invented, developed and sold a heated rocks system over 40 years ago. It definitely worked, but the concept itself proved to be too inefficient, impractical and non-scalable, and because of that it never got adopted beyond a few off-the-grid folks. So, when I say that your ideas would only work in very specific circumstances, that's based on actual historical information, not some imagined universe where the entire world is exactly the same as you, personally, have experienced.


> you, personally, haven't lived somewhere without fixed rates? That's the definition of a bubble argument and self-centeredness.

So, the 5 states and 2 foreign countries I've lived in are a self-centered bubble? I'll turn that around. Where in the US are variable, minute by minute electricity pricing which can be remotely queried?

> see how long it takes for them to stop laughing

First they ignore you, then they laugh, then they race to implement it. What I see in this thread is "electricity rates are fixed 24/7, that's the way they've always been, anything else is inconceivable".

Frankly, why should the utility care? They'd probably profit quite a bit from massive government money to develop grid storage batteries.

It is typical for solar heated homes to use rocks/concrete for heat storage. Traditional adobe homes with thick earthen walls also are very, very good at being a heat sink and source, making the home comfortable. As mentioned elsewhere, I have a Swedish masonry fireplace which uses masonry to store the heat and slowly release it. It's a simple heated rock system. The Swedes have used that design for centuries.

As for your father's invention, I have no idea what went wrong with it. Perhaps a couple manufacturing engineers having a look could improve it quite a bit. After all, rarely does the first iteration of a concept be very practical.


You're proposing nothing but hypotheticals based on what a utility SHOULD care about as opposed to what they ACTUALLY do. And it's an exhausting amount of mental gymnastics.

As for my father's invention, the reason it didn't catch on was for the same reason that piles of rocks don't actually scale -- it's incredibly inefficient, as is every other rock-based thermal storage. Just because it's a functional method of accomplishing a task, doesn't mean it's the best method, and what you've repeatedly asserted is that YOUR idea should be the best method simply because you say so.


> it's incredibly inefficient

Explain.

> what a utility SHOULD care about as opposed to what they ACTUALLY do.

Obviously, as the grid supply dynamics change, what they traditionally did no longer works.


I invite you to come up with a "heated up pile of rocks" solution for those places:

https://i.redd.it/5bgjdbyj08sz.jpg

https://i.redd.it/hu4ljikj0ej31.jpg

https://i.redd.it/gonyuxg5cr401.jpg

Most people on this planet don't live in HVACed single family houses. That's what the grandparent meant by your "bubble".


> Most people

That still leaves billions of people. What's your solution? Rolling blackouts?

> those places

Many multi-unit buildings have central heating. Which means central thermal mass "batteries" are more cost-effective on a per-unit basis.


Same as Macron's: spending time and effort on reliable generation (i.e. nuclear) instead of wasting it on feel-good drop-in-a-bucket non-solutions. Every single one of those houses can be cooled or heated up if you have energy available on request, no need for massive piles of rocks here and there

It also means more thermal losses and huge thermal masses required to make any difference.


Walter, you are making up science in your head that does not actually exist. I would highly encourage you to do some actual research before you continue to make these incredibly uninformed comments.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29186001


> Because it takes 3-5x as much energy to heat rock than water

And 100% of that energy gets recovered as it slowly returns to ambient temperature.

You're confusing heat with temperature.

> you are making up science in your head that does not actually exist

You should be careful about making such statements. You're quite wrong. The heat going into the rock will be 100% returned. All of it. Where do you imagine it will go?


No, Walter, you're confusing energy with temperature. If it takes 1 kWh of electricity to increase the temperature of water by 1 unit (thereby releasing 1 unit of heat to the atmosphere), it takes 3-5 kWh of electricity to increase the temperature of a rock by 1 unit. That's called inefficiency.

I'm done trying to explain 6th grade Earth science to you. You're either trolling or extremely unwilling to accept reality, so unless you have actual evidence for any of your claims, please stop pretending that you're some super genius who knows better than every scientist and engineer on the planet.


> you're confusing energy with temperature

The energy comes back out of the rocks in the form of heat. 100% of it. No losses. Energy in equals energy out. If you heat the rock by 1 degree, in cooling off 1 degree it will release 100% of the heat absorbed.

> you're some super genius who knows better than every scientist and engineer on the planet

I suggest you ask an actual thermodynamicist, not a 6th grader. I don't need to present evidence that conservation of energy applies. After all, it's the law.


This is getting beyond ridiculous, Walter, and you're making things up again. At no point did I or anyone else on the planet ever suggest that heating a rock by 1 degree will release less than 1 degree of heat.

As I've explained multiple times now, it's a matter of where the heat originally came from, and it requires 3-5x MORE ENERGY to impart the THE SAME AMOUNT OF HEAT to a rock as it does water. That's the entire point, and is the portion of thermodynamics that you keep pretending doesn't exist. I'm not sure how many more times or ways I can explain this to you, because you clearly don't want to accept that the original heat input doesn't magically manifest itself.

I've provided you with evidence for all of this, but you're still making the same baseless argument. Your ignorance of the subject is exhausting to engage with, so if that was your intent, I guess you win today's Troll Award. But you're still completely wrong about the science, you're unwilling to provide any evidence to back up your claims (because the evidence doesn't exist), you have no basis for your argument at all, and you should be ashamed of yourself for insisting otherwise in such an aggressively arrogant manner.


> At no point did I or anyone else on the planet ever suggest that heating a rock by 1 degree will release less than 1 degree of heat.

Yet you said it was only 20% efficient. Where did the 80% of the energy go?

> it requires 3-5x MORE ENERGY to impart the THE SAME AMOUNT OF HEAT to a rock as it does water

No, it doesn't. It's the same. Unless you've confused heat with temperature. Or you didn't try to heat the rock in an enclosed, insulated box, and the rocks were radiating the heat away almost as fast as it was applied.

"Heat is a form of energy that can be transferred from one object to another or even created at the expense of the loss of other forms of energy."

https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/thermalP/u18l1d.cfm

QED.


You finally provided some "evidence" and it literally says the opposite of what you're suggesting. I would highly encourage you to keep reading the subsequent pages on that site, because it goes on to explain the reasons why you're wrong.

> No, it doesn't. It's the same.

This statement is the entire premise of your argument, but is directly refuted by the source you provided, and is so ridiculously absurd that I can't take you seriously anymore. You have to be trolling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_capacity


> You finally provided some "evidence" and it literally says the opposite of what you're suggesting.

Then it should be no trouble for you to present a literal quote of what I said and a literal quote that says the opposite.


Walter, I've already provided you with a mountain of evidence. You pasted a single sentence stating that heat can be transferred between objects, which nobody has ever refuted, and does not factor in any of the actual physics involved with that transfer -- and then you asked me to paste an entire article as a counterpoint.

Your gaslighting continues, and I'm beyond tired of it.


> Electric rates are fixed 24/7.

They aren’t for some people in some countries.


In Sweden there are two providers I know of that charges market price by minute, greenely.com and tibber.com.


I guess it's not a crazy idea after all!


Yes, I'm sure somewhere, someplace, there are exceptions.


> Criminy. Do I have to design it, too? Most homes have a basement or a crawl space.

In Europe at least, the vast majority of people live in high-rise blocks, which barely have adequate parking space, never mind any room for electricity storage. None of your solutions are even close to practical from this point of view alone.

Not to mention, relying on the market to be rational really can't be the solution to keeping the grid functional. Blackouts are massively disruptive and potentially life threatening.


Again, I'm not talking about storing electricity. Just storing heat or cold.

If you have a hot water heater, you already have a heat storage device that can be used to shift demand.


I don't, and most don't either: there is no room. We have hot pipes through which hot water is pumped. At best, the high-rise itself has a hot water heater, but even that probably only holds a few hours worth of water. Serious storage is only there at the neighborhood level.


>Most homes have a basement or a crawl space.

Not sure if this is true or not in total, but in the Southern US, the vast majority of houses have neither.


Places with damp ground need a crawl space.

Attics are another place to put it.


https://www.basementguides.com/why-are-there-no-basements-in...

Since 2000 most homes have been slab construction 60/40 by 2013 78/32.

It is cheaper and quicker to build slab and the way the housing market works means that developers choose what to build.


Your cite is about basements, not crawl spaces.

In Arizona, everything was slab-on-grade because the ground was very, very dry. That's not so in most other areas.

The crawl space keeps the wood off the ground where it wicks up moisture and quickly rots. Cement wicks up moisture, too. Try a slab in Seattle, for instance, and your house will soon be uninhabitable from mildew.


Here you go, same info for crawl spaces as well.

> 30 percent of new single-family homes started in 2013 have a full or partial basement, 54 percent are built on slabs, and 15 percent have a crawl space.

https://eyeonhousing.org/2014/10/what-foundations-are-built-...

I think you are looking at a small subset of data.


So it's still half the homes. How many millions of homes is that?


> I don't think there are even any widely available on the market today which will automatically increase the temperature at mid day in anticipation of an electricity shortage later.

Our house built 7 years ago has an Enefarm fuel cell/hot water heater. Every house in our neighborhood and every house I’ve seen by the same builder has one. It approaches things a little bit differently but to the same effect. It learns your energy use patterns and turns on the fuel cell (using LP gas) when you usually use electricity, generating hot water as a side effect. The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.

https://www.j-lpgas.gr.jp/en/appliances/index.html#ENE-FARM

> it's a safety hazard in homes with small children; hot water temperature should never be hot enough to cause burns when someone turns on the faucet.

Internally it stores water at 65 degrees C but mixes it with cold water to to supply all water to the house at a certain temp. We have ours set to 40C but you can change it on a control panel. Of course, there are mixing taps at the sinks/showers. It’s very common for shower temp controls here to have a extra stop at 40C that requires pressing a button to exceed.

> Most homes don't have enough free space for a big pile of rocks to increase thermal mass

I don’t know about cooling but the ones that take advantage of cheap electricity at night to store up heat and release slowly over the day are not massive.

https://catforehead.com/2014/02/17/getting-warm/ https://www.sanica.co.jp/aldy/products/rdf40.html


I'm not sure if they count as widely available yet, but here you go: https://octopus.energy/works-with-octopus/

(Disclosure: I work for this company, although not on these products.)


> I am utterly astonished that this is never, ever discussed when talking about solutions to fluctuating supply. Having fixed electricity rates 24/7 is simply madness in today's electricity generation situation.

In many areas wholesale markets work on a spot price basis (although players in the market can of course hedge against low/high prices), but consumers have been very reluctant to go with spot price contracts.

This will probably not be helped by the experience of those consumers in Texas who got $10000 electricity bills during last winter's storm, as the prices skyrocketed.


The whole idea is to not indiscriminately use electricity when the spot price goes up.


Sure, I agree with that. I guess people don't want to be in a position of having to choose between freezing to death and going bankrupt. So they won't go with the spot-price following contract, even though in some sense it would be better for the grid as a whole.

I suppose this could be handled with some kind of roof price (with the lost money being inserted as some kind of fixed surcharge on the bill or something like that). That would allow reaping most of the benefits of spot pricing without risking bankruptcy during a crisis.


The alternative to demand shaping is the electricity just gets turned off. Which is also what happened in Texas.

There's a name for it: "rolling blackouts". Texas had them, they're also popular in California.

Another name for it is "shortages". Shortages happen when prices are fixed. Having fixed prices does not at all mean there's enough for everyone. Someone's gonna do without.


Shorages also happen when you don't have enough production capability or transportation capibility. See most of what is happening durring the pandemic. I can assure you the price of containers and wood have not been fixed.

Of the two states you mentioned, California is also faceing a housing shortage. I would hazard that the same factors that are causing that shortage are in play for their power problems as well.


> Shorages also happen when you don't have enough production capability or transportation capibility.

No they don't.

> See most of what is happening durring the pandemic. I can assure you the price of containers and wood have not been fixed.

The price of car batteries has doubled. But they're readily available. Why do you think all those prices have gone up?


Some car batteries may be available but I know for a fact that stock of some ran out. We could not get them from the manufacturer.

Same as ECM for cars. You think that Ford, GM or Toyota would not pay a bit extra to be able to sell cars?

Wood saw a huge price increase but also ran out.

Right now try to source tires. Distributors don't have them, you might be able to find 1 or 2 if you are lucky but you could offer double or triple and you still couldn't buy in volume. Material is not available.


> We could not get them from the manufacturer.

You could buy them from someone who has them. There's a price at which anyone will sell. The problem then becomes the price you'd have to charge for the cars is too much, but someone who is willing to pay that price could still buy them.

Which is why new car prices are up substantially.

If prices were set by law, this couldn't happen (legally). So then the shortages are real.


I manufacture equipment, I can't use used batteries, I need new. If something is not available in the quantities I need, it is not available. Food is a good example of this, in a famine there is not enough food. Money can not buy you extra because it does not exist.

Or another example: So if I am willing to pay anything, I can get the Mona Lisa? and if you are willing to pay anything, you can get the Mona Lisa as well? There is only one.

But to bring this back to the original topic of the thread, since we have determined that money is no object, why not spend that money to build nuclear power plants.


My water heater is not a storage device for electricy. It lacks the means to recover energy from it, and I want hot water in the morning, every morning, not at random times during the year when there is a surplus of power.

Also, in any cold climate, 'surplus of energy' is generally associated with the presence of sunlight, i.e. at times when heating the house is typically not a great priority. You want that heating on when it is coldest, which typically coincides with the lowest renewable energy production as well.

Charging and decharging your car sounds great, but it means your battery is deteriorating while you aren't even driving.


> My water heater is not a storage device for electricy.

Criminy. Of course it isn't. It's a storage device for HOT WATER.

I have an experiment you can try. Unplug your hot water heater. See how long the hot water lasts. (For me, it remains hot enough to shower for TWO DAYS.) That suggests, to ignorant me, that one does not need to heat the water in it at a moment's notice, but it can be deferred to the cheaper times of the day.

Furthermore, water doesn't have to be heated to a precise temperature. The temp of your shower is controlled by mixing it with cold water. Hence, one can heat the water to a much higher temp when electricity is cheap, further extending the "battery" effect of storing hot water.


If you know ahead of time that you are going to use it like this, you can use a purpose built Thermal Store. It's a huge insulated water tank that you heat up, and then you extract heat from it by running mains water through a heat exchanger with the tank water. Typically used by people with wind, solar, or burned fuel energy supplies to smooth out energy consumption and soak up extra energy when there is too much. Also by people with variable electricity pricing to soak up free excess energy from the grid at night and heat their home for free all day.


Your water heater quite probably is an electrical storage device, it's been a fairly standard tech for decades in many countries, often using cheap coal or nuclear power at night since they aren't economic to ramp down.

I'd be very surprised if France didn't do things like this. edit: googled it:

https://thegoodlifefrance.com/french-hot-water-tanks-tarrifs...

So, one of the "unacceptable" solutions to fighting climate change, is something that countries with the highest nuclear mix have been doing for ages.


I'm quite sure my water heater does not store electricity. It stores hot water, and it completely lacks the ability to turn hot water back into electricity. At best I can use electricity at surplus times to heat water more cheaply, but that doesn't make it 'an electrical storage device'. I cannot attach a light bulb to it, for example, so you cannot use it during dark, quiet days to compensate for the lack of renewable power.


I am amazed that anyone would infer from my post that I was suggesting using your hot water heater to generate electricity.


Probably your first line is what caused the confusion.

>The simplest energy storage solution is your hot water heater. Turning on everyone's hot water heater when there is surplus electricity, and turning them off when there's a deficit, is a very low cost solution.

People want a storage solution, not a surplus use solution. Using peak sunlight or wind to heat water isn't going to be useful for a factory or server farm. The only thing that sort of load shifting helps is to diminish peak load.

Yeah, it is probably a great idea to charge your electric car during the day at work as opposed to at night. Maybe a good idea for hot water too, until you have company or teenagers who manage to use up your water in the afternoon.

The pile of rocks to store heat sounds like a nonstarter to me, unless you plan to retrofit a bunch of houses and hope that the heat stored isn't depleted faster for any reason. Otherwise broken pipes at best and deaths at the worst. Not sure how much space you would need for something like that but seems like a problem for small apartments, either the heat leakage would overheat the place or you wouldn't store enough to keep warm.


> unless you plan to retrofit a bunch of houses

I said it was a next step. Besides, the government building code constantly adds new requirements for energy efficiency. That's why we have double pane windows today. It was mandated for new construction.

> Otherwise broken pipes at best and deaths at the worst

??? It's a pile of rocks in a box.


If you are relying on your box of heated rocks to keep your house warm and cooling occurs faster than planned you are left without heat.


> occurs faster than planned

Then you didn't do the engineering properly.


Good points. Denmark has a lot HVAC district heating with storage for load balancing planned in it's energy strategy 2050 (as I remember when I read it few years back).

Example of a proof of concept for electricity to heat and reverse via rock heating is the Siemens Gamesas Hamburg plant: https://www.siemensgamesa.com/explore/innovations/energy-sto...

Additionally, I would add that there electricity for generation of hydrogen or synth fuels for airline or seafaring industries:

https://www.offshorewind.biz/2021/05/17/construction-starts-...

https://fuelcellsworks.com/news/major-green-hydrogen-facilit...


Yeah, lots of things sound like perfectly great ideas until you actually run the numbers and find out they're hopelessly inadequate.

And electric cars actually tend to get charged at night, while people sleep, when solar isn't generating.


> electric cars actually tend to get charged at night, while people sleep, when solar isn't generating.

Because there's no incentive to do otherwise. Of course people don't time shift their electric use when there's no incentive to.


The only way most people can time-shift charging their electric cars to the daytime is if their parking spot at their job has a charging station. Practically, that means a very large fraction of office building parking spots will need charging stations. That sounds prohibitively expensive. Incentives can only nudge so far before you run into genuine problems of logistics.


Building charging stations isn't that expensive, definitely not prohibitively so.


Charging stations can be installed and can make money by charging the commuters to charge their cars while they work. If the price differential between day & night is enough, it will be worthwhile for both the parking lot owner and the car owner.


Much cheaper than nuclear


charging stations for building parking don't need to be high speed, so the cost is just putting in an outlet (probably a 240 volt one)


Yes but "you can charge it while you sleep" is a pretty popular selling point of electric cars. You're arguing that we should purposely make electric cars less attractive.

People talk about "demand management" as if it's free. Not much power available, just shut down some factories. But if you're running your factories only half the time, you need to build twice as many factories to make the same stuff. You're making renewables look artificially cheap by externalizing costs to their customers.


> Yes but "you can charge it while you sleep" is a pretty popular selling point of electric cars. You're arguing that we should purposely make electric cars less attractive.

Instead, "you can charge it while you work". Not many people drive more than an hour a day - that's 23 hours where it sits. I see lots of cars parked in residential streets during the day. Paid parking lots catering to commuters can also offer charging services.

> just shut down some factories

That's your strawman. I didn't propose that.


Any factory wants to run full-speed 24/7. How are you going to manage their demand without reducing their production?

Same principle applies to most things. If electricity stops being readily available all the time, then you're introducing a new constraint that people have to optimize for. If that means they change their behavior, then they're doing something more expensive than whatever they were doing before, when they optimized without that constraint.

That extra cost generally isn't figured into the optimistic estimates of how cheap renewables are, but it's still a cost that society pays.

Building lots of charging stations at employer parking lots is also a new cost, that doesn't get counted against renewables.


Have you ever noticed that pump gas prices vary every day? That's demand shaping. It works.

> Building lots of charging stations at employer parking lots is also a new cost, that doesn't get counted against renewables.

The cost needs to be compared with building grid storage batteries.


It also needs to be included in comparisons with the cost of nuclear.


> Any factory wants to run full-speed 24/7

Many factories don't run 24/7. And yet more factories don't run their most energy intensive processes continuously even when they factory is "running".


A few commuters to the little town I live in can charge their electric cars during the day while they are at work.

If every parking space had a 7 kW connection (230 V, 30 A single phase) almost all cars could be fully charged while their owners were at work. In fact even an ordinary 3 kW connection would be enough for most people; even my 2015 Tesla Model S adds more than 12 km per hour at 3 kW.


Drive around any residential street during the day. You'll see lots of pahked cahs. They're not all off at work.


If car owners are paying for that power, then you need more than just electrical outlets. You need something that takes payments.

If car owners aren't paying for the power, then who is?

And either way, what does it cost to wire up all the parking spaces?


> You need something that takes payments.

Paid parking lots solved that problem eons ago.

> what does it cost to wire up all the parking spaces?

I wonder how people ever managed to electrify street lamps, any exterior powered things, even the per-stall electric parking meters I've encountered.


Charging a car takes way more power than running a parking meter.

All I'm saying is, the costs of these sorts of demand management measures for renewables should not be overlooked in comparisons with the cost of nuclear, which doesn't need them.


> Charging a car takes way more power than running a parking meter.

True, you'll need a heavier wire. And the cost of installing wire far exceeds the cost of the wire. When my house was wired up, the cost of the installation was 40 times the cost of the reels of wire.


Also night is a pretty good time for grid load since wind does decently at night, and power use is very low. (since most offices/factories don't use power at night)


Also if your home has a "NightSaver" meter (just what they're called here in Ireland, but basically a day and night meter), the night rate is often nearly half the day rate, so it makes sense to charge at night.


> The simplest energy storage solution is your hot water heater. Turning on everyone's hot water heater when there is surplus electricity, and turning them off when there's a deficit, is a very low cost solution.

This is available in the UK, using a thing called the Economy 7 tariff on electricity [1]. You have two sets of circuits on this plan. One set is the normal set that provides electricity 24/7, so you get expensive electricity when the rate is high and cheap electricity when the rate is low. The other only provides electricity when the rate is lower, such as at night (the 7 in "Economy 7" refers to 7 hours of cheap electricity at night).

There are water heaters designed specifically to work with this [2]. They have a main heating element that does most of the work, which you connect to a circuit that only provides power when the rate is low. These tanks also have a boost heating element that is on a 24/7 circuit meant to just provide any extra heating you need for hot water use during the day.

They also have tariffs that provide a fixed rate 24/7, which should be cheaper than Economy 7 during the day but more expensive at night, so whether Economy 7 saves you money depends on how much of your electricity use is at night.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_7

[2] https://www.cse.org.uk/advice/advice-and-support/economy-7


>I am utterly astonished that this is never, ever discussed when talking about solutions to fluctuating supply.

I'm not surprised to be honest. On a forum like this, you'll get a bunch of very smart people talking about something they don't know a lot about, but authoritatively. (Just look at the incredibly snarky and dismissive responses you've received)

It's certainly talked about in industry and work is going into implementing it.

I work in the electricity-tech industry but I've given up on trying to talk about things like demand response as I'm always shouted down


HN has also snarkily informed me many times that demand for gasoline is completely inelastic.

Never mind that the pump price of gas changes every day, especially when there's an oil refinery explosion, or glut, or whatever. It's a classic example of demand shaping via price. And it works because demand for gas is elastic.

The only time this did not work was when the government regulated oil prices and which stations got a gas allocation. Older folks like me might remember this - long gas lines in the 1970s. Gas lines that disappeared literally overnight when Reagan repealed the price and allocation controls.


How is a refinery explosion, pipeline shutdown or glut proof that demand is elastic?

All that shows is that supply is elastic and that market price varies. For the most part, demand is inelastic. You require the same amount of fuel to go to work/school and return. Now you could vary your shopping habits, go to a shopping center with several stores as opposed to the stores you like. You could put off a road trip or vacation but it isn't like either of those things are the bulk of gasoline usage.

Refinery and pipeline problems are relatively short-term events. Something like an embargo which caused the oil crisis would definitely change behavior and demand.

When you talk about allowing prices to determine who gets and doesn't get a good that is fine when it is a luxury item like graphics cards. But when you talk about the same thing for a necessity like food, water and electricity then getting priced out of the market means death.


> For the most part, demand is inelastic.

Sorry, but that is obviously untrue. If it was true, gas prices would just go up and stay up.

> But when you talk about the same thing for a necessity like food, water and electricity then getting priced out of the market means death.

Then you'll have to accept that the inevitable shortages also mean death. Anti-gouging laws not only produce shortages, they make for less supply overall being available. (This is because high prices motivate increased supply.)

P.S. For just one example, when gas prices are low, people will drive to the store to pick up a loaf of bread. When they're high, people will combine errands and buy more items on fewer trips to the store.


>Sorry, but that is obviously untrue. If it was true, gas prices would just go up and stay up.

Only if there was a monopoly or collusion, otherwise the competition would cause prices to fall to a point just above break even. Well, more complicated than that, prices would fall to a point where it is profitable enough for the companies involved to keep producing the goods and not switch to making something else.

>Then you'll have to accept that the inevitable shortages also mean death. Anti-gouging laws not only produce shortages, they make for less supply overall being available. (This is because high prices motivate increased supply.)

No, you can also over produce something and pay for the over production. We do that with food. That is why you hear a lot about paying farmers to not farm or dumping excess grain in the ocean as opposed to selling it.

>P.S. For just one example, when gas prices are low, people will drive to the store to pick up a loaf of bread. When they're high, people will combine errands and buy more items on fewer trips to the store.

I literally used that as one of my examples: "Now you could vary your shopping habits, go to a shopping center with several stores as opposed to the stores you like. You could put off a road trip or vacation but it isn't like either of those things are the bulk of gasoline usage."

But again, that is not the bulk of gasoline use. Most people are not going to the store for a loaf of bread, going back the next day for hamburger meat and going a third day for salad. Or even making 2 or three trips in a day. Most people don't like to spend their time in cars driving places.


Maybe you want to take this discussion over to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics…

https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-5/using-gasoline-data-to...


People also tend to buy SUVs when gas is cheap and econoboxes when gas is expensive. People also "hypermile" when gas gets expensive. (I know I do.)

How do you explain the fact that when a refinery blows up, the gas stations still have gas to sell, though at higher prices?

And frankly, gas prices haven't changed that much. You see much different behaviors in Europe with the far more expensive gas.


You highlight the biggest problem: humans simply must change/adjust/whatever you want to call it, if humanity is to survive. The only technological out is fusion power. Without that, humans must learn to do with less (of everything). Everything else is empty rhetoric and time wasted.


Or we could use fission instead of fusion? We already have examples of countries using it successfully: France, Sweden, South Korea, and increasingly China. And the US during the 60s and 70s.

Geographically independent power, no carbon emissions, and no intermittency. It fulfills anything we'd get from fusion, except we have 70 years of experience using it in our power grids.


We don't need fusion. Fusion would be nice but we have more than enough fissile material to use well-understood fission plants for the foreseeable future.

The problem is humanity needs to get it's act together and stop allowing politics, NIMBY and a severe lack of understanding of science from getting in the way of saving itself.

Nuclear proliferation is the least of our problems if we can't grow our food outside anymore and half our cities are underwater.


No that's wrong. There are plenty of ways of achieving carbon neutral energy production. Fusion is one of them, but it's unlikely that fusion will be a particularly cheap source of power.


Or increase the production of batteries (and solar/wind).

Is building nuclear power faster than building Lithium Battery Factories?


Or why not both? The materials to make each doesn't overlap much so building on does not jack up the price of building the other.


I think if it’s governments fitting the bill, there is a limit to resources. But agree you could pursue both.

Nuclear power is still kind of fossil fuels though, so it’s just kicking the can down the road… but it’s a big kick.


> A battery consisting of a pile of rocks can't be expensive.

> The idea is to not only adjust supply to the demand, but to shape the demand to the supply.

> I am utterly astonished that this is never, ever discussed when talking about solutions to fluctuating supply. Having fixed electricity rates 24/7 is simply madness in today's electricity generation situation.

It might not be the same everywhere but in France and Belgium at least, it is very common to have two rates: peak and off-peak. A signal is sent by the provider to your electrical meter (basically 220V when off-peak, 0V when peak) that can pilot a switch that turns the hot water heater on only during off-peak hours.

Some electric heaters also work on that principle, they are filled with bricks and heat up during off-peak hours then release the stored heat later, when it is needed. That's your "battery consisting of a pile of rock". However, I have lived with those things and it doesn't work at all because storing heat in anything else than water just doesn't work well. Basically at the end of the day, when you come back from work and need the heat that was stored during the night, it's already gone (and totally wasted as the house was empty). The most modern designs don't work much better. I think these only still exist because the idea seems good enough to convince people to buy them, but it's not actually technically feasible.

Anyway, everything you say is already possible in western Europe, and already done (except for HVAC, but that's mostly because HVAC in private homes isn't very common in the first place). What could be improved is to have more dynamic off-peak hours, but that's not a technical problem, everything would already work as is.


I think the problem with storing energy in western Europe, is that you need most energy for heating in winter, when there is hardly any solar power. So any convenient daily pattern doesn't work. For wind, you can probably heat up during the night assuming there is less other demand for electricity.

However, that doesn't help during period when there is hardly any wind. It is not as if you can stop heating your house for a couple of weeks.

I'm curious have this will play out. On a bright summer day, there is plenty of solar power. So it make sense to do everything during the day. During winter, it is better to distribute the load and move load to the night. That requires quite a bit of signaling to get right.


Central Europe here.. had pretty much a month or two (several weeks consecutive) of clouds/fog last winter -> no solar or wind.


There is absolutely less load during the night.

Also wind is the main renewable in western europe, not solar.

Having no wind for weeks basically doesn't happen, at least in the north sea.



Whilst the UK did indeed have 5 days with less than 2GW wind (not weeks with 0 like you claim), the situation is not as simple as news outlets and agenda-pushers would have you believe. A bunch of other plants (including nuclear) going offline was a major contributing factor.


So you propose to power all of Germany from the North Sea area? In theory it's possible, the North Sea is big enough. But transport costs maybe become an issue.


Well, if the bricks in your heater aren't insulated, of course they'll release their heat prematurely.

I have a Swedish fireplace. The firebox is very small, and the masonry is rather massive. The idea is for the masonry to soak up the heat, then slowly release it long after the fire dies down. Apparently the Swedes have used this design for centuries. I don't imagine the Swedes are such fools that they wouldn't notice for centuries that it doesn't work (it does!).

People also used to put rocks in the fireplace, then pull them out to put in their beds to warm them at night. This is just a primitive method of doing the same thing.


To some degree, a power saving feature for hot water cyclinders in NZ has been used since at least my grandparents time.

https://www.eeca.govt.nz/assets/EECA-Resources/Research-pape...


Where I live the vast majority of heat is produced by natural gas or propane. This includes water boilers, water heaters, clothes dryers, cooking ranges and ovens.


I bet the air conditioner isn't!

Besides, if you could buy an electric water heater that runs when electricity is mostly free, wouldn't you replace your gas heater? I would.


This is a good point, but would that ever actually happen? Or would it just be "free" electricity at first and later the electric boiler owners find out that a gas one would've been cheaper after all.


This winter natural gas prices are supposed to rise 30%.

You're taking some level of risk regardless of which choice you make or the government makes for you.


I would consider purchasing an electric boiler if the average operating cost was significantly lower. Eventually this will make sense, but it’s not something that will happen in my neck of the woods in the next 20 years.


Here in Flanders (60% of Belgium in terms of population) that is not an option. No more pure natural gas heating allowed in new construction from 2023. Gas/heat pump hybrids can still be installed until 2025, but that's it.

It's more strict for oil based heating. Even replacing an existing system is not allowed anymore from 2022.


With fixed 24/7 electric rates, it will never happen.


Are these fixed in Europe? What about night/day meters?


Night/day meters are not granular enough.


> The idea is to not only adjust supply to the demand, but to shape the demand to the supply.

This is completely backwards. Demand is highly price inelastic and inversely correlated with the supply of renewables. People usually eat at night. They heat their homes overnight. None of these things will change based on energy prices.

What you're proposing is a tax on the poor, and no practical benefit to boot.

> The charger for your electric car is another very practical sink for cheap electricity.

I don't have an electric car. I do not know anybody with an electric car. And wouldn't the surplus show up specifically when those cars aren't at the home?

> A battery consisting of a pile of rocks can't be expensive.

No, but the labor cost of hooking up your pile of rocks battery will be impractical for almost everyone.

> The next level is using residential HVAC systems the same way.

Again, I don't know anybody with an HVAC system. Everything here in the UK is based on natural gas and would cost an unbelievable amount of money to replace with electric.


> Demand is highly price inelastic

There's no evidence of that. The only evidence is that when the price is exactly the same 24/7, no elasticity is observed.

> and would cost an unbelievable amount of money to replace with electric

I've had to replace gas furnaces and gas water heaters now and then. They don't last more than 10 years or so.

BTW, everybody in Arizona has A/C. Amazingly, A/C demand peaks when the sun is high in the sky.

> I do not know anybody with an electric car

You will.


> BTW, everybody in Arizona has A/C. Amazingly, A/C demand peaks when the sun is high in the sky.

Here in California, peak AC demand is late afternoon. Environmental thermal mass means peak outdoor temperature happens a fair bit after peak insolation. Structures take even more time to heat up and add additional delay. Finally, people arriving home from work means increased AC use, too.

Demand stays fairly high after it gets dark.

(And it's my understanding most other places keep daytime heat later than here).


Simple. Set the A/C temp to lower than comfortable during the peak solar times. Your house won't heat up immediately, if you've insulated it properly.


Sure, there all kinds of ways to move demand around from when it would naturally peak based on peoples' preferences.

This particular one is only mildly effective; precooling can lower later demand somewhat.

My house is very well insulated, but I still cannot coast from 5:30pm to 9:30pm (when windows are sufficient for comfort and demand really starts to slope off) without an excessive amount of prechilling. My structure, insulation, and attic are all preheated by the day's heat and so there is a big warm thermal mass next to my living space.

Also, opening windows overnight increases indoor humidity, which in turn requires more air conditioning the next day.


> This particular one is only mildly effective

If it'll save you 10% on your electric bill, would you do it? I would. And reducing peak demand by 10% can really reduce the cost and need for grid battery storage.

Best of all, doing this sort of management of your HVAC system costs you essentially nothing. It's picking money off the ground.


We have had "off peak hot water" for many decades. Multiple different rates for peak and off-peak.

It is not useless but it does have its price in terms of complexity and usability. With off peak at night you tend to run out of hot water during the day at times e.g. if you have visitors.

It is not a new idea and it is no panacea.


> It is not a new idea

I've never seen it mentioned in any articles about baseline and peak power needs, and all that talk about grid batteries.

> and it is no panacea.

Nobody said it was. If it would, say, reduce the need for grid batteries by 10%, that would be an enormous savings. All by changing a new thermostat.

I remember in the 70s energy crisis the appearance of programmable thermostats what would automatically lower the temp at night. My proposal just extends that.


My house has a 25 year old gas furnace and it is still in solid condition. Had to get the blower motor replaced but that is about it. Our AC unit did not fare as well so we may be upgrading both next year. But yeah, they can last a lot longer than 10 years.


> BTW, everybody in Arizona has A/C. Amazingly, A/C demand peaks when the sun is high in the sky.

Magically when solar production is at it's peak!


> Demand is highly price inelastic and inversely correlated with the supply of renewables.

The first is dubious, the second is... highly location dependent.

Peak demand in California matches peak solar output pretty well; before solar was big, supply concerns focused on peak demand hours, in the afternoon; now they are in the evening because solar has made the highest gross demand time the time where there is the least concern for supply.

> No, but the labor cost of hooking up your pile of rocks battery will be impractical for almost everyone.

The labor cost of hooking it up isn't that bad, geothermal heat pumps aren't that costly.

Insulating the pile of rocks battery is probably the hard part.


Where is the tax on the poor here?

He basically shared that some costly energy consumption (such as water heating) can be easily shaped to the supply.


Poor people who can't afford e.g. smart water heaters will pay the high spot price.


Can't afford a smart water heater? We're just talking about the thermostat for it. I doubt a mass produced thermostat that could get a price from the internet would cost more than $10. I don't know what your electric bill is, but I'd be cash positive in the first month.


This only applies in areas that already use electric heaters. Anywhere else poor people cannot afford to replace their gas heater with an electric one. And if they rent they have no choice, it’s up to the landlord. In some locales it is common for the renter to pay for the heat bill. So the landlord has little incentive to install a different heating system. In other locales the average cost of heat is factored in to the price of rent and the incentives are basically the same.


> I doubt a mass produced thermostat that could get a price from the internet would cost more than $10

Total costs will be low if you can also find a perfectly spherical plumber (& electrician (& WiFi/4G-technician)) that charges less than $1 per hour for installation.


Amazon offers quite a smorgasbord of thermostats you can install for your home.

Obviously, nobody buys them.


In New Zealand the law and insurance requires that only registered electricians can work on household wiring, with paperwork per house to confirm. Surprisingly enough most people are unwilling to do something illegal, that will also void their house insurance.

Perhaps the laws and insurance rules are less strict where you are?

I also think that very few people feel comfortable working on household wiring, and very few people are comfortable with fixing plumbed in appliances.

I will add that the law is good, because houses get sold, and wiring is invisible, and no future owner wants to find out their wiring is bodged up by some clueless software engineer.

There is some truely terrifyingly dangerous wiring done by amateurs.


>that could get a price from the internet

If we're dealing with rural areas reliable internet isn't always a given. The UK had an interesting solution for this for older electricity meters which encodes data in the BBC Radio 4 LW (198 kHz AM) radio station. Most of the country is covered by a single transmitter because of how efficiently LF waves propagate and it doesn't require an internet connection to work. Sadly I think the rise of smart meters will probably be the death knell for Radio 4 LW too.

I think it's easy to forget how flakey the internet can be outside of major cities in some places. Having lived in places that are fairly off the beaten track I wouldn't want my electricity bill to depend on always having a reliable WiFi connection for example.


> If we're dealing with rural areas reliable internet isn't always a given

Yes, since my proposed solution is not 100% it's useless.


> Poor people who can't afford e.g. smart water heaters

Will have them subsidized in units they own (not that poor people generally own) and mandated in units they rent


I work at a company that does DERMS projects in this space (peak shaving, load balancing, power factor optimization, voltage support, etc, etc).

It's not that no one talks about this stuff, it's just that it's as with all things in the utility space projects take time and a lot of the work being done is still exploratory.

No one I work with seems to think this stuff is a magic bullet either, just part of the solution (of which nuclear is another important part).

I should also note that these DERMS projects are very software reliant and I think all of us here on HN know quite well that reliability can be an issue in the software space...


I didn't suggest it was a magic bullet. There are no magic bullets. But there are many strategies that can add up to a pretty effective solution.


Trouble is, it's nowhere near enough. Cases you mentioned (charging personal cars, heating/cooling down houses) are relatively small. Let's be generous and say it's 20% of overall energy consumption. For comparison, last summer average energy production of UK's offshore wind stayed under 10% of its capacity for a month. How do you even make a dent in this massive sea of missing energy with those small and temporary reductions?


The thing is, the industry of your country doesn't turn off many factories, even during night. They suck juice.

Also, for shops, mall, offices, there is a prolongued pic during the day, and you can't offset that.

Also, your solution assume:

- a lot of smart connected systems (for the heating, the washing machines, etc)

- massive EV parks

- rétrofit buildings to fit those big rocks, heat them, and get heat from them

This is not trivial and would add to the cost to sell renewable energies, which are already not easy to market.


Set up the cost incentives, and the market will adapt.


That has a significant risk, what if you hit the end of your range whilst the deficit is still getting worse? Deficits are not following nice predictable normal curves.

I've lived somewhere with storage heaters. They are horrible, practically indistinguishable from no heating at all. A large enough thermal mass would require a complete rebuild.


> what if you hit the end of your range whilst the deficit is still getting worse?

You, the consumer, can override it. You get to decide between donning a sweater or paying more. Isn't that objectively better than some bureaucrat simply turning off the power to your neighborhood (rolling blackouts)?


I live in an area where hot water heating is common. Hot water heaters have secondary loops through the main oil-fired boiler and these could easily be made electric.

A missing link is indeed a cinder block energy storage pile that could be set to preheat water going into the hot water boiler, or to cycle through water going into heating.


>>"The simplest energy storage solution is your hot water heater. Turning on everyone's hot water heater when there is surplus electricity,"

I already do this manually. I unplug it before taking a shower and plug it again at night. Of course, doing it automatically is the only way is going to be done at scale.


I wonder how recharging the net from a plugged in e-car would affect the lifetime/resale-value of that car, if that concept would be in general use. And how the grid then would develop, regarding overall capacity.

NIMBY as in NOT IN MY BATTERY! :-)


Then higher electric costs for you!


So essentially a tax on the poor. Either they give up use of their private property for use by everyone or they pay with extra wear on their property.

The rich can afford to either pay extra or replace batteries.


I live in Germany. Don't tell me anything about electricity costs ;-)


Those sound like cost savers, not the mass storage solution that is needed. I haven't done the math but I bet you're missing about an order of magnitude of storage needed to make intermittent power sources sufficient to power the grid by themselves.


> by themselves

Even if it is only 10%, that's 10% less grid storage batteries needed.

Ya know, car engine efficiency has improved dramatically over the last 50 years. Each specific improvement was small - but the aggregate adds up.


A mix of sources (e.g. a few solar and wind plants in different locations) overcomes much of the intermittency and storage issues. It usually requires upgrades to the grid and beyond that just some careful management of the (less regular) intermittency issues (whether storage or alternative sources on demand).

One plant should not be judged on its intermittency alone. Its just not how the system works at a connected-grid scale.


Unfortunately wind and solar isn't homogeneously distributed around America nor the globe. The highest capacity, for both, in the US is more central US and not the coasts. This creates a lot of added complexity as those places also tend to be the lowest population density AND a large distance from said population centers.

So we can store our storage centers closer to population centers, but we can't generate it close by. We now have lots of transmission losses and opportunities for failures.

The problem with all this is that it is exceedingly complicated and most people are trying to simplify the problem. But here even including second order factors doesn't give you good approximations of the solution.


Renewables are indeed vital. At the same time, it feels counterproductive that every discussion on nuclear or renewables ends up casting things as an either or proposition. Nuclear as baseload remains very useful. What's more, we don't just seek to replace current capacity but also to quickly increase generation.

While costs of transmission infrastructure required for country scale (larger distances for lower correlation) energy dispatch are recognized, its more abstract challenges are less well acknowledged. Dispatch at this level is not just about developments in grid integration or hardware like solid state "transformers", it also has a complex routing coordination aspect requiring research in control and even game theory [1].

A lack in wind and solar can sometimes occur simultaneously. Analysis of German wind turbines data observed that experiencing a stretch of almost a week with generation as low as 10% installed capacity was likely within a given year [2]. Surprising/extreme weather events like Europe's recent "wind drought" are rare but there remains a large amount of uncertainty in how changes in climate will affect the tail of this distribution. Tools such as coordinating distributed generation and improvements in storage tech will surely help smooth generation, nuclear is another powerful tool in that toolbox.

[1] https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy15osti/63037.pdf

[2] https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab91e9/...

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096014812...

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-017-0029-9.epdf


> Nuclear as baseload remains very useful. What's more, we don't just seek to replace current capacity but also to quickly increase generation.

The problem is that Nuclear may not be economical if it is only used when both solar and wind run out. Nuclear has large fixed costs. And almost zero marginal costs. So the average costs -- what needs to be charged in order to avoid bankruptcy, increase as you use it less.

That means every solar panel you add makes the nuclear power a bit more expensive. And that incentivizes adding more solar. Up until you drive the nuclear out of business, and then suddenly you don't have reliable power anymore.

Then you are faced with a situation of

a) only having nuclear power which can provide for all of your needs, in which case adding solar is an unnecessary expense

b) only having solar+wind and an unreliable grid, which means you need to add batteries to cover solar+wind. And the price of those batteries may be more than the price of the nuclear plant.

c) having nuclear and solar both, with enough subsidies given to the nuclear plant to keep it in business so that the total solution is more costly than just going with nuclear.

So yeah, there really is a tension between nuclear and solar.

This is not the situation, however, with solar and coal. Because coal plants are damn cheap, and they have higher marginal costs. Thus solar can coexist with coal or with gas much better than with nuclear.

Therefore the economics is such that as people promote solar the result is a decrease in nuclear and an increase in coal and gas.


Your model is overly simplified. Nuclear runs into the exact same issues in the other direction as you try to scale it to take over more of the grid. Frances nuclear reactors where at 70% capacity factors vs 90% in the US even with France exporting and importing vast amounts of electricity with the rest of Europe. It’s really not Nuclear vs Solar it’s simply Nuclear’s high cost and thus inflexibility that’s at issue.

Current electricity demand is heavily biased to daytime use even with cheap nighttime prices causing people to shift demand to use that. Start to ramp up solar to the point where daytime demand is higher and a great deal of nighttime demand drops off.

Grid storage isn’t cheap enough to store energy at current nighttime rates, but it’s cheap enough to have a balanced grid backed by hydro, wind, and solar even with zero fossil fuels. The tipping point to cheap daytime rates and expensive nighttime rates isn’t inherently better or worse, it just reflecting the future economic reality.


> Your model is overly simplified.

You are correct that my model is simplified. I ignore the issue that demand isn't really stable, and you need some peaker plants.

The problem is that Solar isn't really a good solution for peaker plants, because those need to be reliable. So I don't think this simplification undermines the tradeoffs I was describing, although I agree that in the space of peaker plants, there can be some combination of solar and gas to handle peaks when it is sunny and also when it is not sunny. Just be prepared that you need enough gas and coal to cover all the generating capacity you are getting from solar and wind, which is again very expensive.

> grid backed by hydro, wind, and solar even with zero fossil fuels

This requires a lot of hydro, more than most nations have together with really punitive electric rates when there is an absence of wind or solar. I mean, massively punitive rates, because demand for electricity is highly price inelastic. So be prepared for rates to go up 10x or 20x or even 100x when there is a stretch of windless days with weak sun. I think there is a reason why no nation has gone this route except oddballs like Iceland with their reliable geothermal.


Solar is the economic equivalent of base load power in that it’s cheap, and doesn’t follow the demand curve. Batteries then fill the role of peaking power plants as long as they can be filled cheaply. How you get from there to a balanced grid isn’t to have exactly as much generation on average as you need. Instead you install about twice as much as you need on average because it’s just that cheap vs any other source that even half of all generated solar is wasted it’s still cheaper than any other alternative.

At that point you are still going to get multiple day stretches where wind and solar only cover ~1/2 of daily demand but hydro can make up the difference on such occasions even if it’s only supplying 6.6% of annual US demand. Basically you get 1-2% hydro on most days and on 5% of days you a lot of energy stored.

As to high costs, because of the excess solar you’re generally filling batteries with nearly free electricity. Average nighttime wholesale prices therefore end up at ~10c/kWh or whatever the battery storage costs settle on, but daytime rates when most demand actually takes place are going to tank. That’s a net reduction in average prices. Trying to make a grid from Nuclear + batteries on the other hand means your paying Nuclear prices at night, but nuclear + battery prices in the daytime which is the opposite of what you want. Nuclear + fossil fuels on the other hand simply doesn’t go far enough.

Now in a mostly solar world a very low percentage of electricity may end up generated by fossil fuels, but a 99.X% solution is success by any reasonable metric.

PS: As a sanity check you can look at what people are paying when their off grid and then realize that’s very much a worst case.


Lack of wind and solar can happen but at scale there is plenty of hydro energy stored to cover significant edge cases. Rivers can handle significantly more flow than current hydro releases without causing flooding, we just need to retro fit existing dams and then reduce their generation most of the time to reserve that capacity for when it’s needed. Aka averaging 6.6% over 365 days a year ~= 80% for 30 days.

Also, be careful when looking at wind and solar minimal percentages. It’s the difference between median output and minimum output that matters not maximum output. Long term it’s likely something like 30 to 50% of all solar generation is going to be wasted simply because it’s just that cheap.


Aren't we removing dams because of the damage that they do to fisheries? Also doesn't new dams create a large amount of greenhouse gasses?


Dams don’t release CO2, they can produce trivial amounts of methane but that breaks down fairly rapidly in the atmosphere. It’s only when vast amounts of methane are released at the same time or the source is continuous that methane is an issue.

In terms of fish, large dams are needed for flood control and water. But rivers and streams often have huge numbers of small dams that are equally problematic and far less useful.


Extreme weather events can result in both extreme energy demand and edge cases for intermittent energy production. We can’t just rely on the low probability of our energy sources dropping out at the same time. That’s just begging for a catastrophic black swan event. Heat and cold can kill during a power outage. At least we need massive peaker capacity (with pipes that don’t freeze), and that’s part of the price tag.


Extreme weather events tend to cause issues for all kinds of power generation, including the so called non-intermittent ones. For example the extreme (for the location) cold in texas last winter took out nuclear, gas, coal, and wind power. There's nothing special about the "intermittent" ones here.

https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=46836


I'm not seeing that the nuclear plant shut down due to the cold?


Here's an article on the nuclear plant specifically: https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/how-and-why-a-n...


Look at the red line it dips at on the second Monday just like coal and natural gas. The drop wasn’t as severe, but it was significant and lasted several days.


Yet somehow in North Dakota where we can see -50F or lower in the winter and over 100F in the summer, our power sources are reliable and stable.


Right, the "for the location" is important here. It's that they weren't prepared for the cold, not that they couldn't be.

Likewise we could make power stations that could withstand hurricanes, or earthquakes, or tsunamis, and so on. We don't usually though, it's too expensive (not to defend the decision not to weather proof more in this case, it wasn't really that far outside of the expected operating conditions as I understand the situation).


Then your nuclear plant gets destroyed by a tsunami and you have created a generation of people who hate nuclear power.


The difference is that winterizing a nuclear power plant is not that hard. Keeping wind turbines going for weeks in a lull seems harder.


I was going to say, the answer is obviously a mix of different things, but the discussion sounds similar to when some this is hard to implement at work.

I’m not an energy grid expert but I guess it’s hard to have nuclear, gas wind and solar playing together because if it weren’t, people would just get on with it?


One partial solution to the renewables problem is to massively over-build. If they continue to drop in price, that will be feasible. Solar can be built up to the point where it will reliably produce sufficient daytime power even on very cloudy days for instance. Obviously it doesn't produce at night, but usage is also lower at night (in the future variable pricing to keep that the case as more electric cars come online). Likewise wind turbines can reliably produce power day and night if they're a bit geographically distributed and in sufficient numbers. This also means that often there will be more power available than needed. Some turbines can simply be stopped (braked) during those periods, but we may indeed find many loads can be time-shifted, reducing the baseline amount that needs to be reliably produced.

Long way of saying I agree with you; to make a reasonable comparison, you need to include an over-building factor to account for the variable nature of renewables. I'm not sure what that factor is (obviously it depends on a lot of variables), but I know it's been studied.


The problem with over-build is that if you count the energy necessary for building the renewable systems (mining, transport, building..) and the losses in distribution, the return of energy could be not so great.

This estimation is a depressing reading:

https://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/13/12/3036/htm

Estimated energy return on energy invested:

onshore wind 2.9:1 offshore wind 2.3:1 photovoltaic 1.8:1 concentrated solar power <1:1


> intermittency

What's the uptime for fission plants? I recall that our "local" nuclear power plant (Trojan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_Nuclear_Power_Plant ) being down more often than it was up. Maybe it's because it was an old design or something, but it went online in 1975 which doesn't seem that old. It operated from 1975 to 1992.


The uptime (or capacity factor) for fission plants is the highest of any energy source, at over 90% [1] [2]. By comparison, wind and solar at at 35% and 25% respectively.

1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/183680/us-average-capaci...

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacity_factor#Worldwide


Also most downtime for nuclear power is scheduled which helps the grid operator avoid blackouts.


For anyone curious, usually down time is a month every 12-18 months. They refuel, do maintenance, and inspections during this time as well. Usually plants have more than one reactor, so these will be out of phase with one another.


Somehow I doubt those figures reflect disaster response downtime, such as we have had in Japan for a decade.

One may argue that was an overreaction, but the people of Japan beg to differ.

Regardless, those shut down reactors ought to drag down capacity factor for the nuclear industry, if the figures are to be credible.

Wind doesn't always blow and people react badly to melt-down. These are both facts of life.


Normally there are multiple reactors and scheduled shutdowns. This is true for any power source. I'm sure there are differences in maintenance efficiency vs coal or hydro, but it's a different question than short term fluctuation that are a characteristic of wind and solar.


>When probed on how to address intermittency, many wind and solar advocates propose things like hydrogen storage, giant flywheels, compressed air, or other solutions that are currently in the prototyping stage and have yet to actually be deployed to a grid and demonstrate viability.

Cryogenic energy storage ("liquid air") plants have been deployed - a 15 MWh (5 MW peak) grid-scale demonstration plant has been operating in Greater Manchester near where I live since 2018, and there's a permanent 250 MWh (50 MW peak) plant under construction on the opposite side of the city region.

Granted that peak energy usage in the UK today was around 42 GW, so it's a small fraction (OTOO a tenth of a percent at peak) of what's needed, but... it's coming.

I fully agree with you, though, that nuclear is needed. Renewables + storage can't be the complete answer. I'm a wind, solar and nuclear advocate.


Flyeheels are not in prototyping stage but they only store modest amounts of energy.

https://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/uk_to_host_europes_l...


Comparing the cost of an energy source that has consistently failed to meet budget and construction timeline targets to those that have is what is actually comparing apples to oranges


I think one interesting solution is to store energy in "gravity", just pull something really heavy up and then when you need energy, let it fall and go through generator. https://gravitricity.com/


LCOE for CPVCSP + molten salt storage systems are already cheaper than nuclear according to lazards (and increasingly more so with every new plant online), but probably not acceptable for anywhere above the latitude of northern Germany.

The EU would need about 10k Cerro Dominador's (which would cover about 1% of the surface area of the EU) to supply its energy needs at worst case (using ~1kwh/m2/day seen during dec/jan).


Same for nuclear, you must take in consideration the nuclear plant destruction, which is pricey, and almost never factored in.

In fact, for some weird reasons, I see cost reports in France factoring in wiring for wind energy, but not for nuclear.

Also nuclear assume good relationship with nations providing the fuel, which is costly: see Mali war for my country.

Getting your hands on objective calculations to compare cost for all energy types it something I seem to never be able to do.


Would you also consider the costs of next 10,000 years of safe storage of nuclear waste?

If we don't have a viable and economically well understood solution for nuclear waste handling , any cost calculations for nuclear is a waste of time .


"What about nuclear waste" is a fossil fuel industry talking point because the government doesn't want to talk about what long-lived nuclear waste actually is.

It's plutonium.

There are treaties that say you can't use spent fuel from civilian power reactors to make nuclear weapons, so nobody admits to doing this, but they probably are. That's where it goes. But since nobody can admit to it, the representative from coal country gets to say 'what about nuclear waste' whenever somebody wants to replace coal with nuclear and nobody can tell them the answer because they're not allowed to admit it. But it's not a bug, it's a feature.

There are also newer reactor designs that can run on plutonium (permanently eliminating it) and also intentionally produce Plutonium-240 in amounts that make it impossible to use for weapons. If that's what we actually wanted to do with it.


Plutonium-239 (and neptunium-237 not used in weapons AFAIK ) are the most long lived isotopes of HLW ( High Level Wastes) yes. There are also other isotopes and other types of waste. We don't have yet data for any civilian waste disposal ( Yuccta mountain project is effectively dead now.

We currently do not have a viable economically well understood solution, not hypothetical plans which may work to use plutonium effectively [1] at costs we have no idea about or disposal facility for which costs are not really known yet for all types (HLW/ILW and LLW) waste products we cannot talk costs of ownership.[2]

That doesn't mean we shouldn't do nuclear or not build new plants, but without knowing these costs any estimate of cost of ownership is useless numbers in the air as nobody knows what it is going to actually cost yet.

[1] Again engineering and economics, engineering maybe well understood, costs are not, we don't know the costs until we build a few, nuclear is notorious for widely over running cost estimates compared to any other power generation method.

[2] We don't need to measure thousand years of disposal to know the costs, we just need to run an actual disposal site for few years to really estimate the costs .


Just to play devil's advocate a bit...

There's plenty of chemical waste from fossil fuel use and petrochemicals that may be very long lived and cause actual health impacts if inadequately stored, too... with basically no efforts made to apply the same sorts of criteria of quality and longevity of disposal of waste.

So effectively, we compare the (not fully known) costs of really mitigating the long term impacts of nuclear with outstanding storage ... to doing nothing about greater impacts from fossil fuels (both short term impacts and long-lived waste).


The difference is storing nuclear waste is accepted practice today expected from every country having a plant, storing chemical emissions(CO2) is not.

A enforced storage/cleanup would be ideal yes, U.S. has never agreed to any standards, even know while Kerry talking about shutting down Coal by 2030 from nowhere, the U.S. government explicitly did not join the pledge to shutdown coal in 2030s like some countries did last week in COP26, and has always refused to get into any international binding agreement.

From a economic perspective what you are mandated to pay for [1] today is how you model costs of the project. Running a nuclear plant today means you have to keep spent in fuel on premise with no horizon for that status quo to change. Economic model for actual money going to be spent now ( not environmental or social costs models of indirect costs) has to factor that in the cost of ownership of a plant.

Is that unfair because fossil fuels has indirect costs ? yes it is, but that does not matter from an economic decision making point of view when financing a new power plant today. Carbon tax is not a solution either as currently being envisioned [1]

---

[1] The carbon tax that is being discussed in the U.S. would be a disaster .

    a) The tax rate is quite low which will supposedly increase over the years. The political pendulum in the U.S. almost guarantees that when republicans come to power in 2024 or later they are going repeal/relax a carbon tax like with Paris Agreement. U.S. is not currently in position to make serious long term commitments on any policy.

    b) The polluters want limits *relaxed* as part of the tax deal. That means they want to be able to pollute as much as they want and just pay a small tax to do so ,which is why it is actually supported by some republicans I suppose. 

    c) Finally there is no plans on how to use the money to *remove* CO2 from the atmosphere, reducing emissions with that money with green investments is not good enough as polluters are in theory paying the government to take care of the problem and will pollute as they wish so government needs to clean the CO2 up. CCS is not viable economically today certainly not at the tax rate being proposed.


> storing chemical emissions(CO2) is not.

My comment isn't talking about CO2. I'm talking about e.g. benzene.

Nuclear waste disposal is concerned/stymied by the possibility that the water table in remote areas where no one lives currently may be moderately contaminated in thousands of years if it fails, and this contamination may last thousands of years.

Whereas we have contaminated the water table in populated areas with benzene and aromatics -- where they will remain contaminated for thousands of tens of thousands of years.

That is, we're trying to prevent theoretical harms in the distant future, and in so doing, we're accepting much larger present harms.


The point remains the same for benzene or other containments as well, there is not much regulatory requirements in most countries for what you should do with these effluents, so today dumping it is acceptable, if safe handling/disposal is mandatory then it would factor in the actual financial costs analysis/model.


We're talking about real costs of each alternative, though-- not just the viability of enterprises. After all, we're really talking about policymaking, and externalities like contaminating your groundwater like chemicals still "count" in overall outcomes.


There is a clear intrinsic value ( and critical need) to avoid fossil fuels, nobody is disputing that. However to imply nuclear is actually cheaper today fiscally is not accurate as original commenter was saying, given variances[1] in plant construction between estimates and actual cost incurred, also uncertainty over long term disposal method and poor understanding of those end of life costs makes it very poor choice for policy making on selecting between clean options.

If there are no other(clean) options having equivalent characteristics (consistent base load, scalability, location etc) to augment solar/wind etc ( whose costs are very well understood now including end of life costs) , then we are not choosing because it is cheaper, we are doing it because there is no choice.

[1] All plants will have some cost deviations, but nuclear has much higher both time and cost deviation from plan estimates.


If we're arguing that axis, I'd say we're arguing about the costs of storage, including end of life costs. And I do not feel like they are well understood: especially the costs and problems of recycling lots of lithium batteries at scale.


It's not only plutonium, it's an unholy mess of everything from completely inert materials to extremely hazardous. Nuclear fission is not at all equivalent to a nice chemical reaction where A + B = C.

See this graph for the spread based on Z number (Protons + Neutrons).

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fission#/media/File%...


With the advent of cheap transport to LEO with SpaceX with thousand/millions of tons of yearly capacity - can't we just fling the nasty stuff into the sun?


It is extremely hard to reach the sun or orbits much lower than the earth, lot harder than reaching say Mars.

Parker Solar probe launched in 2018 will take 7 years and multiple gravity assits to slow down enough to get close orbit to the sun.

It is also why BepiColombo will take 6-7 years to reach mercury orbit with similar steep delta-v costs.

Here is a delta V map [1] for the solar system. It would be easier to launch our trash to escape the solar system rather than land it in the sun.

Either way we generate nuclear waste in the millions of pounds per year , launch costs with everything spaceX is doing is nowhere cheap enough to even get the waste in significant quantities to even LEO.

[1]https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Solar_sy...


Thank you for a great answer to what I only can assume was a idiotic question. So if I get the gist of your answer the closer to the sun, the faster you go - all else equal. So one needs to loose alot of energy to end up actually into the sun... (or whatever is needed to vaporise the contents) Here's another stupid question if you don't mind :) - If you launch the nuclear waste attached to a solar sail aimed such that it decreases velocity around the sun and thus make spacecraft fall towards the sun - wouldn't that work?


It is harder(less efficient) than moving away from the sun using a solar sail, somewhat similar to sailing into the wind.[1]

I don't have the exact numbers but roughly 9.08 μN/m2 is the radiation pressure @ 1 AU and depending on sail configuration (Square/Lattice etc) we can expect a λ ~ 0.25 , with a 800m2 and 5g/m2 density sail we can get effective acceleration around 1 mm/sec2, so you can reach near the sun in few(<10) years ignoring efficiency losses due to quartering and any payload weight etc.

In a real system you could speed this up a bit by using powerful lasers to improve acceleration and orbital methods like a cycler, but meaningful payload size would make it slower too.

The basic metric is that escape velocity of solar system is 30km/s earth starts you at 18km/s : it is easier to add 12 than drop by 18. You can do the same things at 2/3 delta-v budget and push your payload out of the solar system than into the sun.

[1] All orbits decay and eventually(10^150+ years) even the Earth will fall into sun ( or equivalent mass white drawf) so yes it is always possible


So you want to test the effects on the environment of igniting a lot of dirty bombs?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor#Waste_reductio...

> Since breeder reactors on a closed fuel cycle would use nearly all of the actinides fed into them as fuel, [the] volume of waste they generate would be reduced by a factor of about 100

> In addition, the waste from a breeder reactor has a different decay behavior, because it is made up of different materials. [Its] fission products have a peculiar 'gap' in their aggregate half-lives, such that no fission products have a half-life between 91 years and two hundred thousand years. As a result of this physical oddity, after several hundred years in storage, the activity of the radioactive waste from a Fast Breeder Reactor would quickly drop to the low level of the long-lived fission products.


From the same article

> ". In 2010 the International Panel on Fissile Materials said "After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars, the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled and efforts to commercialize them have been steadily cut back in most countries"."

I have been following FBR progress especially thorium based ones, as it was considered to be India's path to energy independence since the 1950's. The progress has been slow and expensive and still a lot of research is left to do, so to say meaningfully that waste will reduce is not a viable plan today or next 20 years.


What is the cost of the radioactive waste and heavy metal contamination from coal? What is the cost of recycling every solar panel every 20 years?


Recycling costs should already be well understood and can be built with reasonable accuracy into a ownership model.

Between dying in next 100-200 years because of climate change or risking nuclear contamination problems 100's of years in the future in concentrated locations the later is always preferable yes.

I am not saying there is no good reason to move to nuclear, but cost is not one of them, as literally we don't know what it will cost yet.



~~And which storage system is that?~~ (parent post was edited with links after my response)

Lithium ion battery production is at only ~400 GWh per year. By comparison, the US uses 12,500 TWh of electricity daily, or just over 500 GWh per hour. And this is only electricity, not total energy usage. Attempting to provision widespread lithium ion storage would lead to demand shock and skyrocketing prices. Not to mention it would involve delaying transition from ICE vehicles to EVs.

You're right in some scenarios: if a country has extensive dam networks, then yes renewables + storage could be cheaper. Dams provide immense energy storage capacity. Close the turbines when solar and wind are producing, open them when they're not. If a country is blessed with extensive hydroelectric potential then great.

But hydroelectricity is a matter of geography, and plenty of regions do not have the right geography to construct dams. Lithium ion battery storage is not cheaper than nuclear, and is not produced at sufficient scale to be viable for grid storage. Other proposals like hydrogen storage, flywheels, etc. have not actually been deployed to the grid so we have no real-world cost history for these systems. Somebody writing a white paper claiming $X/KWh of storage and actually building a system are two very different things.


> "By comparison, the US uses 12,500 TWh of electricity daily"

I was suspicious of your numbers so I did a bunch of math and then realized you're using the European comma rather than a decimal. So 12,500 means 12.5, not 12500.

(EIA.gov says the U.S. used about 3.8 trillion kilowatt hours in 2020 [1]. 3.8 trillion kilowatt hours equals 3.8 billion megawatt hours, equals 3.8 million gigawatt hours, equals 3.8 thousand terawatt hours per year or 10.4 twh per day. If we figure the U.S. has about a hundred million households and divide 3,800 twh by that, we get 38 megawatt hours per household per year. This is a very rough estimate, as it doesn't include industrial/commercial/government users. If we divide by 365*24 to cancel out the time units, we get an average consumption of .004338 MW or 4.338 kilowatts per household. That sounds about right.)

Current battery production is only just barely getting started. China dominates production of LFP cells (which are ideal for grid storage) because of patents which are expiring, so hopefully we'll see more production outside of china in the near future.

LFP cells aren't bottlenecked by nickel or cobalt, and so the main resource constraints I believe are lithium, aluminum, and copper which are all quite a bit cheaper and available in bigger quantities. I think prices are expected to eventually settle somewhere around $80 per kwh of capacity for the cells, and I don't think we're that far off that now. (LFP may eventually be displaced by something else, like lithium sulfur or solid state batteries or something, but I think LFP is probably good enough.)

Maybe lithium or copper will become bottlenecks and prices will rise. Let's say prices do hold at about $80 per kwh. Maybe we'll round up to $120 per kwh to account for pack construction, a building to store the batteries, inverters, chargers, and so on. If the average U.S. adult-aged person uses about 2kw on average, then they need 48kwh of storage for 24 hours. That would be about $5760. If we amortize that over ten years, it's about $48 a month. That's kind of expensive, but it's within the realm of what can be done without assuming any major technological breakthroughs. We probably don't need 24 hours of storage, though, if we have enough renewable energy over-production and backup fossil fuel plants to use in extreme situations.

[1] https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/electricity/use-of-elect...


Just because CATL can manufacture LFP cells at $80/kWh doesn't mean the end-to-end system is available at that price. Home battery storage is nowhere near $80 or even $100 per kWh. It's at $500-$1000/kWh. Tesla Powerwall 2 has the best price per kWh available on the market, at $560/kWh. Inverters able to handle the currents necessary for turning on an electric oven are in the thousands. Installation costs are in the thousands. And then, these batteries do not last forever - they're rated at 3000-5000 cycles

If we imagine a near-future scenario - a battery powered house heated with heat pumps, driving an electric car, during central European foggy winter, which tends to last for about a week at a time. Let's say they use 60kWh/day. We're looking at $100k just for the batteries and installation, even assuming electricity comes free. In ~15-20 years, the batteries reach their recommended cycle life, requiring a choice of another $100k or accepting that what used to be a 3-day storage becomes 2-day

This is not some "extreme situation". It's a completely predictable scenario that recurs with near 100% probability every single year. Then there are places like Ganges river, Bangladesh or Indonesia, home to hundreds of millions of people, where neither solar, nor wind is viable (and land is scarce)


Those prices for home storage units are the price we pay for not having significant domestic LFP production. Maybe making a cheap battery unit is harder that I think but to me it sure looks like there isn't a lot of serious competition in that space, otherwise the units would correspond better to battery costs. (And why would you try to build a company around a product that some Chinese company can make the product at a cheaper cost because they have access to the necessary patents on more favorable terms? Maybe everyone knows that and is staying away, at least until LFP cells become a thing anyone in the world can buy at roughly-equal prices.)

I think it's useful to think in terms of cars. I'm actually doing an EV conversion right now, and I have a motor controller that puts out about 100 kilowatts of 3-phase AC. It came with the motor so I don't have an exact price, but fair market value is probably around $1500. (That's retail cost in quantities of one. Wholesale cost is presumably somewhat less.) It weighs maybe ten pounds or so. That's adequate to power probably about a dozen houses. I don't know if it puts out a sine wave or a square wave. Even if it's the latter, you could imagine a hundred of these things putting out square waves with, say, randomly-varying pulse width and having it average out to a sine wave. There's probably better ways to do that, but anyways the point is that we do have the capacity to switch enormous amounts of power in a very small package for pretty low cost. It's actually kind of amazing.

Maybe if the batteries feed into an HVDC line or they're co-located with a solar plant, then you don't even need to deploy more inverters.

A battery management system for my conversion is a little over a thousand dollars for a setup with about 48 cells. In a big installation you could amortize BMS costs by using bigger cells, or placing them in parallel groups -- the downside being that it might take longer to notice if a cell is going bad. My BMS is made by a company that caters to EV conversions; they're doing low-volume sales. A major utility ordering the equivalent for hundreds of thousands of cells probably can get a nice volume discount.

As far as foggy winters go: renewable energy needs to be traded over a wide geographical area. Purely local generation doesn't really make sense, unless you have some useful purpose for unpredictable amounts of surplus energy. Wind power would need to be a part of it. Even fossil fuels are a reasonable option as long as they're not used very often. Running natural gas plants for a week or two in the dead of winter or in case of grid disruptions seems like a reasonable use of fossil fuels. Indonesia has a lot of land outside of Java. Even Java is pretty sparsely populated outside of cities. Most of it is jungle which we'd like them to keep and farms, but solar doesn't need to take up a huge percentage of available land. Even solar panels on roofs can go a long way.


LFP is also actually the perfect battery for urban transportation in tropical countries. Their low cost and economics would ensure a big transformation in coming years because few people understand the tremendous impact they have on lifecycle cost (due to high no of cycles).

I personally feel that in 10 years in India it will be cheaper to rent an electric car running on LFP for trips < 300 km along with a driver (cheaper here) than buy your own car.


> Lithium ion battery storage is not cheaper than nuclear, and is not produced at sufficient scale to be viable for grid storage.

It may not be so now, but in 7 years, or in other words, by the time a nuclear power plant commissioned today starts producing power, it definitely will.

Global li-ion manufacturing capacity is poised to triple by 2024:

https://www.luxresearchinc.com/blog/li-ion-manufacturing-in-...

Without a sudden, disruptive change in the cost and rate of deployment of nuclear there doesn't exist a path for it become a significantly larger part of the energy mix.


So 3 years from now, global lithium ion battery production will add up to ~3 hours of USA's electricity consumption? If we stop building EVs, electronics, etc. and dedicate all lithium ion battery production worldwide to grid storage in the US for 8 years we'll have enough for 1 day of electricity storage. Just for the USA. And how much storage we actually need? For 0% fossil fuel usage, some estimates place storage demands as high as 3 weeks [1]. This is still far from viable, even if the predictions hold true.

It's also ignoring that electricity usage is predicted to increase substantially worldwide as countries develop, and that these predictions of lithium ion battery production might not pan out. It'd also severely delay adoption of electric vehicles, as battery capacity is being diverted to grid storage away from EVs.

1. https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2018/03/01/12-hours-energy-stora...


You usually oversize your production in renewable and get extra energy in your peak production. Here in Quebec we have a new tarification and smart water heater, house heating that do peak shaving. Some industries will have access to almost free energy in peak production period and will have incentives to do something valuable with it Charging of EV will certainly play a role too.

Still nuclear can be useful if some country are able to build them fast enough and cheap enough.


The world could redirect a lot of resources into building battery infrastructure. Enough for EVs and Storage.

Your Storage does only need to be for 1-2 days (or more precisely until your renewables come online again to recharge them).

I don't see a massive shift to battery manufacturing any more crazy than building a crazy amount of nuclear power plants.


3 hours of storage is massive, and enable super high penetration of renewables, above 80% of electricity generation.

Even the much vaunted France doesn't have 80% nuclear on their grid.

Plus, energy storage production capacity is growing at an exponential rate. It's doubtful that we could grow our nuclear construction crews at that pace.

It's going to be very hard to nuclear to scale as fast as renewables and storage are, if there's even an economic case to be made for nuclear construction, and somebody finally solves the logistic problems of large construction projects in the modern Western world.

We know we can build storage and renewables, but we don't know how to build nuclear anymore, and none, absolutely none, of the nuclear proponents have any proposals to fix it. The best is an entirely new type of small reactor that has been rejects in the past because of its high per unit cost. Perhaps it will work, but who knows? It's a big risk, whereas storage and renewables are a sure bet.


> 3 hours of storage is massive

It really isn't. For reference, across Europe we're currently having a meteorological phenomenon with bad weather, clouds, little wind, and low temperatures. It has been ongoing since ~october and is projected to continue into the winter. When Texas was hit with terrible weather last year, it lasted a few days. Multi-day storms, which take out solar and wind, aren't unheard of. 3 hours of storage is OK to even out things, but isn't nowhere near close enough to guarantee reliable electricity.


The numbers I've seen say you need ~12 hours of storage to support 80% solar/wind generation composition and 2 weeks to hit 100%. And we're just talking about the US right now. What about the rest of the world?

Personally I think small mass manufacturable fission reactors are the best bet but why are we hung up on either/or? We should aggressively pursue both nuclear and solar/wind generation.

Millions of lives are at stake.


> why are we hung up on either/or?

I agree that we should invest in both. But it is not as easy as waving a magic wand. Energy project development is a complicated dance between local power market regulators, local and federal incentives, private investors, and shovel ready/cost-effective technology. And in the rare occasions when congress opens up the wallet, it is a small pie that everyone is fighting over, so the lobbyists start slinging arrows.

The fact is, nuclear can and will be a really great addition to the energy mix. But there are models out there that show that we can build a carbon free grid without it. The big question mark is on the future cost of storage. The consensus is that those costs are going to come down considerably. If so, then going all in on renewables likely gets us to a carbon free grid faster. But this is also a very US centric take. For example China likely has much easier road to rolling out nuclear (less regulatory hurdles, less local interference/input). Where as in the US, I am sure we can build a big national pro-nuclear movement, but the second someone proposes a real life project, the NIMBY's will come out of the woodwork.


> (less regulatory hurdles, less local interference/input)

This is not the current hurdle when it comes to more nuclear in the US or Europe. Nuclear is very welcome where it is currently under construction, and there's no regulatory reason that these sites have all become construction disasters, it's just bad execution of the reactors.

Even China's attempts to build the French EPR design took twice as long to build as they had estimated initially, and we don't really know how much more in cost.

Nuclear's path to new reactors begins with being able to build on a reliable schedule without exorbitant cost. There are many sites that would welcome more nuclear that would not have NIMBY problems, there's just no one willing to bear all the risk of finding that unicorn contractor that can actually build.

This same problem was also evident during the late 1970s and early 1980s nuclear projects. There was NIMBYism back then affecting projects, but there was also lots of construction malpractice that resulted in big cost overruns. US utilities can not bear the construction risk of a $10B project. Few entities can.


> Global li-ion manufacturing capacity is poised to triple by 2024

But we need all of that to electrify transportation, so where do you get the ones for the power grid?

Also, what happens to the price of batteries if you get rid of baseload and cause demand for batteries to spike much higher than even the increased amount of battery production capacity?


>It may not be so now, but in 7 years ... it definitely will.

Maybe, maybe not. We know nuclear works so why not also make nuclear in case something happens and we can't build enough storage.


Because we simply are unable to do so fast enough. China recently started a massive, largest in the world project to add 150 plants over the next 15 years. That's 10 reactors annually, or an estimated 10GW using the current 49.6GW from 50 units they have already.

Adjusted for capacity factor this is maybe going to keep up with solar deployment, but definitely not with wind capacity growth in the same country. And China has been the world leader in nuclear deployment for a while now.

Renewables win on a "worse is better" basis - yes, they're intermittent, but they're cheap and deploy in a matter of months without too many specialists involved.


You didn't explain why we shouldn't do both. Just because it takes a long time doesn't matter. If we want to ensure we have consistent energy production then nuclear should be built. Even if we can build a massive amount of storage it may not be enough. Global warming is supposed to cause extreme weather. Why not create nuclear which can work regardless of weather?


> 12,500 TWh of electricity daily

You're simplifying out that electric consumption varies during the day.


Excellent point. Peak electricity consumption occurs during the evenings when solar is producing little, if any, electricity. Daily fluctuations of electricity usage put an even greater demand on electricity storage.


That's not correct, peak demand is usually during mid-day, at least in the US:

https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=27212


I'm seeing it peak around the evening in all time zones. This is the link to the actual energy grid visualization tool: https://www.eia.gov/electricity/gridmonitor/expanded-view/el...

Browsing the last day's energy usage yields peaks at:

Eastern: 8pm

Central: 7pm

Mountain 6pm

Pacific: 5pm


Due to AC usage, electricity demand tends to be much higher in the summers than in the winters. And the demand profile in the summers peaks in mid-late afternoon. i.e You are not looking at the highest overall peak of the year, just the hourly peaks from the last few days.


> Base load is a dead concept.

Look at the chart in your last link:

https://www.nrdc.org/experts/kevin-steinberger/debunking-thr...

They match up demand with load by using a buttload of hydro and and even larger amount of natural gas. We can't use natural gas if we're trying to get rid of fossil fuels and we can't use hydro in places without appropriate geography, so then what?

To say nothing of what happens when solar and wind are "it's cloudy and there's no wind right now" intermittent rather than time-of-day intermittent.


Overbuilding renewables (and accepting seasonal curtailment), utility scale battery and hydro storage, and HVDC transmission and robust interconnections between grids/systems. Whatever is left will be a pragmatic amount of natural gas/green hydrogen/ammonia mix for combustion.

https://www.factcheck.org/2019/11/what-does-science-say-abou...

> To start, we’ll consider Sanders’ claim that “scientists tell us” that it’s possible to get to a zero-carbon electrical grid without nuclear power.

> “The shortest answer is yes, that’s true. Scientists do tell us that we can,” said Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

> Ryan Jones, an expert in electricity systems and a co-founder of Evolved Energy Research, a consulting company that models low-carbon transitions, agreed. “Anyone who says that nuclear is 100% necessary on a technical basis, I would claim, just hasn’t looked at the alternatives in enough detail,” he said in an email.

> Most experts FactCheck.org contacted, including those who think nuclear power should remain an option, said that from a technical perspective, nuclear is not needed to decarbonize the grid.


Woopty doo, you don’t “technically” need nuclear power to go carbon neutral. If it shaves a decade or two off the process isn’t it worth it? Eventually you can start retiring nuclear plants, but in the mean time isn’t it better to focus on the carbon issue?


It’s only worth it if it’s cheaper than alternative low or no carbon technologies.


Which your source states it would be.


You're cherry picking your own source[0]

> Most experts agree that Sanders is correct that it’s technologically possible to decarbonize the grid without using nuclear power. But many researchers also say keeping nuclear on the table makes decarbonization easier and more likely.

> But technically possible is not the same as practically feasible, or the most cost-effective. In that regard, many, although not all, researchers say nuclear — or something like it — is likely to be necessary to some degree. And even if nuclear is ultimately not needed, they say, the safer strategy is not to exclude it.

But what does "technically" mean?

> “All the evidence says it is possible to decarbonize the energy system in the U.S. without using nuclear power,” said Jones. But, he added, there are cases, such as places that don’t have good wind resources, in which building new nuclear plants can reduce the cost of decarbonizing. Depending on the region, he said, “getting to 100% renewable energy is either very expensive or necessitates significant new transmission to import resources from elsewhere.”

> That’s where nuclear can be helpful. It doesn’t have to be nuclear — Jones said carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, for example, would also work. Sanders’ plan, notably, specifically excludes CCS.

> A large number of scenarios expanded nuclear power, Shindell said, to around double today’s level. He estimated that 90% of the scenarios included nuclear capacity above today’s level, and just one or two scenarios phased out nuclear entirely by 2100.

And the article, that YOU LINKED, goes on like this. I feel like you are being very disingenuous. I don't think anyone (or at least anyone that is informed, but then again that's probably too much to expect here given comments), is saying that nuclear is _absolutely_ necessary. I do think people are saying that it is much easier and cheaper if it is included within the solution. I do think people mischaracterize the arguments though and frame it as "all nuclear" vs "all renewables" but the truth is that both those solutions are absurd. We want a mixture and what that mixture is is going to depend on the region and country that is producing power. It is rather complicated and nuanced and the conversations typically don't acknowledge this.

Maybe part of the problem here is scientific lingo. We say "technically" and "possible" a lot of times, even if our confidence intervals are pretty small. This is something we can work on, but it is often to avoid infighting because someone else will argue "but 'technically' it is possible, just really unlikely/difficult" and you'll have to concede. You'll see this in any "nerd debate".

Either way, I'm going to call you out for misrepresenting your source.

[0] https://www.factcheck.org/2019/11/what-does-science-say-abou...


To demonstrate that I’m arguing in good faith, I will bet you a $1000 donation to a charity of your choice if any developed country successfully commissions a new commercial nuclear generator (with energy actively supplied to a grid connection), that has not yet broken ground as of today, within ten years of this comment’s timestamp.

I’m not splitting hairs, I’m arguing very clearly that nuclear won’t get built, it won’t be needed, alternatives will meet demand, and that energy consumption and generation modeling by a variety of energy analysts (across commercial and academic institutions) supports my thesis.


You’re not betting directly on either of the issues being discussed though. The person you’re arguing with made no claim that anti-nuclear advocates won’t be successful, only that intermittent renewables plus storage won’t allow hitting near term decarbonization targets. It’s kind of weird for you to win the bet if you’re wrong about the actual issue in the most dire way…


> only that intermittent renewables plus storage won’t _LIKELY_ allow hitting near term decarbonization targets

FTFY

But yes, I think you are more accurately capturing my response. And thanks for the defense.


I'm not going to take that bet because I don't have faith in the political will to follow science. That is a more general trend than just climate, mind you. Practically, I do agree with you, that we likely aren't going to see reactors built. But I do want to say that this is contrary to the advice from the scientific community. I do think it is important to push back on claims like yours though, because part of the political will is because a lot of people believe that this is in line with the scientific consensus (again, a common problem and why I call out armchair experts a lot).


> You're cherry picking your own source[0]

That's his thing. He makes broad to the point of indefensible claims, backs them up with a laundry list of tangentially related links, almost always from the news (and we all know how much the news loves to report "the whole truth"), and then when he gets called out he moves goalposts around muddies the waters and does all sorts of tricks that are SOP when arguing in bad faith. If he were not constantly arguing for viewpoints that more or less correlate with the net average HN user his posts would have been defaulted to dead long ago. I think he believes his own BS so it's debatable whether he is technically arguing in bad faith but it sure fails the duck test.

The only way to win is to not engage.


Would you mind pointing out my indefensible claims or where I moved the goalposts? The Lazard LCOE v15 analysis link I posted at top level of this thread specifically shows that solar paired with storage is cheaper than nuclear on a per kwh basis. My other links demonstrate that base load is unnecessary, and also substantiate that renewables and storage are cheaper than nuclear. Finally, if factcheck.org's conversation with various experts demonstrating that nuclear isn't necessary to decarbonize (and my willingness to put $1000 at stake, to demonstrate I'm arguing in good faith, that no new nuclear will be built successfully in the developed world), what evidence would be valid? I'm always happy to provide citations and references, but you can't discuss a topic in good faith with someone if every citation or reference is rejected as "fake news." Some objective observations and truth must be present and agreed upon.

To be frank, it sounds more like you are disgruntled and are unhappy when the facts presented (as well as the general consensus of the forum, as you mention in the comment I'm replying to) don't align with your belief system. I don't mean to be rude by any means, but I'm unable to come to any other conclusion based on my (imho, polite) interactions with you. I do believe my conclusions based on the data I present. Why would I comment and participate if I didn't? I don't take issue if you choose to not engage, but I'd appreciate if you'd tone down the libel and attacks on my character in a public forum if you choose to not bring facts and argue ideas.


Germany should pick this up and pledge to be free of fossil fueled power plants by 2025, banning energy generated from fossil fuels from being bought and consumed.

If they can beat France on cost then here is a political win to be made. Be it using lithium batteries to store up 3-4 weeks worth of the nations energy consumption, or the more likely green hydrogen which is commonly suggested as being more likely choice for wind energy.

The current commercial viable lithium battery solution, that which solar farms has written articles about, is around 4 hours of 80% capacity. Not bad. Every day the batteries get charged when the sun is at its peak and powers prices is at its lowest point, and every day when the sun goes down they can utilize the highest price point as demand exceed supply of cheap energy.

For wind it is a bit more complicated. You can have a few weeks of good weather, followed by a long period of low wind conditions and high demand. A few hours won't cut it, and the more capacity you add the slower the discharge cycle will be. Green hydrogen would be a more economical storage medium, but right now the technology is having a hard time to be economical viable. That said it would benefit the world if Germany made a run for it so we can compare the cost to nuclear.


> pledge to be free of fossil fueled power plants by 2025

Unlike pledges, which can be produced instantly, actually bringing reliable power online takes more than 3 years.

It's these types of pledges that make the public view these replacement efforts as fundamentally unserious.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of nuclear and think the industrialized west should follow in France's footsteps. But we will not get there by 2025. We may never get there as long as we approach this problem in such an unserious manner.


The parent post is claiming that the storage solutions are right now cheaper than the alternatives. If they are already here in terms of costs then bringing them online should be fairly quick ordeal.

I agree with you however that it will take much longer than 3 years. Lithium batteries can be done today for the kind of storage solution which they are suitable, but not for wind. The green hydrogen might work, but we have yet to see large scale production and we are nowhere near to have it operate as an alternative to natural gas on a nation scale. Germany should really make an attempt if they wish to take a different path from France, but it will likely take a few decades if its successful.


Energy storage: there is a gorilla in a corner of the room, see https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S03603...

Solar and wind often overproduce (leading to negative prices). This (otherwise useless energy) will be used to produce dihydrogen (water electrolysis), which will be stored, then used to produce electricity (fuel cell).


Although I love the concept, it seems hydrolisis isn't very efficient transforming electrical energy to chemical energy. Until it is ready, it is not ready.

Canadian politicians are pledging to develop blue hydrogen in Alberta. That means transforming hydrocarbons into hydrogen.

Yep, it is as stupid as it sounds. Consume fossil fuels to produce hydrogen and label it blue energy.


Electrolysis is decently efficient (>70%), but turning the Hydrogen back to electricity loses quite a bit. Nevertheless, the real question is cost, not efficiency. As you noted during peak production the electricity is essentially free. If it's cheaper to use existing NG infrastructure to store Hydrogen and run gas turbines with it than building an equivalent amount of batteries, then we should go for it. Given that world lithium battery production is insufficient right now, and different battery chemistries are still experimental, proven technology like electrolysis+gas turbines seems like a good idea.


We are not embarked in a race on efficiency. A system able which is:

- able to store otherwise is wasted energy

- affordable (the total price of this storing-then-reconversion into electricity is OK) is adequate

- storing in adequate volumes

is adequate, even if its total efficiency is below .01

Blue hydrogen isn't good (emission-wise), but may be used as a way to evaluate and enhance what will ultimately be a green (electric energy only produced by renewable used to obtain dihydrogen) system.

Moreover there are quick and decisive progress towards better efficiency.


If you take $1 of electricity and water, you can convert it to $.50 of hydrogen bond energy, and then you can take the hydrogen run it through a fuel cell and get $.25 of electricity. It’s never going to be an alternative to battery chemistry which yields $.95 back.

Salt cavern storage doesn’t change the math.


Please read my other reply published nearby: we are not embarked into an efficiency race. Efficiency (of any renewable-source based system) is a mean, not an end.

As for efficiency: https://www.vicat.com/news/vicat-schlumberger-new-energy-cea...

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187661021...

> Salt cavern storage doesn’t change the math

"Total on- and offshore European hydrogen storage potential estimated at 84.8 PWhH2." is pretty significant and pertinent.


France is building nuclear because Germany and others will need to import more in 2025.

It's as simple as that. They are an exporter.


The pricing is quite difficult to measure consistently. For instance, the cost of coal generation is usually priced around $0.10/kWh, but it kills 25-33 people per TWh. At the rate the NRC uses, the statistical value of $9M per life, that would add $0.27/kWh, totaling almost $0.37/kWh.

At that price nuclear is already dramatically cheaper than coal - about half as expensive based on the analysis you linked.

The thing is, it's not clear which externalities are priced into renewables. For instance, is the cost of cleaning up this disaster where rare earth metals are mined/refined priced into wind power? [1] Burying the turbine blades forever? [2] How about the cost of the global scale e-waste problem yielded by covering the earth in solar panels which last 30 years? [3] How about power storage - all that lithium?

I'm fine with nuclear, I'm fine with wind, I'm fine with solar. There's no such thing as "green" just shades of black.

Whatever gets us off carbon fuels - yesterday. I strongly doubt the pricing is what's reflected in those charts - they tend to underprice the externalities of everything non-Nuclear. Even if they don't though, I don't really care, at this point decarbonizing is worth paying double for power. I'm not sure how good a deal we're getting is going to matter when we live on Waterworld.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150402-the-worst-place-...

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-02-05/wind-turb...

[3] https://www.wired.com/story/solar-panels-are-starting-to-die...


From the blade article:

> It pointed to an Electric Power Research Institute study that estimates all blade waste through 2050 would equal roughly .015% of all the municipal solid waste going to landfills in 2015 alone.

While it'd be better to do something useful with them it's not a problem to put them in a landfill.


Wind turbine blades and solar panels are almost entirely recyclable, current state. I don’t have a source as to current and target responsible rare earth mining practices. Lithium can be evaporated from brine ponds responsibly, and energy density insensitive chemistries can produce cells without cobalt (conflict minerals).

I’m not against nuclear for geographies that need district heat or don’t get enough sun or wind for reasonable renewable generation, but I do take issue that it gets put forth as a silver bullet that we’re going to scale up in a reasonable amount of time when all signs point to that being objectively false. I’m violently allergic to platitudes and snake oil.


> Wind turbine blades and solar panels are almost entirely recyclable, current state.

The article I linked (titled "Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills", haha) indicates that turbine blades are not recyclable. They are fiberglass, which is a mix of glass and plastic - it's long been known as one of the hardest things to recycle. They are currently buried - or burned. The latest scuttlebutt on that is Semens Gamesa has a recyclable prototype. [1] I suspect it will come, but is it priced in?

> "At the end of their working life, most blades are buried underground or burned." [1]

As for solar panels, I agree they could be recycled - up to some 90% based on some digging - but it's super expensive to do so, and I suspect it's also not priced in. 91% of the plastic you throw into the recycle bin makes its way to the landfill anyways. [2]

I don't think there is a silver bullet per se, which is why I want them all deployed ASAP.

My comment was more that I don't think the prices as reflected in your link represent the true cost of the electricity due to the varying degree to which externalities are priced in. Even if accurate, price (probably to your point) isn't really the be all and end all here. The switchover needs to happen, and in time, whatever that looks like. All this hand-wringing around nuclear taking forever to deploy a few decades ago is part of why we're here, now, without nuclear.

[1] https://www.fastcompany.com/90674645/this-giant-wind-turbine...

[2] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/plastic-p...


https://www.google.com/search?q=Wind+Turbine+Blades+Can’t+Be...

the first link is basically your second link [2]. the rest are mostly links about that the problem from non recyclable is mostly a problem that only exists, because these fiberglass blades are dirt cheap compared to alternatives and it's cheaper to dump them in landfills. in fact in 4 european countries it's forbidden to put them into landfills. in fact a spain company _can_ recycle fiber to fiber glass to 100% (reciclalia) and they do it even for differnt uses cases (formula 1 and aerospace). of course if landfills are accepted in a country it's cheaper than to recycle. dumping is always cheaper than recycling thats why we dump so much (not just wind turbines...) in fact in germany a lot of our "recycling process" is asically thermal recycling which is not "real" recycling. we basically cheat the stats. a shit ton of stuff can be recycled if somebody wants to, which is often not the case, not even on a governement level and sometimes it's just stupid to even create non recycable waste for no reason (which happens often in the food industry because the non recycable case is often cheaper)



Veolia and GE have a deal https://www.veolia.com/en/news/united-states-veolia-makes-ce...

In France recycling is mandatory (by law).

The concrete is recyclable, and appreciated: https://archinect.com/news/article/150240752/recycled-concre...


That’s wonderful (seems we’re closer than I thought too!) and I’m sure it will keep getting better - but again my point was that I don’t think it’s priced into the top line numbers when comparing cost of energy sources. I think priced in is throwing away fiberglass blades.


China is building a whole lot of new reactors, and the ones that came online most recently took about 5-6 years from start of construction to finish, which is substantially less than a decade. Japan, prior to the shutdown, was able to build new nuclear plants in 4-5 years. It's certainly possible to construct new, modern nuclear plants smoothly and quickly, and countries capable of this are the ones that are doing most of the nuclear plant construction. You hear disproportionately about debacles like Flamanville Unit 3 in France (under construction since 2007, with heavy cost overruns), and they're indicative of some serious problems with France's ability to get reactors built, but worldwide they're the exception.


The USA hasn't done much better at delivering nuclear reactors on time or on budget in the last 3 decades: Vogtle, VC Summer, Bellefonte, for example. The only reactors to come online in that time is Watts Barr 1 and 2 and Comanche Peak 2 all of which started construction in the 1970s.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogtle_Electric_Generating_Pla...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgil_C._Summer_Nuclear_Gener...


4 to 6 years is possible, but more of a best-case scenario.

If you look for example, the nuclear reactor built in France in the 70ies and 80ies took generally between 5 and 9 years to build, with the newer and greater capacity reactors taking significantly more time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_commercial_nuclear_rea...

Keep in mind that it was at the pick of Nuclear reactor construction. These are really large projects with tons of suppliers and contractors to coordinate. There is a lot of experience and institutional knowledge needed, but which has been unfortunately partially lost with the significant slowing down of new constructions in the late 80ies/90ies.

Also, this slowing down also had a significant effect on the supply chains, often leaving very few companies key components/sub-systems.

Flamanville 3 is definitely a poorly lead project and a big outlier, but, a country re-starting its nuclear construction, the first units would probably take ~10 years to come online.


> China

The EPR projects weren't such successes, they were overbudget and overschedule. Then an incident lead to a shutdown for examination.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPR_(nuclear_reactor)#Taishan_...

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/07/31/asia/taishan-nuclear-plan...


One of the things to watch out for when looking at renewable energy prices is that it can often reflect the value of that energy, rather than production cost.

The price being very low often reflects the fact that, at that time, this energy is basically worthless/useless. And in fact, prices have even gone negative, meaning "please stop feeding this useless energy into the grid".

So low renewable prices are not necessarily a good sign, and can in fact just be the economic indicator for the limited usefulness of renewable energy.


I don't think anyone expects a 100% build rate on these commitments, but like all funnels, a certain percentage of these projects that are having awareness raised now will eventually be built. Any progress here is better than nothing.


The cost consists of a number of factors: materials and labor, design issues, and legal challenges. A global effort to build up proper nuclear infrastructure means the design issues will be far less of an issue: just design one really good reactor, and build a few hundred. And governments can (and in the case of China, will) move to limit the possibility of legal challenges. That just leaves materials and labor, which are comparable to similarly-sized industrial structures: considerable, but certainly not insurmountable.


I suspect the Chinese are less susceptible to the problem in western nations where every random person/group can basically DoS the engineering program through the legal system.


That announcement of 150 reactors in China is no real change to the long term plans either. Still simply keeping the option barely open which is very sensible to do when you're such a huge economy, even if it comes from subsidies.

In 2019, China had a new target of 200 GWe of nuclear generating capacity by 2035, which is 7.7% out of predicted total electricity generating capacity of 2600 GWe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_China

So with about 50 GWe from 50 reactors today adding another 150 gives you the same goal of about 200 GWe. Unless we're talking SMRs because then the goal just got reduced to a fraction of the original.


> The Chinese have committed

This may be more complicated than that, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29159944

> Japan reactivating nuclear reactors:

Japan invested on nuclear then nowadays don't want it anymore but now needs energy. One has to see them canceling their planned phase-out, as "in March 2021, only 11 percent of Japanese said they wanted that nuclear energy generation be discontinued immediately. Another 49 percent was asking for a gradual exit from nuclear energy" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Japan#Post-Fu... )

> UK. Rolls-Royce gets funding

"£195m cash injection from private firms and a £210m grant" are ridiculous sums. In France Macron announced 1 billion €: given that nuclear research already burnt ~900 millions € per year (public research), a fair part of the 2.2 billions allocated to the CEA's civilian programs, this isn't decisive.


> > Japan reactivating nuclear reactors:

> Japan invested on nuclear then nowadays don't want it anymore but now needs energy. One has to see them canceling their planned phase-out, as "in March 2021, only 11 percent of Japanese said they wanted that nuclear energy generation be discontinued immediately. Another 49 percent was asking for a gradual exit from nuclear energy" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Japan#Post-Fu... )

Wow. To have even ~40% of the population not opposing nuclear after a national trauma like Fukushima, shows their sophistication as a people.


"49 percent was asking for a gradual exit from nuclear energy" isn't exactly "not opposing".


Poll by national TV in 2021. What about to restart existing nuclear plants? Agree=16%, Disagree=39%, Not sure=44%

https://www.nhk.or.jp/politics/articles/lastweek/54794.html

It also should be considered that stopped nuclear plants (its pool filled by nuclear fuels) aren't safe like no plants but similar to running plants (but I doubt majority of people know that).


100 - 49 - 11 = 40


The poll details: https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/japanese-opinion-poll-finds-that-v...

60% want "the nuclear power to be discontinued" either right now or gradually, and ~27% "don't know". IMHO there is a large majority of citizens wanting a phase-out.


> The Chinese have committed to building over 150 new nuclear reactors.

Hang on, China also announced a couple of months ago to build 43 new coal-fired power plants.

It's not that long ago - perhaps a decade - that China was building a new coal-fired power plant every 10 days or so. Not small ones, but on the same scale as the largest coal-fired power plant we had in Australia at the time.

I mention this as a counterpoint to any 'If China's doing it, it must make sense' fallacy.


>I mention this as a counterpoint to any 'If China's doing it, it must make sense' fallacy.

It makes sense if you realize

1. China pledges to peak carbon emission by 2030

2. Any increase in emission before 2030 will increase China's peak carbon allowance afterward.

3. Coal plants are cheap to build. Who cares if you only run them at 30% load factor for their entire lifespan.

4. Cap and trade between countries mean the carbon credit will worth a lot in the near future.


> China pledges to peak carbon emission by 2030

China pledged to peak Carbon emissions as a share of GDP by 2030. Not the same thing, given that GDP is increasing by 6-8% each year. Most Western nations already have had emissions per GDP declining for a long time.

> 2030 will increase China's peak carbon allowance afterward

China has rejected abiding by any Carbon "allowance", nor will it adopt any cap and trade system for carbon.


Can someone explain why 1.5°C is considered a realistic goal? It seems rather obvious to me that the world is going to warm a bit beyond that. Staying under 2°C is going to be quite the challenge. 1.5°C doesn't seem remotely likely. I realize the climate science says it's the ideal temperature to aim for giving the 1.2°C warming we've already done, but it doesn't seem politically or economically feasible at this point.


I think the problem is the gap between outrage and effective action.

Outrage is what identifies a problem, but to solve the problem requires state capacity to deploy infrastructure cost effectively and at scale.

Now we have no shortage of outrage. We've got activists blocking traffic and having "die-ins" in which they lie down on the grass and sob. We have endless moaning about 'climate collapse'.

But none of that increases nuclear generating capacity. None of that deploys any reliable battery storage at scale.

So then you have the neoliberal free-marketeers thinking that if they impose taxes on oil then magically these nuclear plants will be built, just out of the free market. This is faith-based infrastructure.

But that doesn't happen, so you have the public being burdened by high taxes, then they kick the politicians out of office to lower their taxes, and nothing gets done.

Is that because the public has an emotional attachment to fossil fuels? That they love coal? No, people don't care where they get their energy. Making them care -- e.g. promoting outrage -- does nothing to deploy nuclear power at scale. Lecturing end users about how they are "destroying the plant" also does nothing. That's also just more outrage.

This lack of effective action and the substitution of outrage for engineering competency is why we still need fossil fuels for baseload and will continue to need them.

In fact we are so paralyzed by emotion and irreality that I predict that we will never recover the state capacity we had in the postwar period and instead will just end up buying nuclear plants from China and battery storage infrastructure from China, because we don't have the competency to deploy this infrastructure at scale by ourselves.

But China has state capacity. They do not have the outrage, which is why people who only value outrage think that China is doing nothing. But China will leapfrog the West in things like Nuclear power and even in the area of battery storage at scale.

It may not be according some 2030 timeline, which is again a political deadline rather than a deadline arising from a sober assessment of engineering roadmaps, but China will eventually do it because it has state capacity to act in this area and we do not. When it comes to solving big infrastructure challenges, we have only outrage.


Because we'are slackers and we have the easy job of stopping emissions and we are bitching about it.

The world wont stop warming at 2 degrees, thats just projection for 2100, it will keep warming after that.

The next generation will have to pay for pulling carbon out od the air to actually stop warming, and that's going to cost $2 for every $1 the oil industry has ever made.

https://xkcd.com/1379/


Still building coal plant doesn't mean the plant operated continuously in the future. Perhaps they may use those coal plant only when solar power generation isn't good (I don't know).


Last I looked at the numbers (which was 2 weeks ago):

China seems to be adding ~30GW of coal, 70GW of wind, ~50GW of solar, and ~6 GW of nuclear power/year to its grid.


It makes sense to build both. Coal fired plants are much less expensive to produce and get to a positive ROI much faster. If you don't like it, you can always try launching a land war in Asia to stop them.


Not everybody has the ability to launch a land war in Asia


Anyone can with enough self-confidence and elan, but, uh, no one can win!


Don't have to launch a war. Climate change will fuck them up without the need to involve military. Downside is that we have to deal with that shitstorm too.


It's only good news if they aren't PWR/LWR meltdown-possible 70 year old designs.

I do like there is a large market to this startup. Hopefully that will result in a somewhat price-competitive reactor design. But I doubt that will happen for another 10 years.

I think solar/wind/battery will eat the lunch of any new nuclear plant in cost once it goes online.

Hoping for the best!


"The comeback of nuclear energy" At last, I would say. We have magic energy source in our hands but, no, better spend milliards on wind turbines and solar panels, although we know they sometimes work and sometimes don't, so they can't provide predictable input for a grid without batteries that we don't have and will not have in foreseeable future.

I am wondering what Germany is going to do. They have bet heavily on wind & solar (apparently they haven't check how many sunny days Germany has...) with the backup from Russian gas from Nord Stream 1/2 (for some reason this gas is "clean" although burning it produces CO2). If everyone around will switch to nuclear, what I hope will happen, they can end up with the very expensive setup that is still producing a lot of CO2.

I am afraid that Germany will try to enforce ban on nuclear by European Union (what they can do, since Brexit Germany is in fact ruling UE), as the wrong investment might hurt their economy. I hope France will oppose.


Exactly. Unfortunately the problem is the people are opposing nuclear and to make people happy Germany leaders will do what they can, to push the whole EU to their home politics drama. One of the biggest drawback of any union when the big guys are incentivized for something not aligning with rest of members. No wonder so many neighbors are unhappy


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