Georgia’s Total Electric Power Sector
Since 1990, CO2 emissions (mtons) and CO2 intensity (mtons/MWhr) associated with Georgia’s total electric power sector have decreased while overall generation increased. For the most part, this can be attributed to the transition from coal-fired to natural gas-fired power generation. However, there’s a limit to this transition and Georgia’s capacity to sustain this decline in CO2 and CO2 intensity. This highlights the importance of Vogtle Units 3&4, which will bring online over 2,200 MW of zero-carbon power generation and prove invaluable as the coal-to-natural gas transition reaches its natural floor.
Zero-carbon baseload power—Vogtle 3&4 will provide Georgia with a solid foundation on which to expand solar PV and continue the state’s progress toward a reliable, low-carbon energy future.
U.S. Nuclear Power: America’s Brand Is at Risk
(Full Op-ed in Morning Consult)
America’s leadership and stewardship in the global nuclear ecosystem has been central in sustaining the liberal international order that has prevented great power competition from devolving into global war for the past 75 years. However, if America abandons its nuclear enterprise, the question must be asked: “Can the liberal international order be sustained with an illiberal, authoritarian power such as China or Russia having displaced America as the global leader in nuclear science, engineering and technology?”
America’s nuclear brand is tarnished and is at risk of being competed out of existence by state-owned Chinese and Russian brands. It’s a risk that can be avoided through a recommitment to America’s original nuclear power policy principles that were grounded in international engagement, collaboration and partnership.
Coal: Fading in the U.S., But Not in the World
The recent NY Times article entitled, “As Coal Fades in the U.S., Natural Gas Becomes the Climate Battleground”, extends the ongoing debate around U.S. coal, natural gas and renewables under the rubric of climate change.
There’s little argument that coal consumption in the U.S. is declining as the U.S. electric power sector continues shifting from coal to inexpensive natural gas. While this shift, along with penetration of renewables, has resulted in decreased CO2 emissions from the U.S. power sector, some, as noted in the NY Times article, contend that the U.S. should be offsetting coal with renewables rather than natural gas—again, due to concerns about climate change. Rather than arguing against the belief in a 100% renewable energy portfolio, it’s worth noting the reality that the U.S. simply isn’t a climate island and cannot isolate itself from what’s happening in the rest of the world—particularly emerging markets where coal consumption continues to increase. While belief systems have a valuable place in our society, that place isn’t in the U.S. power grid.
The two graphs below, one with China and India included as emerging markets and the other with China and India excluded, illustrate that increases in coal consumption in emerging markets offset decreases in coal consumption in the U.S.
The point being that there’s a floor to the U.S. decline in coal consumption and, if coal consumption and CO2 emissions are the global issue, then global attention must turn toward decreasing coal consumption in emerging markets. Coal is in fact fading in the U.S., but it’s coming into full relief in emerging regions looking to stand up their economies on reliable energy resources. However, to do so, those countries need an alternative that’s both reliable and low- or zero-carbon.
And the zero-carbon alternative is nuclear.
U.S. Solar Capacity Factors
The U.S. EIA posted a nice brief today showing that, for the years 2014-17, the capacity factor for utility-scale solar was 24.7% Below are three additional figures I recently complied along these same lines. A summary point is that, on a generation and capacity factor basis, the solar resource is better utilized at the utility-scale.
Continue reading “U.S. Solar Capacity Factors”
Will the U.S. Lead?
Or Let China and Russia Dominate Nuclear Energy?
(Full Op-ed in The Hill)
The 21st century is undergoing fundamental geopolitical shifts as great power competition has re-emerged as a central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security with China and Russia seeking to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model. And, embedded in their geopolitical strategies are state-owned nuclear power enterprises leveraged as extensions of the state to establish long-term energy and technology dependencies in emerging economies. Theirs is a top-down nuclear ecology, focused on influence and dominance, not strictly economic development or multilateral cooperation alone. While the U.S. was the 20th century global leader in nuclear technology, it now lags China and Russia in new and planned nuclear construction and is at a financial disadvantage when competing with SOEs.
The issue isn’t whether the U.S. has the technological capability to compete and lead—that was proven in the 20th century. The issue is, America’s 20th century nuclear construct cannot compete with 21st century SOEs in China and Russia. Consequently, America’s 20th century nuclear enterprise requires a new ecology if it is to meet the geopolitical challenges of the globalized 21st century and renewed great power competition.
Link to Full Op-ed
Washington State’s Clean Energy Bill
Washington’s state legislature has passed SB 5116 entitled, “Supporting Washington’s clean energy economy and transitioning to a clean, affordable, and reliable energy future”, which mandates that all electricity be generated by clean energy sources by 2045.
Not surprisingly, the bill is replete with references to renewable energy credits, hydropower, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, wave, ocean, tidal, landfill gas, biomass, gas from sewage treatment facilities and biodiesel—provided that the biodiesel “is not derived from crops raised on land cleared from old growth or first-growth forests where the clearing occurred after December 7, 2006” (it must have taken some real research to get that date nailed down). Yet, in all the references to clean energy, not a single mention of nuclear—at least not in the posting of the bill as I read it here. Continue reading “Washington State’s Clean Energy Bill”
100% Renewable Energy Isn’t a Response to Climate Change–It’s a Retreat
(Full Op-ed in The Hill)
Recently, three more U.S. states pledged to decarbonize their grids, joining a growing list of cities and states with similar goals. While low-carbon is the right objective, a 100% renewables approach for the U.S., proposed by some, isn’t. Technical hurdles notwithstanding, it is misaligned with the realities of a world where fossil fuel consumption is increasing and energy technology needs in emerging economies are growing, and it will marginalize, if not isolate, the U.S. from global energy technology markets moving in a direction opposite that of 100% renewables, leaving America exposed to climate change and national security risks. This misalignment has economic and geostrategic implications that warrant the attention of the National Governor’s Association.
A 100% renewable energy policy is not a response to climate change—it’s a U.S. retreat from the global stage and the energy realities of the world as it is.
The Green New Deal:
Isolationist in Scope and Blind to Geopolitical Reality
(Full Op-ed in The Hill)
The issue of climate change is now being compared to one of the most sobering, consequential eras in U.S. history — the challenges, sacrifices and accomplishments of America’s Greatest Generation. California Gov. Jerry Brown compared the climate battle to fighting Nazis, others have suggested a Marshall Plan for climate change, and now there’s a resolution “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal” (GND).
“The heart of the GND is about social justice”. Thus, it is fundamentally a populist resolution proffered as global climate policy, yet, with no global reach as to climate or nuclear national security. Rather than motivate serious deliberations, the Green New Deal is likely to further polarize policymakers, sow confusion into the public discourse and distract America from the serious efforts needed for developing comprehensive and strategic policy.
America cannot battle global climate change nor compete with China and Russia for global leadership in civilian nuclear power under isolationist policies such as the Green New Deal. In fact, it defies all tactical and strategic logic for the U.S. to marginalize, or retreat from, nuclear power — the only technology with the proven capacity to stand up to the challenge of global climate change while strengthening U.S. national security.
America needs sober, strategic energy and climate policy. And that sober strategic policy should center on U.S. nuclear power, not the Green New Deal.
Link to full op-ed.
Change in Global CO2 Emissions (2000-2017)
With respect to CO2 emissions and climate change, the greatest concern is in the Asia-Pacific where economies have developed on fossil fuels for the past twenty years and coal plants remain in their forward planning. From 2000-2017, global CO2 emissions increased 9,821 mmtons, with 8,643 mmtons (88% of global total) derived from Asia-Pacific countries. Of this, China emitted 5,883 mmtons and India 1,381 mmtons. During this same period, U.S. CO2 emissions decreased 639 mmtons. The issue is global climate, yet the GND scope is limited to the U.S. This isn’t an issue of right vs. wrong or which country is to be blamed—it’s a pragmatic matter of policy focus.