Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Obama aims at the climate

During a video message to the bipartisan Governors Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles, California, Barack Obama looks to turn the US tide on emissions.

“Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious."

“Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change,” Mr. Obama said. “The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We’ve seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season.”

Mr. Obama promised to set “strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, and reduce them an additional 80 percent by 2050.”
This goes beyond even the planned EU reductions.

Mr. Obama vowed to invest $15 billion a year to support private clean-energy initiatives in solar and wind power, biofuels, clean coal technologies and nuclear power.

“When I am president, any governor who’s willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that’s willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that’s willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America.”

More analysis from the New York Times.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Nuclear Australia and the WEO-2008

The International Energy Agency has published this year's World Energy Outlook. Similar to the 2007 version [which contained a feature section on China], this year's edition includes a dedicated, in-depth analysis of climate policy strategies to achieve both 550 and 450 ppm carbon-dioxide equivalent targets [atmospheric carbon dioxide is currently 388 ppm according to NOAA]. These targets are consistent with those from the recently issued Garnaut review.

The 569 page document is detailed to say the least. The report is divided into three principal sections:
  • Global Energy Trends to 2030
  • Oil & Gas Production Prospects
  • The Role of Energy in Climate Policy
The 550 Policy Scenario equates to an increase in global temperature of approximately 3°C, the 450 Policy Scenario to a rise of around 2°C. The 550 Policy Scenario involves a plateauing of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020 and reductions soon after. The 450 Policy Scenarios involves much more substantial reductions after 2020. Even then, emissions overshoot the trajectory needed to meet the 450 ppm CO2-eq target, requiring greater emissions reductions after 2030 [to achieve long term stability at 450 ppm]. In both scenarios, total emissions are significantly lower in 2030 in all major emitting countries. To reach either of these outcomes, hundreds of millions of households and businesses around the world would need to be encouraged to change the way they use energy. This will require innovative policies, an appropriate regulatory framework, the rapid development of a global carbon market and increased investment in energy research, development and demonstration.

The report explains that energy demand was increasing faster than emissions until the recarbonisation of the global energy supply market resumed after nuclear power fell out of favour in many countries in the 1990's.

Looking forward, the report explains how the most significant projected increases in emissions come from developing countries [China, India, etc.] as they strive to satisfy their increasing demand. To meet the goals of either scenario above, emissions from these energy expansion programmes must be pro-actively managed. In addition, the report also shows the bulk of emission cuts - form current levels - coming from OECD countries. Neither task will be easy, but all technologies have a role to play.

The 550 Scenario

The share in the world primary energy mix of low-carbon energy, such as hydropower, nuclear, biomass and renewables, increases from 19% in 2006 to 25% in 2030. Hydropower demand increases in the 550 Policy Scenario to reach 456 Mtoe [metric tonnes oil equivalent] in 2030, compared with 414 Mtoe in the Reference Scenario. Other renewables, such as wind and solar, receive a much bigger boost, rising seven-fold from just 66 Mtoe in 2006 to the same level as hydro in 2030. Modern biomass use also increases — both in power generation and in decentralised heat production for residential, commercial and industry needs — to around 1 200 Mtoe in 2030. Nuclear grows twice as fast as in the Reference Scenario to reach nearly 1 100 Mtoe in 2030.
All have a role to play. Coal miners may be pleased to see the industry continues to grow; albeit at a much slower pace than in the reference scenario. While Luke's analyses [first & second] don't give me a lot of confidence, achieving the relevant emission reduction goals relies heavily on carbon capture and sequestration [CCS]. Those who back renewables will also be busy for some time. Averaging 8.6% growth per year is ambitious, but this is without hydro and biomass which themselves must also expand considerably over the time of interest. One also notes a drop of -9% in world energy demand with respect to the reference scenario. This is due mainly to conservation and efficiency improvements.

Nuclear expansion - beyond the reference scenario - will happen mostly in the OECD. The goals are assumed to be partially achieved through license extensions of existing plants as well as the accelerated construction of new plants. The second figure below reflects a significant nuclear expansion already included in the reference scenario within other major [non-OECD] economies.

The 2006 value of just under 2,500 TWh equates to roughly 370 GWe of installed capacity operated for about 7000 hours - or roughly 80% of the year. A single 1000 MWe plant will add about 7 TWh more to the 2006 data. Therefore the equivalent of 70 new 1000 MWe nuclear power plants are assumed to come into service by 2030 in the above figure - just in the OECD. The equivalent of over 100 more plants are assumed to come on line in non-OECD countries.

The big picture from the report:
In order to reduce CO2 emissions by 7.6 Gt [7,600,000,000 tonnes], the 550 Policy Scenario requires development — on a significant scale — of less CO2-intensive technologies (Figure 18.4). In 2030, 4.8 Gt of avoided CO2 emissions — 63% of total CO2 emissions reductions compared to the Reference Scenario — stem from efficiency improvements in the end-use sector and in power generation. A further 0.6 Gt of CO2 savings come from the operation of an additional 86 GW of nuclear capacity, beyond that built in the Reference Scenario. The large-scale deployment of renewable and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies in the power sector gives rise to 1.2 and 0.8 Gt of CO2 savings, respectively. The decarbonisation of the power sector alone involves notably the construction every year to 2030 of an additional 7 [800 MWe] coal-fired plants and 3 [500 MWe] gasfired plants with CCS, 11 new [1000 MWe] nuclear plants and almost 12 000 [3 MWe] wind turbines, while hydropower is expanded every two years by 64 GW — the equivalent of three dams of the capacity of China’s Three Gorges Dam.
The 450 Scenario

Although the reduction in global electricity demand in 2030 is only 4% compared with the 550 Policy Scenario, the fuel mix changes significantly as a result of the wider use of nuclear and renewables. The share of coal and gas as fuel for power and heat plants in the 450 Policy Scenario in 2030 declines to 47%. This contributes to the security of the electricity sector, making the sector in many countries less import-dependent.

In the more-stringent 450 Policy Scenario, a deeper transformation of energy supply and an even wider adoption of CO2-mitigation options occurs (Figure 18.4). In order to achieve the necessary additional reduction between the 550 and 450 Policy Scenarios, further end-use efficiency improvements are assumed. Renewable energy is developed considerably further, to realise a further 25% CO2-emissions reduction compared to the 550 Policy Scenario. CCS technologies are applied more widely in power generation, but are also introduced in the industry sector. Thirteen additional nuclear power plants have to be built yearly, compared to the 550 Policy Scenario. Biofuels penetrate the transportation sector more deeply.

The data is impressively cross-cut and impossible to capture in one blog post. The economic impacts of different technologies are discussed - nuclear is the cheapest option in the EU with carbon pricing via an emissions trading scheme. It is second only to on-shore wind in the USA under the same conditions. There are detailed breakdowns of specific renewable technologies [on-shore wind, biomass, solar PV, solar thermal, off-shore wind, geothermal, tidal, etc.]...

This is an excellent reference. Anyone arguing that reasonable emissions reduction goals can be achieved without the expansion of nuclear energy production is clearly refuted by this report. Similarly, nuclear advocates who criticise other low-carbon options such as wind or solar should consider the information in this report. All technologies have a significant role to play. Champions of different technologies should welcome objective and constructive critiques. However, the more pedantic arguments, usually accompanied by not-so-hidden agendas, between those who otherwise agree on the requirement to reduce emissions, undercut the very milestones they are all working to progress.

The irresistible force vs. the immovable object

Australia's role in future energy policies and economies is complicated. The economy is closely linked to fuel exports and domestic energy supply is almost entirely carbon based. These dependencies will complicate the transition to a low carbon economy in a country significantly threatened by the impacts of climate change and ironically one the world's highest per-capita carbon emitters.

Nearly two years ago, the UMPNER report analysed the potential role for nuclear power in Australia. A growing community of concerned individuals, companies and organisations - including UMPNER chief, Dr. Ziggy Switkowski, are working to resume a discussion regarding nuclear technology's role in Australia's energy future. Meanwhile nations around the world are expanding existing nuclear programmes or initiating new ones.

The World Energy Outlook report concludes:

For all the uncertainties highlighted in this report, we can be certain that the energy world will look a lot different in 2030 than it does today. The world energy system will be transformed, but not necessarily in the way we would like to see. We can be confident of some of the trends highlighted in this report: the growing weight of China, India, the Middle East and other non-OECD regions in energy markets and in CO2 emissions; the rapidly increasing dominance of national oil companies; and the emergence of low-carbon energy technologies. And while market imbalances could temporarily cause prices to fall back, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the era of cheap oil is over. But many of the key policy drivers (not to mention other, external factors) remain in doubt. It is within the power of all governments, of producing and consuming countries alike, acting alone or together, to steer the world towards a cleaner, cleverer and more competitive energy system. Time is running out and the time to act is now.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Ziggy Switkowski's statements today

In Adelaide today at the 34th annual Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture.

"I am concerned that the exclusion of nuclear power from our national conversation and energy debate represents a triumph of political pragmatism over good policy."

"When it comes to the generation of base-load electricity - the 80 per cent of electricity that must be available round the clock to power our refrigerators, washing machines, plasma TVs, traffic lights, air conditioners, etc. - the options in front of us include the use of coal, gas, oil, hydroelectricity and nuclear energy."

"If fossil fuels are excluded because they are dirty and the risks to hydroelectricity from water scarcity are considered, then the only presently available clean option for
base-load electricity is nuclear power."

"Significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would almost certainly prove beyond the capability of existing technologies, while renewable energy platforms will fail to deliver the cuts in the time allowed."

"Our lights will start to go out as investment in clean, base-load energy generation stalls in an uncertain regulatory environment and the nuclear alternative is not validated."

"In a carbon-constrained future, nuclear-powered economies will exploit their cost advantages for clean energy in competing with Australian products newly burdened by embedded carbon costs."

"31 countries currently used nuclear power to generate 15 per cent of the world's electricity."

"An increasing number of countries around the world are turning to nuclear power to meet growing demand for energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diversify their energy mix from a single platform or dominant fuel supplier."

"Why not Australia?"

News from Japan

Japan's carbon emissions are fairly high [number 4 in the world in total emissions, but number 23 in per capita emissions per the NationMaster database]. Japan is in the news because their carbon emission have increased over the last year by 2.6 percent.

Japan's emission rose due to the shutdown of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which was damaged by an earthquake on July 16, 2007. The site is home to seven large nuclear power reactors [nearly 8,000 MWe capacity]. There age ranges from 12 to 23 years old. Three of the reactors were operating during the earthquake and the other four were shutdown for routine inspections. The operating reactors were safely shutdown and none of the seven units has operated since that time.

But this will not be the case for long. The IAEA is returning to reinspect the plant and operators have begun loading fuel into Unit 7. Fuel loading is expected to be complete by 16-November and related tests sometime in December.

Meanwhile in Australia the coal industry is looking for love... via a $1.5 million ad campaign and $1 million website aimed at educating the Australian public on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies.

Some exerpts from the linked report:

Back in Hugh Morgan's day, the coal industry's global warming strategy was to fund denialist groups. Not now: Mr Hillman said the industry saw climate change as real, and the association's main goal was to drive the adoption of CCS to tackle it.

The Federal Government's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, has criticised the industry's effort as inadequate. In his final report last month, Professor Garnaut contrasted its research and development spending with the amounts paid by farmers out of a much lower revenue base. He said coalminers should beef up their R&D levies to $250 million a year to accelerate the adoption of CCS.

The International Energy Agency warned last month that CCS now costs between $US60 ($A90) and $US75 per tonne of emissions saved, way above the price of wind power or nuclear — and unless R&D efforts were radically stepped up, it might not be commercially viable until 2030.