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ARTICLE ARCHIVE

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is the most effective - and most underestimated - means of reducing energy consumption and slowing the climate crisis.

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Friday
Mar282014

RMI: "Nuclear Power's Competitive Landscape and Climate Opportunity Cost"

Amory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, RMITitiaan Palazzi, Special Aid, RMIAmory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, and Titiaan Palazzi, Special Aid (photos, left), of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, CO, presented "Nuclear Power's Competitive Landscape and Climate Opportunity Cost" at "Three Mile Island 35th Anniversary Symposium: The Past, Present, and Future of Nuclear Energy" held at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, on 28 March 2014.

Lovins and Palazzi report that, when compared to nuclear power: (1) Efficiency and renewables are far cheaper; (2) Renewables can deliver similar or better service and reliability; (3) Renewables can scale faster;  and (4) For climate protection, efficiency and renewables are far more effective solutions than new nuclear build, which indeed is counterproductive.

Lovins and Palazzi's economic critique extends not only to proposed new atomic reactors, but even to existing, age-degraded reactors. They state "Reactors are promoted as costly to build but cheap to run. Yet as Daniel Allegretti ably described, many existing, long-paid-for U.S. reactors are now starting to be shut down because just their operating cost can no longer compete with wholesale power prices, typically depressed by gas-fired plants or windpower."

Lovins and Palazzi also discuss the financial history of nuclear power, extending back decades. They point out that U.S. nuclear power orders collapsed before Three Mile Island partially melted down on March 28, 1979, and that 40% of U.S. nuclear-unit cancellations occurred before then, due to economic challenges.

Lovins and Palazzi conclude that "efficiency is clearly cheaper than average nuclear operating costs, which exceed 4¢/kWh [4 cents per kilowatt-hour] at the busbar and 8¢ delivered. Thus overall, for saving coal plants’ carbon emissions, efficiency is about 10–50x more cost-effective than new nuclear build—or about 2–12x more cost-effective than just operating the average U.S. nuclear plant."

Regarding nuclear power's retreat, Lovins and Palazzi report:

"Nuclear power also has to run ever faster to stay in the same place as its 1970s and 1980s growth turns into a bulge  of retirements. After the next few years, retirements will exceed all planned or conceivable global nuclear additions, even with all license extensions as shown here. Power reactors’ terminal decline will be over by about 2060—and in view of both competition and aging, this projection by Mycle Schneider [Mycle Schneider et al., World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013] is more likely to overstate its longevity than its brevity."
They conclude their presentation by stating: "So whether you choose e fficiency, cogeneration, or renewables, just being nearly carbon-free does not make new nuclear build an effective climate solution. Rather, because it saves ~3–50x less carbon per dollar than its main competitors, and deploys slower, new nuclear build reduces and retards climate protection. If climate is a problem, we must invest judiciously, not indiscriminately, to get the most solution per dollar and per year. Anything less makes the problem worse. Nor do we need nuclear power to offset PVs’ and windpower’s variability, or to scale faster than renewables, or to save or make money, because, as we’ve seen, nuclear power cannot do any of these things. So there is no reason to build more nuclear plants. Capital markets, seeing big new costs and risks without offsetting benefits, long ago reached the same conclusion. Existing nuclear plants, a future idea whose time has passed, will simply retire; the only choice is how quickly and at what cost to whom. End of story." (bold added)
Wednesday
Jan052011

Green Design Spree Aims to Trim U.S. Government's Big Energy Bill

Architects aim to reclaim the original energy-saving features of the 1917 U.S. General Services Administration buiding, including natural lighting and ventilation.With $25 billion in annual power and fuel costs, the U.S. government is the largest single energy consumer in the nation's economy, and among the largest in the world.´╗┐The Obama administration now is seeking to ramp up that effort dramatically—with the help of an unprecedented $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to be spent by next September entirely for federal green building and renovation projects. By executive order, the federal government is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2020. National Geographic.

Thursday
Sep092010

French "nuclear miracle" plagued by fast-rising reactor costs and "crowding out" of renewables and efficiency

A new study by Dr. Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, released today, warns "it is highly unlikely that the problems of the nuclear industry will be solved by an infusion of federal loan guarantees and other subsidies to get the first plants in a new building cycle completed. U.S. policymakers should resist efforts to force the government into making large loans on terms that put taxpayers at risk in order to ‘save' a project or an industry that may not be salvageable." The press release contains a link to the executive summary and the full report. Steven Thomas of Greenwich University in London, expert on Electricite de France and Areva economic woes, joined Dr. Cooper for the press conference, a full audio recording of which can be found at www.nuclearbailout.org after 6 p.m. today.

Tuesday
Jul272010

U.S. wastes more energy than Japan uses!

The International District Energy Association (IDEA) makes the point that heat waste throughout the U.S. economy could be put to productive use by way of "district energy and cogeneration" (also called combined heat and power), if sensible policies and incentives were in place. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has pointed out that such "micro-power" as combined heat and power -- as well as efficiency ("negawatts") and renewables like wind and solar -- has been beating new nuclear power economically in the free market for a very long time, as in his report "The Nuclear Illusion."

Thursday
Jul302009

Report shows U.S. could reduce energy consumption 23% with efficiency

A new July 2009 report by McKinsey & Company shows that the U.S. economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020, eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in waste – well beyond the $520 billion upfront investment (not including program costs) that would be required. The reduction in energy use would also result in the abatement of 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually – the equivalent of taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the roads.