Archive for November, 2007

How much does electricity cost?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Today’s NY Times has a graphic, comparing costs of various sources of electricity with and without a greenhouse gas tax (the tax could be a direct tax or the result of a cap and trade policy):

The Cost of Emissions
For larger image

I’m not sure what long-term expectations are about natural gas prices. A DOE graph shows natural gas oscillating between $6 and $8/million BTU this year, but natural gas ranged from $10 – 12 for several months in 2005.

With a $10/ton CO2 tax (again, this could be the result of a cap and trade policy), nuclear power is cheaper than all but natural gas, assuming $6/million BTU. Pulverized coal is a tad more expensive than nuclear, and gasified coal is 1 cent/kWh more expensive, as is natural gas with higher costs. Wind, biomass, and solar thermal are 3 – 6 cent/kWh more expensive (lowest estimate for solar thermal).

At $50/ton CO2 tax, coal is more costly than wind. By the time the tax reaches this level, the costs of solar thermal hopefully have fallen below coal’s cost in southern states, though today solar thermal could not compete.

Lighting the Way — a few comments

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

Last post included about half the executive Summary of the new InterAcademy Council recommendations for our energy future. I tried to eliminate what was less important, but couldn’t find much, hence the long post.

This report covers much the same area as other reports, but has a few differences.

Responsibilities are assigned to multi-national organizations, governments, NGOs and the private sector.

Needed actions frequently include the need for the media to help understand the enormity of problems, or the role of solutions. Frequently the media tell us of a new report, but do not follow up. Most of us don’t have anywhere near enough information to make educated decisions. We can let the media know we need better and more explanations, closer to page 1.

Conclusion 1: emphasis on the need to provide energy to the poor. Not to be overlooked while we in the rich world talk about the need for all of us to cut back.

Conclusion 3: Coal will continue to play a large role in the world’s energy mix. Research and development of carbon capture and storage technology must be accelerated to reduce coal’s impact. I include this not because this is not a routine part of energy policy reports, but because much of the public hears that we can eliminate coal power soon.

Needed action for Conclusion 5:

Given the controversy over the future of nuclear power worldwide, the United Nations should commission—as soon as possible—a transparent and objective re-examination of the issues that surround nuclear power and their potential solutions. It is essential that the general public be informed about the outcome of this re-examination.

Bruce Alberts, when he left National Academy of Sciences, listed this as one of the questions Congress did not ask. A good review will help facilitate informed discussion.

What impressed you most about Lighting the Way? What differences strike you between reports at this level and what the public is hearing?

Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

The InterAcademy Council report Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future is out. I include a sizable portion of the Executive Summary here for people who prefer html to pdf. Comments soon.