Saturday, March 18, 2006

Battle royale in the blog world: solving our electricity problem


"they fight, and fight, and fight, and fight, and fight"--Itchy and Scratchy theme song from The Simpsons

Hey solarDwellers:

Sometimes the debate in the green blogosphere can get hotter than our warming ocean waters(sorry, bad joke). I was crusin' over at the NY City Oil Drum Blog, where they were furiously debating about the future of electricity generation. How much can be solved by reduced consumption or efficiency? How much by solar, wind and other green sources? How much by nuclear? Which is worse: the "pick your poison" twins of coal and nuclear? Here, take a peek at the rhetorical theatrics over there on that blog.

A poster responds to a suggestion that a big part of the electricity solution is reducing use, more efficiency and more renewables. . .
First of all for thousandth time I see the proposed solutions to our energy woes summarized in the words "efficiency, conservation, renewables" without mentioning or analyzing the limits and problems associated with each one of them.
Like I said conservation and efficiency have their limits. More importantly they can not be relied upon. You can make an estimate how much you would achieve by implementing this and that but you can not enforce everybody on the other end of the generation-consuption line to implement the measures you want. IMO you will be surprised how many people just don't care - even don't care what their bills are.

And the original author comments later on, with at least some agreement:
For the wind & solar generation I also see about 20% as a practical limit. Again question is what happens next?

They agree the practical limit for renewables with current technology is 20% of total electricity production(sounds about right to me), but the original author emphasizes that renewables combined with efficiency could avoid the need to build new coal/nuclear power plants altogether, at least for a decade or so. To which his dueling mate responds:
Regarding the solutions I defend, if I were given a hypothetical budget I would spread it out the following way:
50% for nuclear
30% for renewables
20% for encouraging efficiency and conservation
Like I was defending until now, points 2) and 3) are partial solutions and presenting a partial solution as an end-point is very dangerous IMO. Therefore we need something else as an energy source for the future, and nuclear is the obvious choice for me.

And, the combatants start to wind down, the author with some final remarks:
I agree with you that conservation and renewables, will not cut it as far as future development goes. My point is that we will have to think seriously about the type and placement of future power plants. . . Short term or not, conservation and efficiency nonetheless roundly beats every other current alternative. I think that your response is fairly flip, and not constructive:
"'Of course if you ask the average person what he/she wants he/she will tell you that would very much want windmills located some 10 thousand miles away from his house."'


And finally, another poster enters the ring to assist our "efficiency" combatant:
"An April 2000 E.U. report found that, using existing technology, increased efficiency could decrease energy consumption by more than 18% by 2020. The U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that simple voluntary energy-efficiency improvements in buildings will reduce world energy use 10%-15% by 2020. They state that, with technology already in use, efficiency improvements in buildings, manufacturing, and transport can reduce world carbon emissions more than 50% by 2020." --from "A problem with wind power"


For a very near-future post, I'll give you my ideas of how much a role, what percentage of electricity, can be supplied by solar with current technology, while commenting on what sources supply our electricity in California, one of the "cleaner" producers in the country. Hint: for our present use of solar, (are you sitting down?), think of a number greater than 0% and less than 1% of total electricity. And we're so famous for sunshine here. I guess just for surfing so far. But, you know my take. Things are a solar-changing, fast!

--the solarDweller

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5 comments:

Kodijack said...

I will agree that most people just don't care, and that is sad. But they will care soon, prices will continue to rise and at some point there will be a wide spread discourse on what we are going to do. Those of us who do conserve are probably just mildly delaying the inevitable, but we are saving money and feeling good about it at least.

solarDweller (Jason C.) said...

Thanks for your comment, kodijack. Along with some people not caring, I big concern of mine is people just not being "aware" of a)how much electricity/nat gas we use, and b)where it comes from. I think there should be a "digital label" that would be like an electricity meter INSIDE your house. It would tell you how many kWh you use each day, and using data about what the source mix is of the electricity produced/imported in your state (ie %coal,%nuclear,%gas,%renewable), it would tell you how man pounds of greenhouse gases/pollution those kWh represent. Then, people would have a baseline they could track, almost like weighing yourself when you're on a diet.
We need "content label" information in order to help us decide at which level we consume.

Kodijack said...

Well, its pretty easy to move the meter inside, but as far as whats generating that electricity you have to call, research, read, etc. I agree though, that would be a great idea.

One of the simpler joys in my life is checking the meter and watching it not move, at all. I love that.

Kodijack said...

Well, its pretty easy to move the meter inside, but as far as whats generating that electricity you have to call, research, read, etc. I agree though, that would be a great idea.

One of the simpler joys in my life is checking the meter and watching it not move, at all. I love that.

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