Thursday, April 7, 2011

Are we finally going to get serious about renewables?

The Fukushima disaster is changing the way folks look at the energy mix.  Of course the institutional realities may still take a while to catch up to the facts on the ground.  Around here, we have a couple of nukes run by the local power company.  A few years back, it needed a modification of its operating license so it could store more spent fuel rods on site (because no one imagined there would not be a "permanent" waste storage solution by now.)

In return for a modification of the storage rules, Minnesota insisted that Xcel Energy promise it would invest in renewables.  In Minnesota, renewables means wind power and sure enough, Xcel was soon building windmills.  In institutional terms, this meant the Xcel soon had a whole wing of employees who were acquiring wind energy skills.  This, in turn, means that next time Minnesota demanded its energy companies do renewables, there was bureaucratic pressure from within the firms themselves to support expanded capacity.

This takes time.  It SHOULD take time--energy companies are best run by by-the-book folks who are highly resistant to change.  Even so, it's time to get going and even the haughty nuclear engineers must eventually understand--volts is volts!

Nuclear Power Companies Are Hedging Their Bets And Buying Up Wind And Solar Assets

Jess McCabe, | Apr. 5, 2011, 10:00 PM
Nuclear power companies could hasten acquisitions in the renewables sector in response to the Fukushima disaster, says consultancy PwC.
UK and French nuclear power and engineering firms have been buying up wind and solar power assets, the consultancy said in a report this week, which found that more mergers and acquisitions in renewables were completed last year, although the value of deals dropped to $33.4 billion from $48.8 billion in 2009.
Ronan O’Regan, director of renewables and clean-tech at PwC, does not believe the still-unfolding disaster in Japan will “raise a red flag to investment in nuclear, [but] it could in the short-term spur further moves by nuclear companies into renewables”.
“The interplay between the nuclear and renewables sectors came into particular focus in 2010 as nuclear companies saw the opportunity to develop their carbon-free offering,” the report says. For example, France’s Areva spent $200 million last year on U.S. solar thermal developer Ausra.
U.S. nuclear generator Exelon also bought John Deere Renewables for $900 million last year. John Deere has 735MW of wind power in operation and a pipeline of 1.4GW.

For both these nuclear specialists, this was their first foray into solar and wind.

Overall, the number of mergers and acquisitions in the renewables sector grew by two-thirds in 2010 to 530, PwC found, but the size of transactions was smaller. more
But yes, there are some seriously misinformed folks out there who seem to think things like Peak Oil and climate change are the mad ravings of left-wing kooks.  This problem is mostly seen in the english-speaking world but the deniers are represented almost everywhere.
The Truth, Still Inconvenient
Published: April 3, 2011
So the joke begins like this: An economist, a lawyer and a professor of marketing walk into a room. What’s the punch line? They were three of the five “expert witnesses” Republicans called for last week’s Congressional hearing on climate science.
But the joke actually ended up being on the Republicans, when one of the two actual scientists they invited to testify went off script.
Prof. Richard Muller of Berkeley, a physicist who has gotten into the climate skeptic game, has been leading the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, an effort partially financed by none other than the Koch foundation. And climate deniers — who claim that researchers at NASA and other groups analyzing climate trends have massaged and distorted the data — had been hoping that the Berkeley project would conclude that global warming is a myth.
Instead, however, Professor Muller reported that his group’s preliminary results find a global warming trend “very similar to that reported by the prior groups.”
The deniers’ response was both predictable and revealing; more on that shortly. But first, let’s talk a bit more about that list of witnesses, which raised the same question I and others have had about a number of committee hearings held since the G.O.P. retook control of the House — namely, where do they find these people?
My favorite, still, was Ron Paul’s first hearing on monetary policy, in which the lead witness was someone best known for writing a book denouncing Abraham Lincoln as a “horrific tyrant” — and for advocating a new secessionist movement as the appropriate response to the “new American fascialistic state.”
The ringers (i.e., nonscientists) at last week’s hearing weren’t of quite the same caliber, but their prepared testimony still had some memorable moments. One was the lawyer’s declaration that the E.P.A. can’t declare that greenhouse gas emissions are a health threat, because these emissions have been rising for a century, but public health has improved over the same period. I am not making this up.
Oh, and the marketing professor, in providing a list of past cases of “analogies to the alarm over dangerous manmade global warming” — presumably intended to show why we should ignore the worriers — included problems such as acid rain and the ozone hole that have been contained precisely thanks to environmental regulation. more

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