Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nuclear power isn't 'economically feasible' in Australia, but ...

Hopefully this is repetition to readers of this blog - but in a very readable presentation from Barry Brook and Ben Heard.

Nuclear power isn't 'economically feasible' in Australia, but ... | The Conversation:
According to the updated Australian Energy Technology Assessment 2013, the five lowest-cost electricity-generating technologies, based on dollars per kilowatt hour, are, in ascending order:
  • Wind, on-shore
  • Fixed solar photo-voltaic (no tracking of the sun’s movement)
  • Gigawatt-scale nuclear light-water reactor
  • Other biomass waste power plant (wood)
  • Single axis tracking solar photo-voltaic (tracking the sun in one axis).
These costs are projected for 2020, based on recent trends in electricity costs using the metric “levelised cost of electricity” (LCOE). All of these technologies produce zero carbon emissions at the point of generation, and we would expect all of them would do well under a policy that sought a major increase in zero-carbon electricity.
The problem of supply
But these very different technologies also come with a range of economic advantages and disadvantages.
For instance, solar panels and wind turbines have the advantage of incremental expenditure (you add relatively small amounts of new generation at a time) which is easier to finance.
But the electricity they generate is at the whim of climate: without storage, they depend on the sun shining and the wind blowing.

This is the difference between capacity and generation, which the LCOE costs we refer to above don’t account for. While we can install a certain capacity of wind and solar, we can guarantee it will not generate electricity at that level all the time.
As we explore in an upcoming paper (along with co-author Corey Bradshaw), this is not a big deal when variable generators such as wind and solar are only used at low levels (currently, variable renewables provide less than 5% of total supply in the market). In this situation, there is always spare capacity from other sources such as hydro, coal and gas waiting to take up any slack.
At high levels (literature suggests more than 20-25% of total generation), however, the tables turn very quickly. There comes a point when adding more variable energy sources just won’t make economic sense. Nor will it increase the reliability of the overall system.
Read the entire article at The Conversation:

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