It’s cheaper than you think and produces better results when you use nuclear energy in the mix
Guest Blog Post by:
As in all steady-state systems, humanity must attain a sustainable energy mix sometime in the future. Unless nuclear and renewable energy are a considerable part of that mix, humanity will go through a period of environmental and economic upheaval.
If energy growth estimates are even marginally correct, the world will achieve a consumption of over 30 trillion kilowatt-hours per year (30 tkWhrs/yr) by mid-century.
While large unconventional fossil fuel resources are still available to be developed, the economic and environmental costs are large. How the rise of renewables and nuclear will alter our dependence on fossil fuels depends upon economic and political forces.
This work presents an ethical annual energy requirement for the world, 30 tkWhrs/yr, that can be achieved by 2040, and also proposes a sustainable mix to achieve that level, i.e., a third fossil fuels, a third renewables and a third nuclear. (see large graphic below)
Cost of energy by type
The total cost to produce 1,260 tkWhrs over that time period is $62.3 trillion in 2009 dollars, or about 2% of global GDP annually, and the CO2 emissions are cut in half relative to the baseline mix.
The cost of this alternative mix is about 20% lower than the $75.4 trillion to produce the same amount of energy from the more anticipated expectations of energy growth and distribution that still have fossil fuels producing about 60% of world power. Adoption of this alternative energy mix, therefore, provides substantial benefits, both economic and environmental.
Costs include construction (figure above), operation and maintenance (O&M), fuel, decommissioning and a possible carbon tax. Costs not discussed include electrical grid upgrade and connectivity of renewables, transportation issues, and non-carbon-tax externalities such as pollution and health care costs associated with energy sources such as coal and solar.
Nuclear energy is cost effective
The high installation costs of nuclear compared to other non-fossil fuel sources that are often cited are incorrect and stem from a misunderstanding of capacity factor and lifespan.
All decommissioning costs are relatively small, even for nuclear, and costs for a carbon tax @$15/ton of CO2 emitted are significant for the fossil fuels over this entire time period ($4.4 trillion combined) but relatively small for all alternatives (less than $0.5 trillion combined). Higher C-taxes, or Cap&Trade, equivalents are needed to force any substantial change in fossil fuel use.
Want to know more?
Conca in DC this week
Jim Conca will be in Washington, D.C. Nov 3 giving a new version of his new sustainable energy talk at the University of California's Washington Center (location, parking, & contact info) the evening of Wednesday, Nov 3 at 6:30 PM.The address is 1608 Rhode Island Avenue N.W. (map) It is open to all.
He will also giving a shorter presentation on a proposed National Energy Portfolio at the National Press Club, in their Fourth Estate Restaurant located at 529 14th St NW (map) Wednesday Nov 4 at 9:30 AM.
Book on Sustainable Energy
Jim Conca has co-authored The Geopolitics of Energy: Achieving a Just and Sustainable Energy Distribution by 2040 (Amazon) with Judith Wright. The book, is designed like a magazine, and is easily read in two to three hours. It asks the question "What future do you want, environmental degradation or environmental stewardship? (Brief video introduction to the book at Amazon)
Conca’s Cost Calculations for Sustainable Energy
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