Thursday, November 12, 2009

IEA bets on Solar, Wind and Natural Gas to win the race to renewables.

Seeing as we're getting ready to write our papers, I feel that this article complements our research very well by proposing a realistic assessment of the material future of alternative energy in the united states.

the article actually makes a few points:

first, to get our sources strait: it's quoting the International Energy Agency's "outline for world energy future for the next 20 years" - the article explains that this year marks their decision to focus on stimulating clean energy for the future.

secondly, it indicates that while natural gas, solar, and wind power are expected to a rapid increase in demand, nuclear power will continue to play quite a minimal role in the future of alternative energy.

thirdly, this entire report is all based on the assumption that the world will cooperate on environmental policy and carbon taxes will skyrocket among a host of other presuppositions, which makes this report perhaps seem less important than it is. However, even if its based on the above assumptions, if there's one thing i've learned in economics is that public perception influences the demand for a product. If the public percieves that the International Energy Association advocates and predicts a big boom in wind and solar power, they might just believe in it.

I think it is critical to ask why nuclear power is still being left out of the picture as a "clean renewable source of energy" by even a network of informed scientists as prestigious as the international energy association. I hypothesize that it is one of the following:
a. given that nuclear power plants are highly capital intensive and take time to be approved let alone built, so the IEA is skeptical of the worlds ability to stimulate the production of nuclear power plants quickly in the next 10 years. OR
b. nuclear power is still seen as "dirty" or "unsafe" in terms of it's public image despite the massive leaps in efficiency, disposal and safety technologies.

I really hope it's the former, because if it's the latter, we're on the verge of making perhaps the gravest mistake of our time. In a world where we are thirsty for a highly safe, efficient and clean sources of energy - nuclear power should be one of the leading contenders to supplement our energy portfolio.

- thoughts?


1 comment:

The Archreactor said...

As presented in the post the public's image of nucear reactors are somewhat skewed and need to be rectified. A lot of this can simply be done through re-educating the public. But some reasons for nuclear playing a smaller role include its costs to be built and its operation costs as well as its not so "green" sides.

People see cooling towers and percieve the steam as smoke stacks which to their knowledge leads to global climate change and damage to the environment. So when people think nuclear they think dirty- this is not true however. In 2006 nuclear power provided 70.9% of the U.S. emission-free electricity with hydro, solar, wind, and geothermal making up the rest. And as far as effeciency nuclear power plants have on average capacity factors ranging 85% and above and effeciency ratings of nearly 100%.

Some reasons as stated for leaving nuclear energy out in the era of new energy and fuels can be that nuclear plants are capital intensive and take time to actually make money. The O&M costs alone account for 74% of the electric power production costs and the other 26% being fuel costs.

Another reason going against nuclear power is its consumption of water as it produces electricity. The major concern of water use and supply has been another major componenet to new energies. Nuclear uses in the range of 25,000-60,000 gallons per one Megawatt-hour of electricity produced. In contrast coal uses 21,000-50,000 gallons and gas/steam combined cycle systems use 7,400-20,000 gallons. These figures could be a reason why nuclear power has been pushed away from our new energy horizons.