by Jigar Shah, Founder SunEdison and CEO of the Carbon War Room
This is an interesting article from Greentech Media. It basically is saying that if we are aiming to decarbonize our electricity grid we cannot do it without Nuclear energy.
I like to break this down into bite size chunks so that I can understand it better. The Florida public utilities commission recently slowed down the Nuclear plant from Progress Energy so that serves as a useful example: WSJ article here.
The plant seems to cost about $20B for a 2,237 MW plant. So the question is, “For the same $20B over 10 years what could you get?”
– Nuclear: 2,300MWs and 18,000 GWhs of electricity for $20B in ratebase
– Solar: 14,000 MWs and 18,000 GWhs for less than $10B in incentives (with my cost curves the number is actually only $2B, but . . . )
– Energy Efficiency: 6,000 MW and 18,000 GWhs for less than $5B in incentives (structural energy efficiency like HVAC, windows, building automation, etc)
– Ice Storage: shifting peak to off peak to load level the grid could be done for less than $5B.
Whether you agree with my modeling or not, the numbers are in the right ballpark. The challenge here is that the utility industry is not set up to embrace customer empowering technologies because neither they nor their investors understand how these technologies fits with their mode of profit making.
The next stage of this is national security. As has been shown time and time again, distributed, customer empowering solutions are more robust because they are spreadout. Our traditional infrastructure is susceptible to terrorist attacks (or tree branches in the case of Ohio).
Lastly, we have to look at economic security. If the grid goes down with theses central station plants, as happened in Florida in 2008, there are economic losses.
Nuclear power is a wonderful power source that has been serving us ably for many decades. But that isn’t a reason for bypassing the tough economic analysis required for a decision on this magnitude.