Sunday, June 9, 2013

Energy--"Vaclav Smil is Correct: Never Forecast"

From The Energy Collective:
A new piece at “Smart Planet” takes on Vaclav Smil. Rather delightfully it accuses Smil of criticising straw men:

What really aggravates Smil is “exaggerated, unwarranted claims regarding the pace and near-term exploits of new renewable conversions.” He rails at length against aspirational models put forth by transitionistas like Al Gore, Amory Lovins, and T. Boone Pickens, hurling epithets like “grandiose,” “a grand delusion,” and “pathetic prayer-like advertisements.” He beats Matthew Simmons and M. King Hubbert like rented mules. He declaims the application of Moore’s law to solar PV because the growth of PV isn’t about increasing efficiency.
But in so doing, he is essentially assailing straw men and missing the point.
And then the author rather rapidly morphs into one of these suppose straw men that Smil criticizes:
Energy analyst Gregor Macdonald’s analysis of BP data shows that solar power consumption has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 63.2 percent over the past five years. He believes it should be able to maintain that rate as its rapidly falling costs and simplicity of deployment undercut alternatives. If so, solar would provide more than 10 percent of global electricity demand by 2020, surpassing nuclear generation, even while global power consumption grows by 3.4 percent per year.
63.2% growth of solar power for the next seven years! This is not analysis, it is a Ray Kurzweil-esque fantasy. As is well known, exponential growth in the hands of some people is a blunt and inaccurate instrument.

Let’s do the basic sums. Seven years of growth at 63.2% will see total global solar capacity go from 100 GW today to 3,000 GW in 2020. Not only that, but it will require there to be enough global solar manufacturing capacity to produce 1,200 GW of new solar panels each year from 2020. How exactly do we go from 60 GW today to 1,200 GW in 2020 when there is currently an oversupply of solar manufacturing capacity?...MORE
Smil is one of the sharpest guys in the "Talking about energy" biz:
Energy: "The man who’s tutoring Bill Gates … "
Vaclav Smil Takes on Jeremy Grantham Over Peak Fertilizer
Vaclav Smil: "In energy matters, what goes around, comes around—but perhaps should go away"
Vaclav Smil: "The Manufacturing of Decline"
Serious Thinking on Energy: An Interview With Dr. Vaclav Smil
A Major Piece: "Why the tech revolution isn’t a template for an energy revolution"
Bill Gates Reviews Vaclav Smil's "Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines"