Friday, January 8, 2021

"Net-Zero Emissions Might Not Be Possible Without Nuclear Power"

'Tis true. That's why we see stories like last month's "To Save the Climate, Give Up the Demand for Constant Electricity".

Via naked capitalism:

Yves here. Nuclear power as part of a low/no carbon energy future is a very contentious idea. Yet battery storage devices have their own environmental costs, and there are losses in moving energy into and out of them. In other words, there are no perfectly clean answers, save perhaps radical conservation, which peculiarly seems to be a verboten topic.

By Tsvetana Paraskova, a writer for with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. Originally published at OilPrice

Declining solar, wind, and battery technology costs are helping to grow the share of renewables in the world’s power mix to the point that governments are pledging net-zero emission electricity generation in two to three decades to fight global warming.   Yet, electricity grids will continue to require stable baseload to incorporate growing shares of renewable energy sources and ensure lights are on even when the sun doesn’t shine, or the wind doesn’t blow. Until battery technology evolves enough—and costs fall far enough—to allow massive storage and deployment of net-zero electricity to the grid, the systems will continue to need power from sources other than solar and wind.

And these will be natural gas and nuclear power, regardless of concerns about emissions from the fossil fuel natural gas and potential disasters at nuclear power facilities such as the ones in Chernobyl or Fukushima.

As natural gas is increasingly considered as just another fossil fuel, nuclear power generation provides carbon-free electricity to the countries that have it, and could be the key to ensuring a stable power grid capable of taking in growing shares of solar and wind power generation.

The United States, where nuclear energy currently provides more than half of the carbon-free electricity, is supporting the development of advanced nuclear reactors as part of the clean energy strategy.

But Europe, which has set a goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, could find itself with growing emissions from the power sector in a decade, as many nuclear reactors are slated for decommissioning. The gap left by lost nuclear power is most easily filled by natural gas-powered electricity generation—and this, if it happens, could undermine the net-zero goals of the European Union (EU) and the bloc’s ambition to be a world leader in the fight against climate change.

U.S. Power Grid Will Need Nuclear For Net-Zero Emissions

A 2020 report from the University of California, Berkeley, said that rapidly declining solar, wind, and storage prices make it entirely feasible for the U.S. to meet 90 percent of its power needs from zero-emission energy sources by 2035 with zero increases in customer costs from today’s levels.

Still, natural gas-fired generation will be needed for 10 percent of America’s power needs. According to the report, in 2035 it would be possible that “during normal periods of generation and demand, wind, solar, and batteries provide 70% of annual generation, while hydropower and nuclear provide 20%.” Even with an exponential rise in renewable power generation, the U.S. grid will need nuclear power and hydropower to be stable with such a large share of solar and wind....