Irrational Pro-Renewable Policies, Nuclear Energy Tax Hikes Harm Spain’s Economic Recovery
Dec19

Irrational Pro-Renewable Policies, Nuclear Energy Tax Hikes Harm Spain’s Economic Recovery

Spain’s electrical supply industry is caught in a decade long death spiral of failed energy policy, over-reliance on imported fuels, and massive debt. Their new taxes on nuclear energy, an attempt to reduce utility debt, are likely to worsen their economy. Spain imports fuel for about 51 % of their electricity production in the form of coal and natural gas. Payments for these imported commodities contribute to a debilitating trade imbalance. Nuclear energy makes up the lion’s share (47%) of Spain’s domestic energy production. Their eight nuclear energy facilities add tens of thousands of jobs and billions of euros per year to the national economy while reducing the need for imported coal or gas.  At the same time Spain’s nuclear plants provide reliable, predictable energy without greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of renewable energy generated in Spain has increased considerably over the last several years.  In fact, in 2012 wind energy production exceeded nuclear energy production for brief periods when demand was low, some nuclear plants were out of service, and wind conditions were nearly optimal.  Unfortunately, Spain’s methods of encouraging investment in renewables have contributed to their current financial crises. The Spanish electricity industry is carrying $32 billion of debt, putting serious strain on an already faltering economy. Spain began deregulating their electricity supply system in the late 1990’s.  Their approach was eerily similar to the failed California experiment; they removed price controls to allow power generators to compete among themselves, but they limited rates paid by customers. As wholesale energy prices rose utilities were unable to recover the higher costs through higher rates to customers.  The result was predictable: electric utilities began loosing money on a grand scale.  Since 2005 annual “energy deficits” have been in the billions of euros per year.  With slight-of-hand economics, the Spanish government allowed utilities to “bank” their annual deficits against future earnings.  Unfortunately those future earnings never materialized and deficits ballooned. A the same time Spain (like California) began a heavily subsidized renewable energy program that included “feed-in tariffs” which guaranteed wind and solar generators above market prices for all of the energy they could produce.  Consequently utilities were forced to buy wind and solar energy at inflated rates, but were not allowed to recover the costs because of those same price controls.  Solar and wind energy investors raked in billions of euros per year while the utility deficit grew even faster.  By some accounts electric utility debt in Spain now stands at $32 billion. These out-of-whack energy policies cost Spanish workers dearly; for every renewable energy job created more than five existing jobs were lost and unemployment soared to over 20%....

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Clean, Green Energy Jobs

  Fast Fission Podcast # 18 – mp3 file Duke Energy is one of the largest power producers in the Western Hemisphere.  They produce 35,000 MW of electricity in the USA, plus 4,000 in Latin America.  They have virtually every type of power plant: nuclear, coal, gas, hydro, wind, and solar. They also run natural gas distribution systems in two states. Duke knows energy, and Jim Rogers, their CEO, knows Duke.  When Jim Rogers speaks about energy people listen.  Last week Mr. Rogers was talking energy and jobs.   Jim says Duke’s experience has shown that nuclear energy provides more jobs and higher paying jobs than wind or solar power plants. “In an operation of a nuclear plant, there [are] .64 jobs per megawatt. The wind business–and we have a very large wind business – is .3 jobs per megawatt. In the solar business – and we’re installing solar panels – it’s about .1. But the difference in the jobs is quite different, because if you’re wiping off a solar panel, it’s sort of a minimum wage type of job, [with] much higher compensation for nuclear engineers and nuclear operators.  If our goal is to rebuild the middle class, nuclear plays a key role there, particularly if coal is out of the equation.” Mr. Roger’s comments made me wonder how many jobs might be created if we were to build new power plants of each type to meet our energy demands.  I started with the most recent Energy Outlook provided by the US Government at the Energy Information Administration web site.  This report states that 259 GW of new plants will be needed by 2030.  The number includes 30 GW to replace aging plants and the rest is for modest energy demand growth. Multiplying that 259,000 MW times the Duke estimates for the number of people per MW, we get the result (rounded to the nearest 1000): New Nuclear: 166,000 jobs New Wind: 78,000 jobs New Solar: 26,000 jobs                                 These numbers ignore the 2,000 to 3,000 jobs created building each new nuclear plant during the four year construction process.  Building wind and soar would also provide temporary construction jobs.  I also did not adjust for the lower capacity factors associated with wind and solar generation. We’ll assume smart grid technologies will enable improvements in wind and solar energy capacity and existing reserve capacity will back up wind and solar.  After all, these are the kinds of assumptions that wind and solar proponents make all the time. In Episode 60 of “This Week in Nuclear” I discussed...

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Nuclear Energy’s Tiny Environmental Footprint

Fast Fission Podcast #12 – MP3 File I recently came across a fascinating study that was done by five researchers from The Nature Conservancy.  If you have not heard of them before, the Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people The study compares the impact to natural habitats in the United States of various types of new energy development.  They refer to this as the “land use intensity” of energy, and it is measured in energy produced for a given land area.  Specifically, they estimated the amount of land that will be needed for the USA to meet energy demands by the year 2030 for various energy sources.   The group is concerned that the build out of new energy sources to meet growing demand and combat climate change could cause what they refer to as “energy sprawl” with detrimental impact to natural habitats.  It turns out, there is a lot to worry about! The results?  It takes on average 72 square kilometers of land to provide one megawatt of energy for one year when wind turbines are used.  Solar energy is better at 15 to 37 square kilometers, depending on the technology used.  Nuclear energy has the lowest impact on land use of ANY energy source.  In fact, nuclear energy has about one sixth the impact of solar thermal generation, and one thirtieth the impact of wind generation.  It takes just 2.4 square KM, or about one square mile to provide one megawatt of electricity for one year when that energy is derived from nuclear energy.  This is a great example of how the incredible energy density of nuclear energy provides benefits to...

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