March 30 News: China cuts nuclear goal, raises solar goal after Japan meltdowns; Halting CO2 regulations will help China

Solar Farms Gain Priority in China as Atomic Goal Cut After Japan Accident

China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, will cut its 2020 target for nuclear power capacity and build more solar farms following Japan’s atomic crisis, said an official at the National Development and Reform Commission.

The country will reduce its nuclear capacity goal of 80 gigawatts, Ren Dongmin, the head of the economic planner’s renewable energy development, said at a Beijing conference today, without giving a new target. The goal for solar-power capacity will increase from the current target of 20 gigawatts, he said.

“We can see delays in some projects, but in the longer term, I don’t see how they can change the program they have in place without facing drastic power shortages,” David Lennox, an analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney, said by telephone. “It’s difficult to see what their alternatives to nuclear are.”

Radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station following Japan’s record March 11 earthquake have prompted other countries to review their nuclear development. NDRC Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua said yesterday China won’t alter its atomic energy plans, even as the Cabinet had stopped approving new nuclear plants, pending safety checks.

Shares of nuclear plant-equipment maker Shanghai Electric Group Co. and Dongfang Electric Corp. both slumped 2 percent in Hong Kong trading. The benchmark Hang Seng index rose 0.3 percent. Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. advanced 1.8 percent on the Shenzhen exchange.

Sen. Boxer: Halting CO2 regs. helps China

Halting the first-ever nationwide greenhouse-gas emissions regulations will help China dominate clean-energy technology, a Democratic U.S. senator said.

Senate legislation to be voted on that would permanently block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions would cause the United States to forfeit “leadership in environmentally clean technology to China,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Wednesday.

“That’s the last thing we want to do,” she said. “They are already surpassing us in solar production, and we created it.”

China is the world’s biggest exporter of solar panels. The United States was No. 1 until 2008, when it was eclipsed by Germany.

The official China Securities Journal reported Wednesday China might double its target for solar power capacity over the next five years following Japan’s nuclear crisis.

China was also the world leader in clean-energy investment last year, ahead of Germany and the United States, a study by the independent, non-profit Pew Charitable Trusts’ Pew Environment Group said. The United States fell from No. 2 in 2009.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said the Senate measure blocking regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions would “rein in the EPA and protect jobs.”

Revived Senate energy ‘gang’ meets anew

A group of senators met Wednesday afternoon to test the waters on an idea that seems far-fetched amid the sharply partisan battles on gas prices: Crafting a broad bipartisan energy proposal.

As E2 reported Tuesday, Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) are re-forming the bipartisan “gang” that floated a sweeping energy framework in the summer of 2008 only to see it collapse amid election-year gas price battles.

Conrad told E2 after Wednesday’s meeting “” which took place in the hearing room of the Senate Budget Committee he chairs “” that more sessions are planned and that he’s hopeful about the prospects.

Other senators who attended include John Thune (R-S.D.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) “” who are both members of the GOP leadership team “” as well as Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Conrad and several other senators exiting the meeting said they’re not talking about policy specifics “” yet.

“This was just to explore ‘is there interest in re-engaging,’ and clearly there is,” Conrad said after the roughly 45-minute meeting. “There are going to be more meetings. There is clearly strong interest.”

Murkowski signals she’s open to some fees on oil industry

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, signaled she is open to the idea of charging oil companies additional fees in order to speed up the permitting of offshore drilling projects.

In a sit-down interview with reporters Wednesday, Murkowski, a staunch proponent of expanded oil-and-gas drilling, said the new fees would have to be targeted toward speeding up the permitting process at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

“I do think there is a reasonable level where … what is happening with the increase in fees is to help facilitate the issuance of permits that we absolutely must have,” Murkowski said.

But she added that revenue collected from the fees must go toward BOEMRE’s efforts to issue permits. Republicans, including Murkowski, have criticized the BOEMRE for not moving quickly enough to issue new permits under beefed-up safety standards put in place in the aftermath of last year’s massive oil spill.

Murkowski said she would not support additional fees “if what is happening is you are increasing fees to put it in the black hole of the treasury to pay for who knows what.”

Call for stricter emission rules worldwide

Strict vehicle emission standards in developing countries could mitigate climate change and benefit human health and food security, U.S. researchers say.

Drew Shindell of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York said adopting stringent European on-road vehicle emission standards for non-carbon dioxide pollutants would lead to annual benefits in 2030 and beyond.

Writing this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, Shindell and colleagues said the benefits could potentially be 120,000 to 280,000 avoided premature air-pollution-related deaths, and 6.7 million to 28 million tons of avoided ozone-related yield losses of major food crops.

Such regulations would also lead to $0.6 trillion to $2.4 trillion of avoided health damage and mitigation of 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit of Northern Hemisphere warming during 2040-2070, they wrote.

While current vehicle emission standards in China, India and Latin America could substantially mitigate climate change, they said, the standards would still result in premature deaths and ozone-related agricultural yield losses.

Tapping The Earth For Energy Savings Year-Round

Increasing numbers of homeowners are installing geothermal heat pumps, which take advantage of the constant temperature underground to provide more efficient heating and cooling. Initial costs are high, but a 30 percent federal tax credit can make the systems more affordable.

Suzi and James Bryant started thinking about going geothermal after their first winter in their house in Sterling, Va. It came with a rumbly 50-year-old oil furnace in the basement.

Last winter’s oil bill was $2,000 and they didn’t want a repeat of that. And they weren’t looking forward to another summer with their aging air conditioner, which last year couldn’t keep the house cooler than 80 degrees.

The Bryants had heard that geothermal systems can heat and cool homes with much less energy because they use the constant mild temperature underground. They did a lot of research, crunched the numbers and decided to take the plunge.

“We looked into it, and our payoff was three to seven years, so it kind of just made sense,” says Suzi Bryant, an electrical engineer who is staying home to raise their three young children.

Solar Gains Traction””Thanks to Subsidies

Falling solar-panel prices, generous government subsidies and rising power costs are creating a new breed of solar enthusiasts: people who are installing panels on their roof because they see it as a good investment, not because they are out to save the world.

That’s the case with Dave Shiels and his wife Kathleen Kiely. With his Harley and her Cadillac and their sprawling ranch house, they aren’t central casting’s version of environmentalists, but they are the kind of people who must embrace solar if it’s going to take off in the U.S.

Rebates and credits are the main reason Mr. Shiels and Ms. Kiely have 72 solar panels on their red-tile roof and are considering installing another 20 later this year. For 11 months of the year, their meter spins backwards. Only in Arizona’s August heat do they typically use more electricity than they generate, and even then credits they have banked during cooler months mean they won’t have to pay to keep their house cool as desert temperatures outside hit 110 degrees.

There is debate, though, about whether it makes sense to subsidize solar power, as it is more expensive than power generated from coal or natural gas. The Energy Department estimates that solar panels, all in, cost about $210 for each megawatt hour, more than twice as much as a coal, which runs about $95, and nearly twice as much as natural gas, which costs about $125.

Those who support subsidies say they are necessary to drive demand to achieve market scale so that prices continue to drop. Opponents say the government supports only make power more expensive for all users.

Arteries of Power: How Solar Energy Could Reshape the West

As the railroads shaped the American West in the 19th century and the national highway system shaped the region in the 20th century, a new electrical generating and transmission system for the 21st century will leave a lasting mark on the desert, for better and worse. Much of the real significance of railroads and highways is not in their direct physical impact on the landscape, but in the ways that they affect the surrounding landscape and communities. The same is true of big solar and wind generating plants and the power lines that will be laid down to move electricity around.

Look at any map of the West that shows land ownership patterns and you will see what I mean about the railroads. Instead of just a thin pair of tracks, the railroads have left a wide swath of “checkerboard lands” through the territory. For 20 miles on each side of the railroad, companies were granted alternating square sections of land. In much of the West, the other squares have remained public land. Some of the railroad sections were developed, others remain undeveloped, and in both cases the crazy quilt of landownership has presented daunting challenges for land management to this day. Poke around towns along the interstate highway system in the West and you’ll find old abandoned town centers that lost their lifeblood as the railroad station was displaced as the heart of the town by a new highway. Later that strip was abandoned when an interstate exit became the key connection to the arteries of the region. More than a few towns lost their souls in the process.

Big solar and wind generating plants and their power lines will also have effects far beyond their direct footprint in the West. This is not an argument against building them. We need alternative energy sources badly, and to really take advantage of them we need to be able to move electricity around far more readily than we can now. The western power grid is a fragmented hodgepodge. It needs to be much better integrated. And that is going to require major power lines across the West.

23 Responses to March 30 News: China cuts nuclear goal, raises solar goal after Japan meltdowns; Halting CO2 regulations will help China

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    31 of march :eek:

  2. Bill W says:

    Seems to me I’ve read recently about solar approaching cost parity with coal. If that’s the case, then the numbers in the WSJ “Solar Gains Traction” story would seem to be pretty far off. Which would be no surprise, considering the Murdoch-owned source.

  3. Mike says:

    (1st attempt: if it does not work I quit.)

    [JR: Mellow out. Lots of folks get their stuff caught in the moderation queue.]

    This is an interview with Hans Joachim Schellnhuber in Der Spiegel. I’m not anti-nuclear power as Schellnhuber is, but it is an informative interview and I try to stay open minded. There is a highly offensive attack on it by the bizarre Czech blogger; I won’t even link to it.,1518,752474,00.html

    Leading Climatologist on Fukushima
    ‘We Are Looting the Past and Future to Feed the Present’

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Making climate science more useful

    Last week, there was a CORDEX workshop on regional climate modelling at International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), near Trieste, Italy.

    The CORDEX initiative, as the abbreviation ‘COordinated Regional climate Downscaling Experiment‘ suggests, tries to bring together the community of regional climate modellers. At least, this initiative has got a blessing from the World Climate Research Programme WCRP.

    I think the most important take-home message from the workshop is that the stake holders and end users of climate information should not look at just one simulation from global climate models, or just one downscaling method. This is very much in agreement with the recommendations from the IPCC Good Practice Guidance Paper. The main reason for this is the degree of uncertainties involved in regional climate modelling, as discussed in a previous post.

    I sense that the issue of uncertainty is sometimes seen as problematic and difficult to deal with. Uncertainty does not mean that we are completely clueless – it means that we do not have accurate knowledge about absolutely every detail. Uncertainty is nothing new – we live with it every day. All scientific disciplines have to live with uncertainty too.

  5. catman306 says:

    Joe, personally I am grateful for the moderation queue. It seems to stop posts I’d wished I’d never written.

    All things in moderation.

    For instance, instead of more big power plants, be they solar or wind, why not many smaller plants distributed across the human landscape where they are needed? The big power utilities would become distribution networks and let smaller companies and individuals produce the power from many clean sources.

    Smaller is more beautiful.

  6. Prokaryotes says:

    Group warns EPA ready to increase radioactive release guidelines

    A nearly 1000-fold increase in strontium-90

    A 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for iodine-131

    An almost 25,000 rise for nickel-63

    The new radiation guidance would also allow long-term cleanup standards thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted, permitting doses to the public that EPA itself estimates would cause a cancer in as much as every fourth person exposed, the group says.|head

  7. catman306 says:

    Here’s a thought about the geothermal heating/cooling described on NPR this morning:

    Why can’t the geothermal well be drilled large enough or deep enough for several houses, or a block in a small neighborhood? Lots of people in this area get their water from a ‘community well’ to whom they pay a utility bill. It’s not socialism. Really! Maybe the same can be done with a geothermal well.

    Engineers comment please.

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Hi-Res Photos

    Notice in the 3rd image the green liquid.

  9. Sasparilla says:

    Interesting, if depressing (from climate action standpoint) article from the NY Times:

    Basically the discussion doesn’t even put climate action as anything more than a nice to have.

    The interesting point in it (and something I’ve heard recently in financial circles) is that Gas Fracking techniques have successfully been adapted to Oil Shale plays and the US is now profitably producing 350,000 barrels of Shale Oil a day (god knows how dirty it is). Expectations are of a million barrels a day in 5 years or so.

    Add our new pipelines to Canadian tar sands and its obvious we’re just going to suck every last drop out of the earth and burn it, no matter what or where it is.

  10. Solar Jim says:

    “There is debate, though, about whether it makes sense to subsidize solar power, as it is more expensive than power generated from coal or natural gas. The Energy Department estimates that solar panels, all in, cost about $210 for each megawatt hour, more than twice as much as a coal, which runs about $95, and nearly twice as much as natural gas, which costs about $125.”

    The $95 and $125 figures leave out many primary costs associated with these “fuels.” Rather, burning these materials harm the country with federally externalized costs, such as to health care, that in the case of coal has been shown to be some 17 cents per kilowatt-hour, three times higher than “market.” Similar manipulation by externalization are associated with the four whack-a-moles of federal economic policy: uranium, coal, oil and gas.

    It is upside down, “war is peace,” economics. Thus we drift, full steam ahead, toward ecologic bankruptcy (and higher food prices).

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    Crews ‘facing 100-year battle’ at Fukushima

    A nuclear expert has warned that it might be 100 years before melting fuel rods can be safely removed from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A 100 year battle at Fukushima, and still the nuclear hustlers will not shut up, repent, recant or admit error. Show them the instruments of torture, better known as the ‘facts’, I say! Dear old Monbiot has gotten himself more MSM attention than for many a day. He was on the ABC television here last night, peddling his new wares. The same, invariable, pattern. Until you have something ideologically useful to the Right to say, you are starved of the ‘oxygen of publicity’. But once you get ‘on message’, well the interest, the indulgence, the adulation, even, if your apostasy is great enough, flows. It must be a heady brew. I still respect 90% of what Monbiot said in the past, and hope he is not taking that familiar road to perdition and joining the forces of idiocy. Let us pray that he is just mistaken, temporarily.

  13. The Oracle says:

    To add to what Solar Jim said, this from a report into energy subsidies in Australia:

    “Whatever the actual size of this subsidy, it appears that it has a significant impact on the
    profitability of coal-fired generation in Australia, as two examples will demonstrate.
    Macquarie Generation, which operates the Liddell and Bayswater coal-fired power stations,
    earned a before-tax profit of $267.1 million in 2005-06. The Liddell and Bayswater power
    stations consume approximately 13 million tonnes of coal per annum. Based on the figures
    above, the annual fuel subsidy to Macquarie Generation is between $122 million and $304
    million. That is, most if not all of Macquarie Generation’s 2005-06 profit was attributable to
    subsidisation of its fuel costs.”

    Coal doesn’t look quite so cheap when you really examine it, and the people railing against the subsidisation of renewables should add oil and coal to their grievance list.

  14. David B. Benson says:

    I am strongly in favor of ground heat pumps for house-sized HVAC. However these should not be termed geothermal, as that is another energy source.

  15. Leif says:

    Small local clean energy sources operated by individuals with the energy sold to the grid puts money back into the pockets of the community. Not into the pockets of big money and foreign dictators.

    A clean cash cow for every yard. Perhaps we can even make it tax free like EXXON enjoys.

  16. riverat says:

    Of course ground source heat pumps are geothermal. They transfer heat energy within the geosphere to/from useful places. Just because they’re not boiling water and spinning a generator doesn’t mean they’re not geothermal. You might as well call a solar hot water system not solar power since it doesn’t produce electricity.

  17. Lewis C says:

    One report of China’s policy review post-Fukushima put the expansion of their solar power at 10GW, on top of their previous 20GW-by-2020 goal.

    Personally I’ll be still more impressed when they translate their rapid progress in scientific capacity (outstripping the US in 2013 in a recent UK study) beyond simply leading global production of wind and solar to selecting which additional sustainable energy options they will focus their growing R,D&D capacity on.

    That’s one of the nicer bits about global leadership – you get to choose where you want to go. Others are free to try to catch up – or to try to lead in particular non-fossil energy fields that you’ve avoided, but they don’t get to steer.

    Since replacing nuclear capacity is about replacing baseload supply, China’s primary technology choices will logically go beyond ‘baseload solar’ (CST) and stored-wind to include geothermal and biomass, and very likely tidal and offshore wave for their potential scale and predictability. Notably, compared to solar and wind, the biomass, tidal and offshore wave options have had dismal R&D funding in the West (for reasons best known to the fossil corporations); if China chooses to develop them they’ll offer scope for some radical improvements in deployment costs/MW as well as yielding exceptional export opportunities.

    To what extent these baseload sustainables plus CST can replace projected supply from China’s nuclear plants’ by 2020 remains to be seen. Vast resources can be invested if the need is clear, such as of avoiding the massive financial and energy costs, and carbon output costs, and full-term risks, of new nuclear stations.

    China is in good company in adopting a policy shift that demotes nuclear – Germany has outright reversed course, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Bulgaria, Mexico and Israel have set moratiums on the licensing process for extant proposals, Venezuela has dumped its deal with Russia for a plant, while France has declared (after the quake but before Tempco’s incompetence was so well paraded) that it would no longer export plants to nations without a level of development allowing them to match Japan’s disaster response.

    Together these ten nations comprise over 20% of world population, yet of them only Germany has any effective anti-nuclear lobby, and for all of them the impact of a magnitude 9.0 quake sending a 10m tsunami onto the Fukushima plant cannot have been a surprise. With grid power ended and backup generators compromised, the present outcome was always likely.

    So why did China and all the others declare such weighty decisions on their energy supply policies even before events at Fukushima developed so badly ? The government of China is no more prone to taking hasty, irrational or emotive decisions against the national interest than is Switzerland or Israel, let alone of band-waggoning on a sudden international fashion for dislike of nuclear power.

    The only new information on March 11th known to have reached the governments of China and the others was that one of the greatest quakes ever recorded had occurred off Japan. Whether they were also told that it affirmed the rising-frequency trend since 1980 of mega-quakes with magnitudes of 8.0 to 9.9 is unknown.

    So if the ‘overnight’ policy reviews were not due to the Fukushima quake acting as the confirmatory evidence of a rising mega-quake trend,
    that raises both new plants’ proofing costs and their risks of awful failure,
    thereby pushing the finely assessed balance of their utility towards a definitively negative evaluation,
    then what was it ?



  18. Colorado Bob says:

    Torrential rains of 40+ inches deluge Thailand

    Torrential rains in excess of 40 inches (1.016 meters) deluged Thailand’s Malay Peninsula this week, triggering floods that have killed at least 17 people. The floods submerged 61 major highways, affected 840,000 people, and forced the helicopter rescue of thousands of stranded tourists. Late March is usually a fairly dry time of year for Thailand, but near-record cold air settled in over the region this week, dropping temperatures to 5 – 10°C (9 – 18°F) below average. Heavy storms accompanied the cold air, and downpours with rainfall rates of up to 2 inches/hour affected the region for many days in a row. Sea surface temperatures of the waters surrounding the flood regions were near average, but were plenty warm enough to supply copious moisture to feed the storms. Flood recovery will slowed by additional moderately heavy rains of 3 – 5 inches expected to fall over the flooded region during the next week, according to the latest precipitation forecast from the GFS model.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    Advance Toward Making Biodegradable Plastics from Waste Chicken Feathers

    ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2011) — In a scientific advance literally plucked from the waste heap, scientists have described a key step toward using the billions of pounds of waste chicken feathers produced each year to make one of the more important kinds of plastic. They described the new method at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, being held in Anaheim, California the week of March 28.

  20. catman306 says:

    Why can’t the geothermal well be drilled large enough or deep enough for several houses, or a block in a small neighborhood? Lots of people in this area get their water from a ‘community well’ to whom they pay a utility bill. It’s not socialism. Really! Maybe the same can be done with a geothermal well.

    Community geothermal heat pump systems might just be a way to lower HVAC costs for a group of neighbors or a whole neighborhood.

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    Car battery is super performance test

    A record-breaking run in camera, a mysterious car fire: so far reaped the supposed miracle battery of DBM Energy more suspicion than applause.Some of Berlin must now feel vindicated. Ein amtlicher Test bestätigte die Leistungsfähigkeit der Batterie. An official test confirmed the efficiency of the battery.

    Berlin – The makers of the burnt-electric cars, was succeeded last year with a world record run over 600 kilometers to see all doubts about its battery technology invalidated. The € 275,000 by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs sponsored enterprises DBM Energy from Berlin said on Friday that the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) in a comprehensive test had confirmed the safety and efficiency of the cells. BAM has confirmed this on demand news agency dpa, as well as the Ministry of Economy.,1518,754531,00.html&

    600 km distance battery confirmed.

  22. Sarah says:

    Of course all the governments of the world are now reconsidering nuclear power because of what happened in Japan and because of the increase of natural disasters all over the world. Choosing solar power instead is a wise choice and since China is a massive country, they won’t lack room for the installation of solar panels.