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Bob Meinetz's picture
Nuclear Power Policy Activist Independent

I am a passionate advocate for the environment and nuclear energy. With the threat of climate change, I’ve embarked on a mission to help overcome the fears of nuclear energy. I’ve been active in...

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  • Jan 12, 2021
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"Before going further, let me be clear: I’m pro-solar. I have 8.5 kilowatts of solar panels on my place here in Austin. (I got three different subsidies for putting them on my roof.) Solar is politically popular and it will continue to grow at a rapid clip in the years ahead. 

But it’s also clear that the vast disparity in subsidies being given to solar and wind versus the amount being given to nuclear energy reflects the mismatch between the rhetoric about the possible threat of climate change and the reality of how Congress doles out money to politically connected industries. The world’s top climatologists have agreed that we will need more nuclear energy – at the gigawatt and terawatt scale — if we are going to have any hope of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also clear that we must also preserve and extend the operating lives of existing nuclear reactors. That’s not happening. Instead, reactors are being shuttered and their output is being replaced by natural gas-fired generators. 

Even more galling: For years, the solar and wind sectors have claimed that they no longer need subsidies because they are cost-competitive with hydrocarbons. And yet the ITC and PTC continue to be extended. Those extensions are diverting billions of dollars from the federal treasury and into the coffers of foreign and domestic companies who are wrapping themselves in the cloak of climate change to justify their unending attachment to the federal teat."

Author Robert Bryce is an energy justice activist who writes about energy, power, innovation, and politics. He is the director / narrator of the 2018 film Juice: How Electricity Explains the World, in which he chronicles his global quest to discover where residents have access to electricity, and where they don't - and how it determines their destiny. His conclusion:

"Poverty, women’s rights, climate change — indeed, most of the world’s most pressing challenges — can be explained by answering one question: Can you turn your lights on in the morning?"

In 2015, Senator Charles Grassley (photo), the Iowa Republican, said, “As the father of the first wind-energy tax credit in 1992, I can say that the tax credit was never meant to be permanent.” But the government funding bill passed in December includes an extension of the tax credit that will cost taxpayers an additional $1.7 billion.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 12, 2021

In 2015, Senator Charles Grassley (photo), the Iowa Republican, said, “As the father of the first wind-energy tax credit in 1992, I can say that the tax credit was never meant to be permanent.” But the government funding bill passed in December includes an extension of the tax credit that will cost taxpayers an additional $1.7 billion.

The cost is just one side of the coin. What are the expected economic benefits as calculated/reported by the Congressional studies? It's a good point that this bill was far too long for anyone to read it in its entirety which is its own problem, but doesn't the CBO typically put out its unbiased cost/benefit analysis? Would be curious what the final tabulation of that would be for the PTC

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 12, 2021

"In 2018, the American solar industry got roughly 250 times as much in federal tax incentives as the nuclear sector, when compared by the amount of energy produced."

Matt, that's the other side of the coin: how much clean energy Americans are getting for their investment. On that basis, solar is the most exorbitant waste of money in the history of U.S. electricity. Wind is a close second.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 14, 2021

Remember, there are two very different types of solar PV, with very different price points.

According the US NREL, in 2019, utility-scale solar in the US averaged $1.2/W, compared to residential rooftop which was an eye-popping $3.7/W (prices given as DC peak power, to match residential reporting).  The effective difference is even greater due to the fact that residential systems use fixed tilt, whereas most utility systems use tracking, which produces about 20% greater annual output (at least in sunny locations).

Some proponents like to argue that residential systems avoid distribution losses, but in fact, they only amount to a few percent.

https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/default/files/2020_utility-scale_solar_data_up...

https://emp.lbl.gov/tracking-the-sun 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 20, 2021

At $1.2/W for utility-scale solar, are you including the cost of the natural gas peaker plant needed to fill in the blanks, or are we assuming an intermittent supply of hydrogen is somehow more valuable than intermittent electricity?

Hydrogen made from utility-scale solar is a bit like raking the beach for lost coins. Sure, a bigger rake will find you more coins. Whether it will ever be profitable is another question.

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