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Net Metering for Rooftop Solar: How to Fix the Problems

Full Spectrum: Energy Analysis and Commentary with Jesse Jenkins

Summary: Net metering policies are effective at supporting solar power adoption but can threaten the financial stability of electricity distribution companies and result in cross-subsidies between electricity users once solar penetration grows. The solution is to align network charges with the real drivers of network costs.

A widely adopted method to encourage distributed solar photovoltaics (PV) may cause real problems once solar adoption reaches high levels, according to a new paper by researchers from the Instituto de Investigación Tecnológica (IIT) at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid and the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft).

Under “net metering” policies adopted across most of the United States, Spain, and other jurisdictions, owners of solar can offset their charges for electricity consumption by feeding excess energy back into the grid. In some cases, net metering can reduce electricity bills to close to zero.

Net metering has proven effective at incentivizing solar adoption, but as solar penetration rises, these policies also give rise to new problems.

Electricity distribution companies typically recover most of their costs through volumetric charges per kilowatt-hour of energy delivered across their networks. Yet while charges are based on energy delivered, most distribution network costs arise from fixed investments in wires, transformers, and other equipment sized to meet peak demands. To be clear, this mismatch between (mostly) fixed costs and (mostly) volumetric charges predates solar adoption and can cause inefficiencies and cross-subsidies on its own. Yet when volumetric network charges are combined with net-metering policies, the results can threaten the cost-recovery of distribution utilities and give rise to cross-subsidies between network users. 

According to the paper, a typical Spanish residence with a 2 kilowatt solar system could offset 69% of their volumetric charges if consumption and production are netted out daily, 77% if credits can be saved across a month, and 99% for a full year rolling credit. If solar penetration rises to 20%, that could threaten 8-20% of a distribution company’s revenue. If utilities raise rates to cover these shortfalls, customers without solar end up paying more while solar owners continue to offset most of their bills through net-metering, resulting in cross-subsidies between electricity users.

The solution, according to the researchers, is to align network charges with the real drivers of network costs. That would include a blend of capacity charges based on a network user’s contracted or measured peak in electricity consumption and production and smaller volumetric charges for electricity consumed from or injected into the grid. To support solar PV adoption, implicit net-metering subsidies should be replaced by explicit supports for solar production or investment.

With solar penetration growing rapidly in many countries, the time is now to fix these issues and keep both solar growth and utility revenues healthy.   

Publication: “The economic effect of electricity net-metering with solar PV: Consequences for network cost recovery, cross subsidies and policy objectives,” Energy Policy 75 (2014): 244-254.

Authors: Cherrelle Eid is pursuing an Erasmus Mundus Joint Ph.D. degree in Sustainable Energy Technologies and Strategies and is a visiting PhD researcher at the Institute for Research in Technology (IIT). Dr. Javier Reneses Guillén is Associate Research Professor at IIT and Dr. Pablo Frías Marína is a Professor of Electrical Engineering, both at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid. Rudi Hakvoortis Associate Professor at the faculty Technology, Policy and Management of Delft University of Technology.


Note: This is article is part of an ongoing series of concise summaries of interesting and important conclusions from new research and peer-reviewed journal articles. This series at Full Spectrum is written in partnership with Observatorio de las Ideasa Spanish-language publication which finds and summarizes important, cutting-edge ideas for policy makers, business leaders, and others on key topics like energy, health care, economics, and more.


Conversation Starters:

  • As solar penetrations rise, when should regulators prioritize a “fix” to net metering?
  • What would be the best way to incentivize solar while preserving the financial viability of network utilities?
  • Can we avoid a solar vs utilities war? Or with new competition, is this a fight we can’t avoid?
  • Solar is the first distributed energy resource reaching significant scales. But batteries, microgenerators, fuel cells, active demand response, and electric vehicles are gaining ground as well. How do we adapt regulation of utilities to facilitate adoption of these distributed resources and encourage their efficient siting and use?
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Discussions

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 17, 2015 10:01 am GMT

So the rate payers should consider their investment in the new NPP as a gift. A nice way to arrange new NPP’s.

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on Jan 17, 2015 10:15 am GMT

What is that supposed to be: “under-utilization of a connection”? The ultimate choice is: being connected, or being not connected at all.

In regions near the equator this could become a real choice one day. However, what is the value of “solar + battery” without grid connection in the winter in a country far from the equator like Germany unless you are prepared for hibernation? There will never be “winter only” tickets for grid connection.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 20, 2015 8:59 am GMT

Sean,
Distributed generation doesn’t have the grid-costs, neither the add-on costs, neither employee costs, neither the overhead costs of the utilities.

The issue is that those decrease much slower (some even increase) than the costs of distributed generation.
So those costs become main factors, which make utilities that operate ‘Normal’ Power Plants uncompetitive against distributed generation.

The German electricity market is more advanced, so utilities there realized earlier what is happening. The biggest German utilities, which have good business analysts & predictions, decided to transform into a service company.

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on Jan 17, 2015 1:32 pm GMT

In the Netherlands the tarification for grid connection is different, according to the proposal in this article. It is mainly a regulated fixed payment. As a consequence net-meetered PV is no threatening for the economy of the grid, or the survival of the utilities = the owners and operators of the grids, which are public companies.

There is a specific tax, related to power consumption, actually 14 Euro cent per kWh, more than 200% of the rate of about 7 cent of commercial companies which deliver power over the grid. The rationale behind this kind of taxation is that (as a sub target) it is supposed to encourage saving energy. The power “consumption” is calculated over the net meetered amount. It is a tax without a specific allocation. 

Unfortunately (but unavoidable in this country of merchants and ministers) there are quite some people who don’t want to save energy but want to avoid this taxation. This can be done by net-meetered PV. It is unethical and hypocrite.

 

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 17, 2015 5:16 pm GMT

@Math,
Your questons:
1. Assume the av. customer consumes 600KWh/month, with 20cnt/KWh and a connection fee of $20/month, the av. customer pays $140/month.
A customer that under-utilzes his connection and consumes 100KWh/month pays; $40/months. So he pays actually $40/100 = 40cnt/KWh.

With Schalk’s proposal to distribute all CAPEX as fixed monthly costs to the customers, the fees become: $122/month and 3cnt/KWh. So the avarage customer pays the same.
But the poor customer that under-utilzes his connection will pay $122 + 100x3cnt = $125/month. So he pays actually $125/100= $1.25/Kwh.

So this customer, who under-utilizes his connection, will soon go off-grid because there are good alternatives for <$1/KWh…

2. In Germany as well as NL we use NG to heat our houses. Nowadays we can install a micro-CHP boiler to do that. The boiler operates at near max. capacity during the cold winter evenings to heat the house, hence also produces then max. electricity… 

The nice thing is that the boiler uses a Stirling engine which operates very quiet. A great invention. Thank you mr. Stirling!
So you don’t need a big battery to go off-grid!

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 17, 2015 12:10 pm GMT

We will have to see some massive technological breakthroughs before ….”
Seems that the business analysts at the two biggest German utilities, E.ON and RWE, think different about it.

Jesse Jenkins's picture
Jesse Jenkins on Jan 17, 2015 1:22 pm GMT

Thanks everyone for the excellent discussion! I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments. Cheers,

Jesse

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 17, 2015 2:04 pm GMT

Wow, this is a truly extraordinary claim; it requires extraordinary proof.

Especially in northern countries like Germany with winter demand peak, and summer peak in PV production.  Please explain how their electric bills can be zero?  Who will pay for all of the grid transmission and distribution system?  Who will pay for the storage?  Who will pay for the backup thermal generation?

To repeat: retail electricity costs 10-20 ¢/kWh, of which electricity production is about 4 ¢/kWh;  the rest is grid cost, billing/service cost, and capital costs for power plant plants.  If distributed PV eliminates the ¢/kWh electricity production, then the remaining bills must be 6-14 ¢/kWh.  With a seasonal imbalance, the PV requires seasonal energy storage, which makes PV electrcity much more expensive than that from fossil fuels.

Your claims appear quite impossible.

 

 

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on Jan 17, 2015 2:19 pm GMT

Nuclear energy is at least five times cheaper than any buffered intermittent energy source using wind or solar.

Nuclear power is the cheapest, safest, cleanest, most abundant, and most reliable form of energy ever devised and that ever will be devised. People arguing against this are misinformed or they are lying.

Antinuclearism is the fundamental cause of air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, energy poverty, impending resource scarcity and resource wars historically.

Therefore, ending irrational and deadly antinuclearism through education and discussion is a primary objective of all bona fide environmentalism.

 

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on Jan 17, 2015 2:28 pm GMT

 E.ON explicitely wants to stay in grid operation business because their business analysts expect that it becomes economically viable for a significant percentage of electricity consumers to go off-grid?

 

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 17, 2015 4:01 pm GMT

Math,
Grid operation will always be viable because the grid is a natural 100% monopoly.
In Germany the grid operator is allowed a standard profit (remember something as 6%). So even when the size of the business is reduced a factor 10, the grid operator will still earn money.

Btw. I don’t think that the German grid will be reduced in next decades.

Mark Heinicke's picture
Mark Heinicke on Jan 17, 2015 4:12 pm GMT

Nathan:

Very interesting comparison, especially the “even in the south” part.  I was unaware of the drastically tiered rates in CA.  Combined with net metering, it’s another example of regulations at cross-purposes. 

As to combined cycle. it is a great “bridge” technology, but the problem of any CO2 generation remains (not to say you are ignoring that fact since you are discussing pricing, but it always bears repeating).

However, the price of natural gas being what it is now, and trending downward, would producers even bother to install combined cycle if there’s little or no payoff?  What is the payoff at present?

 

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 17, 2015 5:02 pm GMT

Nathan,
Please explain how their electric bills can be zero?
What was unclear in my answer? Reformulating: “most people, as those may be off-grid if FiT is low”.

Not sure whether it is legally possible to tax off-grid with some kind of electricity bill. Understood that the Spanish law which allows that, is under legal fire. That battle may continue until Luxembourg, which may take >10years.

Who will pay for all of the grid …?
Assume the users, which are not the off-grid people. May be a part by government?

Who will pay for the storage? …. for the backup thermal generation?
Assume you mean biomass/hydro/biogas/geothermal/renewable gas back-up generation.
In principle those who use those services.

Seasonal imbalance
Yes electricity rates in winter (less PV electricity) will increase. That will stimulate to buy e.g. a micro-CHP boiler (has a Stirling engine, which runs very quiet), etc;
or, if grid connection becomes expensive, also buy some extra battery capacity and go off-grid..

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on Jan 17, 2015 5:13 pm GMT

Bas,

It is not necessary to teach here that the grid is a natural monopoy. Your statement is that E.ON’s business analysts think that even without massive technological breakthroughs it becomes economically viable for a significant percentage of electricity consumers in an industrialized society (in their case Germany) to go off-grid. At least you could try to find a proof for your statement.

 

Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on Jan 17, 2015 5:36 pm GMT

Stirling invented his engine in 1816, quite some time before Planté invented the first rechargeble battery in 1859.  Could you inform the world how many micro-CHP boilers are installed today in the Neteherlands? How many of them are based on a Strirling engine?

 

“In the case of the STIRLING-engines WhisperGen, MicroCHP and Microgen M-CHP there can be generated savings of 10% of the energy costs using it in existing one-family houses. Because of the less heat consumption (50%) in new build one-family-houses the feasibility of micro-cogeneration is much lower than in an older building-stock. Concerning new build one-family-houses the STIRLING is therefore at its feasibility limit. The free-pistonsteam-engine example Lion Powerblock is there the least cost efficient with an energy prize of 38 ct/kWh, what derogates the yearly energy costs”

 

http://www.cres.gr/perch/Germany1.htm

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 17, 2015 5:40 pm GMT

Indications:
– the poll which showed that significant part (20%-25%) of Germans think they will go off-grid before 2020.

– the household rate is ~28cnt/KWh, the FiT is ~12cnt/KWh going down further.
So a device that produces for ~25cnt/Kwh + fixed connection fee becomes viable for off-grid. Candidates such as micro-CHP boilers, available.
Batteries are economic once they cost <(28-12)cnt/KWh, which require only some additional battery price decrease.

– it explains the moves of RWE and E.ON. But may be you have a better explanation?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 17, 2015 9:32 pm GMT

@Math: “…how many micro-CHP boilers are installed today in the Netherlands?”

Dutch Remeha states in this brochure, ~1 year old, that they installed >1000 of this type in NL. So now it can be 1200 – 2000.
They claim an efficiency of 140%*), electric output 1KW, thermal 25KW. Would save ~€400/a (Dutch el.price ~22€cnt/KWh).
No idea about the competition.

Your market review is from 2007, so not relevant (in 2007 those were still virtual).
___
*) 140% is near the max. possible. The efficiency is >100% because the gas condenses into water which generates additional heat, which water is then cooled to ~70°C which generates more useful heat.

Note that an utility scale gas turbine has far worse efficiency (only ~65%), as the heat is wasted. So from GHG perspective, government should promote these CHP’s and discourage utility gas turbines.
~30% of Dutch electricity is generated by gas CHP’s (mainly for heating greenhouses).

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 18, 2015 4:27 am GMT

Yes, when we consider than nuclear power has been credited with saving 1.8 million lives which would have been lost to fossil fuel pollution without nuclear, it is a tragedy to realize that without the anti-nuclear movement, we could have saved millions more lives by tripling nuclear power by now.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on Jan 18, 2015 10:53 am GMT

Just to clarify again: I’m not proposing that everyone pays the same fixed cost. What I am proposing is that people pay for the part of the total capital stock that they actually use. Probably the best way to do this would be to bill people proportionately to their rate of consumption (kW) during the time of maximum load (maximum capital utilization) each day. 

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 18, 2015 11:47 am GMT

Nathan,
That Hansen report is highly biased. E.g. Chernbobyl:

The Hansen report assumes that Chernobyl caused 40 death.
The 2006 IAEA cover-up operation concludes ~4,000death
The Torch report (EU scientists) concludes 30,000 to 60,000 cancer deaths;
The book at the New York Academy of Sciences claims 935,000death before 2006. Claim in line with the strong life expectancy declines in large areas that got major fall-out from Chernobyl.
Taking into account the usual latency of 20-60yrs before the health damage of low level radiation shows (similar as with smoking, asbestos, etc), that would imply 8million death.

My estimation: ~1million death in the period until the year 2300, taking into account that raised radiation levels continue ~300year (half life of main contributor Cs137: ~30yrs), the damage to fetuses and DNA, etc. also applying LNT (Lineair No Threshold) which is widely accepted in the scientific community (a.o. the BEIR reports use it).

Similar with Fukushima. Hansen report: No deaths.
While this WHO report predicts increasd cancer rates (up to 7%) for children in the concerned area despite speedy evacuations.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on Jan 18, 2015 5:01 pm GMT

I wonder if the CHP boilers (and their fuel), PV panels and batteries will also be taxed at an effective rate of more than 100% like grid electricity…

Also, people using CHP boilers to go off-grid in Germany will have to use these boilers for around 70-80% of their yearly electricity needs. With a large battery bank and/or PV oversizing, this reliance can perhaps be cut back to 50%, but this will be very expensive. Since German biogas is quite expensive and close to being maxed out, this will lead to an increased reliance on natural gas which is not really the idea of the Energiewende.

I was also wondering what happens if you are off-grid, using your CHP boiler and your heating needs are much greater/smaller than your electricity needs. In this case, things could become quite uncomfortable and inefficeint. At best, you will then also need heat storage to improve the situation. 

Ultimately, this will mean that every home needs a full PV system, battery storage, a micro-CHP device (with reliable fuel supply), a heat storage device and some pretty smart electronics to control the whole thing. As an engineer, all of this totally unnecessary complexity makes me very worried.  

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 18, 2015 1:16 pm GMT

Yes that would be the best way.
As that is not possible,
I assumed it would be distributed proportionally with the capacity of the customer connection (roughly the method used to distribute the grid costs in NL).
To keep the example simple, I assumed that everybody has same connection capacity.

With your method, customers that have high peak consumption at utilities peak load time will be the first to deflect. That’s clearly better. 

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jan 18, 2015 6:08 pm GMT

The “fix” is capacitance on the network to even out the minute by minute demand curve. Then you don’t need the peaker plants up and running and idling “just in case” there is a spike in demand.

The grid uses capacitor banks to generate reactive power.  This is for voltage support, not energy storage.  Frequency support requires real power, not imaginary (reactive) power.  You still need to balance power supply and demand to make that work.

Even if it is just like 20-30 minutes which is long enough to know you actually need the peaker plant running

20-30 minutes is about the endurance of today’s economic battery storage systems.  It’s also reasonably close to the time you can reasonably use demand-side management to shut down a great many loads, like air conditioning. 

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jan 18, 2015 6:38 pm GMT

The grid is not being ‘destroyed’ . . . that’s just hyperbolic whining.

Funny, the “utility death spiral” is welcomed by a lot of people who talk the Green talk.

The only ‘problem’ here is that the utilities are not happy because they are having to change the way they do business and not making as much money. Boo-hoo. They are just going to have to adapt.

It appears they’ve got two bad choices:

  1. Reduce CAPEX to compensate for the CAPEX part of the retail rate that’s paid back to net metering customers.  As a consequence, the grid becomes less reliable (see “utility death spiral”).
  2. Transfer the CAPEX costs to other customers.

Neither of these is either fair or desirable.

You fundamentally misunderstood the Google RE>C findings and engineering in general.

I’ve played “spec lawyer” before (very interesting when your customer is a nit-picker either by disposition or necessity) but I’ve seen no hint that you actually understand it.  On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that you don’t understand basics like the physics of the grid.  For you to accuse anyone of not understanding engineering is chuckle-worthy.

Net-metering is a fundamental technology needed to get to a 24/7/365 carbon free grid.

There are a number of largely or mostly carbon-free grids of substantial size in the world.  They use hydro and nuclear power.  They do not use significant amounts of either wind or solar, and net metering is an afterthought at best.  So much for “fundamental technology”.

Net metering on conventional small-customer retail rate schedules can never lead to a carbon-free grid because it doesn’t support the CAPEX needed to keep the grid running in any form.  If most users are paying close to zero, there is no money to run the grid or pay for the generators required when unreliable sources are insufficient.

It is done with a grid balanced combination of solar PV, onshore wind, geothermal, offshore wind, nuclear, demand-response, concentrated solar power, hydropower, pumped-hydro storage, battery storage, biomass, efficiency, compressed-air-storage, tidal power, geographic diversity, etc.

Yet you cannot show me even one place on earth where these things, with the possible exception of pumped hydro, have actually led to the carbon-free grid you claim is a necessity.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 18, 2015 8:48 pm GMT

So how can we explain the astounding disparity in the estimates of casualties from Chernobyl?  Gross incompetence?  Deliberate bias?

Note that if we throw out the book published by the New York Academy of Sciences (the actual lead author was a Greenpeace activist, so debilitating radiophobia is likely), the rest of the estimates fit a much tighter cluster, and clearly make nuclear power seem much safer than fossil fuel, and even safer than renewables with fossil backup.  (Even accepting 1 million casualties, nuclear is still much safer than renewables with coal backup!)

Here’s what the New York Academy of Sciences had to say about the book:

This collection of papers, originally published in Russian, was written by scientists who state that they have summarized the information about the health and environmental consequences of the Chernobyl disaster from several hundreds of papers previously published in Slavic language publications. In no sense didAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences or the New York Academy of Sciences commission this work; nor by its publication does the Academy validate the claims made in the original Slavic language publications cited in the translated papers. Importantly, the translated volume has not been formally peer‐reviewed by the New York Academy of Sciences or by anyone else.”

In addition to radiophobia as a motivating factor, researchers in the former Soviet Union countries had/have a political and economic interest in discrediting Russia for its role in the reactor design, as financial compensation for effected communities was requested.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Jan 18, 2015 8:52 pm GMT

One of the most Annoying things about Greenies is their capacity for selective amnesia. Another is their near religious anti-nuclear dogma.

Jean-Marc D's picture
Jean-Marc D on Jan 18, 2015 11:00 pm GMT

Hansen explains in the paper how he considers the number 4000 improbable, given that  none of the seriously done statistical studies could confirm any increase, but that in order to stay on the safe side that’s the one he uses for the number of death per TWh value. Then he does a little mechanical calculation that dispatches death by location given the amount of locally generated electricity, whereas technically all of the 4000 were in Russia.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 18, 2015 11:37 pm GMT

@Schalk,
As my calc above shows, tariffs can be such that $1/KWh for off-grid is beneficial.
Here rooftop cost ~20cnt/KWh. So 4 times oversizing implies ~80cnt/KWh, still very beneficial.

… what happens if you are off-grid, using your CHP boiler and your heating needs are much greater/smaller than your electricity needs.”?
Smaller electricity needs seems a none issue (this CHP delivers 1KW electric and 25KW heat).
If the other way around, you may buy the associated solar storage vessel (check this brochure), or/and add some more battery capacity.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 18, 2015 11:38 pm GMT

@Schalk,
As my calc above shows, tariffs can be such that $1/KWh for off-grid is beneficial.
Here rooftop cost ~20cnt/KWh. So 4 times oversizing implies ~80cnt/KWh, still very beneficial.

… what happens if you are off-grid, using your CHP boiler and your heating needs are much greater/smaller than your electricity needs.”?
Smaller electricity needs seems a none issue (this CHP delivers 1KW electric and 25KW heat).
If the other way around, you may buy the associated solar storage vessel (check this brochure), or/and add some more battery capacity.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 19, 2015 12:03 am GMT

@Nathan:”So how can we explain the … disparity in the estimates of casualties from Chernobyl?
When Hansen wrote his book the IAEA 4000 death report was wellknown. So his 40deaths (1%) was deliberated bias, which imply that his other numbers are also very questionable.

The 2006 IAEA cover-up operation, excluded all scientific research publications regarding countries in which good research (a.o. Germany with e.g. this publication). Also important areas with major fall-out within Ukraine, etc. were excluded. So much that Ukraine government protested.

I found no death estimations in the scientific sections of the report. They appeared “out of the blue in the summary”, Then, the first press release showed an even lower number…
To me that delivers the strong impression of deliberated bias in order to serve the goal of the IAEA, which is:”more peaceful nuclear”, as the IAEA organized the whole operation.

Most information in the NYAS (New York Academy of Sciences) book was not known in the west at the time the Torch report appeared. Though the authors of the NYAS book are the best radiation professors in Belaruas/Russia/Ukraine and the big life-expectancy decrease in the official statistices support their claim,  they may have exaggerated.

I arrived at my factor 8 lower estimation of 1mln death, by considering also the more recent (2011) IPPNW report, as well as reading some smaller studies which show e.g. that the health damage in the Gomez region becomes more serious (opposite I expected). The explanation was that the people there eat food grown on the contiminated ground, as well as meat from animals there.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 19, 2015 12:51 am GMT

I looked at the summary of the IPPNW report, and going a little out on a limb, I’m going to say it was not written by scientists at all, but by anti-nuclear activists.  The coversheet is labelled “German Affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)“; in other words, they are not truth-seekers because they already know the answer they are trying to show.

The biggest problem with their data is that they do not compared their data for the effected group to a control group.  Also, it’s is not published in a peer-reviewed journal, but rather on a website whose homepage reads: Symposium: The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction

presented by the Helen Caldicott Foundation (she’s a prominant anti-nuclear activist who is shown to be hysterical and incoherent in the film Pandora’s Promise).

These problems should be obvious to any person who deligently reads it.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 19, 2015 1:00 am GMT

You should then also doubt the results of the 2006 IAEA report.

The new version at their WEB-site states in the summary:”It is impossible to assess reliably, with any precision, numbers of fatal cancers caused by radiation exposure due to the Chernobyl accident….”.
No deaths numbers anymore…

That avoids having to admit that the stated numbers were ridiculous under-estimations.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 19, 2015 1:15 am GMT

Also, the paper by Scherb and Weigelt, which at least is more scholarly, makes no attempt to remove effects due to other causes (i.e. where is the control group?).  Worse yet, they claimed to find strong effects at radiation levels (1mSv/year) which are far below background levels (not supported by other studies), but they chose not to give any warning about living in places with naturally occuring high radiation.

This is not convincing either.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 19, 2015 1:15 am GMT

Assume he also applied similar bias (at least factor 100) for his fossil fuel estimations…

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 19, 2015 4:34 am GMT

Or more likely, they realized that the risks associated with low-dose radiation are much lower than the risks we accept everyday for things like driving in cars or riding bicycles, and fear of radiation has done much more harm than radiation itself:

Apart from the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer incidence among those exposed at a young age, there is no clearly demonstrated increase in the incidence of solid cancers or leukaemia due to radiation in the most affected populations. There was, however, an increase in psychological problems among the affected population…”

We should also know that the excess thyroid cancers were all caused by mismanagement of the situation (children were allowed to consume milk contaminated with iodine-131, which has an 8 day half-life).  Also, thyroid cancer has a very high cure rate.

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on Jan 19, 2015 9:32 am GMT

Nuclear energy is by far the cheapest green energy, especially in a flat, cloudy, high-latitude country like the Netherlands.

Nuclear energy is green because it is the cleanest of all energy forms and because it doesn’t consume natural resources such as fossil carbon, plants and animals for biomass, wind, sunshine, views, or river and coastal ecosystems. All other so-called ‘green’ energy sources consume one or more of those natural resources in huge volumes.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 19, 2015 10:22 am GMT

… remove effects due to other causes (i.e. where is the control group?…
Please read the publication.
Control group: the people in the 10 nearby, similar districts that got hardly any fall-out..
Those did not experience a sudden and continued increase in serious birth defects such as Down, serious malformations and deformaties, stillbirth.

… find strong effects at radiation levels (1mSv/year) …
Please read the publication.
They measured those highly significant effects at levels of 0.4mSv/a – 0.8mSv/a. Frequency of the birth defects increased with the dose (p=0.000036).

… below background levels (not supported by other studies).
Please read second part of the publication, in which other studies in other countries with similar results. Many other studies published.

In 2010 the famous medical journal “The Lancet” wrote about the radiation, after Wertelecki (University S- Alabama) published similar results. From The Lancet: Ukraine still spends 5 –7% of its GDP on Chernobyl-related matters … Ukrainian authorities have designated 2.4 million Ukrainians, incl. >400 000 children as having health problems related to the disaster.

… not to give any warning about living in places with naturally occuring high radiation.
Scherb et al are scientists, so they continued with research. And showed the DNA damage that normal NPP’s cause to people living in their surroundings (which damage health and IQ of next generations).

Besides, many publications showed effects, such as this scientific one conerning Ramsar, Iran. Here an easy to read overview. So the authorities in Kerala discourage building houses in those areas.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 19, 2015 11:02 am GMT

Or more likely, they realized that the risks associated with low-dose radiation are much lower…
Highly unlikely. Then they would have given an indication about that, as it is in their interest: “promoting nuclear”.

They wrote the opposite:
“…impossible to assess … numbers of fatal cancers … due to the Chernobyl accident”.
Which increases uncertainty and doubt, hence fear!

So the explanation I gave in the comment above, is far more likely.

This new IAEA statement recognizes the possibility that the NYAS book is right with its 935K death before 2006!

Jesse Jenkins's picture
Jesse Jenkins on Jan 19, 2015 2:42 pm GMT

Bas, Nathan:

Thanks for an adult, well-cited, respectful conversation about this contentious topic. You cite sources, state where you are expressing your opinion (vs other evidence) and keep a respectful tone throughout. This is exactly the kind of dialog we love to see here at TEC (and am example for other commenters!). 

The only thing I’d note: not every thread here has to turn into a chat about nuclear power’s relative safety or cost!! I understand the impulse but it would be great to hear more of your thoughts on the direct topics on hand as well. 

Cheers,

Jesse

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 19, 2015 5:03 pm GMT

Nathan,
The IPPNW report is no study.
The report delivers an overview of ~200 study results. Some studies have control groups, etc. some not. Some don’t need it.  A typical example: the study of Orlov etal (published in peer reviewed Int. J. Rad. Med. 2004):

In Ukraine:
–  9 children under 3yrs old got brain tumour during the 6yrs before Chernobyl;
-179 children under 3yrs old got brain tumour during the 6yrs after Chernobyl.
So ~20 times more.
A tragedy for ~170 more families than normal.

Spec Lawyer's picture
Spec Lawyer on Jan 19, 2015 9:18 pm GMT

So let’s see:

1) Childish use of ‘greenie’ slur.

2) Mention of ‘selective amnesia’ with abolutely no indication as what that is referring to.

3) A complaint about ‘near religious anti-nuclear dogma’ to a post that actually suggests nuclear power.

Epic fail there Paul O.  

Spec Lawyer's picture
Spec Lawyer on Jan 19, 2015 9:34 pm GMT



It appears they’ve got two bad choices:

Yes, that is how it appears if you lack imagination.  But you could also realize that they could spend less on new capital expenditures because other people are providing new generation capacity. 

I’ve played “spec lawyer” before (very interesting when your customer is a nit-picker either by disposition or necessity) but I’ve seen no hint that you actually understand it.  On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that you don’t understand basics like the physics of the grid.  For you to accuse anyone of not understanding engineering is chuckle-worthy.

This is very childish stuff here.  You allege that I don’t understand something yet you are unable to provide any evidence of any technical mistakes.  Try to grow up and defend your position instead of just spewing insults.    

 

There are a number of largely or mostly carbon-free grids of substantial size in the world.  They use hydro and nuclear power.  They do not use significant amounts of either wind or solar, and net metering is an afterthought at best.

Uh . . I mentioned both hydro and nuclear power.  Do you think having an even broader diversity of sources somehow makes the system more brittle?  Or would a broader diversity of sources make it more reliable and resilient.  Seems like a pretty obvious answer to that.

Net metering on conventional small-customer retail rate schedules can never lead to a carbon-free grid because it doesn’t support the CAPEX needed to keep the grid running in any form.  If most users are paying close to zero, there is no money to run the grid or pay for the generators required when unreliable sources are insufficient.

Gee, I can’t seem to find the part where I suggested that most users would be paying close so zero.  Actually, I suggested the opposite . . . a grid balanced combination of many different sources.  Net-metering is just a part of it.   


Yet you cannot show me even one place on earth where these things, with the possible exception of pumped hydro, have actually led to the carbon-free grid you claim is a necessity.

Well we don’t yet have a carbon-free grid yet, duh.  That is the goal that we are working to achieve.  Good thing you were not around to tell the Wright Brothers “You cannot show me even one place on earth where man has built a heavier than air flying machine!”  Expand your thinking!  You keep looking in a rear-view mirror instead of looking at what can be done.   How limiting.  

Spec Lawyer's picture
Spec Lawyer on Jan 19, 2015 9:48 pm GMT

So let me get this straight . . . electrons from a solar PV system are somehow different than electrons from a natural gas plant?  Riiiiiight.

 

 Don’t go telling them that it displaces Toxins, which may not be true if they already use nuclear, their own solar, or their own wind+ Nat Gas.

LOL!  Except that you fully know that this is NOT the case.  Only a small amount of grid power is generated with non emitting sources of energy.  And my solar PV system is one of the the things that is growing the amount of non emitting sources on the grid, so you should be thanking me if that is a goal you share.  But no . . . you seem to want to crap on me instead and lie to me.


You should just Man-Up and buy some batteries, and eat your own solar power.

Yes, I will do that as soon utilities emit nothing and eat their own toxins & greenhouse gases.  

Spec Lawyer's picture
Spec Lawyer on Jan 19, 2015 9:55 pm GMT

Spec..What you are really doing is this.Any excess good is low value good, that is why it is excess, nobody wants it nor can use it.

You are simply looking for a way to reduce your own costs, you buy into a PV scheme which allows you to pawn off your low value excess energy on the utilities


That is some amazingly bizzare thinking there, Paul O.  It is the local utility that sets the rates and if you look at any Time-of-Use metering scheme, you’ll see that day-time electricity rates are highest price and overnight-rates are the lowest price (that is when they have massive amounts of excess).  The utility itself is telling me that the day-time electricity (which the solar PV system makes) is the most valuable.   But I guess you think they are wrong.  

Spec Lawyer's picture
Spec Lawyer on Jan 19, 2015 10:02 pm GMT

Well, not really.   My local utility uses less than 2% coal.

 

And I am constantly petitioning & voting to reduce (and ultimately eliminate) coal burning.  

Spec Lawyer's picture
Spec Lawyer on Jan 19, 2015 10:07 pm GMT

Why do you think utility based PV is better than residential PV?   They don’t pay a higher cost, they are only responsible for returning the loan of PV generated electricity so it is actually cheaper for them . . . they receive PV electricity on loan and pay back the loan with nuclear/hydro/natural-gas/etc. generated electricity.

 

And residential PV generates the power right where it is consumed so transmission costs are reduced.  

 

And the goal of distributed solar PV is NOT to eliminate the grid.  I don’t know where you get that ill-informed idea.  

Spec Lawyer's picture
Spec Lawyer on Jan 19, 2015 10:12 pm GMT

Wait . . . let me get this straight . . . you don’t think solar PV and wind are good clean energy sources because they ‘consume’ sunshine and wind?

Wow!  That is a very amusing view.  I certainly have never heard that one before.

 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 20, 2015 4:45 am GMT

 “[assessing consumers with a capacity charge based on usage during peak times] …that is not possible…

This would be easy with smart meters, and utilities in the US are installing them anyway, primarily to save cost via the feature of “wireless meter reading”.

Regarding grid defection, note that the micro-CHP device you linked above is fossil fuel powered, and there is a growing belief that we should be moving away from fossil fuels, not towards them. Homes are the easiest segment to decarbonize, so I would consider such grid-defections toward fossil fuel to be quite environmentally disgraceful (unless the fuel is carbon-free, e.g. H2 or NH3).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 20, 2015 8:16 am GMT

@Spec,
Paul shows his frustration because his side is losing the discussion. Which everybody sees.
So there is no need to slaughter him.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 20, 2015 9:17 am GMT

@EP,
There are ~25 countries which generate >80% of their electricity via renewable and do not use nuclear.

There is only one country, France, which generates >80% ‘carbon free’ using nuclear in addition to wind, etc. And France is busy to implement its new law, which brings the share of nuclear down, from ~70%  towards 50% in 2025. Furthermore, it started a program to increase the share of renewable.

China is expanding wind and solar each much faster than nuclear. Wind already bypassed nuclear. Solar will do in few years.

So looking around all over the globe, logic indicates: Renewable is the way.

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