Author Archives: Peter Sopher

Forward-Looking Analyses are Key to Comparing Clean Energy Benefits

Source: Kuebi,  Kuebi = Armin Kübelbeck

Source: Kuebi, Armin Kübelbeck

Good science should spark debate. It’s the nature of the field, after all. You ask questions, search for data and then debate what it means or what actions the data should spur. Such a debate is underway now, and it is adding fuel to an old fire.

In May 2014, Dr. Charles R. Frank of the Brookings Institution published a working paper comparing the net benefits of replacing coal and gas plants with five no- and low-carbon fuels – solar, wind, hydropower, nuclear, and combined cycle natural gas. Avoided carbon emissions and low energy and capacity costs are deemed benefits, whereas higher emissions, energy and capacity costs, and unique fuel-specific deficiencies (i.e. toxic waste from nuclear power, intermittency of wind, solar, and hydro, etc.) comprise costs.

In late July, The Economist promoted several of this working paper’s primary findings, namely that wind and solar are expensive fuel sources with relatively sparse net benefits – compared to nuclear, combined cycle gas, and hydropower – when replacing coal plants.

Many refute the validity of this conclusion, and response from the scientific community was swift. Read More »

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Germany is Revolutionizing how we Use Energy…and the U.S. could Learn a Thing or Two

"Green Power, not nuclear energy." Germany will fully transition off nuclear by 2022.

"Green Power, not nuclear energy." Germany will fully transition off nuclear by 2022.

As the academic breeding ground of Einstein, Freud, and many other internationally-known scholars, it should come as no surprise that Germany is at the forefront of modernizing an industry as complex as energy. Over the last two decades, Germany has been revamping its electricity sector with the ambitious goal of powering its economy almost entirely on renewable energy by 2050. And last Sunday, the country broke a new record by acquiring nearly 75 percent of its total energy demand from renewable sources (mostly wind and solar). Even the European Union’s recent announcement that it will begin divesting in renewable energy by 2017 hasn’t shaken Germany’s ambition to forge ahead  in its quest to phase out fossil fuels.

Energiewende (the German term for ‘energy transition’) is by far the most aggressive clean energy effort among the G20 and could be as beneficial for other countries as it is for Germany. The German Institute for International and Security Affairs argues, “If the [German] energy transition succeeds, it will serve as an international model… The allure of the German energy transition represents an important foreign policy resource, of which full use should be made.”

At the moment, Energiewende is the closest thing the world has to a renewables-integration pilot on a national scale. If successful, this blueprint will expedite the broad scale integration of technologies that will be necessary to wean the world off fossil fuels and combat climate change. Read More »

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