By Chris Nelder
Posting in Cities
Two of the world's top oil and gas producers are transitioning to renewable energy. So why isn't the U.S.? Energy expert Chris Nelder reports from the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.
One of the world's most remarkable -- and unheralded -- energy transitions is taking place in the unlikeliest of places: United Arab Emirates, home of the world's seventh-largest crude oil and gas reserves.
In Abu Dhabi, the emirate responsible for 2.5 million barrels per day, or 93 percent of UAE's oil production, an ambitious program of transition to renewables has been under way since 2006. The Masdar enterprise, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Government-owned Mubadala Development Company, has been working to develop and deploy renewable energy production, energy efficiency, and best-of-breed building technologies in search of truly sustainable modes of living in its sun-baked, dusty desert climate, where the mercury soars over 120° F in the summertime and drops to only 95° at night in sticky 85 percent humidity.
The heart of the proving ground for these technologies is Masdar City, a six-square-kilometer site with two square kilometers of built area. Its six buildings currently house residential apartments, a library, offices, and the nascent Masdar Institute, where 337 students from 140 countries are exploring the science of sustainability, from low-energy building design to nanotechnology research into the best materials for solar cells. It's entirely powered by a 10 megawatt (MW) grid-connected solar farm and one megawatt of rooftop PV modules, and features a number of technologies that make it 65 percent more energy efficient than typical Abu Dhabi buildings.
In addition, Masdar will flip the switch this quarter on a 100 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) plant dubbed Shams 1 ("sun" in Arabic), situated 164 km from Masdar City. The enterprise has also invested in the 19.9 MW Gemasolar plant -- the world's first CSP plant to use molten salt heat storage and run 24x7 -- and the 100 MW Valle CSP solar plant, both in Spain; as well as the 1,000 MW London Array offshore wind farm off the coast of the United Kindom, the largest offshore wind array in the world.
By invitation of Masdar, I visited Masdar City and Shams 1 last week and attended the World Future Energy Summit, also hosted in Abu Dhabi. (Disclosure: Masdar paid my travel, lodging and meals, but did not require or suggest any sort of quid pro quo; writing about this is strictly at my personal discretion, and I do so because I am truly impressed with what I saw.)
A strategic choice
It may seem strange that the world's seventh-largest oil producer, pumping over 3 million barrels per day of liquid fuels and over 5 billion cubic feet per day of gas, would see the attraction of investing in renewables, but that's only where the ironies begin in this part of the world.
Abu Dhabi, like the emirate next door, Dubai, boasts clusters of gleaming new glass-clad skyscrapers designed by adventurous architects, all constructed over the past 10 years. All the vehicles on the road are powerful SUVs and luxury sports cars made by high-end manufacturers like Mercedes, BMW, Bentley, and Ferrari, and they're all new. Even the pavement is new. The hotels are modern and designed to make Westerners feel right at home, with pop music from America on the P.A. and a KFC or Burger King never far away. It hardly seems like the place from which to launch a transformation of the Middle East's energy strategy.
And yet that's precisely what it is.
I sat down with Bader Al Lamki, the Director of Clean Energy at Masdar, and asked him why investing in renewable energy was a priority for Abu Dhabi, especially when the U.S. oil and gas industry has been pushing the entirely opposite message about achieving energy independence via oil and gas production, and turning our backs on renewables entirely.
His answers were as insightful as they were surprising.
"It's totally energy related," Lamki explained. "The trigger for the leadership here to think about switching to renewables is one that is also driven by the legacy of this country being an energy player on the world stage. For five decades we've been producing hydrocarbon resources. Yes, we still have substantial reserves with us, but inevitably they're going to diminish, one Sunday morning. The thinking here is perhaps of multiple forms. To start with: knowing that hydrocarbons are going to diminish with time. But the leadership thinks about the legacy it has established as a world-class energy supplier. It wants to position itself now, starting to invest in human capacity, building experience, and building that portfolio and credibility of being an energy supplier, this time with a different form of energy, knowing that renewables are the form of energy that will grow with time. So it's about sustaining and expanding the energy legacy of this country. That's number one."
"Number two, this country has been always careful and sensitive toward the environment, even while producing hydrocarbon resources. . . A zero flaring policy has been instituted for several decades -- way before [most] people thought about it. The environmental impact assessments were consulted before any new oil field development. And energy efficiency into the operation was also instituted. So again, this is about expanding the legacy of being environmentally sensitive, concern about sustainability, and also being responsible in balancing out the entire portfolio of energy that this country has been blessed with."
"Three, it's also a commercial opportunity -- it's a good business. We have to approach this industry with a commercial mindset. This is the only way that we're going to make renewable energy more sustainable by itself, is if you approach it from the outset as a commercial opportunity. And then in thinking commercially: the creation of a new sector, the creation of new sets of jobs, new sets of education lines for its people. So it's a holistic program that has several dimensions. But of course, again -- back to the environment, to stretch that a bit -- is the climate change issue. Embedded in the environmental discussion is climate change. There is clear recognition here that it is not a mirage. Politicians may debate it somewhere else, but in this part of the world, in this country in particular, they believe climate change is happening and we need to contribute and be responsible and to act."
Lamki went on to explain how Abu Dhabi has been a strong advocate in addressing climate change from the Copenhagen conference to Doha; creating and hosting the new International Renewable Energy Agency; and investing in Masdar's various projects.
"It's a holistic approach. There are business drivers; there are legacy drivers; there is environmental stewardship which is also a legacy that the leadership wants to maintain."
But why them? And why now?
Simply, because the country's leadership recognizes that its oil and gas won't last forever, and has the foresight to plan accordingly and diversify its economy. It also has an authoritarian government which permits it to chart a long-term course and stick with it.
"It's also a strategic choice," Lamki continues. "The term that I want to bring to this dialogue is 'energy mix.' In order to maximize value to a given nation, you need to look at your choices and see how best you can capitalize on the resources that you have been blessed with. And having this balance, this mix of resources to produce electricity, allows also the longevity and sustainability of the hydrocarbon resources. So we are able to create offset and produce electricity through alternatives, such as nuclear and renewables, and free up gas for other industrial applications. And overall this brings greater value to the country."
Diversifying its economy away from fossil fuels is the legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the principal driving force behind the unification of seven states into the United Arab Emirates in 1971, the emir of Abu Dhabi emirate, and the first president of the UAE. Under his leadership, the UAE emerged from poverty and sand to become a leading oil and gas producer with world-class destination cities and a keen interest in sustainability.
"We must not rely on oil alone as the main source of our national income," he proclaimed. "We have to diversify the sources of our revenue and construct economic projects that will ensure a free, stable and dignified life for the people."
Admittedly, Abu Dhabi is getting a late start on energy transition, and the renewable energy capacity it has built so far is modest. The 200 MW of domestic capacity it has either built or has in the project pipeline would generate less than 1 percent of its electrical consumption, by my rough calculations. But it has begun, and despite the harsh environment, and despite the project delays and rumored cost overruns, it is moving ahead. The nation has set a target to supply 7 percent of its power generation capacity, which is currently 23,000 MW, from renewables by 2020. That would make 1500 to 1800 MW of renewable capacity, says al Lamki, implying a 7- to 8-fold increase in just eight years, which would be a stunning achievement indeed. It also intends to implement a series of energy efficiency measures designed to reduce its overall energy consumption by 30 percent by 2030.
I sat down with Maria van der Hoeven, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, and asked her if Abu Dhabi's target was in line with what her agency hoped to see under the 450 Scenario in its latest World Energy Outlook report.
"You want the frank answer?" she asked. "The answer is no. But on the other hand, it's a very clear target, set in a country that hasn't done this before. So I would like also to be positive and give them the credit, and they are not the only ones [who need] to do their job. The other ones have to do their jobs as well. It's the first time that they really have a target and a year, so I think this is a big step forward. It's a shift of mindset, and that I think is remarkable."
van der Hoeven agrees that the country's strategy is smart. "One of the things we always tell countries is, if you really want to have a sustainable economy, you have got to diversify," she explains. "If you don't diversify, you will be in trouble. Not now, not in 10, 20, 30, 40 years, but one day you will. Because you can use your fossils only once, and then they're gone. . . I think this is exactly the reason why the K.A.CARE plan [a $109 billion investment in domestic solar capacity announced last year] is being inaugurated in Saudi Arabia, because they're fully aware of this and they want to stay in the oil and gas business and at the same time they know it will end and so they have to look for something else."
This diversification is not just good for oil producers like Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia; it's also good for the world. Nearly all of Abu Dhabi's power is generated from natural gas, so its increasing renewable generation capacity will reduce its gas consumption, freeing it up for export to the gas-hungry European continent. Saudi Arabia hopes its K.A. CARE plan will free up over half a million barrels per day of its domestic oil consumption, which will be good news for oil importers like the U.S.
Bader al Lamki agrees: "The outlook for the future is certainly one that requires action. I'm sure the crystal ball would tell us that there is an increasing demand on energy for domestic consumption, not only because of economic growth and population growth, but also the coupling with water demand which we can only achieve through desalination. There is an increasing need for energy to be able to satisfy the intended growth for the country. And for that I'm sure there is sufficient calculation to see what's the appropriate mix, to see what is the longest utilization of the hydrocarbon resources, doing it in a sustainable way, doing it in a way that will maximize value, doing it in a way that also will maximize energy security and water."
(The water-energy nexus, a subject I covered last August, was a key topic at the conference, which was held alongside the International Water Summit as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability week. I will delve into the water aspect in a future column.)
From twilight to dawn
Matthew Simmons' seminal 2006 book on peak oil, Twilight in the Desert, warned of "the coming Saudi oil shock and the world economy." And his fearful vision of declining oil supply will eventually come to pass, although perhaps a bit later than he anticipated.
What Simmons didn't anticipate was two of the world's top oil producers deliberately switching their economies away from oil and gas, heralding the dawn of their renewable age. It's a hopeful development, albeit one that seems lost on U.S. ears.
While I was at the conference, Hearst journalist Jennifer Dlouhy tweeted that the American Petroleum Institute's CEO, Jack Gerard, "recently returned from Middle East, where 'they're talking about us,' given the surge in U.S. oil & natgas production." He must have been somewhere else, because where I was in the Middle East, they weren't talking about the surge in U.S. oil and gas at all, but rather how they might reduce their use of their own.
One only wishes we had the same foresight here.
Photo: The Knowledge Center at the Masdar Institute Campus, Masdar City. Photo courtesy Masdar.
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Jan 22, 2013
Einstein's Mass to Energy equation is basic to the understanding of nuclear power, and provides the solution to the biggest problem known to the 19th century's greatest expert on thermodynamics and energy, Lord Kelvin. He was very puzzled about how the sun could have continued pouring out the energy that he calculated as "the Horsepower of the Sun". Quite simply, the mass difference between four hydrogen nuclei and one helium nucleus is about one percent of the mass. The Sun's core slams one, two, three, then four hydrogen nuclei together, over quite a long time, and emits the mass difference as radiant energy, probably gamma rays in the innermost layers. But we have available to us on Earth the products of far more violent activity, and it has kept our planet's core molten for almost a hundred times as long as Kelvin gallantly and laboriously estimated. When a star goes supernova, the gravitational energy of its collapsing mass synthesizes elemental nuclei that are more massive than the products of their fission. Instead of stored photosynthetic energy, which is fossil carbon, nuclear fissile isotopes, and those that can be made so, are the "fossil" remains of giant stars. The US Navy powers its capital ships with fuel that lasts for three years or more, and fits in a very compact space, even counting the shielding. It is vastly safer to be one of the crew of a nuclear powered submarine, than the old oil-fueled ones. It is also more comfortable, even on amazingly long underwater voyages that in the not very distant past were hopelessly impossible. Abu Dhabi bought the QE2 from its British owners. If they could fit her with nuclear engines, they could sail her again.
Coal and hydrocarbons, whether the latter are liquid or gaseous, create a thousand times more toxins per kilowatt-hour, or more to the point, per gigawatt-year, than nuclear fission even at the miserably inefficient level of today's once-through, no breeding, no reprocessing technology deployed in the USA. They create millions of tons of carbon dioxide, more than three million tons for every ton of carbon (C +O2 ->CO2), and even at 7 parts per thousand of raw uranium, the energy of the fissile isotope U-235 is enough to produce one fifth of our electric energy demand. After separating out perhaps 2/3 of the U-235, and then burning only half of it, and some of the Pu-239 produced by neutron capture, I calculate that the total annual fission products waste is under one hundred tons for the whole USA, probably 75 tons. Our foolish policy of no reprocessing means that that tiny amount is left mixed with about the same amount of plutonium, which is as good a nuclear fuel as the scarce U-235, and all the rest of the original uranium in the fuel rods. That's about 3,000 tons, because we use annually 25,000 tons of raw uranium oxide, and about 7/8ths of it is left in storage as "depleted" uranium hexafluoride.
This will only work if they have a feed-in tariff policy requiring the Utilities or government to pay homeowners $0.54 kwh to harvest and feed solar onto the grid. That gives jobs, money and power to the 99%, and so decentralizes the production of solar. Youtube: paul8kangas
The World is going to Renewable Energy at a very fast rate. compared to how long it took oil, coal and your favorite nu-safe and very dangerous Nuclear power. Renewable Energy Solar, Wind, Hydro, Geothermal and others should be on the front cover of every Science Book kindergarten through high school. Leaders and Schools in all Nations need to Teach more on Solar and Renewable Energy. When this Old World starts getting you down. From Pollution the cost of OIL, Heating Fuel,The Fuel you put in your Vehicles, You Electric Bills from cooling air conditioners and lights not to speak of the Evil. The TAX that all Governments Federal, State, County and City put on everything they can think of. They are supposed to serve us. Not put a burden on its people. That they are elected to serve all the people you, not their own Pocket Books. The Wicked keep putting higher taxes on everything. Making it a Heavy Burden on many that are already struggling just to put food on the table. Too many Americans and People of all Nations have lost their home to the tax collector or to foreclosures from the unjust Bankers greed and their Government leaders. More are out of work and lost their homes then in the GREAT DEPRESSION, in the last ten years. All Americans and many Nations need good jobs and more of them. Not more TAXES and Wars. There is a Industry that will employ workers and is growing by more than 50% every year. There is a clear way for all up on the roof the Sun Light is free fuel from GOD. Some wicked in Government have been backing Coal, Oil, Gas and the Nuclear industries for too many years. These kickbacks to them were called Subsidizing Industry Technology and high paid scientist. Most all Wise Men and smart Economist, Environmentalists and good at heart Scientist call this padding their pockets and subsidizing back to the Stone Age. This might even been funny in the 1960â²s. If it were a Fred Flintstones and Barny Rubble Movie. About How to aggressively systematically work with the rich to Pollute Ground Water quality to the point it is unsafe to drink or use. So to they make a law you can only buy water from their pipe line. And to make the air we breathe full of Toxic Gases, Sulfur Dioxide and more Radioactive and Acid Rain. Injuring all living things on Earth. With Fred Flintstones to the Rescue. To help create a Healthier Environment. For all Future Generations. By spotlighting Renewable Energy and Free Energy like Wind and Solar. On his and his neighbor Barny Rubbleâs roof. Even though the greedy wicked would do everything to stop or slow them down. Just imagine a dream that a 100 years ago one of the smartest man to ever live had. A dream after working with Sun Light. That all on Earth would use Free Energy Solar Energy. That Dream also shared by a man that dreamed this over 2,250 years ago. Both These men showed the world in their days. That this dream of Free Energy Solar Energy Worldwide was very possible. Both of these two wise men had first hand worked and researched their experiments for not just days, weeks put for many years. One of these men used chalk on Black Board the others board was a black stone table or floor covered with white sand and used a stick. One of these two Brilliant men had Kings from all most every Kingdom on Earth come to him for advice. The other went to almost every nation on Earth. Freely on his own dime Teaching All that had ears to hear. He would win the Nobel Prize for doing so. For his work on Solar Energy. Only after years of doing research and when most Scientist on Earth would not take the nomination for the Nobel Prize in 1921 and knew it clearly belonged to this Brilliant Scientist, this Brilliant scientist was then awarded it in 1922 for the 1921 year. Now if this was just a Pretend TV Show or a Movie from a dream. This would be a great Sci Fi Story Line. In the 1960â²s or even better today. Sci Fi story Movie or dream No. All that i Have told you did actually really happen. Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for what? When Government leaders asked him to go on stage. To address the Scientific Community and the World. About what he was given the Nobel Prize for. When Albert Einstein Had done so. He addressed them with his other accomplishments. For years most Governments did not have a ear for Einsteinâs Dream. Archimedes around 250 B.C. was know most of the World over as a great Mathematician. One of the first Scientist and Inventor of many things. Even the first Laser Ray from the Sunâs Energy. Science Fiction is what you would have though you were seeing if you could go back in time, it was real.To day we call it The LASER, Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission. Back then it was just called Amplification of the SUN, Archimedes Death Ray. Thousand of years later it would be a Laser. That Albert Einstein help make possible. That would unlock one of the first books on Earth. The METHOD written by Archimedes. Then over more than 250 years later. When well Faded was cut from a scroll and put into a book form, to be easier to hide from the Romans by St. Paul. This book sold for over 2 million dollars. In New york at Christieâs Auction House. These two are at the top of the list of the Worldâs Greatest Scientists, Viewed by Scientist around the World. Sad that for the last 25 years or so of every teacher asked no matter what Grade k through 16. At least 80% of them did not know Archimedes. Even sadder 90% of them could not tell you what one of the most Brilliant Scientist to ever live on Earth. Won the Nobel Prize for. It was for the work Albert Einstein did to show the World it could get Free Energy, Electric from the SUN. (THE PHOTOVOLTAIC EFFECT). You ask this question to any Military general 95% of them will get it right. Even more surprising 99% of them will know more about Archimedes then most Teachers on Earth. Generals know Energy is the key to Winning. At almost one thousand to one Archimedes always won against what all knew was impossible odds. Archimedes home town city of Syracuse was victorious against the greatest Kingdoms Armies on earth many times. Syracuse once was one of the most powerful cities in the World. I can only ask you to please look into Solar Energy, Solar Power, Solar Panels and Solar array on the internet under Images. To see and explore for your self then you be the JURY. More then 10 years ago the Internet became most of the Worldâs Universities Learning Platform. A Modern Day Archimedes Resource Center. The Solar Energy Industry in the year 2010 and 2011 has leaped ahead farther and faster then any other industry on Earth. The Solar Industry in the United States of America alone, has grown by more than 50% in 2010 and that number has gone up even higher for the 2011 year. The strong benefits of Solar Energy is Clear Clean Air viewed in major cities as improving air quality. Clean Cities. By all that use their brain for good . View it as protecting the environment and Freedom from OIL , Coal and other Dirty Energy. While many Governments has eased the Taxes on Renewable Energy . Some cities in the states that these Legislators come from have worked against these tax credits. By doing so they are showing their true objectives. That they have stock in some power plants and do not want to lose all that Money they have been taking out of your pocket books for too many years. By taxing you on your Energy Bills. They want to Control Power and Tax Everything they can. Not let People be free to get their own power from the top of their own roofs. By adding their own taxes to them. These wicked leaders think that this will take away the incentives to harvest the Free Energy from the Sun. The Public ability and awareness for all on Earth to use the Natural Solar Energy, is Contributing to Production of Solar Energy Products. Making the Solar Energy Industry the fastest growing on Earth. A Wealth of Free Energy From The SUN. The more the wicked try to slow the Solar Energy Industry down, it only Enhances involvement and the efforts of the Good at Heart. through out History Many have tried to wipe the good from our history books. Read the Bible Jesus will Bless you more then i can. SolarWorld has been presenting a Einstein Award to personalities who have advanced the use of solar energy â and helped our Planet Earth. We all need to tell all our Teachers and Leaders to use our Nationâs Energy more wisely and efficient. Start to Teach all our Young about Renewable Energy Solar, Wind, and so on. Not to forget Flintstones, Fred well there are many the one that is in front of all others Started back in the 1970â²s and started a small catalog that has turned into a Wealth of knowledge into Renewable Energy a book called REAL GOODS Solar Living Source Book. By Mr. John Schaeffer. The world is going more with SOLAR, Wind and Geothermal Powered Energy. The day of the need for Dirty Oil, Coal and Dangerous Nuclear Power are coming to a end fast. The Freedom Element Living with Hydrogen That Dr. Addison Bain has showed the world will free most all of the need for the Power Grid and Oil CEO's. Very soon most of the world will not need Oil or Dangerous and Disastrous Nuclear Power. Renewable Energy like Solar, Wind, Hydro and Geothermal are now replacing dirty Energy like Oil and Nuclear. Solar Energy is growing World Wide at a record pace. Hybrid Cars are being sold all over the Earth. Soon Hybrid Vehicles that run on Electric / Hydrogen, The Freedom Element. Will free the world from Oil and Unsafe Power. Thanks to a Great Scientist Dr. Addison Bainâs Years of work for our Nation and with the Space Program on Hydrogen. The day will come when many will see Solar Panels on most everything. What Free Electric the sun makes will be used to split water into Hydrogen. The Hydrogen will be used to heat our homes and to cook on and put into are Hybrid Vehicles that will run on (The Freedom Element). Very soon most all will be filling up their Vehicles at Home. Free from the Sunâs Solar Energy. Just as Dr.Addison Bain has done for years The Fist Hydrogen Home Refueling Station in the World. That Dr. Addison Bain built by his self. GOD Bless you for reading this. May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ guide your Heart. The Lordâs little Helper Paul Felix Schott
"It may seem strange that the worldâs seventh-largest oil producer, pumping over 3 million barrels per day of liquid fuels and over 5 billion cubic feet per day of gas, would see the attraction of investing in renewables, but thatâs only where the ironies begin in this part of the world." I seem to see this line a lot, but I think it is less ironic and more good business. If you have control of a limited resource, and people are willing to pay good money for said resource, than it makes a whole lot of sense to use as little of that resource as possible, because the less you use, the more you can sell.
Thanks for the article Chris. The photographs were awesome as well. I'm curious though, What did the water taste like from the hotel tap? Was it a cold, deep well, mineral rich taste like in Nelson Co. VA, , or a bland, reverse osmosis lab sample like LasVegas? I had read years back that the Middle East was reinvesting their increasing oil wealth in Renewable energy and water desalination + distribution. I think the cultural difference driving UAE's forward vision is manifested in "the Ownership" of the natural resource. In the USA, we do not look at the oil fields of Texas, the Bakken tar sands or any of the shale gas finds as property of ALL the American citizenry. If we did, we would be receiving our yearly checks like the Alaskans do. (equal distribution of the costs and the profits). I've heard it's common knowledge the Saudis and Egyptians share the wealth too. They've been out in that desert much longer than we've been roaming around North America so they understand the value of time. I for one am glad to see their build out a sustainable society to be around a lot longer.
I have read this type of investment in the middle east for the past 6 years from various countries including Saudi Arabia. They are investing large sums of money in the alternative energy sector. One wonders if there is something that they know that we still have not figured out yet? Running out of oil? Collapse of US dollar? Any ideas?????
When they invest a little in making a rainforest in the dessert they won't be needing money for water, by selling the children's crude oil. The water wil be falling from the sky, only if.
Achieving 7% renewables by 2020 is not that ambitious. States like California and Colorado have 33% and 30% renewable mandates respectively by 2020, and they are on target to achieve those goals. In 2011 the US got about 5% of its electricity from renewables (http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3 ); it's probably one or two percent higher now. Much electricity production in the US has shifted from coal to natural gas, which in the short to medium term results in a net reduction in CO2. The point is that if having a national mandate is seen as the only way to achieve gains in renewables, then Abu Dhabi is not that great an example. It's not doing any better than the more fragmented and contentious US in its efforts. Perhaps the messy process of democracy isn't that much worse after all.
I'm not sure what to make of the article's failure to even mention UAE's (or Saudi Arabia's) nuclear programs, despite the fact that they are doing far more in the nuclear area than they are with renewables. It discusses 10 MW solar plants, but doesn't talk about the fact that UAE will build almost 5000 MW of nuclear capacity before 2020, compared to 1500-1800 MW of renewable *capacity* (which will operate ~25% to ~33% of the time, vs. ~90% for nuclear). In other words, UAE's annual nuclear generation (in kW-hrs) in 2020 will be ~10 times as much as its generation from all renewables. The Saudis are planning to build 16 large nuclear plants. I agree with these nations' decision to move away from oil and gas for domestic power generation, and understand their reasons for their doing so (some of which are discussed in the article). However, the truth is that nuclear is their main focus in terms of non-fossil power generation, and their shift away from oil and gas power generation.
Another interesting article with profound implications. It points out one of the pitfalls of democracy, versus a state managed by a small number of people who have a vision for the future. With a more business centered approach to government, these countries are making an investment in the future that actually is helping to bolster their present economies as well. We should be doing the same thing in the US, but unfortunately our leaderless government is busy squabbling over the best approach to achieving bankruptcy in the next few years. Our star is fading as a world leader, and we don't even have the foresight to do anything about it. We deserve what we get!
Chris, As usual a great article. Hopefully, the US will someday develop an integrated and intelligent strategy and approach to its energy deficits - and especially all of those critical commodities dependent on our current petroleum dependent NPK/food paradigm.
Solar power is so dilute, that even if you cover your roof with solar PV panels, many of the websites recommending it warn you that you probably cannot afford enough PV to run your air conditioners. $0.54/kWh is five or six times what I pay Dominion Electric. I divided the latest estimate of the cost of a TVA nuclear power plant, including the amount it had gone over budget, by the likely (using published EIA figures) energy output in a mere 20 years, and arrived at a figure of around $0.05/kWh. The fuel costs of nuclear power are trifling, because so little fuel is needed. If you want a decentralised, low maintenance, reliable, clean power source, I know of a local company, in Reston, that would dearly love to have a licence for their 100MW reactor design, which I could just about fit in my 1/4 acre back yard, underground, and needs no refueling for 20 years. Then they send a new or refurbished fuel core, take the old one back, remove 8% of its mass and replace it with UN-enriched uranium, and the quantity they remove is the only waste for those 20 years. Oh, I forgot to mention, the initial fuel load is 20.7 tons. It's a breeder reactor. Ten of these would supply more energy than a 1000 MW coal burner. One of them would also exceed the energy output of 70 wind turbines, 500 or 600 feet high at the blade tip, rated at 5 MW. The capacity factor for wind turbines is from 20% to 33% and I believe the high figure is exaggerated. Their capacity factor "on demand" is of course zero.
The tap water tasted much more Las Vegas than VA. A bit chemical tasting. Not great, not awful. And 8-oz plastic bottles of water were ubiquitous. I wondered what they do with them all when they're empty... You are quite right to point up the ownership issue. That's fundamental to the difference in strategy. Here we have resource ownership at a single person's discretion. There they have a long tradition of stewardship and obligation to entire families/tribes/nations.
And we don't. I.E., how long they can continue to run their economies on revenues from those reserves. We might want to smoke that in our prediction pipes and get a move on building out the electrical, renewable energy infrastructure while fossils are still relatively cheap, because they won't be that much longer. If they feel the need to move, how much more should we???
I suppose you could plant the trees, desalinate enough water to water them for 40 or 50 years until they get established but I really doubt it would become a self sustaining forest ever in that location.
Bear in mind, those CA and CO include hydropower. In fact the vast majority is hydro. Not the case in UAE
This shows that the UAE has better sense than the USA. Presumably even with solar availability higher than any state in the USA other than California, Texas, and others with square miles of deserts, they realise that nuclear power is indeed clean, safe, and compact compared with fossil carbon and hydrocarbons, and that the Industrial Revolution was about getting away from so-called "renewables" like wind, wood, sun, and even high mountain rainfall.
The best example of how a nation shut down its nukes is Germany. Germany began a feed-in tariff policy that requires Utilities to pay $0.54 kwh for 20 years to homeowners who harvest solar & feed it onto the grid. Germany discovered it was making as much solar energy as from nukes, so in 2011 they shut down half their nukes. They will shut down all nukes by 2022. They will shut down all coal fired plants, gas & oil by 2030. By 2050 Germany will be 100% solar & renewable. I have an organization, ONE, that is pushing California to achieve 100% solar by 2031. Youtube: paul8kangas
Quite so. Actually I believe UAE is building 6000 MW of nuclear capacity. But renewables were the focus of the conference and nuclear was only mentioned in passing; it's not what Masdar is about. Likewise the exhibitors were primarily solar and water companies. I didn't see any nuclear companies represented. For what it's worth, Shams 1 is 100 MW (not 10), and the next planned PV system is also 100 MW.
dcr100: Fully support your point of view! Of course, a small number of people holding the power can turn sour (as some in this talkback already argue by mentioning Tyranny), but this report is a direct proof that sometimes it just might work, much better than anything else we have tried already. Ultimately, it boils down to - what will the small group of people do with the power they possess! My arguments are often about an âeducated monarchyâ which, is able to carry out a sound plan for the future of it's nation as a whole, instead of having constant squabble in every single inception due to conflicts of interest. Sometimes having many leaders is not necessarily better than having only one (or few), but made up from the right ingredients. It is a gamble, true, but when it works, it works like magic in every aspect involved. I so wish people would understand the simple principles these individuals have applied, in hope of securing their countryâs place (in the future too) as a dominating energy provider at times when their natural resources will eventually run out. I might be naive in placing my trust in such noble beginings, but rather do the revolutionary instead of sitting infinitely on the worn-out throne (like a grumpy old man dying of cancer alone), distrusting everything else around him. CREDIT: (Pink Floyd) ...like an old man dying of cancer alone...
One of the problems is probably the lobby groups, all looking after their own financial interests. And good results for this quarter is more important for most companies than anything else. Another country whose leaders seems to have a longer term vision is China.......
Tyrannies always work better for the people. The U.S. should undo the constitution and the republic, and start all over again.
but it's in the oil companies interest to obfuscate the numbers, bring in their own optimistic predictions about shale oil, undiscovered reserves, etc into the overall numbers. Short term, more money to be made by high consumption. And so those numbers are also what the politicians see.
If you live in the desert, you can save on air conditioning in summer by running it off of the sunshine that's causing it. In California, and much or the Middle East, I suppose the same applies. But at night, in winter, it isn't quite as effective. $0.54/kwh -- Surely you mean the worst example of how a nation shut down its nukes? How many thousand megawatts of capacity did they shut down? How many thousand megawatts of coal and gas burning? In France, the highest rate for energy per kWh is about $0.18, plus a standing annual charge of around a hundred Euros, depending upon how big the customer's maximum power demand is, in kW. There is in fact a nuclear renewable -- no, two technologies whereby nuclear energy resources can be made both renewable and sustainable. You can breed fissile plutonium from non-fissile U-238, or fissile U-233 from thorium, Th-232. Nuclear reactors are already reliable, and so much cleaner than coal that only those lamentably ignorant of chemistry, physics, and the actual data would shut down nuclear before coal. The fact is, that wind turbines require "spinning reserve" for when the wind drops even 5%, and in the USA and no doubt elsewhere, that is supplied by gas turbines that are constantly burning just to keep spinning, and opening a throttle serves to supply the increased demand. The power of the wind, and therefore of wind turbines, is proporrtional to the cube of the wind speed. If you live in California, and Paul kangas succeeds in achieving 100% solar power plants, I recommend you buy a VERY large battery backup for your refrigerator and freezer. Don't run for governor, it only took a mild winter for the recall of Governor Davis, who was blamed for the wildly overpriced peak demand capacity that was caused by the absence of snow behind the hydroelectric dams. A gigawatt year of electric energy from fissile uranium or plutonium requires less than a ton of the fissile isotope. The same quantity of energy from coal or hydrocarbons requires about a million tons. If it's coal, that actually releases several tons of uranium and thorium oxides! Probably half of that goes freely up the smokestacks as particulates. To provide a gigawatt-year of energy from a fixed field of photovoltaic cells, in a permanently cloudless sky, you'd need a capacity of 3000 MW. Two gigawatts if they rotate to follow the sun. But in neither case do they keep the lights on at night.
Benevolent monarchies have been very few in the history of man. No monarchy has ever been better for democracy than a real democracy. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. People who don't learn from the lessons of history, are doomed to repeat the mistakes of history. You sound so very ignorant.
The trouble with an ill-informed democracy is that it easily becomes an ochlocracy -- that is, rule by the ignorant mob. As long as the USA included slavery, it was only a democracy for the non-slave class. But speaking of ignorance, how many times have you read that plutonium is the deadliest element in the world? Radium is about 24000/1600, = fifteen times as radioactive, because that's the ratio of the half lives. But radon's half life is 3.8 days, so it takes about 153 grams of radium to match the radioactivity of one milligram of radon. Anyway, the other trouble is the power of the plutocracy. The chief media of information are sorely beholden to the advertisers who fund them, or in the case of PBS, the large organizations that by their funding "make this program possible". For those who don't know, plutocracy is government by money. Indeed, the holders of financial power, in the USA and elsewhere, tend to limit our freedoms and take our money at least as much as the elected government and those whom that government appoints.
Power does corrupt I agree, but the power of the Corporations (Financial might, extending over into to Political realm), is exactly that - the rule of the corrupted FEW! So how come you keep fighting for, and defending all that you are so against. In my opinion, it is all going back to Communism, but via a different route! After reading most of my posts, you probably know why - HUMAN GREED! What I liked in this report was to see that when you remove and eliminate some of the typical human (call them negative) factors, the decision of the few can become a very attractive alternative, and a great example to follow over the constant unending battle to reach a consensus between different agendas. And one thing is certain, Democracy is overrated! How do we know that? Look at the tentacles of the Corporations enveloping and ever-more (for their own purposes) controlling most of the Political / Government decisions. I have always said it - the rule or the decision of the majority is not always the best one, and Democracys fundamentals are based exactly on that principle! You ponder on that for a while! And to finaly sum it up - please be aware, that it is easy to label people ignorant, but what is the point!? If I recall history well, during the evolution of the humankind most non-conformist and a big number of academic personas were all labeled as Ignoramus, non-believers and so forth, simply because of their revolutionary and out-of-time beliefs and visions. By having this argument here and now, are we repeating History again - you and I?