Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Batteries And Bulldust: Why ‘Living Off The Grid’ Is Not As Green As You Think

The arrival in Australia of the Tesla "Powerwall" storage battery has produced lots of erections among Australian Greenies.  They see it as the longed-for solution to the intermittent nature of wind and solar power.  The article below however points out that such systems do not add up as a replacement for reticulated electricity.  The author offers nuclear power as the best replacement for hydrocarbon energy sources.

As you could probably guess from the angry tone of it, the article appeared in a far-Left publication, "New Matilda".  It is however perfectly rational and numerate in its critique of the batteries.  There have always been some Green/Leftists who like nukes.  The Left in fact hailed nuclear power when it was first rolled out in the '50s.  It was "new" so they liked it.

This is not the first pro-nuke article to appear in "New Matilda". Editor Chris Graham is evidently balanced in his thinking on some occasions.  He even published a critique of extreme feminism recently. But he did have to publish a Greenie reply to the article below which I don't think is worth linking to.

By Geoff Russell

You can bet that a newsreader who pronounces film as ‘fill-em’ will receive a flood of complaints. Similarly, spelling mistakes in the written word will be pounced upon by the eagle-eyed readers with howls of protest and claims of declining standards and the impending end of civilisation.

But when people screw up with numbers, there’s a stunned silence. Our innovation hungry Prime Minister recently announced $48m to combat falling maths science standards, but it isn’t just children that need help with numbers.

Take, for example, the Climate Council’s Tim Flannery and SBS journalist Emma Hannigan in a recent news report about household battery technologies. Flannery responded to Hannigan’s statement that sales of battery systems were predicted to be 50,000 per year for the next decade by saying “… when you get to that point, you won’t need coal fired power systems any more”.

Get any 10-year-old (with a phone) to do the maths. 50,000 x 10 is half a million batteries. And how many households do we have?

Maths won’t help you here, you need data. Google it… number of households in Australia. It’s about 9 million.

So will half a million batteries make a dent in our electricity emissions? A tad useless would be an appropriate technical estimate, but since household electricity is only about a quarter of electricity, it’s really a quarter of a tad useless.

Put simply, half a million batteries, at around $7,150 dollars each (current price) is an incredibly stupid way to spend $35 billion dollars. For comparison, the United Arab Emirates bought 4 x 1.4 gigawatt South Korean nuclear plants for $20 billion (US) and they’ll all be running by 2020.

That would generate enough electricity to charge half a million 7kw Tesla batteries 126,000 times in a decade; if they could handle it. They are only rated to handle 5,000 charge discharge cycles.

But cost isn’t the biggest reason for not using big batteries in houses. Let’s consider the situation in Germany, mainly because the data comes easily to hand and because they’ve just wasted 15 years mucking around with renewables at great cost, but with trivial impact.

They expect to take 50 years to do what France did in 15 with nuclear power. Consider the following chart of German electricity use in January 2015.

Can you see the days with very little wind and sun? There’s one run of five in a row starting on the 19th of January. In the absence of their fossil fuel and nuclear plants, how much battery storage would the Germans need to cover this kind of run?

They’ve just signed the COP21 agreement that should stop them expanding their logging of forests for electricity; in fact I’d argue that Article 5 requires them to reduce it.

To make the maths trivial, lets assume they only need to supply 50 gigawatts of power for five days. That’s 5 x 24 = 120 hours. Do the sums and you’ll see that the batteries will need to supply 6,000 gigawatt-hours of energy (120 x 50). A gigawatt is a ‘1’ with 9 zeros. So, how many fully charged Tesla 7 kilowatt-hour Powerwalls would you need to supply this? All those zeros make what is a trivial calculation look complex: 6,000,000,000,000 divided by 7,000 is 857,142,857.

That’s 857 million batteries at a current cost of … $6.1 trillion dollars.

In the real world, many industries need their electricity in a particular form, but the numbers at least give us a feel for the scale of the problem.

But, as I said, cost isn’t the biggest reason people shouldn’t do this.

Consider the much-vaunted Tesla gigafactory? When it’s finished in 2020, it will produce batteries for half a million vehicles a year. That’s impressive and useful, but how many such giga factories will it take to supply batteries for those five days of German power?

Each year the giga factory can produce 35 gigawatt hours of battery storage. So how many years of production will it take to supply 6,000 gigawatt hours worth of batteries… 6,000,000,000,000/35,000,000,000… roughly 171 years; assuming Germany is the only customer.

You can do such calculations without all those zeros by using the Exp button on your phone calculator App.

But of course, real engineers wouldn’t use Tesla Powerwalls for such a purpose, they’d go for something much cheaper like pumped hydro. This is where you pump water from a low place to a high place when you have cheap electricity and then let it fall back down through a turbine to generate electricity at some later time.

It’s great when the geography is suitable and you don’t mind trashing some high mountain valley.

But surely batteries will get cheaper? Agreed. The Climate Council has just published a modest battery report. They make a general claim that the cost of battery storage should fall to $200 per kilowatt hour by 2020.

If that comes to pass, the Germans could provide for a run of 5 cold still days using an as yet undeveloped technology at a projected cost of just $1.2 trillion. That makes me feel much better!

So we probably can’t afford them, and it will be incredibly tough to build enough of them, but there’s still another far more important reason that using big batteries in houses, or for general grid backup, is dumb enough that it should be made illegal where there is no actual need.

Has the penny dropped yet? Here’s a hint. The world sells 70 million cars a year and the Tesla giga factor will make half a million car-sized batteries a year when it’s finished in 2020.

It should be obvious now… we will desperately need good, big batteries for electric vehicles.

Batteries and hydrogen fuel look to be our only choices for vehicles. So we shouldn’t be wasting valuable battery production resources to make batteries for houses because some puddle shallow thinkers reckon it’s cool to live off-grid.

We know how to cleanly and efficiently power houses; you build nuclear power plants and hook them into a grid. In developing countries, there is a pressing need for grids and that will be a huge challenge. Wasting valuable battery production capacity on powering houses will make everything that much harder.

The whole batteries-in-houses idiocy is part of what is inevitable when rich countries transfer spending decisions from Governments to individuals via low taxation rates and small government; or more accurately, incompetent Government; Governments who no longer have the skills and vision to pursue major projects in the national interest, let alone the international interest.

Traditionally, when Governments spent money, there was at least a fighting chance that a competent bureaucracy would act rationally and in the public interest.

But when it’s up to individuals, particularly rich, self-centered individuals who can’t think quantitatively, then they will buy Tesla batteries and Tesla will happily supply them.

If Tesla boss Elon Musk had even half the environmental concern he professes, then he wouldn’t make the bloody things.


Oil and our inalienable right to free trade

by Jeff Jacoby

WHO SAYS nothing ever gets accomplished in Washington? When the House of Representatives voted this fall to lift the nation's 40-year ban on exporting crude oil produced in the United States, the measure seemed doomed in the face of White House opposition. But on Wednesday, congressional leaders settled on a massive spending and tax package, and, wonder of wonders, the resumption of oil exports made the final cut. Both House and Senate were expected to pass the legislation promptly (albeit grudgingly); President Obama has said he'll sign it.

Like a lot of dubious ideas from the Nixon era — wage and price controls, the abandonment of the gold standard, the political misuse of the IRS — the oil export ban was a piece of folly that only grew worse with time. Imposed in the wake of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, it was one of several responses aimed at softening the blow of the oil shock on the US economy. The most notorious of those responses, gasoline price controls and rationing, were such obvious failures that they soon collapsed amid long lines and shortages at filling stations.

But the law barring US oil exports persisted. Policymakers imagined that forbidding producers to sell crude oil to foreign customers would enhance American energy by conserving domestic reserves and thus make the nation less reliant on imported energy. That's not what happened. US crude-oil production began to dwindle, shrinking from 10 million barrels per day in the early 1970s to only half as much by 2008. Far from depending less on imported petroleum, Americans required steadily more of it. When Nixon was in the White House, the nation imported 6 million barrels of petroleum daily; 30 years later, the daily intake of foreign oil had surpassed 13 million barrels.

In effect, America had imposed punitive sanctions on its own energy industry, the only significant oil-drilling country to so hobble its producers. After a while the export ban no longer seemed to matter. Production had fallen so far that there wasn't much crude oil to export anyway.

But then came the shale-oil revolution and the miraculous boom unleashed by fracking and horizontal drilling. Suddenly the United States was an oil-producing superpower again, with crude oil being pumped from the ground at a daily rate of almost 10 million barrels, a level not seen since 1970. In the space of a few short years, the United States had unexpectedly become the world's foremost oil producer. Yet thanks to an export ban that had never made sense, much of that oil had nowhere to go, and piled up in storage tanks. As of last week, US crude-oil inventories were at 490 million barrels, an 80-year high.

In a world thirstier for oil than ever, the absurdity of the US export ban at last became impossible to deny. Voices from across the political spectrum — elected Republicans and Democrats, as well as researchers at Columbia University, the Brookings Institution, the Government Accountability Office, the Aspen Institute, and Resources for the Future — joined in calling for exports to be revived. The realization had finally taken hold that, in a global energy market, to hobble American producers is to hobble American consumers, and the best way to enhance US energy security is to free US energy to compete in the market.

So goodbye to the oil-export ban. And good riddance to a policy that never worked as its advocates predicted. But let's not stop there. What we really should be jettisoning is the notion that the right to buy and sell across borders is a privilege that governments bestow or withhold as they see fit, instead of a human right — a natural liberty — that governments must not infringe except in extreme and very limited circumstances.

The freedom to trade — to engage in mutual,voluntary, and honest commerce — is as fundamental a human right as freedom of religion, or the freedom to work and own property.

Human beings, by virtue of being human, are entitled to worship as they choose, to own property, to emigrate from their country, and to form peaceable associations. Those are fundamental rights, not dependent on the government's political preferences or utilitarian considerations. The freedom to engage in mutual and honest commerce is just as fundamental, and it should be just as immaterial whether lawmakers approve of the bargain struck between seller and buyer. Jones shouldn't have to lobby public officials for the right to hire Smith or teach Smith or pray with Smith, or seek Smith's opinion. Nor should he have to win government approval for the right to sell his goods and services to Smith. Not even if Smith lives in another neighborhood, or another state, or another country.

Edmund Burke, the great Irish statesman and philosopher of liberty, wrote in 1795: "Free trade is not based on utility but on justice." Your property and labor are your own, and so is your freedom to trade them with a willing partner. When legislators and regulators impose biased or inequitable barriers to free trade, they violate a universal human right. That is why they should be opposed by Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.

Punitive tariffs or export bans, arbitrary quotas or domestic-content restrictions — all such impediments to peaceful commerce are transgressions against the rightful autonomy of free human beings. Prohibiting Americans who pump oil from selling that oil abroad was always economically short-sighted and counterproductive. But worse than that, it was immoral. The right to trade is as indispensable as the right to work. When politicians usurp that right, they render all of us less free.


The anti-science president

By Victor Davis Hanson

President Obama talks a lot about the scientific method. On climate change, he has often invoked the idea of a great divide between those on the progressive left, such as himself, who believe in “settled science” and thus a looming man-caused climatological disaster, and those, presumably on the Neanderthal Right, who are slaves to superstition, ideology, prejudice, and self-interest—and thus deny that the planet is rapidly warming due to inordinate human-induced releases of excessive carbon.

Obama’s view of science is reductionist. It relies on count-em-up numbers: if more university professors (not known to be an especially independent or courageous cohort) believe in dangerous man-caused climate change than doubt it or its seriousness, and if climate change fits a larger progressive agenda, then it becomes factual.

Would we assume thereby that Newton, Galileo, and Darwin were all exemplars of groupthink, and worked through consensus and collegiality, especially with the support of status-quo institutions and universities, in advancing majority-held theories?

When Obama signed legislation in his first weeks in office enabling human stem cell research, he pontificated that his act was about ensuring “that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.” Aside from the fact that there were and are methodologies of harvesting stem cells without resort to embryonic protocols, the president’s entire approach to science, data, and the inductive method is to privilege ideology and subordinate facts.

In short, Obama is the most anti-science, anti-factual president in modern memory.

The president has warned the nation, usually on the most inappropriate and untimely occasions, of the American tendency to succumb to Islamophobia. But to support such an assumed pathology, the president adduced no evidence that Americans are more likely to target Muslims than other groups.

If we were to rely on “scientific” research, there is statistical evidence that in general hate crimes in the U.S. are rare, and that in particular they tend to focus on Jews. The most recent survey (2014) of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program shows 58% of hate crimes were directed at Jews, while just 16% were against Muslims. Thus, if the president felt that there was a real danger of American citizens or residents harming others due to their religions, then obviously he would warn us not to attack Jews, who suffer more hate crimes than all other religious groups combined.

As a student of science, Obama should incorporate such findings in his pop editorializing and not, for example, sloppily characterize the deliberate sorting and murdering of four Jews in a Paris delicatessen as if it were a random attack on “a bunch of folks” (e.g., “violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris”).

If Obama really wished to address hate crimes in more precise scientific fashion, he would ask for data concerning not just the most likely group to suffer such attacks, but the most likely group statistically to commit them. But then again there is an anti-scientific resistance to investigating the matter further, given the likely results that would suggest an unwelcome reality.

The president also insists that the government in reaction to the San Bernardino terrorist attacks must now rush to make it illegal for anyone on the no-fly lists to buy guns. Is there any scientific evidence that such a move would have much effect in preventing or abating terrorism? Or is such a call based on folklore and ideologically driven superstition?

Over 800,000 are on the terrorist watch list, and about 64,000 of them are additionally on the no-fly list. Aside from the facts that both lists grow and do not seem to shrink, and that reasons are not always provided for adding names to the lists, there is no evidence that those included in the past on the no-fly list so far have been the perpetrators of post-9/11 terrorist attacks. Banning guns to those on a no-fly list may in theory be wise, but there is no scientific evidence to suggest that it would be. If one were to consult other various lists of the major terrorist operations in the U.S. since 9/11—and they range in number from 50-60 depending on the criteria used—the vast majority were committed by those who self-identified as acting on behalf of Islam.

In rejecting the Keystone pipeline, the president ignored the scientific conclusions of his own State Department’s body of expert consultants who found no major negative impact to the climate by building the pipeline. In fact, statistically it is likely far less deleterious to the environment to ship oil-sand products by pipeline through the United States than to transport it by existing rail and truck. The Keystone cancellation was emblematic of making scientific decisions based on ideology, not facts.

NASA, as its name implies, by all accounts is a scientific government agency devoted to the exploration of the upper atmosphere and space. Its mission is not, as its Director Charles Bolden understood his mandate from President Obama, a sociological one: “And third, and perhaps foremost, (emphasis added) he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” Once the U.S. again has its own rockets, such outreach may be a nice thing to do. But “feel good” is not the “foremost” mission of that government scientific organization. Envision the next present promising to use NASA to ensure that Christian nations “feel good” about past Christian “contributions to science, math, and engineering.” Almost instantaneously we would hear—and rightly so—charges leveled against an anti-science president subverting for ideological purposes and a “political agenda” an historic government scientific enterprise.

Most climatologists do not connect the California drought with global warming. To the degree that we can ascertain a cause, given the paucity of weather-related data in California dating much before 1850, scientists point to the El Niño effect. Slight changes in east-central Pacific Ocean temperatures have historically affected the formation and trajectories of West Coast storms. To the degree temperature per se is the culprit, our present drought is largely a result of oceanic temperatures being too cool—in other words, too little of an El Niño effect.

Yet Obama flew into the Central Valley of California, Ground Zero of the drought, pronounced climate change the culprit, promised federal monies for that purpose, and flew out. Aside from politicizing a natural disaster for contemporary political advantage, anti-science also plays a role in the drought. Activists and government officials, state and federal, did not calibrate rising state population with increased needs for water storage and transfers.

Instead, in an ideological and anti-science frenzy, they suspended completing the California Water Project and Central Valley Project infrastructure, and embraced romantic but unproven theories about diverting contracted irrigation water to reintroduce salmon to the San Joaquin River and to restore delta smelt populations to assumed normal levels. Both anti-scientific efforts failed to increase those populations, but only after the wastage of several million acre-feet of precious water. Releasing scarce storage water in a drought—contrary to the initial aims of the Central Valley and California Water Projects of flood control, irrigation, recreation, and power generation—on the theory of altering fish populations is about as anti-scientific and anti-human as one can get.

If one were to characterize the Obama administration approach to the natural world, it is precisely an historical effort to privilege ideology over facts. In matters of gun control, Obama ignores how, where, and why most Americans are killed by guns because the facts do not fit a preconceived narrative. In matters of the Affordable Care Act, the administration made unscientific claims about affordability, budgetary consequences, coverage, and access that were quickly proven contrary to available evidence.

In reaction to the Benghazi killings, the Obama team advanced a narrative about a right-wing video maker prompting such “spontaneous” violence that contradicted eyewitness accounts, forensic evidence, and the social media testimonies of the attackers and the reports of the attacked. Then there is the matter of racial violence such as Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson. The president evoked it as an example of police excess, even though his own Justice Department found no culpability on the part of the officer in question and the narrative of an innocent victim crying out "hands up, don’t shoot" to be an entire fabrication. For political and ideological purposes, the Obama Justice Department supports flawed studies theorizing that one in four females on campus will be a victim of sexual violence during her college years—a theory debunked by facts as often as it is resurrected for its electoral utility.

Obama does not believe in science because science is blind. In today’s political climate, disinterested inquiry is a mortal sin. We live in an age in which aims that are declared socially just require any means necessary to achieve them—even if that ensures a denial of the scientific method and facts themselves.


The nutty and impotent fossil fuel divestment movement

The fossil fuel divestment movement, currently active on more than one thousand college and university campuses, is an attack on freedom of inquiry and responsible social advocacy in American higher education.

This report traces the origins of the movement, examines in detail its motives and methods, and presents an objective record of its successes and failures.

The fossil fuel divestment movement emerged from a single campaign at Swarthmore College in fall 2010 and has grown into an international movement orchestrated by Bill McKibben’s activist group 350.org. Its success in casting itself as this generation’s defining cause has made it a powerful influence on the opinions
of today’s youth.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign has reinvented itself several times. At Swarthmore in 2010 and 2011, the movement presented itself as a solidarity campaign with “frontlines” communities resisting coal extraction.  Since Bill McKibben brought the campaign to national prominence, it has evolved into a moral crusade against global warming, and then an Occupy Wall Street-style revolt against privileged power-holders. The movement is now in the midst of a fourth transformation, this time into a financial advisor that foresees investment risks in coal, oil, and gas companies.

The movement’s abiding purpose has been to pressure governments to favor wind, solar, and hydro power, and to make colleges and universities pressure cookers of sustainability. The divestment movement is itself a spin-off from the larger campus sustainability movement. Many students encountered the ideas that form the premises of the divestment movement in sustainability classes and sustainability activities sponsored by their colleges.

At least two campaigns (at De Anza College and at California State University, Chico) took root when professors gave college credit to students who worked on a fossil fuel divestment campaign. Another campaign, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, started after the university assigned every freshman a summer reading of "Eaarth" by Bill McKibben, and invited McKibben to speak on campus.

As this report goes to press, activists have named this fall “escalation season,” a period running from October 1 until December 12, the day after the UN Climate Summit in Paris concludes. Every semester is now “escalation season,” part of a throbbing cycle of contrived, organized angst. Spring 2016 “escalation” is already scheduled to revive in April, when the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network plans to hold 20 college sit-ins. In spring 2015, 11 colleges and universities saw sit-ins for divestment.

The National Association of Scholars has observed and critiqued the campus sustainability movement over the last seven years, and followed the fossil fuel divestment movement since its emergence at Swarthmore five years ago. We offer the most thorough encyclopedia of collegiate fossil fuel divestment activism
published to date.


The fossil fuel divestment campaign is:

1. Growing but overstated: The number of fossil fuel divestment campaigns has skyrocketed from 1 in 2010 to more than a thousand, according to Go Fossil Free. Many are run by small numbers of full-time organizers.

2. College-born but professionally managed: Both the idea of fossil fuel divestment and the main organization supporting it (350.org) grew out of college student campaigns at Swarthmore College and Middlebury College respectively. Students remain the face of the movement, and at least one student-run organization, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Students Network, supports divestment campaigns. But much of the organizational and intellectual framework comes from professional environmental activists and environmentalist organizations that train college students.

3. Modeled after the Arab Spring: Activists say their cause is cut from the same cloth as the Middle Eastern push for democracy, because trustees who oppose divestment are oligarchs who ignore pro-divestment students’ voices.

4. Self-consciously impotent against fossil fuel companies:  Advocates of divestment, including Bill McKibben, acknowledge that divestment will not decrease the share prices of fossil fuel companies or appreciably shrink their profits and access to capital.

5. A game of bluff: Few divestments are complete. Only 34 percent of “divested” colleges and universities have fully shed their fossil fuel investments. Four have sold no investments at all since their divestment decisions: Humboldt State University, Syracuse University, Oxford University, and the University of Otago Foundation Trust (New Zealand). We label these “DINOs”—divestments in name only.

6. Elitist:  The divestment movement is most fervent at wealthy, elite colleges and universities, though it has had little
success persuading administrators there.


The Ugly Face of Climate Cultists

In his daring masterpiece, Alex Epstein exposes modern environmentalists for what they really are: pro-nature and human-hating. For them, the slightest modification of Mother Nature’s virgin work is a crime worse than the Holocaust. With COP 21 now fully operational we are hearing those anti-human environmentalists more than ever.

And they spare no one when they spit their venom. David Suzuki, Canada’s Green Pope, recently compared the defense of the oil industry to the defense of slavery. You read that right. Defending forced labor is akin to wanting to keep the cheapest, most reliable source of energy ever mastered as of now.

Of course, he only wants you to be “free” of this evil form of energy. He wants to keep traveling in order to spread his green gospel while you use a horse and bugey. He wants others to have fewer children while having 10 children and grand-children. And he wants scientists that agree with him to speak freely while imprisoning those who dare having different views.

He is not the only one with this mindset.

Only a few weeks ago many public university professors came forward and asked the federal government to prosecute “deniers” using the RICO Act – originally created to prosecute the mafia. Like any group, these professors know that if their scam is exposed they will lose everything. Therefore they need to use every means possible to keep earning their income. This seems to include hiding inconvenient facts.

Still about politics, there are elected representatives – I will let you guess their color – that want to bar one of the only profitable uses of public lands in honor of Mother Nature. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, introduced a bill that would ban any new fossil fuel exploitation on federal lands (including water) in order to stop carbon “pollution” … from greening the Earth.

Of course, as a “democratic” socialist Sanders couldn’t help but exposing his Koch derangement syndrome by blaming the hard-working entrepreneurs for wanting to enrich themselves while benefiting society. Strangely enough, he doesn’t speak out about against billionaire George Soros.

This liberal “philanthropist” has recently bought off two major coal businesses who were about to go bankrupt thanks to President Barack Obama’s war on coal, among others. Sanders is also silent towards another billionaire, Tom Steyer. Not only did Steyer spend an insane amount of money to influence the 2014 elections, but the coal projects he once invested in will emit carbon “pollution” for decades to come.

Finally Sanders seems to be rather silent on the dire consequences of “renewable” energy. He wants more hybrid cars, therefore encouraging a tremendous amount of pollution in China from rare earth mining. He also wants more wind energy, therefore encouraging the slaughter of millions of birds.

In short, the anti-human environmentalists are actually the ones who destroy the planet the most. They promote sources of energy that are highly inefficient, highly polluting and that would be unaffordable without subsidies. And that’s exactly why they promote these energies. That way, populations will sharply decline and lead to the promised Green Ecotopia.


"Fake electricity"

Let’s look at a real-life example of climate aid in eastern India — not one involving governments but the international environmental group Greenpeace. On its website Dharnai Live, we see smiling people and solar-panel-covered roofs, and we’re told that after “30 years of darkness” green energy came to the rescue.

But here’s what really happened: last year, under the slogan “Energy access simplified”, Greenpeace supplied Dharnai with a solar-powered micro-grid — not connected to India’s central grid. Greenpeace writes that “Dharnai refused to give into the trap of the fossil fuel industry”.

That is a somewhat loose paraphrasing of what the people who lived there wanted for themselves.

Back in 2010, Dharnai’s inhabitants had collected $US680 in the hope of buying their way into the power grid, which in most of India is supplied by coal-fired power plants. Four years later, still with no electricity, Greenpeace swooped to the rescue with a solar system.

The day the electricity was turned on, the batteries were drained of power within a few hours.

A boy from Dharnai remembers wanting to do his homework early in the morning before leaving to work in the fields, but there wasn’t enough power for the family’s one lamp.

Today, power from the solar system costs up to three times as much as power from the central power grid, and it also requires the use of energy-efficient light bulbs, that cost 66 times more than normal light bulbs.

But fortunately for the people of Dharnai — if not for the Greenpeace narrative — the town today is connected to the central power grid. You see, Greenpeace invited the state chief minister to the inauguration of the solar system so he could meet the grateful inhabitants.

When he showed up, he was met by a large crowd of people, with signs and songs demanding “real electricity” (the kind you can use to run the stove and the refrigerator) and not “fake electricity” (meaning solar energy).

A week later, a 100kWh transformer was installed, and Dharnai received modern electricity.

Today, two-thirds of the original recipient households have opted out of the solar-panel scheme, and the rest use it primarily as a backup when the central power grid fails.

This is a part of the story you won’t hear from Greenpeace — but it shows why it’s necessary to question when well-meaning people tell us that dishing out solar panels is a good way to spend development money.

And it points to a broader problem with the state of green energy.
Here in Paris, there are many well-meaning people who argue that we need strong carbon cuts and green-energy production subsidies now and for many years to come, to get the world to move towards tackling climate change.

But at the same time, these same people argue that solar and wind is already competitive and effective, or that this moment is just around the corner. The strange thing is that those two arguments are incompatible.

We are often told that green energy is competitive in developing countries, and particularly Africa. Green energy, especially wind, can indeed help African countries, for example, to get electricity to remote, rural areas.

But that is only a small part of the big picture. As we saw in Dharnai, the grid will do by far the most good for the most people. According to a 2011 World Bank study, renewable energy “will be the lowest cost option for a minority of households in Africa, even when likely cost reductions over the next 20 years are considered”.

Popular solar lights cost almost $US2 per kilowatt hour. Using hydro, gas and oil, the grid cost for the main population centres in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya will likely be US16c to US25c a kilowatt hour. In South Africa, where coal powers 90 per cent of electricity, the cost is just US9c a kilowatt hour.

Green energy costs $US168bn in subsidies right now each year, and by 2040 we’ll be paying even more at $US206bn a year.

However, it is also interesting — and surprising to many — to note that even with these massive subsidies and green policies, doing everything governments are now promising, we’ll get just 2.4 per cent of our energy from green sources in 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.

You really have to put on a pair of green-tinted spectacles to see a world in which renewable energy is about to become competitive or already is.

It is for that reason that the Paris Treaty  will cost a fortune and do very little. Until there is a breakthrough that makes green energy competitive on its own merits, massive carbon cuts are expensive and extremely unlikely to happen.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this
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