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January 23, 2009

Another Amory Lovins Big Lie: Nuclear Power Costs Too Much for Private Companies and With No Government Support None Will Be Built

Another Amory Lovins big lie, which is often repeated by various environmentalists is that nuclear power costs too much for private companies with no government support.

The lie is not that nuclear power costs large amounts of money. The big lies ignore these truths:
1. Other forms of power also cost a lot money
2. Government money massively subsidizes and supports all forms of energy
- public money is needed to prop up all of the private energy companies and industries
3. Other forms of energy are risky to develop as well

As noted in this renewable energy world link

Most thin film solar companies fail. Out of hundreds of companies only one or two companies have brought products to market in any scale.

The reality, according to Neal Dikeman, partner with VC firm Jane Capital Partners, is that only one or two thin-film projects have brought product to market in 30 years, and it's a US $100M-$200M dollar up-front investment "just to play the game and see if your product really works."

Silicon Valley investors have mistakenly bet on "really great teams" while the technology is still at a science experiment stage, he argues — investors are beginning to realize this, he thinks, and that the industry is sitting on the back end of about 5-10 years of US $100M bets. "We're going to see a bunch of write-offs coming up," he warns.

The challenge that has caught startups in this sector time and time again, Dikeman explained, is underestimating the engineering scale-up and production on a tens-of-megawatts (MW) scale.

"People always assumed that if the technology worked and the team was good, that the rest was just engineering...and so far, that has never proven to be the case," he observed, noting that there have been several hundred (thin film) companies that have tried and only two succeeded.

"The challenge has been that the engineering scale-up has been much harder than the science experiment." Citing the "black art" aspect to thin-film projects, he observed that for factories in the 30-40 MW range, what matters is getting the same yields, distributions and performance out of the second plant as was achieved in the first.


New energy costs money to develop. Tens of billions spent on wind and solar over decades to get them to this point and they are still not certain in scaling up. Any hope of scaling up is only with massive government support.

Governments are involved all over energy. It is not "all just private companies". Jerome Paris is and investor and developer of wind energy projects. In an Oil Drum article he is asking Obama for constant high levels of government subsidies. He notes that three times the wind energy industry was wiped out because of periods of insufficient of subsidies.

Solar and wind are likely to be getting $20 billion from a clean energy bill, probably going along with tens of billions more in whatever 800-1500 billion stimulus packages get passed.

The long-term extension of the renewable energy production tax credits, which would cost the government $13.1 billion over 10 years. Plus 30% tax credits for instant subsidy.




Worldwide it is about $2 trillion per year for energy spending. Hundreds of billions on subsidies and research and development. Energy costs BIG money. Why does anyone think otherwise ? All the investments are big and multi-year and often decades long. Just because you can chunk up some aspects of it into small pieces is meaningless. Yes, one set of solar panels does not take long to make but you need millions of houses with solar panels on roofs to equal one nuclear plant. It takes time to make the factories to make the panels. Doing the research and development takes time. As noted only a small percentage of the thin film solar power companies make it. The solar companies are often betting on competing specific technologies. It takes time to scale up the supply chains. Wind power takes 5,000 large wind turbines to equal one nuclear power plant. Again it takes timed to scale up the wind factory and the component supply chain and it takes ten times as much concrete and more steel for enough wind turbines to generate comparable amounts of power.

The solar and wind factories and supply chain cost a lot of money and take years to scale up. $100-200 million for each solar thin film company to make a serious play and they take a decade or so to get their R&D and then make scaled factories and try to deploy. Plus each one is competing with a hundred other variants. So which is the riskier long term investment ?

The US energy grid is going to take well over a trillion to upgrade over the next decade or two. Same for Europe's energy grid. Renewable like solar and wind need a better energy grid to have deeper penetration.

What is this "all private" BS ? By that standard you would be telling wind power developers like Jerome Paris - make it "all private" which he just told you wipes out the wind industry. Coal gets and natural gas and oil get their credits too and the biggest gift to coal is not having them pay for their waste or handle it. (the CO2, smog, particulates which would more than double the cost of coal power, it would also add 30% to natural gas)

Who is covering all the risk for coal, natural gas and oil (85+% of all of our power ?)
3 million deaths per year from air pollution.
Potential extinction from CO2 levels.
The state is not even covering it yet which is worse than paying for effective coverage.
People/citizens just die.
60,000 in the US (30,000 from coal each year, the 60K is coal and oil)
250,000+ in Europe
750,000+ in China.
This is every year.

Plus 5000 to 10,000 dead each year from coal mining.
More asthma, more heart attacks, more lung disease. 30% of the medical care is related to the increased air pollution.

Coal power is being added the fastest worldwide.
Oil over $250 billion on exploration and development each year.

FURTHER READING
US Energy subsidies over the last few decades

Energy costs with externalities included
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