Submitted by Ashby Foote
“In the quest for net-zero emissions, we should not give in to zero-net common sense,” Foote wrote.
Celebrating 140 years on September 4th, 2022th Anniversary of the world’s first power station at 257 Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan (NYC). Thomas Edison came up with it and made it up. Electricity was provided by six 27-ton coal-powered ‘jumbo’ dynamos. Initially, Edison’s system supplied his 600 kilowatts of power to his 85 customers with his 400 lamps, all within a quarter of a square mile of his station.
This system included many innovations, including Edison’s incandescent light bulb. From its humble beginnings, Edison’s brainchild has become a critical infrastructure of civilization and a key enabler of human prosperity.
Amazingly, after 140 years of technological progress, coal is still the dominant fuel used for power generation worldwide, with a market share of 36.7%. In the United States, coal’s share is 21.8%, second only to natural gas’s 38.3%.
These are ironic facts, given the great efforts of many to consign coal to the ash heaps of history. There is an even richer irony to the trials, tribulations, blackouts and blackouts that plague many of the planet’s most advanced economies. For those who don’t follow the European scene, there is an energy and power crisis, with the UK and European economies seeing huge price increases and even shortages of firewood as winter approaches.
Last year was a renaissance of sorts for electric fuels. While financial markets have stumbled over the past 12 months, power fuels have enjoyed a bull market. Coal rose 140% to $427/tonne and natural gas rose 85% to $8.82/MMBtu. This is a puzzling development that runs counter to the global zeitgeist pushing the world towards net zero emissions.
Today’s power grid is a highly complex and sophisticated system that generates electricity and feeds billions of outlets at very stable voltage levels through sophisticated transmission systems, substations and distribution networks. To do. Just flip a switch and you can use it anytime, anywhere. This is no easy task. If everything works as designed, you get power “on demand”. And that’s what the general public has come to expect at an affordable price.
A weakness of today’s surprisingly complex power systems is the intermittent nature of renewables and their increasing market share in the fuel mix. In theory, free wind and sunshine sounds great, but in reality it’s not. As the penetration of wind and solar exceeds 10% to 15% of the fuel mix, grid management becomes more difficult and grid instability suffers. Imagine conducting a symphony orchestra when the woodwind section is only available when the breeze is refreshing. Electricity is very difficult to store on an industrial scale, downplaying the usefulness of intermittent power sources.
Grid instability caused by intermittent overreliance on renewable energy is already plunging Europe, the UK and California into similar crises. California’s electricity mix includes 14% solar and 11% wind. The state, which is facing rolling blackouts, has voted to extend the useful life of Diablo Canyon, the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant, by five years. supplies his 8% of the state’s electricity. Additionally, the governor is now urging citizens to postpone charging electric vehicles (EVs) due to concerns about voltage sags.
Over the past decade, European and US political enthusiasm for renewables has driven hundreds of billions of dollars in power generation investment to shift from traditional ‘on-demand’ capacity to ‘intermittent’ wind and solar farms. Did. Developed countries are shutting down gigawatts of coal-fired power plants, while China, India and other developing countries are adding coal plants even faster than the West is shutting them down. Over the past five years, the world’s net coal-burning capacity has increased by 120 gigawatts. This suggests that coal will be the dominant fuel for electricity in the years to come.
Thomas Edison is famous for saying, “Only the rich will make electricity so cheap that they can burn candles.” Demand for electricity in the 21st century is not elastic, but prices are on the rise. How does the man who invented much of the 20th century think about our current predicament?
In the pursuit of net zero emissions, we should not give in to the common sense of net zero.
Submitted by Ashby Foote on Bigger Pie Forum. Promote market-driven economic growth for a bigger and brighter Mississippi. You can read more about BPF here.