Nuke Power Talk – The comment period for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions closed December 1, and since then news reports on the comments filed by various groups have continued to trickle in. Although the next step now is for the EPA to review the comments and respond to them, two reports on filings caught my attention–those from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and those from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).
NARUC called for better recognition of nuclear power in EPA’s carbon plan. They stated in a resolution that they “jointly recognize the need to maintain the existing, baseload nuclear generation fleet” and urge the EPA to assure that carbon reduction regulations encourage states to “preserve, life-extend and expand” reliable and affordable nuclear generation. They specifically take aim at a provision in the draft rule that would require incorporating 5.8 percent of existing nuclear generating capacity when calculating a state’s target emissions, and they advocate removal of output from nuclear energy facilities still under construction from state rate-setting goals.
Nuke Power Talk – A Brookings Institute paper entitled The Net Benefits of Low and No-Carbon Electricity Technologies is examined. It takes a slightly different approach to comparing energy technologies than most others have done.
First, rather than comparing all electricity-producing technologies, they focus only on a comparison of low- and no-carbon emitting technologies. Thus, the study doesn’t consider coal at all. Rather, it looks at the full menu of options that could replace coal–including solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, and gas combined cycle.
Second, instead of using levelized costs, they compare the annual costs and benefits of each technology, arguing that a plant that produces electricity with a relatively high levelized cost may be more valuable than a plant with a lower levelized cost if it delivers electricity more cheaply and reliably during periods of peak demand when the price of electricity is high.
Based on the assumptions they make, they conclude that “the net benefits of new nuclear, hydro, and natural gas combined cycle plants far [emphasis added] outweigh the net benefits of new wind or solar plants. Wind and solar power are very costly from a social perspective because of their very high capacity cost, their very low capacity factors, and their lack of reliability.”
Adjusting U.S. solar and wind capacity factors to take account of lack of reliability, we estimate that it would take 7.30 MW of solar capacity, costing roughly four times as much per MW to produce the same electrical output with the same degree of reliability as a baseload gas combined cycle plant. It requires an investment of approximately $29 million in utility-scale solar capacity to produce the same output with the same reliability as a $1 million investment in gas combined cycle. Reductions in the price of solar photovoltaic panels have reduced costs for utility-scale solar plants, but photovoltaic panels account for only a fraction of the cost of a solar plant. Thus such price reductions are unlikely to make solar power competitive with other electricity technologies without government subsidies.
China started up three reactors this past year, but it looks like the number due to come on-line by mid-2017 could be considerable.
Cantor Fitzgerald forecasts that 32 Japanese reactors will ultimately be restarted by 2018. David Talbot, with Dundee Capital Markets, largely echoes those thoughts.