Kevin’s Daily Digest, 6/6/16

Guaranteed incomes, the coming solar boom in Texas, world’s largest battery on the way in China, nuclear plant challenges, Trump looks backward on energy, and more.

The Daily Digest, published Monday-Friday, focuses on the latest news and perspectives in renewables, storage and electric vehicles. For more follow me on Twitter @kkchristy. The Digest archive and the rest of my Medium content is here.

Perspective: Conservative political scientist Charles Murray has been advocating for a basic income approach to the social safety net for over a decade. The reason I mention this here is because I believe he’s correct in his observation that coming technology waves such as autonomous vehicles and 3D printing will eliminate millions of jobs. They will of course also increase productivity in the economy, which will afford us to be bolder about concepts like basic income, to take off the table concerns about being able to provide for oneself. Combined with reductions in cost of living from dropping ownership of expensive, 4% utilization depreciating assets (family cars) and moving to transportation-as-a-service, if technology can make housing and medical care cheaper as well then we can have a real hope of taking the stress of making ends meet off the table for millions of dislocated Americans, along with the stigma of having to depend upon social services. This experiment would provide a true test as to whether this freedom would improve lives on balance, or whether it would simply encourage sloth. I’m hopeful.

Perspective: I just love this headline. Stories of coal plant retirements are becoming routine, and observations in ERCOT are that the retired capacity will be replaced almost entirely by solar power. This of course leads directly to concern over the “duck curve,” and the corollary enthusiasm over battery energy storage to mitigate that problem. However, as the article says, ERCOT is “the Wild West” of energy markets.

Perspective: Rongke Power in China will be deploying a 200 MW/800 MWh vanadium flow battery to provide “peak shaving, grid stability, emergency power, and load management” to the Dalian Peninsula in Manchuria. This will be the largest battery in service globally.

Perspective: I view nuclear energy much the same as I do natural gas: these are bridging technologies to a 100% renewable energy future. The problem with using nuclear energy as a bridge is that it has become uncompetitive with natural gas, wind and solar. So without a method of valuing its carbon-free generation, plants will start closing due to economic pressures. This is not a good thing, in that nuclear plants provide abundant carbon-free baseload energy, unlike coal and natural gas. And if you shutter nuclear plants, in today’s environment they are still likely to be replaced in part or in whole by incremental fossil fuel generation — a big step backwards. One way to stem nuclear plant closures is to include nuclear generation in new carbon reduction rules, increasing the incentive of utilities to enter into long-term contracts with nuclear plants at prices that can sustain those plants (but not to the point of building more nuclear capacity, which I do not support). Better would be a carbon tax, but the authors have a point here.

Perspective: Only fair to include the counterpoint here: an argument that nuclear plants provide no meaningful contribution to carbon reduction, and should be closed as quickly as possible due to the impacts of uranium mining and processing, potential catastrophic failures, and long-term storage of nuclear waste. Fair points, but I think my main argument stands: close a nuclear plant and you will likely get more fossil generation in its place, which seems like a step backward to me.

Perspective: A Trump presidency would be a disaster for the energy industry, the country, and the planet. The man has no grasp on what he is doing. Bloomberg makes it clear.

Perspective: Here I go with the carbon tax thing again…

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