Ivanpah Solar Project Still Failing to Achieve Potential

Paul Homewood yesterday referred to a Marketwatch report titled “High-tech solar projects fail to deliver.” This was reposted at Tallbloke.

Marketwatch looks at the Ivanpah solar project. They comment

The $2.2 billion Ivanpah solar power project in California’s Mojave Desert is supposed to be generating more than a million megawatt-hours of electricity each year. But 15 months after starting up, the plant is producing just 40% of that, according to data from the U.S. Energy Department.

I looked at the Ivanpah solar project last fall, when the investors applied for a $539million federal grant to help pay off a $1.5 billion federal loan. One of the largest investors was Google, who at the end of 2013 had Cash, Cash Equivalents & Marketable Securities of $58,717million, $10,000million than the year before.

Technologically the Ivanpah plant seems impressive. It is worth taking a look at the website.

That might have been the problem. The original projections were for 1065,000 MWh annually from a 392 MW nameplate implying a planned output of 31% of capacity. When I look at the costings on Which? for solar panels on the roof of a house, they assume just under 10% of capacity. Another site, Wind and Sun UK, say

1 kWp of well sited PV array in the UK will produce 700-800 kWh of electricity per year.

That is around 8-9.5% of capacity. Even considering the technological superiority of the project and the climatic differences, three times is a bit steep, although 12.5% (40% of 31%) is very low. From Marketwatch some of the difference is can be explained by

  • Complex equipment constantly breaking down
  • Optimization of complex new technologies
  • Steam pipes leaking due to vibrations
  • Generating the initial steam takes longer than expected
  • It is cloudier than expected

However, even all of this cannot account for the output only being at 40% of expected. With the strong sun of the desert I would expect daily output to never exceed 40% of theoretical, as it is only daylight for 50% of the time, and just after sunrise and before sunset the sun is less strong than at midday. As well as the teething problems with complex technology, it appears that the engineers were over optimistic. A lack of due diligence in appraising the scheme – a factor common to many large scale Government backed initiatives – will have let the engineers have the finance for a fully scaled-up version of what should have been a small-scale project to prove the technology.

 

ATTP on Lomborg’s Australian Funding

Blogger …and then there’s physics (ATTP) joins in the hullabaloo about Bjorn Lomberg’s Lomborg’s Consensus Centre is getting A$4m of funding to set up a branch at the University of Western Australia. He says

However, ignoring that Lomborg appears to have a rather tenuous grasp on the basics of climate science, my main issue with what he says is its simplicity. Take all the problems in the world, determine some kind of priority ordering, and then start at the top and work your way down – climate change, obviously, being well down the list. It’s as if Lomborg doesn’t realise that the world is a complex place and that many of the problems we face are related. We can’t necessarily solve something if we don’t also try to address many of the other issues at the same time. It’s this kind of simplistic linear thinking – and that some seem to take it seriously – that irritates me most.

The comment about climatology is just a lead in. ATTP is expressing a normative view about the interrelationship of problems, along with beliefs about the solution. What he is rejecting as simplistic is the method of identifying the interrelated issues separately, understanding the relative size of the problems along with the effectiveness and availability of possible solutions and then prioritizing them.

This this errant notion is exacerbated when ATTP implies that Lomborg has received the funding. Lomborg heads up the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and it is they who have received the funding to set up a branch in Australia. This description is from their website

We work with some of the world’s top economists (including 7 Nobel Laureates) to research and publish the smartest solutions to global challenges. Through social, economic and environmental benefit-cost research, we show policymakers and philanthropists how to do the most good for each dollar spent.

It is about bringing together some of the best minds available to understand the problems of the world. It is then to persuade those who are able to do something about the issues. It is not Lomborg’s personal views that are present here, but people with different views and from different specialisms coming together to argue and debate. Anyone who has properly studied economics will soon learn that there are a whole range of different views, many of them plausible. Some glimpse that economic systems are highly interrelated in ways that cannot be remotely specified, leading to the conclusion that any attempt to create a computer model of an economic system will be a highly distorted simplification. At a more basic level they will have learnt that in the real world there are 200 separate countries, all with different priorities. In many there is a whole range of different voiced opinions about what the priorities should be at national, regional and local levels. To address all these interrelated issues together would require the modeller of be omniscient and omnipresent. To actually enact the modeller’s preferred policies over seven billion people would require a level of omnipotence that Stalin could only dream of.

This lack of understanding of economics and policy making is symptomatic of those who believe in climate science. They fail to realize that models are only an attempted abstraction of the real world. Academic economists have long recognized the abstract nature of the subject along with the presence of strong beliefs about the subject. As a result, in the last century many drew upon the rapidly developing philosophy of science to distinguish whether theories were imparting knowledge about the world or confirming beliefs. The most influential by some distance was Milton Friedman. In his seminal essay The Methodology of Positive Economics he suggested the way round this problem was to develop bold yet simple predictions from the theory that, despite being unlikely, are nevertheless come true. I would suggest that you do not need to be too dogmatic in the application. The bold predictions do not need to be right 100% of the time, but an entire research programme should be establishing a good track record over a sustained period. In climatology the bold predictions, that would show a large and increasing problem, have been almost uniformly wrong. For instance:-

  • The rate of melting of the polar ice caps has not accelerated.
  • The rate of sea level rise has not accelerated in the era of satellite measurements.
  • Arctic sea ice did not disappear in the summer of 2013.
  • Hurricanes did not get worse following Katrina. Instead there followed the quietest period on record.
  • Snow has not become a thing of the past in England, nor in Germany.

Other examples have been compiled by Pierre Gosselin at Notrickszone, as part of his list of climate scandals.

Maybe it is different in climatology. The standard response is that the reliability of the models is based on the strength of the consensus in support. This view is not proclaimed by ATTP. Instead from the name it would appear he believes the reliability can be obtained from the basic physics. I have not done any physics since high school and have forgotten most of what I learnt. So in discerning what is reality in that area I have to rely on the opinions of physicists themselves. One of the greatest physicists since Einstein was Richard Feynman. He said fifty years ago in a lecture on the Scientific Method

You cannot prove a vague theory wrong. If the guess that you make is poorly expressed and the method you have for computing the consequences is a little vague then ….. you see that the theory is good as it can’t be proved wrong. If the process of computing the consequences is indefinite, then with a little skill any experimental result can be made to look like an expected consequence.

Climate models, like economic models, will always be vague. This is not due to being poorly expressed (though they often are) but due to the nature of the subject. Short of rejecting climate models as utter nonsense, I would suggest the major way of evaluating whether they say something distinctive about the real world is on the predictive ability. But a consequence of theories always being vague in both economics and climate is you will not be able to use the models as a forecasting tool. As Freeman Dyson (who narrowly missed sharing a Nobel Prize with Feynman) recently said of climate models:-

These climate models are excellent tools for understanding climate, but that they are very bad tools for predicting climate. The reason is simple – that they are models which have very few of the factors that may be important, so you can vary one thing at a time ……. to see what happens – particularly carbon dioxide. But there are a whole lot of things that they leave out. ….. The real world is far more complicated than the models.

This implies that when ATTP is criticizing somebody else’s work with a simple model, or a third person’s work, he is likely criticizing them for looking at a highly complex issue in another way. Whether his way is better, worse or just different we have no way of knowing. All we can infer from his total rejection of ideas of experts in a field to which he lacks even a basic understanding, is that he has no basis of knowing either.

To be fair, I have not looked at the earlier part of ATTP’s article. For instance he says:-

If you want to read a defense of Lomborg, you could read Roger Pielke Jr’s. Roger’s article makes the perfectly reasonable suggestion that we shouldn’t demonise academics, but fails to acknowledge that Lomborg is not an academic by any standard definition…….

The place to look for a “standard definition” of a word is a dictionary. The noun definitions are

noun

8. a student or teacher at a college or university.

9. a person who is academic in background, attitudes, methods, etc.:

He was by temperament an academic, concerned with books and the arts.

10. (initial capital letter) a person who supports or advocates the Platonic school of philosophy.

This is Bjorn Lomborg’s biography from the Copenhagen Consensus website:-

Dr. Bjorn Lomborg is Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and Adjunct Professor at University of Western Australia and Visiting Professor at Copenhagen Business School. He researches the smartest ways to help the world, for which he was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. His numerous books include The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cool It, How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place and The Nobel Laureates’ Guide to the Smartest Targets for the World 2016-2030.

Lomborg meets both definitions 8 & 9, which seem to be pretty standard. Like with John Cook and William Connolley defining the word sceptic, it would appear that ATTP rejects the authority of those who write the dictionary. Or more accurately does not even to bother to look. Like with rejecting the authority of those who understand economics it suggests ATTP uses the authority of his own dogmatic beliefs as the standard by which to evaluate others.

Kevin Marshall

DECC’s Dumb Global Calculator Model

On the 28th January 2015, the DECC launched a new policy emissions tool, so everyone can design policies to save the world from dangerous climate change. I thought I would try it out. By simply changing the parameters one-by-one, I found that the model is both massively over-sensitive to small changes in input parameters and is based on British data. From the model, it is possible to entirely eliminate CO2 emissions by 2100 by a combination of three things – reducing the percentage travel in urban areas by car from 43% to 29%; reducing the average size of homes to 95m2 from 110m2 today; and for everyone to go vegetarian.

The DECC website says

Cutting carbon emissions to limit global temperatures to a 2°C rise can be achieved while improving living standards, a new online tool shows.

The world can eat well, travel more, live in more comfortable homes, and meet international carbon reduction commitments according to the Global Calculator tool, a project led by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change and co-funded by Climate-KIC.

Built in collaboration with a number of international organisations from US, China, India and Europe, the calculator is an interactive tool for businesses, NGOs and governments to consider the options for cutting carbon emissions and the trade-offs for energy and land use to 2050.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said:

“For the first time this Global Calculator shows that everyone in the world can prosper while limiting global temperature rises to 2°C, preventing the most serious impacts of climate change.

“Yet the calculator is also very clear that we must act now to change how we use and generate energy and how we use our land if we are going to achieve this green growth.

“The UK is leading on climate change both at home and abroad. Britain’s global calculator can help the world’s crucial climate debate this year. Along with the many country-based 2050 calculators we pioneered, we are working hard to demonstrate to the global family that climate action benefits people.”

Upon entering the calculator I was presented with some default settings. Starting from a baseline emissions in 2011 of 49.9 GT/CO2e, this would give predicted emissions of 48.5 GT/CO2e in 2050 and 47.9 GT/CO2e in 2100 – virtually unchanged. Cumulative emissions to 2100 would be 5248 GT/CO2e, compared with 3010 GT/CO2e target to give a 50% chance of limiting warming to a 2°C rise. So the game is on to save the world.

I only dealt with the TRAVEL, HOMES and DIET sections on the left.

I went through each of the parameters, noting the results and then resetting back to the baseline.

The TRAVEL section seems to be based on British data, and concentrated on urban people. Extrapolating for the rest of the world seems a bit of a stretch, particularly when over 80% of the world is poorer. I was struck first by changing the mode of travel. If car usage in urban areas fell from 43% to 29%, global emissions from all sources in 2050 would be 13% lower. If car usage in urban areas increased from 43% to 65%, global emissions from all sources in 2050 would be 7% higher. The proportions are wrong (-14% gives -13%, but +22% gives +7%) along with urban travel being too high a proportion of global emissions.

The HOMES section has similar anomalies. Reducing the average home area by 2050 to 95m2 from 110m2 today reduces total global emissions in 2050 by 20%. Independently decreasing average urban house temperature in 2050 from 17oC in Winter & 27oC in Summer, instead of 20oC & 24oC reduces total global emissions in 2050 by 7%. Both seem to be based on British-based data, and highly implausible in a global context.

In the DIET section things get really silly. Cutting the average calorie consumption globally by 10% reduces total global emissions in 2050 by 7%. I never realised that saving the planet required some literal belt tightening. Then we move onto meat consumption. The baseline for 2050 is 220 Kcal per person per day, against the current European average of 281 Kcal. Reducing that to 14 Kcal reduces global emissions from all sources in 2050 by 73%. Alternatively, plugging in the “worst case” 281 Kcal, increases global emissions from all sources in 2050 by 71%. That is, if the world becomes as carnivorous in 2050 as the average European in 2011, global emissions from all sources at 82.7 GT/CO2e will be over six times higher the 13.0 GT/CO2e. For comparison, OECD and Chinese emissions from fossil fuels in 2013 were respectively 10.7 and 10.0 GT/CO2e. It seems it will be nut cutlets all round at the climate talks in Paris later this year. No need for China, India and Germany to scrap all their shiny new coal-fired power stations.

Below is the before and after of the increase in meat consumption.

Things get really interesting if I take the three most sensitive, yet independent, scenarios together. That is, reducing urban car use from 43% to 29% of journeys in 2050; reducing the average home area by 2050 to 95m2 from 110m2; and effectively making a sirloin steak (medium rare) and venison in redcurrant sauce things of the past. Adding them together gives global emissions of -2.8 GT/CO2e in 2050 and -7.1 GT/CO2e in 2100, with cumulative emissions to 2100 of 2111 GT/CO2e. The model does have some combination effect. It gives global emissions of 3.2 GT/CO2e in 2050 and -0.2 GT/CO2e in 2100, with cumulative emissions to 2100 of 2453 GT/CO2e. Below is the screenshot of the combined elements, along with a full table of my results.

It might be great to laugh at the DECC for not sense-checking the outputs of its glitzy bit of software. But it concerns me that it is more than likely the same people who are responsible for this nonsense are also responsible for the glossy plans to cut Britain’s emissions by 80% by 2050 without destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs; eviscerating the countryside; and reducing living standards, especially of the poor. Independent and critical review and audit of DECC output is long overdue.

Kevin Marshall

 

A spreadsheet model is also available, but I used the online tool, with its’ excellent graphics. The calculator is built by a number of organisations.

Why no country should sign up to Climate Mitigation at Paris 2015

The blog “the eco experts“, has produced a map of the countries most likely to survive climate change.

The most populous country with a high risk is India. In fact it has more people than the 50+ nations of Africa, or nearly twice the population of the OECD – the rich nations club. It is determined not to constrain the rapid growth in emissions if it means sacrificing the rapid economic growth that is pulling people out of poverty. Is this sensible when rapidly increasing its emissions create the prospect of dangerous climate change?

Look at the pattern of vulnerability.

Why is Mongolia more vulnerable than Russia or China?

Why is Haiti more vulnerable than Guatemala & El Salvador, which in turn are more vulnerable than Mexico, which in turn is more vulnerable than the USA?

Why are Syria and Iraq more vulnerable than Iran, which in turn is more vulnerable than Saudi Arabia, which is in turn more vulnerable than the UAE?

Why is Madagascar more vulnerable than Tanzania, which in turn is more vulnerable than South Africa, which is in turn more vulnerable than Botswana?

The answer does not lie in the local climate system but in the level of economic development. As with natural extreme weather events, any adverse consequences of climate change will impact on the poorest disproportionately.

In the light of this, should India

  1. Agree to sacrifice economic growth to constrain emissions, having a significant impact on global emissions and maybe encouraging others to do likewise?

    OR

  2. Continue with the high economic growth (and hence emission growth) strategy knowing that if catastrophic climate change is real the population will be better able to cope with it, and if inconsequential they will have sacrificed future generations to a trivial problem?

    OR

  3. Continue with the high economic growth (and hence emission growth) strategy and invest in more accurately identifying the nature and extent of climate change?

Now consider that any Government should be first and foremost responsible for the people of that country. If that can be best progressed by international agreements (such as in trade and keeping global peace) then it is the interests of that country to enter those agreements, and encourage other nations to do likewise. Global peace and globalisation are win-win strategies. But climate change is fundamentally different. It is a prospective future problem, the prospective harms from which are here clearly linked to stage of economic development. Combating the future problem means incurring costs, the biggest of which is economic growth. Technologically, there low-cost solutions are in place, and there is no example of any country aggressively weeding out ineffectual policies. Even if there were effective policies in in theory, for costs to exceed benefits would mean every major country either drastically cutting emissions (e.g. the OECD, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa) or drastically constraining future emissions growth (India, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, plus dozens of other countries). If some countries fail to sign up then policy countries will be burdened with the certain actual costs of policy AND any residual possible costs of policy. Responsible countries will duck the issue, and, behind the scenes, help scupper the climate talks in Paris 2015.

Kevin Marshall

Veritasium Misinforms on Global Warming

Bishop Hill posts on a You-tube video “13 Misconceptions About Global Warming” from Veritasium (Dr Derek Muller), inviting readers to play a sort of bingo to “spot all the strawmen arguments, cherrypicking, out of date data, and plain old mistakes”. Here is my attempt, restricted to just 13 points.

  1. “Global warming” / “climate change” naming. It might be true that people can deny global warming by pointing to a localized cold weather snap. But it is also true that using the term “climate change” can result in any unusual weather event or short-term trend being blamed on anthropogenic global warming, along with natural global fluctuations. The term “global warming” reminds us that the adverse effects on climate are as a result of rising greenhouse gas levels warming the atmosphere. More importantly the use of the term “global” reminds us those changes in climate due to changes in greenhouse gases is a global issue requiring global solutions. Any mitigation policy that excludes 80% of the global population and two-thirds of global carbon emissions, will not work.

     

  2. Veritasium claims climate change is also about more extreme weather and ocean acidification, not just the average surface temperature is warming. But there is nothing in the greenhouse gas hypothesis that says a rise in temperatures will result in more extreme weather, nor does Veritasium provide the evidence of this happening. At Wattupwiththat there is a page that demonstrates weather is not getting more extreme from a number of different measures.

     

  3. Claim that it has not stopped warming as 13 of the 14 hottest years are in this century. This is a strawman, as there was significant warming in the last quarter of the twentieth century. We would only fail to have hottest years if global average temperatures had taken a sharp step decrease.

     

  4. Claims that taking the satellite data of global temperature anomalies into account shows that warming has not stopped. From Kevin Cowtan’s page (copied by Skeptical Science) we can calculate linear trends. It is the RSS satellite data that shows the longest period of no warming – 18 years from 1997-2014 based on the linear trend. It is just 13 years for GISTEMP and 14 years for HADCRUT4. The other satellite data is UAH, where there is just 6 years of no warming.

     

     

  5. What he is doing is comparing UAH satellite data that only shows the pause from 2009. There is now 35 years of satellite data, with the total recorded trend of 0.48oC. The RSS data shows 0.51oC of warming. The surface thermometer measures vary between 0.59 and 0.63 oC of warming. This is data cherry-picking.

     

  6. There is a claim that climate sensitivity is lower than thought in the 1980s. Not according to Nicholas Lewis, who found that the range of sensitivities is unchanged from the Charney Report 1979 through to AR5 WG1 of Sept-13

     

  7. Claims the central estimate for warming from a doubling of CO2 is 3.0oC of warming. Based on this from 2001 from HADCRUT4 shows no warming there would be 0.30oC of warming, when the trend from HADCRUT4 is zero. In a longer period from 1979 for which we have satellite data, an increase in CO2 from 336.8 to 398.5 ppm (Mauna Loa data) implies an increase in temperatures of 0.72oC – between 1.14 on 1.5 times greater than that measured by the temperature series. Even this is misleading, as there was no warming from 1944 to the late 1970s. In 1944 I estimate that CO2 levels were 308ppm, indicating a total warming in the last 70 years of 1.1oC, respectively 1.7 and 2.1 times greater than the trend in GISTEMP and HADCRUT4.

     

  8. This would appear to contradict this graph, which has no proper labelling showing have 3.0oC of doubling affects temperatures.

    Specifically from 1958 to 1980 CO2 rose from 315 to 339ppm, indicating warming of about 0.31 oC, but there was no warming in the IPCC projections. A rise in CO2 of 315 to 398.5 ppm from 1958 to 2014 would predict 1.0 oC in warming, almost double the actual data and the IPCC projections. Another point is with the “observed temperature”. It is not identified (probably GISTEMP) and ends on the high of 2010.

     

  9. Completely ignores the other greenhouse gases that contribute to warming, such as methane and halocarbons.

     

  10. Claims that sea level rise is another indication of global warming, through thermal expansion. This is not necessarily the case. The average temperature of the ocean is 3.9oC. A rise of to 4.0 oC will have zero expansion. If the rise in sea temperatures is confined to the Arctic or in the deep oceans where temperatures are below 4.0 oC, a rise in temperatures would mean a fall in sea levels. Below I have compiled a graph to show the expansion of a 100metre column of water by 0.1 oC from various starting temperatures.

     

  11. On Arctic Sea ice, is correct in saying that the 40% uptick in the last two years ignores the longer period of data. But in turn, Veritasium ignores evidence pre-satellites that were fluctuations in sea ice. Further, the uptick occurred at precisely the year when previous experts had predicted that summer sea ice cover would disappear. As a consequence, contraction of the sea ice is both less severe and less likely to be linked to human-caused warming than previously thought.

     

  12. Correctly points out that water vapour is the major greenhouse gas, but incorrectly claims to have evidence that water vapour is increasing in the atmosphere. The evidence is from a graphic from a 2007 PNAS paper.

    The evidence from 1900 is the average of 12 models. The confidence intervals are utter rubbish, appearing to be related to the magnitude of the average modelled anomaly. The actual (estimated) data in black does not have a confidence interval. It would appear that this estimated data has a step increase at roughly the time, or slightly before, when the warming stopped in the surface temperature records.

     

  13. Policy justification is totally wrong.

Veritasium says at 5.35

I’m not claiming it’s going to be some sort of crazy catastrophe, but we are going to get more intense storms, more droughts and floods, the oceans will become more acidic, sea levels will rise and my point is it would be better for all species on this planet and probably cheaper for us if we just started reducing emissions now than if we wait and pay the consequences later.

Every economic justification of policy projects “some sort of crazy catastrophe” that human being and other species will not be able to adapt to. Further they project that global emissions reductions will be both effective and relatively costless, which is contradicted by the evidence. But most of all, there is no political proposal in the climate talks that will reduce global emissions in the next twenty years. The proposals may only constrain the rate of increase.

Kevin Marshall

Have 250.000 Spanish jobs been sacrificed for the folly of saving the planet?

Spain is one of the leading countries in Europe for Renewables. In 2013 output broke new records, with renewables accounting for 21.1% of Spanish electricity demand, with wind and hydroelectric power production increasing by 12% and 16%, respectively on 2012.

This is to the detriment of the Spanish economy for three financial reasons.

First is the huge amount now likely being spent on wind power subsidies. In 2013 output from wind farms was about 54GWh, or 12% higher than the 48.5GWh produced in 2012. Assuming an average subsidy of €54MWh (the rate for onshore wind turbines in the UK) that would be €2.9billion in subsidies.

Second, there is the huge amount now likely being spent on solar power. Spain is home to the massive Anadasol Solar Power Station. The three sections are expected to produce 495GWh per year, which at 38% of capacity seems a tad high. This will have a guaranteed price of €270 per megawatt. In the UK, the wholesale price is about £45 or €60 a megawatt. The excess cost (or subsidy) is therefore €210MWh, or €100million a year. At this rate, the total 8.2GWh produced by photovoltaics would have attracted a subsidy of €1.7bn in subsidies.

The combined estimated subsidy is worth €4.6bn is equivalent to 0.3% of GDP. Total subsidies are likely to be much more.

Third is the disastrous foray in solar panels lead to huge amounts of investments in solar schemes. In 2008 there were an estimated 30,000 jobs supported in the boom years. These jobs disappeared with the bust. With this sudden boom, caused by extremely generous subsidies, the quality of the panels was poor and overpriced. Many investors would not have got their money back even if the subsidies had remained. Now they will be saddled in debt, with no income. These borrowing were often state-backed. According to Bloomberg this fund was €24bn at the end of 2011. If some of this has to be written off, then there could be a material impact on deficit reduction plans, and thus the levels of unemployment. Government backing loss-making projects costs jobs.

This claim can be cross-checked. In the same Bloomberg article the Renewable Energy Producers Association (Asociación de productores de energías renovables or APPA) was quoted as saying that the renewables industry sustains about 110,000 Spanish jobs. In 2011 Verso Economics, a Kirkcaldy-based outfit, wrote a report about the effect of renewables jobs in Scotland and the impact on the wider UK. Whilst the report found that the jobs in renewables were largely neutral with Scotland – one job lost in the wider economy for each gained in renewables – in the wider UK economy for each job gained in Scottish renewables 3.7 jobs were lost in the wider UK economy. (report here, and reported at Caledonian Mercury, BBC and Scottish Sceptic) If this were replicated in Spain, the net impact of 110,000 jobs in renewables would be 400,000 jobs less jobs in the wider Spanish economy. Without renewables more than 250,000 people could be in work, or over 1% of the labor force.

Why I call Spain’s attempt to save the planet a folly, are the same reasons for calling Britain’s attempts a folly. Any emissions reductions in Europe will be more than offset by many times over from the emerging economies elsewhere. In reducing emissions, Spain will increase unemployment and reduce growth. But future generations will still bear over 80% of any consequences of warming than if no rich country did anything. In the current situation, I believe that a lot of Spanish people might object to their country being called “rich” anyway.

Update 20/11/14 – minor editing.

Spending Money on Foreign Aid instead of Renewables

On the Discussion at BishopHill, commentator Raff asked people whether the $1.7 trillion spent so far on renewables should have been spent on foreign aid instead. This is an extended version of my reply.

The money spent on renewables has been net harmful by any measure. It has not only failed to even dent global emissions growth, it will also fail even if the elusive global agreement is reached as the country targets do not stack up. So the people of the emissions-reducing countries will bear both the cost of those policies and practically all the costs of the unabated warming as well. The costs of those policies have been well above anything justified in the likes of the Stern Review. There are plenty of British examples at Bishop Hill of costs being higher than expected and (often) solutions being much less effective than planned from Wind, solar, CCS, power transmission, domestic energy saving etc. Consequences have been to create a new category of poverty and make our energy supplies less secure. In Spain the squandering of money has been proportionately greater and likely made a significant impact of the severity of the economic depression.1

The initial justification for foreign aid came out of the Harrod and Domar growth models. Lack of economic growth was due to lack of investment, and poor countries cannot get finance for that necessary investment. Foreign Aid, by bridging the “financing gap“, would create the desired rate of economic growth. William Easterly looked at 40 years of data in his 2002 book “The Elusive Quest for Growth“. Out of over 80 countries, he could find just one – Tunisia – where foreign aid conformed to the theory. That is where increased aid was followed by increased investment which was followed by increased growth. There were plenty examples of where countries received huge amounts of aid relative to GDP over decades and their economies shrank. Easterly graphically confirmed what the late Peter Bauer said over thirty years ago – “Official aid is more likely to retard development than to promote it.

In both constraining CO2 emissions and Foreign Aid the evidence shows that the pursuit of these policies is not just useless, but possibly net harmful. An analogy could be made with a doctor who continues to pursue courses of treatment when the evidence shows that the treatment not only does not work, but has known and harmful side effects. In medicine it is accepted that new treatments should be rigorously tested, and results challenged, before being applied. But a challenge to that doctor’s opinion would be a challenge to his expert authority and moral integrity. In constraining CO2 emissions and promoting foreign aid it is even more so.

Notes

  1. The rationale behind this claim is explored in a separate posting.

Kevin Marshall

The Climate Policy Issue Crystallized

There is a huge amount of nonsense made about how the rich industrialized countries need to cut carbon emissions to save the world from catastrophic global warming. Just about every climate activist group is gearing up to Paris 2015 where at last they feel that world agreement will be reach on restraining the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. Barak Obama will be pushing for a monumental deal in the dying days of his Presidency. There is a graphic that points out, whatever agreement is signed attempts to cut global emissions will be a monumental failure. It comes from the blandly named “Trends in global CO2 emissions: 2013 report” from the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. In the interactive presentation, there is a comparison between the industrialised countries in 1990 and 2012.


In over two decades the emissions of the industrialised countries have fallen slightly, almost entirely due to the large falls in emission in the ex-Warsaw Pact countries consequent on the collapse in the energy-inefficient communist system. In the countries formerly known as the “First World” the emissions have stayed roughly the same. It is the developing countries that account for more than 100% of the emissions increase since 1990. Two-thirds of the entire increase is accounted for by China where in less than a generation emissions quadrupled. Yet still China has half the emissions per capita of United States, Australia or Canada. It emissions growth will slow and stop in the next couple of decades, not because population will peak, or because of any agreement to stop emissions growth. China’s emissions will peak, like with other developed countries, as heavy industry shifts abroad and the country becomes more energy efficient. In the next 30-40 years India is likely to contribute more towards global emissions growth than China. But the “remaining developing countries” is the real elephant in the room. It includes 1050 million people in Africa (excluding South Africa); 185m in South America (excluding Brazil); 182m in Pakistan; 167m in Bangladesh, 98m in Philippines and 90m in Vietnam. The is over 2000 million people, or 30% of the global population that do not currently register on the global emissions scale, but by mid-century could have emissions equivalent to half of the 1990 global emissions. To the end of the century most of the global population increase will be in these countries. As half the countries of the world are in this group any attempt to undermine their potential economic growth through capping emissions would derail any chance of a global agreement.

Hattip Michel of trustyetverify

Kevin Marshall

Ivanpah 392MW Solar Plant a green energy failure even at the planning stage

The Hockey Schtick blog specializes in summarizing scientific papers that have a sceptical leaning. A couple of days ago it posted about the World’s largest solar energy plant applying for a $539million federal grant to help pay off a $1.5 billion federal loan. The Ivanpah solar electric generating plant is owned by Google and renewable energy giant NRG. Google can certainly afford to bear these loses. At the end of 2013 its accounts state that it had Cash, Cash Equivalents & Marketable Securities of $58,717million, $10,000million than the year before.

Technologically the Ivanpah plant sounds impressive. Problem is that in it’s first year of operation it produced one quarter of the projected electricity. As a minor consequence, it was projected to scorch 1,000 birds a year. Instead it is 28,000 in the first year. A three minute summary is at Fox News.

But even at the planning stage there was either no proper business plan presented, or at least no proper scrutiny like a bank would do when making a loan. 1065,000 MWh annually from a 392 MW nameplate is a planned output of 31% of capacity. Even accepting that figure, a $2bn investment with a 20 year payback (zero discount rate) is still nearly $100 MWh. A 10 year payback is much more reasonable. Add maintenance and operating costs easily gets to $200 MWh. A small utility company in Wisconsin buys in extra electricity for $30 MWh. So the planned cost was 6-7 times the wholesale price of electricity.

Maybe this was justified in saving the planet?

The AR4 synthesis report of 2007* said that peer-reviewed estimates of the social costs of carbon from averaged on 2005 $12 per tonne of CO2, but the range from 100 estimates is large (-$3 to $95/tCO2). If we take the bold assumption that the theoretic output of this plant would entirely replace the electricity from a typical coal-fired power station producing 900kg of CO2 per MWh, then the saving is $190t/CO2, or double the very top-end 2005 estimate, or 15 times the average estimate. For some reason, the Social Cost of Carbon is missing from the

Suppose the US was “really serious” about doing its bit to save the planet and tried to cut its CO2 emissions by 80%. In round figures, in 2013 that was 5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (source CDIAC). Using similar schemes, it would cost $760bn a year or 5% of 2013 GDP of $16.8trn. Remember, that is if similar schemes are successful. The Ivanpah solar plant does not look like a success.

 

* For some reason, the Social Cost of Carbon is missing from the AR5 Synthesis Report published on November 1st. I would guess the reason that it has fallen out of favour is that the marginal abatement costs are much larger than the highest estimates, and the cost of doing nothing per tonne of CO2 are about zero.

Kevin Marshall

BBC understates Cost of Climate Policy by 45 to 50 times

The UNIPCC has just finished a major meeting in Copenhagen to put finalize the wording of their AR5 Synthesis Report. BBC News Environment correspondent Matt McGrath said

The IPCC says that the cost of taking action to keep the rise in temperature under 2 degrees C over the next 76 years will cost about 0.06% of GDP every year.

Over the same period, world GDP is expected to grow at least 300%

The figure of 0.06% of GDP (strictly Gross World Product) seemed a bit low. So I looked up the source of this quote.

The Synthesis Report states on pages 116-117

Estimates of the aggregate economic costs of mitigation vary widely depending on methodologies and assumptions, but increase with the stringency of mitigation (high confidence). Scenarios in which all countries of the world begin mitigation immediately, in which there is a single global carbon price, and in which all key technologies are available, have been used as a cost-effective benchmark for estimating macroeconomic mitigation costs. (Figure 3.4). Under these assumptions, mitigation scenarios that are likely to limit warming to below 2 °C through the 21st century relative to pre-industrial levels entail losses in global consumption —not including benefits of reduced climate change (3.2) as well as co-benefits and adverse side-effects of mitigation (3.5, 4.3) — of 1% to 4% (median: 1.7%) in 2030, 2% to 6% (median: 3.4%) in 2050, and 3% to 11% (median: 4.8%) in 2100, relative to consumption in baseline scenarios that grows anywhere from 300% to more than 900% over the century. These numbers correspond to an annualized reduction of consumption growth by 0.04 to 0.14 (median: 0.06) percentage points over the century relative to annualized consumption growth in the baseline that is between 1.6% and 3% per year.

Matt McGarth (or a press officer) has wrongly assumed that 0.06% of GDP is the reduction in output, whereas the Synthesis Report talks about a reduction in growth rate. At any rate of growth, the impact of .06% reduction in growth rates will mean output in 2100 will be 4.8% lower. We can put a monetary impact on this through to 2090. The World Bank estimates global output was $74,910 billion in 2013. To keep the figures simple I will assume that 2014 will be $75,000 bn. The figures are below for 2090.

With 1.94% growth global output in 2090 will be $323,038bn, about $14,774bn less than if there was 2% growth. Cumulatively a 0.06% reduction in growth would be $369,901bn. But a cost of 0.06% each year of global output, with 2% growth is a mere $8,087bn. Misstatement of the UNIPCC’s position understates the cumulative cost by 45.7 times.

Similarly, with 2.94% growth global output in 2090 will be $678,356bn, about $30,716bn less than if there was 3% growth. Cumulatively a 0.06% reduction in growth would be $644,144bn. But a cost of 0.06% each year of global output, with 3% growth is a mere $13,107bn. Misstatement of the UNIPCC’s position understates the cumulative cost by 49.1 times.

The BBC or the UNIPCC needs to issue a correction. The UNIPCC have at last recognized that policy will effect economic growth. It is way too low, particularly for the high-policy countries who are put at an economic disadvantage relative to those countries without policies. Now they need to also look at the additional estimated costs of low carbon energy, along with the hidden costs of regulation and failed policies.

Thanks to Joanne Nova for highlighting the quote.

Kevin Marshall

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