Safe Energy – MUSE for No Nukes

Safe Energy – MUSE for No Nukes

nuclear plant workersBy John Addison (updated 8/10/11; original 8/5/11)

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake then tsunami triggered escaping radiation from nuclear reactors near millions of people in Japan.

On Sunday, August 7, a group of the world’s greatest musicians performed an inspiring benefit concert to support disaster relief in Japan. Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Jason Mraz, The Doobie Brothers, Tom Morello, John Hall, Kitaro, Jonathan Wilson,  and Sweet Honey in the Rock sang on behalf of  Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE). Music video links and breaking news are available at NukeFree.Org.

I was mesmerized by the music, the soaring harmonies of veteran cosmic rockers and new voices, and a dazzling performance powered with little grid energy. The Shoreline Amphitheatre concert stage was powered by an integrated system of SunPower solar PV in mobile SunPod modules, biodiesel gensets, mobile batteries, and WindTronics wind turbines. The energy-saving GRNLite LED lighting rig for the show has been donated by Bandit Lites, and Schubert Systems has donated the sound rig.

“The disaster in Fukushima is not only a disaster for Japan. It is a global disaster. We come together now across cultural boundaries, political and generational boundaries, to call for changes in the way we use energy, and in the ways we conduct the search for solutions to the problems facing humanity,” says Jackson Browne. “We join with the people of Japan, and people everywhere who believe in a non-nuclear future.”

It was shortly after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan that the decision was made by MUSE to coordinate the benefit. We have all read the news about the radiation in Japanese drinking water, food, and children exposed in radiation contaminated schools (New York Times Article).  When these great artists meet press members including me before the concert, Bonnie Raitt said, “We all live downwind.”

These musicians are committed to making a difference. Graham Nash uses solar power. As a father of three he told me of his compassion for all of our children. Speaking of nuclear industry executives he asked, “How can they do this. They’ve got their own children.”

“This is another massive world energy disaster from which there will be long-term effects,” adds Jason Mraz. “I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing show that will not only help those in Japan, but that will also call attention to the urgent need to embrace safe, clean energy alternatives.” Jason lives only 20 miles downwind from the aging San Onofre reactors built on an earthquake fault. Jason uses solar power and even had a solar party to educate his neighbors including my 86-year old friend Vera who now uses solar.

For over 25 years, Jackson Browne has lived off-grid using solar and wind power. Jackson rides on sunlight, charging his Chevy Volt with his renewable energy.

Major Nations Phase Out Nuclear

Germany makes it the age of renewables and will be ending its use of nuclear power in 10 years. By 2022, the last German nuclear power plant will be closed down. After the disaster in Japan, Germany has already permanently closed 7 nuclear plants. Germany’s world leadership in energy efficiency, wind power, and solar power, make the end of nuclear by 2022 feasible.

Italy is also no nukes due to a referendum where 90 percent of Italian voters called for the end of nuclear power. Italy is also showing strong leadership in solar power.

Reuters reports: “Japan, the world’s third-biggest nuclear power user, has only 16 of its 54 reactors on line, supplying less than a third of the total commercial nuclear generating capacity of 48,960 megawatts. The share of nuclear power in Japan’s power supply tumbled to about 18 percent in June from about 30 percent before the disasters struck.” Upgrading buildings and homes in Japan to LED and other energy efficient lighting would eliminate the need for those 16 reactors.

Most problematic in Japan are nuclear plants that are over 30 years old. Such dangers should give us pause in the United States where over 100 plants were built pre-1977 with 40-year target lives. 59 of those plants have had their licenses extended to 60 years. The nuclear industry has campaigned to stretch these to 80-year licenses.  In almost all cases, like Japan, the spent rods are stored onsite in U.S. plants. Some U.S. reactors are located near major earthquake faults.

The new generation of reactors are designed to be safer. Unlike wind and solar, nuclear provides electricity 24/7. Contrary to a common perception, nuclear is not as clean as renewable energy. The nuclear industry admits that the lifecycle greenhouse emissions from a nuclear plant are roughly equal to a natural gas plant, due to building with cement, mining, and spent fuel management. Promising innovation is occurring in small nuclear reactors, waste processing and the perpetual dream of fusion. But the industry constantly fails to meet commitments of being safe and cost-effective without government subsidy. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to new nukes in the U.S. is that financing requires taxpayer guarantees, taxpayers to insure the plants, and taxpayers on the line for future disasters.

It is no wonder that many Europeans have insisted on the phase-out of nuclear power after Chernobyl radiation spread to Europe, contaminating food and water. The cancer deaths from radiation exposure haunt people, as do child birth defects.

From my childhood, I remember when the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the United States and Russia to the brink of nuclear war.  Students were drilled to duck under our desks in the event on an atomic bomb. Neighbors built bomb shelters. We lived in fear. The threat still exists today as we watch the tension between North and South Korea, between Pakistan and India, and the threat of Nuclear Terrorism. The mideast worries that Iran’s nuclear ambitions go beyond generating electricity. If they do, another defiicit-financed war in the mideast will be the least of our problems.

Coal is the Other Unsafe Fuel

It would be tragic, however, if the phase-out of nuclear power lead to an increase of coal power. More people die each year from coal-power related lung cancer, asthma, and heart attacks, than die from nuclear plant radiation. Coal power plants emit mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide.

Even worse is the methane escape from blowing-up mountain tops to feed our hunger for coal. Basic chemistry informs us that methane and CO2 accumulate in our atmosphere trapping heat. Climate models show that increased heat is threatening our food, our water, and our future. My 87-year old mother has been evacuated twice in recent years from wildfires that followed record draughts.

Although many in the fossil fuel industry now work behind the scenes to shutdown the EPA, or at least reduce their budget to make them ineffective, we actually need the EPA to increase its vigilance in protecting our health and future.

Fortunately, when new power plants are built, coal is rarely cost-effective in comparison to efficient natural gas power plants. In some parts of the world, coal cannot compete with renewable energy such as hydropower and wind power.

Safe Energy Meets All of Our Energy Needs

The good news is that we are moving to an energy future that is brighter and safer. Nations are moving from last century’s model of energy waste and unused capacity to this century’s model of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

In the United States, only about 52 percent of our generation capacity is used on average. We have build an ancient power system designed for all the air conditioners to run on the hottest afternoon in August. Now that smart grid technology including smart meters are being installed by the millions, utilities can deliver the right price signals and charge more when energy demand strains the system, and less energy is plentiful. Using software based intelligent energy management, corporations can run processes at the most cost effective time and we can wash our clothes at times when we can save money.

Energy efficiency (EE) is also lowering our need for coal and nuclear power. LEED buildings use of fraction of the energy of our worst structures. The new LED lights that shine over me as I write to you use 5 times less energy than the incandescent bulbs I formerly used.

The cleanest solutions to global warming, air pollution and energy security are wind, water, and solar power (WWS).  As Dr. Mark Jacobson walks me through the numbers of his, Dr. Mark Delucchi, and their teams’ multi-year study, the renewable energy solution stands out as the clear winner. Dr. Jacobson is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University and an advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wind power has been doubling in capacity about every three years. It’s now over 200 GW; in 3 years it will be over 400 GW. 36 U.S. states generate enough wind power to replace one or more coal or nuclear power plants.  U.S. wind grew 39 percent in recession year 2009. In a growing number of global locations from Hawaii to Denmark, wind is the least expensive way to generate power. Their WWS study includes both on-shore wind power, which is plentiful from Texas through the Dakotas, and offshore with enormous potential along our Pacific and Atlantic coasts and our Great Lakes.

Solar includes the photovoltaics that cover homes and the faster growing PV that covers commercial roofs. It also includes the grid-scale PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) that generates the equivalent power of a natural gas or coal plant. The water in WWS includes hydropower, our most widely used source of renewable energy, and geothermal power, which uses steam to drive turbines.  Water also includes emerging, wave and tidal power generation. Brilliant minds, breakthrough innovation, and billions of investment in companies that deliver more cost-effective renewables and energy efficiency.

WWS can meet all of our needs for electricity. WWS can also meet all of our need for heat and for transportation. VantagePoint Capital Partners provide venture capital and management guidance to innovative leaders in energy innovation and efficiency, such as BrightSource, Better Place, and Goldwind.  VantagePoint was the presenting sponsor of the MUSE Concert.

Safer Energy and Economic Growth

During the next ten years, we will see major nations make their people safer by shutting down their last nuclear power plant. Due to the innovation and progress in energy efficient lights and buildings and thanks to the high growth of renewable energy their nations will better meet all their power needs.

Within the next three decades, all the of our global energy demands can be achieved with zero coal and nuclear power as we replace massive waste with intelligent energy management, replace darkness with energy-efficient lighting, and replace mercury and nuclear poisoning of our children with the power of the sun and the wind.

Germany to Close Last Nuclear Power Plant in Ten Years

Germany to Close Last Nuclear Power Plant in Ten Years

German Government Cabinet Decision (6/6/11)

Energy Efficiency, Super Grid, 35 % Renewables by 2020

Germany is going to make it to the age of renewables and will be ending its use of nuclear power in 10 years. The decisions made by the Cabinet on June 6 have set the wheels in motion.

No later than the end of 2022 the last German nuclear power plant is to be closed down. The government is proposing to the parliament a clear and legally binding decision, with a precise step-by-step plan.

The seven nuclear power plants closed down after the disaster in Japan and the Krümmel nuclear power plant will remain closed. By the end of 2015 they will be joined by Grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant. By the end of 2017 Gundremmingen B too will be shut down and by the end of 2019 Philippsburg 2. No later than the end of 2021 Grohnde, Gundremmingen C and Brokdorf will close their doors and the three youngest plants Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2 will cease operating no later than the end of 2022.

With its Energy Strategy the German government is ensuring that energy supplies will not be interrupted, that the cost of power does not become prohibitive, that Germany remains an attractive place to do business, and that we meet our climate change mitigation targets.

Boosting energy efficiency is key to this, by using modern technologies to reduce electricity consumption or by refitting our buildings, which in any case raises their value. The aim is to make Germany one of the world’s most energy-efficient economies while retaining a high level of prosperity. Germany has the chance to become the first major industrialised country to have a highly efficient energy system, based on the use of renewables. We can become a pioneer and an example for the rest of the world, demonstrating how a sustainable shift to renewables can be managed while remaining economically successful. This way forward into a future that will not leave any further negative ecological legacy, and that does not involve any dependence on expensive imported energy opens up excellent new prospects for Germany, in terms of exports, jobs and growth.

Wind Power and Solar Power Expansion

Even without nuclear power we are sticking to our target of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2020 and by at least 80 percent by 2050 (taking 1990 as a base year). By 2020 power generated from solar power, wind power and other renewable sources is to account for a minimum of 35 percent of the total. Today they account for 17 percent.

The Renewable Energies Act remains the most important instrument for expanding the use of renewable energies. Wind power plays a central part. The German government aims to push ahead with harnessing wind power on land. Older turbines are to be replaced with more modern ones with a higher performance which makes them more environmentally friendly. Offshore plants in the North and Baltic Seas are to play an increasingly important role too. Hydro-power, photovoltaic systems, geothermal power and power generated from biomass round off the picture.

The amount paid by every electricity consumer to subsidise renewable energies is to remain unchanged at around 3.5 cent per KWh. Amounts paid for electricity generated from biomass will be reduced.  The German government also intends to support producers of electricity from renewable sources who do not pass this power on to network utilities, as is currently the case, but market it directly.

Germany will achieve its targets for expanding the use of renewables if plants can be planned and permits issued swiftly and without excessive red tape. The new Planning Acceleration Act will make it easier to build solar plants beside and on buildings.

If we close down nuclear power stations, other fuels will have to fill the gap in order to ensure the stability of the power network in the long term and to balance fluctuations in power generation. Importing nuclear power is not a viable option.

By 2013 new highly efficient gas- and coal-fired power stations that are already under construction should go online with a combined capacity of some 10 GW. By 2020 we will need the same again. A new Power Station Promotion Programme for small and medium-sized power generators will also help ensure secure supplies. The German government also intends to improve its promotion of combined heat and power units and continue this beyond 2016.

50 Reduction of Primary Energy Through Energy Efficiency

By 2050 we intend to cut our demand for primary energy sources by 50 percent. This will only be possible if we achieve massive energy savings and boost energy efficiency across the board.

40 percent of energy in Germany is used in the residential sector. The power used to heat our housing stock is to be cut by 20 percent by 2020. By 2050 buildings in Germany are to be practically climate-neutral, i.e. all the energy they need will be generated from renewable sources.

Today the German government already supports property owners and people building new properties to improve energy efficiency. To double the rate of efficiency measures, the government will top up the KfW’s Building Renovation Programme to 1.5 billion euros.  Energy modernisation measures are to be made partially tax-deductible (10 percent) to make them even more attractive.

The German government will make high energy efficiency criteria binding for new government facilities. Contracts will go only to contractors offering the highest possible efficiency category for goods and services.

Inefficient appliances must be taken off the market more rapidly, and highly efficient ones introduced more swiftly. Consumers must be able to see more easily how much energy each product consumes. The German government will be pushing for ambitious European standards for energy-consuming appliances.

6 Million Electric cars

By 2020 a minimum of one million electric cars are to be on German roads, and this figure is to rise to six million by 2030. Germany, the nation of car-lovers, is to become the leading producer of electric vehicles and the leading market for these. To this end the German government will double the funds it makes available for research and development to almost two billion euros by 2013. Anybody buying an electric vehicle is to enjoy several advantages: no vehicle tax for ten years, designated electric vehicle parking spaces with charging stations and permission to use bus lanes.

Super Grid, Smart Grid, Storage

Today, Germany’s electricity networks are not yet geared to the transport of power generated from renewables. The Network Expansion Acceleration Act will make it possible to lay new high-voltage lines more quickly, also across state boundaries. This will foster north-south transport, for instance. An amendment to the Energy Management Act will strengthen the foundations on which to build intelligent networks and storage systems, by improving the conditions for intelligent electricity meters, to give but one example.

Wind power and solar power and not constant sources of energy. If we are to guarantee reliable supplies we must be able to “park” power until it is needed. Modern storage options make this possible.  The federal government will be providing a total of up to 200 million euros for research and development in this field for an initial phase, scheduled to run until 2014.

New Report: United States Can Generate All Electricity with Wind, Water and Solar