Tuesday, 16 October 2012



One reader of my last blog wrote to me directly rather than commenting on the blogsite. I think the ensuing email conversation could be of wider interest.

           After posting my safety and cost concerns in regard to nuclear power it was pointed out to me that:

          …total deaths in the coal industry are in excess of 250,000,total deaths in the hydro industry in excess of 250,000, while total deaths from nuclear energy are less than 100. Your figure for "external costs" is sheer invention.  And sheer nonsense.

          To which I replied:
          Coal deaths:  all due to power stations?  Similarly hydro:  all due to generating stations?
My guess is mostly upstream of either – like mining and dam building (though coal can also be nasty downstream). Similarly, looking at upstream deaths of nuclear power stations, produced these sources within 5 minutes of Google search:

in the light of which the figure of 100 deaths for nuclear seems low by several orders of magnitude, which alone would also make the ‘external costs’ I quoted (from sources listed) probably too low.
Not to mention the downstream aftermaths and their costs.
But then I’m no expert, only a learning pundit of the very skeptical sort in relation to anything.

          Coal deaths largely due to mining.  Hydro largely dam bursts. I checked the Wikipedia piece -- it mentions risks of radon (now much reduced), but no indication of numbers that I could see.

         Wikipedia was one of thousands of search results which I could not immediately follow up on, but the other sources I quoted are more illuminating of uranium sourcing aftermaths.
The problem with radiation illnesses and deaths is very similar to the asbestos problem with which I was closely involved during an earlier post I held:  it took over thirty years to acknowledge the link between source and delayed deaths, and taking action.  At least one could remove asbestos as it is an inert material, harmless once encapsulated.  Tons of radioactive waste with half lives up to 2 million years just can’t be safely transported or stored, leaving unknown numbers of lingering deaths and genetic radiation damage over many generations unresolved.
My money remains on Clean Energy a la Hermann Scheer as the preferable option.  Seen on a world scale, it’s already the only option, if for water reasons alone (3.2 litres for every nuclear kWh…).

                    Not sure what Hermann Scheer had in mind, but currently available intermittent renewables contribute little or nothing (the inefficiencies of spinning reserve back-up eat up any contribution from renewable sources).  Cheers.

          Regarding your view on intermittent renewables: It depends how and by whom it’s done.  I have visited the town of Morbach four years ago where they quite happily live for the most part from municipally owned renewables.  Worth a visit (app.3 hours’ drive from Ostend), one of the early and most successful implementations of CivicEnergy, or 100% Energy Autonomy, as referred to elsewhere.  In Germany and Austria alone there are about 800+ municipalities that are  partly or close to achieving 100% Energy Autonomy (from smallest village to cities like Munich or whole regions, like Burgenland).  ‘CivicEnergy’ as a concept is introduced in my little ‘Ecotown’ eBook (a subset of my Sustainability Primer).  A worldwide inventory of 100% energy autonomy is available at http://www.go100percent.org/cms/index.php?id=3  (go 100% Map).  My cheers go in that direction.

          Thanks, but I still don't get it.  Civic Energy is a nice name, but what does it mean?  How do they generate it?

          Let me take that one by one:
          First, Clean Energy definition enclosed with an assessment of its importance by Thomas Friedman, followed by my definition of CivicEnergy:

         How do they generate it? 

          With CleanEnergy more specifically, with combinations of PV, wind, biomass (organic waste and forestry sources – the latter most pronounced in the Austrian wood pellet industry), and hydro, depending on local conditions. Biomass, producing methane driving generators for electricity, and pellets driving CHP plants producing elt. power as well as heat for e.g. district heating or pellet drying, or other local commercial or industrial heat requirements; in short, with a combination of any locally available clean energy sources.


          Although you didn’t ask that:  to provide cheapest possible energy locally produced, and to earn money for the community by selling surplus production; no money for energy is being paid  to others but kept in the community for civil infrastructure, education, commerce, industry, sport, recreation and not to forget: employment creation.
Two illustrations also enclosed may illustrate this:  Osterholz press release, and Wildpoldsried, a village of 2553 inhabitants [2008], with their energy consumption of 6.391MWh in comparison to their generation of 20,543MWh – obviously a profitable business for the whole municipality. A more detailed description can be found at http://wakeup-world.com/2012/07/03/german-town-produces-321-more-energy-than-it-needs/ .

For the larger picture I would like to quote:

“Decentralization in this sense serves to balance society's living standards. Imagine a region with a population of 1 million, all of whom are currently supplied with energy by centralized providers. In Germany, current per capita energy costs (excluding plant investment) are around €2,500 per annum. This includes all direct and indirect energy costs, i.e. power, heat and fuel, as well as the energy costs represented in every consumer commodity and service. This represents a total of €2.5 billion per annum flowing out of this region's local economy. With the complete transition to power supply based on local renewables, this €2.5 billion would remain in the local economy. This is the equivalent of an economic development program of the same magnitude — on an annual basis, with no bureaucratic effort and distributed amongst the whole population! No government could ever afford to fund a development program of this size. It says much about the energy economists who, focused on energy-efficiency irrespective of its source and continuing to stare exclusively at kilowatt hour prices, fail to see this connection.”   
Quote from Hermann Scheer’s The Energy Imperative
[a MustRead
as is Diamandis’ Abundance

To stay with German and Austrian conditions, every village/town/city has an elected mayor by age-old traditions.  Of the 800+ communities following the Morbach, Osterholz and Wildpoldsried examples I mentioned here, in most cases the impetus of switching to CivicEnergy is driven by mayors, but local cooperatives (including community based cooperative banks) are also amongst the instigators.  CivicEnergy following this methodology provides not only direct democratic approval for their mayors in what is basically a win-win situation, but also re-election and possible larger political stature based on proven competences while leaving a thriving community for their successors. (e.g. Morbach).   Which is why my cheers remain going in this direction.

Keeping in mind that things Green are not necessarily Clean, nor are Renewables necessary civilised or Civic. 

           … now I start to get the picture.  But the "clean" options you mention are (apart from hydro) incapable of making any significant contribution neither to energy generation, nor to emissions reductions.  They are just the old story of pointless gesture politics, green posturing, and money wasted.

          I was rather astounded by your second sentence because I'm sure you know that, looking globally, before this century has little more than half way passed, the end of 19th century steam engines, even with the fanciest hi-tech cookers up front, has to face 21st century reality when there is just no alternative but to switch to clean renewables – if for no other reason than I described in my little punditry Peak What? essay in Alt-energy Magazine [http://altenergymag.com/emagazine/2012/08/peak-what/1963].

But I, too, start to get the picture’.  That picture appears to me like the proposition that all of us plebs must function as the paying helots of the monopolistic energy behemoths, if not even in the fashion of state energy monopoly. 

David Cameron proclaimed in 2009 (before becoming UK Prime Minster after the 2010 election): 

 "We need a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power. From the state to citizens; from the Government to Parliament; from Whitehall to communities; from Brussels to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy" [The Times, 30/05/2009] 

- tenets which are equally relevant in the energy field.  No such luck, of course, on any of the subjects mentioned, least of all energy. 

Your remarks about clean options also remind me of Lord Kelvin’s pronouncement that heavier than air flight is absolutely impossible, and we know what happened to that. Similarly, CivicEnergy is already ‘flying’ healthily in all shapes and sizes in over a million places, and growing, and preparing for the inevitable general realisation that only ground-up CivicEnergy can make the required contribution to the world’s energy needs which no monopolistic top-down helotism could, or needs to, or should supply together with a claim to state enforced uniqueness.  A little more of punditry in the form of three enclosed slides may illustrate my point.

          Sorry, Mike, but you're just plain wrong.  Wind farms do not achieve significant reductions in emissions, nor in consumption of fossil fuel energy.  They threaten the stability of the grid -- now even Ofgem is warning of blackouts by 2015.  See http://www.thegwpf.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Hughes-Windpower.pdf.  

You can't "switch to clean renewables" because they don't deliver any significant net contribution to energy generation.  And they are so expensive that they undermine our economy, and drive energy intensive industries abroad.

We are mortgaging our children and pauperising our grandchildren for the sake of pointless political gestures, driven by hysteria over "Man Made Global Warming" that just isn't there.

I’m wrong, you say – well, that wouldn't be the first time even though I try to avoid or correct that. 
At least we agree on one thing:  the man-made-global-warming hysteria appears to amount to the biggest political and intellectual fraud ever.  So why worry whether windfarms reduce emissions (by which I assume you mean CO2) or not?  What other emissions could there possibly be?  Of course they don’t reduce the consumption of fossils fuels if you don’t build any.  Makes me wonder why the UK is therefore paying to build wind farms in Ireland in order to import electricity from there?  Electricity from onshore wind power is, of course, to be had for less than half the costs of offshore wind, but why leave UK mainland for it?  And since when does wind, or any other CleanEnergy, threaten the stability of the grid?  Makes me wonder how Australians and several continental countries manage to connect close to thousand CivicEnergy municipalities in addition to tens of thousands of household small scale PV installations to their grids?  Reasons must to be inflexible grids rather than CleanEnergy inputs.  I am, of course, member of GWPF and follow their publications and events.  But the quoted examples of matter-of-fact successful cohabitation of GW-size power installations and Clean and CivicEnergy providers on the same grid appear to me to disprove OFGEM or anyone else saying it can’t be done:  it is done as a matter of routine elsewhere.  Fact.
Clean and CivicEnergy providers, however, already make significant and growing contributions to energy generation.  If they didn’t, why would Austria, Belgium Germany, Italy, the Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland and likely also Japan shortly, have decided to abandon nuclear and fossil fuels as energy sources?  Surely not because they all wish to ‘undermine their economies’ and return to the Stone Age.  Fact.

So yes, if the facts change, I’ll change my mind from favouring CleanEnergy, especially in the form of CivicEnergy, as the best (if not the only possible and lasting) practice and forward strategy to provide the world’s energy, prosperity and happiness.  

And here is what started it all:  http://www.lmhdesign.co.uk/planet.php
My continuing learning curve in arriving at this conviction is visible on my blogsite since 2009 and in some of my articles quoted there (all open for comments), and in my eBooks. 

    >  Die Sonne bringt  es an den Tag  <

A few relevant links of the many arriving here just in the last few days may be of interest:

And for the swift moves of Japan:

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