MIT report: it will take 400 years to transform to 'clean' energy

At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system

Here are the real reasons we’re not building clean energy anywhere near fast enough.

by James Temple, MIT Technology review

Fifteen years ago, Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution, calculated that the world would need to add about a nuclear power plant’s worth of clean-energy capacity every day between 2000 and 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change. Recently, he did a quick calculation to see how we’re doing.

Not well. Instead of the roughly 1,100 megawatts of carbon-free energy per day likely needed to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 ˚C, as the 2003 Science paper by Caldeira and his colleagues found, we are adding around 151 megawatts. That’s only enough to power roughly 125,000 homes.

At that rate, substantially transforming the energy system would take, not the next three decades, but nearly the next four centuries. In the meantime, temperatures would soar, melting ice caps, sinking cities, and unleashing devastating heat waves around the globe (see “The year climate change began to spin out of control”).

Caldeira stresses that other factors are likely to significantly shorten that time frame (in particular, electrifying heat production, which accounts for a more than half of global energy consumption, will significantly alter demand). But he says it’s clear we’re overhauling the energy system about an order of magnitude too slowly, underscoring a point that few truly appreciate: It’s not that we aren’t building clean energy fast enough to address the challenge of climate change. It’s that—even after decades of warnings, policy debates, and clean-energy campaigns—the world has barely even begun to confront the problem.

The UN’s climate change body asserts that the world needs to cut as much as 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions by midcentury to have any chance of avoiding 2 ˚C of warming. But carbon pollution has continued to rise, ticking up 2 percent last year.

So what’s the holdup?

Beyond the vexing combination of economic, political, and technical challenges is the basic problem of overwhelming scale. There is a massive amount that needs to be built, which will suck up an immense quantity of manpower, money, and materials.

For starters, global energy consumption is likely to soar by around 30 percent in the next few decades as developing economies expand. (China alone needs to add the equivalent of the entire US power sector by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.) To cut emissions fast enough and keep up with growth, the world will need to develop 10 to 30 terawatts of clean-energy capacity by 2050. On the high end that would mean constructing the equivalent of around 30,000 nuclear power plants—or producing and installing 120 billion 250-watt solar panels.

Energy overhaul
What we should be doing* What we’re actually doing
Megawatts per day 1,100 151
Megawatts per year 401,500 55,115
Megawatts in fifty years 20,075,000 2,755,750
Years to add 20 Terrawatts 50 363
Sources: Carnegie Institution, Science, BP *If we had started at this rate in 2000 Actual average rate of carbon-free added per day from 2006-2015

There’s simply little financial incentive for the energy industry to build at that scale and speed while it has tens of trillions of dollars of sunk costs in the existing system.

“If you pay a billion dollars for a gigawatt of coal, you’re not going to be happy if you have to retire it in 10 years,” says Steven Davis, an associate professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine.

It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to see how any of that will change until there are strong enough government policies or big enough technology breakthroughs to override the economics.

The study also notes that the United States adds roughly 10 gigawatts of new energy generation capacity per year. That includes all types, natural gas as well as solar and wind. But even at that rate, it would take more than 100 years to rebuild the existing electricity grid, to say nothing of the far larger one required in the decades to come.

“Is it possible to accelerate by a factor of 20?” he asks. “Yeah, but I don’t think people understand what that is, in terms of steel and glass and cement.”

Read the entire report, well worth your time:

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
March 15, 2018 10:03 am

Gosh I hate it when we conflate megawatts and megawatt-hours indiscriminately. GoatGuy

Pop Piasa
Reply to  GoatGuy
March 15, 2018 1:25 pm

Not only that, you can’t call renewables “carbon-free” until you can grow them instead of manufacturing the. Is there enough fossil fuel left to create all these low-output devices?

Bill Powers
Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 16, 2018 11:51 am

Thanks Pop! Reading the article “There is a massive amount that needs to be built, which will suck up an immense quantity of manpower, money, and materials.” my first thought was we need to suck up a lot of energy with that manpower, money and materials,fossil fuel energy

Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 16, 2018 4:10 pm

UN News 1 November 2017
‘Shift to clean, affordable energy critical to attaining Global goals-UN officials’
Re: World wide energy connectivity, smart grids.
Europa Grid
‘Global Energy Interconnections’
North America at page bottom.
Requires transmission lines and underwater cables on a global scale.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 16, 2018 7:09 pm

United Nations, New York, 2006
‘Multi Dimensional Issues in International Electric Grid Interconnections’, ~ 179 pages
Re: International grid connections and sustainable development.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 17, 2018 12:05 pm

UN Chronicle, December 2015
Sustainable Energy: Vol. LII No.3
‘Sustainable development Goal for energy and Information and Communications Technologies’
Re: renewable energy, grid connectivity, etc.
Click on the article.

Reply to  GoatGuy
March 15, 2018 2:12 pm

Unless at such time, these so called clean energy generators prove more efficient and price competitive with current fossil fuels, I would say the human race may die of starvation if implementation goes ahead but before that “clean energy” will be dropped.
So the answer to “will it will take 400 years to transform to ‘clean’ energy” – unless cost competitiveness can be attained- transformation will NEVER take place.

Reply to  rogerthesurf
March 15, 2018 5:41 pm

Good comments, thank you Roger.
I tire of terms such as “clean energy”, emotional words used by scoundrels to enlist and motivate imbeciles.
Most renewable energies are not “clean” or “green” and produce little useful energy, because they are too intermittent, too diffuse and above all are NOT dispatchable.
I provided a rough calculation on wattsup that wind energy is worth about 5% of dispatchable energy, because wind requires almost 100% conventional back-up and is often not available when you need it most.
“Wind power – it doesn’t just blow – it sucks!”
“Solar power – stick it where the Sun don’t shine!”
Regards, Allan

The Dismal Science
Reply to  rogerthesurf
March 16, 2018 11:45 am

Exactly, exactly.
It is not a question of will – we simply can’t do this at all unless it is economic. And right now, it isn’t.
I have more bad news – we are, right now, doing the easy part of this. Picking the low hanging fruit as it were. Each step toward 100% becomes incrementally more difficult.

Reply to  rogerthesurf
March 18, 2018 7:33 pm

Well, at least the obesity epidemic will be cured.

Ed Bo
Reply to  GoatGuy
March 15, 2018 2:58 pm

The article is completely about power generation capacity, using GWatts properly as its main units. There are many problems with this article, but that isn’t one of them.

Reply to  Ed Bo
March 15, 2018 9:10 pm

As it is entirely impossible to build a reliable energy supply from unreliable energy sources, wind and solar will NEVER fill our needs. Also, as their lifetime is shorter than a coal fired power plant and nuclear reactors, we won ld have to spend virtually all of our wealth constantly building, maintaining, replacing these very non green energy disasters.
We need thorium liquid salt reactors and we could indeed build one a day if we set our goals and minds to it.

Reply to  GoatGuy
March 15, 2018 7:11 pm

I guess the first thing it should tell us GoatGuy is that the writer obviously doesn’t have even a basic understanding of the subject he/she is writing/pontificating about?

Santa Baby
Reply to  GoatGuy
March 16, 2018 3:39 am

The real object is a radical change of society. Environment are just one of the means to that goal by making us feel that they need to dominate and control us in order to save us.

Hot under the collar
Reply to  GoatGuy
March 16, 2018 7:54 am

Not as bad as calling trees ‘polution’, aka “carbon pollution”!

March 15, 2018 10:12 am

No problem, as the goal is unworthy with Thorium and other power development available!

Reply to  tomwys1
March 15, 2018 10:38 am

Unicorns and alchemy. Sigh.

Reply to  Sheri
March 15, 2018 10:48 am

You can put your money on unicorns and alchemy but I’ll got with Gen IV reactors and beyond.

Reply to  Sheri
March 15, 2018 12:02 pm

Nuclear fission is established technology, and its far more ‘green’ bang for the buck than renewables.
The only variable is how fast fossil fuel prices climb above it, and how fast people will get completely disenchanted with windmills and solar panels….

Bryan A
Reply to  Sheri
March 15, 2018 12:36 pm

Perhaps once they realize the area needed
California alone has peaked at 61,000 MW a day
For wind to produce this would require (current standard) 2-4 acres per MW depending on the unit.
—Wind would require 122,000 to 244,000 acres or roughly 1/2 the area of Sequoia National Park (when the wind blows just right)
For Molten Salt Solar (Ivanpah) to produce this (3500 acres for 392MW) roughly 9 acres per MW
—Molten salt Solar would require 550,000 acres (prime sun acres) about 1.2 Joshua Tree National Parks or 1.25 Sequoia National Parks (and still needs Gas Back-up for 8 hours per day)
Solar PV (like Topaz Solar) requires around 11 acres per MW of production
—Solar PV would require 671,000 acres (to produce this amount 30% of the day) or roughly 1.5 Sequoia National Parks or almost all of Yosemite National Park (and millions of batteries for night time or no sun days)

Bryan A
Reply to  Sheri
March 15, 2018 2:06 pm

Exactly Leo,
Nuclear could do the same work as all those Solar PV/Solar Thermal or Wind at a fraction of the area.
The functional portion of the facility at Diablo Canyon uses 12 acres to produce 2200MW 95% of the year, day or night wind or not.
To completely supply California by Nuclear would take 60 1100MW units at 6 acres per unit or just 360 acres vs the National Park Sized area requirements of solar and wind

Reply to  Sheri
March 15, 2018 2:57 pm

Aye, Byran A!

“producing and installing 120 billion 250-watt solar panels.”

Earth’s land surface is somewhere around 148,326,000 square kilometers.
According to these MIT geniuses, 128 billion solar panels makes for 809 panels per square kilometer. And that is only to supply electricity until 2050.
Sunk costs, then replacement costs and landfill costs, all too frequently.

Reply to  Sheri
March 16, 2018 8:44 am

Well said, Sheri!

March 15, 2018 10:14 am

Speaking of sunk cost you have a major replacement problem with aging rooftop solar systems in Europe that used low efficiency panels instead of utility scale arrays and you will need yet another round of tax credits and other subsidies to replace them. No doubt that will entail the same poor policy choice again this time on 2-4X costly rooftop systems instead of economies of scale. It’s about votes not efficiency or goal attainment.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
March 15, 2018 12:16 pm

When I was I Germany last year, I was amazed at all the road side solar panels. When I went to inspect a few of them I noticed that the “glass” covering the panel was dirty on the inside. Does anyone know if these things even work?

Reply to  Doug
March 15, 2018 2:34 pm

No, unless there is actual reporting of that fact. Some systems paid for with the Obama stimulus spending orgy did not work on the front end. Normally such issues would never be known or acknowledged. In those cases they just support green ‘feelings.’ So they are doing something, just not flowing any current.

Reply to  Doug
March 15, 2018 4:30 pm

It’s actually a hardened glass with low impurities. And normally, the panels are sealed. Possibly, if they get older, they may leak and get condensed water vapor with some dust inside. I estimate 10 to 20% loss in output.
Normally, the owners of the solar arrays are keen to keep them runnig, as they get a nice payment for every kilowatt. For the first modules, built 11 to 18 years ago, it was 50 € cent/kwhr. For this price it pays even to replace defective ones.

Reply to  Doug
March 15, 2018 7:10 pm

Does anyone know if these things even work?

Does anyone even care?

March 15, 2018 10:19 am

“The study also notes that the United States adds roughly 10 gigawatts of new energy generation capacity per year.”
Very interesting since our total energy consumption has been flat since 2000. But I guess if we limit the discussion to electricity it has only been flat since 2007.

Mario Lento
Reply to  chadb
March 15, 2018 10:38 am

That’s a good catch Chad. Could it be that the US is adding capacity much of which is in the so called un-reliable power, yet throttling down the baseload (at huge cost) to accomodate wind turbines and solar?
From what I understand, wind and PV solar energy needs about an equal amount of baseload energy, readily diapatchable, for when the wind does not blow properly –or the sun does not get to the solar panels.

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 10:40 am

Paul Homewood had a piece on that yesterday—”What happens when there is too much wind”. Worth reading.

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 10:59 am

PV and wind do need an equal (or near to it) amount of dispatchable power. Dispatchable is not the same as base load, actually base load is not not dispatchable, its always on. In ERCOT there are times when the wind blows enough to provide over 50% of grid power (granted at night when the wind is high and the use is low) and there are other times when it provides almost nothing (during still summer days). On that particular grid the amount of dispatchable power is already high. If you add solar you would not need to increase the dispatchable sources since solar would displace power during summer days more than winter nights. However, if you go to France and put in Solar panels you would need to also add dispatchable power since you would need to switch a Nuclear plant off and replace it with solar when there is wind and gas when there is no wind.
It really depends on which grid you are examining as to whether new dispatchable energy would need to be added.
As far as switching to renewables causing higher prices… I always point to ERCOT (the independent system operator that manages 90% of the electricity in Texas). The ERCOT grid has more wind penetration than any other isolated grid in the world and yet has some of the lowest energy prices. Texas has one of the lowest average grid prices of any grid in the world, and yet they are currently paying for a massive transmission expansion and have retired older coal plants and installed ~24GW of wind. It is not the technology that drives prices higher or lower, it is the market manipulation by regulators.

Mario Lento
Reply to  chadb
March 15, 2018 11:02 am

When the wind blows, baseload needs to throttle down. That costs more money. It makes baseload more costly. It is inefficient. Baseload is much more efficient than intermittent which solar and wind are.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 4:37 pm

“The ERCOT grid has more wind penetration than any other isolated grid in the world and yet has some of the lowest energy prices. ”
And how much are they subsidized?

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 4:58 pm

Yes, Tsk Tsk, that’s what I want to know. I’d assume Texas utilities are taking full advantage of all the federal and state subsidies available.

Reply to  chadb
March 16, 2018 5:57 am

I think this needs further exploration. We add “green” power production, even though we aren’t needing more. Which probably means we are slowly reducing reliable sources (100 mw) as we add 500 mw of unreliable sources. Which is an interesting calculation on the true value of unreliable energy. Almost $0/mw of “production”

March 15, 2018 10:21 am

“Vexing combination of economic, political, and technical challenges”…
Renewables ars uneconomic. The true costnof onshore US wind is >2.5x CCGT.
Hence requiring political subsidies everywhere in the world.
And renewables are intermittent and without grid inertia, meaning at any substantial penetration the grid will crash (as in South Australia last year), definitely a technical challenge,
I used to think MIT turned out smart engineers. No longer.

Reply to  ristvan
March 15, 2018 10:25 am

I am curious. Since things like the Lazard report, and open bids cannot convince you that the cost of wind and solar has fallen to parity with new installed CCGT, is there anything that could? In all honesty, what would count as sufficient evidence?
“…at any substantial penetration the grid will crash” – If you are certain about this you should certainly contact ERCOT since they ran 18% wind last year with instantaneous penetration rates of up to 54%. Somebody needs to let them know that once they get to “substantial penetration” their grid will crash.

Reply to  chadb
March 15, 2018 12:23 pm

You need to compare apples to apples or in this case dispatchable CCGT power that supports the grid with renewables that can do the same thing. Because wind and solar are intermittent you need to provide storage and include that in your cost comparison. Because wind and solar are diffuse you have to have a transmission system that can support it and include the cost for the renewable sources to support the grid in your cost comparison, that is to say more batteries. ERCOT got away without addressing those concerns at 18% penetration but at some point they cannot.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  chadb
March 15, 2018 12:37 pm

ERCOT is only part of the national grid, and as such can draw upon the rest of the grid to stabilize it. If penetration of unreliable/intermittent sources into the entire grid gets high enough, stability will begin to suffer and we will begin to see frequent brownouts followed by frequent blackouts.

Reply to  chadb
March 15, 2018 12:38 pm

How can you say that wind and solar are at parity with new installed CCGT when they do not produce the same quality of power? Wind/solar require CCGT (or equivalent) backup, whereas CCGT doesn’t require renewable backup. That cost inherent to renewables needs to be factored in before parity can be claimed. Now it is passed onto non-renewables.

Reply to  chadb
March 15, 2018 1:08 pm

Chadb, I am readily convinced by facts. Please provide some. Read guest post True cost of Wind at Climate Etc for an overview of whit I think are the correct facts. Dont think much has changed since writing it concerning wind economics details. The fact that there is no wind without subsidies just generally confirms the detailed bottom up LCOE analysis. We specifically used ERCOT as the main example for grid standby and extra transmission costs. ERCOT has gas peakers enabling somewhat higher net wind penetration than other grids. But they will have to add more as penetration rises. And they will eventually have to add massive synchronous condensers to supply grid inertia.

Reply to  chadb
March 15, 2018 3:56 pm

What would convince me?
You could start with the elimination of all subsidies and mandates.
Since renewables still require both to survive, the claims that they have become economical are just hand waving.

Reply to  chadb
March 17, 2018 7:37 am

I agree that wind and photovoltaics will rule ERCOT (Texas). Texas is probably the optimum place in the U.S. for the combination of wind and photovoltaics.
And photovoltaics will probably rule throughout the U.S. Southwest. But there *is* a geographic area roughly bounded by Boston to Norfolk VA in the east, over to Chicago to Louisville, KY in the midwest, for which neither wind nor photovoltaics are particularly good fits.
That’s where I think the biggest problem exists for turning the U.S. to predominantly renewable electrical generation. The only possibility for renewables in the east from Boston to Norfolk is offshore wind power, which for the forseeable future is much more expensive than coal and natural gas.

Reply to  ristvan
March 15, 2018 10:38 am

The article referenced and some of the links are written by James Temple who says “I am the senior editor for energy at MIT Technology Review. I’m focused on renewable energy and the use of technology to combat climate change. Previously, I was a senior director at the Verge, deputy managing editor at Recode, and columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. When I’m not writing about energy and climate change, I’m often hiking with my dog or shooting video of California landscapes.” I don’t think is education and background is what I would associate with a MIT graduate. It is sad that MIT apparently is OK with his alarmist memes.

Reply to  rogercaiazza
March 15, 2018 10:42 am

Wonder if his landscapes are full of those ugly, bird-killing, spinning towers of destruction?

John harmsworth
Reply to  rogercaiazza
March 15, 2018 3:41 pm

I hope this idiot doesn’t get confused and hike with a video and shoot his dog. I’m genuinely concerned.

Reply to  rogercaiazza
March 15, 2018 8:03 pm

Are there any WUWT viewers from Ireland who would care to comment on the current wind turbine situation in the Republic of Ireland?

Reply to  ristvan
March 15, 2018 12:22 pm

The piece was written by a tech writer NOT an engineer. Wasn’t this covered in a previous post.
I too lament the disgrace brought upon my alma mater by over zealous tech writers, who are more interested in circulation than reputation.

Reply to  rocketscientist
March 15, 2018 2:20 pm

“In the meantime, temperatures would soar,”….the disqualifying remark

John harmsworth
Reply to  ristvan
March 15, 2018 3:39 pm

MIT engineers may actually be smart. Pretty sure they are, depending on how we define smart. But trying to do science or engineering from an emotional, activist mindset is like trying to disarm a minefield while wearing a blindfold and skis. “Feelings” just doesn’t cut it in the real world>.

Reply to  John harmsworth
March 15, 2018 3:58 pm

They are smart. At figuring out how to get their next grant funded.

Tom Halla
March 15, 2018 10:21 am

And as “renewables” by the California definition require total conventional backup, we will never actually reach the green nirvana Caldiera envisions.

Tom Schaefer
March 15, 2018 10:22 am

So MIT doesn’t believe in the Kurzweil Sigularity or Artificial General Intelligence being super-human some time in the 2030’s. How quaint.

Peter Morris
Reply to  Tom Schaefer
March 15, 2018 2:03 pm

I don’t follow. What does the Nerd Rapture have to do with electricity production?

Reply to  Peter Morris
March 16, 2018 10:15 pm

“What does the Nerd Rapture have to do with electricity production?”
One way would be that it would be the equivalent of having 10s of millions of top engineers working on improving the design and manufacture or perovskite solar cells and 10s of millions more top engineers working on improvements in batteries.

Reply to  Tom Schaefer
March 15, 2018 7:14 pm

TS, have and read Kurzweils AI singularity book. A ‘gift’ from ex wifes SiliconValley tier 2 financier boy friend nefore he failed, mainly but not only necause of Bloom Energy. Short review, crap. Long review, double crap.
Some factual background. Back when I was the head of MOT strategy, and my colleague Dennis Roberson was MOTs chief technology officer, we put together a simple board presentation. It had two parts.
Part one, based on actual progress plus Moore’s law, CPU chips would reach human processing capacities by ~2010. Check, as all AI voice activated systems now prove.
Part two, it would take another period equal to human evolution of civilization (ag, beer, metal tools…) or another about ~100k years to figure out how to use such chips properly. We may have been a bit pessimistic time wise, but so far on are a ‘long ago’ predicted trend track.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Tom Schaefer
March 16, 2018 3:21 am

Kurzweil is like a chimp who thought the emergence of humans will solve all his problems. Terminators might keep him in the zoo for amusement LOL

March 15, 2018 10:25 am

I do not believe that a transformation to EEG takes 400 years, but it will never come. In the year 2025, Iter is near completion in the south of France, that is a few years from today. Then you will see that nuclear fusion is going on. And in another 30 years, electricity from the wind and the sun will be forgotten. You have built your own suns and you do not need the detour of millions of kilometers of radiation. Although I do not suffer from hubris and disregard the role of the sun for the Earth’s climate system, but to draw on it on a small scale and for the purposes of a technical civilization (and that’s it) is vastly too expensive and uncertain against nuclear fusion. Gaia had billions of years to adjust to Sol, so we do not have that much time. We need safe, steady energy in the immediate future. Apart from Fossil Energy, whose supplies will end about ten thousand times faster than the reserves of fuel for nuclear fusion, we have nothing to show. Except some fantasies.

Tom Schaefer
Reply to  Hans-Georg
March 15, 2018 10:31 am

I’m betting AGI will quickly solve the problem of small scale fusion so energy can be distributed and democratized. Mr. Fusion on HSN in 50 years.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Tom Schaefer
March 16, 2018 3:39 am

AGI Terminators will quickly solve the human problem with rapid fusion chain reaction distributed and democratized

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Hans-Georg
March 15, 2018 1:28 pm

Fusion will turn out to be impossible.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
March 15, 2018 3:20 pm

Ever heard of something called “H-bomb”?

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
March 15, 2018 3:59 pm

Would you put one in your basement and use it to power your home?

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
March 15, 2018 6:02 pm

Would you put one in your basement and use it to power your home?

It would be the definition of intermittent power.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
March 16, 2018 8:34 am

Maybe a really small one that was sufficiently contained and connected to a power conversion system.
… not 150 years ago gasoline was considered a useless byproduct too volatile for practical use.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
March 16, 2018 12:26 pm

Fusion will turn out to be impossible.
room temperature fusion has been able for years, using muons as a catalyst.

Carl Friis-Hansen
March 15, 2018 10:31 am

“.. we are adding around 151 megawatts” [per year].
Then comparing that to 125,000 homes.
This tels me that CF is not taken into account, so things are probably four times worth that they thought, assuming a CF of 0.25.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
March 15, 2018 1:25 pm

In power consumption, who cares about homes?
Quite frankly, until you can power industry, you can’t power anything. The key point is when wind or solar power generation can be created completely using wind or solar power. Until then, it’s just greenwashed diesel.

March 15, 2018 10:32 am

Solar panels installed in 2000 are already end of life and need to be replaced so subtract that from the assumed installed base.

Mario Lento
Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 15, 2018 10:48 am

He’s talking about solar panels 18 years ago, NOT today. “The majority of solar panels on today`s market come with a 25-year long warranty (also known as a performance guarantee). In most cases this means a guaranteed electrical production for 10 years at 90% of rated power output and 25 years at 80%.”

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 15, 2018 10:52 am

If we were talking panels and installations from the past several years I would agree but even if the circa 2000 panel clean optimal output is still within warranty specs the frame and rails and exposed wiring and roof mounts have been out in the weather for two decades.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 15, 2018 11:24 am

No Rob B., you are wrong. Recall that the Germans led the world in rooftop installs at the leading edge of the solar industry curve. That generation of panels had lower starting points for efficiency and relatively high decline rates, not to mention inverter replacement cycles.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 15, 2018 12:32 pm

Warrantee or not the panels will be declining in out-put. The warrantee only determines who’s money pays for the replacement. I’m surprised their inverters haven’t failed already.
I might suggest that the home-owners who are being burdened might consider not installing new ones. Why throw good money after bad.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 15, 2018 4:02 pm

The site doesn’t say anything about who pays what if the panels fail to meet the guidelines specified in the contract. The industry standard is to pro-rate, how heavily varies. Tremendously.
Beyond that I’m willing to bet that they will only pay for a new panel. Installing it is your problem.

Bill Webb
Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 19, 2018 12:55 am

Warranties are hard to apply when virtually every panel manufacture goes out of business during the panel’s lifetime.

michael hart
March 15, 2018 10:41 am

I had thought that MIT technology review was still a serious publication, but anyone who casually uses the term “carbon pollution” when referring to non-polluting carbon dioxide usually doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about. Not doing themselves any favors with that.

Reply to  michael hart
March 15, 2018 10:45 am

They have bought into CAGW hook, line and sinker. They BELIEVE.

Reply to  michael hart
March 15, 2018 10:49 am

Agreed. It appears that MIT is slipping fast.

Reply to  RWturner
March 15, 2018 12:39 pm

Perhaps it’s just the quality of the Tech Review that is slipping, as are all science magazines.
I think its the quality of journalism in general that is in decline.
The Stupidification of America. Used to be we had simpletons who couldn’t make change at the cash register, so we invented machines that would do the math for them. Now we have simpletons who think they can communicate, but can’t. How do we solve that?

Reply to  RWturner
March 15, 2018 11:19 pm

Come now, rocketscientist, didn’t you receive your own personal pdf of the ‘Tute’s “Action Plan for Climate Change”? I did, and our alma mater has bought into the meme, probably to back up all the grant requests (“see, we really do believe – send money”).

Thomas Homer
March 15, 2018 10:43 am

From the article:
[ “If you pay a billion dollars for a gigawatt of coal, you’re not going to be happy if you have to retire it in 10 years,” says Steven Davis ]
Form the internet:
[ Phase one of Morocco’s vast $9bn Ouarzazate solar power plant provides 160MW of its ultimate 580MW capacity ]
We won’t be happy with a billion dollar gigwatt of coal, but a 9 billion dollar 160MW solar system makes us all feel good?
Is the life span of a solar array in the desert more than ten years?

Reply to  Thomas Homer
March 15, 2018 12:33 pm

About 20 yrs on the panels about 15 years on inverters.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  rocketscientist
March 15, 2018 1:03 pm

“About 20 yrs on the panels ” … does the number of sandstorms in the Moroccan desert have an impact?

Reply to  rocketscientist
March 15, 2018 4:41 pm

Is that assuming constant maintenance (cleaning)?

Reply to  rocketscientist
March 16, 2018 8:45 am

That is in pristine conditions.
Sand storm abrasion, bird crap, dust accumulation (and the degradation that comes from cleaning), rain erosion,ice erosion, soot ….all will detract from performance.
Weather brings down mountains…solar panels are any more durable?
It would be an interesting study to compile the performance drop of actual in-the-field installations of roof-top solar after years of exposure/usage.

Bill Webb
Reply to  rocketscientist
March 19, 2018 1:24 am

Most top line residential inverters such as SMA are expected to last 10 years. You can buy this extended length of coverage. Micro-inverters such as Enphase have 25 year warranties. But, they put electrolytic capacitors in their initial design. It’s simply not a good idea to put a “wet” capacitor on a rooftop. They have 25 year warranties. But, they struggle financially and are covered through Siemens. SolarEdge with DC optimizers made the same mistake. But, it has been corrected. They are financially sound, and, have a similar warranty. But, these warranties were based upon projections. Who knows what the real mean time between failures will be.
I can’t speak to longevity of big pad mounted commercial solar farm inverters, but, the field is brutally competitive. So, good luck getting warranty coverage after a firm has gone bankrupt.
Inosfar as existing panels in the field, LID (light induced degradation) is one issue. PID (potential induced degradation) has been appearing as a problem in some German fields. The problem has been corrected with a move away from cheap sodium iron glass, but, panel frames are still problematic. The solution from SMA was a device to reverse the current to drive the ions back in place. But, it takes away from production for up too two weeks. This happened in lower voltage German fields relative to American solar farms. So, the jury is still out on some of them. OID (oxygen induced degradation) has been seen with some panels due to poor annealing. Boron and Oxygen do not mix well when it comes to power output.
So, yes there will be unexpected problems.
Of other concern not mentioned with reference to these “limp” generation sources, is, unless they are owned by a POCO with peaker plants there will have to be excess capital set aside to cover intermittentcy if the solar field or wind farm was financed.
Texas has very little excess capacity as it stands, and, typically 25% excess capacity is needed for summer and winter months due to diurnaility of the sun with regards to solar. Texas purchases from the sub-grid to it’s north which has excess capacity.
Insofar as ERCOT importation, I cite the EIA on that even though it is obvious they publish erroneous information (for instance they count name plate rated on intermittent sources, and, in one article I read they counted batteries as generation sources). Adding to that they underestimate costs of adding storage. FERC also has erroneous data leading to underestimations of true capacity and costs. The real grid situation in the US will soon bite us severely. Already we import and order of magnitude more electricity from Mexico and Canada compared to 9 years ago. And, the situation will grow worse as virtually all new generation capacity now, is, renewable and inefficient peaker plants.

Reply to  Thomas Homer
March 15, 2018 11:21 pm

I believe that the $9bn is for the full program, yielding a (name plate) capacity of 580MW. That is so much better, isn’t it?

Tom Judd
March 15, 2018 10:52 am

Hurrah, the climate warriors can now keep the CAGW industry alive for 400 years!

Andy Ogilvie
Reply to  Tom Judd
March 15, 2018 3:59 pm

They will die of hunger and cold long before that. Funking idiots the lot of then.

March 15, 2018 10:52 am

Tell the folks at MIT that there are a few little problems with renewables: 1 – energy density (way too low) 2 – reliability (no way to control when the sun will shine or the wind will blow) 3 – dispatchability (sorry, non existent).

Reply to  Trebla
March 15, 2018 7:55 pm

All of which was known by competent people 40 years ago.
Whatever happened to the management class of today that they thirst so much for the Kool-ade???

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 16, 2018 7:49 am

“Whatever happened to the management class of today that they thirst so much for the Kool-ade???”
You don’t get to join the Nomenklatura unless you spout the same crap as everyone else.

March 15, 2018 10:55 am

On the high end that would mean constructing the equivalent of around 30,000 nuclear power plants—or producing and installing 120 billion 250-watt solar panels.

That’s why we need to stop building twig houses and adapt to building more efficient housing — Earth sheltered.

Jeff L Hyett
Reply to  RWturner
March 15, 2018 12:33 pm

Yes, build where the temperature is always 50 degrees F.

March 15, 2018 10:58 am

So this is a smart guy from MIT that does not think we will have this in 50 years, let alone 400?
What a whack job.
Mr. Fusioncomment image/revision/latest?cb=20130723042343

March 15, 2018 10:59 am

The eco fascists won’t be happy until more people start dying from lack of energy and the politicians will point their fingers at them. 400 years? I can wait.

michael hart
Reply to  markl
March 15, 2018 12:01 pm

If one reduces the earths population then the target could be met sooner. And the best way to do that humanely of course is to make everybody wealthier so the birth rate falls. It has already been show to work in more developed nations.
Additionally, poor people can’t work on developing any advanced alternative sources at all, so we really do need to be increasing the consumption of fossil fuels now for high returns in the medium term. I’ll put my bet on hundreds of millions of Asian scientists and engineers, not a few million dewy-eyed privileged Western Artsy students who want to save the planet or something (and a few of them who went to MIT by mistake).

Reply to  michael hart
March 15, 2018 7:19 pm

Make everybody wealthier?
You have to be kidding.
First of all, wealthy people would have to do tat, and why would they?
Secondly, how is that possible anyway?
Nah. It will be gas chambers and ‘Burn a Green for Jesus’ bumper stickers, you mark my words!

March 15, 2018 11:00 am

While renewable energy is being installed the world needs to do more to reduce CO2 emissions.

Mario Lento
Reply to  Sid Abma
March 15, 2018 11:04 am

Why do we need to more to reduce a beneficial molecule that is in short supply, which all life is based upon?

Another Doug
Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 1:38 pm

We don’t. Fortunately Sid doesn’t actually do that. He just spams his cute YouTube videos.

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 3:16 pm

Exactly, Another Doug.
Well stated.

Mario Lento
Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 5:08 pm

And that Clean coal means carbon (CO2) capture is stupid and misleading. The point of clean efficient combustion is by definition emitting CO2 + H20. But both of these terms are now evil gases that will boil over the world. Nonsense!

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 16, 2018 1:41 pm

“Auto March 15, 2018 at 5:33 pm
Tony L
You have just horrified me – the Archies are almost 50 years old, and I remember them. Well.
Auto – shivering with the rush of the years!”

I remember hearing the song. Probably on the radio, WFIL or WMMR, much less likely is that I would have heard it on WXPN; all my preferred Philly radio stations back then.
Sadly, I never watched the Archies.
However, I did read Archie comics a decade before the Archies.
See, you’re not old!

Reply to  Sid Abma
March 15, 2018 11:35 am

Sid Abma has had the opportunity to engage with us on numerous occasions and has declined. He has even declined to answer basic questions about the process depicted in the video, which he has posted numerous times.
The last time, Nick Stokes tracked down what appears to be the underlying patent. The process seems to be…
Wait For It……
Sugar Beet Processing!
One stupid, silly cartoon video deserved another. So I found one apropos to sugar processing.
The Archies, with their hit song Sugar, Sugar
Cheers, Sid.

Reply to  TonyL
March 15, 2018 5:33 pm

Tony L
You have just horrified me – the Archies are almost 50 years old, and I remember them. Well.
Auto – shivering with the rush of the years!

Reply to  TonyL
March 15, 2018 6:04 pm

@ Auto
Bubblegum Music from the late ’60s. Absolutely the most frightening thing I could think of.
Now think The Monkeys! With their own TV show.
Now we will be having nightmares!
Sid Abma deserves no less.

Reply to  TonyL
March 16, 2018 9:02 am

Hey! I like the Monkees and their TV show!
Let’s have no Monkees bashing, please.

Reply to  Sid Abma
March 15, 2018 4:04 pm

I’m still wondering how much Sid has invested in this scheme.
The only time he ever shows up is to dump the same worthless video on us.

March 15, 2018 11:04 am

Another reason it is taking longer:
Obama handed over billions to big campaign donors and political friends under the guise of funding alternative energy programs and they all took the taxpayer cash and closed the doors to their business.

Reply to  stingray1
March 15, 2018 11:28 am

Then he cited industry averages produced by the sector leaders that covered up the made-to-fail messes with handshake deals plus the large, false front, non-players in the industry like Solyndra.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
March 15, 2018 5:37 pm

Obama – a Chicagoan [Chicago, is, I understand, notable for its probity. Or am I in error???] – should not be portrayed as corrupt.
Unless there is convincing evidence that he was so.
Stupid is an alternative, I guess.
But . . . .

March 15, 2018 11:05 am

The next viable new energy source will be the energy between sub-atomic particles, probably not fusion, but something simpler and easier to harness, cheap, and infinite. Someone will make a technological breakthrough not anticipated. Perhaps it will take a few hundred more years to discover. But in the meantime, we have thousands of years of fossil fuel energy to get us there, with no threat to the planet.

Mario Lento
Reply to  hollybirtwistle
March 15, 2018 11:06 am

Do we have thousands or hundred?

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 12:07 pm

We have a hundred or so years of fossil before nuclear is way cheaper, and 10,000 years of fertile and fissile material that is economically extractable, which should with a bit of luck be long enough to make a working FUSION reactor.
There are other issue that mandate nuclear power: those countries that have no oil gas or coal would far rather not be beholden to those that do..stockpiling a hundred years of uranium is a snap.

Mario Lento
Reply to  Leo Smith
March 15, 2018 12:30 pm

That’s more in line with what I understood. 100 years is enough time to adapt to new effective energy solutions. I am of course, pro nuclear becue it’s abundant safe and clean for our atmosphere. Though I like that burning fossil fuels returns some of the CO2 back into our atmosphere since it is not pollution and conversely it is one of the main ingredients needed for life as wto know it.

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 2:09 pm

We have about two decades before oil becomes so expensive It starts to drive itself out of business. Let me give you a hint of how this is working: in recent years we can’t find new reservoirs by exploration like we used to, even though today oil prices are 250% of prices in late 90’s. Thus oil will probably cost upwards of $130 per barrel in today’s dollars by 2040. This drives the auto industry towards much more efficient vehicles and EVs.
Natural gas reserves are doing much better. I’d guess we would not see a similar event (very high prices reducing demand and causing a switch to alternatives) until 2050-2060. I’m an oil and gas consultant, so I have a fairly good handle on these two fuels. When it comes to coal I rely on acquaintances who tell me the reserves are more plentiful but they will also need much higher prices to satisfy demand by 2060.
When oil and gas reservoirs are fairly old and they start to decline the rate is about 10% (this is a rough number). We offset this by drilling more wells, injecting fluids, and getting smarter. But nature has a limit, and we usually can’t reduce that decline to less than 5% per year. Thus one would expect that after say 2050 we would be producing around 90 million barrels per day declining at 5% per year. And that would drive a market for replacement. Natural gas will behave similarly, And coal comes next. By the end of the 21st century we will have all three declining slowly, and alternatives will have to be used to cover the ever increasing gap between what we can produce and the world demand.
I realize individuals who frequent here are mostly cornucopians. But thus far I can’t find anybody with the professional background to sit down and discuss the subject. All I read is figures pulled out of the air or criticism because OTHERS were talking up peak oil 50 years ago. Well, I got a notice for you: I was never into peak oil or whatever. I’m a petroleum engineer with a lot of miles, and I’m just pointing out what any honest oil man will tell you: this industry isn’t going to be around good enough for us to tell our grandchildren to study petroleum engineering, even though it pays real good if you can stay employed.

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 3:21 pm

As always, it depends on the technology. There are thousands of years worth of methane calthrates unavailable with current technology. But remember that tight formation oil and gas was unavailable just a couple decades ago.

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 4:05 pm


Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 5:04 pm

Fernando, yes. Oil first, gas later. Coal depends on sketchy data, but probably the last fossil fuel to production peak. Simple reasons. Oil nd gas come from anoxic marine environments, but there is over time a larger probability for aource rock to go beyond the oil catagenesis window into the gas window. Why the Marcellus has almost no oil, only gas. Why only the shallow western end of the deeper Utica has oil plus gas. Plus, fracked horizontal well recovery from source rock shales is ~1.5% for crude, ~15% for gas. Simple inevitable result of relative viscosity given source rock porosity and permeability. Wrote about this extensively in Gaia’s Limits, plus several more targeted essays in Blowing Smoke. Both ebooks cheap at Amazon Kindle. Lots of colored illustrations.
Frazier, you comment on methane clathrates ignores ‘just a few’ (Maxwell Smart parody) difficulties. See essay Ice that Burns in ebook Blowing Smoke for important details you are obviously NOT aware of.

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 7:47 pm

For the last 50 years, people have been telling me that we are going to run out of oil starting any day now.
And every one of them had all kinds of fancy charts, some even wrote books.
When all is said and done, I’m going to trust the people who spend their life doing that kind of stuff and who’s livelihood is on the line.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Mario Lento
March 15, 2018 8:41 pm

fernandoleanme March 15, 2018 at 2:09 pm, wrote . . .
… even though today oil prices are 250% of prices in late 90’s.
In Pennsylvania, retail gasoline sold for about 26 cents per gallon in 1960. That would be about $2.18 in 2018. In the Great State of Washington (the Washington on the left coast), total tax is 62.9 cents. $2.18 + 0.63 = $2.81.
I bought gas this week for $2.80 per gallon.
What am I missing?

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 16, 2018 6:09 am

Fraizer, please describe the technology you would use to extract methane clathrates, package the methane, and deliver it to market. Have you looked into it or are you just arm waving?

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 16, 2018 6:19 am

Hultquist, you are missing the cost, tax, and other factors involved in delivering the gasoline to your vehicle, profit margins for the industry at that point in time, etc. I limit myself to what it takes to put crude oil and condensate in a tank somewhere, ready to be sold, exclude transportation, refining and marketing. Also, by going that far back in time you have gone to before I was working in the industry (I started just after 1973 OPEC embargo). I do seem to recall in those days there were production limits in the USA, it was run as a mini OPEC. So one reason may be that the industry could have produced more, which would have driven prices down, but the states had an interest in keeping prices higher to get more taxes.

Reply to  Mario Lento
March 16, 2018 7:52 am

“We have about two decades before oil becomes so expensive It starts to drive itself out of business.”
Oil demand is about to collapse. VR will slash the need for travel, and local manufacturing will slash the need for transport.
And, yeah, I remember being told as a kid in the 80s that we’d run out of oil by 2000, and we MUST DO SOMETHING BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

J Mac
March 15, 2018 11:05 am

We are not implementing the ‘clean energy’ solution to the non-existent CO2 ‘problem’ fast enough?
(Let that thought sink in a moment…)
What confounded and irrational non-science these AGWW (Anthropogenic Global Wealth Wasters) have wrought!

March 15, 2018 11:17 am

I guess these folks don’t think fission energy will ever be viable. That is best hope we have assuming the technical problems can be overcome.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  JohninRedding
March 15, 2018 5:47 pm

You mean fusion We already have fission .

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
March 15, 2018 7:23 pm

plenty of greens will tell you that existing fission isn’t viable..

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
March 17, 2018 6:48 am

You know…
Nuclear is so last century. It’s high time we quit.
Coal is so last millennium. It’s high time we quit.
Fire is…

March 15, 2018 11:21 am

How many square miles of America are we willing to sacrifice on the altar of CAGW? Do we abandon life above the Mason- Dixon line because of the winter btu’s? Will we be mandated to drive golf carts with a government issued transponder in lieu of a gas tax? I’m not a conspiracy theory nut but this is getting Agenda 21 weird.

March 15, 2018 11:21 am

We are doomed. Not only are we not preparing for the prophesied climate catastrophe, but we have virtually no preparations in place for alien invasion, big bang reversal, sun going supernova, Earths’ imminent collision with a worm hole, the sentient cockroach revolution, or the return of evil Elvis.

Peter Morris
Reply to  andrewpattullo
March 15, 2018 2:31 pm

Dang. I forgot about evil Elvis.

March 15, 2018 11:36 am

Did they count the South African coal power plant unions that just blocked solar deals to protect coal-related jobs?
The paradox is that only wealth can afford inefficient, illogical overreach energy policy and you don’t attain or retain such wealth by undermining it with advocacy-driven policy at the expense of cost-efficient adaptations over time with technology. I suppose it all comes back to bad science creating the synthetic policy emergency in the first place. That warps the time scale and schedule by itself.

March 15, 2018 11:55 am

I take the claims/projections with salt, a lot of salt. Here’s my justification in the form of a question… Can anyone tell me what the experts in energy production predicted for our sources and uses in “four centuries” from 1618 A.D.?

Reply to  ScienceABC123
March 15, 2018 12:08 pm

Well, they do get partial credit for the prediction of wood (pellet) burning. They just didn’t know that it would entail clear cutting forests in the New World to satisfy fickle policy mandates and side dealing to do it that way. They did miss the Gaia religion thing though.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  ResourceGuy
March 15, 2018 5:48 pm

How does pellet burning not create CO2?

Reply to  ScienceABC123
March 15, 2018 5:47 pm

What about similar prediction/projection from 1918?
Or, indeed, 1968 (which is within the lifetime of some few reading/commenting here.)
Auto, convinced that projections are a waste of electrons – and predictions a waste of paper, even if recycled!

Bruce Cobb
March 15, 2018 11:59 am

It is amazing how these climateers can go on and on about “solutions” to a non-problem, which will cost $trillions and destroy economies, making peoples lives miserable, and lowering living standards world-wide. Nothing they say matches reality. They reside in a totaly different world, of their own making.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
March 15, 2018 2:16 pm

The problem is different: we are running out of fossil fuels. Therefore all these emissions projections, the atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and temperature increases they use in reams of useless studies have to be changed. This global warming problem will be solved by the market: we will gave to find replacements whether we like it or not.

Reply to  fernandoleanme
March 15, 2018 4:07 pm

No we aren’t.

Reply to  fernandoleanme
March 15, 2018 5:24 pm

Markw, please support with geophysical data your assertion. I wrote three ebooks with lots (thousands) of verifiable footnotes saying (in part, since all three ebooks had larger themes) you are just wrong. So Data supporting your belief assertion? I mean geological, petrophysicsl data. You know, source rock TOC by basin region (hint, it varies from basin rim to basin center), overlying conventional reservoir depletion (hint, in 2008 IEA surveyed the ~800 fields comprising >2/3 of all global oil production to calculate the global annual decline curve), creming curves for yet to be discovered (hint, my own published estimate is almost exactly the same as that from USGS), probit transform functions for coal (hint, check out Caltech prof Rutledge) , that sort of peer reviewed literature. DO NOT bring Gold’s abiogenic oil hypothesis unless you wish to demonstrate how ignorant you are. Fernando is a retired practicing hydrocarbon geophysicist. Knows whereof he speaks. You?

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  fernandoleanme
March 15, 2018 5:54 pm

We will never run out of fossil fuels. Repeat We will never run out of fossil fuels. The peak oil philosophy is laughable.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  fernandoleanme
March 15, 2018 6:18 pm

There are over 1.5 trillion barrels of oil in the ground that are proven reserves. There are over 6000 trillion (6 quadrillion) cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves and if the price hadnt dropped so much lately we would have found much more . There is enough proven coal reserves to meet 153 years of coal production. Sure there are finite limits but fossil fuel exploration always seems to find more if the price is right. Anybody worrying about running out of fossil fuels really is only worrying about the price. If the price would ever rise too high and exploration couldn’t keep up then alternative fuels wouldn’t have to be subsidized any more. Then supply and demand would finally rule the energy market. As it is the energy market is out of whack because of subsidies and stupid carbon taxes. We will never run out of uranium for nuclear power and even if we did we should instead use the non radioactive isotopes to produce nuclear energy like we should have done 65 years ago instead of the radioactive mess problem that we ended up with.

Reply to  fernandoleanme
March 15, 2018 7:27 pm

we will never ‘run out’ of fossil fuel.
It will simply get so expensive in comparison to something else we wont bother to extract it.
Just as coal has in the original industrial nation, the UK.

Reply to  fernandoleanme
March 16, 2018 5:00 am

Alan Tomalty, I’d like to go over some simple figures with you guys. What I’m going to do is a bit like a cartoon with geometric figures, but in general the cartoon works “ok”.
If we assume crude oil and condensate production increases to 90 million barrels of oil per day (today the figure is around 82 million), using an exponential decline factor = 0,05 (what some of you like to call 5%), eventually the rate drops to 1 million barrels of oil per day. The equations we have derived tells us the area under the curve is 650 billion barrels (that’s billion as defined in the USA).
If we take 10 years to get to 90 million BOPD the are under the curve is 313 billion barrels of oil per day.
I happen to be an expert on Venezuela’s heavy oil reserves, which were booked by pdvsa about 10 years ago using an irregular method. I’m not going to go into details, but it’s reasonable to say approximately 200 billion barrels of the estimated reserves do not exist. They can be considered technical resources we could produce at extremely high prices. And these prices are so high it’s doubtful most of humanity can afford them. Furthermore, to get that oil we would need a very, very long time.
Thus far we have 650+313+200=1163 billion barrels. So if we assume your figure is right, we got 1500 minus 1163 = 337 billion barrels. Now lets assume world production to 90 million barrels of oil per day in 2028 (as per the asumption used to estimate the 313 billion). That 90 million per day is 32.9 billion per year. And this means we have 10 years to increase to 90, can hold a plateau at 90 for 10 years, and thereafter decline at 5 % gradually for decades.
You can assume that instead of 90 we increase to 100, add 500 billion to your 1.5 trillion, and any way you work the numbers the clonclusion is the same. In a few decades we will not be able to meet market demand unless prices explode through the roof. And most poor nations simply won’t be able to afford it.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  fernandoleanme
March 16, 2018 7:09 am

But you said it yourself: the market will solve the fossil fuel “problem”. So-called “clean energy” is a fake answer to a fake problem. We don’t have to “do” anything that we wouldn’t already be doing anyway. And we shouldn’t just forget about coal either, the way the carbonastrophists want us to. We have plenty of time to find alternatives. There is no calamity, no catastrophe looming.

March 15, 2018 12:07 pm

Assuming there is no revolutionary breakthrough in electricity production (i.e. Fusion) then if we want to get the biggest bang for your buck out of some renewable resource, then solar thermal would make the most sense. Solar thermal for hot water globally and space heating in cooler climes, makes much more sense than solar panel Photo Voltaic, if you were to install the same PV capacity to heat the same water or air with electricity. This isn’t anything new, although there is a lot of low hanging fruit to be gained by the installation of solar thermal hot water. Especially for those who are dependant on electrical heating for domestic water or space heating presently, because the cost per Kw/hr is increasing so rapidly in most jurisdictions. Domestic hot water is currently second in most residential electricity costs, so reducing that cost could be a huge market as electricity prices continue to go through the roof.
This may apply best to residential rooftop presently, especially as an alternative to roof top solar PV which can be very inefficient when placed willy nilly in a fixed location where only getting a few hours a day of quality incoming solar insolation. Thermal solar is much cheaper to install (and longer lasting) than solar PV so will be more forgiving of less than ideal siting while still giving suitable performance. Where the advantage will come from in the future is in enhanced efficient solar thermal collection, as say compared to present passive solar thermal such as a water tower/barrel we see in many third world countries now. The tropics is a great example where this can be implemented, where the bulk of the planets population also lives, but works great to higher latitudes too. Costa Rica is already starting down this path, but the present opportunities nearly everywhere are still basically untouched.
In terms of offsetting new electrical demand for domestic hot water, and space heating, this is the next field of opportunity for a cheaper solution than building out new electrical capacity to obtain the same hot water. Yes, there is some plumbing involved, but it is a one off if adding to an existing building, or if building new, can be easily incorporated into new construction. If I were were younger and looking for opportunity in renewables and starting a new business, it would be solar thermal hot water.

Bob Burban
Reply to  Earthling2
March 15, 2018 1:13 pm

“If I were were younger and looking for opportunity in renewables and starting a new business, it would be solar thermal hot water.”
A few years ago in Mexico, I noticed many rural and suburban houses with black water tanks on their roofs.

Richard Ilfeld
Reply to  Earthling2
March 16, 2018 5:42 am

Tiny things across a big population make a big difference. There are now millions of little lights with little solar cells and batteries lighting little areas in million of homes, through the magic of Home Depot and Lowes. No govt mandates required. Millions of little solar battery chargers keeping lots of boats and utility vehicles topped up. Etc. Tiny improvements, entering the market beause they are cost effective, collectively make a big difference.

March 15, 2018 12:09 pm

These guys have some nerve. Can you imagine the great thinkers 400 years ago, say Francis Bacon and Johannes Kepler, recommending policy based on what they thought the world would be like in 2018? 400 years from now will be just as different from today as today is from 1618.

Phillip Bratby
March 15, 2018 12:15 pm

Yet another numpty who doesn’t know his power from his energy. There’s no point reading any further once you realise he doesn’t know his basic physics.

March 15, 2018 12:27 pm

This guy is amazing – he actually believes that there is such a thing as a gigawatt of coal.
“On the high end that would mean constructing the equivalent of around 30,000 nuclear power plants—or producing and installing 120 billion 250-watt solar panels.” I’ve got news for this idiot – nameplate capacities mean nothing. Those 30,000 nuclear plants (assuming the typical gigawatt power output rating) will produce roughly 5 times more power than (the supposedly equivalent) 120 billion 250Watt solar panels.
When you don’t understand something as elementary as kilowatt versusu kilowatt hour, you should not be allowed a voice. 30,000 typical light water nuclear plants is equal to about 60,000 molten salt small modular reactors, built in factories and easily deployed almost anywhere (no cooling water required). It’s not that tough to produce 60,000 anythings in a large number of factories.
And molten salt reactors can produce the cheapest power. Period.

March 15, 2018 12:38 pm

It would take 400 years to transit to “clean” energy. Why should we go in that blind alley? Because bad models say we have to?

Robert of Texas
March 15, 2018 12:45 pm

If they will just leave the energy sector alone (i.e. no subsidies), then it will traverse to the most efficient possible solution given a set of reasonable pollution regulations. It doesn’t matter if the fuel starts to run out – the energy sector will then track to the best answer given the new reality. If solar becomes the most efficient power source given within a given set of criteria, then it will get used. Let market forces do what it does best and relax.
Meanwhile, energy use will continue to become more efficient as well. Less and less energy will be used for any given application, so that at least in advanced countries, energy use will decrease per capita over time. The prince of energy will drive this without any government interference. So as prices go up (due to scarcity) then energy use will become more efficient (because its worth the investment).
Why do so many people think you have to mandate this so that it happens right now, this instant?

Reply to  Robert of Texas
March 15, 2018 1:13 pm

The recent and frequent quote used here:
“‘Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

March 15, 2018 12:56 pm

“If you pay a billion dollars for a gigawatt of coal, you’re not going to be happy if you have to retire it in 10 years.”
Yeah, people living in the streets and eating from dumpsters tend to have a low happiness coefficient.

March 15, 2018 12:56 pm

The US may add 10 MW capacity who cares about capacity if the actual gain is some 1.5 MW. The US consumption has been pretty stagnant for two decades. Roughly 100 times more employees are needed in the solar industry where just one employee suffices in the fossil fuel industry for equal electricity production. There is not enough work force in the US to build, install, operate, maintain, dismantle, and dispose of those millions of W&S plants. And I am not even mentioning the storage facilities needed to cover windless evenings. Shame on the people who mix up W and Wh, name plate and actual output, the latter over the lifespan of a plant.

Reply to  jake
March 15, 2018 11:39 pm

And carbon v carbon dioxide.

March 15, 2018 1:08 pm

We’ll be in the next ice age by then.

March 15, 2018 1:14 pm

“until there are strong enough government policies OR big enough technology breakthroughs to override the economics.”
There’s no “OR” to it. Unless there are “big enough technology breakthroughs to override the economics”
just go ahead and FUGEDABOUDIT! now. It ain’t gonna happen because of nothing more substantial than a bunch of silly-assed government decrees issued by by a bunch of silly-assed governments which command that “it shall be done.” Democracy may not survive but if not, neither will governments as viable institutions.

Stop the BS.
March 15, 2018 1:30 pm

I love seeing the end-of-the-century predictions simply to assess how absurd they are, but now a 400-year prediction on our energy source? Ridiculous. First consider where we were 400 years ago and what our outlook might have been then. The year was 1618. Coal and wood was the primary source of energy. Wind was the primary source for shipping (as in sails). They had no concept of what we would be doing with energy, or where such energy might come from 400 years later. A statement now that it will take 400 years to get green energy is as ludicrous as a statement would have been then that we will run out of trees to meet home heating needs by the early 2000s. We don’t have clue what our energy needs/demands will be in 400 years let alone where such energy will come from.

March 15, 2018 1:36 pm

Is it possible to speed it up by a factor of twenty? Yeah, I believe Stalin did it, during the thirties. Under Mao it was called the great Cultural Revolution.

R. Shearer
Reply to  Don
March 15, 2018 3:29 pm

And how many 10’s of millions did they kill then?

Reply to  Don
March 15, 2018 7:40 pm
David S
March 15, 2018 1:49 pm

OK MIT guys here is your challenge: Design a system that does not produce CO2, is comparable in cost to fossil fueled plants or nukes, is reliable and works when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. Once you have that you won’t have to legislate anything. Utility companies will voluntarily switch to it. You guys are the technical geniuses right? So just do it. And if you can’t do it then don’t complain because no one else is doing it.

Reply to  David S
March 15, 2018 2:47 pm

Now do the analysis of this implementation curve without the use of fossil fuel equipment for mining lithium and rare earths, transport of panels and windmill blades, tower construction, and over multiple replacement cycles too. Let’s not forget the metal turbine and tower fabrication on land and marine installations at sea also.

March 15, 2018 3:10 pm

There is no doubt that at expected rates of exploitation fossil fuels will gradually become more expensive to the point where they will be unaffordable for many uses.
Renewables are already unaffordable for many. We will rapidly reach a lower limit to their cost after which costs will rapidly escalate as the optimal sites are used up.
Large-scale use of biofuels is too costly in terms of land and forest use. These are valuable resources needed for other uses for a burgeoning population.
Use of all of the above will continue to some degree for the foreseeable future but the only long-term answers are likely to be some form of nuclear power, greatly increased efficiencies, and perhaps reduced consumption forced by cost.
Making predictions is a sure way to look like a fool, but I will be long dead before I can be embarrassed by the above.
Perhaps Climate change will have killed everyone else as well, but I doubt it. I think it is more likely they will be lounging around in bikinis and shorts with a beer in their hand sporting designer sunglasses.

March 15, 2018 3:13 pm

While James Temple’s motivation is to reduce CO2 he is happy to use nuclear power to do it.
So he is not pushing “renewables” the way many people replying seem to think. In particular see
So while his motivation may be daft, his proposals make some sense for other reasons.

Sandy b
March 15, 2018 3:24 pm

Lock a thousand scientists in the New Mexican desert and don’t let them free until they have invented a viable alternative power sourse. A situation not unlike a WW 2 undertaking.

R. Shearer
Reply to  Sandy b
March 15, 2018 3:27 pm

Been there. Done that.

Sandy b
Reply to  R. Shearer
March 15, 2018 3:49 pm


Reply to  Sandy b
March 15, 2018 5:37 pm

They developed a viable alternative BOMB!
(Although the principle it uses certainly has peaceful applications in power generation, but the CAGW crowd has cowed us into avoid it.)

Bill Illis
March 15, 2018 3:51 pm

It’s going to take 400 years because as soon as someone comes up with a really good technological break-through, the Left immediately begins to hate it. It is darn near immediate.
Then some new theory gets developed through a UN agency about the new tech and how it will make sea level go up and will over-heat the planet and kill viruses.
Then we go backwards again. It’s at least 400 years away.

Sandy b
Reply to  Bill Illis
March 15, 2018 6:10 pm

The left does not want happy people. It will put them out of business.

Reply to  Sandy b
March 15, 2018 6:25 pm


March 15, 2018 6:07 pm

So, if we reached the wind and solar goals right now, how would that change the climate? Would vast expanses of naturally occurring grasslands, forests, or mountains with solar panels, and vast areas of wind energy sucking turbines not change the climate? Think about that for a minute. Wind and solar energy sources would most definitely qualify as an anthropogenic climate change trigger.

March 15, 2018 6:16 pm

Not many of these studies around today? Why?

March 15, 2018 7:39 pm

Finding a nonexistent problem to spend their lives
making a career of “fixing” is the height of chutzpah.
It boggles the mind when they float this AGW stuff.

Donald Kasper
March 16, 2018 1:13 am

Politicians are doing what they do best, pay lip service, and do nothing. It would not take 400 years to convert, but probably 10,000 years. 400 though is when our coal reserves may run out. But, we have oil shale and ocean cathrates. So in a few 1000 years we may convert. In the meantime, political fad like climate change run on a 5 year cycle so its lasting 20 so far is just astounding.

March 16, 2018 3:56 am

Thorium reactors are very welcome, Norway could have the world’s third largest deposit of thorium, most of it at the Fen field. This field is just a few miles north from where I live:
Lowest estimate is said to be app. 60.000 metric tons, while more optimistic numbers are ten times that 🙂

Reply to  NorwegianSceptic
March 16, 2018 8:43 am

“Norway could have the world’s third largest deposit of thorium”
What’s your point?

Coach Springer
March 16, 2018 5:47 am

Living in the Chicago area and then in downstate Illinois, it is impossible in Illinois to drive in any direction for much more than an hour and not encounter a large wind field. Up the rate by 10 and keep it there until 2050? Now there’s a nightmare scenario. And it will be expensive and its product will be expensive- even before the subsidized backup that will still be necessitated. What’s a few thousand nuclear plant sized batteries among friends of the environment?

Roger Knights
March 16, 2018 7:01 am

Here’s a news item from the Seeking Alpha financial site:

Slowdown in the U.S. solar industry
Mar. 15, 2018 4:48 AM ET|By: Yoel Minkoff, SA News Editor
The U.S. solar industry installed 10.6 gigawatts of new photovoltaic capacity in 2017, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, put together by GTM Research and the SEIA.
The number, while still considerable, represents a 30% fall year-on-year from 2016.
The study also predicts installations between 2018 and 2022 to be 13% lower than originally forecast due to U.S. tariffs on panel imports and new federal tax laws.

March 16, 2018 10:55 am

In other words:
Assuming the Global Warming Alarmists are right, it’s still going to be more cost effective to find a way to adapt to warming temperatures than it would be to stop man-made warming.
And THAT is assuming catastrophic man-made Global Warming.
Adopting the measures the AGW crowd want absent catastrophic warming reaches the point of being absolutely asinine.

March 16, 2018 11:43 am

It’s 1618, and you’re tasked to write a paper on how energy production and consumption will evolve over the next four centuries. Will you do any better than this author?

March 17, 2018 6:55 am

On: “MIT report: it will take 400 years
to transform to ‘clean’ energy”
by Anthony Watts / 1 day ago March 15, 2018
Comment by Arno Arrak
Trouble is that idiots like Ken Caldeira who know nothing of what causes global warming are being listened to with bated breath by true believers in “dangerous global warming.” Some pf his acolytes are filthy rich, and their money is wasted fighting this imbecility. The fact that no greenhouse warming has ever taken place stares you in the face when you look at a global temperature graph likeHadCRUT3 or other similar ones. Let us observe behavior of CO2 and temperature of Hadcrut3 as shown by figure 23 of “What Warming” and elsewhere in the literature. First, atmospheric carbon dioxide curve is smooth and free of kinks. Not so global temperature which zigs and zags and also is overlain by ENSO oscillation, sown by a red line. This red line designates the accrual temperature measurements. They swing above and below the mean gravitational sea level height that is located halfway between an El Nino peak and its adjacent La Nina valley. Second, global temperature simply does not follow this CO2 curve but zigs and zags. This behavior cannot be produced by a featureless carbon dioxide curve if it is true that warming follows CO2 concentration changes. This failure alone is sufficient to invalidate the concept that global warming is due to atmospheric carbon dioxide. Let’s be clear, however, that it does not deny the existence of warming per se, only the claim that its cause is atmospheric carbon dioxide. It follows that all the expensive projects dreamed up and implemented have no influence whatsoever on climate and are a total waste of money. Sime true believers will of course object so let us look at more details. One o of the zig-zags creates a straight warming segment between the years 1910 and 1940. Prior to 1910 temperature was sinking and it had to involved are simply waste of money. After 1940 the temperature rise becomes a temperature drop. In order to change temperature drop you must add carbon dioxide according to the greenhouse theory. But the carbon dioxide curve shows that none was added. Likewise, to stop warming and start chilling in 1940 you must remove part of the carbon dioxide that causes warming. The carbon dioxide curve shows that none was removed. Hence, the warming between 1810 to 1940 was neither started nor stopped by changes of atmospheric carbon dioxide Clearly we are justified in regarding the greenhouse theory of global warming as another failed theory, fit for the company of phlogiston and the geocentric earth. like the phlogiston theory that was retired in the nineteenth century. We might hear that the greenhouse theory ha a good theory behind it. But in science you go by experimental observations, not by unverified theories. And that 400 million year wait? Find out for yourself if you still don’t know.

Reply to  Arno Arrak
March 17, 2018 5:30 pm

Erratum!!! The text …“it had to involved are simply waste of money” was supposed to have been replaced by : “CO2 had to be added.” Somehow the previous text that was supposed to have been over-witten by the new text survived erasure and stayed visible. Sorry. AA

%d bloggers like this: