Looking For the Official Party Line on Energy Storage


Francis Menton

If you’ve read my energy storage report, or just the summaries of parts of it that have appeared on this blog, you have probably thought: this stuff is kind of obvious. Surely the powers that be must have thought of at least some of these issues, and there must be some kind of official position on the responses out there somewhere.

So I thought to look around for the closest thing I could find to the Official Party Line on how the U.S. is supposedly going to get to Net Zero emissions from the electricity sector by some early date. The most authoritative thing I have found is a big Report out in August 2022 from something called the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, titled “Examining Supply-Side Options to Achieve 100% Clean Electricity by 2035.” An accompanying press release with a date of August 30 has the headline “NREL Study Identifies the Opportunities and Challenges of Achieving the U.S. Transformational Goal of 100% Clean Electricity by 2035.”

What is NREL? The Report identifies it as a private lab “operated by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract.” In other words, it’s an explicit advocacy group for “renewable” energy that gets infinite oodles of taxpayer money to put out advocacy pieces making it seem like the organization’s preferred schemes will work.

Make no mistake, this Report is a big piece of work. The Report identifies some 5 “lead authors,” 6 “contributing authors,” and 56 editors, contributors, commenters and others. Undoubtedly millions of your taxpayer dollars were spent producing the Report and the underlying models (which compares to the zero dollars and zero cents that the Manhattan Contrarian was paid for his energy storage report). The end product is an excellent illustration of why central planning does not work and can never work.

So now that our President has supposedly committed the country to this “100% clean electricity” thing by 2035, surely these geniuses are going to tell us exactly how that is going to be done and how much it will cost. Good luck finding that in here. From the press release:

The study . . . is an initial exploration of the transition to a 100% clean electricity power system by 2035—and helps to advance understanding of both the opportunities and challenges of achieving the ambitious goal. Overall, NREL finds multiple pathways to 100% clean electricity by 2035 that would produce significant benefits, but the exact technology mix and costs will be determined by research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and infrastructure investment decisions over the next decade.

It’s an “initial exploration.” With the country already supposedly committed to this multi-trillion dollar project on which all of our lives depend, they’re just starting to think about how to do it. “The exact technology mix and costs” — in other words, everything important — “will be determined by research and development” — in other words, remain to be invented. But don’t worry, that will all be done over the next ten years, with plenty of time then remaining to get everything deployed at scale in the three years from then to 2035.

You won’t be surprised that there is a lot of wind and solar generation in this future. How much?

To achieve those levels would require an additional 40–90 gigawatts of solar on the grid per year and 70–150 gigawatts of wind per year by the end of this decade under this modeled scenario. That’s more than four times the current annual deployment levels for each technology.

So there will be an immediate ramp-up of solar and wind deployment to four times current annual levels. No problem! But what if somebody out there objects to having tens of thousands of square miles covered with these things?

If there are challenges with siting and land use to be able to deploy this new generation capacity and associated transmission, nuclear capacity helps make up the difference and more than doubles today’s installed capacity by 2035.

Oh, we’re going to double installed nuclear capacity by 2035. Did anybody tell these people that it takes more than 13 years lead time to build a nuclear plant? At present there are exactly two nuclear plants under construction in the U.S., both at the same site in Georgia. One of them started construction in 2009, and is supposed to enter service next year. That’s 14 years from when the first shovel went in the ground, and there are no other plants anywhere near putting a shovel in the ground.

Well, let’s get to the heart of things, namely the problem of energy storage. From page xii of the Report:

The main uncertainty in reaching 100% clean electricity is the mix of technologies that achieves this target at least cost—particularly considering the need to meet peak demand periods or during periods of low wind and solar output. The analysis demonstrates the potentially important role of several technologies that have not yet been deployed at scale, including seasonal storage and several CCS-related technologies. The mix of these technologies varies significantly across the scenarios evaluated depending on technology cost and performance assumptions.

Aha! This all requires some “seasonal storage” technology that “has not yet been deployed at scale.” (There’s an understatement!). Do they even have an idea of how that might be done?

Seasonal storage is represented in the modeling by clean hydrogen-fueled combustion turbines but could also include a variety of technologies under various stages of development assuming they achieve similar costs and performance. There is significant uncertainty about seasonal storage fuel pathways, which could include synthetic natural gas and ammonia, and the use of alternative conversion technologies such as fuel cells. Other technology pathways are also discussed in the report. Regardless of technology, achieving seasonal storage on the scale envisioned in these results requires substantial development of infrastructure, including fuel storage, transportation and pipeline networks, and additional generation capacity needed to produce clean fuels.

In other words, they have no clue. They’re wildly tossing out ideas of things that have never been tried or demonstrated, let alone costed — and supposedly we’re going to have our whole energy system transitioned to this in 13 years. No surprise that the best idea they have is hydrogen — which, as I describe thoroughly in my report, is a terrible idea. And all that infrastructure they talk about for the hydrogen — none of that currently exists, or is under construction, or is even in a planning stage.

Back to the press release:

A growing body of research has demonstrated that cost-effective high-renewable power systems are possible, but costs increase as systems approach 100% carbon-free electricity, also known as the “last 10% challenge.” The increase in costs is driven largely by the seasonal mismatch between variable renewable energy generation and consumption.

I’ve got news for them: they’re going to hit the wall long before getting to 90% from renewables. Just look at Germany or El Hierro Island to see how that happens. But assume they’re right, and the wall doesn’t come until renewable penetration hits 90%. They fully admit they have no answer at that point. Again from the press release:

Still, getting from a 90% clean grid to full decarbonization could be accelerated by developing large-scale, commercialized deployment solutions for clean hydrogen and other low-carbon fuels, advanced nuclear, price-responsive demand response, carbon capture and storage, direct air capture, and advanced grid controls. These areas are ripe for continued R&D.

Notice how this “demand response” thing gets suddenly slipped in there quietly, without any definition of what it means. Here’s what it means: if the system they create doesn’t work, they reserve the right to turn off your electricity any time they want. Or to jack up the price so high that you can’t afford to use your electricity.

The Report has a big section on cost/benefit analysis, where it is confidently concluded that the benefits far outweigh the costs under any of many scenarios. This is without the storage problem being solved or a solution demonstrated, or costs remotely known.

Click here to read the full article.

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December 10, 2022 6:56 am

Kind of like jumping out of a plane with a parachute kit – to be assembled on the way down.

Reply to  roger
December 10, 2022 10:18 am

Not really. There is no parachute kit yet. Just some vague ideas on what a parachute might look like.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  joel
December 10, 2022 10:49 am

One of the first persons to try a parachute jumped off the Eiffel Tower. It didn’t work.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 10, 2022 11:28 am

Well the Eiffel Tower and gravity itself worked.
But the parachute needed a bit more tinkering with.
Just that last 10%.

paul courtney
Reply to  Mr.
December 11, 2022 6:00 am

Excellent! Mr., I got a gut laugh on that one.

michael hart
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 10, 2022 2:10 pm

Was it during the Golden Age of Ballooning? 🙂

Reply to  joel
December 10, 2022 3:19 pm

An empty backpack would be more appropriate.

Reply to  roger
December 10, 2022 10:25 am

And without even checking to make sure that parachute kit has actually been loaded.

December 10, 2022 6:59 am

Have said it here (and elsewhere)

Net Zero won’t happen because it can’t. This article puts some “meat on the bones” of the opinion…..

I reckon we will see a gradual policy shift – they aren’t going to admit they are wrong, but I bet we see goals shifted, target dates relaxed etc…

Reply to  Hysteria
December 10, 2022 7:17 am

And of course it will be due to: need for greater funding, political and public foot-dragging, need to “bring along” everyone, etc, etc. Nothing to do with physics, chemistry, economics, reality.

Reply to  Hysteria
December 10, 2022 7:39 am

Already been happening everywhere. Because reality.

Reply to  Hysteria
December 10, 2022 10:28 am

I wouldn’t call what is provided in this report “meat”, mostly it’s a heaping load of “trust us”.

Reply to  Hysteria
December 10, 2022 1:39 pm

The other side of politics need to fuel the wave of reality and make it clear that CO2 caused global warming is fantasy and Net Zero using wind, solar and batteries is magical thinking.

paul courtney
Reply to  Hysteria
December 11, 2022 6:05 am

Mr. Hysteria: Indeed, this article may well be the opening shot, where net zero = 90%. Sounds almost like propaganda!

December 10, 2022 7:03 am

Once again, I am disheartened by my decision early in my life to not seek a college degree in some area of the general bullshitttery put out by the climate crisis crowd.
I, too, could have been paid good bucks for coming up with the swill they pass off as gospel.
Thumping my forehead with heel of hand at this point. lol.

Reply to  guidvce4
December 10, 2022 9:04 am

I don’t know how I missed this, but through reports of Coach Prime’s hiring as head coach of the football program at the University of Colorado (CU), I’ve just become aware that college football players can make over $1 million at college and one player even has a $3.5 million deal.

This supports my thesis that things are out of whack.

Reply to  Scissor
December 10, 2022 10:27 am

Doesn’t this indicate that, far from assuming a Doomsday scenario, these players foresee a long future ahead? Or at least a full season playing games?

Reply to  mikelowe2013
December 10, 2022 10:51 am

Yes, that would likely be the plan of said players, but it’s very likely that it will not pan out that way for many if not most.

I don’t think it’s a doomsday scenario either, however, I do envision a financial reckoning that will be met with austerity, who knows when?

Tom Abbott
Reply to  mikelowe2013
December 11, 2022 5:49 am

“Doesn’t this indicate that, far from assuming a Doomsday scenario, these players foresee a long future ahead?”

They see a lot of dollar signs. Sports is big money nowadays.

Be careful! Big Money corrupts, most of the time!

It looks to me like it is corrupting college football now. Along with the Transfer Portal.

Reply to  Scissor
December 10, 2022 10:45 am

In many states, the highest paid state employee is Old State U’s football coach.

Reply to  joel
December 10, 2022 10:54 am

Definitely. In essence, state facilities have been legally co-opted for private benefit to some extent. Perhaps, not unusual, especially these days.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Scissor
December 11, 2022 5:31 am

“This supports my thesis that things are out of whack.”

Things are definitely out of whack in college football. it’s getting much too commercial. It’s getting cult-like, with lots of group-think. Every player feels the need to make a self-congratulatory gesture or demonstration after *every* play. Me! Me! Me!, they seem to say. It almost looks like a self-esteem problem, but it’s not really, maybe for some, but mostly it’s group-think, group-act. Football player see, football player do.

I guess the days of someone scoring a touchdown and gently setting the ball down in the endzone and calmly walking off the field are over. Too bad. They ought to act like they’ve done it before. No big deal. But that’s not going to happen because of social pressure and group-think. You can’t fit in unless you act like a fool after every play. Humble is nowhere to be found.

And it’s not just football, it’s every sport in every nation. Group-think is not limited by international boundaries.

Reply to  guidvce4
December 12, 2022 9:17 am

Your common sense told you there was no chance this climate hysteria would last. It was too stupid to be more than a passing fad or a poor joke.

Problem is common sense isn’t common.

David Dibbell
December 10, 2022 7:17 am

“In other words, they have no clue.”

This is the most charitable assessment. We are already accelerating down the tracks toward an inevitable train wreck. And the organizations who ought to know better – e.g. NY DPS and NYSERDA – are manning the throttle.

Reply to  David Dibbell
December 10, 2022 11:25 am

Seems, to me, more like they set the throttle, then went to the club to gossip about other departments.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  David Dibbell
December 11, 2022 2:05 pm

They have a team ahead installing track and are hoping they accelerate too. Not a good bet.

I didn’t see anything about ordering, manufacturing, and installing transmission lines, distribution lines, transformers, breaker boxes, etc.

Joseph Zorzin
December 10, 2022 7:39 am

the exact technology mix and costs will be determined by research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and infrastructure investment decisions over the next decade”

Meanwhile, shut down fossil fuel plants ASAP- just to be sure, if there’s a smokestack, be sure to blow it up.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 10, 2022 10:29 am

Or, as in New Zealand, when shutting down the country’s only oil refinery, fill the disconnected pipework with concrete. There is no linit to the idiocy of Socialists!

Reply to  mikelowe2013
December 10, 2022 2:40 pm

It was private owned facility and the owners made that choice mostly because a low cost competitor was eating their lunch with imported refined product
Just as they have in Australia with almost all refineries shut down in last 12 years- except 2 kept by government mandated subsidies…or as you would call it socialism
Theres no limit to the idiocy of some capitalists who only consider their shareholders…..opps thats a feature not a bug.

Reply to  Duker
December 10, 2022 3:28 pm

Of course government regulations are just a part of capitalism.

paul courtney
Reply to  MarkW
December 11, 2022 6:16 am

Mr. W: Yes, a part on the cost side, never on the revenue side.

Pat from Kerbob
December 10, 2022 7:40 am

Always like Menton’s stuff

Tom Halla
December 10, 2022 8:17 am

Remember, if you ask questions about their cause, you are probably a wrecker.

George T
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 10, 2022 9:30 am

Yep. Wrecker, denier, skeptic and extremely deplorable…. In between the lines are rational, logical, reasonable, intelligent and sane.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 10, 2022 10:36 am

Anything less than full acceptance, even celebration, means you are a hater. And haters have no rights.

Curious George
December 10, 2022 8:34 am

I loved NREL’s reporting on the Crescent Dunes concentrated solar power plant. The plant was built, experienced difficulties with a molten salts heat storage, and finally went bankrupt, costing taxpayers less than a billion dollars. The plant’s page on NREL’s website showed a glowing assessment even six months after bankruptcy (it is no longer there).
Your tax dollars at work.

Rick C
Reply to  Curious George
December 10, 2022 8:49 am

This NREL report is also destined for the memory hole. You won’t find it on any government web site when the 2030s roll around. By then the authors will no doubt be collecting cushy pensions.

Reply to  Curious George
December 10, 2022 8:54 am

Things are out of whack.

DOE outsources management of NREL, thus allowing NREL’s senior management, as well as the parent contractor’s senior management, to pull down 7 figure annual compensation packages. Further, they use contract funds for lobbyists and, perhaps most importantly, political donations – thus demonstrating perpetual motion from government funding.

Reply to  Curious George
December 10, 2022 10:59 am

The wikipedia writeup is interesting. They never achieved their 40,000 MWH/month goal for some reason and their sole buyer cancelled them. They were costing way too much. They were out of operation then for about two years. I assume they have been reorganized and the new buyers got a good deal, and they are back in operation. What is amazing is the small amt of money involved, only a few hundred million dollars. Compare that to the money we are pouring into Ukraine, or the 429 billion dollars for renewable energy in the Inflation Reduction Act. Surely, there are two worlds. The real world were a 100 million dollars is a meaningful amt of money, and DC world, were a billion dollars can be unaccounted for and nobody blinks an eye.

December 10, 2022 8:41 am

NREL is one of the Dept. of Energy’s national labs, along with others such as Sandia (NM), Fermi (IL), Lawrence-Livermore (CA). They are all what is termed GOCO—government-owned, contractor-operated. DoE makes an agreement with the contracting organization for a certain number of years (like 5). NREL as a whole is under the DoE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

Research funding is also done by contracts to individual elements inside the labs dedicated to specific topics. This report was very likely done as a contract deliverable to DoE. It doesn’t say which internal organization did the report.

Reply to  karlomonte
December 10, 2022 9:13 am

The lead author:

Paul Denholm is a member of the Transmission Group in the Grid Planning and Analysis Center


Reply to  karlomonte
December 10, 2022 9:33 am

I’ve worked with people from NREL on several projects. Most of the scientists and engineers there love government travel, especially for building up reward points so their personal travel comes at little or no cost to them.

A favorite seems to be SCUBA diving in especially far away and remote locales in the South Pacific. Yes, they sacrifice in working few hours for handsome wages and benefits, but someone has to do it.

They vote for democrats and support AGW theory for hypocritical and selfish motives.

Reply to  Scissor
December 10, 2022 10:12 am

Not at all a surprise.

As for me, I am really glad I no longer have to ride airplanes for a job…

Reply to  karlomonte
December 10, 2022 11:03 am

I used to fly a lot and remember when service in coach was on par with today’s business class service.

Still, I appreciate first or business class on international travel, especially being able to lie flat and being able to take a shower upon arrival and to generally avoid being poked and prodded.

Bruce Cobb
December 10, 2022 8:42 am

The official party line is: “You gotta Believe!”

George T
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 10, 2022 9:34 am

Yep. Trust the science, trust the experts (think COVID) and Build Back Better. Period! There are a lot of people who are gullible and gluttons for punishment. Those of us who rational and sane in our thinking are collateral damage to this madness.

Reply to  George T
December 10, 2022 10:50 am

It has more to do with those people who perceive that they are going to benefit, while someone else is going to have to pay.
It’s the same for all big government programs.

December 10, 2022 9:41 am

“National Renewable Energy Laboratory”

Sounds much like a kitchen, possibly one run by Heston Blumenthal 

December 10, 2022 10:17 am

The economics are impossible.
I own a 2018 hybrid van. Love it.
It cost $10,000 ($40,000 total) more than the corresponding ICE van.
The Feds and State gave me 9700 dollars tax rebates to buy it.
Four years later the car company replaced the battery due to a fire hazard. That replacement cost $11,000, paid by the company.
So, in a four year time frame, that van has cost $21,000 more than the ICE counterpart, which only cost $30,000.
Only governments which can print money can promote this sort of economic insanity.
Which helps to explain way I am hoping the US dollar loses its status as an international reserve currency.

B Zipperer
Reply to  joel
December 10, 2022 10:26 pm

Wishing to lose reserve status for the dollar as a means to stop our idiot US government from spending money it doesn’t have would be like swallowing poison hoping it will injure your enemy.

Reply to  B Zipperer
December 11, 2022 3:28 pm

Well, it like a disseminated cancer. The medicine you take is a metabolic poison. You hope that it will kill the cancer while leaving you alive but weakened.

December 10, 2022 10:23 am

This is a common trait among leftists of all stripes. The assumption that because they are so smart, any plan they come up with is going to work. No need to work out the details ahead of time. No need to test run anything.
Whether it’s rebuilding an economy, or a power grid. Just trust the whiz kids, because they are the best and the brightest, full speed ahead.

Reply to  MarkW
December 10, 2022 11:48 am

Absolutely 1,000% true!

  1. Assemble a committee of hive-minds;
  2. Come up with a word salad of unintelligible tosh;
  3. Give the report an important-sounding title;
  4. Submit it for presentation at a forthcoming conference of “expert peers”;
  5. Deflect any poignant questions, observations from group outsiders;
  6. Assert that the only correct solutions have now all been developed;
  7. Move on with investigations into personal career advancement.
Dave Fair
Reply to  MarkW
December 10, 2022 1:10 pm

It worked for Vietnam, Mark; I was there. McNamara was a lying, fatuous ass yet we still listen to his successors.

When I ask, every respondent replies that they don’t believe government pronouncements. Then they go about believing the climate disaster propaganda. Go figure.

December 10, 2022 10:42 am

Not entirely OT, note the attached graphic. It shows the UK grid right now. Not much wind, and they are using a lot of NG and imported electricity to keep the grid up. The scary thing is that this seems to be a more or less maximum effort by their NG power infrastructure, which has lost about 3GW of output in the last couple of years (see 2nd pic in the graphic). This is after more or less shutting down all of their coal fired power plants.
Yeah, its the last 10% that’s the killer.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  joel
December 11, 2022 5:59 am

Clueless UK politicians have brought the UK to the brink of disaster because of their unreasonable fear of CO2 and insane, vain efforts to curb it’s increase.

Paul B
December 10, 2022 11:32 am

Average albedo of solar panel is 0.1. Average albedo of earth is 0.30.

Isn’t it true then, that solar panels are a net increase in energy delivered to the planet?

Likewise, windmills harvest KE, leaving down wind field at lower velocity than up wind field. Reduced velocity means less conductive transfer (surface to atmosphere) less evaporation, and less mixing. All of which lead to loss of surface cooling.

Don’t have the chops to put numbers on these effects but, it seems to me that wind and solar actually increase gorbal warming, no?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Paul B
December 10, 2022 4:35 pm

They certainly don’t do anything to stop it, since CO2 that they supposedly reduce doesn’t drive it.

But a good avenue of things that should have been but never have been investigated – what effect does extracting energy from the wind and the Sun have on …

The weather?


While they’re busy chasing their tails about meaningless CO2 emissions, they haven’t even given a moment’s though to the potential effect of their proposed (non) “solutions.”

December 10, 2022 12:03 pm

I suspect that many of us who visit here at WUWT have had professional involvements over many years with various government and corporate organizations in various capacities.

So I’m wondering if anyone else has recollections of those meetings where everyone (including you) has come away expressing confident agreement that what you’ve all just settled upon is the right path to embark upon.

But as soon as you’ve all disbanded, you say to yourself –

“This is fantasy. Do I articulate and express my disagreement to the group, or should I just find a way to extricate myself from direct involvement, put some distance between me and whatever happens next?”

John in Oz
Reply to  Mr.
December 10, 2022 3:18 pm

I worked in a computer company selling and maintaining computer systems for Oz Defence in the days of 300MB drives the size of washing machines (such fond memories).

They told us for several years that our system would be replaced with PCs/servers that year. My bonuses were very nice for all of those years as I budgeted for losing the revenue that kept on and on and on.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Mr.
December 11, 2022 2:21 pm

What’s really scary is that in about 5 years the government is going to realize a crash nuclear installation is going to be needed. That means reduced safety inspections and other ignored safety protocols. My mind recoil at the possible problems!

Chris Hanley
December 10, 2022 12:42 pm

Notice how this “demand response” thing gets suddenly slipped in there quietly, without any definition of what it means

Given the lack of nuclear development ‘demand response’ or artificially making energy consumption more expensive through the proliferation of expensive inefficient wind is the only tool they have, that can be clearly seen in Germany.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Chris Hanley
December 10, 2022 1:29 pm

“Demand response” is rationing. Socialism at its finest.

Mike McMillan
December 10, 2022 12:44 pm

Found this on compressed CO2 energy storage:

It works like compressed air storage, except that instead of super-high-pressure storage tanks, CO2 can be liquified at ambient temperatures, so for more storage you just add more off-the-shelf 1000 psi industrial tanks.

Illinois has a vast belt of windmills running through the cornfields, an it wouldn’t be any trick to drop some of these in the middle to pick up the slack when the wind quits. Fairly simple and no exotic materials.

There’s a pilot program going over in Europe, and we’ll see if it works.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Mike McMillan
December 11, 2022 8:45 am

Highview does the same thing with liquid air.


The trouble is the round trip efficiency is low. “Free” low grade heat and free coolth helps. The ideal location would probably be near Milford Haven, where they could tap the coolth from LNG regasification, and low grade heat from the Valero refinery and Pembroke CCGT power station.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 10, 2022 12:59 pm

At present there are exactly two nuclear plants under construction in the U.S., both at the same site in Georgia. One of them started construction in 2009, and is supposed to enter service next year. That’s 14 years from when the first shovel went in the ground, and there are no other plants anywhere near putting a shovel in the ground.

Correct, but pre-construction approval and licensing activities started back in February 2005 when Southern Company announced the intent to apply to the NRC for an Early Site Permit (ESP), although no specific site had been identified. The relevant milestones are:

August 2006: The ESP application was filed in naming Plant Vogtle as the site.December 2006: a consortium of anti-nuclear organizations filed a petition to intervene in the ESP.March 2007: the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) of the NRC announced they would grant the petition to intervene.March 2008: Southern Company filed an application for a Combined Construction and Operating License (COL)November 2008 Southern Co. was notified that the same consortium of anti-nuclear groups had filed a petition to intervene in the COL.March 2009: the ASLB held hearings on the Plant Vogtle ESP (N.B.: this is two and a half years after the permit was filed!).June 2009: the ASLB announced they had ruled in favor of Southern company on all contested points in the ESP.August 2009: The actual ESP was awarded; excavation started the same month.
So the bureaucratic dance for the new reactors started over four years before the first bucket of dirt was excavated. At the time they were supposed to enter service in 2016-2017.

See here for the entire Vogtle Units 3 & 4 Timeline.

I don’t know how much delay was caused by the anti-nuclear groups’ involvement, but you have to assume any new reactor plans will face similar opposition. And even without opposition, it appears the NRC approval process will add at least two years.

It is also worth noting that the Plant Vogtle site already had two operating reactors, so a whole lot of regulatory requirements (seismic studies, cooling water intake permits, evacuation and security plans, waste storage plans, etc., etc.) had already been met.

I suspect the project would have been stymied or killed if not for the fact that it spanned the tenure of three Republican Governors: Sunny Purdue 2003-2011, Nathan Deal 2011-2019, and Brian Kemp 2020 – present. A hostile governor and PUC (Public Utilities Commission) may not be able to kill a nuclear project, but they can certainly delay it and possibly even scuttle it after completion. Case in point: Diablo Canyon in California and Jerry Brown.

It’s not just the US; the first EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) in France began construction in 2007 at Flamanville and is currently slated to start operation in 2023; it was originally required to begin fuel load in 2020, but that deadline was extended by four years.

Bottom line: I’d use a 16-17 year estimate rather than the 14 years you give above to get from “firm intent” to build a reactor to actually putting electrons on the wire.

Paul Stevens
December 10, 2022 1:03 pm

Francis Menton is one of the most rational commentators on energy reality around the blogosphere. Definitely top 20 worldwide in my opinion. None of his articles that I have read have been a waste of time and I have learned something every time I have jumped in. Manhattan Contrarian is one of my daily reads in the morning. There is not always something new, but when there is it is worth reading.

December 10, 2022 1:35 pm

So there will be an immediate ramp-up of solar and wind deployment to four times current annual levels. 

China cannot ramp up coal production to anywhere near meeting that demand even for the stuff needed in the USA. And the rest of the developed world has the same target.

China will stop accepting US debt before much progress is made.

Beta Blocker
December 10, 2022 1:54 pm

The Biden administration is committed to shutting down all of America’s remaining coal-fired power generation capacity by as early as 2030, if they can manage it, and by 2035 if they can’t quite get it done by 2030.

Biden’s people also remain committed to systematically reducing America’s production of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and natural gas through aggressive anti-carbon financial and environmental regulations.

Nothing in the way of a credible plan of action for achieving Net Zero has been presented by the Biden administration, nor has any credible plan been presented by the climate activist communities inside the universities or among the NGO’s.

As a practical matter, only a fraction of America’s shuttered energy production will be replaced with equivalent zero-carbon energy resources, leaving strictly-enforced energy conservation as Biden’s only means for achieving his Net Zero goals on the schedule he has announced.

His primary conservation enforcement mechanism will simply be the ever-growing lack of an adequate supply of energy in comparison with demand.

Here in the United States, the outcome of the 2022 mid-term elections demonstrates that climate activists will likely be in control of the levers of government power through the end of this decade, at the very least.

It has become apparent that price inflation driven in large part by current fiscal, monetary, and energy policies, and by a growing lack of energy supply, must get a lot worse before the climate activists who control the federal government begin to feel any substantial political blowback for their anti-carbon energy policies.

And so the only prediction we can make with any certainty is that America’s supply of all forms of energy will continue to fall, and that the price of all forms of energy will continue to rise. The only question at this point is how far, and by how much, respectively.

Reply to  Beta Blocker
December 10, 2022 3:24 pm


The sad part of this “energy” or “climate” crisis is the emphasis upon heat and not cold. The cultists do not seem to understand basic health and seasonal considerations that are here and have been and continues to be here, solar panels and windmills aside.

The solar scam episodes from ten years ago should demonstrate how poorly desgned and engineered and OPERATED ain’t gonna hack it.

Hard to find knowledgeable folks that dispute some year or decade weather trends that some call “climate” change occur. It’s the theory that human activity is the PRIMARY influence upon change, and it’s hard to get a majority of climate/meteorogy folks to support that position.

Instead of using our existing wealth to PREPARE and ADAPT, we are spending zillions of $$$ on studies and subsidies for “renewable” or “green” endeavors that have thus far not have made a dent or even shown a hundredth of a degree change in rising temperatures.

Meanwhile, it is more and more looking like the ice age cycle is on the track it has been for last million years or so. In other words, in a hundred or two hundred years it’s getting colder and colder. If all the “renewable” electricity programs don’t get a lot better, and somebody can’t figure out how to get a heat pump to work in Grand Forks during January, we better cut down a lotta trees and have great stoves/fireplaces to survive the winter. And I hate to think about Minneapolis. Oh yeah, don’t think about agriculture as we have seen for last 10,000 years.

Gonna be intersting, these next 100 years.

Gums sends…

Reply to  Beta Blocker
December 10, 2022 8:34 pm

The Biden administration is primarily focused on importing vast numbers of new voters, and aggregating power and money into the 6 zip codes of Washington D.C., at the expense of the rest of the country. Actually solving anything perceived as a problem by those residing outside of the halls of power in FedGov, never intrudes upon their minds.

Julius Sanks
December 10, 2022 4:57 pm

Knowing something about govvie contracts, having been on both sides of that table, I found the actual contract. It’s obscene. 20 years, starting in 2008. Building warships or airplanes, that might make some sense. But this is basically a consulting contract. There is absolutely no reason to hire a single consultant for 20 years. If it was my program I’d give them five years, which is typical in the defense industry. And the ceiling is seriously obscene: almost $156 million, though about $8 mil/year is generally okay for stuff like this. A combo of R&D and construction management. Those should NEVER be combined into a single contract.

Prime contract: https://www.nrel.gov/extranet/primecontract/

Section B, the CLINs and contract value: https://www.nrel.gov/extranet/primecontract/assets/pdfs/section-b-mod1346.pdf

Beta Blocker
December 10, 2022 6:37 pm

A new startup called Last Energy out of Houston, Texas, is designing and building a small 20 MWe nuclear power plant intended for supporting industrial customers in Europe. 

The market they intend to serve does not include power generation for a grid. It is focused instead on industrial customers who need a reliable supply of electricity 24/7/365.

See this article and interview from Atomic Insights: Atomic Show #303 – Bret Kugelmass, CEO Last Energy


From the article:

“Last Energy is an innovative new company governed by a philosophy of avoiding the invention of anything that has not been done before. They have created a business that is laser focused on building, owning and operating small (20 MWe), modular pressurized water reactors and selling the electricity they produce under long term power purchase agreements.

On Atomic Show #303, Bret Kugelmass, the founder, president and CEO of Last Energy describes the path he took from earning a masters degree in robotics at Stanford, through the founding and operation of a successful drone company, to a highly respected podcast, through a non profit think tank and into a utility company that has designed a nuclear power plant that can begin operating as early as 2025 with commercial scale repetition starting almost immediately.

Where some believe that nuclear fission requires highly specialized equipment, Last Energy has found that pressure vessels, pumps, piping, heat exchangers and valves of similarly high quality standards are widely available from experienced, commercial suppliers. Their systems, structures and components (SSC) use well-accepted ASME codes and standards and are often identical to the SSC that have been used for decades in chemical processing, oil and gas, and other industrial applications.

Last Energy has chosen a small number of initial deployment locations, specifically in the UK, Romania and Poland. They are aiming to supply power to major industrial consumers that need somewhere between 20 and 100 MWe. They will connect to their customers “behind the meter”. From the customer point of view, Last Energy power will look and act like the electricity they currently purchase from their local utility company.

Last Energy systems will have approximately 2 m diameter pressure vessels that can accommodate full length fuel assemblies and standard control rods with proven drive mechanisms mounted on the reactor head. There will be fewer assemblies in the core, and they will be replaced as a whole unit every 6 years. Each plant will have a single steam generator and coolant pump.

Kugelmass explains the reasons behind the company philosophy and design choices. He provides a good summary of their business model and their driving motivations.

One aspect of Last Energy’s plans should motivate US politicians to modify our current export control regime. Even though their plants are designed to be well within the production capability of US manufacturers, the company is studiously avoiding the production of any nuclear component in the US. Export control processes are too burdensome to be economically justifiable.


One would expect that getting a new reactor design up and running in as short a time as Last Energy expects to accomplish this major task would be impossible in today’s environment. 

In the interview, Bret Kugelmass explains how he thinks this can be done. All the parts and pieces of the Last Energy design are readily available from today’s industrial base, much of it already being used in the oil & gas industry; e.g. the pressure vessels, the pumps, etc. 

No pieces of technology which don’t already exist are included in their reactor design. The reactors will be manufactured and assembled in Europe in order to avoid US export controls.  

Reply to  Beta Blocker
December 10, 2022 8:40 pm

That they are partnering with NuScale on the projects in Poland is encouraging. Let’s see which design gets to the power production phase 1st…

Beta Blocker
Reply to  JamesB_684
December 11, 2022 7:38 am

JamesB_684: “That they are partnering with NuScale on the projects in Poland is encouraging. Let’s see which design gets to the power production phase 1st…”

NuScale’s and its partner Fluor’s current market focus is selling general purpose nuclear power plants for supplying electricity to the grid. Last Energy’s current market focus is to serve power consuming industrial customers with a reliable and affordable off-grid supply of electricity.

Last Energy will own and operate its own plants while NuScale/Fluor will be selling their plants to power utility customers. 

Technical and financial risk management is the name of the game if new-build nuclear power is to make a comeback. Managing financial risk is heavily dependent on managing technical risk.

Both Last Energy and NuScale/Fluor minimize technical and financial risk through repackaging existing technologies in new ways to create their modular reactor systems.

Here is an interview Titans of Nuclear did with Scott Bailey of NuScale earlier this year.

Titans of Nuclear Episode 350, Scott Bailey

Bailey goes into great detail as to how NuScale is working with Fluor and with component suppliers to get their SMR-based power plant design off the drawing boards and into operational service. 

Several items from the Bailey interview stand out to me.

— NuScale is now working closely with component suppliers to mobilize the supply chain for their SMR design and to resolve potential technical issues well before equipment fabrication begins.

— Their design combines the reactor core and a steam generator in a single SMR unit. Each SMR unit feeds a single turbine thus simplifying steam delivery to the power generation side of the plant.

— The flagship six-module NuScale SMR plant (462 MWe), to be owned by UAMPS and operated by Energy Northwest, is scheduled for operation in eastern Idaho in 2029. However, if funding were to be made available more quickly, the plant could go online as early as 2027.

Critics of the oncoming SMRs inside the nuclear industry say that with completion of Vogtle 3 & 4, the US will have regained a good part of its former industrial base in building the large 1100 MWe reactors. 

For myself, I’m skeptical that enough of the industrial base for these very large reactors is now working well enough to bring the capital costs down far enough to compete with the theoretical capital costs of the oncoming SMRs.

Another problem is emerging which could severely hamper an emerging late 2020’s nuclear renaissance. 

Rumors are developing that the high inflation seen in the last two years is directly impacting the costs of all industrial supplies and equipment, including the costs of the additional power generation equipment needed to support electrification of the American economy.

How bad will inflation’s impacts on the emerging markets for the new SMRs get? We will find out soon enough.

Patrick Childs
December 10, 2022 6:40 pm

Nuclear is the only option. We need to develop small modular nuclear plants for smaller communities. A Rickover plant can sustain a population of 50K, presuming no foundries and super consumers. You have manufacturing? Add another and the surplus energy will be added to the grid for even more distant towns.

Reply to  Patrick Childs
December 10, 2022 8:43 pm

The several SMR designs being developed will all require something like the GE-Hitachi’s PRISM reactor to digest the unspent fuel + fission byproducts. I suppose 10 SMRs + one PRISM might be a sustainable ratio.

It doesnot add up
December 10, 2022 7:04 pm

As far as I can detect, El Hierro seems to have been relying almost exclusively on Motores Diesel since the 4th December:


December 10, 2022 7:44 pm

Many have been led to believe with propaganda that “storage” for all the electricity needed to live at our current lifestyle has already been developed in the form of batteries and wind and solar can charge them. They also believe that since it has already been developed and proven that it will work to their expectations …. I don’t think they realize the requirements. Rooftop solar with batteries can work in certain environments/latitudes to take a house off grid …. at a cost. It can’t power business, industry, public needs like street lighting and stop lights, and backup for their system when the environment fails to deliver enough sun or wind. But I don’t think a majority of the people believe grid level batteries are possible today or in the near future. Most people just want the AGW supporters to go away and if nodding in agreement to their next demand works then so be it. Nothing happens when they don’t comply so what?

It doesnot add up
Reply to  mleskovarsocalrrcom
December 11, 2022 11:55 am

Hooray for Old Math – so simple, so very simple that even a child can do it.

Apologies to Tom Lehrer.

Here is a very stylised picture of daily solar output over a year: it rises from zero in midwinter to a maximum in midsummer, and declines symetrically to the next midwinter. The solar panel output is the sum of the blue trapezium and the yellow triangles, which just hide the tops of the triangular rise and fall of the underlying blue triangles. The red triangles can be thought of as the output required from storage to keep a steady level of supply over the year at the level of the height of the trapezium. The area of the red triangles is smaller than the yellow ones: the ratio of the areas reflects the round trip efficiency of our storage, with supply from the yellow triangles being used to fill the storage drawn down by the red triangles.

The average capacity factor depends on the height of the midsummer maximum relative to the nominal capacity of the panels. The area of a triangle is half the base times the height, and we have two triangles with a base of half a year. So we can think of half the height of the maximum (daily output) as being the average capacity factor.

The red and yellow triangles are similar, since they share the same angles. That means that their corresponding sides bear a common ratio to each other. The square of that ratio determines the ratio of their areas, which as we have already discussed is the storage round trip efficiency.

With these facts in place we can calculate as follows:

For a storage round trip efficiency of 81% (new batteries), the length ratio is 90%, for 64% it is 80% and so forth down to say 25% giving 50% length ratio for hydrogen based storage.

The overall maximum solar output has to be divided in the ratio 1:length ratio to give the height of the trapezium or the constant power that can be generated, so for our example of hydrogen, maximum daily output will be (1+0.5)/0.5 or three times the level of constant power. The share of the total energy generated that is diverted to storage is (1/(1+0.5))^2, or 4/9ths of the annual output, with just 1/9th being returned from the storage, and 1/3rd of all generation being wasted in the round trip losses.

Simple solar.png
It doesnot add up
Reply to  It doesnot add up
December 11, 2022 12:00 pm

In the spirit of “Come back tomorrow night – we’re going to do fractions!” those who want to sophisticate the analysis can consider sinusoidal variations in output and perhaps 6 months out of phase sinusoidal variations in demand to simulate winter.

another ian
December 10, 2022 9:52 pm

You could say that The Manhattan Contrarian went critical there!

December 11, 2022 12:14 am

Excellent piece again. Francis is probably, along with Paul Homewood, one of the clearest and most forceful critics of the prevailing climate and energy madness.

Nick Stokes has offered the counter argument that no-one is seriously advocating wind+solar+batteries. Everyone, he says, is in fact advocating that what must be used until something turns up is wind+solar+gas.

Consider this piece, then, and some clippings:


With the 2020 passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the Old Dominion is among a growing number of states committed to “decarbonizing” its power grid by replacing natural-gas and coal-fired power plants with solar panels, wind turbines, and battery storage. 

The momentum behind solar energy could make sunshine the nation’s dominant source of electricity, supplying up to 45% of the nation’s electricity by mid-century, from a meager 2.8% of U.S. electricity generation now, according to a Department of Energy forecast. 

Until recently, solar farms on the East Coast had been relatively unobtrusive, first maxing out at a 1 megawatt then scaling up to 5 megawatts. The most hospitable habitats for gargantuan projects were sun-drenched Southwestern deserts and the territorial expanses of India and China. But with the solar panel costs plummeting to the point that sunshine is now described as the nation’s cheapest source of electricity, and the promise of large-scale battery backup as a feasible means of managing solar power, solar has pressed ahead as the leading technology to replace greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. 

They really are expecting to eliminate gas and coal, and move to solar (and also to wind), and they really are expecting to do this by using battery storage.

Menton is not addressing a straw man. This is a really serious delusion and seriously deluded plans which the political class in the US, UK and Australia believe to be both practical and necessary, and which they are intent on implementing, while having no concrete plans to provide the storage which is an essential component and no examples of anyplace it has ever been done.

As an example of the problem, here are the UK stats at 8am:

Demand: 30.95GW. Supplied by…

Gas: 20.40
Wind: 0.97
Solar: zero

As I keep saying, this is not renewables supplemented by gas. This is gas supplemented by renewables. The UK, remember has about 25GW of wind installed and about 15GW of solar. That approximately 40GW of installed capacity at the moment is delivering less than 1GW

It doesn’t matter how much wind and solar you install, there is no way to make this work.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  michel
December 11, 2022 8:04 am

michel: “As I keep saying, this is not renewables supplemented by gas. This is gas supplemented by renewables.”

Here in the US, the Biden administration is determined to close all of America’s coal-fired power plants by 2030 if they can manage it, by 2035 if they can’t quite reach 2030. Gas-fired generation is targeted as well, but at a slower pace of retirement.

The strategic expectation among those who sell gas-fired power generation technology and equipment in the United States is that as serious shortages of electricity begin to develop, the retirement of our legacy gas-fired generation facilities will either be postponed or possibly even cancelled altogether.

My personal expectation is that climate activists will be in control of the US federal government throughout the 2020’s and into the 2030’s. These people are not likely to abandon their Net Zero targets regardless of how severe our shortage of electricity gets.

By 2035, everyone in America must learn how to get by with from one-third to one-half of the electricity we consume today in the year 2022. It will be a character building experience for all of us, I’m sure.

The Real Engineer
December 11, 2022 12:19 am

One can immediately see that this “report?” is a load of useless waffle by the English constructions used. It was certainly not written by an Engineer, more likely a sociologist! Useless excuse to get more money.

Tom Abbott
December 11, 2022 5:15 am

From the article: “With the country already supposedly committed to this multi-trillion dollar project on which all of our lives depend, they’re just starting to think about how to do it.”

That’s exactly what is happening. These climate alarmists have no idea how to implement eliminating CO2. They can limit CO2, which is what they are doing now, with disastrous consequences to the rest of us. They don’t have a viable replacement for CO2-based fuels, but they are forging ahead anyway. They clearly haven’t thought all these things out and as a consequence, we are all suffering for it in one way or another.

The climate alarmists are making up the plan as they go, and their plan is going to crash and burn sooner or later, and it looks like sooner.

Eliminating CO2 is not possible, nor is it necessary. Those who think otherwise are doing great harm to the rest of us.

December 11, 2022 6:48 am

There are not sufficient materials available in nature to manufacture, maintain and replenish all these grid renewables storage / EV batteries – fossil fuels will be with us for at least another century or until technology gives us something better, in ample affordable supply

Rod Evans
December 11, 2022 7:45 am

Just to add some reality to the Green energy advocates day.
It is just after 3.30 pm here in central UK. The outside temperature is 2 deg. C. Our UK wind energy fleet which has a capacity to generate around 26 GW on a good day ( we haven’t had one of those yet) is producing just 750MW. Not even one Gig!!
Our one remaining operational coal fired power station, the one not yet blown up by the Green energy advocates, is producing 1.4 GW roughly double our entire eleven thousand wind turbines combined.
One coal plant is keeping the lights on along with nuclear and thank god, our gas powered generators.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Rod Evans
December 11, 2022 10:31 am

Watch out for tomorrow. Peak day ahead power already traded at £2,850/MWh. Earlier, the Grid were forecasting a shortfall of over 1.5GW as they bid desperately for interconnector supply. They will doubtless be looking for paid-for power cuts a.k.a. Demand Side Response. We have cold Dunkelflaute in progress… perhaps the first real power cuts, too.

Mark BLR
Reply to  Rod Evans
December 12, 2022 3:57 am

Our one remaining operational coal fired power station …

West Burton A and the two coal “units” (5 & 6, 660 MW each ?) at Drax were actually given a reprieve this summer, and will keep burning coal “if and when instructed to do so by National Grid” until March 2023.

From an article at Energy Live News last July :

Drax has today announced it will extend the coal operations at its power station at the government’s request.

In a statement, the company said it will be paid a fee for the service it will offer and will be compensated for costs incurred, including coal costs caused by the extended operations of its coal units.

Drax said: “At the request of the UK Government, Drax has now entered into an agreement with National Grid – in its capacity as the electricity systems operator – pursuant to which its two coal-fired units at Drax Power Station will remain available to provide a “winter contingency” service to the UK power system from October 2022 until the end of March 2023.

“The units will not generate commercially for the duration of the agreement and only operate if and when instructed to do so by National Grid.”

A few days ago, it was confirmed that EDF’s West Burton A coal plant will stay open for six months longer than originally planned.

NB : The (500 MW) unit at Ratcliffe on Soar which was also scheduled to close in September has now been “reprieved” until September 2024 (the date the other three units are set to shut down).

Until March next year there are still three “operational coal fired power stations” supplying the GB electricity grid.

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