No new gas plants?
POINT: Michael Bloomberg is promoting his vision to “stop the construction of new gas plants,” reasoning that by the time they would be built, they would be “out of date because renewable energy will be cheaper”… Is this a valid position? Or put differently, where do gas-powered electric-generating assets fit in today’s power investment mix?
COUNTERPOINT 1: Sure, Bloomberg is moving Beyond Carbon. But, with a 100-year supply since 2009, natural gas for backup will always be cheap. Unlike wind and solar, gas can be dispatched on demand to fill voids, so it will always be needed. Sierra Club and others, though, make the mistake that “Climate Change” is the ONLY issue that matters in energy choices. People must survive in winter (little solar and wind) and in heat waves (little wind). Hurricanes in Puerto Rico destroyed half their solar capacity in 2017 — replacing solar panels (perhaps as frequently as every five years) is NEVER added to solar prices. And, those failures will leave some space for gas.
The other major flaw in the Bloomberg-Sierra Club approach is that electricity and energy are economic decisions ONLY. This is false, but represents a HUGE blind spot in our American “market driven” culture and business landscape. Meanwhile, wind and solar benefit from LARGE state MANDATES, so they want RE “by any means”. Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign is a blatant mandate: “100% Renewable”, which many cities have adopted for political favor.
COUNTERPOINT 2: Meanwhile, China and Russia lead in Nuclear Power deployments because for them it is secondarily an economic decision. The China + Russia “Tandem” have integrated Nuclear Energy as a PRIMARY plank of Foreign Policy. China will use nuclear plants to conquer Belt & Route territory. Russia is using nuclear already to secure dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean with plants at Akkuyu in Turkey, a four-reactor deal at Dabaa on the coast near Alexandria. Add this to a small naval base in Syria. China and Russia show that Nuclear Energy “Dominance” bears some economic factors, but the bigger drivers are Reliabiity, Secure supply, and Regional spheres of influence throughout the Belt-Route Territory. They do not evaluate Nuclear in mere “$/MWh”. Yes, economic competitiveness matters, but for China and Russia Foreign Policy is much more important. Russia is doing the same with gas; using it to gain influence. We are headed for a world where China and Russia dominate Nuclear Technology — is that the world we want? — because we only see the decision in Economic terms. The global market would prefer a US-made nuclear reactor, but we need to offer smaller, modular systems to gain market share. Right now, more than 90% of the new nuclear plants are being built outside the USA.