Friday, July 10, 2009

On renewable energy sources and their success

Well, actually this will be a short post and in hope for how a more liberal energy market could produce interesting results.

I assume that most people will think of me as a defender of coal and nuclear power above all else and in particular against "new" energy sources that are greener (though not all are really). However, I am more of a practical man. I want to have the best resources for the best application. If you live in the jungle of Amazonia and you will never have a connection to any kind of power grid. In this case, I think, it is a very good and efficient idea to use regenerative energy sources, which are more reliable and cheaper than to build a land line and a power plant next to you.

However, this is not so evident in densly populated Europe, where there is no longer any jungle and most communities are connected to a European power grid. However, even here regenerative energy sources might be a valid idea, however, we don't know it. We don't know it because subisidies screw up theh market pricing scheme. And I don't restrict myself to green subsidies, no, nuclear and coal power also have had their subsidies, especially during the costly construction process. How can anyone decide what a given technology costs and whether it is usefull, if the prices are distorted by politicians who want to support their pet projects, or activist groups who want to procure funding.

My idea is more of a free market approach in that no subsidies should be given. Perhaps this would present to us some very interesting results, where suddenly some renewable energy sources are not that bad a choice. Let the market decide is my idea of pricing and comparing technology. So that we get the best, most efficient and cheapest energy there is.

As a post-script I'd like to summarize a bit the pro's and con's of the Desertec project:

- trade and cooperation always led to peace
- Use of land that is not "lost" to civilization (deserts)
- technological benefits by testing direct current long-range transmission into the european grid
- optimized green source in optimal spots

- dependency on non-democratic states
- probably expensive tax payer portion!!!
- technical difficulties (transformation etc.)
- unreliable
- diminishes return from smart grids
- sandy spots have high maintenance costs
- comparatibe advantage with other projects not look at/ opportunity costs disregarded
- more PR / companies are not really persuaded (or they would have already started)

All in all, I still don't see where the benefits are. Yes, the desert is mostly non-inhabitable for large human settlements, but they are none the less important biohabitats for animals. I don't understand why a 10x bigger power plant than a coal power plant gets a green thumb up, while it destroys a natural bio diversity 10 x bigger? Shouldn't there be outrage by greens about it? Or do they only cry when the animals killed are adorable?

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