Graphic of the Week: How fast has low-carbon energy been built?

The graph shows how some countries have managed to add low-carbon electricity generation. The figures are based on the best 15-year effort between 1965 and 2013, and normalized for average population size.

The graph shows how some countries have managed to add low-carbon electricity generation. The figures are based on the best 15-year effort between 1965 and 2013, and normalized for average population size during that period.

The first of two books planned by Rauli Partanen and me is nearing completion. It will be a shortish treatise on things certain people aren’t very fond of telling about nuclear power, climate change, and the fight to save the environment. Due to time constraints – we wish to get it out before this spring’s parliamentary elections here in Finland – we have to self-publish it, sadly.

While the manuscript is in Finnish, we plan to translate it to English when time permits. Meanwhile, here’s one more graph of the day: how fast has low-carbon energy been built in the past, and in some near future plans?

What it shows is how fast different technologies have succeeded in adding low-carbon electricity to the grid. The results show the maximum added electricity production per (average) capita over a time period of 15 years. That is, I calculated the highest increase in said energy sources, nuclear or wind and solar, over any given 15 year period between 1965 and 2013. Then I divided that with the average population of said countries in the period mentioned. Energy data comes from BP Statistical Yearbook 2014 and population data is from Eurostat and others.

As you can see, the lauded harbingers of low-carbon future, i.e. solar and wind power, have so far been woefully slow compared to nuclear power. Even the infamous Olkiluoto 3 project in Finland, which is now nine years late and significantly over the budget, seems positively zippy in comparison to the best that renewables have achieved. (The figure for Olkiluoto actually refers to how much electricity is added during 13 years of now-planned construction; were I to normalize it for 15 years, it would be higher still.)

This data, and other evidence, make it puzzling how one of the most common refrains against using nuclear power to combat climate change is still that it is too slow. Surely, those people cannot be saying that renewables are by implication far too slow?

The correct interpretation, in my opinion, is of course that it’s better to build both nuclear and renewables. There certainly is enough fossil fuels to displace.

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About J. M. Korhonen

as himself
This entry was posted in Economy and the Environment, Energy, Infographics, Nuclear energy & weapons, What they aren't telling you about nuclear power and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Graphic of the Week: How fast has low-carbon energy been built?

  1. One more thing: the above graph actually seriously underestimates the contribution nuclear can make in the long-term climate fight. Because nuclear power plants can last 60 or perhaps even 80 years, installed nuclear capacity will get us farther along decarbonisation path than similar capacity of renewables with 20-30 year lifetimes. For the difference lifetime makes, see this post here:

    https://jmkorhonen.net/2014/01/23/graphic-of-the-week-whats-the-required-build-rate-for-a-sustainable-energy-system/

  2. Good analysis and nice graphic. The only beef I have is your concluding remark. I see no point to spending time and resources developing energy sources that have proven to be unreliable and uneconomic (i.e., renewables, really should be called unreliables). Better to spend those resources and time on proven technology, one that can produce electricity in steady, dispatchable form in the large amounts that are needed, at reasonable cost and with zero emissions (nuclear).

  3. Pingback: Short list of dishonest and silly arguments in energy discussions | PassiiviIdentiteetti

  4. Pingback: “Environmental NGOs knew the truth about climate change” | The unpublished notebooks of J. M. Korhonen

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