Monday, November 23, 2009

With Duke Energy’s James Rogers

clip_image001The Council on Foreign Relations has an interesting interview up with James E. Rogers, Duke Energy’s CEO. Right at the start, interviewer Roya Wolverson notes that Duke is the country’s third largest producer of carbon emissions and stands to  be a “loser” in any climate change legislation. Rogers takes that on directly:

We know the transition is going to be expensive. We know it's not going to be easy, because every technology that generates electricity needs advances to be an equal contributor in a low-carbon world. We know that it won't be quick. But we believe that the transition needs to be fair and the cost impacts to consumers need to be smoothed out over a period of time so it's not disruptive to U.S. businesses or families.

And as you might expect, the nuclear takeaway is significant, and Rogers is right on top of current events:

But the difference in the jobs [at solar and wind plants vs. nuclear plants] is quite different, because if you're wiping off a solar panel, it's sort of a minimum wage type of job, [with] much higher compensation for nuclear engineers and nuclear operators. If our goal is to rebuild the middle class, nuclear plays a key role there, particularly if coal is out of the equation.

And, he hasn’t much time for the anti-nuclear advocate’s occasional “no need for base load energy” argument:

Job one for me is affordable, reliable, clean, 24/7, 365 days a year. So, given the technologies that we have today, nuclear is the only 24/7 product we have--unless you do natural gas, which has 50% of the carbon footprint of coal. And its price is quite volatile.

And the bottom line on nuclear energy:

If you asked me today based on current technologies--and assuming we have no advances in technology with respect to decarbonization of coal--I would say nuclear would trump coal because it produces zero greenhouse gases, it provides power 24/7, and, probably most importantly, it probably produces more jobs than even solar or wind on a per-megawatt basis.

We could go on stealing Wolverson’s work all day, so do go over to the site and read the whole thing.


perdajz said...

I don't buy this line of thinking, and NEI has to be careful with it. The best technology is that one that requires the fewest number of workers per unit output.

The economic benefit from nuclear power is the increase in productivity that society as a whole sees from reliable, cheap and safe production of electricity. It's not about the number of jobs nuclear power "creates".

Scott said...

I understand your concern perdajz, but we have to accept support from where we can get it. It is obviously tailored to the current flavor of the week but in essence, with all the regulations and procedures NPPs have to abide by, his statements are not exactly in error. Nuke plants do create a lot of high paying jobs in the current regulatory climate. Some of these I would deem to be redundant or even completely unnecessary but we cannot expect a lean Nuclear world anytime soon. Build the plants first, then ease off the ratcheted regulations which will lower the number of workers per output and therefore cheaper electricity for all.

Anonymous said...

The important point to remember is that nuclear energy consumes almost no natural resources, both in construction and in operation. This is seen in life-cycle analysis for the construction materials ($36/kW for the commodity materials needed to build a nuclear plant) and in the low cost of fuel. When you buy nuclear energy, most of the money goes to pay salaries. So its not surprising that nuclear can produce the greatest number of well paying jobs, and still be affordable.