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Dutch Winds Die Down

borseleThe Dutch have made a decision:

In a radical change of policy, the Netherlands is reducing its targets for renewable energy and slashing the subsidies for wind and solar power. It's also given the green light for the country's first new nuclear power plants for almost 40 years.

I’m not sure about this. I’d be inclined to think that the two decisions stand separate from one another – nuclear energy does not have to displace renewable energy sources and in fact, nuclear wind and solar are far better as a trio pursued together as carbon emission reduction agents.

For another, The Netherlands is a small country. It’s current nuclear plant, Borssele, generates by itself almost 60 percent of the country’s electricity and will operate until 2034.

Coal is the second largest generator, with about 38 percent. That’s the percentage that wind and solar and a second nuclear plant can target. Even more interesting is the reason given to abandon renewables:

Wind and solar subsidies are too expensive, the Financial Times Deutschland, reports.

This story is reported by The Register in the U.K. so some of that impression of subsidy expense spills over that way:

The UK is expected to urge the installation of 10,000 new onshore turbines, even though some cost more in subsidies than than they produce, even at the generous Feed-In rates.

I wondered about that a bit, as subsidies for windmills shouldn’t extend much further than ramping up a production effort. Over time, even if turbines seem money losers at first, they should more than pay for themselves. Their failing to do that ever would of course be a problem unless the social good overrode issues of expense.

And frankly, The Register has probably overstated this. Here’s a bit from the Telegraph:

Figures were published as ministers promised to crack down on the spending of substantial sums on turbines built in areas without enough wind to make a significant saving.

Well, yes, smart siting certainly can make a difference. But this turbine has a specific purpose:

A spokesman for Ecotricity said: "The turbine is designed to power the business park and has been doing a good job. They are happy with it and we are happy with it."

The article doesn’t say, but I assume that Ecotricity put up the windmill and this is what you’d expect them to say. Still, the evidence of subsidy soaking seems a little thin.

But the nuclear bits are good. If that’s the direction the Netherlands has chosen, good for them. For now, the renewable part of the argument seems questionable.


China has 25 nuclear power plants under construction and 50 more on the "drawing board," and the United States needs to build new reactors quicker in order to catch up with other countries, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said on Monday.

"We in the United States are falling behind," Blackburn said at the opening of a three-day conference called Women in Nuclear that was held at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

That’s tasty. More please.

However, she said that nuclear power is a "green" technology that should be part of an "all-of-the-above" energy policy, including clean coal as well as hydroelectric, solar and wind power. She said there is bipartisan support in Congress for that approach.

"We feel like it's going to take a little bit of everything to be energy independent," remarked Blackburn, a member of the House's Energy and Commerce Committee.

What I’d wish for the Netherlands push come to shove, but plenty good for this country, too. Blackburn has the right idea – let’s see if she translates it into some legislation. Women in Nuclear is sponsored by NEI and is an affiliate of WIN Global, an international association. You can read more about it – and hey! join if you want, regardless of gender - here.

The Borssele Nuclear plant. It currently sports a capacity of 445 megawatts. Any replacement, I suspect, would double that at least.


Luke_UK said…
Your statistics on Dutch electricity supply seem a bit strange. According to

the Dutch grid averages ~12 Gw, mostly from gas (64%) and coal (23%), with only 3.8% from nuclear, a single 485Mw PWR. Building a few modern reactors would replace all the coal - which is imported - helping to meet CO2 reduction targets and saving money and increasing security of supply at the same time.
Cyril R said…
I'm a Dutch citizen at the moment (US expat) and can comment on these hopeful developments.

First let me say that new nuclear will not displace renewables because we will not have considerable renewable generation for decades at least. Its pathetic for this country, way too high a population density, not enough sun and biomass, flat so little hydro. 100% renewable potential just isn't there. The only thing we've got is decent wind resources, with the high population density this is only realistic off-shore, that's expensive as hell, and will scare all industries away from this country, destroying jobs and our ability to regulate dangerous industries (will go to China and pollute massively). The government made a good, realistic decision to reduce renewables targets and fortunately the new government doesn't live in fairy land when it comes to energy policy.

The new reactor will begin construction in 2015.

The grid here is about 10 GW low and 16 GW peak. Ideal for lots of baseload.

Our single old primitive reactor, the Borssele PWR, gets us about 3 or 4 percent of total electricity demand. An EPR, the most likely candidate for the proposed new build, would generate about 10 percent.

So we'd need 10 EPRs.

Incidentally, this gets us about 50% of vehicle kilometers as plugin-hybrids/electric vehicles, because there will be excess nighttime capacity. For 90% electric vehicles we'd need an extra one or two EPRs.

Also we need more heat pumps and stuff, to heat buildings and domestic hot water. An extra 3 EPRs will be required, assuming decent insulation and high efficiency air sourced heat pumps.

Concluding, we need 15 large reactors (1600 MWe). The existing location (Borssele) can be cranked up to 5000 MWp which is three large reactors. Need twelve more, probably three or four new locations. In the north there is a large coal and natural gas fired park, the Eemshaven, which can be converted to a nuclear park. One park can be situated in the industrial harbor area near Rotterdam. This pretty much nails the job. A 100% solution for electricity, 90% solution for land based transportation, and a 100% solution for space heating and domestic hot water. Not a bad start.

I calculate, based on Olkiluoto which is very expensive, that this will cost 200 euros per citizen per year in total construction, interest, and running cost over the next 40-60 years. Not bad at all. The current per capita energy expenditure is over 2000 euros so 200 euros/year leaves plenty room for company margins, taxes, and the purchase of plugin hybrids and heat pumps.

Basically we can solve the pollution and greenhouse gas problem almost completely without paying more for our energy or governments missing out on tax revenues.
Bill said…
The links in this post are a bit indirect.

Here's The Register's story:

And here's the original Financial Times Deutschland story:
John R said…
Bottom line? The renewables are demonstrating what the pro-nuke folks knew all along... they just can't get the job done, regardless of how much money is thrown at them. This is the result of trying to solve a scientific/physical-engineering problem with political/social-engineering means. It is blatant pandering, exploiting a misinformed social movement for short term political gain, squandering trememdous amounts of precious resources and time in the pursuit of an unobtainable renewable-centric utopia.

Perhaps we should be thankful that the Western European countries have conducted (and continue to conduct) the experiment of overly subsidised, massive expansion of intermittent energy sources... as they inevitably fail to make significant contributions while bankrupting their host countries, the example will serve to clear the path for practical, effective energy solutions. The Dutch are only the latest of the European countries to begin to see the light, nor will they be the last.
Cyril R said…
Very well said John.
Steve said…
John R,

Do you really think that the current administration and the current Energy Department will learn anything -- anything -- from the experiments (and mistakes) made by the EU regarding their renewable energy policies?

Dream on! Even if they were paying attention to what's happening across the pond, they'd come up with a hundred different reasons why their situation different from that in the U.S. and, therefore, totally irrelevant.
Advisor said…
Cyril R, I recommend to build AP-1000 reactors. They are substantially less expensive than EPRs, and with their more advanced modular construction methods and reduced building volume and equipment (due to passive safety), have shorter construction time and costs.
Cyril R said…
I'd also prefer the AP1000 or ESBWR or Kerena reactor, due to their lower materials and engineering cost, increased modularity, as well as passive safety features that make licensing easier. But the EPR is the most likely choice, as it is almost completed in Olkiluoto (I think ~90% engineering is finished) and that adds an element of realism that both government and private investors will appreciate. GE is in trouble with their ESBWR right now and their latest experience in building ABWRs is not encouraging. Westinghouse is still in the running as far as I'm concerned, but they don't make many ripples right now.

Areva is the most likely candidate, and the EPR their most proven new design.

Because the new build will start around 2014-2015, it will likely be the sixth or even sixteenth EPR that is built. That makes nth of a kind economies. It will almost certainly be cheaper than Olkiluoto, but even if it is as expensive, its still really cheap (around 7 cents/kWh levelised cost). That's reassuring since Olkiluoto's engineering is 90% complete.

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