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.