You may recall that in November, President Clinton made the following statement about the relative costs of nuclear, solar and wind in an appearance on The Daily Show:
"Solar energy and wind energy ... would already be competitive with coal if you had to pay the extraneous costs of coal -- the health care costs and other things. And ... wind within two years and solar within five will be competitive in price with coal. They're both cheaper than nuclear right now."In response, Lou Jacobson, a reporter with Politifact, took a closer look at Clinton's claim, and rated it half-true:
Clinton was correct about wind energy being "cheaper than nuclear right now," at least the onshore kind. But for now, nuclear beats the cheapest form of solar energy on price. So we rate his statement Half True.That claim didn't sit well with NEI's David Bradish, who pulled apart the numbers and suggested that Politifact change its rating from "half true" to "mostly false":
As shown above, the low end of nuclear’s cost range ($109.70/MWh) is lower than the high end of wind’s cost range ($115/MWh); therefore wind is not always cheaper than nuclear.Back on November 22, I passed David's analysis along to Jacobson, and here's the response I got:
Further, the amount of wind that can be built is limited to specific places in the U.S. that receive adequate wind flow (see map below).
A substantial amount of wind cannot be built in places such as the Southeast due to a lack of natural resources. Areas with low wind resources will produce less electricity from installed turbines which in turn cause higher levelized costs.
Currently, 104 nuclear reactors (101 gigawatts) generate 20% of the country’s baseload power at low operating costs. This compares to 40 GW of wind and 1 GW of solar generating 2.2% and 0.0003% of the country’s electricity, respectively, at intermittent times.
The folks at PolitiFact should reconsider their conclusion about former President Clinton’s statements and change it from Half True to Mostly False.
I apologize for not getting back sooner. I was gone for most of last week and now we're on a short week.Well, it's now December 8, and I have yet to see an update to the original piece. I checked in with Jacobson again today, and he wrote back that they've been busy, but are still planning to do a follow up. While I'm happy to take him at his word, we promise to keep you updated as to if/when Politifact gets around to doing a deeper dive on the evidence. As far as we're concerned, we think their readers deserve it.
We are expecting to do a full Mailbag treatment on this topic, probably next week, since we have received many comments on the story. We are happy to run your comments (likely abridged for space) in that piece. We usually do not run names with the comments in our mailbag items, but your case would likely be an exception, assuming you'd like to be identified.
I will say that our comments have included many examples of complaints that we were too soft on nuclear (and too hard on renewables) and many that we were too hard on nuclear (and too soft on renewables). Given the complexity of analyzing this issue -- both nuclear and renewables have complaints about how they were treated by the DOE methodology -- I do not see an obvious reason for us to change our rating from the fairly neutral Half True. But that's not my call--the editors determine the rating, and the writers only make recommendations.
Thanks for writing....