Missing the Market Meltdown

By Lovins, Amory B. | Newsweek International, May 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Missing the Market Meltdown


Lovins, Amory B., Newsweek International


Renewable energy is attracting Wall Street but nuclear power isn't. Why? Simple economics.

Capitalists have already scuttled Patrick Moore's claimed nuclear revival. New U.S. subsidies of about $13 billion per plant (roughly a plant's capital cost) haven't lured Wall Street to invest. Instead, the decentralized competitors to nuclear power that Moore derides are making more global electricity than nuclear plants are, and are growing 20 to 40 times faster.

In 2007, decentralized renewables worldwide attracted $71 billion in private capital. Nuclear got zero. Why? Economics. The nuclear construction costs that Moore omits are astronomical and soaring; low fuel costs will soon rise two- to fivefold. "Negawatts"--saved electricity--cost five to 10 times less and are getting cheaper. So are most renewables. Negawatts and "micro-power"-- renewables other than big hydro, and cogener-ating electricity together with useful heat--are also at or near customers, avoiding grid costs, losses and failures (which cause 98 to 99 percent of blackouts).

The unreliability of renewable energy is a myth, while the unreliability of nuclear energy is real. Of all U.S. nuclear plants built, 21 percent were abandoned as lemons; 27 percent have failed at least once. Even successful reactors must close for refueling every 17 months for 39 days. And when shut by grid failure, they can't quickly restart. Wind farms don't do that.

Variable but forecastable renewables (wind and solar cells) are very reliable when integrated with each other, existing supplies and demand. …

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