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Pay no attention to the failure everywhere else

14 Sep 2022 | News Roundup

In an unusually brazen move, though perhaps not by modern standards, the semi-venerable Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy published a piece in its Policy Options magazine claiming “Canada has enormous potential for renewable generation. Wind, solar and energy storage are proven, affordable technologies that can be produced here in Canada, while avoiding the volatility of global fossil fuel markets.” It concerned a study by the all-in global-warming-will-drown-Santa David Suzuki Foundation and the University of Victoria, and provided the dispassionate balanced view of that study by Tom Green, “a senior climate policy adviser” with … the David Suzuki Foundation and Stephen Thomas, “a climate solutions policy analyst” with… the David Suzuki Foundation. Fortunately it was published in English, not German, because over there they’ve already seen what really happens when you lunge at your supposed enormous potential for renewable generation. The lights go out, the furnace goes off and the factory closes.

These pie-in-the-sky pieces practically write themselves. The IRPP/Suzuki authors insist that EVs are catching on in Canada. “But as their numbers grow, will there be enough electrical power for them, and for all the buildings and the industries that are also switching to electricity?” But of course. Provided we don’t generate it with proven technology.

Which we must somehow manage because “Canada – along with the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom – is committed to a ‘net-zero electricity grid by 2035.’” Now some math keeners will note that this date is now just 13 years away, and Canada’s record on big projects from light rail to icebreakers for our navy is not one of rapid construction at acceptable cost. (When it comes to expensive disasters we even struggle to figure out basic questions like “Why is this ship on fire?”)

Still, gotta gotta because “This target is consistent with the Paris Agreement’s ambition of staying below 1.5 C of global warming, compared with pre-industrial levels. This target also gives countries their best chance of energy security, as laid out in landmark reports over the past year from the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” Hang on. Getting rid of oil and natural gas is our “best chance of energy security”? How’s that working for Europe? And what did you say your degree was in again? (“Ecological economics”, which apparently isn’t like the other kind, and “Mechanical Engineering”.)

The authors do warn that while Canada has “a relatively low emissions-intensity grid, powered largely by hydroelectricity” some provinces “still have predominantly fossil fuel-powered electricity. Plus, there is a risk of more natural gas generation of electricity in the coming years in most provinces without new federal and provincial regulations.” Risk, you say? It’s one we at CDN are willing to run.

These folks have a different idea. Namely that if faith can move mountains it can certainly move power plants, so “the transition of Canada’s electricity system must solve two problems at once. It must first clean up the existing electricity system, but it must also meet future electricity needs from zero-emissions sources while overall electricity capacity doubles or even triples by 2050.” No biggie.

Anyone can do that, and especially us because “Canada has enormous potential for renewable generation. Wind, solar and energy storage are proven, affordable technologies that can be produced here in Canada, while avoiding the volatility of global fossil fuel markets.” Proven? Where? In California, with its rolling blackouts? And affordable? Where? In Ontario, with its windmills generating overpriced power at the wrong time?

Oh yes. Cheaper than cheap. “As wind and solar have become the cheapest forms of electricity generation in history, we’re already seeing foreign governments and utilities ramp up renewable projects at the pace and scale that would be needed here in Canada. In 2020, 280 gigawatts of new capacity was added globally – a 45 per cent increase over the previous year. In Canada, since 2010, annual growth in renewables has so far averaged less than three per cent.”

The IRPP authors concede that the obvious question is, if everything they say is true or even plausible, “why is there so much delay and doubt in Canada?” So they teamed up with “the University of Victoria to model the electricity grid of the future.” And once again there was some issue of asking the barber about whether you need a haircut, since the paper was written by the David Suzuki Foundation in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation, while “the University of Victoria” here means “an independent team of academic researchers from the Sustainable Energy Systems Integration & Transitions (SESIT) group at the University of Victoria’s Institute for Integrated Energy Systems” and one cannot imagine a more open-minded group.

Still, if people have a firm point of view it could be as a result of studying the issue and making up their minds. So let’s continue. The partnership was formed because “We wanted to evaluate whether deploying renewables in each province’s grid could deliver zero-emissions electricity by 2035, even as demand grows.”

No. Of course not. At least not in the real world. But in a computer, lots of things can happen:

“The modelling team drew on a dataset that accounts for how wind and solar potential varies across the country, through the weeks of the year and the hours of each day. The models provide solutions for the most cost-effective new generation, storage and transmission to add to the grid while ensuring electricity generation meets demand reliably every hour of the year.”

Piling Ossa on Pelion:

“To better understand future electricity demand, a second modelling team was asked to explore a future when homes and businesses are aggressively electrified; fossil fuel furnaces and boilers are retired and replaced with electric heat pumps; and gasoline and diesel cars are replaced by electric vehicles and public transit. It also dialed up investments in energy efficiency to further reduce the need for energy. These hourly electricity-demand projections were fed back to the models developed at the University of Victoria.”

And you’ll never guess:

“The results? It is possible to meet Canada’s needs for clean electricity reliably and affordably through a focus on expanding wind and solar generation capacity, complemented with new transmission connections between provinces, and other grid improvements.”

Sure. If you put the right assumptions into your model. For instance:

“The model took full advantage of the country’s existing hydroelectric reservoirs, using them as giant batteries, storing water behind the dams when wind and solar generation was high to be used later when renewable generation is low, or when demand is particularly high. The model also invested in more transmission to enable expanded electricity trade between provinces and energy storage in the form of batteries to smooth out the supply of electricity.”

You can do all that? Absolutely. Inside a computer. Where you could also kill the Ender Dragon. As to where in the real world hydro dams are used as giant batteries, and the grid can build enough of the other kind, the metal ones, to store the energy requirements not just of existing but of potential ones, uh, we’d kind of like to see an example. As the Manhattan Contrarian recently groused, “It is truly astounding how many seemingly sophisticated governments have made the Net Zero electricity commitment without there existing anywhere in the world a demonstration project showing how this can be done and at what cost.” And the bits and pieces we have seen aren’t encouraging; for instance, it turns out offshore wind isn’t obeying the enthusiasts’ models in cold, hard reality.

Pshaw to such quibbles. “Not only is it possible, but the renewable pathway is the safe bet.”

Safe? Obviously a bold leap into the unknown is safe. And easy. Though mind you, the Suzuki Foundation authors eventually blurt out:

“There’s no doubt it will take unprecedented effort and scale to transform Canada’s electricity systems. The high electrification pathway would require an 18-fold increase over today’s renewable electricity capacity, deploying an unprecedented amount of new wind, solar and energy storage projects every year from now to 2050. Although the scale seems daunting, countries such as Germany are demonstrating that this pace and scale is possible.”

Wait a minute. Did you just hold up Germany as an example? The real one or some digital version where redstone can be turned into electrical circuits and logic gates or possibly illogic ones? This notion of casually expanding the grid 18-fold, as people plug in all those combustible electric vehicles and the new 120-volt heat pumps Canary Media is so excited about is not very real-world.

Unlike that episode in Colorado where an energy firm used smart thermometers to turn off customers’ AC because it was too hot for the grid while California told drivers thanks for buying EVs because we are banning gasoline cars, now for goodness sake don’t charge the blasted things? And while we’re at it, we might notice California’s alarming problem with disposing of clapped-out solar panels, which turn out not just to require nasty extraction processes before they are born and have a huge footprint while they are alive, but to have a huge and nasty footprint after they die. And not generate enough power for existing demand let alone the Brave New Economy to come.

It's increasingly evident that doubling down on subsidies for the energy you claim is cheapest make no more logical than engineering sense. Yet on they forge.

So if you’re with us this far you can also amuse yourself by writing the IRPP-Suzuki authors’ opinion of nuclear power for them. Right. “The modelling also showed that small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) are neither necessary nor cost-effective, making them a poor candidate for continued government subsidies. Likewise, we presented pathways with no need for continued fossil fuel generation with carbon capture and storage (CCS) – an expensive technology with a global track record of burning through public funds while allowing fossil fuel use to expand and while capturing a smaller proportion of the smokestack carbon than promised.”

On that basis, instead of subsidizing failed alternatives, “We believe that Canada should terminate the significant subsidies and supports it is giving to fossil fuel companies and redirect this support to renewable electricity, energy efficiency and energy affordability programming.” And guess what? Jobs for the kids into the bargain. “The transition to clean electricity would come with new employment for people living in Canada. Building tomorrow’s grid will support more than 75,000 full-time jobs each year in construction, operation and maintenance of wind, solar and transmission facilities alone.”

Are we done yet? No, of course not. We also have to fix history. “Regardless of the path chosen, all energy projects in Canada take place on unceded Indigenous territories or treaty land. Decolonizing power structures with benefits to Indigenous communities is imperative.” And of course you also know how to get that done. “Upholding Indigenous rights and title, ensuring ownership opportunities and decision-making and direct support for Indigenous communities are all essential in how this transition takes place.” Man. This game is easy.

Even these authors admit that the computers are wrong while right. But always in one direction: “decarbonization costs have fallen faster than modellers anticipated.”

Perhaps you think we have wasted a bit too much criticism on unresisting imbecility. But as we keep insisting, the people pushing climate alarmism and its related solutions are not pulling a fast one, deliberately lying, engaging in a hoax or anything of the sort. They really believe what they say.

It’s important to grasp that the sort of fantasies in this paper actually do motivate a great number of important powerful people including Canada’s Prime Minister. They’re not faking it or pulling some kind of prank or hoax. Unless the public prevents it, they will try to implement this vision. And it really will go as badly as you fear.

9 comments on “Pay no attention to the failure everywhere else”

  1. People need to remember the origins of the incursion of large scale renewables in Ontario. This article names names….including Dr. Hermann Scheer from Germany, David Suzuki, George Smitherman and Dalton McGuinty.
    At that time everyone was looking at Germany as a model. We had German immigrants buying prime agricultural land in Ontario, signing up as leaseholders for as many turbines as they could possibly have on their land…….ruining the lives of the rural residents who had lived on and worked the nearby land for generations. Twenty year contracts with wind companies were signed by the Liberal government who went on the be "decimated"………lost their party status. Rural residents were forced to,abandon homes because of the loss of safety, security and pleasure of their homes due to the harm from audible noise and sub audible pulsations/infrasound radiation and shadow flicker trespassing onto their property. The harm continues.

  2. Stop a minute and think. When electricity is not needed, the hydroelectric dam releases water through its turbines to generate electricity, which is then used to power pumps to pump water up over the dam into the reservoir, where it can later be released through the turbines when electricity is needed again.
    Maybe I'm wrong, but wouldn't it be more efficient to simply stop releasing water when electricity is not needed? The water is already up there. Why release it lower down, just to pump it back up?

    On another subject, heat pumps make sense in Canada for summer cooling, but they are highly inefficient during a typical cold Canada winter. Perhaps people don't know, but when temps drop into the minus five C range, heat pumps switch into ordinary resistance heating mode.

  3. Hydroelectric dams are located along rivers. Rivers are home to fish and other animals. They feed water systems for towns. They supply water for agricultural irrigation. Rivers are sometimes used as transportation corridors in remote areas. I don't think any of those will be much impressed if the dams are closed during times of low power demand, or if the river water is pumped back into the reservoir to store energy; either condition would run the river dry or nearly so.

    It's so easy to dream up ideas. Reality is much tougher.

  4. I am surprised you did not describe the Germany project in detail. In 2000, Germany embarked on a large scale project to generate electricity for the country carbon free. That is zero carbon emissions. Twenty years later, the project cost $580 Billion and only reduced carbon emissions by 17% since 83% of the capacity of carbon emission power plants had to stay in standby mode for when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. What they did accomplish is increase the cost of a unit of energy for the German people by almost 3x.

  5. The Suzuki Foundation 's dismissal of SMR nuclear explains why there's this mysterious silence around them in the UK

  6. On Environment Canada's website there's a photo from time to time with a beautiful First Nation woman's head in the foreground and a giant industrial wind turbine behind her. This is how our government is promoting the idea.
    After talking at length with a chief from the Napanee area, I learned how deep the resistance is to the idea of enticing First Nations people with financial incentives in order to use their land for wind installations. The division it was causing and the pressure they were under to accept the deals they were being offered needs to be exposed.

  7. Actually, hydro electric dams use the pond-and-pull concept every day in Ontario. Our wonderful dams in northern Ontario effectively closed every night to save the energy. Then in the morning when electricity demand increases, the dams are opened to pull the water through the turbines. We have been doing this for decades. I am unaware of any of our dams pumping the water back up into the dam. This is terribly inefficient. At night the nuclear generators are drawn down to minimum power output required to maintain the grid. During the day the transmission lines to the north send power south, while at night the power comes northward. Unlike batteries, this is a great energy storage plan that works very effectively.
    As for the fantasyland heat pumps. I own two and can confirm that the efficiency starts decreasing at about -5C. By -15C they no longer produce any measurable amount of heat. They works well for AC, but there is nothing cheap about this method of cooling.

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