Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that Denmark is pursuing the world’s most ambitious policy against climate change aiming to end the burning of fossil fuels in any form by 2050 — not just in electricity production, as some other countries hope to do, but in transportation as well. The trouble is that while renewable power sources like wind and solar cost nothing to run, once installed, as more of these types of power sources push their way onto the electric grid, they cause power prices to crash at what used to be the most profitable times of day. Conventional power plants, operating on gas or coal or uranium, are becoming uneconomical to run. Yet those plants are needed to supply backup power for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. With their prime assets throwing off less cash, electricity suppliers in Germany and Denmark have applied to shut down a slew of newly unprofitable power plants, but nervous governments are resisting, afraid of being caught short on some cold winter’s night with little wind. “We are really worried about this situation,” says Anders Stouge, the deputy director general of the Danish Energy Association. “If we don’t do something, we will in the future face higher and higher risks of blackouts.”
Environmental groups, for their part, have tended to sneer at the problems the utilities are having, contending that it is their own fault for not getting on the renewables bandwagon years ago. But according to Gillis, the political risks of the situation also ought to be obvious to the greens. The minute any European country — or an ambitious American state, like California — has a blackout attributable to the push for renewables, public support for the transition could weaken drastically. Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Danish climate minister, says he is tempted by a market approach: real-time pricing of electricity for anyone using it — if the wind is blowing vigorously or the sun is shining brightly, prices would fall off a cliff, but in times of shortage they would rise just as sharply.
(Score: 2) by Arik on Wednesday November 12 2014, @04:39PM
The fact is that since the earth is a globe, 50% of it is in the sun at any given time. The problem is not lack of energy, the problem is lack of distribution.
And that comes back down to a political problem, essentially. We've had the technology to build a world-wide electric grid for many decades. Politics is the issue there, not technology.
If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
(Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:26PM
Using superconductors, built a ring of solar panels around the equator (or two, one per Tropic). By the time you build it strong enough to defy nature, it will have enough surface area to power everybody. Problem solved.
Cost? If you used half of the current worldwide military budget, it should be done in a few years.
(Score: 2) by turgid on Wednesday November 12 2014, @10:49PM
Vladimir I'm-Not-Gay Putin has the answer to the global warming, energy and over-population crisis. After all, he only has our best interests at heart, protecting us from fascists, neo-Nazis and imperialists.
He is going to start a nuclear war which will cull 50% of the world's human population (the weak and the fascists), putting the rest of us squarely back in the stone age. The subsequent nuclear winter will lower gloabl temperatures by several degrees.
Problem solved. And NO MORE GAYNESS, fascism, lies or weak lefties.
I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent [wikipedia.org].