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COP24 – Poland – First day at conference

joulukuu 11, 2018

On Monday I finally got to the COP24-site, with thousands of others. It turned out to be a productive day with a lot of good discussions with people about the inclusion of nuclear energy into our climate effort, handing out Climate Gambles in English and Polish as well as Thies’s excellent Climate Zero Hour -books.

It turns out that it is very hard to get a permission to do a small public event inside the COP. Well, at least if your event includes factual and positive information about nuclear. But we finally got one. So on went Melty the Bear -costumes while we hosted what became a photo-shoot / nuclear discussion with people going by. We had pictures taken by dozens of people during our half-hour slot, from regular students to country ministers.

day3-1

Melty the Bears doing photoshoots. She rocks. 

The side-event held by the US drew a lot of people. So much, that we failed to get in, although they said that we could go in when the protesters have done their thing and leave. And yeah, there was chants like “Keep it in the ground” heard even in the next room, which joined in.

Slightly afterwards, the protesters rallied with their signs nearby. By this time, the “Don’t nuke the climate” people sneaked in with their banner as well, although they were not part of the protesting group, essentially trying to brand the whole thing as anti-nuclear. At this point my good friend Eric started to pull out his “Melty the bear” costume, muttering “Oh hell no, we can’t let this happen.”

Noticing the costume coming out from the bag, one of the protest organizers asked what it was. Eric explained it is an inflatable polar bear for nuclear power -costume. The organizer’s eyes widened, and he said we are not having any banners or such. At this point, Eric pointed out that there is a big-ass anti-nuclear sign right there, even though nuclear is our second largest source of low-carbon energy and the IPCC says we need shitloads of nuclear. The organizers eyes widened even further as he noticed this, and he said that yeah, we need to take that down as well. And they did.

(we will have some interesting video footage coming up on this, stay tuned)

Fossil of the day-award

Every night at 6 PM, Climate Action Network (CAN) gives out the Fossil of the Day -award, so we went to check out the proceedings, and it left me somewhat perplexed. This day, the award went to Austria, which was definitely the right place in that the Austria is one of the most anti-nuclear countries that very much likes to impose their ideology to other European nations as well. As you can guess, this was not the reason for the award though (Climate Action Network is the same people that warned about us in their newsletter as I wrote in my previous journal).

day3-2

Fossil of the Day award drew a big crowd and they made a good show of it. If only they put climate first instead of being anti-nuclear first. 

Austria got it for their leadership in instrumenting capacity markets/payments for coal, natural gas and nuclear plants to help keep them online (as far as I understood it). That is what they said. There are a few problems with this. First, I am pretty sure that nuclear has received very little money from this, and that they mentioned it just to make it “part of the evil energy source group” as coal and gas. At least I have not heard of any nuclear plant being paid capacity payments, as they are pretty much run at full power all the time anyway. Second, I don’t think Austria would agree, let alone push for, any policy measure that would see a cent of public money going to nuclear.

And finally, as a clean energy source able to back up intermittent renewables, nuclear (if anything) actually should receive capacity payments, as the capacity is required due to the increase of intermittent energy production such as win ad solar – and nuclear together with hydro, is the only way to manage that with very low GHG emissions.

And herein lies the slight hypocrisy of the award. These people (CAN) demand ever more intermittent renewable energy such as wind and solar. Yet we need also keep the grid operational, and that means we will need to have something in reserve for when the sun and wind go down or there is not enough of them. Which is often. So now we have capacity markets for fossil plants so that they can stay on stand-by and still cover their fixed operation and maintenance costs. Essentially (in simplified explanation), this is what has happened:

  • We first pay feed-in-tariffs and other subsidies to add intermittent renewable energy.
  • This means that the load factors of other power plants go down, as on windy and sunny days, their production is not needed. Yet they have a certain level of costs they need to cover to stay open. Many plants face closures, endangering grid stability.
  • So next, we need to pay again to keep these plants open, as they are needed in order to keep the grid stable and the lights one, fridges running, houses warm and factories running.

While I am not in any way against renewable energy, they should, by this point, be able to operate on their own, without subsidies, and cover their own costs, which are now being paid by everyone else. This is only fair, and obviously this needs to apply to fossil fuels as well (nuclear covers its costs quite well already as I wrote in my previous piece). They are externalizing their costs (air pollution, GHG emissions) to the rest of us every day at massive scale, and this is the main reason they are so competitive against clean energy.  In essence, fossil fuels are not competitive, they just rigged the game so the market thinks they are.

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