Saturday, July 28, 2007

On Micropower and Other Musings of Amory Lovins

Amory Lovins and the well-respected organization he founded decades ago, the Rocky Mountain Institute, bring clarity and scientific precision to discussions on the pros and cons of alternative energy paths. Lovins favors the soft path, as made clear in this interview with Grist.
Micropower, as pointed out in the following quote, is not a trivial pursuit, but a major part of the energy mix in many forward-looking industrial countries.

We see this now in the electricity business. A fifth of the world's electricity and a quarter of the world's new electricity comes from micropower -- that is, combined heat and power (also called cogeneration) and distributed renewables. Micropower provides anywhere from a sixth to over half of all electricity in most of the industrial countries. This is not a minor activity anymore; it's well over $100 billion a year in assets. And it's essentially all private risk capital.

So in 2005, micropower added 11 times as much capacity and four times as much output as nuclear worldwide, and not a single new nuclear project on the planet is funded by private risk capital. What does this tell you? I think it tells you that nuclear, and indeed other central power stations, have associated costs and financial risks that make them unattractive to private investors. Even when our government approved new subsidies on top of the old ones in August 2005 -- roughly equal to the entire capital costs of the next-gen nuclear plants -- Standard & Poor's reaction in two reports was that it wouldn't materially improve the builders' credit ratings, because the risks private capital markets are concerned about are still there.

So I think even such a massive intervention will give you about the same effect as defibrillating a corpse -- it will jump but it will not revive.

Lovins has the facts, figures, and statistics to back up his claims, and a substantial library of information on the Rocky Mountain Institute site guiding interested truth seekers to the soft energy path.