How much fossil fuel is needed at this moment to back up to supply 90% of the gird.
Don’t forget, according to our government, we have “this 100% Clean Electricity thing about 90% solved.”
So, it’s easy to wonder, how hard can figuring out the other 10% be?
Funny you should ask. As Francis Menton cautions, “Until the full solution to the so-called “last 10% challenge” is in place, we need 100% of our fossil fuel backup infrastructure to remain in place, fully maintained, and ready to step in when the wind and sun fail.”
NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
In a chart from the NREL report (chart at Manhattan Contrarian), it illustrates the addition of facilities in the four scenarios by 2035. (the left-most column depicts current (2020) conditions, and the right-most four columns depict the four proposed scenarios for 2035.)
That means that the wind is not blowing, the sun is not shining, and the storage facilities are empty. Also assume for these purposes that the magical something that will supposedly bridge the “last 10%” gap still remains to be invented, as is the case today.
What the Little People Are Up Against
OK, another riddle: How much in the form of fossil fuel backup is needed at this moment? Francis Menton answers, all of it.
… we need enough fossil fuel backup to supply 100% of the demand on the grid, or at least 100% of the demand that is not supplied by whatever residual generation from dispatchable things like hydro, biomass, or nuclear our masters have allowed to remain in service.
In other words, don’t get fooled from the assertion that only 10% of the supply problem remains to be solved into thinking that that means that any of the fossil fuel backup can be reduced or eliminated. You may need the backup for only 10% of the year, but when you need it, you need all of it. You may have built wind and solar facilities sufficient to supply the grid three times over when the wind is blowing and the sun shining; but when they are not, and the storage is empty, you need every single fossil fuel power plant you ever had.
“Until this “last 10% challenge” is solved, advises Mr. Menton, “it remains completely incompetent and irresponsible to reduce any of the fossil fuel generation infrastructure currently in place.”
No amount of building of wind and solar facilities changes that. The only thing that can change that is the invention and deployment of some kind of storage or carbon capture technology that, in the gentle phrasing of NREL, “has not yet been deployed at scale.” (Someone else might use the term “complete fantasy.”)
Who to Believe?
For these purposes, advises Mr. Menton, “assume that the experts’ claim at NREL that it can get to 90% is right.”
The Official Party Line on Energy Storage
These NREL guys claim to have sophisticated models that show they can get to the 80-90% range. Believe them if you want. What they don’t have is any functioning demonstration project. Building such a thing would require work that can’t be done on a laptop. We can’t expect government bureaucrats to do such things, now can we?
It doesn’t make any difference. It could even be 95%. You still can’t get rid any of the fossil fuel infrastructure until some form of seasonal storage has been invented and deployed at scale.
As an old saying goes, if you can’t dazzle with your brilliance, then baffle them with BS.
Yet our government functionaries, under direction from the President, go about working to suppress fossil fuel production and infrastructure in every way they can think of. After all, they are the “experts.”