Renewable energy cannot ever replace coal, gas, and nuclear


It’s all about the grid – and NIMBYs and subsidies. It’s increasingly clear renewable energy cannot replace carbon-based and nuclear power.

Our electrical grid requires supply and demand always be perfectly in balance. Renewable energy makes that much harder to do because its power production fluctuates and cannot be predicted in advance. Coal and nuclear power plants provide all-important baseline power, that is, they produce power 24/7 regardless of weather or time of day. It is misguided to shut them down due to environmental or safety concerns until solid replacements are up and running.

In addition, huge subsidies for renewable are distorting prices and it’s unclear whether there is even enough suitable area to install the ginormous wind and solar plants needed to bring the US to even 10% total renewable energy. And that’s assuming they could be installed, given NIMBY opposition (which is sometimes quite justified.) I just don’t think it’s a good idea to pave the Mojave Desert in California with solar plants, something some renewable boosters think would just be a wonderful idea, a view shared by investments banks and big money who see the possibilities of captive customers paying steep prices.

Managing the uninterrupted transfer of electrical power from myriad sources wherever and whenever it is needed is a hugely complicated challenge. It’s one thing when the principal supply sources use gas, heat or hydraulically-driven turbines which provide constant, unfluctuating outputs that can be adjusted and counted upon independent of weather or season.

But circumstances become increasingly complex as more and more intermittent sources are added to the power supply mix. Difficulties arise as segments of the grid become overloaded or underserved by the renewables, requiring the conventional-source turbines which balance the grid to meet base demand loads be repeatedly throttled down and up. This reduces turbine operating efficiencies.


  1. While not disputing the basic analysis here,
    it seems to assume that the grid is immutable.

    What if you approach electricity distribution from the
    perspective that the grid is the problem.

    Then a conceptual solution is getting everyone off the grid.
    That’s utopian, no doubt, but it suggests spending priorities
    that are radically different from what we’re doing.

    And why can’t hydro (in all its forms) carry more of the load?

    • There are very few unused potential sites for big hydro left. The grid is immutable in one aspect, supply and demand must always be a perfect balance, which is tricky to do when the power sources are fluctuating constantly due to renewables. If a cloud passes into front of the sun at a big PV solar farm, then 300 MW goes offline in seconds and comes back just as fast.

      • Uhm, ever heard of storage and rooftopsolar.
        Renewables is allready over 10% in the us, close to 15 even.
        Oil gets huge taxcredits and subsidies too, I don’t know about coal and nuclear nowadays, but I believe does too. Solar doesn’t need any subsidies in the southern states anymore and within 5 years, probably less, Canada and Alaska too, that’s how fast the tech is advancing and the price is dropping and I’m talking about rooftopsolar not the powerplants, that are half the price per watt.
        I am a fan of 4th generation nuclear and micro nuclear, but in the long run it’s gonna be renewable (with storage) all the way, because solar is only at a quarter of it’s maximum potential and wind isn’t at it’s best yet either, then there’s tidal too.
        About the grid suposedly being overloaded, if it’s true, it’s the utillities own falt, they are the ones redirecting so much energy without adapting the grid, people using rooftopsolar only releave pressure on the grid, they use most of the energy themselves.
        I admit storage and electric vehicles are in there babyshoes and wind and solar only just hit puberty, but I can’t wait till those markets have matured.
        With all do respect
        You should read more about something before commenting about something you know to little about.

        • Rooftop solar is nowhere near being able to generate the gigawatts of steady power needed to provide reliable 24/7 power and even if it was, the grid in its current condition can’t handle it.

          • Rooftop solar isn’t meant for that yet, it’s meant to releave the energy use from the grid by the buildings they are build on, together with storage, you can get all houses and most low story buildings of the grid, they don’t need gigawatts, especially if they are LEED-efficient.
            Emagine, intire towns and urban areas that don’t need electricity from the grid and IF they overproduce, good for them, they can all buy EVs when they need a new car, they’ll save on gasoline too or electric heating and save on gas.

          • I hope it happens. However the grid now is nowhere near ready for large amounts of power flowing both ways at unpredictable times. Unless the homes are completely off the grid, the power would have to flow both ways,

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