This Changes Everything

Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate places the battle against climate change firmly in the context of the struggle for social justice. Fighting climate change means reordering the ways our economies are structured. The pillars of the reigning economic paradigm – privatisation, deregulation and lower taxation paid for by cuts to public spending cannot serve us for this purpose. Public spending, on the scale of a Marshall Plan for the earth, and robust public institutions are required.

Klein is no friend to neo-liberal capitalism quite apart from the climate issue, but she considers climate change adds existential urgency to her political and economic concerns. The Heartland Institute, whose sixth international conference she attended, is right, she suggests, to see climate change as a threat to the ideology they exist to defend. Her report of that conference, incidentally, is a fascinating account of the twisted logic which is common discourse in such gatherings.Klein points to the cognitive dissonance in which we are trapped:

“… a crisis we have been studiously ignoring is hitting us in the face— and yet we are doubling down on the stuff that is causing the crisis in the first place.”

What keeps us stuck in this position is that the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe and benefit most of us “present an extreme threat to the elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process and most of our major media outlets”.

In her patient and exhaustive fashion Klein explores the corporate logic that drives major and powerful companies to continue to build reserves of fossil fuels way past the point at which their burning spells disaster for humanity. She writes of the fiduciary responsibility to shareholders which “virtually guarantees that the planet will cook”, a metaphor justified by her book’s careful anchorage to climate science.

Free trade agreements, often triumphs of corporate globalisation, can prove inimical to efforts to curb climate change, whether through the increases in carbon dioxide emissions they result in or through the legal avenues they provide to prevent national action on climate change. Klein provides an example from her own province of Ontario where buy-local provisions supporting a solar company were judged illegal by the WTO making it likely that the company will close.

Reasonable in tone but devastating in effect Klein deals with a range of seemingly laudable efforts to tackle climate change which founder on their closeness to neo-liberal capitalism. Several of America’s large environmental organisations are faulted in this respect. The billionaire supporters of climate action typified by Richard Branson fall sadly short of what they appear to promise.

Politicians seem unable to extricate themselves from entanglement with the prevailing economic ideology. Klein reports on the 2009 UN climate summit conference as evidence of this, sharing Sally Wentrobe’s painful realisation that our “leaders are not looking after us…we are not cared for at the level of our very survival.”   While I was writing this review local evidence of political dereliction was yet again apparent as our Energy Minister assured a petroleum conference that continuing exploration for oil and gas in New Zealand waters would be strongly supported by the newly re-elected government and he offered anodyne assurances for the future of fossil fuels.

Can anything rescue us? Certainly not geo-engineering of the type Klein hears canvassed at a conference on the topic she attended. She sees a cure worse than the disease and the risk of genocidal “sacrifice zones” as a by-product of sun-dimming proposals.

Our best hope rests with the resistance of people’s movements to the carbon extraction frenzy of the corporate elites. Klein dwells on many such efforts in the realm she calls Blockadia, talking with people in places where energetic attempts are being made to prevent planned extractive operations. It’s the world of activism, “alive and unpredictable and very much in the streets (and mountains and farmers’ fields and forests)”. The precautionary principle holds sway here, not the cool risk assessment approach which purports to balance the dangers of climate change against the claimed negative effects of action on economic growth.

The fossil fuel divestment movement emerged from Blockadia-style attempts to stop carbon extraction at its source. On its wider scale it puts the whole industry on trial as “rogue actors whose continued economic viability rests on radical climate destabilisation”.

Indigenous groups battling against the assaults of extractive industries receive respectful and sympathetic attention from Klein, who dwells on their ready recognition of the natural world as a nurturer of life rather than an object of exploitation. She also draws attention to the ways in which Indigenous rights, if aggressively pursued through the courts and through direct action, may help protect us all from climate chaos.

Klein’s vision is ultimately  a moral one. She seeks

“an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis— embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy.”

We need this not only to create a political context to drastically lower emissions but also to help us through the disasters now unavoidable, where respect for human rights and deep compassion will be all that stands between civilisation and barbarism.

But does all the principled opposition, and the moral aspiration of more cooperative communities amount to a real force in the face of the rampaging destruction which unfettered capitalism wreaks?  Klein points to mass movements which have prevailed against powerful economic interests in the past.  The abolition of slavery presents one such case. She points out that slavery only became a problem for British and American elites when the abolition movement turned it into one, and that abolition succeeded in spite of the strong economic interests dependent on the profits from slavery. She quotes journalist Chris Hayes: “the climate justice movement is demanding that an existing set of political and economic interests be forced to say goodbye to trillions of dollars of wealth”, a situation for which he sees slavery abolition as the only precedent.

Klein’s book is ambitious in scope and rigorous in discussion. Its narratives are based on much travel and careful research. Its conclusions are thoughtful and often striking in their cogent expression. Her acknowledgments to her research staff and other helpers confirm the concerted effort that has been expended in producing the book.

It’s certainly a book worth writing. Corporate bodies whose activities threaten the very foundation of ordinary people’s lives need to be exposed. So do politicians who are hypnotised by the short term benefits of extractive economies and blind to the catastrophic longer term consequences. People who do battle with the corporate and political juggernaut of climate disaster need to be celebrated and encouraged. Klein does these things well. Her book is a notable contribution to the tough struggle for a sane political response to the climate crisis.

63 thoughts on “This Changes Everything”

    1. Nice website Bob. I’m currently reading the book “This Changes Everything” and agree with the comments in the article. The power cuts have thrown my schedule out, so I haven’t time for much of a post, but just wanted to give some support.

      1. Power cuts in Auckland is a foretaste of how the low carbon economy will look like, especially for European countries like the UK, Belgium and Germany

        1. What tripe, Andy. It’s more likely the power cuts in Auckland turn out to be a consequence of the drive to profit trumping sensible precaution with vital public services. Anyway, it certainly has nothing to do with a low carbon economy, which is not a priority for the present government of NZ.

          1. I didn’t say that the power cuts in Auckand were anything to do with a low carbon economy.

            I was merely pointing out that events like this are likely to become common in many European countries as fossil and
            Nuclear plant are phased out, leaving very little spare capacity in the grid.

            1. Andy, the challenges of saving our planet will be huge. These will also require a re-thinking of our current entitlement thinking regarding the energy we have at our disposal 24/7. Nobody claims that road ahead will be smooth and the journey towards the society of the 22nd century easy.

            2. Good,I am glad that you think that the dumping of millions of dollars worth of food etc is a part of the new normal

            3. I got a generator anyway, and it has already paid for itself in surviving several power cuts “down south” and enabling me to carry on working.

              They are very expensive to run and noisy, but generators will become an integral part of the new world of the Low Carbon Economy that Comrade Klein and her cohort are leading us towards.

            4. SolarPV with offline capability is really quiet, inexpensive to run, and serves to advantage regardless of grid status. Distributed generation is an essential feature of the “new normal” providing resilience in the face of weather extremes and other risks.

            5. No Andy, I did not say that at all. Stop twisting other peoples posts!
              I maintain that your outrage at a power cut is symptomatic for the entitlement thinking of our times. Our current 24/7 energy hog lifestyle has made us become complacent and vulnerable and the path to a sustainable future will need to ask questions about what the average punter can arguably expect to receive as his/her fair share of energy resources on a sustainable basis.
              The western societies with their massive per capita energy “requirements” may find that downsizing this entitlement thinking will become a necessary strategy.

            6. Indeed Thomas, as our energy infrastructure collapses as we head towards the socialist utopia of the low carbon economy, it begets us to make sure that we have our own arrangements in place to look after our own energy needs, whether it is solar PV, generators, domestic CHP, etc.

              These personal technologies push up the price of retail electricity, (a solar PV acquaintance of mine recently conceded this) thus making life more expensive for the poorer members of our society.

              Maybe an efficient nationalized grid might be better?

            7. ” the socialist utopia of the low carbon economy”…
              Here we run again into your learned right wing perspective on the matter. Nonsense!

              The laws of physics and simple logic dictates that our energy future can not rely on carbon fuels and that we must become a “low carbon economy” going forward. This has all to do with science and nothing to do with political will.

              It is exactly this very STUPID polarization of “low carbon” as “socialist” that is causing the political right to marginalize itself in the energy discussion to fight a loosing reactionary battle for the indefensible status-quo.

              If the so called “conservatives” would finally grasp the insight that in order to conserve anything we must embark on a sustainable energy future and leave the fossil fuels in the ground, we would all be so much better of.

              You are a poster child of this AGE OF STUPID that has befallen the political right. Sad really and devastating for humanity as it holds back the sensible consensus on how to proceed for the logger head bunker mentality of the trend setters in the right end of the political spectrum.

            8. Arg, I said the ” social…” word again in a post response and of cause any discussion of anything with the word “social…” is black listed by Word Press.
              Who the heck is behind Word Presses list of “dirty words”. Senator Inhofe?? 😉 and why on Earth can this list not be edited to end this ridiculous censorship?

            9. Thanks Thomas, I am apparently a poster child for the Age of Stupid.

              Remind me again who is dumping a perfectly functioning nuclear fleet and replacing it with Lignite burning power stations? And, I might add, bulldozing a complete “Eco village” in the process?

              Can you explain to me why it is better to install solar PV on my rooftop than to use electricity generated by hydro?

              Of course, cost may be a factor, but the Japanese have just stopped taking any more solar into their grid for the reasons I have alluded to previously.

              Yes, watch out for the S word. I got tripped up by that too.

            10. Andy, a few things:

              1) Japan has added a massive 11,000 MW (11 one GW nuclear reactors worth) of PV solar since 2012! And another 72,000 MW are in the process of development now. No wonder the utilities are crying foul as this energy is upsetting the traditional business model and drawing the investment into their old plants in question.


              These sort of birthing pains are normal and expected when you change the paradigm of an entire industry. I bet the Whale Oil Industry was not too happy either when the drilling rigs found the black stuff under Texas…

              Japan is doing the right thing and they will add grid infrastructure and storage strategies as required to accommodate the changes.

              2) Who says that it is “better” to use PV solar on your roof than Hyrdo? What nonsense gain. Get your black and white glasses off please. The real world is in colour. Solar PV and Wind are a great addition to NZ’s energy mix in part because of our hydro capacity. Throttling back the lake outflow when Solar and/or Wind output is good is a loss-less energy storage strategy. It is NZ’s bonus. Solar PV on your roof makes a sensible contribution and expect this market to grow rapidly, now that the economic gain of making your own power from say $10K invested is above the rate of return of the same investment at the bank by a long shot already!

              3) Germany’s bulldozing of villages for the sake of lignite is nonsense. We agree.

              4) Nuclear power in Germany is a matter of risk management and I respect the German decision. It will not have been an easy one. And I agree that you can argue with it. If there was a Chernobyl or Fukushima style accident in Germany, the consequences would be unacceptable. Hence the decision that was made.

            11. Japan is cutting back its solar feed in becuause their grid cannot cope with the large and irregular input from such generation. Germany has a similar problem.

              I don’t see why we should expect electricity companies to keep paying retail prices for solar feed in. The rest of the market uses a bidding mechanism to determine a spot price, which the solar producer seems exempt from.
              I don’t expect that we will see this continuing forever,especially if it threatens the profitability of the power company.

              I still don’t see the advantage of thousands of solar panels versus an efficient large hydro scheme that can provide affordable energy to everyone, not just those with the spending power to afford solar.

              Typically this means a wealth transfer from the poor to the middle classes, especially when subsidies are on offer.

            12. Andy: There is no either/or between Solar and Hydro. And as far as future development goes, new large scale hydro schemes are not easy to build or find the place for, given that you drown good land and many peoples properties in the process. I doubt that NZ will be able scale up our hydro generation substantially.

              As far a subsides go (you know “poor taxpayers money”) world wide by far the largest amount tax payer subsidies goes to the fossil fuel industry at the moment!!! So if you are against tax payers bailing out companies or perverting markets you should foremost attack these!

              Solar PV is now so cheap that it is affordable to your average first time home buyer too, especially as it lowers their power bill. The bizarre argument that somehow solar PV equates to a wealth transfer to the rich is absolutely ludicrous. It is an invention of the spin masters of the far right (whom you seem still beholden to) in the futile attempt to pull the rug over the eyes of the electorates. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lets get rid of fossil fuel subsidies and see what else we could do with the billions in tax payer funds saved towards securing a sustainable energy future!

            13. As it happens I am thinking of putting solar PV on our new house build.

              The concept that paying the middle class to generate electricity at the expense of the poor is not a “far right” concept. It is simple economics

              Most of the faux left think that ripping off the poor to subsidise their comfortable lifestyle is ok and so if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me.

        2. I was just congratulating myself because I have solar panels and keep the house operating in a power cut. We are already in a low carbon economy because our electricity from the grid is geothermal.

  1. People might want to dig a bit deeper into the Klein “philosophy” before jumping on whatever bandwagon they think she is promoting.

    She criticizes types like the Wildlife Conservation Society for whatever crimes she can find, eg, in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, she branded one supposed crime committed by the WCS as the “most disturbing” thing she discovered in all her 7 years of research and writing for her new book. What the “Big Green” NGO groups have done, in total, according to Klein, is actually worse than what the right wing denial movement in its totality has done in the last several decades:

    “Klein: “Well, I think there is a very deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost. Because it has steered us in directions that have yielded very poor results….”

    That Klein quote is from a Joe Romm post done around September 2013.

    At the moment she’s coming on like a typical sectarian radical “thinker”, i.e. the types who gather in circles aiming all their guns at themselves.

    The idea that “This Changes Everything”, i.e. that a revolution in social and economic relationships is necessary because the planet is of finite size is an idea that has been explored by many before her, but with more consistency.

    Klein states in interviews that a few trillion dollars would be necessary to solve the climate problem: Congress blew that much setting up the beacon of democracy that is today’s Iraq. If they felt like it, they could easily do that much again, if they happened to notice there was a climate problem, for instance.

  2. I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘Nature’s Fortune’ that almost argues the opposite. Large corporates are by and large rational actors; it is up to governments to set rules that drive desirable outcomes. Admittedly though, lobby groups often hinder legislation changes.
    Large corporates can also be readily embarrassed by bad publicity from NGOs into doing the right thing. Smaller land-owners / businesses are less sensitive to criticism and legislation and are more able to exploit the tragedy of the commons. They have a lot of democratic voting power.

    1. Large corporates can also be readily embarrassed by bad publicity from NGOs

      as seen by the recent decision by Lego to stop their sponsorship of Shell products, thanks to a successful online campaign by Greenpeace

  3. The question of which type of government system best responds to an environmental crisis has been talked about for decades. In 1974 Australian philosopher John Passmore looked at the issue in ‘Man’s Responsibility for Nature’ and tested it in the ‘extreme and unlikely case’, ‘far in the future, if at all’ of the Arctic melting because of global warming. He thought that liberal democracies, despite their problems and delays, were probably the best placed to manage. While greater central control might seem desirable in an extreme situation, if there is no public check on central power, you might get worse results.

    Watching China, with its huge growth in renewables, its huge ‘eco city’ experiments, its massive replanting programmes, alongside its increasing use of coal and steadily degrading environment, its clear that Passmore was right. Central planning without strong public accountability just doesnt work. And China has also been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on climate manipulation, including cloud seeding, over the past few decades. Risky geo-engineering trials cannot be far behind: see for example: Jonathon Watts “When a Billion Chinese Jump”.

    My money is on strengthening the liberal democracy we have got, for all its problems. This means:
    – immediate public pressure to introduce strong regulation prohibiting digging any up new fossil fuel sources – ie hit the problem at the source. The divestment campaign is a great start.
    – strong central planning with all our new computer planning tools. With google earth at everyone’s fingertips, we are inevitably moving in that direction anyway. We just need to feed into a vision and science based discussion of what an ecologically sustainable NZ would look like.
    – encouragement of markets (with carbon tax) for innovative solutions within the broad sustainability framework and prohibition on new fossil fuels.

  4. AndyS says “I still don’t see the advantage of thousands of solar panels versus an efficient large hydro scheme that can provide affordable energy to everyone, not just those with the spending power to afford solar.”

    NZ is running out of rivers that can take decent sized hydro schemes, or there are massive environmental impacts. Possibly other countries are the same.Hence why solar and wind power is being explored.

    New technologies have problems or require subsidies, and so are easy targets for cheap shot sceptical arguments. What the critics never, ever do is propose genuinely better and genuinely workable alternatives other than chanting “nuclear power”.

    Nuclear power might suit America, but please keep it away from NZ. NZ would muck it up and have a radiation leak. We cant even run the current cables without a fire.

    1. Why do we need to install more electricity generating capacity in NZ when demand has flatlined?

      Also, if and when Tiwai Pt closes, NZ will have the benefit of Manapouri which would give us potentially 100% renewable energy.
      The only upside of solar is that it provides a domestic user some buffer against price shocks and outages, from what I can see.
      I don’t see any benefit from a societal point of view. We have higher priorities in improving our housing stock, esp insulation and double glazing.

      1. AndyS demand will not remain flatlined forever. However I have no idea about how much surplus the system has right now, or whether it would be prudent to install generation right now. Do you have some specific information, or are you speculating as is your habit?

        Hard to say what will happen with a closure of Tiwai. I feel sorry for people who will loose their jobs, but there are benefits in terms of our electricity supply. But it will inevitably be a political decision, or is unknown at this point and will depend on future trends with aluminium prices.

        I dont see any logic in claiming solar is a buffer, unless you are talking about roof mounted panels. But even there solar has some merit. It can provide a large proportion of power from accounts of people I have read, and pays for itself in about 5 – 10 years so provides free electricity from that point. Granted right now it is for enthusiasts, but that is how new technologies often start. Plus it is one up the power companies.

        Nobody disputes that insulation and double glazing is a good thing. Except perhaps power companies.

        1. I have to keep repeating myself, because the message never gets through.

          If we expect our power companies to pay retail price for power we feed into the grid, then they are making a loss on that, by definition, because they are paying significantly less than retail from the generators. Most of the cost of our electricity comes from the cost imposed by the lines companies, not from the generators

          If the lines companies are making a loss on the feed in, they will hike retail prices to cover the cost, thus pushing up the price for the rest of society.

          This is not controversial. A solar PV insider told me this is what will happen.

          Of course, I have no problem with solar PV per se. If it provides power for your home some of the time, then fine. However, I don’t see why we should expect society to pick up the tab for our decisions, and thus the feed in charges I see as a temporary phenomenon.

          1. AndyS, I understand some suppliers buy back power already. I have seen no evidence they are required to make a loss.

            I certainly don’t expect the suppliers to make a loss.I would have thought such an aspect could be left to market forces, but if suppliers refuse to pay anything at all, or ridiculously low amounts, it would need some legislative intervention.

            1. I don’t see why suppliers should be under any obligation whatsoever to buy power from grid-tied solar systems, especially if they are paying several times over the odds that they get from wholesale suppliers.

              If I go to a supermarket and buy a can of soup for 60c, I wouldn’t expect the same supermarket to be obliged to buy back spare cans of soup that I had stockpiled for 60c a pop. I wouldn’t expect them to buy anything back. They need to have margins so that they can pay staff etc.

            2. With all due respect AndyS, electricity is not soup.

              If we want to increase PV use, we should mandate a minimum that power providers have to buy back power at. Market forces can then work above the minimum.

              Yes I do believe we ought to be encouraging PV use even if Tiwai is going to close.


            3. If we want to increase PV use, we should mandate a minimum that power providers have to buy back power at.

              So that poor people can subsidise the middle class?
              (As far right commentator George Monbiot opines)

              And, why should we be encouraging solar PV use? Is it to line the pockets of the solar PV manufacturers and suppliers?

              Sounds like typical Green crony capitalism at work again

            4. To illustrate my point with some numbers, Meridian pay $0.25 per kWh for the first 5 kWh per day and $0.10 thereafter

              This equates to $250 and $100 per MWh respectively

              Compare the wholesales prices which are currently at $60 per MWh or less [source]

              which means the domestic PV supplier is being paid about 4 times the wholesale price for the first 5 kWh.

            5. Andy, a few things:
              The falling cost of solar PV has made this a very attractive investment for home owners. Power companies compete over customers and not offering viable export agreements to customers would loose any power company these customers. It is better for Meridian to keep these PV customers and on average still make money selling power to them plus the daily charge than to loose them to another retailer. Meridian is doing what is good for its business and what is good for the environment.

            6. Well, I thought meridian offered the best deal but clearly that is only true for very small installations. Contact’s only stipulation is that their deal applies to a maximum installation of no more than 10 kilowatts. They pay me 17.285 c/kWh in Auckland but I gather that Bob up in Kerikeri gets a little less. The most I’ve exported this month on a fine day is 29kWh. In June and July I imported more than I exported, partly excessive rainy days but also a pohutukawa that shades part of the installation from early afternoon in June. Trimming it is difficult.

            7. Meridian is probably using the solar PV feed in tarrif as a sweetener for its customers. It maybe goes with their brand as a renewable energy company. However, I can’t see any business case for what they are doing other than PR.

              They are paying over the odds for renewable energy when 100% of their wholesale power is renewable

              I don’t see how what they are doing is “good for the environment” at all. Good for solar PV manufactures

              Anyway, this research is beginning to convince me that I should invest in solar on our new house, especially if you can depreciate some of the cost against business expenses. I won’t factor in the feed in as a long term option, as I suspect these will get phased out eventually

              Also, I note that the high feed in prices run counter to the proposed Labour Green KiwiPower policies which were going to cap power charges. So in effect, a Green Party would make these fees illegal

  5. ‘Japan has added a massive 11,000 MW (11 one GW nuclear reactors worth)’
    Hardly. According to Greenpeace’s figures, solar in Japan should average a capacity factor less than 13.5 percent, whereas nuclear can manage 90 percent. So eleven gigawatts of solar would put out as much electricity as 1.65 GW of nuclear. An impressive chunk of the missing forty-plus GW of nuclear has been from people economising or doing without, but most is from coal and gas.
    The idea of having a guaranteed price for solar feed-in, within a market system, sounds fair, but in practice in Germany it has pushed midday wholesale prices ever lower ( since the grid operators have to take whatever PV owners send them, and there is no disincentive to investing in more panels ), but retail prices to households have climbed steeply, and are second only to Denmark’s. The logical endpoint is for midday power prices to go to zero, or negative, while the generators of last resort, who have to make their profits from the rest of the day, raise prices to match. Solar enthusiasts think this will lead to a ‘death spiral’, where consumers flee the grid and rely on batteries, and the big generation companies become irrelevant, but the cost of batteries, the seasonality of solar in temperate countries, and the fact that domestic users are only a third of total demand makes this unlikely. It could, though, push power prices up enough to have negative climate consequences. New Zealanders have installed a lot of heat pumps; if power costs keep rising, they’ll probably start using gas for hot water and space heating instead.

    1. There is an interesting article on the so-called solar death spiral here

      In particular, the high costs of peak load are the main costs to the network and therefore solar PV users pay a less than their fair share of these costs. Some kind of time-of-day pricing mechanism is proposed.

    2. John & Andy, Vector is installing, and financing 3kW pay-as-you-go systems with offgrid capacity, the deal being that Vector can raid the batteries for peak shaving, and pay for that power as well as maintain the system. If this were widespread that will be one issue gone and in anycase who becomes the provider? One enlightened lines company in my estimation.

      Secondly Bob Bingham has told us that his hot water is sustained by programming a 2 hour boost from his solarPV in the middle of each day. I have an unnecessary solar heater as well as the PV which sees to the hot water by itself for 7 out of 12 montha but I have been applying Bob’s solution on cloudy days through winter and that is more than adequate except during the few successive days of persistent rain.- 5 occasions by my daily records and I don’t yet have battery storage apart from one small seperate system. So there is no reason for solar PV users to turn to gas say, except perhaps for cooking for those who have not adapted fully to the solar cycle and are offgrid.

      What is not fair for coming generations is that we are tardy in taking up whatever will cut carbon emissions. I’m afraid I do not have the dosh to set up a forth generation nuclear power plant but I do have what addresses my own power demands.

      1. The peak load shaving idea is an interesting one. I would be interested to hear more about that, as peak load is the most expensive part of any electricity generation.

        One other interesting technology is domestic CHP (combined heat and power)

        Since any thermal electricity generation (including nuclear) has a lot of heat waste, it makes sense to use that waste heat in some other form, such as heating your home or hot water cylinder

        I think there are CHP units that run on gas, but in theory you could run them on wood or biomass

        NZ has a CHP power station (also known as Cogeneration or Cogen) at Southdown

        I guess this has gone a little off topic from Ms Klein however….

        1. Peak shaving with solar could make sense when peak demand is from summer air conditioning, as in the States and much of Australia. It would make less sense in America if winter heating wasn’t mainly oil and gas ( ie if the climate was more important than the economics of it.) Since our peak power is on winter evenings, you only shave a fraction of the fuel cost for the peaker plants, not their capital cost. This might change if our summers keep getting hotter.
          By the way, is there much of an efficiency penalty as PV cells get hotter? If so, it might be worth putting up a spray system, cool and clean them at the same time. You can burn out part of a panel if a leaf or bit of dirt persistently shades one spot.
          I can’t afford a 4th gen nuke either, I just let my inbred miserliness run rampant.

          1. Where I live, there are many PV installations, in a climate that fluctuates between minus 15 and plus 30 degrees

            Somehow, I don’t think 0.8 degrees of warming over 150 years is going to effect them that much.

          2. I have not been monitoring panel temperatures.but will check this out. My roof is white which means at worst it only gets pleasantly warm. Alas the birds like it whereas the previous copper paint cooked their feet. Today I used 100 litres of water cleaning the panels.

            1. Maybe you could put something beside the panels suitable for cats to lurk in – as long as the cats didn’t take to sunbathing on them…

        2. CHP is a big deal in northern Europe and Russia if I remember correctly. A few years back Al Gore commented only hospitals and the military in US use CHP on a large scale while utilities have tried to discourage it. At my place the chief application despite all pipes being lagged and extra lagging round the cylinder, is drying off the laundry which also serves to provide extra insulation thereby slowing heat loss through the night. The salt and garlic pourers sit beside the header pipe to combat humid conditions. Not exactly what you were thinking of but still …:)

    3. John, it will be a very long while before consumers will cut off from the grid, if ever. This death spiral talk is nonsense. Grid electricity will remain the backbone of electricity use and consuming power when generated will trump over storage solutions for a long time.
      Not withstanding that, I am cautiously optimistic that we will still see game changing innovations in battery technology. A possible one was just announced in Singapore:

      What is important is that more and more of electric energy provided will be generated without burning fossil fuels due to the rapid decline of PV cost and the expansion of Wind, Geothermal and other renewable technologies. And without the grid tie inverter solar PV would never have reached the exponential growth it has. Only the grid allows for the optimal use of time-variable production of electricity at the moment.

      1. One problem which has already been mentioned is that solar reduces the amount of money a consumer pays to the grid operators, but they generally use the same amount of peak power as non-PV owners (e.g getting home from work in the winter and turning the stove on to cook dinner, after dark)

        Therefore, the grid operators need to charge more to recover their costs.
        Demand side management can also help though

        1. “they generally use the same amount of peak power as non-PV owners (e.g getting home from work in the winter and turning the stove on to cook dinner, after dark”

          Not true in this household Andy. We use minimal power during peak periods, being adapted to the logic of solar power wherein one does all the heavy stuff like cooking , mowing the lawn, using a circular saw or a shredder or a pump while the sun is shining bright. The water heater is never switched on outside the solar envelope and one does refrain from using everything at once.

          Also, if that Nanyang battery actually is a big improvement on current lithium batteries, off grid capability will also cut into peak demand much more than now as the peak shaving deal illustrates in one way.

          1. Good on you Noel, but I assume that your circumstances allow you to adjust your behavior in this way.

            In general we need to cope with the statistical reality that people expect power when they need it. Attempts to socially engineer society to think differently might be challenging. I would bet on technological solutions rather than social ones.

            1. “In general we need to cope with the statistical reality that people expect power when they need it. ”
              Needs do change and smart grids + smart appliances will make a growing difference to also change peoples behavior patterns. Rome was not built in a day.
              Also just walk into any large factory, shopping mall etc. and realize how much day-time demand we can easily fulfill for these businesses by roof top solar. What is good for WallMart surely must be of interest for the WareHouse….
              Solar: a smart business investment

            2. Oh and to add to this:
              Your argument that the cost of grid supply for “anytime” energy may rise because more and more people no longer take the same as they adapt their use to the availability of their home grown PV solar and the grid cost are carried by a lesser amount of power deliverd…: Yes you are correct.

              The cost of energy will start to vary during the day. We will see smart meters billing customers based on generation cost dependent rates. This is already the norm for industrial customers who have been on power with often widely fluctuating rates. It gives the company/user the option to use power smartly and save by avoiding high use during high prices. This is how it should be. At the moment we all subsidize each others “stupidity” and “ignorance” as we are willing to pay a high average power price even during times when the power actually would be much cheaper and are unable to avoid causing high cost as we don’t know when this occurs.
              Users who are also generators normally cherish the ability to play an active and smart part in the energy provision.

              And Andy, this is precisely what you would want to happen going forward in order to solve the energy issue we face.

            3. Thomas: I have an idea that PowerShop is already doing this in the guise of helping clients get the cheapest energy over the day.

              On the coincidence of solar power and work place hours one well placed group has to be the small businesses where the residences are joined with the workplaces, or on the same properties. There are a couple a short walk from me. Also I have at the back of my mind the practice in India or parts of it where the cooked meal is the noon meal, In some places there are large solar kitchens like this 38,500 meal a day university kitchen.

            4. People generally don’t know how the electricity system works. Most people don’t really have any idea how the water and sewerage system works either. These are things that we take for granted in our first world lifestyles

              I did a guided trip around the Bromley sewerage plant (ChCh) some years ago. It is not an obvious choice for a family outing, but I highly recommend it. It is very smelly but very educational and makes you think about what you flush down the loo

            5. Radio NZ (Kim Hill) had a piece on Solar Voltaic last Saturday, archived here

              The speaker mentioned some of the issues raised here, such as the regressive nature of PV subsidies

      2. ‘ Only the grid allows for the optimal use of time-variable production of electricity at the moment.’
        Optimal for the owner of the ‘time-variable’ generator, but increasingly sub-optimal for the grid operator, as random energy input rises above a few percent. More on-topic, here’s an open letter to Naomi Klein contesting her recipe for climate change ( which, despite the title, is exactly the same one she’s been proposing for years to cure everything else.)
        And, also from Timothy Maloney, a post on grid stability.

        1. The grid does not exist to please the grid operator.

          And a nuclear revolution would certainly be welcome. But I won’t break out the campaign until affordable and safe mass produced reactors roll of the assembly line. At the moment a lot of the 4th generation nuclear technology is still vaporware as is the announcement by Lockheed to have cracked the nut of nuclear fusion and your good Mr. Maloney is just one of the many nuclear enthusiasts out there wishing the technology was performing as good the concept drawings…..the public is naturally weary….

          Meanwhile a bottom up revolution in the way we consume including a growing participation in generating part of the energy we require is technologically possible now and very much necessary.

          1. Affordable and safe nuclear reactors are already available.
            Small Modular Reactor technology is being investigated by DECC in the UK
            There is a SMR at the Rolls Royce factory in Derby that has been running for 30 years.
            These smaller scale devices can be deployed in 3 years

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