Documentary: The Breakthrough in Renewable Energy (VPRO Backlight Video)

The following documentary video from the Dutch public broadcasting agency VPRO provides an interesting perspective about the implications of the falling price of wind and solar energy. The thesis of the video is that now the unsubsidized cost of solar and wind energy is cheaper than fossil fuels, and having reached this crossover point, the financial equation has changed with major investment now flowing into the renewable energy sector.

The point is made that energy prices for renewables is predictable and stable, compared to the price fluctuations in the fossil fuel markets. Manufacturing costs are easier to predict than the ever-changing costs of commodities.

The documentary also examines the issue of energy storage. While the pure cost of energy from wind and solar are dropping quickly, they are intermittent energy sources and there are still challenges in the area of energy storage which need to be addressed. A couple of energy storage projects are featured: a Dutch plan using electric car batteries to provide electricity at night, and a system on El Hierro, one of the Canary Islands where a reservoir is used to produced hydroelectricity when the wind is not sufficient to turn wind turbines.

The phrase “tipping point” is mentioned here, and significant momomentum seems to be building in many parts of the world towards renewable energy projects, with decisions now based on economics rather than purely environmental considerations.

I think the video is well worth watching — it’s very well made and interviews key decision maker and industry leaders from around the world. The global energy picture is rapidly changing, even without the potentially revolutionary introduction of LENR, and LENR companies will need to factor in these changes in their business decisions. LENR will need to compete not just against coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear, but against the momentum behind wind and solar — where investments are growing and prices are dropping.

  • Gerard McEk

    I am sorry I cannot access this YouTube video in the Netherlands.

    • pelgrim108
      • Gerard McEk


    • Gerard McEk

      Thanks to Pelgrim I was able to watch this video, thanks.
      I do believe that in those areas where the bulk of the energy is used, not enough solar and wind energy can be produced to feed the industries, traffic and homes. I am sure that the western world would not like to rely on solar/wind energy generated in Arabic countries as long as they are less stable. Also the unprecedented effort you need to put in the transport of electrical energy over large distances will be difficult to overcome.
      Although LENR relies slightly on commodities like Nickel and Lithium, I believe that if Andrea Rossi proves his predictions, solar and wind power will disappear, because renewables cannot compete. But LENR is not considered in this video.

      • cashmemorz

        Of course LENR is not considered in this video by this pro photovoltaic company. Because LENR is a stronger competitor for them than anything else on the horizon. What I don’t understand is why is this video is being pushed on this LENR site. There are many such pro photovoltaic videos all over the internet. One reason may be that the PV people are trying their utmost to show everyone that PV is cost effective or soon will be as compared to other sources of power to gain a strong foothold as a replacement for fossil fuels. PV has to compete with wind and other short term sources that may get a foothold, like thorium or hot salt, geothermal. This video is propaganda for PV to slow down the short term competition as well as longer term LENR. That it explains what is happening in the changing energy market is a weak reason to have it here. Anyone knowledgeable on this site already has a good idea of what is happening in this aspect of energy.

        • Frank Acland

          I posted it here just because I found it interesting, well made, and it provides context for the kind of energy world that commercial LENR would emerge into, and the competition it would be facing.

          • cashmemorz

            Actually I posted my opinion before having seen the video, so I didn’t see your point until later.

  • Thomas Baccei

    The “old” energy infrastructure, being a vital component of global economy stability, made the introduction of any revolutionary competition, such as LENR, extremely destabilizing and therefore threatening. It is during this period of transition, away from the carbon economy, that the introduction of LENR in a serious way has the least potential impact on existing infrastructure. Once the “world” has invested in and installs a massive (and expensive) “renewable” grid, resistance to LENR will, at least in theory, once again become a major negative incentive for very powerful cartels. If LENR can enter the energy future fray in the short term, the transition already mandated by the economics of renewable sources, will be far less disruptive. The time is so ripe for full disclosure that it constantly breaks my heart to watch the likes of ME356 and Rossi fuck it up, either with greed, ego or an on-going fraud.

    • Albert D. Kallal

      Well, one can’t know if this is a fraud.

      I think the only valid exposure is products in the marketplace.

      The problem is Telsa died broke while others made fortunes with his ideas. And look what happened to Pons and Fleeshman. They lost their careers, their jobs, their university status,
      and were essentially run out of town. And again, no one helped for rescued P&F.

      So if you can ensure that Rossi will get reimbursed and not die broke and penniless like
      Telsa, then you might have a valid case here for Rossi to give away his ideas.

      Unfortunately history shows such people were not treated well. So people love to take people’s bread, but when ask to make the bread, they are no where to be seen. Now who’s being selfish here?

      Rossi holding his cards close because if he does not, then he likely will lose everything. The Far East not going to care much about patient and rights.

      The Hungarian Emo Rubik invented the Rubik’s cube, but many knock-offs appeared in the market place despite having rights and patents on the cube. Getting the product out
      the door was rather important than worrying about knock-off copies. So first to market was really the only way to ensure a return on Rubik’s invention.

      The lesson here is you have to keep this technology close until such time you can make some money off the product else you die poor and broke.

      If one works to build up a farm over many years, then that farmer is not under some obligation
      to give that farm away for others to grow food and feed their starving children. In fact such a decision will case the farmer now to be broke and starving. And history shows when such people give what they have away, no one cares or steps up when they need help.

      If you can ensure Rossi will not lose everything by spilling his beans then I quite sure Rossi would happy give away his hard work and labor and knowledge.

      Albert D. Kallal
      Edmonton, Alberta Canada

  • Bob Greenyer

    Guy at 30:30 talks up his input into Solar City – of course, we know what is happening there.

  • Robert Dorr

    A very good, well produced video concerning renewable/sustainable energy production. It’s very interesting that one focusof the documentary is the large scale construction of solar photo-voltaic energy system in the Middle East, where the cost of the petroleum infrastructure is so low. Large scale solar energy production for under $.06 per KWH is astounding compared to just a few years ago.

    • bachcole

      The strange thing is that for an end-user, me, it doesn’t seem to have gotten a whole lot better. Perhaps I should look at it again. Perhaps it is just competition for limited panels. I don’t know.

      • Bob Greenyer

        There are some great deals on E-Bay. Especially if you are prepared to make them yourself.

        The real problem in Europe is they introduced big import tariffs on Chinese panels to protect the German producers – when I was in India, even in 2012, panels were a fraction of the cost in Europe, the Indian producers would buy the silicon from China and assemble in India.

    • Job001

      The $0.058/KwHr was for the 200MW Abu Dhabi expansion, the cost for the new 800MW expansion was reported last week at $0.0299/KwHr.
      No subsidy.

      Shocking, solar, wind, efficient use, and storage are a threat to all the old FF technology and to existing research. HF(Hot Fusion) and CF(Cold Fusion) need to look out to the end of useful life(Say 20 years) to where RE competition will be, because that sets the projected project revenues.

      • Omega Z

        Both Lies and Slaves are very cheap.

    • Albert D. Kallal

      But this does not address the storage.

      The problem is storage. Without storage, you need 100% conventional capacity.

      So even if the cost drops below conventional energy, massive costs to store that energy do not exist. The result is a VERY nasty economic situation that is ignored by this video. In fact they ignore this hidden cost – and until such storage occurs, then the cost is really not the issue
      UNLESS you include the storage problem.

      And in the case of Germany, things are not so rosy. As many as 50% of the solar producers are cheating and running diesel generators to create electricity due to such lucrative subsides to that energy. The funny part is why only run the generators at night? (and it took the government
      some time to figure out how and why solar plants were generating electricity at night).

      Anyway, the issue of storage is outlined in this article:

      Albert D. Kallal
      Edmonton, Alberta Canada

  • bachcole

    Really, really nice video. Thank you, Frank.

  • Zephir

    The question is, whether the cost of solar energy is falling down, because it gets more widespread or because it has no real usage, given its nonreliability, investments cost & TCO and lack of backup. It’s solution considerable only for limited group of people.

    • Job001

      The cost is declining because of improvements that are highly predictable. Google experience curve images.

      • Zephir

        The cost of every technology or product declines at the end, but it doesn’t imply, this technology or product must be usable, the real contribution the less. Most of failed concepts ended in bargain offer as well. The problem is, the solar technology isn’t the complete solution – in night or during winter you would need some backup and this backup therefore becomes more valuable source of energy. The another problem is, the solar energy is subsidized with carbon tax and another “environmental” policies and its cost doesn’t reflect the total carbon footprint of its production.

        • Job001

          As I was saying, technology experience curves are the answer to your question. I have used learning curves and experience curves to compare technologies for 20 years. The issues you’ve raised are nearly negligible and irrelevant to big financial investors (Think W Buffet) who are not making mistakes, guaranteed!

          • Zephir

            The technology experience curve doesn’t reflect the true cost of resources. For example the cost of oil fluctuates wildly in range of one order, but currently it just reflects the cost of oil mining & transportation only – not the cost of its feasible substitutes. IMO real cost of oil would be highly above 200 USD/ barrel, the true price of neodymium and indium for wind and solar plants is higher by two orders and so on. Even the best investors aren’t motivated to calculate way forward into future than their own lifespan.

          • Job001

            You are overthinking it and under-trusting the free market investors and innovation processes(experience curves).

            Old investments go obsolete, hooray! Stuff gets buried in landfills for future cheap robotic mining and reuse, hooray!

            The cheapest newest best way of doing things now gets selected for now, hooray! The cheapest best newest way of doing things 10 or 100 or 1000 years from now will get selected then, hooray!

          • Zephir

            The free market always operates with current prices by definition, it’s therefore shortseeing and principally prone to instability.

          • Job001

            Ok, which corrupt cloudy crystal ball would you propose we use rather than the free market?

          • Zephir

            The cold fusion should be pushed at the governmental level as a matter of strategical geopolitical importance and stability. If we would wait for free market with it, we are just waiting for moment, when more people at free market will profit from introduction of cold fusion rather than lose. Which may take infinite time under the situation, when all people at free market already profit from existing alternatives to cold fusion in this way or another: nobody would want to lose its existing way of profit, so that the cold fusion will never start.

            Of course this may sound as an exaggerated situation, but the cold fusion research is already delayed by nearly one century just by the above mechanism.

        • Roland

          Having followed your analysis I’m gratified to find that, in your very last sentence, we can find common ground.

          The Quark, in particular, addresses all the metrics required of long term solution to humanity’s energy needs in the present and for the foreseeable future all the way out to the complete colonization of the solar system.

          None the less the refutation of renewable energy as an intermediate solution that you offer is deeply flawed in a number of regards:

          A combination of PV for daytime generation and wind power from evening till after dawn addresses the diurnal aspects of both technologies; both technologies also depend on optimizing their placement.

          PV in Dubai and other desert locals make sense from both the economics, $.029/kWh, and the maximum demand profile (air conditioning) thereby reducing the base load requirements of the rest of the system.

          Wind power installations generally rely on the average output of three discrete locations; within this parameter the reliability increases exponentially.

          Within the documentary two rational storage schemes are presented; there are others, some of which are already in use with conventional coal fired plants and other sources that aren’t readily throttled up and down.

          A 15 year old study by SRI identified enough global commercially harvestable wind power to provide five times all the current energy sources used by humanity and postulated, based on engineering studies, that it was possible through simple known industrial tactics to get the delivered cost down to $.01kWh.

          As Job001 has repeatedly attempted to convey economics are already clearly on the side of renewables as the current investment rate already favours them by a ratio of 2:1 globally; a ratio which is shifting further towards renewables with every drop in their capital costs.

          At the end of the day there are no other power generation methods that can compete with the Quark on even a single metric, much less the aggregate effect of all the advantages; the recognition that this is the case and inducing a massive relocation of investments will not occur overnight.

          Meanwhile investment in power generation proceeds and I, for one, would prefer to see that investment go to renewables rather than more coal, oil and gas fired plants.

  • Job001

    Wow, watch the film and update the obsolete views. It’s all about rapid change as the experience curves create very cheap unsubsidized energy investments.

    Wind, solar, efficient use, and storage now beat out subsidized risky FF energy costs and investments(Not 10 or 20 years ago but NOW). Even the big oil cartels understand the tipping point math. Google experience curve images, open mind pour in new data.

    • bachcole

      I prefer your attitude to Christopher Calder’s. We get better the more that we do something. My egg provider complained to me that the windmills were chasing away all of the animals, even the ants. I don’t doubt him for a second, but we will get better at things that we keep doing and practising at.

      I don’t understand why we seem addicted to those big fan-like wind generators. There are other, better, more efficient, quieter (I think quieter) designs.

      • cashmemorz

        There are. I worked on one that is the egg beater style. Quiet, omnidirectional and made greater use of the air/wind mass/inertial power to torque production ratio than the windmills in place most places.The problem that put it to a stop was the chief designer who had several PHD’s made two easy to fix mistakes and didn’t. The first one was the direction it turned. I had to point it out that it had to turn the same direction as the coriollis effect that makes tornadoes turn in the direction determined by the Earth’s spin relative to the air so as not to turn against that force, small as it was. The second mistake was the guy wires at the top that stabilized the rig was not strong enough to hold a person on top during repairs. It tipped over, snapped the wires and the worker died. Stupid mistakes like that that cost the company millions in investments that could have made them billions.

    • Albert D. Kallal

      No, they don’t beat out FF unless you have a means to store that energy, or you have some kind of backup system to provide that energy.

      Even the idea to use car batteries will not work. You see while a Tesla has a 300 mile range, you NEVER top up the batteries full and drive for a few weeks and drain the batteries (like using gas in a car). You keep the charge below 80% and you don’t let it
      fall below say 30-40%. If you don’t do this, then you wear out the batteries.
      So you never leave the car fully charged.

      For a Chevy Volt (the hybrid, not the full electric bolt), replacement costs for the batteries
      are $23,000.

      You start deep cycling those batteries, then you have huge replacement costs for those
      batteries and their lifespans are rather short.

      All of the above does not change the low electrical costs we seeing with PV’s. I think it is a great trend, but we not solved the storage problem, and until we do, then adding PV
      to existing systems now creates more harm, since we can’t pay for the utility
      grid, but we need that utility grid for when the sun don’t shine.

      We are progressing, but such systems are not on par with existing systems – some island that had huge energy costs makes great sense, as does a bunch of panels in the outback.

      What to do with peak excess solar energy and then requiring all that energy at 7 pm with no sun when people get home and energy demand soars does not yet have a solution.

      Albert D. Kallal
      Edmonton, Alberta Canada

  • Josh G

    They will continue to expand markets for trading energy produced by renewable energy sources. That trading will cause price instability, guaranteed.

  • Job001

    Thanks for posting this, I try not to do peoples research for them because they tend to get lazy but this dramatically shows the predictability of experience curves and how they “rarely level off or quit”.

  • cashmemorz

    So intermittent power supplies hurt the grid by not being able to handle the unpredictable fluctuations of wind power. Similar can be said about any other intermittent power supply. Solar is unpredictable because of cloud cover. Weather prediction is not accurate enough to mitigate this. So LENR power will be dependable and therefore predictable. But soon after that point is reached the grid will not be needed.economy wise