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EPRI-NRDC Studies Highlight GHG and Air Quality Benefits of Plug-in Hybrids

Two studies released by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) show that widespread use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in the United States could significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and has the potential to provide small but significant improvements in ambient air quality in most areas of the US.

Widespread adoption of PHEVs could reduce GHG emissions from vehicles by more than 450 million metric tons annually in 2050—equivalent to removing 82.5 million passenger cars from the road. Cumulative GHG emissions reductions from 2010 to 2050 could reach 10.3 billion metric tons under the most aggressive scenarios for the development of a lower-carbon electrical infrastructure and PHEV penetration.

The analysis is the first to combine models of the US electric system and transportation sector with atmospheric air quality models to account for the future evolution of both sectors in technological advances, electricity load growth and capacity expansion.

PHEV Impact on Nationwide Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The GHG research measures the impact of increasing numbers of PHEVs between 2010—the year the researchers assumed PHEVs would become available on the US market—and 2050. The “well-to-wheels” analysis accounted for emissions from the generation of electricity to charge PHEV batteries and from the production, distribution and consumption of gasoline and diesel motor fuels.

The researchers combined three scenarios for the development of the electric sector— high-, medium-, and low-levels of both CO2 and total GHG—and three scenarios for the rate of adoption of PHEVs—low, medium and high.

The different scenarios of CO2 and GHG intensity for the electric sector are:

  • High. There is limited availability of higher efficiency and non-emitting generation technologies and a low cost associated with allowances to emit CO2 and other GHGs in this scenario. Total annual electric sector GHG emissions increase by 25% from 2010 to 2050.

  • Medium. Advanced renewable and non-emitting generation technologies, such as biomass and IGCC with carbon capture and storage, are available in this scenario. There is a moderate cost associated with allowances to emit CO2 and other GHGs. Total annual electric sector emissions decline by 4% between 2010 and 2050.

  • Low. Carbon capture and storage retrofit technology for existing coal plants are available in this scenario. In addition, there is significantly slower load growth indicative of a nationwide adoption of energy efficiency, or other demand reduction, and a high cost to emit CO2 and other GHGs. Total electric sector emissions decline by 85% in this scenario from 2010 to 2050.

The three different PHEV adoption scenarios each presume PHEVs enter the market in 2010 and achieve maximum new vehicle market share in 2050. PHEVs reach a maximum of 20% new vehicle market share in the Low PHEV scenario, 62% in the Medium PHEV scenario, and 80% in the High PHEV scenario.

2050 New Vehicle Market Share by Scenario Vehicle Type
Conventional Hybrid Plug-In Hybrid
PHEV Fleet Penetration Scenario Low 56% 24% 20%
Medium 14% 24% 62%
High 5% 15% 80%

Total system emissions from a given level of PHEV use will be determined by a combination of the vehicle type (PHEV with a 0, 20 or 40 miles of electric range), annual vehicle miles traveled by vehicle type, and the types of generating resources that are built and dispatched to serve the electrical load from grid-connected PHEVs.

The researchers found that annual GHG emissions reductions were significant in every scenario combination of the study, reaching a maximum reduction of 612 million metric tons in 2050 (High PHEV fleet penetration, Low-electric sector CO2 intensity case).

2050 Annual GHG Reduction (million metric tons) Electric Sector CO2 Intensity
High Medium Low
PHEV Fleet Penetration Scenario Low 163 177 193
Medium 394 468 478
High 474 517 612

Air Quality Analysis. The air quality study evaluated two scenarios for the year 2030:

  1. A base case without any penetration of PHEVs in the US vehicle fleet; and
  2. A PHEV case with PHEVs having reached 50% of new vehicle sales and constituting 40% of on-road vehicles by 2030. In the PHEV case, the overall fraction of vehicle miles traveled by the US vehicle fleet using electricity stored in PHEV batteries is 20%.

The study used a high electric-sector emission case where nearly all additional electricity demand needed to power an aggressive market penetration of PHEVs was assumed to be met by an increase in the use of present-day coal-fired generation technology with only currently required environmental controls.

The study consisted of four steps:

  • Transportation Sector Modeling. For both the base case and the PHEV case, the transportation sector and its emissions were modeled out to 2030. Emissions offset due to vehicle miles traveled using electricity (and reductions in upstream emissions) are calculated by the transportation models. In addition, the incremental electricity demand due to PHEVs was calculated for the PHEV case. The incremental load takes into account losses during transmission and battery charging. This incremental load is also attributed to different hours of the day assuming an overall charging profile for the fleet.

  • Electric Sector Modeling. For both the base case and PHEV case, the US electric sector was modeled from 2006 to 2030. New generation capacity and electricity dispatch is simulated by the models to account for increased load due to population and economic growth. Emissions associated with electricity generation is also calculated and constrained by environmental regulations as explained earlier. In the PHEV case, the incremental electrical load due to PHEVs is added for all intermediate years in which PHEVs are present as well as 2030.

  • Emissions Processing. For each scenario, emissions from the transportation sector and electric sector were merged with emissions from all other sectors into an emissions inventory. Natural emissions from vegetation and soil are also added into the emissions inventory. The emissions inventory is then transformed into a format suitable for use in a three-dimensional model of air quality for the entire continental United States.

  • Air Quality Modeling. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model was used to simulate US air quality in 2030 in each scenario. The key air quality indicators investigated in the air quality modeling were: ozone mixing ratios; daily and annual particulate matter concentrations (for both PM10 and PM2.5); deposition of sulfate, nitrate, total nitrogen (sum of oxidized and reduced nitrogen) and mercury; and visibility at Class I areas (e.g. national parks). In addition, population-weighted exposure indicators were also calculated for ozone and particulate matter.

The study found that:

  • In most regions of the United States, PHEVs result in small but significant improvements in ambient air quality and reduction in deposition of various pollutants such as acids, nutrients and mercury.

  • On a population weighted basis, the improvements in ambient air quality are small but numerically significant for most of the country.

  • The emissions of gaseous criteria pollutants (NOx and SO2) are constrained nationally by regulatory caps. As a result, changes in total emissions of these pollutants due to PHEVs reflect slight differences in allowance banking during the study’s time horizon.

  • Considering the electric and transportation sector together, total emissions of VOC, NOx and SO2 from the electric sector and transportation sector decrease due to PHEVs. Ozone levels decreased for most regions, but increased in some local areas. When assuming a minimum detection limit of 0.25 parts per billion, modeling estimates that 61% of the population would see decreased ozone levels and 1% of the population would see increased ozone levels.

  • Mercury emissions increase by 2.4% with increased generation needs to meet PHEV charging loads. The study assumes that mercury is constrained by a cap-and-trade program, with the option for using banked allowances, proposed by EPA during the execution of the study. The electric sector modeling indicates that utilities take advantage of the banking provision to realize early reductions in mercury that result in greater mercury emissions at the end of the study timeframe (2030).

  • Primary emissions of particulate matter (PM) increase by 10% with the use of PHEVs due primarily to the large growth in coal generation assumed in the study. In most regions, particulate matter concentrations decrease due to significant reductions in VOC and NOx emissions from the transportation sector leading to less secondary PM.




That nice.

Now when will the NRDC stop ignoring the air quality downsides of Ethanol?

Stan Peterson

I love analyses that don't analyze anything; and make other than projections that are straight forward and not really applicable.

Of course PHEVs would have improved air quality. But that assumes that direct anti-pollution action will not have solved that question anyway. The US auto fleet produces 1/1000 th of the pollution of the auto fleet in 1975.

And that includes the fact that the US auto fleet today is another third larger in the number of vehicles. Despite continued pressure for even more, the US auto fleet has risen in efficiency by about 5.1% per year compounded. Most of this went into larger, safer vehicles, equipped with more safety subsystems, and better performance. But changes in that direction, has gone about as far as is necessary, or likely.

Even if the auto fleet stayed based on fossil fuels, the un-written and un-appreciated fact is that air quality is essentially coming into compliance virtually everywhere in the USA, without a single PHEV in the fleet, as yet.

If air quality targets were the same as originally targeted in the the 1970's, ALL the USA would be in compliance, today. But job justification creep has tightened the EPA targets for defining "good air". Of course, PHEVs would have helped, but there would not be actual improvement because the air will have been cleaned anyway, even up to the toughened targets in but a few more years and long before 2030.

The other stupidity is assuming that the present electrical generation mix or emission levels will remain as they are today. In other words, they are making a straight line projection.

Three points about that non analysis.

There are 29 Nukes in the pipeline in the USA, where as a few years ago there there were none.

Nuclear is making a gigantic comeback.

Over the next 25 years there will be many more, and the percentage of clean electrical power will rise from 20% to as much as 40-50%. Starting about then the earliest Nukes will start to permanently retire, so the percentage may then stabilize or even decline. But Fusion will be looming then as a viable and inexhaustible solution that will start to take over.

Hydro will remain essentially the same,as it is built-out. Wind, solar, wave and geo-thermal will increase from today's insignificant nothing to twice or three or four times the insignificant nothing, with government subsidy, knocking off another percent or two of fossil generation.

The coal power plant of 2030 will be significantly cleaner than today's coal plant. IGCC, with optional sequestration, will be much more common. Even with out sequestration, the emission levels, are at least an order of magnitude cleaner than today's plants. Even the present "dirtier" plants are much, much cleaner than the "clean" auto fleet. As noted, the cleaner coal plants will constitute a smaller percentage of electrical generation than it does today as well.

By the 2030 time frame the Global warming nonsense will have died; pollution will have been conquered; dependency on a petroleum basis for the ground transport application will have diversified; productive lifespans will have increased as auto immune debilitating diseases, (atherosclerosis, diabetes, MS, Alzheimer's) will have been conquered one after another. Cancer will likely be much better in control too.

What will the Cassandras worry about then?



It would be helpful to read the article in context before bashing it. The air quality side of the article was clearly secondary to the GHG side of the article, and its analysis was obviously meant as a "worst case" sort of scenario.

The subtext of the article was that PHEVs can be expected to reduce GHGs under most any circumstance, but will that be at the expense of pushing the pollution upstream, to the power plant level? If power plants become very green, this is obviously not a problem, but in a "worst case" scenario, where all new power plants are the dirtiest we can think of (conventional coal), would widespread introduction of PHEVs come back to haunt us, through the creation of worsening air quality?

The answer this study suggests is no. Even with fairly high PHEV penetration and usage (20% of all vehicle miles powered by grid electricity), the consumption of all that extra coal-fired electricity will still not worsen our air quality. This is because even though modern cars are rather non-polluting, they still emit enough to be noticeable, so reducing the amount of gasoline consumed still has enough benefits to outweigh the cost of some increase in coal consumption.

As an aside, I find your remark about "job justification creep" and our increasingly strict air quality regulations to be rather misdirected. Forty years of advances in atmospheric science sound like a plausible enough source for the revised pollution criteria. To make a comparison, the results of forty years of biomedical research seem to contain reasons enough to justify the fact that our medical treatments are not the same as they were back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


I agree with what NBK-Boston said here. The study of this subject is a good thing and the results are very interesting.

One of the great things about PHEV and BEV solutions is that they give us the option for powering our vehicles with wind and solar power.

I am doing both right now with an electric motorcycle I built myself. My next conversion will be a car that I can use next winter.

I also got a call today from the local Vectrix dealer that they now have an electric scooter in stock for test drives. We need more options like this to choose from.


KJD: let us know what you think of the Vectrix. Not just the ride but your impressions of its quality. That would be great!


Yeah KJD - that sounds awesome. The more people we can get motivate to working on similar projects and pushing alt autos the better - I'll all for supporting those types of efforts (not much of an engineer myself - but I walk to work now so I don't need one). Also, something cool I saw today is a new push by the Center for American Progress for alt fuels is their new Clean My Ride project where they're getting a ton of celebrities to make web videos that support the cause - the first one is up and has Ben Affleck in it (actually really funny) and its at CAP is doing a great job with this by trying to generate some popular buzz for this.

Felix Kramer

This summary is great -- especially because it includes a table that is not in the study's own Executive Summary: the matrix that shows the worst-case (low PHEV penetration and high-CO2 grid still delivers 162 million metric tons of CO2/year, while the best-case (high PHEV penetration and a much cleaner grid) will result in 612 million metric tons/year.

Here's CalCars' overall take on the report:

The EPRI-NRDC studies finally give an environmental stamp of approval to PHEVs. Scientist have confirmed that unlike gasoline cars, plug-ins will get cleaner as they get older -- because our power grid is getting cleaner.

For people looking for the most effective way to end our addiction to oil, PHEVs have made sense because carmakers can build them now, with today's technology and using today's infrastructure. But they've needed definitive proof that PHEVs won't increase pollution. The main study shows that under all nine scenarios for both rates of market penetration of PHEVs and the evolving power grid's characteristics (capacity/carbon intensity), PHEVs will vastly reduce greenhouse gases for the next 40 years. In the second study, for the next 20 years, even if, worst-case, we still use lots of coal, nationwide air quality for other emissions will also improve.

Three more points: Both reports match up well with previous studies. They reinforces the Pacific National Lab's January 2007 findings that we won't have to build new power plants for cars that charge at night. And we're gratified that General Motors recognizes sees this study as validation of its decision to evolve to the electrification of transportation.

BTW, the studies are huge -- If you want to spend a worthwhile hour on this, at the URL cited, read the press release, then get the Executive Summary for part 1 (9 pages, 8 charts & tables) and the Frequently Asked Questions that covers both reports (7 pages, 24 questions).

-- Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative

Kit P

Cause and effect. For those who made the effort to actually read the report, that burning sensation in the eyes was virtual smoke being blown in your face.

So how much could I save on energy bills with a PHEV with a 20 mile range? About $1/day while increasing ghg from 'old coal' 11%.

The data does support ways to reduce ghg, reduce energy bills of Americans, and increase energy independence. Replace CCNG generation with new nuclear power plant until LNG terminals are out of business.

Mike Z.

NRDC is the ultimate late comer to technology. They were still pushing natural gas power as late as 2005 with price forecasts that were off be almost 100%!

I met a senior member of them in early 2006 and he never even heard of cellulotic ethanol, then three months latter he was talking it up like crazy on a radio interview!


Just in case anyone believes Stan's outrageous claims for the "efficiency" improvements in the US auto fleet I have excerpted a scientific study below. Indeed, pollution from automobile exhaust is being reduced but not nearly 1000 times and it is still the major source of air pollution in the US.

The reason for the rash of permits for nuclear power plants is due to the huge subsidies in the energy bill, 2 cents/KWH for the first reactors constructed. Do away with this production subsidy, the subsidies for decommissioning, yucca flat, Price-Anderson liability limits etc. and nuclear could not compete.

The History of Improving Automobile Emissions...

Department of Chemistry, Pepperdine University, 2003


The steady reliance on the automobile for transportation over the past several decades has resulted in a dramatic decline in our nation’s air quality. Over 50% of all United States air pollution is generated by motor vehicles, and transportation accounts for over 75% of U.S. CO emissions, nearly 50% of U.S. oxide of nitrogen (NOx) emissions, and 40% of the volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions [1]. Ground-level ozone, the most problematic constituent of smog, forms when volatile organics combine with NOx in the presence of sunlight; urban areas having sunny, warm climates are particularly prone to ozone problems [2]. A strong correlation between breathing smoggy air and an increased incidence of respiratory and cardiopulmonary disease is emerging. In general, slower lung growth in children appears to be associated with exposure to constituents of smog [3]. These findings continue to prompt new legislation associated with motor vehicle emission controls.

In the 1960s, a typical new car produced 228 pounds of smog-forming hydrocarbons in a year; today the typical new car produces less than five pounds annually [4]. Over the past four decades, emissions of carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen have also been substantially reduced. For example, a pre-1966 automobile emitted 84 g of CO/mile and 4.1 g NOx/mile; the current federal standard is 3.4 g CO/mile and 0.4 g NOx/mile (Tier 1) [5]. Aggressive air pollution control programs in the U.S. stimulated changes in engine design and emission control devices in the 1970s, and later use of reformulated gasoline and low-emission automobiles in some states also mitigated vehicle emissions. Since the phasing out of leaded gasoline in the 1970s, several oxygenated compounds, including ethanol and methyl tert-butyl ether, have been used to enhance octane ratings and to reduce carbon monoxide emissions.


There are 29 Nukes in the pipeline in the USA



I probably do not understand the study. The way I read the article, they coupled a degrading picture of generation air pollution to minimize the effect of Hybrid plug-in vehicles. The new fossil fuel generating units such as the GE combined cycle approach 60% thermal efficiency, whereas the older boiler technology ran around 38%.

Now I certainly concur with the observation that PHEV shift the source of the pollution to the electric generators, and therefore is the generation is coming from buring fossil fuel, no real improvement is achieved. But, if at the same time (2010-2050) we shift away from fossil fuel to nuclear and renewables, then significant reduction seems in the cards. Especially for me, I live in Southern California near a freeway packed with cars crawing along spewing unbreathable exhaust.


Man, the trolls are out today. Stan Peterson trolls:

By the 2030 time frame the Global warming nonsense will have died
If you mean the denial that it's already happening and rapidly getting worse, you're probably off by about 20 years. But I think you mean the opposite.

And the Kit P trolls:

So how much could I save on energy bills with a PHEV with a 20 mile range? About $1/day
If you replace the average 25 mpg vehicle and gasoline is $3/gallon at the pump (it's really costing you a lot more, but the various agricultural and military expenses come from income taxes) your fuel savings would be saving $2.40/charge or up to $4.80/day for a commuter who recharges at work. Figure half that on weekends, so 260*4.80 + 104*2.40 = $1497.60/year. Savings would go up as fuel prices increased, of course.

It would be more interesting with you around if you'd at least try to make your falsehoods more subtle than gross arithmetic errors.


For those of you who seem to have a problem with this study, and PHEVs in general, there is another option. Do nothing and wait until the oil runs out. Problem solved. But I suspect there are posters here who want it both ways. Do nothing and magically wish for a substitute for oil.

Having said that, it is guaranteed that as long as we use oil, carbon emissions will not improve unless we simply cut back, increase efficiency, and/or switch to smaller vehicles, which isn't necessarily a bad approach and one that many of us are personally following.

But even with all the above, there will need to be alternative ways of running our vehicles in the future. Electricity has the advantage that it can be made with a wide variety of fuels, including those which emit little or no greenhouse gases. We need to move to those alternative sources regardless of how we choose to run our vehicles. Converting our vehicles to electricity will compliment what should be done anyway.

One issue not mentioned is that for the next decade, the baseload can take care of most of these new vehicles. At night, especially if one is using coal, the demand for electricity is typically below what is produced anyway because the generators need to run at a certain capacity, a wasteful exercise. In essence, then the first crop of PHEVs can run on fuel that would be wasted anyway. The net contribution to emissions in the early stages, therefore, will be zero.

In a saner world, we would drastically cut back our use and need for the automobile, which I consider one of the most destructive, dangerous, and harmful technologies ever developed and put into widespread use. In the mean time, however, we will need to find ways to mitigate the otherwise destructive effects of this monster.

Kit P

E-P, how about if you replace the average 25 mpg vehicle with a Corolla and you commute 20 miles a day?

Speaking of smoke, did you get a whiff of what E-P was blowing. He might think it is cheating, but I took the numbers out of the report. I multiplied by the price I pay for gasoline and subtracted price I pay for electricity. I did not consider the added costs of a PHEV which would most likely negate any savings at all.

Increasing ghg from 'old coal' by 11% came straight from the report.

The list of nuclear power plants in the 'pipeline' is not about 33. The PTC for the first 6 and is the same that wind power gets. Each nuke plants pays its own cost for spent fuel disposal and decommissioning.

Here is a link to a list:

What may not be apparent form this list, is that most of these nuke plants will be merchant plants run by companies that also own CCGT. The reason this is relevant is that the mix of electric generation will likely be such that ghg emissions have significantly reduced to the point where the cost of a PHEV can not be justified unless the price of gasoline doubles In which case, biofuels will be very economical.

Maybe E-P does not consider himself a troll when he ignores the price of electricity, the fuel economy of a sticker price comparable POV to a PHEV, and the most likely energy sources.


Kit: Yes, when you go to PHEV's you may get a bit more ghgs from coal under the current mix of energy production (by all means replace with cleaner energy), but you've removed far more by not burning the gasoline you would have. Not only that, but a PHEV will eliminate all of those short, cold start trips that are so polluting.

For consistency of analysis, if you're going to replace the entire fleet with corolla's (wishful thinking), then you should also replace all of the coal fired plants with solar panels (also wishful thinking). PHEVs still comes out ahead in the pollution department.

Have you got a better solution than EVs for pollution (particularly local), ghgs and oil dependence?

Stan Peterson

The source for the comment of 29 Nukes in the pipeline is the Nuclear Regualtory Commision, NRC web pages. Look on their licening page. And the economics are all for the Nuclear plants building pre-approved, pre-certified comnbined construction and operating licensed plants, with predictable and fixed price plants, 36 months from first concrete to first power, is impeccably the cheapest power and its not even close.

The source for the "outrageous statement" that the auto fleet has been getting more efficient at the rate of 5.1% per year compounded is ...TA DA... this very Green Car Congress web site. Use the search button. Just remember the original 42 hp beetle without any airbags, bumpers, side impact, or crush contro; or any pollution control or catlaytic converters, got all of 16 mpg. Today that is terrible mileage for a full size Big Cadillac.

The source for the eeath of the GHG statement is the IPCC TAR IV report itself. They said Methane, CH4, (1/4 of the GHG proposed GHG threat) is no longer rising and now declining slightly; Haloflorocarbons, are declining for a longer time now, now removing another 10% of the potential driving problem that could be assigned ot GHGs. Nitrous oxide from plantlife is a comaparative constant for a long timenow and also stabilized. So the GHG "problem" is reduced to two gasses only, and is an H20 and CO2 problem only. Good bye GHGs.

The rate of CO2 rise is slowing. So 35% of the total possible driving force due to GHGs has been conquered already. Then the Current IPCC TAR IV shrunk the total GHG threat another 12-15%.

More significantly, the IPCC removed 12-15% of the total driving force from GHGs and assigned it to more intense light and direct solar radiation.

They ALSO said that when they understand the effect of solar wind on the cloud formation, (Dr Svensmark's work being tested at CERN) which is much larger in potential impact, that the IPCC will assign the appropraite value to that cause. Just like in teh IPCC TAR IV the IPCC will remove it from the CO2 default, probably in the IPCC TAR V due before 2012.

The earlier IPCC TAR III report said the cloud effect can be substantial and account for maybe 80% or even all of the measured Global Warming. Since then GW has appeared to stabilize in the last decade, when Dr. Mann's tree ring hockey stick statistical errors are disregarded, and measures of warmng from satelittes or direct measures are used.

This is probably the case as the Sun's increased output cycle has crested and turned down in the last decade since 1998.



The 11% GHG increase figure for PHEV-Old Coal, which you pulled from the report, is relative to what? That is, it is an 11% increase over what baseline?

You fail to answer that question in your post.

But I looked it up. It was in the Year 2010 projections section.

The 11% GHG increase figure -- actually, a 1%-11% range was reported -- is against a the baseline of a straight hybrid vehicle. The same paragraph of the report indicates that, compared to an average *conventional* car, a PHEV with a 20-mile all-electric range, charged entirely from Old-Coal electricity, actually releases 28%-34% *less* GHG.

Who is blowing smoke at whom, I ask? Who chose a percentage tied to an unusual/misleading baseline figure, and then neglected to point out which baseline he was using?

That part of the report also examines the GHG intensity of PHEV-20s charged from other sources, such as nuclear power, IGCC plants, IGCC-CCS, etc. Each of those other cases was far better than the conventional baseline. Some were roughly comparable to the straight-hybrid case, but always slighly better than PHEV/old-coal. Some were significantly better than both. Strangely, I didn't see much data on oil or natural gas fired electricity. The results rely on a model of 12,000 miles driven per year, with assumptions about those miles are put on (long vs. short trips, etc.).

What does this tell us? To me, it says it's not worth buying or charging a PHEV, from a GHG perspective, in an area which gets 100% of its power from "old coal;" a regular hybrid is as good or slightly better, and probably a good deal cheaper because of the batteries. But in any place that gets a good fraction of its power from virtually any other source you are probably ahead. Also, even if you live in a 100% coal area, it may be able to support a limited number of PHEVs charging off its marginal-cost-free base load.


The source for the comment of 29 Nukes in the pipeline is the Nuclear Regualtory Commision, NRC web pages.

That's the number of applications, hardly "in the pipeline". Projects go fizzle all the time.

And the economics are all for the Nuclear plants building pre-approved, pre-certified comnbined construction and operating licensed plants, with predictable and fixed price plants, 36 months from first concrete to first power, is impeccably the cheapest power and its not even close.

Not according to the IEA.

[My apologies for the horrific formatting on the prior post.]

The source for the comment of 29 Nukes in the pipeline is the Nuclear Regualtory Commision, NRC web pages.

That's the number of applications, not really "in the pipeline". Projects go fizzle all the time.

And the economics are all for the Nuclear plants building pre-approved, pre-certified comnbined construction and operating licensed plants, with predictable and fixed price plants, 36 months from first concrete to first power, is impeccably the cheapest power and its not even close.

Not according to the IEA.

Stan Peterson


Welcome to this this post. Your pioneering work along with good Dr. Andy Frank is worth thousands of these "studies" that study not much at all.

I look forward to the diversification and substitutes your work offers to solving the transportation application dilemma.

The Electrification of Ground Transport is coming thanks to your efforts and the maturing of battery technology that is enabling it.

It seems altogether too often, that many here just would prefer to curse the world, imply conspiracies, and blame the innocent, rather than roll up their sleeves and go to work like you have done.

My point that many miss, is just because we don't need to build more electrical generating plant capacity to accommodate an off-peak PHEV charging application, that does NOT MEAN that MORE FUEL will not be consumed, in those existing Plants.

Somehow there is a disconnect; people know that an idling car uses much less fuel than a car pulling a heavy trailer up a steep hill. They somehow do not recognize the same thing occurs in a electric power plant. There is a vast difference in "no-load" operation and "full load" generation.

The economics of electric generation is much, much better for nuclear than for any fossil under full load operation. Historically, Nuclear is cheaper to operate but more expensive to build. Thanks to professional NIMBYs and critics of Fission power, of which I am an Original one, added costs as construction competence was questioned, as it merited.

This served to create a situation where the capital costs of Nukes and it unpredictability, eventually dwarfed the much higher operating cost for fossil fuels for a fossil generation plant.

After ordering 100 plants, looking at the attractive generating and operating economics of Nukes, only to be sabotaged by building costs, the utilities gave up.

Ironically, Three Mile Island answered the problems that genuine critics had, such as myself.

a) Apollo type assessments for plant reliability were finally undertaken.
b) The regulation was divorced from promotion when the NRC was spun off into a separate agency apart from the AEC.
c) Someone really conducted an experiment to measure the effects of a Loss of Coolant accident and not a paper study. (FINALLY!!!).

Now I understand that no one wanted to build a $5 Billion dollar Plant. And then just destroy it to see if the safety systems really worked; but that is what TMI really did, and what we wanted and needed. Despite the stupidest operation imaginable, they couldn't harm anyone other than destroy the core of the Plant and all the safety systems were indeed proved to work.

Unlike the Solar or Wind advocates that dream of getting to a low of $.06 per KWH for these sources; Nukes with predictable capital construction costs can generate electricity at $.024 per KWH. Coal costs from $.033 to $.055 per KWH depending on load factor. The more fuel they burn, the worse their costs are after capital costs are quickly amortized.

The Point of this discussion is this fact.

Coal will shrink as a generating choice and PHEVs will drive many coal plants into oblivion. That fact is wholly unrecognized in this "study".

If PHEVs come on as we both expect; the utilities will respond by building much MORE Nuclear generation. Using any projection of the present electrical generation mix is entirely wrong and incompetent. By analogy, if you drive only a few thousand miles per year, then you don't really care if you have a gas guzzler. If you drive 25,000-50,000 miles per year you certainly do care, and that is the situation for the Utilities. Just as You might purchase a more fuel efficient car then. Many Utilities WILL decide to retire or semi-retire their old coal guzzling plants early, choosing to build more economical and profitable Nukes.

I would comfortably go so far as to say with PHEVs, to level the load factor, 50+ % of the then electrical demand will be nuclear.

Then the reduced CO2 output won't be 612 megaton reduction, but from 100% or 1224 megatons reduction, (at 40% electrical Nuclear); to 150% or 1530 megatons greater reduction(at 50% Nuclear), mix of electrical generation.

All of Mankind's CO2 contribution to the atmosphere is but a few thousand megatons, so this one reduction is 35-50% of the entire worlds anthropogenic issue of CO2.

The IPCC will likely alter CO2 to but 10% of its present attributed driving force for global warming in IPCC TAR V. (So a non harmful predicted change of a few tenths of a degree Centigrade, would become a change of a insignificant one tenth of teh problem, or a few hundredth of a degree change with a then impossible doubling of CO2 levels.

In any case all the other GHGs are already in control. CO2 will have been stabilized by this one change in technology. No on eis discussing "controlling" H20 atmsopheric levels.

The adoption of the PHEV and its direct consequences, in the US alone solves the CO2 "problem", worldwide.
Of course the US auto fleet is not any longer an isolated case. The US, Japan, Korea, the EU, and China will be building common auto designs and PHEVs in but a few more years. Indeed, except for far tougher safety and auto pollution emissions standards in the USA, they do so today, essentially. So the PHEV autos of the rest of the world will be making their reduction contributions also. You should know that the rest of the world is going nuclear in a big way,even as we are ramping up. 251 Nuclear generating plants are being built outside the US, to provide power and will "refuel" those future foreign PHEVs.

Kit P

Neil, I hope you understand that this whole EPRI/NRDC study is an exercise in wishful thinking. PHEV are just an idea that sounds good but there is no reason to think that it is actually an idea that will be accepted.

Do I have a better idea? Well of course. To start with a fleet of affordable Corollas is not wishful thinking. They are a popular model.

NBK is horrified that I would change the baseline to something that actually exists. The same cherry picking tactic was used to promote hydrogen fuel cells. Pick some low ball figure then compare it to something that has not been proven yet. This time I substituted the Corolla in table 4-2 for the HEV and compared to the less efficient PHEV using coal. This corresponds to the 11% that EPRI used for a different scenario.

For the record, I think PHEV are a good idea. However, I do not think the public will accept them or that the engineers will make them work as advertised.

Stan Peterson

For the person stating concerns with the ramp up of 29 Nuclear plants based on four established international designs. Thank you for the list of sites and likely types.

Certainly some may not be built. But thi is but two years of potential orders. There will be additional ones in 2009, 2010 and beyond. I know of two more here in Arizona as two more of the originally planned six at Palo Verse are under consideration to add to the three in existence.

But they are "in the pipeline" at defined sites, with pre-selected plant architectures, and site selection already accomplished.

As to the economics. The comparison for the economics of fission versus fossil was clear in the '60s and '70s when the present Nuclear plants were ordered. Even before the big run up in fossil prices from 20 cents a gallon fro gasoline, and the accumulating pollution emission requirements, Nukes were cheaper even then. That's why so many were being ordered.

It was only when a plant that was thought to take five years to build, and ended up taking ten or fifteen years did the economics change. As regulations changed, and changed agasin, plants had to be rebuilt several times before they even ran once. Frankly, in addition to principled critiques, like Patrick Moore or myself, there were members of our environmental organizations that knew interminable lawsuits, hashing and rehashing the same issues and generally stalling, would bankrupt the Utilities and it did. That and mobilizing unthinking mobs of "greenshirts" know-nothings shoutuibg "No NUKES!" helped to end rational discussion.

The Advanced Passive 1000 is the T-W design and by far the most popular due to its thermal efficiency over the BWR.

The earlier Advanced BWR, ABWR and the Economically Simplified Boiling Water Reactor, ES BWR follow on is the GE-Hitachi design. The AP 1000 and earlier AP600 are pre-certified, the ESBWR will soon be pre-certified. The other foreign designs are in process for pre-certification. Hundreds of engineering man years have been invested in checking, improving and approving these "standard designs". Thanks to the genuine efforts of the Bush administration in creating the Combined Construction and Operating License approach, the economics of Nuclear power have been stabilized and more importantly made predictable.

Utilities accepting standardized design concepts, together with the efforts of the four principal nuclear plant builders worlwide, to invest in GEN III+ plants and meet the "standardized design" tougher safety requirements, the world has a source for lots of clean passively-safe, and predictably priced, nuclear generation.

This work has completely altered the economics for the Utilities. The Utilities can now buy a fixed price plant.

The vendors offer those terms, now.

The Utilities know that it has been accepted by the regulators, and will be on-line 36 months after first concrete is poured and they won't pay for any overage. Environmental organization stalling own't be as easy to do either.

All they need to do is elect to chose to build a pre-certified and pre-approved standard-design nuclear plant; unlike the one-off custom plants that used to be the norm to purchase. (That was how progress used to be made, each successive plant slightly better than what came before.)

All of the proposed US plants are PWRs or ESBWR from Toshiba-Westinghouse and Hitachi-GE except for three. The French are certifying their old Framatome nuclear designs raising other safety levels to Gen III+ standards, and there are three plants in among the proposed 29 to likely use that design. The French are in the process of getting pre-approved, pre-certified and will then be among the world's standardized designs.

All designs have many passive features that operate with minimal operator control required. All are several amgnitudes of safety measureably safer than what is running today. The GE ESBWR for example, does not need a single operator command for three days as it shuts itself down completely.

It is re-invigorating and solving the electrical generation issue. The other genuine progress is the painstakingly difficult re-construction of the International cooperative effort to fund and build the $12 billion dollar International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, ITER.

This ITER is the last, (and expensive), fusion physics-oriented experiment. It's also the first full reactor-sized fusion reactor capable of generating as much as 750 Megawatts of thermal power created by Fusion and making much more power than it takes to run.

Having the USA rejoin the ITER effort after the Clintonians dropped out, insures Fusion power will come and be here when we need it. It almost certainly provides a Fusion follow on to this GEN III+ era of fission plants being discussed, here. Fusion will provide an inexhaustible and genuine answer to the Energy problems without the necessity of breeders and high temperature un-tested closer-to-the-limit fission designs. It should, but won't silence the Peakist "End-of-worlders" who somehow think a KWH from oil is distingusiable from any other KWH, and endowed with some mystical life-giving quality.

Stan Peterson


Here is the GCC article by the SAE that has established the compounded efficiency increase at 5.1+% per annum


I believe Stan's advocacy of nuclear and other needlessly provocative stances in the comment section has diverted attention from what I believe to be the key failing of this study: the lack of mention of the contribution of wind and solar as well as other renewables to the generation mix. Why can the Danes generate 20% of their electricity from wind today when the US has better wind resources and still only generates less than 1% of its electricity by wind? Solar will get cheaper and will shave peak demand. Storage of renewable energy will improve dramatically.

The chief failing of the study is the notion that coal and only coal (and not that it ignores nuclear) will be the main primary energy for electricity.

I have not made my mind up about nuclear yet in the context of reducing GHG emissions and energy security but I am so sure that we can use solar and wind to reduce our demand for non-renewables to a fraction of what it is today.

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