Renewables Get Pricier // US Workers Don’t Leave “Dirty” Jobs for Green Ones // NRC OKs SMR Emergency Preparedness Rule
Welcome to Grid Brief! Here’s what we’re looking at today: renewables are getting more expensive, the clean energy job transition doesn’t exist, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission streamlines the SMR reactor approval process, and more.
Renewables Get Pricier
After decades of cost declines, wind and solar are starting to see their prices climb.
“The cost of large-scale solar and wind power rose as much as 20% last year versus the year before in most of the world, the International Energy Agency said in a June report,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “In the U.S., financial-services company Lazard’s widely watched report on the cost of power generation logged its first increase for renewables this year since it started tracking it nearly 15 years ago.”
Source: LevelTen Energy
LevelTen Energy has also found substantial increases in renewable energy Power Purchase Agreements. Once an unheard of practice in the renewable energy industry, PPAs are being rewritten with increases of nearly 30% in price since the pandemic.
Some expect subsidies from the Inflation Reduction Act to keep prices low, though that means the high prices are being socialized, not reduced. Whether or not this trend will continue remains to be seen.
US Workers Don’t Leave “Dirty” Jobs for Green Ones
The Biden administration has been celebrating the transition from “dirty” carbon-intensive jobs to clean ones, but a new study shows there’s no jobs transition underway.
“Researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed job changes in more than 130 million profiles from market-analytics firm Lightcast,” reports Bloomberg. “They found that while the rate of transition from so-called dirty jobs to ones associated with the production of renewable energy or electric vehicles has increased tenfold, fewer than 1% of all workers leave a dirty job for a green one and are more likely to move to manufacturing or another carbon-intensive industry.”
So, who’s getting the green jobs? According to the study, the lion’s share of green jobs are going to sales managers, software developers, marketing managers, or new job holders.
But the talking point soldiers on.
“We are putting American workers and American jobs at the center of our clean-energy transition, making sure Americans in every part of our country benefit from the rising global demand for low-carbon products,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday.
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NRC OKs SMR Emergency Preparedness Rule
On Monday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission introduced a new rule that allows applicants and licensees of Small Modular Reactors and other innovative nuclear technologies to create a performance-based emergency preparedness plan instead of following the current offsite radiological emergency planning requirements.
This alternative approach aims to ensure adequate protective measures while reducing the need for onerous exemption requests, thus streamlining the process. The rule recognizes that accidents at smaller and non-light-water reactors would result in a limited and gradual release of fission products.
“While requiring formal offsite radiological emergency plans where there is no offsite plume exposure might increase public confidence, it does not increase public safety,” said NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson. “Therefore, the NRC does not have a regulatory basis to impose such requirements. When there is no technical justification for a regulatory requirement, we call into question our independence and credibility by wading into policy issues outside our purview.”
Advocates cheered the NRC’s decision, which it has been working on since 2016.
“On Monday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) did the right thing,” said Adam Stein, the Director of Nuclear Innovation at the Breakthrough Institute. “The commissioners voted to approve a modernized emergency planning rule for advanced reactors, simplifying one of the many steps needed to bring a new generation of new reactors online.”
The Nuclear Energy Institute similarly lauded the NRC’s decision. But not everyone was happy. Anti-nuclear activist group, the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the NRC’s decision “reckless.”
“Past natural and human-made disasters have taught us that having a robust and workable emergency plan in place is the key to minimizing human suffering and loss of life if the unthinkable happens,” Edwin Lyman of the UCS said.
Nuclear is one of the safest energy sources known to humankind, even in extreme situations.
The new rule will kick in 30 days after it is entered in the Federal Register.
Iran breaks ground on a new uranium mine. “A ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new uranium mining complex was held at Jang-e Sar in north-western Iran,” reports World Nuclear News. “Mohammad Elsami, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said detailed exploration for uranium and rare earth elements began in Jang-e Sar in Iran's West Azerbaijan province last year and is still ongoing. The mining complex will be a hub for the supply of raw materials for nuclear fuel and will play a ‘significant role’ in supporting Iran's plans for 20,000 MWe of nuclear capacity, he said.”
Landowners are keeping the fight against Mountain Valley Pipeline alive. “Virginia landowners who sued to stop the Mountain Valley pipeline from crossing their property are fighting to keep their court challenge alive — even after Congress brokered a deal to ensure the natural gas project’s completion,” reports E&E News. “Cletus and Beverly Bohon, along with two other families, had struggled to gain legal footing in their constitutional battle against federal energy regulators’ methods for allowing natural gas pipeline developers to acquire private land for projects. Then the Supreme Court threw the Bohons a lifeline in the spring, telling a federal appeals court to take a second look at the landowners’ case. The outcome of the case — if a court allows it to proceed — could create a significant challenge to federal law on eminent domain.”
A deadly explosion rocks a Russian oilfield. “Two people died and seven others were injured after explosions and a fire at an oilfield in West Siberia in Russia, the regional authorities have said,” reports Oilprice.com. “The blasts at the Talinskoye field in the Khanty-Mansi autonomous area, also known as Yugra, are thought to be the result of overheating of nitrogen bottles, the Khanty-Mansiysk regional department of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said.”
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