Arjun Makijani (The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research)
Proponents of nuclear power say that it is the only real alternative to coal-fired power plants if CO2 emissions are to be greatly reduced because wind and solar are too intermittent and unreliable. But massive alteration of the Earth’s climate and making plutonium in costly boilers called reactors turbines are not the only alternatives. We have commercial storage that can be used with wind to provide dispatchable more cheaply than nuclear. And the costs of solar energy are coming down rapidly. What is missing is not the technology to overcome intermittency but bold public policy and the will and imagination to move from a hundred-year-old model of a centralized grid (much like punch card mainframe machines — great in their own day, but hopelessly inadequate for today’s needs) to the age of distributed grids and distributed computing, which can be combined to created intelligent grids. These are grids in which generation responds to load (as at present) in which load also responds to generation (an idea still in its infancy), in which the flip of a switch — just one bit! — is not the only communication between an electricity consuming and producing device.