Tech Talk - The Pope, Poverty and Power

The new Pope Francis comes from Latin America and has an understanding of the true depths of poverty that is uncommon in the United States and Western Europe. Outside the very Western urban part of downtown Buenos Aires lie the barrios and the shanties of the Argentinian poor. Life is more transient in neighborhoods where there is a lack of water, food, and opportunity, and where sanitation is a sometime thing. Government programs do not extend far enough or help many at the bottom of the ladder, and government statistics seem to hide much of the problem.

This holds true in many parts of the world. I was struck at the time of my first visit to China in 1987 by the contrast between the opulence of the walled community in which the “Western” hotels were located in Shanghai and the desperate poverty of the communities just the other side of that wall. Move forward some fifteen years and the cities of China are much different across much of the landscape. It is a transition that has been effected through large-scale industrialization and the vast quantities of power is expended in the growth and continuation of that industry. Such a transition is the vision for many countries in the world but the role of power in that change and the increasing costs that it imposes must be recognized. Just having a nominal power available is not, in itself, enough. Consider the case that India, a potential challenger to the Chinese in the marketplace, now finds itself in. As with China, the country has desperate poverty but it also has a developing industrial base that is driving change. But the rate of that change has been limited for some time by the amount of power available.

Power cuts in India are so commonplace that the Times of India recently ran an article detailing some things to do during these “incessant” cuts. And while it is only the major blackouts, such as the power failures at the end of last July that garner global headlines because of the scale, some 600 million people being without power in that event, it is the daily, smaller scale events that are making it increasingly difficult to run a business. In Coimbatore, for example, a city of some 3.5 million people, power outages can last up to 14 hours a day and “load-shedding”, where power outages are rotated around the neighborhoods is an accepted part of daily life in the country. The ubiquity of these cuts mean that many folk have purchased stand-by generators, which in turn drives up the demand for fuel. But it is difficult to run a business – whether it be a factory or a restaurant, if you don’t have a reliable source of power. And if cuts are frequent enough and the alternative power costs are too high, then business either closes or moves somewhere else. It is such a decision that is apparently facing small business owners in places such as Coimbatore, but it has the potential to spread to the larger and now more dependant communities such as Bangalore, the third largest city in the nation, and the Silicon Valley of India.

The city consumes some 2,300 MW a day which it draws from the state grid. About 1,000 MW is generated in the state from nuclear power stations, with the majority of the rest coming from coal, gas and diesel power plants. Because of the prestige of the community it is likely that the city won’t see the worst of the anticipated power shortages this summer, which already have the state trying to buy an additional 1,500 MW. Current supply shortage is around 180 MW but is expected to grow as the weather warms into summer. And since overall Indian supply is challenged by a greater demand, the state can only hope to acquire 1,000 MW to meet the expected demand. They hope that this will be enough to keep the lights and power on in their “Valley.”

This is one of the drivers, expanded to a national scale, that is facing India as it decides what to do over sanctions on Iranian oil. Earlier in that debate India switched out of paying for the oil with US dollars to paying in gold. Given the volumes involved, India imported around 285 kbd from Iran in January, this does nice things (if you are a gold miner) for the price of gold, in dollars. But that can only go so far, and there are suggestions that the payments are becoming more about barter. As a result India has become Iran’s top customer and it is a difficult relationship to change, since some of the Indian refineries are designed only to take Iranian crude. However, as sanctions are growing to include insurance companies, Indian refineries that process the Iranian crude are threatened with the loss of coverage. Whether this will force a change in source of supply, or whether the Indian Government will find a way around the dilemma is an ongoing debate, complicated by the “good deal” that India is getting as a price.

The other fuel on which India is critically dependent is coal. And although the country has large reserves of coal, it is not developing them fast enough to meet demand, and thus must increasingly import both thermal and metallurgical coal.

Figure 1. Indian Coal Statistics (Energy Export Databrowser)

By 2017 imports are anticipated to rise to some 266 million tons of coal, in total. And while much of the press has focused on the Chinese development of new coal-fired power plants, India is planning some 455 new plants, while China has only 363 on the books. This comprises the majority of the 1200 plants currently being planned around the world.

Apart from challenging the opinions of those who suggest that coal demand has or will soon peak, this speaks to the burgeoning need for fuel sources as nations struggle to bring their poor into a better standard of living. It may well be a debate that now acquires a religious overtone.

From Scientific American - March 11, 2013

Coal-Fired Power in India May Cause More Than 100,000 Premature Deaths Annually

As many as 115,000 people die in India each year from coal-fired power plant pollution.... millions of cases of asthma and respiratory ailments to coal exposure... 10,000 children under the age of 5 as fatal victims last year alone.

According to this map India has solar energy resources that, I would guess, are at least twice those of Germany. Here's a two week old article from Solar Report Stunner: Unsubsidized ‘Grid Parity Has Been Reached In India’, Italy–With More Countries Coming in 2014

“Grid parity has been reached in India even despite the high cost of capital of around 10-12 percent,” Deutsche Bank notes, and also despite a slight rise in module prices of [3 to 5 cents per kilowatt] in recent months (good for manufacturers).

It seems to me that India is ripe for rapid expansion of both solar thermal and solar PV sectors.

With the slowdown in the German market, maybe German inverter manufacturers could start to look at developing products for developing country markets with much less reliable public power supplies than they have been used to manufacturing for, up till now. One feature that would be highly desirable is a grid tied inverter with an emergency back-up power circuit similar to a product on the verge of being introduced to the US market. Add capability to manage (charge and use) a battery bank, so that passing clouds do not result in the inverter shutting down and you have, in my mind, a very desirable product.

Alan from the islands

"...grid tied inverter with an emergency back-up power circuit similar to a product on the verge of being introduced to the US market"

Both Schneider/Xantrex and Outback Power have a set of inverter/chargers that grid-tie with battery backup. I don't know much about the Outback but the XW6048/4548 can charge the battery bank off of the grid if available(time can be restricted if you have TOU pricing). In grid-follow mode it essentially works as a UPS. It also has a secondary input for a generator which you can program to only accept a certain current so you can use any size (even "undersized") generator.

This is AC power straight out of your SMA grid-tied inverter, while the sun is shining, when the grid is down. No batteries.

What SMA inverter are you referring to? A new version of the Sunny Island inverter?

No. A new version of the latest Sunny Boy TL-US series, about to be launched any time now.

Alan from the islands.

I believe the guy in the video accurately portrays what that's useful for...charging a cell phone, laptop, or emergency radio. It's a single outlet at the whim of the weather. If you want to keep a house or business powered in UPS fashion with grid-tie and generator input then the Outback Radian or Schneider/Xantrex XW are the only ones capable that I'm aware of (and would be a serious selling point in unstable grid areas). There are several neat things but the most interesting is the potential to use a small battery bank to buffer off of a small and efficient generator. The generator is sized to just above the continuous load and not the peak, peaking loads are drawn from the battery bank in conjunction with the generator. A large generator can be set to auto start/stop, charging the batteries when depleted then turning off again. So acting as a UPS in an unstable grid, saving money or fuel when operating with PV, and saving fuel by more efficiently utilizing a generator.

Perhaps wiseindian can chime in here...I remember him once saying something to the effect that it wasn't worth it to put expensive things in his house because they'd likely get pinched - if businesses were to install panels and Un-interruptible Power System inverters...what's the chance that they'd be there in the morning?

This is one of the things that concerns me the most...that technology and modern society are highly dependent on societal stability. It only takes one fool to accidentally knock out power to a town for a few hours...imagine if many fools did so purposefully. Or imagine that things are bad enough that solar panels become a hot-ticket item to steal - they're kind of obvious and they don't move so the thieves know where they can find them.

Your first paragraph points to the dilemma faced in places like India and maybe soon Jamaica. Solar PV can help but, in order to achieve first world standards of supply stability, the systems end up being quite complex and expensive. It really cant be any other way since, 24/7 reliability in areas that experience extended outages requires large reserves of power meaning, either adequately sized battery banks or standby generators. Since it seems many Indian facilities have decided on the lowest cost and easiest to implement choice, they already have standby generators. Add a solar PV with all the bells and whistles for un-interuptable power and sorry to say but, grid parity just left the building! The grid parity heralded in the link in my first comment in this thread, is very likely based on simple grid interactive systems and the plain fact is that, in countries or areas that experience extended grid outages, plain grid interactive systems do not "earn their keep".

The new SMA approach is interesting from the point of view that it could lead to systems that use the emergency backup supply to feed an inverter/charger or UPS, extending the length of time that such a system could operate for. The logical next step is, why not just charge the batteries directly from the PV and bypass the inverter/rectifier stages involved in sending the power through the grid tied inverter and then the inverter/charger or UPS. Answer, the PV arrays for centralized grid interactive inverters are typically wired to supply 300-600V dc while the maximum dc voltage for battery based systems is generally 48V so, you cant just simply switch from supplying a grid interactive inverter to charging batteries. Resolving that voltage difference is going to add more complexity and cost.

Defining grid parity for hybrid systems is going to be extremely difficult since the cost of the off-grid capability is going to be determined by the cost of the reserve power supply (batteries or standby generator). The beauty of simple grid interactive systems is that there are no storage costs, the grid is your "battery". An area with 12-14 hour power outages, like many in India, requires a different set of determinations for what is grid parity and I really wonder if the analysts at Deutsche Bank have taken that into consideration.

Alan from the islands

"...grid interactive inverters are typically wired to supply 300-600V dc while the maximum dc voltage for battery based systems is generally 48V so, you cant just simply switch from supplying a grid interactive inverter to charging batteries."

You may be equating "grid-interactive" with grid tied inverters. Grid interactive inverters are essentially off-grid inverters designed to buy and sell power from the grid when it's useful to do so, and use a 48 volt battery set. Check the specs:

They also have generator connections, autostart, etc.. The built-in transfer switches transfer the loads seamlessly. The Radian is exactly what you've been discribing because Outback designed them that way. They're the most third-world-friendly manufacturers, IMO. The guys that started Outback all were Trace/Xantrex core engineers who left when Trace was bought out. Trace/Xantrex/Schneider have been playing catchup ever since.

My PV arrays are (nominal) two at 24 volts, two at 60 volts, one at 120 volts, all charging the same battery set via separate charge controllers.

It has just occurred to me why we are going back and forth on this issue. I agree that, there are solutions that do what I described would be necessary for grids with frequent scheduled outages but, there are a couple of points I want to revisit.

One is a sentence from my first post

With the slowdown in the German market, maybe German inverter manufacturers could start to look at developing products for developing country markets with much less reliable public power supplies than they have been used to manufacturing for, up till now.

The only solution I know of that is from a German manufacturer is the combination of SMA's Sunny Island and Sunny Boy inverters. In the case of SMA, a Sunny Island inverter/charger can cost in excess of 50% more than a Sunny Boy grid tied inverter and for the hybrid system, at least one of each will be needed in addition to a battery bank.

As a result anyone looking at a hybrid solution of German origin, in addition to the cost of batteries, will be looking at spending more than twice as much for their inverters than they would for a plain vanilla grid tied system. I have yet to figure out exactly how the SMA hybrid systems work, as some marketing materials make it seem that the island inverter handles all the disconnection from the grid during outages (anti-islanding) internally but, all the diagrams I have been able to find suggest that several external devices are required.

The Outback and Xantrex/Schneider that Ghung and Substrate have recommended as solutions are from US based companies that, may not be as adversely affected by the sudden downturn in the German market as the German firms. They might be doing a better job of hiding their complexity in a turnkey solution (one "box") and they both seem to be offering more attractive pricing than SMA.

Which brings me to my next and probably, most relevant point. Hybrid systems that provide extended backup (off grid) operation, as well as providing the capability to dump excess production to the grid, the off grid capability being more important in developing country markets, are more complex and expensive than plain vanilla grid tied systems. Even plain inverter/charger based systems are more costly and complex than grid tied systems. This means that true grid parity for solar PV is probably not yet in sight for these very price sensitive markets.

I guess what I am really trying to point out is that, there is a good opportunity for someone to come up with a hybrid solution that is both less complex and less costly than the solutions that are available at the moment. Storage is the Achilles Heel of solar PV solutions. A solution that, significantly cuts the cost of storing electricity produced by PV systems, while needing less attention and being more reliable than currently available battery technology, would be a game changer.

Alan from the islands

If you have a generator, you don't need much storage. I would expect that where the grid is unreliable, any business and residence that can afford to have a generator, would have one.

Now, diesel must cost about $1 per liter (roughly $4 per US gallon), which means power will cost about $.30 per kWh. Island oil-fired grid power costs even more.

If you can install PV for less than about $6 per Wp, it will save money.

If you have a generator, then you don't need a battery for storage, you just need it for power to bridge between grid and PV/diesel generation (and maybe not even that). LiFEPO4 has a much better ratio of power to storage, so if you use LiFEPO4, you probably only need about .1kWh per kW of PV/generation. You should be able to buy LiFEPO4 for about $500 per kWh, so the battery would only add about $.05 per system Wp.

Does that make sense?

if businesses were to install panels and Un-interruptible Power System inverters...what's the chance that they'd be there in the morning

Yes it's true, public infrastructure frequently gets stolen. If I have to install expensive solar panels and micro-inverters I'd also have to put in place mechanisms to make sure that the thing doesn't get stolen. Take the example of a public library, it's usually the poor folks who need access to public libraries because they can't afford to buy books, but if you do open a public library in a poor place the incentive to steal the books and sell it for a few bucks is also high. It's the age old problem of destruction of commons.
Having said that this thing is neither a deal breaker nor binary, one can put in place mechanisms to reduce theft and with the help of the community ensure that it's treated as public commons.

When we experience fossil fuel decline our economies won't be growing anymore and unemployment will shoot up. This may be a good fit -- employ half the unemployed as security guards or in security monitoring to protect solar panels! The extra costs would be borne by the lower wages everyone will be making.

I still think that by and large these systems are designed from the perspective of the developed countries in which the manufacturers operate. Hence they assume that if you are connected to the grid, the grid will be very reliable most of the time. I think that the designers/manufacturers have not really contemplated scenarios like those in India, where the off grid capability will be called upon every day.

I think that the hybrid (grid interactive with battery backup) set up still has a lot of room for different approaches, some of which will turn out to be more effective in some markets than others. I need to have a closer look at the Outbacks to see if they are really doing anything really interesting. If a UPS is available, the new "Emergency Power Backup" feature of the new SMAs could be really useful. I just haven't figured out what they do looked it up and found this Emergency Power Supply
, Technical Description

Restrictions for the Emergency Power Operation

Power Fluctuation

The power available during emergency power operation depends on the solar irradiation on the PV modules. The power can fluctuate considerably depending on the weather or may not be available at all.
Therefore, you should not supply loads with the emergency power operation that rely on a stable voltage supply, such as medical devices.

Low Solar Irradiation
The inverter interrupts the emergency power operation when solar irradiation is too low but tries to continue the emergency power operation automatically after 20 seconds.
In case the inverter turned off due to the solar irradiation being too low, the switch of the socket-outlet must once again be operated so that the emergency power operation can be continued as soon as there is sufficient solar irradiation.[snip]

Overload of the Socket-Outlet
The inverter will interrupt emergency power operation in the case of an overload of the socket-outlet; however, it will try to continue emergency power operation automatically every 20 seconds. This can lead to the inadvertent starting of a connected load.
Only connect loads that have a power consumption of 1,500 watts or less. If you connect a power strip, the sum of the input power of all loads connected to the power strip, may not exceed 1,500 watts as well.

So yeah, limited utility but, better than nothing at all.

Alan from the islands

"I still think that by and large these systems are designed from the perspective of the developed countries in which the manufacturers operate. Hence they assume that if you are connected to the grid, the grid will be very reliable most of the time. I think that the designers/manufacturers have not really contemplated scenarios like those in India, where the off grid capability will be called upon every day."

Have a look at this manual (PDF):

I agree that most PV systems are completely dependent on a stable grid however...there are two products that I'm aware of which do exactly what you're talking about. I've only researched the Schneider/Xantrex which is why I sound like I'm a damned salesman for it - Ghung seems to have hands on experience with the Outback. But the XW6048/4548 uses a 48 volt battery can take input from PV or Wind (with charge controller), or a generator (secondary pass-through), as well as use grid power to charge the battery bank (if desired). You can program when it charges from the grid (to avoid TOU charges) and when to buy or sell power (to take advantage of TOU). When the grid fails (if you have it in the correct mode) it will automatically switch without skipping a beat (though not "medically certified") and when the grid stabilizes it will automatically switch back. It will use any PV-e first to satisfy the load and then to either replenish the batteries or sell to the grid. An auto start/stop generator control can be added or a generator can be manually started/stopped if needed. The generator hook-up is a pass-through, though you could technically charge the batteries instead. If you're running say a continuous load of 500 Watt, with occasional spikes of 4,000 Watts...the XW, if you're using say a 1,000W generator will support the 500 Watt load and use the spare 500Watts to charge the batteries...if the load goes to that 4,000 Watts for a few minutes it'll take the full 1,000 W from the generator and add 3,000 Watts from the battery bank - when that load drops back to 500W it will replenish the batteries with the spare 500 W. The closer to the continuous load, the longer the generator has to run (non-transient load, warm, efficient). Obviously if the sun is shining the generator would not be needed at all, but you would have the same flow in and out of the batteries. If the grid is up and connected the PV would export to the grid once the load is satisfied and batteries are charged.

So you could set up a system with a small battery bank that only had a few hours worth of run time with a small generator (smaller up front $ on batteries, smaller cheaper generator). The inverter would smooth any random grid dropouts at any time of the day. On sunny days the battery bank would buffer any passing clouds, on cloudy days or nights the battery bank would allow a few hours to wait for the grid to come back before starting a right-sized generator.

Yeah, I would think that grid-tied with battery-back-up would be very good for much of India. Be connected with the grid, provide your power to it, reduce your power bill . . . but when those rolling outages hit, you can isolate and switch over to running with your own solar & battery-supply. Yes, you'll likely need to turn off some lights, heating based applications, etc. But you'll be able to keep running reduced lighting, computers, radios, communication equipment, etc.

A well-run business should be able to keep on operating just fine as long as it is not a heavily electricity-consuming based operation. White-collar office work, hotels, restaurants (with natural gas or propane cooking), and other such businesses should be able to operate just fine at least during the strong dayligh.

The Radian Series GS8048 and GS7048E of Grid/Hybrid™ (full-flexibility grid-interactive/off-grid) inverter/chargers are engineered toward one goal: making system design and installation easier and faster in grid-interactive and comprehensive off-grid applications. The Radian Series simplifies the configuration, distribution, and implementation of energy storage through a standardized approach when integrated with an OutBack GS Load Center, making it easier than ever to provide successful solutions for virtually any residential, commercial or institutional power requirement.

The 120/240V 60Hz split-phase Radian is an 8,000 Watt continuous power solution that seamlessly integrates with traditional North American wiring practices. The all-new 230V 50Hz Radian reflects OutBack’s on-going commitment to clean, reliable power for homes, businesses and other facilities around the world, delivering 7,000 Watts. Both models combine pure sine-wave power output technology with unsurpassed surge capability to start the most demanding appliances, and are built around a unique dual-power module design which ensures high efficiency in both low and full power operation as well as redundancy in mission-critical applications.

The GS 7048E has an output range of 212-250 volts at 50 or 60 Hz.

According to this map India has solar energy resources that, I would guess, are at least twice those of Germany.

India has 8.5x the land area of Germany and is located much further to the equator.
You really don't need more info to know that India's potential for solar energy is much larger than anything we Germans could ever have.

I do hope the indians pick up the slack. It's not that we couldn't afford it, our government is being aggressively lobbied by those profiting from BAU.

Now, Gujarat to cover Narmada canals with solar panels!

Assuming a utilisation of only 10 per cent of the existing canal network of 19,000 km, it is estimated that 2,200 MW of solar power generating capacity can be installed by covering the canals with solar panels.

This also implies that 11,000 acres of land can be potentially conserved along with about 2,000 crore litres of water saved per annum.

I've often wondered why the big California canals aren't covered too.

I'm wondering if that is hectares instead of "acres",
since they then use literslitres.

2,000 crore (2 x 1010) liters/year is 706 million cubic feet, or 16,214 acre-feet - that's a lot of water.

What you really need is something that works well with a diesel generator.

Every Indian and Pakistani business and household that can afford to do so has generators. PV would synergize beautifully. PV is much cheaper than diesel, so every kW from PV is a big savings. A battery would allow seamless switchover from grid/PV to PV/diesel.

That would be the Outback Radian. My Outback (FX) switches from the diesel to battery without even causing lights to flicker, and appliances don't miss a beat. It's not a Radian series, but I would expect the same. One issue with hybrid inverters and PV is that a separate charge controller is needed, but they do have battery chargers to top off the battery when there's grid power. My system has two AC input connections; generator and grid (or a second generator), as does the Radian, but my series (FX) isn't designed to sell back to the grid.

The Radian or similar inverter/charger with battery, PV + charge controller(s), generator and grid connection is the most versatile system, bar none IMO,, though at a cost. Its modularity allows it to be upgraded easily; start with a few panels and keep adding on. It's what I've done (without the grid). Perfect for micro-grids as well. Stack on another inverter and sell to your neighbors when the grid goes down, or add more batteries and sell to the grid during peak rates.

By US Standards, Argentina Is On Sale
This has an interesting semi-log graph showing the devaluation of the peso since WW II by > 10^12.

Also What Happened to Argentina? discusses how Argentina started out with a GDP/capita in the top group of nations in 1909 and wound up where it is today.

Stoneleigh (Nicole Foss), formerly of TOD, wrote an excellent article on the Indian Power Crisis last year:

The biggest thing the new Pope could do that would help the poor in third world countries is to drop the Roman Catholic Church's prohibition on contraception (except natural family planning). There is no indication he will do so.

The biggest thing the new Pope could do that would help the poor in third world countries is to drop the Roman Catholic Church's prohibition on contraception (except natural family planning). There is no indication he will do so.

Yeah, I don't understand the position even biblically. The spill the seed stuff is from the old testament and most Jews don't view it as banning contraception.

I think it is merely a strategy to keep plenty of new people in the pews. Most the industrialized world has cast off that yoke of control from the church so, like Philip-Morris, they've expanded largely in third world nations were they can still get away with such stuff.

It is not a strategy, only historical overhead. As I wrote in a previous DB, the catholic church has a thing they call the tradition. It basicly means dogmas can be added, but never removed. To remove a dogma, you must first remove the one about the church never beeing wrong. And this church has The Pope, wich is literally Jesus stand in on the planet. They can not be wrong. They can never change anything, once they have said "it is so".

And as you, I also don't get the point biblically either.

"The biggest thing the new Pope could do that would help the poor in third world countries is to drop the Roman Catholic Church's prohibition on contraception..."

The RCC's doctrine on contraception isn't having any obvious effect on fertility rates. People follow it, or not, as suits them.

People don't need modern contraception to regulate fertility, although they certainly make it easier. Every society throughout history has regulated their fertility by a variety of means.

Quite a few years ago I saw a list showing the number of children people desired on average in each country and the number they actually had. The numbers varied enormously of course. So far, so obvious. But what struck me was that -- across the board -- fertility rates ran about 0.5 children higher than desired. So people were regulating their fertility, and fairly effectively. Modern contraceptive technology just gives people more tools in the toolbox.

Just wondering, how is "fertility" defined. Because historically lots of kids and babies died so the overall proportion of newborns reaching reproductive age was lower than today. So their fertility may have been higher than the statistics reveal. I'm not sure myself, wonder how much of an impact this has.

Thats a good question. The number of babies born I think. Although infanticide, overt or subtle, has been very widely practiced throughout history which would complicate it. But the death rate was never so high that you could afford to reproduce at anywhere near the maximum potential. I believe the number of children necessary for stability (which all societies ultimately aim for) was 4 in hunter gatherer societies, 5-6, at the very most 7, in agrarian societies, with at least 50% reaching adulthood. Just my impression based on casual reading. But in case huge families would always have been rare throughout history.

India's GDP growth is slowing, and its GDP/capita growth is worse. It has > 1.2 billion people, and the age distribution of its population is such that the population will continue to grow significantly, even if birth rates were to fall below replacement rates.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US was interested in cementing an alliance with India for strategic geopolitical reasons. I believe that the government passed the word to top US managers that they would look favorably on investments in India. This helped spur the offshore subsidiaries and the use of Indian software houses for help desk and back office operations.

However, even though India may now attempt to persuade the US that it is needed as a counterweight to China, as well as adjacent Islamic countries, the US has less means to assist India economically and the US' interests are further east in southeast Asia and the Island arc in the West Pacific.

As a result, we are probably near "peak India" (although not peak Indians), and negative GDP/capita growth is likely in the next decades. This doesn't mean that there will necessarily be fewer Indian billionaires or that the "middle class" will shrink too much, just that the misery of the masses will increase.

It seems rediculous to see China and India, with such large populations, still growing their populations. But actually less rediculous than the third most populous country on earth growing its population from immigration.

UN median projections through 2100 have India peaking in 2060 at about 1.7 billion, China peaking at about 1.4 billion in 2035, and the US increasing to about 480 million in 2100. The US is in rather better shape, since it has more arable land per person and is a net food exporter as well as an obese population.

" a net food exporter as well as an obese population".

Certainly food production is important in supporting a growing population, but energy production, which enables the level of food production in the US, is just as important. Unfortunately, the obese population part adds to our per capita energy consumption in that fewer people walk or use bicycle instead of driving, besides the extra energy used in food processing that keeps the people obese.

Regarding that population increase for the US, I doubt it will reach 480 million, which is predicted based on increased immigration. As we go down the energy production slope, death rates will likely increase in many countries causing decreases in foreign population and less pressure on locals to emmigrate to the US, IMO.

Probably the United States population will stop growing towards the end of this century. But whether it happens this century or early the next, the end of population growth is coming soon in historical terms (100 years isn't that long, historically speaking). This will be incredibly traumatic for the U.S., which has known nothing but rapid population growth ever since colonization.

We can only guess at what will cause immigration to drop below replacement point. Decreasing living standard and opportunities perhaps deterring all but the poorest immigrants, who wouldn't be welcome and who couldn't possibly afford transport anyhow.

Those estimates rarely take into account effects of Global Warming. I don't believe there will be any food exporters in 2050, with the possible exception of Canada and Scandinavia. And that is possible, not proven.

"It seems rediculous to see China and India, with such large populations, still growing their populations."

But economists tell us that more people = more workers = more labour = more production of stuff = more prosperity! We can reach a trillion people no problem, we'll just grow vertically like the Jetsons. All we need is more people and more technology and more growth!

Let's be honest -- population growth has generally been good for us in the past so we should not be too surprised that many people still see it as a requirement for moving forward. It will take time for people to realize there has been a paradigm shift and that population growth is now a bad thing that will only make dealing with our problems more difficult.

A new coal field is to be developed in Australia to supply India. It will require major expansion of port facilities and 500 km of new rail track
Based on feelers the Indian firm GVK has put out it seems certain there will be moves to use Indian 'guest workers' on the project. Australia gets a hole in the ground, some B grade jobs, some royalties and a CO2 boosted atmosphere. This seems to confirm we are in overshoot
- India's population exceeds its resource base
- Australia's claims to promote low carbon look hypocritical
- a reality check on the hype that wind and solar will replace coal.

I recall even IPCC head Pachauri suggested India should be allowed to increase per capita emissions while the rest of the world tried harder to reduce them. As I've said before if the rest of the world is cutting emissions then it seems fair to carbon tax goods and services produced in countries like India with increasing emissions. In AGW terms such countries are getting a free ride on the restraint of others.

Haven't GHG polluting countries already enjoyed their free ride at India's expense? We've been at it for 150 years, using up and then exceeding the -entire globes- natural capacity to sequester ghgs. Now India & many other relatively blameless nations are bearing the consequences of our irresponsibility.

I don't buy that argument for several reasons. Emissions have boomed since year 2000. See the chart in
Major culprits have to be China and India making stuff for the West. A carbon tariff shares the pain as the West pays more for stuff Chindia sells less until they cut emissions and the tariff is lifted.

We could apply the pre-Asian-boom argument to the Amazon jungle. That sucked up a lot of CO2 so maybe the carbon credit should be backdated 150 years. With 2.5 bn people and growing Chindia is to some extent the architect of its own misfortune. Not enough resources?... don't breed so much. Mind you that argument applies to oil in the rest of the world. For practical purposes everybody should try to cut emissions starting now. It is stupid for some to shamelessly increase emissions and others try hard to reduce; which is what we have now.

Those of us in the developed world can only 'try hard to reduce' because we did 'shamelessly increase emissions' for two centuries...

But this argument and finger pointing is spitting in the wind. Collectively we will burn everything we can get our hands on until we can't, and then we won't. Only mother nature will stop us, not any agreements amongst ourselves.

If he wants to help the poor of Argentina he should lobby the US and European CEOs to export some of their jobs there. The world might benefit from increased coal burning taking place in the Southern Hemisphere instead of the Northern Hemisphere.

"Might benefit" by burning coal in the Southern Hemispere. Are you suggesting that there is some benefit to say NZ no longer producing over 70% of its electricity from renewable sources but instead of exporting coal to the Northern hemisphere, burn that coal in NZ. It is hard to identify the benefit to the world.

Don't understand the benefit. Don't think global ghg emissions would be reduced by this strategy.

"[Bangalore] consumes some 2,300 MW a day which it draws ..."

Grr. The city consumes 2,300 MW on average. 'MW per day' would be a unit for something entirely different.

I think H.O. implied that is the daily average power draw, not a quantity of power consumed over a 24 hour period. Consumption would be in gigajoules or megawatt hours.

The answer for India, as for China, is nuclear power. India announced very ambitious plans, but what has happened illustrates the problem that India has in implementing those plans.

First, memories of Bhopal caused the Indian Parliament to pass a law on nuclear liability that is not in keeping with international norms, or sense for that matter. Rather than making the utility responsible, there is a potential for lawsuits for any suppliers. That means if you make a pipe for the plant and it meets all the nuclear standards set up by the plant manufacturer and the utility, you are still liable to a lawsuit if at any time in the next 80 years there is some problem at the plant. That has put a big chill on the willingness of suppliers to sign contracts. This is not a West versus East issue. NPCIL the Indian State nuclear power company was and is opposed to this law.

Second, the Russians virtually completed two nuclear power plants, with a total capacity of 2200 MWe at Kudankulam. This is enough power to supply millions of Indians with electricity (at the low rate they use power, maybe 10 million?). Instead starting up the plant has been delayed for more than a year, by a few hundred ignorant fisherman and Western anti-nukes protestors.

So India continues to burn coal and pollute its environment, along with dealing with inadequate supplies of electricity to fuel development and lift a billion people out of poverty.

You can contrast this with China, where these projects are being built, and turned on at a rapid and accelerating pace. It is another reason China will continue to leave India in the dust in terms of development.

India will need to overhaul its grids and deal with rampant theft of electricity before adding large increases to generation. Their grids are a disaster.

As for: "You can contrast this with China, where these projects are being built, and turned on at a rapid and accelerating pace."

China's National Development and Reform Commission has indicated the intention to raise the percentage of China's electricity produced by nuclear power from the current 1% to 6% by 2020 (compared to 20% in the USA as of 2008). This will require the current installed capacity of 11.3 GW to be increased to 86 GW (more than France at 63 GW).[3] However, rapid nuclear expansion may lead to a shortfall of fuel, equipment, qualified plant workers, and safety inspectors.

So their "rapid" development of nuclear power is (was) planned to get them up to a whopping 6% of their electricity production by 2020... except:

Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, China announced on 16 March 2011, that all nuclear plant approvals were being frozen, and that 'full safety checks' of existing reactors would be made.[11][12] Although Zhang Lijun, Vice Minister of Environmental Protection, has indicated that China's overall nuclear energy strategy would continue,[12] some commentators have suggested that additional safety-related costs and public opinion could cause a rethink in favor of an expanded renewable energy program.[12][13] In April 2011, China Daily reported that approvals for construction of nuclear power plants in marine areas have been suspended.[14] The safety inspections were due to finish by October 2011, and the current status of the projects is unclear.[15] In April 2012, Reuters reported that China was likely to resume nuclear power plants approvals sometime during the first half of 2012. The official target of a capacity of 40 GW by 2020 is unchanged but earlier plans to increase this to 86 GW has been reduced to 70-75 GW due shortages of equipment and qualified personnel as well as safety concerns.

Do you suppose they blame this on some Chinese anti-nuke lobby, or an outcry from Chinese nuclear alarmists? Despite their relatively high growth rate and non-democratic advantages in accomplishing these things, even China will/can only make a small gain in their electrical production capacity using new nuclear (from 1991 to 2020). Suggesting that nuclear power can save India in any time frame that matters is a stretch.

BTW, it would be helpful if you could provide some support for your assertions. I see no citations in any of your posts, and your assertion in another post: "Although the subtitle to this blog is 'Discussions about Energy and our Future', there is quite a blind spot regarding nuclear." is also unsupported, and unsupportable, IMO. Perhaps the pro-nuke members of this forum just need to up their game a bit, rather than making blanket statements.


Thanks for your comments, those are all interesting points.