AukeHoekstra Profile picture
Nov 19, 2022 21 tweets 11 min read Read on X
Have others told you there are not enough raw materials to transition to 100% renewables?

Did they say minerals are the new oil?

Maybe they believed @SimonMichaux of @GTK_FI?

If so, please explain to them they were fooled, by showing them this thread. Image
Michaux has become a rockstar with his “proof” that renewables take too much energy and materials. He's all over the news/twitter.

He appeals to 2 groups:
1) Those who want to keep using fossil fuels
2) Those who want to deny green growth is possible

2 powerful constituencies! Image
But Michaux is clearly not an expert on renewables while it's my job at the @TUeindhoven.

And there’s no polite way to say this:
Michaux’s calculations are utter 🐂💩.

Energy modelers debate a lot – e.g. on nuclear – but I think we can all agree on this.
Michaux's report is not science either (it would not pass peer review) so it's not rebutted in a journal.

But @visaskn just wrote a detailed debunk:

I encourage you to read it in its entirety (50 tweets) because it's a treasure trove of corrected errors.
THE problem is that Michaux assumes more than a HUNDRED times too much stationary battery storage as a requirement to deploy solar and wind.
Image
I think the best study of a world running on 100% renewables (so ALL ENERGY with ZERO fossil fuel or nuclear) was done by my friend @ChristianOnRE.

He pegs it at 5 hours of stationary battery storage instead of Michaux’s month.

That’s roughly 150x less!
I should add that Michaux's total battery amounts are not 150x too high but “only” around 10x too high because electric transportation will indeed require a lot of lithium batteries.

But still: all his estimates for the really critical stuff are TEN TIMES TOO HIGH!
@KetanJ0
He also assumes stationary batteries use Nickel Cobalt and Manganese while experts will tell you they will use the heavier but cheaper and longer lasting LFP (lihtiumphosphate) batteries that use zero nickel and cobalt. Or flow batteries. Or sodium batteries. (No lithium needed.)
Now look at this “smoking gun” from his report again, knowing everything is 10x too high, stationary storage will hardly use nickel and cobalt, and copper can usually be replaced by aluminum if you can live with slightly thicker wires.

It's complete nonsense! Image
Lithium is the most serious problem. There is more than enough of the stuff in total (and 5000x more in seawater if we want to go crazy) but we need to scale up mining 10x the coming decades.

Still: the amount we need is TINY compared to other metals.
Image
And although we should certainly make mining cleaner and safer, please understand that the materials we need for the transition to sustainable energy are a drop in the bucket compared to building materials, agriculture, and fossil fuels.

We should get our priorities straight! Image
In total 0.1% of the earths surface is used for mining. Maybe 0.0001% for the stuff everybody is talking about when they think of renewables.

The reduction in coal mining alone dwarfs the increase in the stuff we need for renewables.
Image
When it comes to our destruction of our natural habitat, I can’t avoid talking about the elephant in the room: agriculture.

Agriculture uses 50% of land.
That’s 500x more than mining and ~500000x more than lithium, cobalt and nickel.
Image
To put it differently: if we all eat 1% less meat (or if we make cultured meat cheaper and healthier), we save more species than if we abandon all mining that’s needed for the shift to renewables.
ourworldindata.org/land-use-diets Image
And don’t get me started on EROI (Energy Return On Investment), something Michaux is also droning on about.
As soon as EROI is much higher than 1 it stops being an issue.
The EROI of wind and solar is closer to 20.
It’s a total non issue.
@MLiebreich
And I agree the land requirements of wind and solar are non trivial in densely populated countries!

But don’t be fooled into thinking they are a showstopper. Worldwide we need ~0.1% to 0.3% of land to power the world with solar and wind.
Image
As for renewable minerals being the new oil…
1)
Amounts (in kg and $$$) are TINY compared to fossil and found everywhere.
2)
When oil deliveries stop => everything stops. When lithium deliveries stop => less new electric cars.
3)
You BURN fossil fuels. You can recycle minerals. Image
Does all this mean I see no problems?
I see lots of problems!

Less meat, smaller vehicles (preferably electric or human powered), less long distance flying, recycling, circular economy... we must change radically to stay within planetary boundaries!
doughnuteconomics.org/news/42 Image
And I agree wholeheartedly with the people saying resource use (also for renewables) should become super important!

Especially in rich countries we should get more locally and/or from sustainable and just sources. There's plenty of work to do there!
But using nonsensical calculus to satisfy myopic fantasies is not the way to solve the climate crisis.

Some solutions are better than others and renewables are a darn good option if we want cheap and abundant energy while staying within planetary boundaries.
/end
Here's some nice visuals from the @Tesla Investor day that underscore the point that resource scarcity is not going the stop the transition to renewables (ht @M_Steinbuch): tesla-cdn.thron.com/static/AA7YQM_… ImageImageImageImage

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More from @AukeHoekstra

Jun 5
Aaaand we have another winner of the "EVs and renewables can never happen because of material scarcety" sweepstake. I thought @pwrhungry was more serious. Let me explain why this is misleading bollox.
First of all, notice how his argument is mainly that Vaclav Smil says this and HE is an authority.

Why bother to write a substack that basically parrots someone else?

Because you don't really understand it yourself and needed to write another substack maybe?
I'm a bit tired of this because Bryce abuses Smil the same way most people who are against renewables abuse him. They emphasize this is a serious and revered figure that knows numbers. They make it about the messenger, not the argument.
Read 14 tweets
Jun 1
I wholeheartedly agree with @MazzucatoM that we should better evaluate tech companies contributions.

But the focus on energy use makes a mountain out of a molehill while we have bigger fish to fry.

I see computing as both a huge opportunity and an existential threat.
🧵
For me the focus on *how much electricity* an industry uses usually indicates an outdated focus.

We have to get rid of fossil fuels and the mantra is "electrify everything". Because electricity is the form of energy that is usually more efficient and that is greening rapidly.
Many people still can't wrap their heads around the fact that electricity from wind and solar is getting clean, abundant and relatively cheap while we have more than enough materials to make it happen.

IF you focus on datacenter electricity use...
focus on how green it is.
Read 15 tweets
May 25
California is entering phase 2 of something we will see worldwide:

Phase 1)
Solar+wind replace up to ~70% of fossil electricity

Phase 2)
Solar+wind+batteries replace up to ~90% of fossil electricity

Phase 3)
Solar+wind+batteries+eFuels replace 100% of fossil electricity

🧵
Phase 1)
Solar+wind can replace up to ~70% of fossil electricity

It depends on the solar/wind mix, proximity to the equator, grid interconnections, and demand but we are simplifying here.

This is the simple part: just turn off coal+gas when there is enough wind or solar.
But then you run into limits:
1) Solar and wind become worthless when there is an excess (which is increasingly the case)
2) Your grid might not be able to handle the solar or wind peaks
3) Daily demand fluctuations don't match solar+wind
4) Seasonal fluctuations in wind+solar
Read 18 tweets
May 24
Cheap batteries are a GAME CHANGER for
GRID CONGESTION and for SOLAR and WIND

We are now moving towards $60 on the cell level for LFP and $40/kWh for sodium ion. $100 for stationary systems in Chine. Using them for demand response will turn the energy system upside down.
🧵
You might know that grid congestion is now the biggest problem facing the transition to renewables.

At the same time the grid is used 30% on average.
If you include all the safety buffers on different levels it might decrease to 15%.
The key to unlocking all that excess capacity is
DEMAND RESPONSE

That used to be complicated but with batteries it's relatively simple: just drop some containers with battery cells, connect them to the grid, and make them use a smart algorithm.
Read 10 tweets
May 11
Well meaning but misguided EV activists like this make me very tired sometimes:

The German Tesla factory is attacked because it's not perfect.

No, nothing is!

But you should make a COMPARISON with combustion cars or other EV factories.
Very quickly:

1) "It makes no sense to charge EVs in coal heavy Germany".

This is nonsense: 4x less emissions over lifetime. See my pinned thread. And many cars of a factory are for export.

2) "They kill the forest!" It's low quality production forest compensated elsewhere.
The only things this accomplishes as far as I can see:

More emissions because less EVs.

Less jobs in Germany and more in China.

I also feel it's entitled ("not in my backyard") and childish (acting out against Musk?).

This is not how we save the planet.
Read 6 tweets
May 6
Someone just alerted me to this @guardian article from January about a *big 5 yearly UN report!* on material extraction.

The @guardian singles out cobalt and electric vehicles.
But look at this graph from the report!
WTF is going on here?

I must do a 🧵
theguardian.com/environment/20…
Image
I have a love-hate relationship with the @guardian.
😍
I recently contributed to an impeccably researched series.
😡
Last year they did a hit piece on EVs, again using the material use angle, that cited figures a 1000x too large!
As usual the @guardian refuses to link to the original report, but it can be found here:

The article uses the attached pick of a cobalt mine in Congo to set the scene🤔

And it complains EVs use 10x more critical raw materials than ICE cars 🤬 wedocs.unep.org/handle/20.500.…
Image
Read 8 tweets

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