‘Week of the White Elephants’ Sees Canada, U.S., UK Waste Billions on Energy Megaprojects
UK climate advocate and solar entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett is declaring the last seven days the “week of the white elephants”, noting that the governments of Canada, the United States, and the UK “all tried to bail out uneconomic and/or stranded fossil fuel and nuclear projects with many billions in public funds.”
First up was Canada, with its decision to buy a pipeline from Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. for C$4.5 billion. “They hope to sell the Trans Mountain pipeline later,” Leggett writes in a new SlideShare presentation. “Analysts doubt they can. Protesters label PM Trudeau a climate criminal.”
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Next was the United States, with a Trump administration document calling for “emergency” measures to bail out uncompetitive coal and nuclear plants that would otherwise be forced to shut down. “Proposals in a leaked memo include forcing utilities to buy electricity from coal and nuclear operators for two years,” Leggett notes.
Then this Monday, “in a remarkable U-turn, the UK government agrees to a £5-billion stake in a Welsh nuclear power station.” Hitachi and the Japanese government will share the £16-billion cost of the project, which Leggett says will deliver power at a cost of £75 to £77 per megawatt-hour—higher than competing solar and wind energy options.
The three virtually simultaneous decisions by three separate governments are “all very strange things to do,” Leggett adds, at a time when Spanish fossil Repsol is abandoning its pursuit of oil and gas growth, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is seeking to abandon its fossil investments, affordable renewables are “killing India’s coal-based power plants” and leaving 40 GW of capacity stranded, and the U.S. wind, solar, and storage industries are “recruiting coal miners for their work ethic and high-tech skills.”
Leggett reviews cost and production inefficiencies with nuclear plants and the imperatives of the climate crisis, noting that progress toward a post-carbon transition has been too slow to hold off the worst effects of climate change. Yet “just the three sad acts by the U.S., UK, and Canadian governments considered here, with conservative assumptions, would be set to waste the equivalent of some 10% of the global renewables investment pool.”