Renewables + Nuclear Energy: It’s Time to Talk.

What if renewables and nuclear teamed up against fossils? How fast could we get to Zero carbon?

chat Posted Jun 19, 2015 by Rezwan | Category : Teams Energy Supply Solar Wind Hydro Nuclear Strategies
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First, can we get the two teams to talk?

If you’re ready to talk, you can skip this part and go straight to “How to Host a Renewables + Nuclear Conversation” - #ReNuLRC.  Otherwise, stick around.

Can we get the two teams to talk? Let’s start with you, the Player.

How do You Feel About Climate Change?

What Team are You on and How Polarized is it?

100% Renewables:  Is your preferred solution 100% Renewables and Energy Efficiency? Do you, like Mark Jacobson, feel this is sufficient to solve our climate problem and we don’t need any help from nuclear?

Do you go a step further and think we shouldn’t even mention nuclear - that it’s a dangerous distraction that keeps people from focusing on the real solution?

Pro Nuclear:  Alternatively, do you feel nuclear energy is a critical asset that is overlooked in climate discussions? Do you, like Jim Hansen, feel we can’t solve the climate problem without nuclear?

Do you go a step further and think that the 100% renewables community has been irresponsible in shutting down the nuclear option and has damaged humanity’s chances of averting climate catastrophe?

Pro Fusion (or other technology on the horizon):  Do you feel some new technology is on the horizon that will eliminate the need to think seriously about renewables or nuclear? How soon do you feel this technology will be available, given full funding? Will it be enough time? How much will it cost relative to renewables or nuclear to deploy? Can this emergent technology be scaled up to serve the full population in enough time to reverse climate change? Will there be any need for transition technology?

Are You Open to Conversation?

Do you see the value in talking to your counterpart who holds a different view? Do you think that there are ways to work together to topple Fossil Fuels while still disagreeing about key points? Do you think there may be some common ground?

How often do you talk with your counterparts? How are those conversations? Would you rather avoid the conversation? Are you open to trying it?

The proposal

This is a proposal to have those conversations.  It is a proposal to host systematic “renewable + nuclear conversations” in multiple venues, adopting the “Living Room Conversations” model, tailored to renewables + nuclear, with an “energy supply field” worksheet.

We Need to Talk.
Benefits of This Conversation.
What Actions do we Propose?
    What are “Living Room Conversations”?
    How we will modify the LRC guidelines to tailor the structure to a ReNuLRC
Who will take these actions?
Where will these actions be taken?
How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?
What are Other Key Benefits?
What are the Proposal’s Costs?
Timeline
Related Proposals

We need to talk.

We are in the midst of a life and death, civilization disrupting situation. Major decisions that affect you and everyone you know are being made. You have the capacity to be a player and decision-maker. The capacity and the responsibility. With so much on the line you can’t leave these decisions up to others, and you can’t make them with disinformation. We need to talk.

Of course, we’d rather avoid talking about it. There isn’t just one elephant in the room, it’s a herd of them. The “climate change” elephant and the “fossil fuel” elephant crushing the “lifestyle change” elephant, the “nuclear” elephant and the “100% renewables” elephant. 

This proposal whispers to two of the elephants - renewables and nuclear. We hope that if we can move these two elephants to collaborate, we can get them to drive the climate change and fossil fuel elephants out of the room.

We will probably also need the lifestyle change elephant to succeed, but let’s cross that bridge after this one.

Benefits of This Conversation

An open, systematic conversation about nuclear power + renewables can benefit all participants.

It can accelerate the decarbonization of our energy supply This can happen in several ways:

Other benefits include:

What actions do we propose?

Overview:

We propose to host a series of Renewable + Nuclear “Living Room Conversations” (hereinafter “#ReNuLRC”) and encourage others to host similar conversations throughout the country (see sidebar for quick “How To” and become a host!).

In preparation for the conversations, Participants will be invited to:

Participants will then attend the #ReNuLRC and follow the guidelines based on other successful Living Room Conversations.

The impact of this process will be stronger relationships and deeper insights for the participants, invigoration that comes with improved teamwork, and an abundance of “next steps” that the conversants come up with that propel action on climate change. Fossil fuels don’t stand a chance.

What are “Living Room Conversations”?

If you haven’t heard of them yet, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Living Room Conversations (hereinafter, “LRC”). Per the LRC website:

Living Room Conversations are designed to revitalize the art of conversation among people with diverse views and remind us all of the power and beauty of respectful discourse. Living Room Conversations enable people to come together through their social networks, as friends and friends of friends to engage in a self-guided conversation about any chosen issue. Typically conversations have self-identified co-hosts who hold differing views. They may be from different ethnic groups, socio-economic backgrounds or political parties. Each co-host invites two of their friends to join the conversation. Participants follow an easy to use format offering a structure and a set of questions for getting acquainted with each other and with each other’s viewpoints on the topic of the conversation.

The LRC site has guidelines for some popular topics and encourages people to customize the structure to better fit their issue.

A typical LRC lasts 2.5 to 3 hours and has five “rounds” of questions and a closing.  It is geared to helping people get to know one another in a meaningful way while also exploring a difficult issue.  As such, only the third round directly addresses the issue. Round three is where you can modify the guidelines to your topic.

How we will modify the LRC guidelines to tailor the structure to a ReNuLRC

At present, the materials on the LRC site for an Energy Conversation include the standard sample invitations (.docx) and the specific “Guidelines for the day of the conversation: Energy.” (.docx)

The site also has more comprehensive Community Energy Conversations guidelines with additional materials, including a handout, “Energy Information to inform discussion”.

These materials are for general energy conversations. For the more focused ReNuLRC, we need to use a “Nuclear energy information to inform discussion” handoout and add an “Energy Supply Field Worksheet”.

We also need to change “Guidelines for the day of the conversation: Energy” to “Guidelines for the day of the conversation: Renewable and Nuclear Energy” and modify the language in “Round Three” (of a five round conversation) to:

Round Three: Renewables and Nuclear Energy: Can they work together to replace Fossil Fuels?

Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared interests, intentions and goals. Answer one or more of the following questions:

Regarding the “Energy Supply Field Worksheet”, the Participants can fill in a worksheet separately before, and then negotiate a fresh copy of the worksheet during the conversation. Their joint worksheet will document common ground achieved in the course of the conversation in relation to the desired mix of energy supply. This worksheet will be attached to the Participant feedback forms at the end of the conversation.

After the first few LRC’s, we hope to improve our own listening skills and be more comfortable with the process. We will then take the next step of conducting the conversations in public, via live streaming or in front of a live audience. We may also set up an interactive version of the Energy Supply Field Worksheet online to encourage discussion of statewide vision of the energy mix.

Who will take these actions?

These actions will be taken by many groups on many levels, from just us ordinary folk to celebrities and politicians.

Just us Folk: We’re putting together the first groups now here in New Jersey. Do you want to be a part of it? We plan to do this on a local level in the town of Bound Brook and we encourage anyone else who wants to attempt one to do so and let us know how it went.  Why Bound Brook? They’re awesome! They hosted the first official Footprint to Wings Zero Carbon Coaching Clinic.

Celebrities:We plan to invite high profile people to engage in the conversations. For starters, we would be thrilled to have a conversation between the folks behind the Solutions Project and Pandora’s Promise. We only need three from each side, and this won’t be a debate, it will be a living room conversation.

On the Republican/Democrat divide: On the 100% renewable side, there is a wide field to choose from. On the nuclear side:

Many other names and Re+Nu groupings come to mind. Suggestions welcome below.

Where will these actions be taken?

These actions will take place in living rooms throughout the US. Make sure there is one in your state!  Share and follow each others conversations on social media using #ReNuLRC

How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

We are facing a life, civilization and planet threatening situation. Every minute matters. We don’t have the luxury of solution aversion. We need to systematically assess our options and fears, stare down the energy field and take bold action to achieve a net zero carbon economy.

The #ReNuLRC conversations will hold people to the challenge and guide them through it.

If the conversations exonerate nuclear power, this could result in a powerful pivot. In this case, green activism would be unleashed in support of nuclear power rather than against it. Suddenly we have a booster rocket to propel us to the end zone of the energy supply field. Fossils will fold.

And if the conversations don’t extoll nuclear power, they will build camaraderie and relationships, supercharging the participants. Other creative ideas will emerge to accelerate decarbonization. The strain will be gone. Nuclear and renewables won’t be fighting each other as much, they will have some sort of creative partnership.

What are other key benefits?

An accounting boost. Like suddenly discovering you have twice as much money in the bank as you thought you did.

Example: At present, the NJ State Energy Master Plan dismisses nuclear in its goals. The “Renewable Portfolio Standards” (RPS) targets for the State are: electricity 22.5% renewable by 2021 and 70% by 2050.

As if nuclear were invisible. It turns out New Jersey is already getting 48% of its electricity carbon free with nuclear. Biomass and renewables take that over 50%. It’s 2015, and we are already well past the 22.5% goal set for 2021.

If, by 2021 we achieve 22.5% more renewables, we’ll be at 70% zero carbon! Thirty years ahead of schedule! Now we can start getting serious about electrifying everything and going to full zero. Some more renewables, a few more reactors. 2030, 2040.

None of this waiting ‘til 2050 for just 70% of just electricity.

You’ve got some power in your corner. Use it.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Anyone can volunteer to host a Renewable +Nuclear conversation in their living room and share the event on social media with #ReNuLRC. It costs an afternoon of your time (3 hours for the ReNuLRC, plus transportation time) and snacks.

We are raising funds to take a more systematic approach. We need a core of full time staff encouraging volunteer events, offering guidance to all, arranging high profile events, tracking the progress on social media and curating materials on best practices and outcomes to improve everyone’s experience.  Please donate to support the growth of ReNuLRCs.  Thanks!

Time line

Short Term:

The conversations will take place immediately and build momentum over the years to come (short term). Depending on the outcome of the conversations, the timeline will unfold as follows:

Medium Term:

Pivot: If the conversations exonerate nuclear power, this could result in a powerful pivot. In this case, green activism would be unleashed in support of nuclear power rather than against it. Suddenly we have a booster rocket to propel us to the end zone of our energy supply field. Fossils will fall. Nuclear power scales rapidly, Solar and wind round out the process and make the system more robust with distributed generation. The “pivot” helps us achieve zero carbon in the short to medium term, rather than the “long term to never” we are facing now.

Good Cop Bad Cop Invigoration: If the conversations still leave nuclear off the table for the most part, this may yet produce a useful good cop/bad cop strategy. The threat hanging in the air is: “OK mankind - you need to make a change. Adopt 100% renewables, OR ELSE bad cop NUCLEAR!  But none of this fossil stuff.”  Could this threat push the apathetic, and also the 100% Renewables proponents who are not being systematic about executing the transformations, to speed up? This would take longer, but we suspect it would be faster than the rate we are going now.

Long Term (50-100 years):

If we haven’t gotten to zero in the medium term, we’re a worthless lot of losers and I am ashamed to be a part of this race. The options are all right here staring us in the face. I haven’t even gotten to the brilliant “lifestyle change” play that drops carbon to a whisper. Why are we even considering a 50-100 year plan?

In the long term, we look back on what an awesome job we did overcoming our fears and getting to net zero in record time.

Related proposals

Order of operations pledge: Circulate a pledge to not target nuclear power until we have gotten rid of fossil fuels. Only AFTER we’ve phased out the fossil fuels, electrified transport (and everything else) should we turn our attentions to replacing nuclear.

ZREC equivalent for nuclear power. Modeled after ZRECs (Zero Emission Renewable Energy Credit) can we do a Zero Emission Nuclear Energy Credit? ZNECs. Tie in with consumer choice of energy supply to educate and uncover grassroots support for nuclear.

Energy Habeas Corpse off and Die in by Energy Supply: People are just not getting how lethal coal and oil are. A die in would help clarify. Bonus, folks would see how, even with Chernobyl & Fukushima, nuclear is safest of them all.

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Your Commitment and Action are Required ASAP

There’s a lot at stake here. As you can see from the infographic below, in the state of New Jersey alone, Fossils dominate the playing field. Displacing them will take a profound effort. We need to get off our armchairs and move down the field. all the way to zero and beyond, into the endzone.

It’s Endzone or Epic Fail

Why all the way? National Geographic has come up with an excellent metaphor to explain the problem.  Our Carbon bathtub is filling up faster than it is emptying. Even if we hold emissions steady at present rates, the bathtub will continue to fill. We have to go to net ZERO and beyond. We have to take additional carbon out of the atmosphere to stabilize things.

We don’t have time to waste on denial, apathy or solution aversion. That’s where this conversation comes in. It is long overdue.

Writing the proposal was an act of coaching to bring the renewable and nuclear teams together to help Team Earth win the Race to Zero Carbon. We can and will win the race, one conversation at a time, with your participation!

Stop Stalling. Sit down and have the conversation you’ve been avoiding.

I have posted this elsewhere and have noticed some trends in the comments: quick dismissal of nuclear by pro-100% renewables, name-calling by pro nuclear folks, and other easy shots taken. This is just more polarization and stalling. You’ve been called to have a conversation. Commit to having that conversation. Round up your friends.

The fact that most people react to this invitation with cheap shots and polarization is precisely why we need a “Living Room Conversation” approach. The cheap shots go nowhere. We have a huge problem to solve that will take major team work. Let’s get our heads in the real game, not the polarizing cheap shot game.

Find your counterparts and commit to a 2.5 to 3 hour live conversation. Come prepared. Be familiar with a 100% Renewable Solutions Project, and what it would take to actually achieve that. Also, watch Pandora’s Promise and check out this “Nuclear information to inform a conversation” for the nuclear perspective.

Then sit down, get to know each other, appreciate where you’re coming from. Find some common ground. Some steps you can both push with full gusto. We need to move down the energy supply field ASAP.  Thanks!

“Remember that what gets talked about and how it gets talked about determines what will happen. Or won’t happen. And that we succeed or fail, gradually then suddenly, one conversation at a time.”

― Susan Scott, Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today

Action!

In New Jersey? Join our #ReNuLRC Meetup Group.

Remember:

No one has to be converted to anything. The goal is to find common ground, whatever patch that might be!

How To Host a ReNuLRC:

Are you ready to Host a Renewables + Nuclear Conversation in your home? Here’s how.

Inspired by Living Room Conversations (LRC’s).  Check out their website for How To videos and tips.

Downloads
⚛  Invites: Invitation Sample
⚛  Guidelines: For the Day of Conversation - Renewable + Nuclear

Additional Resources:
⚛  Information: Nuclear energy information to inform discussion.
⚛  Worksheet: Energy Supply Field Worksheet

Steps to Host a Conversation

⚛  Find a co-host with an opposing view (renewables/nuclear)
⚛  Each co-host invites two friends.  Use the handy invitations, modified for a renewable+nuclear conversation.
⚛  Get informed before the convo. Here is some Nuclear energy information. Here is a preliminary Energy Supply Field Worksheet.
⚛  Have the conversation with help from the guidelines.
⚛  Fill in the feedback form (page 3 of the guidelines).
⚛  If you come up with “next steps” from the conversation - take your next steps.

Feel free to have more #ReNuLRC’s and share your experience on Social Media with #ReNuLRC.  Thanks!

“Remember that what gets talked about and how it gets talked about determines what will happen. Or won’t happen. And that we succeed or fail, gradually then suddenly, one conversation at a time.”

― Susan Scott, Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today

Special Thanks to Living Room Conversations

Living Room Conversation is an awesome organization. Become a member! Donate! Follow them on Twitter @LivingRoomConvo

When I asked if I could propose this topic on Climate CoLab, Joan Blades, the founder, replied “Wonderful that you are proposing nuclear and renewable energy LRCs!  We’d love to have this happen and assist as we are able.” Regarding the open source nature of the contest, she writes, “LRCs are an open source project so all we ask is for attribution and sharing what you learn so we can all learn together.”

Notes & Related:

Resist the urge to avoid the conversation

Posting this elsewhere I have noticed some trends: quick dismissal of nuclear by pro-100% renewables folks, name-calling by pro nuclear folks, and other easy shots taken. Enough polarization and stalling!  You’ve been called to have a conversation. Commit to it. Call your friends.

We have a monstrous problem to solve. It will take serious team work. Let’s get our heads in the real game, not the polarizing cheap shot game.

Example:

We submitted this call to conversation to the MIT Climate Colab contest in the “Shifting Attitudes and Behavior” category.  Here is our proposal: “Renewable plus Nuclear Conversation #ReNuLRC

Here is their response

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2015 Climate CoLab Judges

Judge’s Comments: “I disagree with the premises of the project. Nuclear has a different set of issues than the carbon fossil fuel that would need to be addressed separately. I personally don’t believe Nuclear should be kept as an alternative especially since we have a greater potential to be exploited from the renewable sources of energy.”

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Straight up dismissal. A typical pre-Renewables + Nuclear conversation response.  Here’s what it would take for the US to run on 100% Renewables. I’m not sure which is more daunting. Getting that accomplished, or convincing people to have a nuclear power plant in their back yards.

Either way, taking options off the table is premature and undemocratic.

Do you agree or disagree with the premise of the judges?  The goal of the Climate CoLab project is “to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people from all around the world to address global climate change.”  Does nuclear not address global climate change? 

Let’s have this conversation. We will either agree that nuclear isn’t so bad and now we have a powerful asset in the fight against climate change; or we will figure out a way to use nuclear as the “bad cop” to galvanize the troops to move faster on the 100% Renewables.  It’s win-win!  Also, we will have a fascinating conversation and enrich our relationships.

Take Action:

⚛  Tweet your thoughts to @ClimateColab using #ReNuLRC.
⚛  Comment on and support our proposal on the Climate CoLab page. 

⚛  And most of all, roll up your sleeves and host an actual Renewables + Nuclear Conversation, ASAP.

Thanks!

 

PACE: “If you finance it, they will build it.”
Can we curb our carbon emissions in time to stop climate catastrophe?


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