Litterbug: selling and ERoEI

I was surprised to read something nonsensical onTwitter yesterday morning only as it was put there by a fairly well respected renewables slogger, and (after a day of sanity away from social media) annoyed to see the poster claiming the nonsense was to illustrate some financial point.

“an ERoEI of 60 over 60 years and 25 over 25 years are identical!”

ERoEI is Energy Returned on Energy Invested. It’s an important metric in places. According to twittering huckster’s thread he was thought riffing on it as a public service:

“So next time some armchair nuclear power hero hails #ERoEI as the reason only nuclear can power the world, you can straighten them out. 

I haven’t seen many nuclear proponents hammering away on ERoEI. I did know the World Nuclear Association published an exploration of nuclear’s ERoEI, but I had interpreted that as defending itself from frivolous claims – which has long been made by travellers of the soft path. The first link I checked on when googling “ERoEI of nuclear was a 2013 article at the currently reputable Carbon Brief – which is apparently a huge change over just half a decade:

…the range of estimates for nuclear’s EROI is very large indeed, ranging from an estimated 40 to 60 – from the World Nuclear Association – to less than one. Inman tells us he used a paper that reviewed many studies, which puts nuclear’s EROI at five.

My own little thought experiment will revisit this 1970’s approach, using Germany’s history with renewables to explore the impact of Germany’s renewables surge on systemic ERoEI:

Many energy analysis studies done in the 1970s seem to have assumed that a rapid expansion of nuclear generating capacity would lead to a temporary net energy deficit in an overall system sense. However, this requires dynamic analysis of whole systems…

I won’t discuss the half-a-century of hammering nuclear on ginned-up claims, or the current carnival barker’s petty use of “60 over 60 years” – when the WNA essentially has 60 (59) over 40 years as a claim (and 79 over 60 years), but this idea of systemic ERoEI to demonstrate a far more relevant metric for value.

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