Northeast Asia will make large energy investments in the coming decade. Currently, the primary technology alternatives are perceived to be coal and nuclear power. Both are deeply problematic on both environmental and security grounds. They may also be sub-optimal on financial grounds compared to a third alternative based on waste minimization: coal with sulfur emission controls; fuel switching; and energy efficiency. Given large capital requirements -- and scarcity -- incentives will be strong to optimize investment by selecting least-cost projects.
The Nautilus Institute has received funding from the The W. Alton Jones Foundation to build the intellectual foundation for a policy shift toward the waste minimization alternative. The project has three tasks:
Under any policy and technology scenario, the capital requirements of meeting expected energy demand will be very high and will outstrip capital, providing strong incentives to optimize investment in financial terms. Optimizing scarce capital requires choosing energy development projects which are least-cost.
There are four components of a least-cost calculus:
Most estimates of the "cost" of energy expansion in Northeast Asia are partial and do not include both fuel-cycle costs and externalities. More robust estimates could find that, even without adding in environmental and security externalities, nuclear power and dirty coal are relatively more costly. Adding them in would likely point toward the "third way" as the least-cost strategy. Developing the least-cost calculus and developing the quantitative estimates, however, is only the first step. The second step is to consider and overcome institutional obstacles to investment in least-cost alternatives by developing innovative financing mechanisms. It is crucial that such analysis be conducted on a regional and preferably collaborative basis, to avoid finger-pointing and to shift normative expectations as to what technologies are modern and desirable.
Third Workshop on East Asia Energy Futures
First Beijing Workshop
Nautilus Receives DOE Grant
Dilemmas of Energy Choice
"Global Dimensions of Energy Growth Projections in Northeast Asia"