“Photovoltaic (PV) cells, onshore wind turbines, internet technologies, and storage technologies have the potential to fundamentally change electricity markets in the years ahead. Photovoltaic cells are the most disruptive energy technology as they allow consumers of all sizes to produce power by themselves—new actors in the power market can begin operating with a new bottom-up control logic. Unsubsidised PV markets may start to take off in 2013, fuelling substantial growth where PV power is getting cheaper than grid or diesel backup electricity for commercial consumers.”
Good overview of the potential of renewables in the science magazine Energy.
“Conservatives say the American way is to use more and pay less, Walmart-style. No wonder they’re scared about the shift to clean energy and sustainability.”
Good article by David Roberts on the Grist about how clean energy is quickly replacing climate change as enemy number one of the American way of life.
”The German government has agreed to accelerate the next round of cuts in state-mandated photovoltaic incentives by three months to April 1 after a record-breaking expansion of solar” (Source: Reuters).
For more details, see also Der Spiegel (in German)
Is Germany killing its goose with the golden eggs? Or do these measures make economic sense to make the German solar industry stronger?
“As energy demand grows, even alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and nuclear fusion could begin to affect the climate.”
Excellent thought-provoking piece in New Scientist asking some inconvenient questions about the energy revolution we need.
“Renewable energy investment rose 5 percent to a record $260 billion last year driven by a surge in solar developments and increased spending in the U.S., Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.” (Source: Bloomberg)
Despite the economic and financial crisis, the Solyndra collapse in the US and reduced government subsidies, the renewables sector continues its growth. That said, Europe risks losing its leadership position as Chinese competition is driving jobs out of the old continent.
On the Oil Drum, physics professor Tom Murphy does the maths on wind, solar and fossil fuels. Some fascinating figures in this excellent analysis.
“Solar and Wind have been vying for purchase in the energy game for many years now. Who is winning? Fossil fuels: they still beat the pants off either one. That’s our triangle. Fossil fuels are cheap and reliable and are their own storage and allow transportation by car, truck, ship, airplane, and fit seamlessly into our current infrastructure. Wind—and especially solar—don’t generally compete price-wise. Both are intermittent, so that they won’t fit into our current infrastructure at a large scale, requiring substantial storage and transmission in order to become major providers of energy. Neither one really helps with the liquid fuels crunch we will experience in the oil decline phase. Electric cars are unlikely to penetrate the market quickly and cheaply enough to avert hardship.”
“I’m swayed by the raw numbers solar has on its side. I have a home-built stand-alone PV system and golf-cart batteries that provides most of my electricity (as a hobby with benefits). I am delighted by the fact that wind now generates about 1% of the electricity in the U.S. for prices that are not terribly greater than for conventional power. I personally think that we should get over our gripes about these things being more expensive than our old friends, and embrace them full-scale—dealing with the costs, intermittency, storage issues, transmission build-up, together with a reduction in our total demand.”
“On 15 December 2011, the European Commission adopted the Communication "Energy Roadmap 2050". The EU is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050 in the context of necessary reductions by developed countries as a group. In the Energy Roadmap 2050 the Commission explores the challenges posed by delivering the EU’s decarbonisation objective while at the same time ensuring security of energy supply and competitiveness.“ (Source: European Commission)
Despite some unrealistic assumptions in the modelling (price of oil in 2030-2050; economic growth predictions), the EU Commission study demonstrates that a high renewables and energy efficiency scenarios would not cost Europeans more than business as usual. With the price of fossil fuels most likely going up in the long-term as the industry has to revert to “extreme energy” (hard to extract, expensive, environmentally dangerous) and prices of renewables coming down as technological innovation progresses, the choice for Europe looks pretty clear to me.
3E Intelligency will return later with a more in-depth analysis of the five decarbonisation scenarions. Watch this space.
"Will our political system delay the energy transformation now within reach?"
Paul Krugman supports solar power and has some relevant questions on shale gas and fracking in his NY Times column.
For another view on shale gas, read this article by another NY Times columnist: “The Shale Gas Revolution”.
”EU’s energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger, the director general for energy Philip Lowe, and the head of the EU’s Athens task force Horst Reichenbach have discussed the idea of enabling Greece to repay some of its debts to EU member states, such as Germany, by providing them with solar energy.”
Interesting approach which has the advantage that it indirectly connects the financial crisis with the sustainability crisis but several questions remain: is this in the interest of Greece or of Germany? Could solar energy become the new resource curse?