Category Archives: renewable energy

The global financial crisis and the prospects for ‘Green Growth’

The global financial crisis offers a big opportunity for progressive politicians to reenergise the green agenda.” (Source: Policy Network)

British energy expert Dieter Helm provides a good analysis of why EU climate policy has failed to make a difference but his plea for "green growth" suffers from technology optimism and belief in the overhyped gas eldorado.

From the outset Kyoto made Europe look good¬—and hence could be presented as a political “success”.  But much was “smoke and mirrors”. Europe has been exiting energy intensive industries, and these have moved to developing countries like China. … But sadly reducing carbon production in Europe does not — and has not — made much difference to global emissions. Europe just imports the carbon instead – so carbon consumption replaced carbon production.” …

None of the existing technologies are likely to meet the decarbonisation challenge. There simply is not enough land and shallow water for wind or biofuels to make a difference. Current renewables just can’t do it. So we need future renewables, and the good news is that on the technology front there are lots and lots of opportunities. What Europe should do is take some of the hundreds of billions being spent on current expensive renewables and spend it on the future renewables and technologies — on things like the next generation of solar, on batteries, on smart information systems, electric cars and on a host of new concepts.”

The ‘Shale Gas Revolution’: Developments and Changes

The ‘shale gas revolution’ in the United States created an oversupply of liquefied natural gas and downward pressure on gas prices across the globe. Disappointing outcomes have reduced the hype about the prospects for shale gas in Europe”.

Excellent new report from Paul Stevens of Chatham House. One of the most important conclusions: shale gas does not substitute for coal but is a big danger to renewables.

Main conclusions of this must-read report:

  • The ‘shale gas revolution’ in the United States created an oversupply of liquefied natural gas and downward pressure on gas prices across the globe.
  • Disappointing outcomes have reduced the hype about the prospects for shale gas in Europe, and led to the realization that, at least in western Europe, there are serious obstacles to its development.
  • There has been considerable debate over the level of technically recoverable shale gas resources together with significant revisions to some estimates of those resources.
  • Growing opposition to shale gas is driven by concerns over the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing and the impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
  • In the United States, energy self-sufficiency has increased in importance, making the continuation of the ‘shale gas revolution’ there more likely.
  • There is a growing fear that shale gas may substitute not for coal as many originally hoped, but for renewables.
  • Overall, levels of investor uncertainty remain as high as ever, particularly with regard to developments outside the United States.

Shale gas strategy ‘not the optimum path’: Fatih Birol

An energy strategy without fossil fuels would be preferable to the regulated gas pathway outlined in the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s new report, the paper’s own author told EurActiv in an exclusive interview yesterday (30 May).”

Excellent interview on EurActiv showing the tightrope Fatih Birol has to walk when communicating the IEA’s views on the golden age of gas. When you read the report well, you understand the IEA clearly sees shale gas as the wrong path leading to unacceptable climate impacts.

Clean energy as culture war

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.

Can renewable energy sustain consumer societies?

A new report by Dr Ted Trainer for the Simplicity Institute questions the belief that techno-fixes (also in the form of the green renewable energy revolution) will solve our global sustainability crisis.

"Contradicting widely held assumptions, Trainer presents a formidable case that renewable energy and other ‘tech-fixes’ will be unable to sustain growth-based and energy-intensive consumer societies, with implications that are as profound as they will be unwelcome." (Source: Energy Bulletin)

It is of the utmost importance to emphasise that this is not an argument against renewable energy; nor is it an argument more broadly against the use of appropriate technologies to achieve efficiency improvements. Trainer argues without reservation that the world must transition to full dependence on systems of renewable energy without delay and exploit appropriate technology wherever possible. We cannot afford not to! But given the limitations and expense of renewable energy systems, any transition to a just and sustainable world requires a vastly reduced demand for energy compared to what is common in the developed regions of the world today, and this necessitates giving up growth-based, consumer societies and the energy-intensive lifestyles they support and promote.”

Read the full report.

Biomass ‘insanity’ may threaten EU carbon targets

The EU’s emissions reduction target for 2020 could be facing an unlikely but grave obstacle, according to a growing number of scientists, EU officials and NGOs: the contribution of biomass to the EU’s renewable energy objectives for 2020.”

Interesting EurActiv article questioning the "carbon neutrality" of biomass and EU targets for renewable energy.

Overseas aid to Africa being outweighed by hefty costs of importing oil

Sub-Saharan states need to move to renewable energy sources as $15bn in aid is outstripped by $18bn in oil imports, says IEA…” (Source: The Guardian)

But not only Africa is affected by high oil prices. Europe will suffer competitiveness loss as a result of oil dependence. "…for every $1 that countries do not spend on cleaner fuel, they will have to spend $4.3 within the next two decades to make up, for their reliance on fossil fuels".  EU oil bill is more than 550bn per year, the "equivalent of a Greek crisis – very year".

German ministers agree to speed up solar cuts

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?

Design in the light of dark energy

"When the new Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Mario Monti, gave his acceptance speech to the Italian Senate before Christmas, he used the word "growth" 28 times and the word "energy" – well, zero times. Why would this supposed technocrat neglect even to mention the biophysical basis of the world’s economy? Energy, after all, is at the heart of industrial growth society: industrial production, our cities, our transport systems, our buildings and infrastructure, food and water flows, the internet – they all critically depend on oil and gas."   (Source: Energy Bulletin)

Brilliant analysis of the energy myopia of our growth theocrats and the implications of energy scarcity on the future of cities. Also includes some serious inconvenient challenges for the theocrats of renewable energy.

A few more interesting quotes from this must-read article:

Mr Monti and Mr Obama are better described as theocrats, than technocrats. Their principal job is to keep us in thrall to a myth: an economy that expands to infinity in a finite world.”

Mainstream renewable energy strategies suffer from an existential flaw. They take rising global energy ‘needs’ as a given; calculate the quantity of renewable energy sources needed to meet them; and then hand the job of implementation over to governments and the market.”

Expensive and heavy energy arrays are to be dumped into wilderness areas – such as arid lands in Spain and France, or the deserts of North Africa – on the false assumption that these lands are ‘empty’ or ‘useless’

Resource efficiency is not a lifestyle choice. We’ve splurged on energy for 200 years because we could. The growth-at-all-costs economy grew because it could. We drove two ton trucks to collect a pizza because we could.”

Rather than dream of a global switch to renewables that cannot and will not happen, the wiser course is to focus our creative efforts on low-energy replacements for today’s gas-guzzling support systems. Our focus should be services and infrastructures that require five per cent of the energy throughputs that we are accustomed to now. That’s the energy regime we’re likely to end up with, so why not work on that basis from now on?”

Power paradox: Clean might not be green forever

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.


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