“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.
“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.
A new life-cycle assessment of the environmental impact of wind power confirms the greenhouse gas reduction potential of replacing fossil fuels by wind energy.
This article from Treehugger summarises anew analysis published in Environmental Research Letters.
- Climate change: French committee proposes to introduce a carbon tax of 32 euros per tonne of CO2. Read Le Monde. At least some countries are getting it and will be the eco-competitive winners of the future :).
- Energy security: The global potential of wind-based electricity is much bigger than estimated, according to a new study published by the US National Academy of Sciences. For a summary see the Post Carbon Institute.
- Climate change: In the Financial Times professor Jagdish Bhagwati takes sides with India and China and condemns US hypocrisy. His work on the Climate Superfund is probably one of the most interesting ways of breaking the climate deadlock.
- According to the Independent, the UK government will today announce what amounts to a real renewables revolution. In a remarkable U-turn, Gordon Brown’s government wants all households in Britain to be powered by off-shore windfarms in 2020. It could mean building 7000 wind turbines along the coast of the UK. Read further articles about this wind revolution at Financial Times and the Guardian.
- A new study [executive summary] published by McKinsey on 5 December demonstrates that US policies to reduce greenhouse gases would cost much less than generally assumed and can be achieved with existing technologies. More on this in WorldChanging and Climate Progress.
- Better assessment of the environmental impacts of wind farms is needed, according to a new US study undertaken by the National Research Council for the American Congress. Wind energy can reduce greenhouse gas emissions but strong growth of wind parks could become a danger for some bat and bird species. The American Wind Energy Association reacted to the report saying there is a need to study the impact of all energy sources on wildlife. More on Reuters
- The US Senate is to vote later this month on a joint proposal by senator Pete Domenici (Republican) and Jeff Bingaman (Democrats) intended to expand the use of alternative fuels, capture carbon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use energy more efficiently. Both senators received broad partisan support for their “energy savings bill” in the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The EU would be well advised to follow all the energy and climate change activities in the American Congress if it wants to retain its world leadership position on these issues.
- YouTube has 7 video clips on the press conference of the IPCC Working Group III report from last week. The summary of policy makers is available here.