BP released its annual energy statistical review (BP 2012 BP World Energy Statistical Review). The Globe and Mail summarized its forecast for us. The most important take from this report?  ”…the world will continue to grow its energy needs every year, by about 2.5 per cent, notwithstanding calamitous events like depressions, World Wars and the Financial Crisis of 2009 …The trends speak for themselves: the use of oil has moderated; natural gas has steady momentum; coal’s resilience should never be underestimated; nuclear is down and out for now; hydro remains the quiet, inoffensive competitor; and renewables are showing good growth, but are still inconsequential to the big picture…. The scalability, widespread supply potential and consumer appeal of natural gas makes it the most exciting primary energy source to watch over the next decade. You can access BP’s 2013 World Energy Statistical Review here with background charts and documents.

The test of a thorium nuclear reactor is beginning in Norway posted EXTREME TECHThor Energy has successfully created a thorium nuclear reactor that uses thorium instead of uranium in a conventional nuclear reactor. Thor has built a small test reactor in the Norwegian town of Halden to provide steam to a nearby paper mill. This reactor will run for five years, after which the fuel will be analyzed to see if it’s ready for commercial reactors. Thorium is safer and cleaner than uranium as it does not produce as waste radioactive plutonium which must be stored for thousands of years.

Natural thorium, which is fairly cheap and abundant (more so than uranium), doesn’t contain enough fissile material (thorium-231) to sustain a nuclear chain reaction. By mixing thorium oxide with 10% plutonium oxide, however, criticality is achieved. This fuel, which is called thorium-MOX (mixed-oxide), can then be formed into rods and used in conventional nuclear reactors. Not only does this mean that we can do away with uranium, which is expensive to enrich, dangerous, and leads to nuclear proliferation, but it also means that we finally have an easy way of recycling plutonium. Furthermore, the thorium-MOX fuel cycle produces no new plutonium; it actually reduces the world’s stock of plutonium. Oh, thorium-MOX makes for safer nuclear reactors, too, due to a higher melting point and thermal conductivity.

The World Bank revealed a new program called Mapping The Renewable Energy Revolution. The program is designed to assist developing countries map their renewable energy potential in a new way that produces rich, nationwide data. It goes beyond existing solar and wind maps to provide the basic data governments need to understand their country’s full resource potential and to pinpoint the best locations for serving their population. Countries participating in the program at this time include Pakistan, Indonesia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Zambia.

From Clean Technica we learned the International Energy Agency is forecasting that electric power generation from renewable energy could exceed natural gas and double that provided by nuclear by 2016. The article notes the “natural gas bridge may be a lot shorter than anyone could have predicted.” The IEA’s second-annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report  says renewable generation will grow 40% in the next five years despite difficult economic conditions. Renewable energy is now the fastest-growing sector of the global electric power market, and will represent 25% of all energy generation worldwide by 2018, up from 20% in 2011. This energy source is growing due to accelerating investment and deployment, and growing cost competitiveness versus fossil fuels, particularly in developing countries such as China. In 2018, non-OECD countries are expected to have 58% of total renewable generation, up form 54% in 2012 and 51% in 2006.The main renewable growth in this period will come from hydro, wind and solar PV. Wind is competitive with new fossil fuel in multiple markets, including Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, and New Zealand, and solar is competitive both in markets with high peak prices and decentralized power requirements.

“As their costs continue to fall, renewable power sources are increasingly standing on their own merits versus new fossil-fuel generation,” said Maria van der Hoevan of the IEA. 

You can access the executive summary of the IEA report here. See also Financial Post, Renewables to produce quarter of world’s electricity by 2018: IEA.

REVE told us Latin America and the Caribbean could cover all their electricity needs using renewable energy resources. A report from the Inter-American Development Bank says these regions are endowed with sufficient resources to meet their projected 2050 electricity needs 22 times over.  Lower prices and new technologies are making renewables a viable alternative.  Thus solar, geothermal, wave, wind and biomass sources in this region could produce up to 80 petawatt-hours of electricity. (One petawatt-hour is equivalent to 1 trillion kilowatt-hour.)  At present, Latin America generates 1.3 petawatt hour. By 2050, demand is expected to grow to between 2.5 to 3.5 petawatt- hours.

The 9 Billion noted the Philippines plans to reach 100% renewable energy within 10 years. The south Asian country of 85 million intends to reach this goal by getting its electricity from biomass, geothermal, hydro, ocean, solar and wind.

The Seychelles want 15% of their electricity from renewables by 2030 reported the Taipei Times. The islands in the Indian Ocean opened their first wind farm recently which is now providing power to 2,000 houses in Mahe — the main island of the Seychelles. This island is home to 70,000 people, about 90% of the total population. The Seychelles are almost entirely dependent on imported fossil fuels for power. The islands are hoping to produce electricity from waste as well as from solar panels.

The solar panel trade disputes are producing pain for many solar panel companies globally. Climate Spectator observed that now more than 20 countries are either in some phase of a trade dispute or have policies in place – such as domestic content restrictions/bonuses – that leave them open to future dispute resolution. The post relates how these disputes involve nations in North and South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. To a large extent the collapse of prices in the global solar PV market are due to massive Chinese government subsidies of its solar panel production companies and the dumping of the resultant surplus on the global marketplace. The European Union alleged that Chinese dumping has resulted in solar panel prices 88% lower than the cost of production, and has proposed border tariffs on Chinese solar products of 47.6% .China has responded to this by starting investigations into European products such as wine and automobiles as well as continuing the long-standing polysilicon investigation.

Companies must now focus on price and quality of PV products, as well as origin and destination in order to minimise any duties. The eventual fallout of these disputes could be dramatic and is certain to reorder the supply and demand dynamics within what is already a fast-moving industry environment.
In the meantime, companies outside of China are beginning to file for bankruptcy as their governments cut back subsidies to the solar sector (e.g. Germany). See also Earth Techling, Solar Energy Costs Continue To Remain Too High and People’s Daily, Largest German solar company files for bankruptcy.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment on The Energy Blog World: The Week in Review (Part 1)

  1. Elroy Jetson says:

    As a curious aside re. thorium, certain camera makers used it in their lenses in the 1980s. The Pentax 6×7’s standard 105mm lens is an example where thorium was added to the glass to improve its optical qualities. If left in complete darkness for a very long time, apparently such lenses (there were others, too) will darken but placing it in direct sunlight for a few days will restore its clarity. There is reportedly a slight health risk from radiation but not in normal photographic use.