Forbes educated us on how to evaluate a renewable energy technology. Some good advice here to help you decide whether “the next big thing” which will “solve” the world’s energy crises is real or imagined.  The article goes over the questions you should be asking and where you can get answers to validate the claims by the proponents of potential new energy sources.

OILPRICE wanted to know which fuel is going to bridge the gap to a renewable energy world.  The author, Kurt Cobb, argued that neither oil, natural gas or coal are up to this task as there is not a sufficient amount of these resources available. “There is increasing evidence that no fossil fuel will continue to see its rate of production climb significantly in the decades ahead and so none of them is a viable “bridge fuel,” not natural gas, not oil, not coal. This means that global society must leap over fossil fuels and move directly to renewables as quickly as possible. In advanced economies this leap must be combined with a program of radical reductions in energy use, reductions which are achievable using known technologies and practices.” In contrast, in The death of Peak Oil, Climate Spectator countered that the vast shale gas finds in North America and elsewhere have killed the idea of Peak Oil. “One thing is for sure: the world isn’t running out of oil and gas any more.”

The US Energy Information Agency (EIA) forecasts that wind and biomass will lead the non-hydro renewable energy gains in the United States between now and 2035 said Power Engineering. Over that time hydro will increase from 4% to 9% of total electricity generation. Wind and biomass are expected to dominate the U.S. renewable energy industry over this time frame, accounting for 33%t of the electrical generation growth. While solar should increase nearly seven times by 2035, it will still account for a small amount of power generation. The EIA cautions that its projections depend on whether or not federal and state financial incentives remain in place over this period of time.

The Times of India told us how the residents of Dadu village now have solar lighting. Prior to getting this renewable energy, the community was allowed only 5-7 hours a month off the grid. Now every household gets reliable lighting for a few hours a day using CFL light bulbs. They are also able to operate fans.

In England, Birmingham Airport is installing 200 solar panels on the roof of its terminal reported Click Green.  The PV solar panels will generate 40 MWh of electricity a year, sufficient to power 12 average sized houses. The effect will be to reduce the airport’s dependency on the National Grid.

Times Lives said that South Africa is going ahead with its plans to build new nuclear reactors. Tenders will be sought from international companies for what will be the country’s largest infrastructure project.  The country wants 9.6 GW of electricity by 2029 from its reactors. South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan requires that 42% of all new electrical capacity is to be generated from renewable sources, 23% from nuclear, 15% from coal, 9% from liquid fuels, 6% from natural gas and the rest from imported hydro power. Currently the country gets 85% of its electricity from coal.

The Deccan Chronicle revealed that India is going to build 20 nuclear reactors. India requires the reactors as a substitute for increasing coal supply costs.  Together the reactors will generate about 1.4 GW of electricity. See also the Business Standard here.

In Hopes Build for Thorium Nuclear Energy and Norway Hopes to Develop Thorium Nuclear Power Professor Chris Rhodes presented the case for thorium nuclear reactors and the obstacles to them becoming a reality by mid-century when fossil fuels may be depleted. Thorium has many advantages, not the least being its greater abundance than uranium: there is three times as much thorium as there is uranium.  It is abundant in Turkey, Australia, India, Canada and Norway. It is also safer producing less radioactive nuclear waste than today’s uranium fission reactors. Rhodes believes there is enough thorium on the planet to produce all of our electricity needs for some 800 years.  He envisages a world in which we have a mix of thorium and renewable energy for our electricity and liquid petroleum from coal for our transportation needs. See also Mail & Guardian Seductive nuclear power of Thor.

OILPRICE noted that while Australia is working hard to go green, it is enjoying a massive coal boom. Black coal now generates 54% of the nation’s electricity needs and its greenhouse gas emission levels remain the highest per capita in the developed world. In 2011 coal exploration spending in Australia surged by 62%, with investment in exploration for new coal deposits reaching $520 million, with spending on exploration surging faster than any other mineral commodity. Australia is the world’s leading coal exporter, with exports rising more than 50% in the last decade, now being Australia’s second largest export commodity. Coal exports go primarily to Asia (Japan, China, South Korea). Because of coal exports, Australia was the only one of the world’s 33 advanced economies to grow in 2009 during the worst global recession since the Great Depression. As of July 1st, Australia will introduce a carbon tax of $25 for every metric ton of carbon a company emits.  The coal industry predicts it will be hit hard with this tax leading to an economic downturn in the industry.  Others are not so pessimistic given that the country is so dependent on coal for its domestic electricity and for the export dollars.  The world will be watching closely to see what the ultimate impact of the tax downunder will be.

Business Spectator commentator Oliver Marc Hartwich argued in A zero-sum carbon game that both Germany and potentially Australia were wasting their economic resources by having both subsidies for green industries as well as a carbon emissions trading system (ETS).  The ETS puts a cap on the amount of C02 a company can emit.  The purpose of the subsidy is to increase output of a specific energy source. Since emissions are capped, paying a subsidy (or giving a tax benefit) will not decrease the amount of carbon produced. It will only reduce the cost for a firm to produce carbon. “The physical effect of energy subsidies is precisely zero in an environment where the total emissions are predetermined by a trading system. Not a single gram of carbon dioxide is saved by pumping money into renewables. That is not due to any mismanagement within the system but simply follows the inherent logic of two incompatible environmental policies...You can sponsor alternative energies, or you can have an emissions trading scheme. But you cannot sensibly have both.

More articles were written about the high economic cost associated with Germany’s green energy policies. OILPRICE wrote about Germany’s Rising Cost of Going Green and Der Spiegel posted Rising Energy Prices Endanger German Industry while RECHARGE added Offshore grid delays ‘damaging Germany more than feared’.

The UK is looking to reduce its subsidies for wind energy in light of its fiscal problems and public opposition to wind turbines and the high cost of renewable energy. Several sources covered this story.  The Guardian penned Wind farms axed as UK loses its taste for turbines and said “…political and public pressure grows over the cost of renewable energy through taxpayer subsidies and higher energy bills. In addition, MPs are concerned about opposition from local communities to the blight of onshore turbines.” The same source also gave us This government has blown the UK’s wind potential off course and Wind energy companies fear government’s commitment is cooling. Click Green noted that the UK government has a new policy to substantially lower the cost of connecting offshore wind farms to the grid in New UK strategy looks to reduce costs of offshore wind power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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