TheBioenergySite told us of an unidentified study which concludes that renewables can meet global energy needs by the end of this decade. There are no technical or economic barriers to providing all of the world’s energy from renewable sources, according to this recent study. It finds that by 2020, offshore wind, wave, tidal, hydroelectric and concentrated solar could cost less than conventional power generation. All renewable technologies would also have a lower social cost (e.g. costs to manage air pollution and remediate climate change damage) than fossil fuel generation. The world could be entirely reliant on renewable energy for electric power, transportation and heating/cooling by 2050. To offset the unreliability of wind and solar power, the researchers propose policies to ensure there will be sufficient electricity including connecting different, geographically dispersed sources; using an additional predictable power source, such as hydroelectricity to meet demand; “smart” demand-response management systems; storing power at the site of generation; over-sizing peak generation capacity and producing hydrogen with the excess; storing power in electric vehicles; and improving weather forecasting to better predict renewable energy supply.

CleanTechnica wanted to know what happened to the methanol economy?  Methanol (wood alcohol), once considered a potential replacement for fossil fuels, “now seems to have been relegated to the back shelves at the fuel library.” At one time in the late 20th century some thought it to be better than fossil fuels as a means of energy storage, ground transportation fuels, and raw material for synthetic hydrocarbons and their products. Made from biomass and natural gas, it is now confined to racing cars and for use in China. California experimented with it in the 1980s and 1990s as a transportation fuel but that came to an end in 2006 when then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put his support behind ethanol. The author has been exploring why it has not taken off anywhere in America but without success. His guess? It never got the subsidies that ethanol received and thus never got a chance to compete.

Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University released his economic study explaining why wind power is so expensive.

Renewable Energy World commented on “our peak oil reality”.  The author looks at what the politicians and others are saying about fossil fuels and finds they are not telling the truth about the true oil supply situation in the US and globally.  Charts are presented to underline the argument that the US oil supply has peaked and new shale oil finds will only extend the peak but not end it. “Clearly, fracking is not going to make us energy independent, though it may significantly extend the declining tail of domestic production.”  Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (EIA) has raised the specter of a global peak. “…IEA projected that 64 million barrels per day would have to come online by 2030 in order to make up for the decline in production from existing fields and to meet increased demand. This is equivalent to the entire production from nine and a half Saudi Arabias….We seem to be at a global peak in oil production and we’re running faster and faster to stay in the same place — let alone to meet new demand as the global economy heats up.”  The answer to this reality for this author is to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible through a combination of energy efficiency and conservation, rapid transformation to renewable energy, and the widespread use of electric vehicles.  The comments are worth reading as well.

Can business deliver solutions to India’s energy poverty challenges? asked the UK Guardian. The article looks at the major energy challenges facing India as it seeks to provide hundreds of millions of people with access to modern energy services and the efforts business, government and financial institutions might take to address these challenges. Two issues stand out. 300 million (the “energy poor”) do not have any access to electricity and 800 million rely on biomass for cooking fuel with negative impacts for health and deforestation.

Der Spiegel took us to a German village which is a model for renewable energy. Using 43 wind turbines and biogas for electricity and heat, the village of Feldheim has created its own power grid for its 37 homes and 150 inhabitants. Now visitors from around the world are flocking to Feldheim to see what they can learn for their own cities and towns. The key to the town’s success at energy independence comes from its strong winds and being part of a large agricultural area where corn and other crops can feed its biogas plant.

New Energy and Fuel wrote about the major natural gas finds off the coast of East Africa that may turn that region into an energy powerhouse. Recent finds of huge volumes of natural gas off the coast of Tanzania and Mozambique are confirming the area’s reputation as one of the energy world’s most promising new frontiers and a potential source of liquefied natural gas to power Asia.

Climate Spectator argued for the creation of regional carbon markets as the starting point to create a global carbon emissions market.  It urges Australia to link its new carbon emissions trading system with that of Europe and New Zealand to get the ball rolling. The article is an excerpt from The Climate Institute’s discussion paper entitled Emissions Trading Coalitions.

There were several articles on nuclear energy this past week. The United Arab Emirates announced it was placing orders for 4 more nuclear reactors while Vietnam confirmed it is moving ahead with its nuclear power program. Der Spiegel wrote about how Germany is struggling to cope with a nuclear free existence. The same source also mentioned how Poland is getting short tempered with German environmentalist groups which are pushing hard for the shutdown of Polish reactors. Over in the UK, there were calls for that country to expand its nuclear program from Oxford University and its former chief scientific adviser while the UK Guardian feared that going down the nuclear path will give control over the industry to the French. And The Economist had a collection of articles including Nuclear Power: The Dream That Failed where it looks at this energy source a year after Fukushima and concludes that a combination of questions about safety and cost issues suggest a bleak future.

Back to Germany, in a post-Fukushima post-nuclear world, the country is looking at converting wind power to hydrogen as an energy source. EurActiv said that the government is spending €200 million between 2011 and 2014 for research into energy storage and Enertrag AG is now operating one of the country’s first hybrid plants to generate wind power and convert it into hydrogen. Stored hydrogen is then available to be fed into the electric grid when the wind is not blowing or the Sun is not shining. Hydrogen can be contained and transported without carbon emissions. It can generate electric power and heat, fuel vehicles or fit into natural gas pipelines. The article points out, that like every other potential energy source, the question is its cost and profitability vis-a-vis existing energy sources.  With hydrogen it is too early in the game to know what its long-term impact might be.







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