Recently we highlighted the latest on the nuclear fusion front (see here). Further to this we can add The Tantalizing Promise And Peril Of Nuclear Fusion from Forbes. “The central question is whether the process can ever yield enough heat to fuse permanently those atoms that are needed to commercialize such power…Advocates of fusion say that the science can be conquered. It’s the political will that is required to edge ahead.”

Still on the nuclear theme, energybiz explored thorium. With nuclear fission under pressure after Fukushima, nuclear advocates are turning towards thorium which does not have the radioactive concerns associated with uranium fission. Moreover, it is more efficient and four times more abundant in the earth’s crust than uranium. “Beyond the fact that chain reactions cannot happen in thorium reactors, there is also no useful byproduct like plutonium to make nuclear weapons. China, for example, is close to demonstrating a modern thorium reactor, and it may have a full-scale commercial one going by 2020.” The author looks at the thorium debate from an American perspective and suggests that the US defense and energy establishments are too tied to uranium to make the costly conversion to thorium reactors given that uranium reactors currently generate 20% of the country’s electricity. “But the thorium technology still has place in the mix, as evidenced by the research occurring here, as well as in France, South Korea and Russia. China will get there first and if it succeeds, the science will be applied elsewhere.”

The Environmental News Network said that energy poverty remains a global challenge for the future. New research published by the Worldwatch Institute concluded that despite massive gains in global access to electricity over the last two decades, governments and development organizations must continue to invest in electrification to achieve critical health, environmental, and economic growth. Between 1990 and 2008, about 2 billion people worldwide gained access to electricity. But the International Energy Agency estimates that more than 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity, while the United Nations estimates that another 1 billion have unreliable access. Access to electricity varies widely between rural and urban areas in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, the rural electrification rate is just 14%, compared with 60% in urban areas.

Market Watch looked at the outlook for wind energy over the next few years. Demand for wind energy in the US and Europe is expected to decline as a result of politics in the US and austerity measures in Europe.  Meanwhile China will slow as well as it substitutes quality for quantity.  This leaves South America and Canada as the next bright spots for wind. “But where the U.S. and European markets leave demand quiet for a while, Canada and Brazil will partly make up for lost installation and interest. The Latin American market is expected to almost fourfold from 2011 to 2016 and Brazil will contribute about three quarters to that…Canada is expected to almost double its installed capacity by 2015.”

The wind industry must cut costs rapidly Reuters reported. German conglomerate Siemens says the wind industry must cut costs rapidly to stay competitive and boost its unacceptably low profit margins. The company said the market is becoming very difficult for European manufacturers as price pressure from China is rising at the same moment European governments are cutting back on subsidies as they try to bring their budgets under control.

Economists in the Philippines do not think that solar is the answer to a power crisis on the island of Mindanao reported Inquirer News.  A group of economists associated with the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) believe that a quick installation of solar projects in Mindanao will only worsen the burden on consumers given that the guaranteed feed-in-tariff to solar producers would continue for 20 years. “Renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, cannot solve the power crisis in Mindanao because of their intermittent and unreliable nature,” the FEF said. The Philippine government recently held a Mindanao Energy Summit seeking solutions to the island’s summer electricity shortages.  See the Business Mirror Coal issue heightens Mindanao power crisis and the Sun Star Lawmaker disappointed over power summit outcome.

the sofia echo reported that Bulgaria’s electricity distributors have been given decision power over all wind and solar projects. Bulgaria’s three electricity distribution companies will decide when a electricity-generating facility using wind and solar energy will be connected to the country’s power grid, according to amendments passed by the country’s Parliament last month. The amendments were designed to slow down the boom of renewable energy projects in the country. The generous subsidy paid by the state in the form feed-in tariffs has spurred a flurry of investment activity, far beyond initial estimates and beyond what the state can afford to pay without increase retail prices to consumers.

RECHARGE wrote about the challenges facing Bulgaria, Poland and Romania in meeting their wind potential.

While crude oil refineries are closing down in the US and other Western nations, mydigitalfc told us that India’s crude oil refining capacity will increase 45% over the next five years.

 

 

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