phys.org had a piece about bringing fusion energy to the electric grid. “The goal of fusion research is to make the energy of the stars available on Earth by fusing hydrogen nuclei. Fusion energy is nearly unlimited as it draws on the abundant raw materials deuterium and lithium. It does not produce greenhouse gases or long-lived radioactive waste. It is intrinsically safe, as chain reactions are impossible.”  The international experiment ITER, which starts operating in 2020, will be the first device to produce a net surplus of fusion power here on Earth and its construction is underway in the south of France.  Now the European Fusion Development Agreement has published a roadmap which outlines how to supply fusion electricity to the grid by 2050.

The roadmap covers three periods: The upcoming European Research Framework Programme, Horizon 2020, the years 2021-2030 and the time between 2031 and 2050.

The roadmap… breaks the quest for fusion energy down into eight missions. For each mission, it reviews the current status of research, identifies open issues, proposes a research and development programme and estimates the required resources. It points out the needs to intensify industrial involvement and to seek all opportunities for collaboration outside Europe.

ITER is the key facility of the roadmap as it is expected to achieve most of the important milestones on the path to fusion power. Thus, the vast majority of resources proposed for Horizon 2020 are dedicated to ITER and its accompanying experiments. The second period is focussed on maximising ITER exploitation and on preparing the construction of a demonstration power plant DEMO, which will for the first time supply fusion electricity to the grid. Building and operating DEMO is the subject of the last roadmap phase. (Last week we referred to an article which suggests South Korea will be the location for DEMO.)

ESI-AFRICA tolds us about the first global energy competitiveness index launched by KPMG at the end of 2012, 146 countries were surveyed according to three key criteria: the quality of their energy mix, electricity access and availability levels and environmental footprint. The overall top ranked country was Norway, followed closely by Canada and Iceland. France was the top country in the EU at 9th and the leading African country, which came in at number 40, turns out to be Angola. Europe has  best energy performance with all criteria taken into account, ahead of the Americas, Asia and Africa. As for electricity quality, availability and access, eleven European countries ranked among the first fifteen in the world. You can access the KMPG survey here with the country comparisons in a chart.

From The Economic Times we learn the US will become almost self-sufficient for its energy needs by 2030.  In its latest forecast, UK energy firm BP says the US will be 98% self-sufficient by 2030 compared with only 70% in 2005.  Meanwhile, emerging economies such as China and India will become increasingly reliant on energy imports. These energy shifts will have major impacts on trade balances. This shift is due primarily to the rapid growth of unconventional energy sources — like shale gas and shale oil, oil sands and biofuels – which North America has in abundance. Unconventional crude oil sources are expected to provide all of the net growth in global oil supply needs until 2020, and more than 70% of growth to 2030. See also PennEnergy BP Energy Outlook 2030 shows increasing impact of unconventional oil and gas.

BP Group Chief Economist Christof Rühl said: “Vast unconventional reserves have been unlocked in the US, with oil production following gas. This delivery has been made possible not only by the resources and technology, but also by ‘above-ground’ factors such as a strong and competitive service sector, land access facilitated by private ownership, liquid markets and favourable regulatory terms.

“No other country outside the US and Canada has yet succeeded in combining these factors to support production growth. While we expect other regions will adapt over time to develop their resources, by 2030 we expect North America still to dominate production of these resources.

Still with the BP forecast, The Independent noted that BP’s Outlook 2030 predicted less global warming, however not enough to remove climate change from the Earth’s concerns. The vast increase in the use of shale gas and oil coupled with increased energy efficiency in China and Russia will lead to a decline in energy intensity by the major industrial countries and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

A new global atlas for renewable energy is now on-line. The website is designed to raise awareness of the world’s renewable energy potential, and to help companies looking to invest in new markets. A video and brochure is also available at www.irena.org/GlobalAtlaswww.res-atlas.org.

The US Department of Energy has created an interactive tool to experiment with future energy scenarios we learn from Nanowerk. The tool allows users to explore how changes in energy demand and supply can impact carbon dioxide emissions and the current US. energy path.

The Green Optimistic noted the Central American country of Nicaragua wants 94% of its energy from renewables by 2017. An important part of the plan focuses on the San Jacinto Project, a 72 MW geothermal power plant located in the San Jacinto-Tizate geothermal area. The project is estimated to be able to generate about 17% of the total electricity needs of the country.

The Express Tribune told us about Pakistan’s first solar manufacturing plant. With the country going through one of its worst energy crises, it is looking to renewable energy to solve some of its problems. Solar energy prices are rapidly becoming more competitive with thermal energy sources and many global experts believe this will be the year when solar energy becomes economically viable even without any government subsidies. A new solar firm is hoping it can make its product financially attractive to the Pakistani population.

Renewable Energy Magazine suggested Australia could be self-sufficient in renewable energy within a decade. This is the finding of a report by the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute which says solar and wind can provide 100% of the country’s energy needs. Around 40% of Australian renewable energy could be generated by wind farms but the real key to success would be the enormous empty landscape of the interior with the high levels of solar power it receives. This area would be ideal for concentrated solar plants. Surplus heat could be stored in underground molten salt storage tanks which would release heat during the night. In addition, backup plants burning biomass (fed by agricultural waste)  could operate on those days when the Sun does not shine..

OILPRICE discussed strategies to bring reliable electricity to India.

A decision by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit determined that wind energy is not yet mature enough to serve as a back-up power source. In Beyond Nuclear v. NextEra Energy Seabrook the court accepted the argument that the intermittent nature of wind power means that it cannot be considered baseload power without effective energy storage mechanisms, and that storage technology is “not sufficiently demonstrated at this time.” The court further stated that “reasonable alternatives” are those that are “currently commercially viable, or will become so in the relatively near term.” The court did not see wind meeting that standard in the short term.

 

 

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