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More green jobs – or better jobs?

By Dave Elliott

Green sector employment accounts for as many as 3.4 million jobs in the EU, or 1.7% of all paid employment, more than car manufacturing or pharmaceuticals. Will that expand?

A new UKERC report, ‘Low Carbon Jobs’, has looked at the field, asking if policy-driven expansion of green energy actually creates jobs, taking account of both jobs created and jobs displaced, particularly when the policies in question require subsidies that are paid for through consumer bills or taxes. www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/Low+Carbon+Jobs

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Power out: keeping the lights on

By Dave Elliott

There is still large reserve capacity, but with some large old plants closing, like the Didcot ‘A’ coal plant, the UK has found it a bit more challenging to meet demand when there are unexpected plant outages and cold weather. So will we make it through this winter? Continue reading

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Assessing bioenergy for climate change mitigation

The use for bioenergy for climate change mitigation remains contested. The solution part of the 5th IPCC assessment report claims that bioenergy, especially in combination with BECCS, are the single most important technology for achieving ambitious climate change mitigation goals. However, the report also reveals that this technology is highly speculative and its mitigation potential, environmental and social outcomes is a function of a considerable number of contextual variables. The results can be found in the appendix of Chapter 11 of the report, which also has been separately published as a review paper in GCB-B, labeled “Bioenergy and climate change mitigation: an assessment” by Creutzig et al. (22 authors). The paper comes up with a number of pointed conclusions agreed upon by authors from very different methodological approaches and communities.

  • How much biomass for energy is technically available in the future depends on the evolution of a multitude of social, political and economic factors, e.g. land tenure and regulation, diets, trade and technology. Under ideal circumstances about 100 EJ could be harvested at low social and environmental risks; higher potentials could be possible but are increasingly associated with higher risks.
  • The economic potential of BECCS is uncertain but could lie in the range of 2-10 GtCO2 per year in 2050.
  • Advanced combustion biomass cookstoves reduce fuel use by more than 60% and hazardous pollutant as well as short-lived climate pollutants by up to 90%.
  • Assessing land-use mitigation options should include evaluating biogeophysical impacts, such as albedo modifications, as their size may be comparable to impacts from changes to the C cycle.
  • Fuels from sugarcane, perennial grasses, crop residues and waste cooking oil and many forest products have lower attributional life-cycle emissions than other fuels, depending on N2O emissions, fuel used in conversion process, forest carbon dynamics, and other site-specific factors and counterfactual dynamics (land use change emissions can still be substantial, see Figure 5).
  • Land use change associated with bioenergy implementation can have a strong influence on the climate benefit. Indirect land use effects and other consequential changes are difficult to model and uncertain, but are nonetheless relevant for policy analysis.
  • LUC impacts can be mitigated through: reduced land demand for food, fiber and bioenergy (e.g., diets, yields, efficient use of biomass, e.g. utilizing waste and residues); synergies between different land use systems using adapted feedstocks (e.g., use hardy plants to cultivate degraded lands not suitable for conventional food crops); and governance systems and development models to protect ecosystems and promote sustainable land use practices where land is converted to make place for biomass production.
  • Overall outcomes may depend strongly on governance of land use, increased yields, and deployment of best practices in agricultural, forestry and biomass production.
  • The management of natural resources to provide needs for human society whilst recognizing environmental balance is the challenges facing society. Good governance is an essential component of a sustainable energy system.
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Green jobs 2

By Dave Elliott

It is claimed that a transition to green energy would create a lot of employment. As I noted in my previous post, there are methodological difficulties facing those trying to make realistic estimates, but economists do produce estimates of employment creation for various investments and the net job impacts. Continue reading

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Green Jobs 1

By Dave Elliott

It is claimed that a transition to a green energy system would create a lot of employment, and possibly better employment and job security – sustainable green jobs. If true, that claim offers a powerful political argument for the change at a time when employment is threatened by recession and by new patterns of global economic competition. But is that really what is on offer? Continue reading

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Vehicle to grid balancing

By Dave Elliott

The vehicle to grid (V2G) debate continues, offering a way to balance variable renewables and also demand peaks, by using the batteries of electric vehicles, linked to the grid when parked at home, to store excess power during low demand periods, ready to export when demand is high and renewables low. It sounds a clever idea but in addition to economic issues (e.g. the extra costs of the home-based power uploading system) it opens up some interesting logistical issues. Continue reading

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Water, energy and other resources

By Dave Elliott

Energy resources aren’t the only thing we are running short of. Water resources could be the next big issue. And conventional energy systems have a big impact on that and will be affected by water scarcity. All thermal/steam raising energy systems need cooling, and maintaining access to water is likely to become a major problem for fossil and nuclear plants as climate change impacts: http://www.worldenergy.org/news-and-media/news/climate-change-implications-for-the-energy-sector-key-findings-from-the-ipcc-ar5/ Continue reading

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Land use and energy

By Dave Elliott

By their nature, renewable energy flows are diffuse and the technology for capturing energy from the flows has to cover relatively large areas. It is instructive, and sobering, to revisit Professor David MacKay’s calculations about the areas required to match the energy needed per person from renewable sources: http://www.withouthotair.com/.

However, as I noted in an earlier post (on his comparisons between wind/solar and shale gas), some of his analysis is a little limited, and the general conclusions have to be put in perspective. Continue reading

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Green energy transformations

By Dave Elliott

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a new report “the Power of Transformation”, which concludes that the integration of large amounts of renewable energy can be achieved by any country at only a small increase on whole system costs, compared with the current fossil-fuel-heavy electricity systems. The IEA used present-day costs for solar PV and wind, which are likely to continue to fall, with wind and PV being set to provide the bulk of the generating capacity in transformed electricity systems. Continue reading

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PV solar – is that all we need?

By Dave Elliott

PV solar is booming, as I noted in my last post, with over 130 GW in place globally and some see it as overtaking all other renewables, with prices falling dramatically. Indeed a new study “The Economics of Grid Defection” by the US Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) says that PV solar and new cheap battery technology will soon mean that we won’t need power grids. Continue reading

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