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Plenty of renewables- and they can be balanced

By Dave Elliott

Is there enough renewable energy to meet global needs and can the use of variable sources be effectively balanced?  Recent reports say yes on both counts. In terms of the total resource, a GIS-based study of land/sea use/availability has put the total 2070 global potential for renewable electricity at up to 3,810 EJ, led by solar PV, with about a third of the PV being on buildings. The total estimated resource was roughly in line with most other global renewable studies, like that from the IPCC, and well above likely total global electricity demand, put at around 400EJ: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378015000072 Continue reading

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UK Renewables can get to 80% or more

By Dave Elliott

A recent paper in Applied Energy, from two researchers at Imperial College London, offers some helpful policy and economic insights on the impacts of various UK possible energy mixes for electricity supply, including a high renewables mix, but with biomass use not included, based on detailed spatial (20 regions) and temporal (hourly) modelling. Scenarios with nuclear and fossil/CCS were also explored.

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World Bank looks to renewable integration

By Dave Elliott

‘With the right combination of new policies and investments, countries can integrate unprecedented shares of variable renewable energy into their grids without compromising adequacy, reliability or affordability’. So says the World Bank in a study of renewable integration and grid balancing options, focusing on energy storage and gas fired- back up plants, but also looking at other balancing options . Continue reading

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Which support systems work best?

By Dave Elliott

Renewable energy technologies have required subsidies to help them get established in markets dominated by sometimes cheaper but also often well-supported conventional energy sources – fossil and nuclear also enjoy subsidies. Essentially the renewable subsidies seek to reflect their environmental benefits – something that conventional markets do not internalise. However there are various ways in which subsidies can be applied and some work better than others. Continue reading

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Why do communities think so differently about bioenergy?

by Felix Creutzig

Various different scientific communities address the issue of bioenergy, climate change mitigation and sustainability. While everyone acknowledges the complexity of the issue, the emphasis in conclusions can be strikingly different. And the stakes could hardly be higher, given that the recent IPCC report points to the importance of bioenergy, especially in combination with carbon capture and storage (CCS), to reduce emissions, and even produce ‘negative emissions’: bioenergy in combination with CCS would suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and bury it underground. Hence, it becomes increasingly important to understand the differences between different strands of literature on this topic.

A recent publication, entitled, ‘Economic and ecological views on climate change mitigation with bioenergy and negative emissions‘, investigates this issue (here as pdf). The paper compares papers that emphasis biophysical limits to bioenergy production with some runs of integrated assessment models. It finds that a key difference is in the assumption space, especially assumptions on yields. If yields are increasing beyond historical rates, both food and bioenergy production can fit on existing agricultural land. If this yield increase is not realized, large-scale bioenergy production would become much less attractive. Notably, the counterfactual function of land of a CO2 sink would become quantitatively relevant, compromising the mitigation function of bioenergy.

Crucially, optimistic assumptions on yields are benchmarked in observed records in field trials. These are however only feasible with very high fertilizer and management input, and currently economically not competitive. Much will hinge not only on plant technology, but also on how management improves, also allowing for upscaling sustainable multi-purpose land use practice.

 

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Renewables: ‘an expensive disaster’

By Dave Elliott

We are spending too much on renewables and undermining competitiveness, so says a report Central Planning with Market Features: how renewable subsidies destroyed the UK electricity market, published by the Centre for Policy Studies. In it Rupert Darwall  says that recent energy policy represents the biggest expansion of state power since the nationalisations of the 1940s and 1950s, and is on course to be the most expensive domestic policy disaster in modern British history.

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Filling the GAP

By Dave Elliott

A group of UK notables, including Sir David King, Lord John Browne, Lord Nicholas Stern and Lord Martin Ryle, has launched a proposal for a 10 year Global Apollo Programme of science-led research and development (R&D) to develop clean energy technology fast to combat climate change. One of the other proposers, former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell, told BBC News: ‘People never believed we could put a man on the Moon – but we did. People don’t believe we can solve climate change – but we have no choice.’ Continue reading

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Reactions to climate uncertainty

By Dave Elliott

Renewable energy has benefited from concerns about climate change. But in some countries there are doubts about whether climate impacts will be severe and in some there are no significant climate policies. Contrarian views may be in a minority in most places, but much has been made of the apparent slowdown in average global temperature rises in recent years. Indeed some sceptics claim that this refutes all the climate models, with some pointing to a 17-year or more period when the running average did not indicate a rise. So it’s claimed we don’t need to rush ahead with renewables. Continue reading

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Germany stays on course

 By Dave Elliott

Germany is sticking to its ambitious plan to get at least 80% of its electricity from renewables by 2050. As part of that, it aims to support the construction and operation of 20 offshore wind farms, 7 GW in all, and that plan recently received a boost, with the European Commission agreeing that it did not conflict with EU state aid rules. The 17 wind farms in the North Sea and three in the Baltic will further EU energy and environmental objectives without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market, the EC said.

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France – 100% renewable by 2050?

By Dave Elliott

France is heavily reliant on nuclear power, which supplies around 74% of its electricity, although some of that is in fact used to run the nuclear fuel system, including fuel fabrication and reprocessing. It has often been said that it would be impossible to phase out nuclear in France. The Hollande government has promised to cut the proportion back to 50%, and has a quite ambitious programmes for renewable energy (32% of all energy by 2030) and energy saving (a 50% cut in all energy use by 2050). But going further has often seemed a fantasy, not least in terms of cost. However that’s now changed, with a new government  report suggesting that it would be possible to move to 100% renewables.

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