Posts by: Dave Elliott

Offshore wind breaks through

By Dave Elliott

It’s unusual but things do occasionally change in the UK. We had been quietly awaiting the government’s much delayed Carbon Plan but then came an unexpected shock, a dramatic fall in offshore wind prices emerging from the new round of the Contract for Difference (CfD) auction process. Hornsea Project 1, now being built, had got a CfD strike price of £140/MWh in the first full CfD round in 2014. But in this second one, Dong’s huge 1.3 MW Hornsea Project 2 won a contract at £57.5/MWh for a 2021/22 start up – 60% less. So did another offshore large wind project, in Scotland, for a 2022/23 start up, while a third one got through at £74.5/MWh. That’s still way below the index-linked £92.5/MWh allocated to the Hinkley nuclear project, which won’t start up until years after these projects, if it ever does.

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Electric vehicles – will they break the system?

By Dave Elliott

Much has been said recently about electric vehicles (EVs) – they are on the way in large numbers, we are told. The Carbon Tracker/Grantham Institute report (see my earlier post) says that, by 2050, EVs will account for over two-thirds of the road transport market globally. That could change the transport system dramatically, although that alone won’t stop congestion. Unless we also move to autonomous cars and taxis, which should use road capacity more efficiently, we will just have queues of EVs – and continued pressure for more road building. But it could change the energy system. Not just in terms of replacing fossil fuels, but also in terms of changing and challenging the emergent non-fossil energy supply system.

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Greening road transport

By Dave Elliott

Road transport is responsible for around 15% of global carbon emissions. Can this be cut? The first question to ask is – do we want to have private and commercial vehicles on roads as at present? Buses, trams, trains, bikes and walking may be better for many journeys. But assuming we still need private and commercial road vehicles for at least some purposes, the most direct and least disruptive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to switch to lower carbon fuels, biofuels and synfuels. That’s easier than switching to electric vehicles (EVs). However, there are limits to biofuels – EVs are likely to win out.

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Bioenergy: new blooms, but also prunings

By Dave Elliott

In an opinion survey by YouGov for the Energy Technologies Institute, 80% of respondents supported an increase in bioenergy use in the UK. Around 74% supported producing bioenergy from biomass and 81% backed producing biomass from waste, comparable to levels of support seen for other renewables. However, some environmental groups strongly oppose some types of biomass use and there is a sometimes rather heated debate underway, as this extended post explores.

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BECCS: 10% of UK energy & net carbon cuts

By Dave Elliott

Bioenergy use combined with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) can deliver negative emissions, i.e. the net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, whilst producing energy in the form of electricity, heat, gaseous and liquid fuels, according to the UK Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) in a new study. Some have serious doubts about the cost, viability, impacts and reliability of large scale carbon capture and storage (CCS). Some also see it as a diversion from proper mitigation measures such as renewables and as just a way to allow for continued use of fossil fuels. But some environmentalists are keen on BECCS as a green option that might redeem CCS, if it works. Then again some environmentalists are unhappy with large scale biomass combustion, especially if using imported wood pellets, and so oppose BECCS.

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Renewable capacity growth continues

by Dave Elliott

REN 21’s annual Renewable Energy Global Status report for 2017 shows continued progress in new capacity installation. Renewable power generating capacity saw its largest annual increase ever in 2016, with an estimated 161 GW of capacity added. Total global renewable capacity was up nearly 9% compared to 2015, to almost 2,017 GW at year’s end, with a rise in renewable electricity generation from 23.7% in 2015 to 24.5% in 2016. Crucially, the world continued to add more renewable power capacity annually than it added (net) capacity from all fossil fuels combined, with wind and PV growing at 4.7%, faster than demand at 2% p.a. Wind reached 487 GW, PV solar 300 GW, with energy storage rising to 156 GW, most of that being pumped hydro but with 1.7 GW of batteries. (more…)

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Powering Africa

By Dave Elliott

Over the last ten years or so there has been a concerted effort to support the use of renewable energy in less developed countries. The long term aim has been to reduce emissions from the use of fossil fuels, but shorter term aims include providing energy sources for the many who are currently off the power grid. Thus the UN’s Sustainable Development goals include providing ‘affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’, with projects being supported across the developing world under the Sustainable Energy for All programme, and Africa being a major focus.

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India and Japan press ahead – South Korea too

By Dave Elliott

Although renewables are still nowhere near as advanced in India as in China (see my last post), where they are now at over 550 GW including hydro, India had got to 91 GW by the end of 2016, and is expanding fast, with 29 GW of wind capacity in place. It’s the same in Japan, although, with the post-Fukushima nuclear mess still often dominating the news, less is heard about that. But by the end of 2016 it had 72 GW of renewables, including 45 GW of PV solar. And the prospects for growth of renewable capacity are good in both countries. (more…)

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China – even more renewables

By Dave Elliott

China continues to be a global leader in renewables. The nation has more wind power (now at 169 GW) and solar PV (over 100 GW) than any other country and, on 2016 data, a world-beating 554GW of renewables in all, including hydro. There is more to come. The 13th Five Year Plan (2015-2020) proposed targets for energy efficiency, the reduction of carbon intensity and diversification away from fossil fuels, with non-fossil fuels providing 15% of primary energy consumption by 2020, up from 7.4% in 2005.  But China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) is also considering raising the 2020 solar target to 150 GW, which would lead to about 21 GW of annual installation between 2016 and 2020. The Five Year Plan also proposed to increase the installed capacity of wind to 250 GW by 2020.

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US: energy in La La land

By Dave Elliott

It is hard to know what will happen in the energy and climate policy area in the USA under Donald Trump’s presidency. Before his election he had famously rubbished climate change as a fraud and was clearly pretty hostile to renewables – and all things green. In office he has set about cutting support for climate-related US policies and has announced withdrawal from the COP21 Paris climate agreement. He has also sought cuts in government support for renewables in the US. But although federal support is important, many programmes are run at the state level and states may resist his directives. Companies may do too – renewables are increasingly profitable investments, and an area of rapid growth: just the sort of thing you would imagine he would like.

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