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Tag Archives: 2050 scenarios

The last word on the cost of balancing renewables

By Dave Elliott

The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) has produced an update to its 2006 report that had looked at the costs and impacts of using ‘intermittent’ electricity from renewables such as wind and solar. The 2006 study had only examined impacts with up to a 20% input, but the UKERC researchers now say that, even at the higher levels we are now expecting, it was still the case that the costs of balancing renewables could be low. However, they warned that, unless ‘urgent’ action was taken by the government to boost grid flexibility, the costs of adding renewables in future will be ‘much higher than they need to be’.

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Nuclear or renewables – two new scenarios

By Dave Elliott

Guest posts by Energy Matters’ commentators Alex Terrell and Andy Dawson present two rival UK scenarios for 2050 with, respectively, high nuclear and high renewables. It’s an interesting exercise. They looked at DECC’s 2050 Pathways models, but say ‘it’s far from clear if the underlying models take adequate account of variations in demand’. So they developed their own demand projections.

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Set the controls for the heart of the Sun

By Dave Elliott

A report from Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute says that by 2050 solar PV could supply 29% of all global electricity. Its 2050 scenario still has a lot of nuclear in it, supplying about the same as PV, but not much wind (about 7%). That’s a bit odd, especially since the report indicates that onshore wind is currently cheaper in capital cost terms than either nuclear or PV. That stays true up to 2050 on its baseline scenario. But in its lower cost prediction, it sees PV undercutting all by 2050 – falling to M$390-643/GW, about a tenth of its rather low estimate for the current (and future) cost of nuclear (M$3706-4200/GW) and also much cheaper than the baseline capital costs for onshore wind (M$1640/GW) and offshore wind (M$2970/GW) by 2050. That does ignore the likelihood that wind costs may fall faster too and, given the low capacity factor for PV, in order to get to 29% of total output, they say 65% of global generation capacity would have to be PV by 2050 – around 10TW!

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Beyond technology: the demand side of climate change solutions

by Felix Creutzig

Can we rely on renewable energies and electric cars to win the climate race? Surely, such technologies will make great contributions, and, in fact, are absolutely necessary to achieve ambitious climate goals, such as the 2C target. Yet, they might not be sufficient.

In a comprehensive review, published in Annual Review of Environment and Resources, we investigate the role of the demand side to climate change mitigation. The review finds substantiative opportunities in particular in the food sector, and in cities. At least 20% counterfactual reductions in emissions can be achieved by reducing meat consumption, by modal shift and compacter urban form in urban transport, and in the building sector by behavioral change. The overall range is broad and uncertain, and higher contributions of the demand side are feasible.

Demand-side solutions fall into two (overlapping) classes: infrastructures and behavioural change. Infrastructures essentially form endogenous preferences and set the cost structures for consumption choices (think about the convenience of public transport or car driving in Manhattan and Houston). Behavioural change involves opportunities to change entrenched habits, partially also by modifying ‘soft’ infrastructures, e.g. by nudging.

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The review also identifies key hurdles to perform assessment of demand-side solutions. Key among them is that conventional cost-benefit analysis is hard to carry out when preferences are not exogenously given. Then costs and benefits not only depend on given environmental outcomes of a specific intervention, but also on how preferences changed by the intervention. A comprehensive model of human behaviour is required (see figure above).

The demand side received only scarce attention in recent assessment reports and the reasons are not necessarily obvious. The technical difficulties certainly discourage quantitative assessments. Yet, given its likely importance, more studies should systematically tackle this challenge, notably learning from the experience in urban studies.

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WEC on renewables – a glass half empty!                                 

By Dave Elliott

The London-based World Energy Council (WEC) and the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) both regularly produce global energy scenarios. While they both still back nuclear and see fossil fuels as continuing to play a major role, these days they also increasingly identify renewables as a major player. However, the IEA tends to be more assertive in its promotion of renewables and efficiency, while WEC is usually more cautious.

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EU e-Highway 2050

By Dave Elliott

A recent report says that long distance transmission grids offer many advantages including enhanced cross-EU trade and grid balancing opportunities, enabling high levels of renewables to be used while reducing curtailment of occasional surpluses. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity group had already addressed the development of the pan-EU electricity transmission network up to 2030 in a Ten-Year Network Development Plan. Starting with that, the e-Highway 2050 research and innovation project has now looked to 2050: it deals with the transition paths for the whole power system, with a focus on the transmission network, to support the European Union in reaching a low carbon economy by 2050.

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100% renewables – yet more studies

By Dave Elliott

It’s hard to keep up with the spate of studies suggesting that it would be technically possible to get to near 100% of electricity, or even of all energy, met from renewables by around 2050 at reasonable costs. With the broad options and potentials now quite well mapped out by academic and NGO studies covering many countries and regions, and also the world as a whole, the latest batch of studies focuses on the issues that would be raised on the way to that.

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Non-nuclear UK energy futures

By Dave Elliott

Several non-nuclear energy scenarios for the UK have been produced recently, as I have reported in an earlier post, some of them in response to the perceived need for a ‘Plan B’, as an alternative to the Hinkley EPR project. Some new ones include a submission to the government by TASC, the Together Against Sizewell C campaign group, and a study by developer Green Hedge. They may have lost the first battle, with Hinkley going ahead, but their analysis remains relevant for whatever happens next e.g. in relation to the next projects, which include another EDF EPR at Sizewell. (more…)

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New RSPB 2050 energy scenarios

By Dave Elliott

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has produced a study of ecologically sound energy resources for the UK, looking at the spatial aspects and local impacts. In total, the spatial analysis indicates that between 5,558 and 6,277 TWh/year could be generated with low ecological risk by renewable energy technologies in the UK. The UK’s annual energy consumption in 2014 was 1661 TWh, so that, if appropriately sited, approximately four times this level could be generated from renewables with low impact risk.

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Our Renewable Future – some US views

By Dave Elliott

Several organizations have formulated proposals for transitioning to 100% renewable energy, nationally or globally. In one of the most recent, developing on their earlier 100% global scenario, US academics Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi and their team have spelt out how 139 countries can each generate all the energy they will need from wind, water and solar (WWS) technologies by 2050, in substantial detail.

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