By Dave Elliott
Renewable energy could supply Russia and Central Asian countries with all the electricity they need by 2030, and cut costs significantly, according to a new study from Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland. It says that renewable energy is the cheapest option for the region and could make Russia very energy competitive in the future. A 100% renewable energy system for Russia and Central Asia would, it claims, be roughly 50% lower in cost than a system based on the latest European nuclear technology or carbon capture and storage.
By Dave Elliott
While most future projections show global renewable energy expanding rapidly, some are more cautious and also present optimistic views on oil futures. For example, BP’s Energy Outlook 2016 sees oil still booming up to 2035, although it does see the use of coal falling and renewables expanding: ‘Renewables are expected to account for more than a third of EU power generation by 2035’. However, welcome though that view is, Carbon Brief said, ‘this sits awkwardly against the fact that renewables already supplied a third of EU power in 2014 and continue to expand rapidly’.
By Dave Elliott
The Chinese National Renewable Energy Centre (CNREC) says China could get 85% of its electricity and 60% of all its primary energy from renewables by 2050, with wind and solar PV both exceeding 2TW of installed capacity by 2040.
The nation certainly seems to be trying to head that way. Under its new 5 year plan it aims to more than double its wind energy capacity (to 250GW), and nearly treble solar capacity (to 160GW), accelerating well ahead of the EU.
By Dave Elliott
Renewable energy is expanding even faster in the east than in the west, and in this and the next post I’ve tried to review the state of play, and the prospects for the future, in some key countries (China, India, Japan, and Korea), looking at some near 100% by 2050 scenarios. I start with China and India, both of which have large renewable energy expansion programmes, though China’s is the largest . (more…)
By Dave Elliott
Wind power is booming globally, with over 370GW of electricity generation capacity installed so far. It could jump to 2,000 GW, more than five times its current level by 2030, supplying up to 19 % of global electricity, the Global Wind Energy Council says, although that would require ‘unambiguous commitment to renewable energy in line with industry recommendations … [and] the political will to commit to appropriate policies’. (more…)
By Dave Elliott
China’s economy has been accelerating at uniquely high levels, although lately that has slowed slightly. Some say that will provide a helpful respite from the massive eco/health problems that have been created by burning so much coal and oil- epitomised by the dire air pollution in big cities like Beijing, which of late has led to major health scares and protests. China has a massive renewable energy programme, with for example wind on and off grid already at around 75GW, but it’s barely able to keep up with the growth in energy demand. So the transition to a sustainable energy future may take some time. (more…)
By Dave Elliott
China is pushing ahead with renewables on a very large scale, with renewables and other non-fossil fuel options expected to provide around 15 % of its total energy needs by 2020: the nuclear programme is a small part of that, aiming to get to 4% of electricity by 2020. Renewables already supply 17%.
Wind power is the big new thing. There is 62 GW of capacity installed so far- way ahead of every other country. And that’s just the start. The Chinese Wind Power Development Roadmap 2050 stipulates that China will have 200 GW installed wind capacity by 2020, 400 GW by 2030, and 1,000 GW by 2050.
However, it is trying to refocus what has so far been something of a uncontrolled boom, with, for example, insufficient attention having been paid to proving the necessary grid links. The result has been that, although China had over 42 GW of wind capacity installed by the start of 2011, only an estimated 31 GW was grid-linked. Many of these projects, most of which were in remote areas in the North West, poorly served by grid links, were often unable to dispatch their full potential output to users, most of whom are in the major urban areas on the coast. This issue is now being addressed- the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011 – 15), includes significant investment in grid infrastructure.
Brazil, Russia, India and China, the so-called BRIC countries, are all rapidly industrialising, or in the case of Russia, re-industrialising, and at the same time facing major climate policy issues. Basically how can they have economic growth without compromising their own, and global, climate security? A new book, ‘Feeling the Heat’, in the Palgrave ‘Energy, Climate and Environment’ series, seeks to explore how they are trying to develop energy and climate policies, focusing on internal political processes and constraints. A multi-authored text, edited by Ian Bailey and Hugh Compston from, respectively, Plymouth and Cardiff University, it’s something of a companion to their earlier ‘Turning Down the Heat’, which looked at the politics of climate change in the affluent democracies.
While we may be familiar with the national political battles over climate policies in the UK, EU, USA and more recently Australia, the political situation in the BRIC countries, for example in terms of public reactions to what are often seen as draconian proposal for change, is sometimes not that much different- and the suggested remedies are similar. They include better communication to convince people of the need for radical change, coupled with an emphasis on the positive benefits that could accrue in terms of jobs, economic security and of course health and safety. Given that what happens in the rapidly expanding BRIC countries may shape the global future, it’s well worth looking at.
What are the technical renewable energy supply options for the BRICs? Globally renewable energy supplied an estimated 16% of global final energy consumption and delivered close to 20% of global electricity production. The BRIC countries are making their mark: for example renewables accounted for about 26% of China’s total installed electric capacity in 2010, 18% of electricity generation, and more than 9% of final energy supply. This along with India’s smaller input, helped make Asia a dominant supplier of renewable energy, while Latin America has increased its supply of renewable energy by over 50%, with Brazil making major contributions .
See REN21 2011 review: www.ren21.net
Much of this growth is based on biomass and that could expand further. The World Bioenergy Association says that biomass currently supplies around 10% of global energy, which it notes means that it is already around double the size of nuclear energy globally. But it forecasts the potential for global bioenergy utilisation in 2050 to be 20-30 times the present use. Clearly there are land-use and biodiversity issues to face, something Brazil has be battling with for some time in terms of deforestation, but also in relation to its biofuels (ethanol) programme. Large hydro is also problematic- that is the mainstay of China’s programme, the only large renewable so far in Russia (supplying 21% of electricity) and also the major contributor in Brazil, accounting for 69% of the total installed capacity in 2010.
Less problematically, wind power is also expanding: China has over 45GW in place and plans to have 100GW by 2015. It is moving offshore- it plans to have 30GW offshore by 2020. The technically exploitable onshore wind resources is put at 300 GW, and offshore resources are up to 700 GW
India has 13GW of wind capacity in place on land and plans to expand that, but is also pushing ahead with solar- it is aiming for 20GW to be deployed by 2022. Brazil is also pushing ahead with both wind and solar. Solar heating is in widespread use and its wind target is 1,423MW under the PROINFA programme. The theoretical potential for wind is put at 140 GW.
As in China and Brazil, Russia’s renewables programme is dominated by hydro, but in terms of new renewables, it is moving quite slowly: it currently only gets 0.5% of it power from renewables, but aims to increase that to 4.5% from 25 GW installed by 2020. However, the potential wind resource is very large. One study put the Northern Russia/NW Siberian resource at 350GW.
Of all the BRICs, China is pushing renewables the hardest- with a target of getting 16% of its total energy for renewables and low carbon sources by 2020, although Brazil has a head start in that it already gets around 50% of its electricity from hydro and has a significant biofuels programme. To move things on, some help for the BRICs and other developing countries is coming from the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), which has recently announced the first 21 projects to be funded in its €3m 8th Programme. Five projects target China, including a study on a national-level carbon trading framework with the Energy Research Institute of the NDRC, and support for a study on smartgrid technology for integrating renewables into China’s grid. REEEPs funding is made possible by donations from the governments of the UK and Norway. REEEP previously disbursed €4.7m in 2009, €3.2 m in 2007, €2.2 m in 2006 and €1.1 m in 2005.
In their book, Bailey and Compston conclude ‘China’s investments in renewable energy, Brazil’s deforestation and biofuels policies and India’s efforts to combat black carbon offer glimpses of the opportunities, but many more co-benefit and development enhancing policies will be needed’.
In terms of funding, REEEPs input is relatively small and the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism has its limits. Perhaps more important are the internal and external political processes that define the overall strategies adopted by the BRICs. As Bailey and Compston put it, the BRICs also have other perhaps more urgent priorities, and will make comparisons with the what the already developed world is doing: ‘Progress by industrializing countries in curbing their emissions will inevitably return attention to the deficiencies of climate policy in the developed countries and the need for their governments find ways to resolve political obstacles to the further development of climate policy in their countries,’ with the focal strategy often inevitably being ‘to prioritize policies that offer significant co-benefits alongside reducing emissions’.
- All of the BRICs have nuclear programmes of various scales (Russia gets17% of its electricity from nuclear, Brazil 3.1%, India 2.9%, China 1.8%), with expansion planned. See my earlier Blog on nuclear and the developing world:
What happens in China, in terms energy use, is widely seen as a key to whether serious global climate impacts can be avoided or limited. China is relying heavily on coal but is also turning increasingly to non-fossil energy sources. Its nuclear programme often gets the headlines but in 2008 China had as much wind capacity in place as it had nuclear capacity – 8.9 GW. Of course, the relatively low load factor for wind (under 20%) meant that nuclear produced more energy – 68 TWh as against 13 TWh for wind. Moreover, new nuclear plants are planned, including fast neutron reactors to be supplied by Russia. In all, plans announced in recent years call for nuclear stations to supply 4% of China’s power needs by 2020, up from about 2% now, although of course its energy use is expanding rapidly, so that is more than a doubling in capacity. But wind has now more than doubled – installed capacity reached 25 GW in 2009, and a 2020 wind target of 150 GW has been mentioned. China’s wind programme is also moving offshore: it recently installed its first 3 MW 90-metre diameter “Sinovel” offshore turbine, the first unit of a 100 MW Shanghai Donghai Bridge demonstration project.
Certainly renewable energy, along with clean coal (i.e. with carbon capture) seems to be seen as a key way ahead. Chen Mingde, vice-chair of the National Development and Reform Commission, in comments quoted by the China Daily newspaper last year, claimed that “nuclear power cannot save us because the world’s supply of uranium and other radioactive minerals needed to generate nuclear power are very limited”. He saw the expansion of China’s nuclear power capacity a “transitional replacement” of the country’s heavy reliance on coal and oil, with the future for China being in more efficient use of fossil fuels and expanded use of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro.
China’s current target is to get 15% of its energy (not just electricity) from renewables by 2020, although this is likely to be raised to 20%. In addition to wind, it’s pushing ahead with solar as well as hydro and biomass. China’s hydro capacity is expected to nearly double to 300 GW by 2020. And a recent REEEP study suggested that 30% of China’s rural energy demand could be met through bioenergy. China already has 65 GW of installed solar thermal power, and the potential for expansion is significant (e.g. for large scale, concentrating solar power units in desert areas, feeding power by HVDC links to the cities). A 1GW prototype plant is planned.
PV solar is also set to expand rapidly. China is already the largest producer of solar cells globally and, although until recently most of them were exported (around 1 GW in 2007), the emphasis has now changed, so that the current national target of having 3 GW of capacity in place by 2020 could be exceeded by perhaps a factor of three. Looking further ahead, work in also underway on tidal and wave energy projects.
Some major integrated projects are also emerging. For example, Reuters reports that China is currently developing a demonstration zone in Hangjin Banner, with a planned 11,950 MW renewable-energy park, which, when completed, should have 6,950 MW of wind generation, 3,900 MW of photovoltaics, 720 MW of concentrating solar power, 310 MW of biomass plants and 70 MW of hydro/storage.
Some innovative new grid links are also being established, designed to deal with the problem that much of the renewable electricity resource is remote from mostly coastal centres of population. The new extended grid system could also help with balancing the variable output from some renewables. Modern Power Systems reports that Siemens Energy and China Southern Power Grid has started commissioning part of a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission line, with a capacity of 5000 MW, covering a distance of more than 1400 km. It’s claimed to be the first HVDC link in the world operating at a transmission voltage of 800 kV. Commissioning of the second phase, and startup of the full system, is scheduled soon.
The Yunnan–Guangdong interconnector will transmit power generated by several hydro power plants in central China to the rapidly growing industrial region in the Pearl River delta in Guangdong Province with its megacities Guangzhou and Shenzhen. This system can, it us claimed, reduce the annual CO2 emissions that would otherwise have been produced by fossil-fuelled power plant by over 30 megatonnes.
In addition Modern Power Systems reports that there is the 800 kV Xiangjiaba–Shanghai link, on which ABB has been working with the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC). It will be capable of transmitting 6400 MW of power from the Xiangjiaba hydropower plant, located in the southwest of China, to Shanghai – a distance of over 2000 km. It is claimed that transmission losses on the line will be less than 7%.
China is now the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter and its energy demand is still rising rapidly, despite the global economic recession. However, in the run up to the COP 15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen last December, while not willing to commit to reductions in net emissions, China said it would cut its energy intensity (emissions/GNP) dramatically – by 40–45% by 2020. That’s not the same as reducing net emissions of course, but it would be a start. And if that is acted on, renewables would clearly play a major part.
China’s role at COP 15 has been much debated – essentially it seemed to want to protect its continued growth, and avoid imposed emission targets targets – much like the US. But, like the US, it also seems keen to be a leader in the move to green energy technology – perhaps becoming the “green workshop of the world” feeding the expanding markets for renewable energy systems around the world. In addition to exporting solar PV cells, it was even planning to build wind turbines for and in the US – although a US senator’s objections may have scotched that.
How rapidly China can and will green itself though is less clear. Certainly China has massive renewable resources: for example the wind resource is put at around 2 TW. And a new study by Michael McElroy and colleagues at Harvard and Tsinghua University in Beijing, published in the journal Science, has claimed that, in theory, wind power could meet all of China’s electricity demand by 2030.
That is very unlikely happen by then of course, but China is likely to become a major player in the green-energy revolution.
With the climate conference in Copenhagen in December seen by many as the make-or-break event, the EU position is relatively clear- a 20% by 2020 cut in emissions (from 1990 levels), unless a good global agreement can be reached, when the target would be raised to 30%.
The UK is amongst the leaders in pushing for high targets. The Budget in April set what was claimed as the world’s first carbon budget, as required by the new Climate Change Act, with a legally binding 34% reduction in emissions by 2020. The government said it will ‘increase the level of ambition of carbon budgets once a satisfactory global deal on climate change is reached’. Longer term, there is a firm commitment to an 80% cut by 2050.
While welcome, all that will mean very little if the US and China don’t come up with decent targets. The good news from the USA is that, after years of denial under Bush, the US government now sees greenhouse emissions as a major issue: the Environmental Protection Agency is now regulating them. And progress is being made on national targets. Against strong opposition, the House of Representatives has just voted 219 to 212 to bind the US to cutting carbon emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83% by 2050. It also agreed that a national carbon ‘cap and trade’ system should be established and to a 15% 2020 target for electricity from renewables. However this has still all to be passed by Senate- where opposition is likely to be even stronger.
The opposition has already led to watering down of targets. For example, the draft US Clean Energy act called for a 20% cut on 2005 emission levels by 2020, and for the US to get 25% of its electricity from renewables by 2025. The fossil lobby wanted just a 6% cut by 2020 and lower renewable targets. Even so, the emission level now agreed by the House of Representatives (17%) is a significant compromise and the 15% target for electricity from renewables is an even bigger compromise, especially since it seems 12% could be allowed in some regions with poor resources, and energy efficiency gains may be allowed as a substitute for some renewables.
In any case, even if finally passed into law through Senate, these are just paper targets. The crucial thing is the proposed new US Carbon trading system – a key element in translating the targets into reality. Indeed, although much was made of the Â£150 billion over ten years that Obama allocated to renewables and other green energy projects earlier this year, as part of the US Economic stimulus package, much of that funding will only materialise if the carbon trading system goes ahead. This may explain why the very large stimulus allocation (around 10 times current support levels) was not fought much by Republicans- they may have been waiting to block it at source by opposing the Carbon trading system. If that is proves to be the case, the fear is that the new proposals won’t get through in time for the USA to make a clearly positive contribution at the Copenhagen conference.
While this may be a problem, it seems that the simple fact that Obama is now taking the US into climate negotiations has been enough for the Chinese to engage in the process more fruitfully – and that in turn has helped Obama, since one of the main reasons for opposition to the Kyoto protocol in the US was that it didn’t apply to newly developing countries like China, whose emissions were expanding rapidly. They have actually recently overtaken the US. But China now seems to be thinking in terms of, if not absolute cuts, then at least a commitment to the reductions in the growth of its rapidly expanding carbon emissions.
Su Wei, a leading figure in China’s climate change negotiating team, said that officials were considering introducing a national target that would limit emissions relative to economic growth in the country’s next 5-year plan from 2011.’China hasn’t reached the stage where we can reduce overall emissions, but we can reduce energy intensity and carbon intensity.’ i.e. carbon emissions/GNP. Whether an agreement will be reached on that before the Copenhagen conference remains to be seen.
The stakes are high- for Obama and for the world. The EU is pushing hard, and, whatever might be happening at home, the USA seems to be bending over backwards to get a global agreement. It has proposed that developing nations like China should not be required to commit to specific emission targets, but should be asked to commit to boosting energy efficiency standards and improving the take-up of renewable energy. And there are positive signs, with talk of China being able to go beyond the current target of getting 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020, to 18% and possibly 20% – on a par with the EU and well ahead of the USA.
We may make it yet.