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Tag Archives: europe

EU Energy politics at its best – and worst

By Dave Elliott

A 50% renewable electricity target for 2030 and a radical free market shake up – that’s what is on the cards from the latest EU proposals, with consumers empowered to self-generate and sell power themselves. The European Commission’s recent proposed energy policy changes aim to keep the EU competitive as the clean energy transition changes global energy markets. It also proposes new approaches to empowering and informing consumers, enabling them to self-consume renewable electricity without facing undue restrictions, and ensuring that they are remunerated for the electricity they feed into the grid. It also ‘recognizes energy communities and facilitates their participation in the market’.  (more…)

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EU Renewables round up

By Dave Elliott

Renewables are roaring ahead in Europe, with wind at over 140GW and PV surpassing 100GW. There have been some spectacular successes, with renewables briefly supplying 87% of German electricity at one point, and Portugal achieving similarly high contributions-something that’s a regular occurrence in Denmark. But progress may soon be slowed as  economic pressures mount and political reaction sets in with support schemes being withdrawn or constrained. For example, in Germany it’s all change as the government revises the Energiewende energy law with a slow down for wind and solar expansion, via annual capacity caps and reduced support levels. Portugal has also started to phase out its support for renewables, although not quite so aggressively as happened in Spain, or, for that matter, the UK. (more…)

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Renewables continue to boom globally

By Dave Elliott

BP says renewables have shown ‘a quicker pace of penetration than any other fuel source in modern history’, and their strong growth meant that they ‘accounted for all of the increase in global power generation in 2015’. BP’s latest review of world energy trends carbon notes that wind power capacity grew by 17.4% and solar by 32.6% last year, with China overtaking Germany and the US as the largest solar generator: www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html  REN21 has come up with equally high figures. And looking to the future, both see renewables booming, as does Bloomberg.

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BREXIT impacts and implications

By Dave Elliott

The overall context for UK energy policy and the prospects for renewables have taken something of a hit following the narrow referendum vote to leave the EU, with the climate for new investment looking uncertain. In what may become a familiar pattern, leading German engineering company Siemens has put new wind power investment plans in the UK on hold, and more may follow if the economy continues to falter. It certainly looks grim: www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/28/leave-vote-makes-uks-transition-to-clean-energy-harder-say-experts  and http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-renewables-idUKKCN0ZH4CZ

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European fudges and global options

By Dave Elliott

Renewables are doing well around the world including in the EU, which now has over 100GW of PV solar in place and around 150GW of wind generation capacity. However, there are some problems and issues as the economic and political climate changes, leading to a range of new policies, for example in Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark and the UK.

Sweden, which now gets over 50% of its energy from renewables, has decided to close but replace its old nuclear plants with up to 10 new ones, while still keeping to its aim of moving to 100% renewable energy by 2040. Oddly that evidently doesn’t mean that all the nuclear plants would then be closed. The new policy says the 100% by 2040 target ‘is a goal, not a cut-off date that would prohibit nuclear power, and it does not mean either the end a closure of nuclear power’: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Sweden-abolishes-nuclear-tax-1006169.html This seems a strange compromise, and the ‘10 new plants’ is just speculation – they would presumably have to be privately financed, which could be hard unless costs fall: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=6451006

Germany, which now gets over 32% of its electricity from renewables, is still committed to phasing out the rest of its nuclear plants by 2022, but is cutting back on the rate of expansion of renewables to reduce cost pass-through to consumers and allow grid upgrades to catch up, while limiting problems with some of them – there has been local opposition to new grids. New restrictions will cap onshore wind expansion at 2.8GW per year. Solar PV will also have a limit of 600MW p.a.: www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/01/angela-merkel-signs-deal-with-german-states-to-regulate-green-energy-rollout

Although the government is evidently still sticking to its target of an increase in the share of renewable sources to 40-45% of total electricity production by 2025 on the way to 80% by 2050, many see the slow down as a worrying step backwards:  www.windpoweroffshore.com/article/1393115/analysis-industry-questions-german-sustainability

These fudges and cuts are unwelcome, but not unexpected given the political and economic climate, perhaps the worst news being that Germany is also dragging its feet on phasing out coal: http://www.reuters.com/article/germany-coal-idUSL8N18Z27Y?rpc=401

Though equally worrying is the backlash from Denmark’s centre-right government, which wants to cut support for renewables – onshore wind especially: www.thegwpf.com/denmark-cancels-all-coastal-wind-farms-delays-new-built-until-2025/ and  www.thegwpf.com/denmarks-liberal-government-to-roll-back-renewable-energy-policy/  Much as with the Conservatives in the UK – where nuclear is still backed strongly and renewables face yet more cuts: www.r-e-a.net/news/strong-renewable-energy-growth-threatened-by-recent-policy-changes That seems likely to get worse after Brexit – the UK will no longer be subject to the mandatory 15% by 2020 UK renewable energy target agreed with the EU.

It’s the same old battle almost everywhere. Temporarily lost in Spain, with most renewable support cut back and nuclear retained, but lively still in France, where a recent study by the state energy agency ADEME claimed France could switch to 100% renewables by 2050: http://mixenr.ademe.fr/en. However, although some old nuclear plants may close under the new policy, one of EDF’s top nuclear executives, Dominique Miniere, told reporters in Paris, ‘A certain number of points in that study are not based on technological realities. We do not believe in a 100% renewables mix by the (time) horizon (ADEME) indicates. However, we want to extend the lifespan of our reactors in order to allow a gradual increase of renewables in the mix.’ www.powerengineeringint.com/articles/2016/05/edf-nuclear-chief-says-100-per-cent-renewables-by-2050-unrealistic.html

The new renewable energy technologies are still progressing, now supplying around 24% of global electricity but, as can be seen, progress in the EU is being opposed at every step, with support for, or retention of, nuclear often being the default position adopted by the old guard. Plus shale gas in some, but coal in Germany.

While Europe struggles with it politics and economics, and now Brexit, the situation elsewhere is somewhat different – China, still booming economically although now a bit less, is leading the pack with wind heading for 250GW and PV solar already at 60GW:  www.e3g.org/library/china-accelerates-while-europe-deliberates-on-the-clean-energy-transition India also has ambitious targets including 100GW of PV by 2022. Expansion is underway in many other parts of Asia, as well as in South America and Africa: http://www.ren21.net/status-of-renewables/global-status-report/ So the prospects for a global energy transition still look quite good, with, according to Energydata, global energy intensity, the average amount of energy needed to produce a unit of GDP, declining by 3% last year.

However, the use of coal remains a problem and grid integration and balancing issues have to be faced as renewables expand. So too does energy saving. It’s wise therefore not to be too optimistic. While some progress has certainly been made, there is still a long way to go. In its latest analysis of trends in world energy Enerdata saysachieving the goals discussed at the COP21 (1.5 to 2° temperature increase by the end of the century), in fact requires a lasting stagnation of global energy consumption and a strong reduction of emissions. Thus, with a global GDP growth assumption of 3% per year, this would imply an average carbon intensity reduction target of 5 to 6% per year.’ www.enerdata.net/enerdatauk/press-and-publication/publications/peak-energy-demand-co2-emissions-2016-world-energy.php

However, even if the political will may not be so apparent in some countries, the potential for more rapid expansion is there, with many scenarios outlining how 80% or more of global electricity can be supplied by renewables by around 2050: see my last post for an example. Moving beyond the immediate problems and issues, and adopting  a forceful progressive but also critical global approach, as I mentioned in my last post, the US Post Carbon Institute’s magnum opus  Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy,  by Fellows Richard Heinberg and David Fridley, looks at ‘the inevitable transition to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources’. Nevertheless, as I indicated, it doesn’t see this as a simple technical fix, with new energy sources just replacing old dirty ones – it says the way in which energy is used will have to change. That’s partly since renewables have technical and operational limitations, which it explores carefully. As mainly low energy density intermittent sources, they cannot sustain the sort of wasteful economic growth we have seen in the past, but should be able to sustain a more balanced future. Some good thoughtful stuff, covering key issues like the limits of fuel and material substitution and the energy/carbon debts associated with making the transition to 100% renewables. Though generally positive about the future it seeks to counter excessive technical optimism: we have to learn to live within limits. Free at: http://ourrenewablefuture.org

So, what’s the bottom line? There is a need for radical change in energy technology and in our way of using energy. Although in its latest Energy Technology Perspectives, the International Energy Agency says that ‘progress deploying clean energy technologies worldwide is still falling worryingly short of what is needed’, the technology is available or can be made so soon, with costs falling.  A tipping point may have been reached in the process of change, although it may take time to develop fully: http://moneyweek.com/coal-and-renewable-energy-tipping-point/ While cautious optimism, coupled with careful assessment of the limits, seems reasonable, that assumes that the political and social will can be mustered to make the changes and meet the challenges. And that is less clear. But we must try, and this analysis of what social change issues need to be considered seems sensible: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/6/064014.

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Renewable growth continues

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’.  

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UK Energy and the EU: integration or isolation

By Dave Elliott

The UK may be island based but, as renewables expand, it will need more grid links to the continent for balancing and trade. It may have a net surplus and so could do very well selling it over supergrid interconnector links to EU countries less well endowed with renewables. The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), which seems to be taking a leading role in energy system planning, said in its recent report ‘Smart Power’, that interconnection, along with storage and demand flexibility ‘could save consumers up to £8 billion a year by 2030, help the UK meet its 2050 carbon targets, and secure the UK’s energy supply for generations’.         

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Green energy in the EU

By Dave Elliott

In January last year the European Commission (EC) suggested that the EU should cut carbon emissions by 40%. Although it’s conditional on other countries setting significant targets, it’s a bold target, leading the way forward. But sadly the EC faltered on setting ambitious specific targets for how to actually do it. It only raised the targeted share of renewables in primary energy to 27% by 2030, up from the existing 20% by 2020 target.

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IPCC Working Group II: media coverage round-up

by Liz Kalaugher

The IPCC juggernaut continues to roll: the early hours of Monday morning (for those based in Europe) saw the release of Working Group II’s contribution to the fifth assessment report – on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

Yet again, it’s a mammoth task; 309 authors from 70 countries created the report, receiving 50,492 review comments in the process. Not surprisingly, there’s been extensive media coverage, with different outlets focusing on different aspects of the report. (more…)

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