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Tag Archives: solar power

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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Solar PV and energy storage

By Dave Elliott

Some say that the vision of households and businesses moving largely off-grid by storing solar power generated during the day for use overnight is close to becoming a reality. The prospects for moving entirely off grid may be limited – most projects will still need grid links to allow for top-ups when solar input is low for long periods and the stores are exhausted. However, that still leaves a significant potential for self-generation and storage.                                                                                        (more…)

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Whatever next?

By Dave Elliott

Simon Taylor’s The Fall and Rise of Nuclear Power in Britain’  (UIT Cambridge) is a readable scamper through the history of the UK nuclear programme, warts and all, with much detail on who did what. The government’s Chief Scientists, Sir David King and Sir David MacKay, are seen as having played key roles in recent years, and Taylor seems to accept the resultant official view that renewables won’t be sufficient: During those inevitable dreary November days when the UK has grey skies and no wind, it will be thermal power, whether gas-fired or nuclear, which keeps the UK moving, lit and warm. Nuclear therefore has a place in the mix for the foreseeable future’. 

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Renewables hit by economic success

A Christmas success story – of sorts

By Dave Elliott

Renewables are getting cheaper, with the costs for some falling dramatically. However, as overall energy prices fall, due in part to the success of renewables, it is not just old fossil and nuclear plants that suffer, becoming stranded assets. Older less efficient renewable projects can also face problems, as has happened, it seems, with some older wind turbines. They need replacing with new better designs – reblading and repowering. But, as energy prices continue to fall, upgrades like this may not yield enough extra income to be worthwhile. This will be a continuing issue as renewables expand and get cheaper: the market value of wind and PV power drops with increasing market penetration and success.

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German energy balancing

By Dave Elliott

Germany is in the lead globally with its ambitious renewable energy programme, already supplying over 32% of its electricity and aiming for 80% by 2050.  At present, Germany’s 1.5 million photovoltaic solar installations have a generation capacity of over 40GW, four times the remaining 10.8 GW base-load nuclear fleet that is being decommissioned in stages between the end of 2017 and 2022. PV can be well matched to day-time peak demand in Germany, which is why it has challenged gas peaking plant in this market.  However, due to its low load factor (10-15%, compared to 70-80% or more for nuclear), solar PV generation only delivers around 940 equivalent full-load hours of electricity per year, so in 2015 its high capacity only met around 7.5% of German electricity demand, compared to 14% for nuclear generation. That’s why some think it is not the best option to expand for the future – it’s expensive for relatively low levels of actual output. (more…)

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Labour’s 65% renewables by 2030 plan

By Dave Elliott

Labour’s new Environment and Energy policy aims to get 65% of UK electricity from renewables by 2030 and pioneer a ‘democratic, community-led system of energy supply’. That is well ahead of what might happen under current plans, and includes 47GW of offshore wind, 21GW of onshore wind (up from around 5GW and 10GW at present, respectively) and 25GW of PV solar (up from 12GW now), but is presented as being possible since it would involve new forms of decentralised project development, alongside more conventional ‘top down’ corporate projects, suitably accelerated.

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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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Green heat and energy saving

By Dave Elliott

Heat supply is one of the key weak links in the UK government’s attempt to meet the EU-imposed 15% by 2020 renewable energy target. That target still applies – until the UK finally leaves the EU, if it ever does fully. Although there is talk of green heat networks, for the moment the focus is mostly on direct green heat supply for business and private consumers, and there are some changes underway. The UK’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has escaped cuts so far. Indeed it is set to expand, but the government wants to restructure it to keep energy costs down for consumers and get better value for money. So, concerned also about impact on food growing, it wants to support the use of food and farm waste-based biomass feedstock rather than crop-based feedstocks for biogas production in Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants. It has also proposed cutting support for solar heating since it is not seen as good value for taxpayer support.

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All Energy: an ecumenical approach

By Dave Elliott

The All Energy Conference in Scotland, despite its title, usually focuses on renewables but, some feel provocatively, it has of late also included sessions on nuclear. A petition was raised against this, with over 1,700 signatories, but an ecumenical approach does have its attractions – we get to hear from all the contenders and can form an impression of the overall state of play. Better surely than a partisan ‘no platform’ stance?

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