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Tag Archives: wind power

China accelerates renewables

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.

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UK energy policy – grinding to a halt?

By Dave Elliott

At a meeting of the House of Commons Liaison Committee, which brings together the chairs of select committees, PM David Cameron in effect provided an overview of his take on key aspects of UK energy policy. It was quite revealing, with justifications being offered for the extensive cut-backs in support for most low-carbon projects, in order ‘to deliver low carbon at the lowest cost’. Very little seems to have survived unscathed. (more…)

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Go slow on renewables

By Dave Elliott

‘Moving too quickly to zero carbon energy risks driving the bills of hardworking people too high’. That, from Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, in a DECC Blog on August 11th , seems to be the view underlying the government’s renewable energy support cutbacks. In her speech to the Conservative Party Conference in October she said that ‘as we have already shown, we will be tough on subsidies’, but insisted that the policy was fair since it simply was aimed at ‘getting the balance right between supporting new, low carbon generation and protecting bill payers’: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2429010/rudd-hails-potential-for-uk-to-become-home-for-energy-innovation

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Greenpeace 2030 UK energy scenario

By Dave Elliott

85% of UK electric power could be supplied from renewables and low carbon sources by 2030, says a report for Greenpeace, produced by Demand Energy Equality.org. Basically it looks at a Greenpeace high renewables 2030 supply scenario to see if it can meet demand over the year, given demand peaks and weather changes – it uses 11 years of hourly weather data. And crucially it tests whether it is possible to meet a large part of the heat demand from renewable electricity, given that ‘even modest levels of heat electrification result in large increases in peak electrical demand’. It concludes that it is, but that this will only be possible if domestic heat demand is reduced dramatically, by near 60%. That is seen as vital since ‘electrification increases the size of demand peaks on the electricity network; while decarbonisation (via renewables) in turn decreases the predictability of supply intended to meet those (now increased) peaks’. And so ‘if electricity is the medium by which a reliable and clean energy future is to be delivered, then heating demand reduction must be achieved alongside heating electrification’. www.demandenergyequality.org/2030-energy-scenario.html

On the supply side it sees wind energy growing from 13 GW to 77 GW, 55 GW offshore, 22 GW onshore, with PV solar rising from 5 GW to 28 GW. There is also 8 GW of tidal, some biogas use (but no biomass imports), including around 20 GW of local CHP (fired with gas and some biomass), but no new nuclear and no CCS, just around 20 GW of gas CCGT and some demand side management (DSM), to help with balancing. However, interestingly, domestic DSM only ‘plays a modest role in mitigating periods of deficit. Fewer than 7 periods in which total demand shifting exceeds 3 GW occur on average each year’. That is partly because DSM is as yet in its infancy and the report focuses on established technology. But it does report some interesting DSM developments in the industrial sector – where Flexitricity is the first and largest UK provider of national supply-demand balancing services. http://www.flexitricity.com

However it notes the technical, administrative and logistical feasibility of interacting with corporate and large scale power users in this way has not been matched, thus far, in a domestic setting’. That would require National Grid to negotiate contracts to provide demand reduction at peak times with every UK household, and communicate directly with each when needed. Smart meters might allow that, but are still in their trial phase, with many issues to be resolved.

You could say the same of the electric heat pumps that the report seems to see as a key domestic heat supply option; only meeting 25% of the heat demand, not the 90% envisaged in the DECC 2050 High Renewables modeling, but still a lot more than now. Why not also look at green gas for heating (including biogas and Power to Gas conversion) and to the gas grid for supply? It’s already there, with much more capacity than the power grid! While the report does propose some CHP (oddly seen as inflexible) for heat and power, there’s no mention of solar heating and large community-scaled heat stores (as used now in Denmark), and overall it seems overly focused on electricity.

Rather than offering a clever way to balance surpluses from variable renewables, by being able to ramp down power production and ramp up heat production for storage, for use when heat demand was high, CHP is simply seen as producing too much heat in summer. So there is only around 20 GW of CHP included, compared to over 52 GW in the recent Transition Pathways’ Thousand Flowers scenario. And, on the issue of the inevitable occasional electricity surpluses from its large variable renewable capacity, rather than portraying this as a problem, why didn’t it look more to Power to Gas (P2G) to turn it into a solution – making green gas for grid balancing as well as for heating and transport use? It only talks of using P2G hydrogen for vehicles. And why not look to 2-way supergrid links for balancing? As it is, ‘exports only occur once any surpluses have been utilised to the greatest possible extent domestically’, with the level of interconnector exchanges seen as only around 12 TWh p.a. That seems odd, since there is a lot more excess available (apparently near 43 TWh on average) and there may be times when exports of surplus can earn a lot of money, and be more useful/valuable than P2G conversion or other types of storage, helping to balance the cost of importing more when needed at other times. DECC’s 2050 pathway had 30 TWh of imports/exports. It’s a little odd that supergrid links are left to one side, playing a relatively small role in this study, since an earlier Greenpeace report talked them up as a key EU balancing option: http://www.energynautics.com/news/#GP_EU 

Trying to get to 80% renewables by 2030 is pretty demanding. The Pugwash high renewables pathway, on which I worked two years back, only reached around 80% by 2050, pushing it quite hard, with around 100 GW of wind and 35 GW each of PV and tidal: http://britishpugwash.org/pathways-to-2050-three-possible-uk-energy-strategies/ However, that excluded nuclear, long gone by 2050, had 70 TWh p.a of supergrid imports/exports, and only looked to 40% energy savings. By contrast, the new 2030 Greenpeace scenario still retains some left-over nuclear (Sizewell B) and goes for much higher levels of energy saving – and by 2030. That’s a bit of a stretch. It’s akin to the Centre for Alternative Technology’s pioneering Zero Carbon Britain 2030 scenario and adding to the list of challenging and visionary high renewables scenarios: http://zerocarbonbritain.org/ready-for-zero

What it adds in particular is an interesting and helpful test of the operational viability of an ambitious energy mix, although, sadly, it does not provide an economic analysis, arguing that costs are changing too fast to make that useful. While that may be true (and the report does present some examples of falling costs), the absence of full costing may weaken the impact of the analysis – just at the point when the falling cost of renewables ought to be giving them a better chance. Even so, it’s a welcome addition to the pile of studies making the case for renewables, with balancing, as a technically and operationally viable set of options.

* Economic and financial support issues are to the fore in a new global Greenpeace scenario, which I will review shortly. It looks to getting 100% of all energy from renewables by 2050, at no extra net cost, given the fuel cost savings: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/climate/2015/Energy-Revolution-2015-Full.pdf

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UK renewables: will anything survive?

By Dave Elliott

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) seems to be on a mission to cut back support for renewables across the board – so as to save money. The scale and pace of change is stunning. Will anything be left? (more…)

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Plenty of renewables – and they can be balanced

By Dave Elliott

Is there enough renewable energy to meet global needs and can the use of variable sources be effectively balanced?  Recent reports say yes on both counts. In terms of the total resource, a GIS-based study of land/sea use/availability has put the total 2070 global potential for renewable electricity at up to 3,810 EJ, led by solar PV, with about a third of the PV being on buildings. The total estimated resource was roughly in line with most other global renewable studies, like that from the IPCC, and well above likely total global electricity demand, put at around 400 EJ: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378015000072 (more…)

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Which support systems work best?

By Dave Elliott

Renewable energy technologies have required subsidies to help them get established in markets dominated by sometimes cheaper but also often well-supported conventional energy sources – fossil and nuclear also enjoy subsidies. Essentially the renewable subsidies seek to reflect their environmental benefits – something that conventional markets do not internalise. However there are various ways in which subsidies can be applied and some work better than others. (more…)

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Renewable energy in the Middle East…and beyond

By Dave Elliott

Despite the political turmoil, renewable energy projects are proliferating in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, PV solar and Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) especially, as you would expect: this is a sun-drenched part of the world, with a lot of free desert land area. Saudi Arabia is one the leaders, with plans for installing 41 GW of solar (PV and CSP) by 2032, although that target has now been put back to 2040.

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Innovation: new energy for the UK

By Dave Elliott

Technological innovation is exciting but risky: blue skies thinking can open up possibilities, but they also have to be tested against reality. It’s easy to get deceived by early hopeful predictions of potential success and allegedly ‘game changing’ developments. We are regularly hit by blasts of enthusiastic coverage of hi tech innovations in the energy field, but not all of it will prove to be viable (more…)

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Wind power around the world

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…)

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