As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to sweep the globe, putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk and threatening to collapse economies, one of the only silver linings has been the current benefits to the environment.
As countries try to contain viral spread by restricting travel and social interaction, cities have seen all-time lows in air pollution levels and researchers are reporting the sharpest decline in greenhouse gas emissions since records began.
With the lockdown measures imposed on billions across the world bringing a halt to “business as usual,” an associated estimated fall in global energy demand of 6% has meant this year’s carbon emissions are set to decline by around 8%.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the demand for renewables is expected to surge, as social distancing and lockdown measures taken in almost every country propel a shift towards more reliable and cleaner sources of energy such as wind, hydropower and solar photovoltaic (solar PV; where solar light energy is converted into electrical energy).
Fast-Forwarding Renewable Systems 10 years into the Future
Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, said:
“The recent drop in electricity demand fast-forwarded some power systems 10 years into the future, suddenly giving them levels of wind and solar power they wouldn’t have had otherwise without another decade of investment in renewables.”
In China, the world’s largest consumer of electricity, factory shutdowns and the associated reduction in the use of industrial electricity means 2020 will likely see a cut in energy consumption equivalent to the amount of power used across the whole of Chile.
In European countries such as the UK, Spain and Italy, where offices, factories, bars, restaurants and theaters remain closed, energy use has fallen by an average of 10%.
Fossil fuel sources have been the most affected by reduced demand, with coal, for example, becoming the most expensive energy source, while cleaner, renewable sources have become increasingly more affordable.
In April 2020, for example, Austria and Sweden announced the closure of their last remaining coal-fired plants. On 29th April, the UK’s grid operator declared that the country had not used coal for around 18 days straight, which has not been done since the Industrial Revolution.
Birol said: “The plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas.”
Natural resources and energy consulting company, Wood Mackenzie, says COVID-19 is now threatening as much as $210 billion of planned investment in oil and gas.
This backtrack in investment will eventually lead to the recovery of gas and oil prices as supply decreases over time, but it could also have a knock-on effect for renewables, providing this sector with a valuable window of opportunity to gain a stronger foothold in the market.
Renewable energy sources have been given a boost, with overall demand expected to grow by 1% this year and particularly the need for renewable electricity, which is expected to increase by 5%.
“COVID-19 is a terrible thing, but it doesn’t impact how much the sun shines or the wind blows,” says Simon Eaves, managing director of asset management company, Capital Dynamics. “Renewable energy is clearly robust in this market.”
Eaves, who manages over $6.4bn in clean energy assets, says plans are soon going ahead to buy a solar-powered farm in Spain that will supply almost 30,000 households.
Emphasizing how cost-effective renewables have become, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, recently announced an unprecedented low-cost solar installation that will generate as much energy as a nuclear reactor.
The wind and solar sectors have not entirely avoided the impact of COVID-19. The completion of various clean energy construction projects is being delayed by disrupted supply chains and the risk posed by specific government incentives ending this year.
COVID-19 Presents both an Opportunity and a Threat in the Renewables Sector
The reduced global energy demand resulting from COVID-19-related lockdown measures has opened opportunities for the renewables sector to accelerate and strengthen its position in the energy industry. At the same time, the crisis has threatened the supply chains, people-to-people interactions and financial incentives that are imperative to the sector’s expansion.
Governments and companies introducing the policies and financial incentives required to support clean energy projects and technologies could maintain the momentum of the renewables sector. They could play a significant role in contributing to economic recovery from the crisis, while simultaneously securing a more reliable, clean energy future that will increase the world’s chances of meeting climate change targets.
The EU is on track to achieve between 22.8% to 23.1% renewables in gross final energy consumption in 2020 as the continent experiences a “clear paradigm shift” towards solar and wind.
That’s according to the European Commission (EC), which this week released a series of reports detailing the bloc’s progress towards its goal of becoming the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.
The EC notes that the projected share of renewables has increased due to the impact of COVID-19 on energy demand, but these may not be sustained once economic activity is fully recovered.
While many individual EU member states are expected to outperform their climate targets, five are said to be at risk of not meeting objectives: Belgium, France, Poland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Looking towards 2030, the EU’s renewable energy share is expected to be as high as 33.7%, with green energy use forecasted to accelerate in the latter half of the decade.
“It is very positive to witness the progress that Europe has made, and will continue making, in reaching its energy and climate goals,” said Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe. “Solar has seen the largest cost reductions of any renewable technology, major efficiency gains and innovations, such as floating solar and agri-PV.
Driven by capital costs reductions, advances in efficiency and competitive tendering for support schemes, solar and wind’s cumulative capacity in the EU reached 261GW as of 2018.
In the context of the COVID-19 recovery, the EC says Europe faces a “unique opportunity” for investments that can support economic growth while accelerating the green transition. “Relaunching our economies on any other path, which would result in lock-in into unsustainable practices, is simply not an option,” the report says.
PV manufacturing potential
Given the projected expansion of PV capacity across the EU and globally, Europe should have a “sizeable role” in the value chain and explore the growth of solar manufacturing, the EC said.
While EU companies are competitive mainly in the downstream part of the value chain – such balance of system – the bloc has “fallen back dramatically” in the manufacture of PV cells and modules, the report says, adding that the EU accounts for just 12.8% of the global production value of PV panels.
According to the EC, research institutes, a skilled labour force and emerging industry players provide a basis for re-establishing a strong European photovoltaic supply chain with a global outreach. A sizeable EU PV manufacturing industry “would also reduce the risk of supply disruptions and quality risks”, the report says.
Similar proposals were put forward earlier this week by consulting firm Capgemini Group, which is calling for the EU to ramp-up bifacial module production to help the continent reach zero.
Development in clean energy innovation is essential to accomplishing the EU’s goal-oriented objective of being carbon unbiased by 2050. To be eventually effective, the EU must adopt an all-encompassing strategy, representing social development and cooperation of all partners in the energy change. This incorporates drawing in purchasers, families and EU residents to empower changes in ways of life and practices, and starting exchanges with chiefs in legislative issues, the scholarly world and industry. This Results Pack exhibits nine EU-supported ventures that attention on the social and policy centred issues that should be routed to decarbonise the EU’s energy framework.
The European Green Deal, presented by the European Commission in December 2019, has the ambitious goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent. It lays out a new growth strategy to build a fair, resource-efficient and competitive economy where net emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced to zero by 2050.
The creation and utilization of energy represent more than 75 % of the EU’s ozone harming substance discharges. Decarbonising the EU’s energy framework is in this way a focal mainstay of the Green Deal. While the change to a spotless energy framework requires further scaling up of mechanical developments in energy, structures, transport, industry and farming areas, these new innovations and driven procedures should be grasped by residents to have the ideal effect.
Citizen focus in transition to zero-carbon economy
The European Green Deal puts individuals first, perceiving the requirement for dynamic public interest and trust in the change to make it a reality. It additionally represents the variety of nearby, provincial and public conditions and approaches that effect and shape the way to a zero-carbon economy. Notwithstanding, energy decisions are not generally discerning and are thusly hard to anticipate. More exploration is expected to comprehend the components that drive individual and aggregate energy decisions and energy-related shopper conduct, the political, social, institutional and authoritative administration structures that decide resident investment, and the changing jobs especially of buyers and ‘prosumers’ in the energy framework.
The nine EU-funded projects featured in this Results Pack focus on the interdisciplinary and cross-cutting issues that need to be investigated to decarbonise the EU’s energy system. This includes questions relating to socioeconomic, gender, sociocultural and socio-political aspects of the energy transition, as well as to educational needs of the future workforce.
Last Tuesday (13/10/2020) the International Energy Agency released its annual World Energy Outlook. Over the next decade, renewables are expected to overtake coal as the most common method of generating electricity.
What To Know
In the so-called “Stated Policies Scenario,” which assumes COVID-19 is gradually brought under control next year and announced energy policies are met, solar will lead the charge forward.
A few quick-hitter statistics:
Hydro-electric plants will continue to represent the largest source of renewable energy, but solar will account for 80% of the growth in global electricity generation.
By 2030, the combined share of solar + wind will rise to 30%, up from just 8% in 2019.
The Economics: While solar has its feel-good properties, the surge in popularity comes down to dollars and cents. For utility-scale projects built this year, the average cost of electricity over the lifetime of the plant (known as the levelized cost of electricity), was between $35 to $55 per megawatt-hour in the world’s largest markets. A decade ago it was $300.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said, “I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets…based on today’s policy settings, it’s on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022.”
Solar is throwing shade in coal’s direction. In most countries, solar panels are now a cheaper source of energy than coal or natural gas plants.
Over the last four years, 145 coal-burning units at 75 power plants have been idled in the U.S. According to Bloomberg, it’s the fastest decline in coal-fuel capacity during any four-year stretch.
The Takeaway: Overall, coal’s share of the global power supply is set to fall from 37% last year to 28% by 2030. By 2040, coal’s share will fall below 20% for the first time since the industrial revolution. The silver lining-more coal leftover for stockings.
About the Report
Amid deep disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, a surge in well-designed energy policies is needed to put the world on track for a resilient energy system that can meet climate goals
It has been a tumultuous year for the global energy system. The Covid-19 crisis has caused more disruption than any other event in recent history, leaving scars that will last for years to come. But whether this upheaval ultimately helps or hinders efforts to accelerate clean energy transitions and reach international energy and climate goals will depend on how governments respond to today’s challenges.
The World Energy Outlook 2020, the International Energy Agency’s flagship publication, focuses on the pivotal period of the next 10 years, exploring different pathways out of the crisis. The new report provides the latest IEA analysis of the pandemic’s impact: global energy demand is set to drop by 5% in 2020, energy-related CO2 emissions by 7%, and energy investment by 18%. The WEO’s established approach – comparing different scenarios that show how the energy sector could develop – is more valuable than ever in these uncertain times. The four pathways presented in this WEO are described in more detail at the end of this press release.
In the Stated Policies Scenario, which reflects today’s announced policy intentions and targets, global energy demand rebounds to its pre-crisis level in early 2023. However, this does not happen until 2025 in the event of a prolonged pandemic and deeper slump, as shown in the Delayed Recovery Scenario. Slower demand growth lowers the outlook for oil and gas prices compared with pre-crisis trends. But large falls in investment increase the risk of future market volatility.
Renewables take starring roles in all our scenarios, with solar centre stage. Supportive policies and maturing technologies are enabling very cheap access to capital in leading markets. Solar PV is now consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest cost electricity ever seen. In the Stated Policies Scenario, renewables meet 80% of global electricity demand growth over the next decade. Hydropower remains the largest renewable source, but solar is the main source of growth, followed by onshore and offshore wind.
“I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets. Based on today’s policy settings, it is on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “If governments and investors step up their clean energy efforts in line with our Sustainable Development Scenario, the growth of both solar and wind would be even more spectacular – and hugely encouraging for overcoming the world’s climate challenge.”
The WEO-2020 shows that strong growth of renewables needs to be paired with robust investment in electricity grids. Without enough investment, grids will prove to be a weak link in the transformation of the power sector, with implications for the reliability and security of electricity supply.
Fossil fuels face varying challenges. Coal demand does not return to pre-crisis levels in the Stated Policies Scenario, with its share in the 2040 energy mix falling below 20% for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. But demand for natural gas grows significantly, mainly in Asia, while oil remains vulnerable to the major economic uncertainties resulting from the pandemic.
“The era of global oil demand growth will come to an end in the next decade,” Dr Birol said. “But without a large shift in government policies, there is no sign of a rapid decline. Based on today’s policy settings, a global economic rebound would soon push oil demand back to pre-crisis levels.”
The worst effects of the crisis are felt among the most vulnerable. The pandemic has reversed several years of declines in the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa without access to electricity. And a rise in poverty levels may have made basic electricity services unaffordable for more than 100 million people worldwide who had electricity connections.
Global emissions are set to bounce back more slowly than after the financial crisis of 2008-2009, but the world is still a long way from a sustainable recovery. A step-change in clean energy investment offers a way to boost economic growth, create jobs and reduce emissions. This approach has not yet featured prominently in plans proposed to date, except in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Korea, New Zealand and a handful of other countries.
In the Sustainable Development Scenario, which shows how to put the world on track to achieving sustainable energy objectives in full, the complete implementation of the IEA Sustainable Recovery Plan moves the global energy economy onto a different post-crisis path. As well as rapid growth of solar, wind and energy efficiency technologies, the next 10 years would see a major scaling up of hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and new momentum behind nuclear power.
“Despite a record drop in global emissions this year, the world is far from doing enough to put them into decisive decline. The economic downturn has temporarily suppressed emissions, but low economic growth is not a low-emissions strategy – it is a strategy that would only serve to further impoverish the world’s most vulnerable populations,” said Dr Birol. “Only faster structural changes to the way we produce and consume energy can break the emissions trend for good. Governments have the capacity and the responsibility to take decisive actions to accelerate clean energy transitions and put the world on a path to reaching our climate goals, including net-zero emissions.”
A significant part of those efforts would have to focus on reducing emissions from existing energy infrastructure – such as coal plants, steel mills and cement factories. Otherwise, international climate goals will be pushed out of reach, regardless of actions in other areas. Detailed new analysis in the WEO-2020 shows that if today’s energy infrastructure continues to operate in the same way as it has done so far, it would already lock in a temperature rise of 1.65 °C.
Despite such major challenges, the vision of a net-zero emissions world is increasingly coming into focus. The ambitious pathway mapped out in the Sustainable Development Scenario relies on countries and companies hitting their announced net-zero emissions targets on time and in full, bringing the entire world to net zero by 2070.
Reaching that point two decades earlier, as in the new Net Zero Emissions by 2050 case, would demand a set of dramatic additional actions over the next 10 years. Bringing about a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 requires, for example, that low-emissions sources provide nearly 75% of global electricity generation in 2030, up from less than 40% in 2019 – and that more than 50% of passenger cars sold worldwide in 2030 are electric, up from 2.5% in 2019. Electrification, innovation, behaviour changes and massive efficiency gains would all play roles. No part of the energy economy could lag behind, as it is unlikely that another would be able to move fast enough to make up the difference.
The different pathways in the WEO-2020
The Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS), in which Covid-19 is gradually brought under control in 2021 and the global economy returns to pre-crisis levels the same year. This scenario reflects all of today’s announced policy intentions and targets, insofar as they are backed up by detailed measures for their realisation.
The Delayed Recovery Scenario (DRS) is designed with the same policy assumptions as in the STEPS, but a prolonged pandemic causes lasting damage to economic prospects. The global economy returns to its pre-crisis size only in 2023, and the pandemic ushers in a decade with the lowest rate of energy demand growth since the 1930s.
In the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), a surge in clean energy policies and investment puts the energy system on track to achieve sustainable energy objectives in full, including the Paris Agreement, energy access and air quality goals. The assumptions on public health and the economy are the same as in the STEPS.
The new Net Zero Emissions by 2050 case (NZE2050) extends the SDS analysis. A rising number of countries and companies are targeting net-zero emissions, typically by mid-century. All of these are achieved in the SDS, putting global emissions on track for net-zero by 2070. The NZE2050 includes the first detailed IEA modelling of what would be needed in the next ten years to put global CO2 emissions on track for net-zero by 2050.
The World Energy Outlook
The World Energy Outlook, the IEA’s flagship publication, provides a comprehensive view of how the global energy system could develop in the coming decades. This year’s exceptional circumstances require an exceptional approach. The usual long-term modeling horizons are kept but the focus for the World Energy Outlook 2020 is firmly on the next 10 years, exploring in detail the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the energy sector, and the near-term actions that could accelerate clean energy transitions.
While some environmentalists advocate the total replacement of fossil fuels by solar, wind and battery power, Dr Lars Schernikau explains why this is impossible.
Today we hear and read about the climate crisis every day, driven by well-funded campaigns. But we hear little of the perils of switching from conventional energy to wind, solar and battery-powered vehicles. It appears that every second person has become an atmospheric physicist understanding that carbon dioxide is the main driver of global warming and switching to renewables will save us from devastating hurricanes and floods reaching the ceilings of our dream seaside properties. Every other person appears to be an energy specialist being certain that wind, solar and battery-powered vehicles will be a happy, safe and environmentally friendly way to power our everyday electricity and transportation needs. However, little could be farther from the truth.
The author is all for sensible use of renewable energy and for reducing everyday energy waste. Society needs to invest in additional filtering systems, cleaner transportation and mining operations that minimise the negative impact on the planet. Moreover, many trees should be planted. However, are current climate actions good for the environment? Are today’s wind and solar technologies the solution to our energy problems? This article aims to take the reader on a journey away from current standard thinking.
Current and future energy needs
Today, close to 8bn people live on Earth and they feed 80 percent of their hunger for energy with hydrocarbons or fossil fuels (see Figure 1). Wind and solar make up an estimated two percent of 2018 primary energy, the remainder largely comes from nuclear, hydropower and some biomass. This is in sharp contrast with the 2bn people that inhabited the Earth only 100 years ago and had just learned how to spell “oil and gas”. Of today’s world population, there are at least 3bn with no or only erratic access to power. In the next 50 years, a further +3bn people could be added, and as a result, the pure number of people plus the additional air conditioning equipment, new electronic gadgets, cars, airplanes and space travel, will increase the demand for energy dramatically.
Extrapolating the trends shown in Figure 1 to the future, it becomes questionable that non-hydro renewable sources such as wind and solar will provide the energy required in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
The media says the share of solar and wind will grow exponentially but does not mention the growth of electronic waste shipped to Africa that comes with it. And it certainly does not mention that solar and wind technology can literally never be the main source for the world’s power generation due to their low energy density and the issues described below.
ERoEI, energy density and intermittency: en-masse deployment of wind and solar is detrimental
The now-famous documentary “Planet of the Humans” from Michael Moore, which has 9m views on YouTube, illustrates this problem very well.
Solar and wind power are not new energy sources – we had to “wean off” low-efficiency wind- and solar-based power to fuel humanity’s technological revolution. While there is nothing extraordinary or revolutionary about these power sources, their efficiency has greatly improved over recent decades. Moreover, these sources are getting close to their physical limits. The Schockley-Queisser Law states that a maximum of 33 percent of incoming photons can be converted into electrons in silicon photovoltaic (PV) with modern PV reaching 26 percent. In wind power, the Betz Law states that a blade can capture up to 60 percent of kinetic energy in air. Modern wind turbines reached 45 percent.
The era of 10-fold gains is over. There is no Moore’s Law in energy and therefore, what is seen in the domain of computers, cannot be expected from energy. Costs will not continue dropping and it is time that a whole-system view is taken when looking at solar and wind or any form of power generation.
The three key problems of wind and solar generation are:
their variability, or intermittency
extraordinarily low energy return on energy invested (ERoEI)
low energy density (see also Figure 2).
Virtually every solar panel and every windmill require a back-up for times when the wind does not blow, or the sun does not shine. The German press proudly presented that at around 13.00h on 4 July 2020, 97 percent of Germany’s power demand was sourced from renewables for one hour (see Figure 3). However, it was not reported that:
During the same hour, 22 percent (~15GW) of power demand was waste energy that had to be exported or dumped across German borders, likely at negative prices.
At around 21.00h on 18 July 2020, ~16 percent of Germany’s power demand was sourced from renewables for one hour (nil percent from wind and solar, all from reliable biomass and hydro).
During that hour on 18 July 2020, about nine percent (~4GW) needed to be imported from surrounding countries at high prices because Germany did not produce enough power (see Figure 3).
There is no area practically large enough to ensure that there is always wind or sun. It happens every few years, probably at least once a decade, when a continent such as North America experiences a full day or two of no sun or wind anywhere.
The logical requirement for back-up capacity for all variable renewable energy (VRE) and all consequences that come with it need to be considered when costs are compared to a fossil or nuclear power. However, virtually all cost comparisons published use the so-called levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) measure that only considers investment, operations and fuel costs. Fuel costs for wind and solar are of course virtually zero. However, LCOE fails to consider the other cost categories.
The true cost of solar and wind has to include:
Back-up costs (profile costs): cost originating from “temporal” deviation between generation and demand. Includes cost of batteries, decline in conventional power utilisation, increased ramping and cycling.
Interconnection costs: costs originating from “spatial” deviation between generation of variable renewable energy (VRE) and power demand, includes grid/ interconnections management costs, and balancing costs.
Material and energy costs: costs for energy and materials to build solar and wind capacity (the ERoEI is far too low for wind and solar).
Efficiency losses: costs associated with efficiency losses from underutilisation of conventional backup power.
Spatial costs: costs related to the space required for VRE (energy density is far too low), cropland, forests, affected bird and animal life, changing wind and local climate, noise pollution, etc.
Recycling costs: higher recycling costs of VRE and back-up capacity after its useful life.
Contrary to popular belief and press, costs for conventional energy as backup and the resulting efficiency losses of conventional energy explain, amongst others, why the total cost of variable renewable energy always increases with more installed capacity beyond a certain point. This point varies by country and region, but one thing is sure: Germany is far beyond this point, which explains the country’s high power prices (see Figure 4).
Figure 5 illustrates the misleading LCOE measure used in the popular press and by most governments and compares it to the still incomplete but better value-adjusted LCOE (VALCOE) from the IEA, which was first published in 2019. In January 2020 the prestigious Institute of Energy Economics Japan (IEEJ) published its 280-page ‘IEEJ Energy Outlook 2020’ and raised concerns about renewables’ rising unaccounted-for integration costs, concluding that LCOE is not capable of capturing the true cost of wind and solar.
Germany has become aware that it needs conventional power despite its large wind and solar capacity installed. However, Germany decided to exit coal power in addition to exiting nuclear power. Despite Germany’s Environment Minister, Svenja Schultze, proudly claiming in July 2020 “We will solely rely on wind and solar for our country’s power generation”, Germany, very quietly, is building new gas-fired power plants as back-up. Gas is a legitimate fuel with many positive properties, but Germany does not have any itself. Despite gas’ “clean” transportation and combustion, we know that gas is typically more expensive than coal, more difficult and expensive to transport than coal since it requires pipelines or LNG, and generally more difficult and sometimes dangerous to store. So, why is Germany shutting down its existing coal mines, coal-fired power and nuclear plants and is now building new, gas-fired ones? The response usually is greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions because gas emits about half the CO2/kWh during combustion than coal, so the switch is supposed to save the climate.
If we adhere to the popular, but in the author’s view, misinterpreted global warming theory, what appears to be a lesser-known fact is that gas supply results in methane leakages during production, processing and transportation (methane is an 84 times more potent GHG gas than CO2 over 20 years, and 28 times more potent over 100 years). This has been documented in several studies, including Poyry’s 2016 German study on ‘Comparison of greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired and gas-fired power plants. It was also picked up by Bloomberg in a January 2020 article discussing methane leakages associated with LNG. Methane emissions vary widely, but there are many instances – as also documented by a Total Gas sponsored study from 2016 – when GHG emissions are higher for gas than for coal. The study states that “with 95 percent confidence, US shale gas may emit more GHGs than Colombian hard coal.”
Gas emits about half of CO2 compared to coal during combustion.
Gas emits more CO2eq (mostly in form of methane) during production, processing and transportation. This includes, but is not limited to, leakages and energy requirements for LNG processing and transportation.
Total gas CO2eq emissions are on par with or higher than coal, depending on the turbine type, location and the source and type of gas.
Gas is a good and necessary fuel in the power mix, but if global warming theory is to be believed in, one must be consistent and not spend taxpayers’ money switching from coal and nuclear to gas when even by one’s own admission it will have no positive impact on ‘the climate’. Methane emissions are neither measured nor taxed. Is this fair for coal or for the environment or the everyday citizen that pays the taxes?
Battery technology is not capable of grid storage for power
If gas is not the solution, then what is? What about those great batteries? It is true that an affordable and sustainable storage system would be the solution to the wind and solar’s intermittency issue (but not to the issues of energy density or ERoEI). Over the years, batteries have become far more efficient and the recent move towards electrical vehicles has driven large investments in battery “Giga factories” around the world.
The largest known and discussed factory for batteries is Tesla’s US$5bn Gigafactory in Nevada, which is expected to provide an annual battery production output of 50GWh in 2020. By 2021 CATL in China is expected to double that. Berlin’s Gigafactory 4 will start producing electric vehicles in 2021-22. These factories will provide the batteries for our future cars and also provide backup batteries for houses, but what about their environmental and economic impact? Figures 6 and 7 summarise the environmental challenges of today’s battery technology. The three main issues with any known battery technology are:
Hydrocarbons such as oil, gas and coal are one of nature’s most efficient ways to store energy. Today’s most advanced battery technology can only store 2.5 percent of the energy that coal can store. The energy that a 540kg, 85kWh Tesla battery can store equals 30kg of coal energy after combustion. A Tesla battery must then still be charged with power (often through the grid) while coal is already ‘charged’, albeit only once.
In addition, you can calculate that one annual gigafactory production of 50GWh of Tesla batteries would be enough to provide back-up for 6min for the entire US power consumption (and then no Teslas to drive). Today’s battery technology cannot be the solution to intermittency.
Material and energy requirements
Next comes the question of the energy inputs and materials required to produce a battery. The required materials include lithium, copper, cobalt, nickel, graphite, rare earths & bauxite, coal and iron ore (for aluminum and steel).
Additionally, the energy of 10-18MWh is required to build one Tesla battery, resulting in 15-20t of CO2 emissions assuming 50 percent renewable power. Assuming conservatively that 1-2 per cent of mined ores end up in the battery in the form of metals, one Tesla battery requires 25-50t of raw materials to be mined, transported and processed (see Figure 7).2
This is slowly hitting the main-stream media. The first larger batches of retired and unusable wind farms and solar panels are hitting landfills and insufficient recycling plant capacities. There is not yet an affordable, large-scale way to recycle wind blades. The electronic waste we create is already a devastating problem for landfills outside Accra (Ghana) and Nairobi/Mombasa (Kenya).
A New Energy Revolution
“What do we do now? Are we all doomed?” A young engineer asked the author this question after one of the latter’s presentations when he realised that currently there is simply no viable alternative to conventional energy from coal, oil, gas and nuclear. It is concerning that young people are taught in school to fear the slight warming of about 1˚C during the past 150 years. At least half of the past warming is natural, caused by the sun as we are coming out of the Little Ice Age that ended roughly 300 years ago. The other half, or less, may be ‘human-caused’, which includes the heat all consumed energy produces that is released into the biosphere plus the greenhouse-gas CO2. The additional greening – and therefore biomass – created by this additional CO2 is rarely spoken of. That the warming effect of CO2 declines logarithmically with higher CO2 levels is not published by mainstream media either. A catastrophe is not looming, but real pollutants to the environment and the waste created by humans are a concern – and this is where resources should be focussed.
On global warming and the upcoming catastrophe, the IPCC confirms as follows:
IPCC 2020 Climate Change and Land, p9, A2.3: “Satellite observations have shown vegetation greening over the last three decades …. Causes of greening include combinations of an extended growing season, nitrogen deposition, carbon dioxide (CO2) fertilisation …”
IPCC 2013 Climate Change, Chapter 2, p235: “There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century.” ȗ IPCC 2018 Third Assessment Report 14, p771: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”
On the tuning of climate models – that are the sole basis for today’s energy policy – the Max Planck Institute, Germany, writes in April 2020: “When we were faced with a model system that was bound to fail at reproducing the instrumental record warming, we chose an explicit approach where the past temperature trend is a tuning target.” Moreover, Bjørn Lomborg, who runs the Copenhagen Consensus Center thinktank, explains in his recent book ‘False Alarm’ many interesting scientific facts. He states “Climate change is real, but it’s not the apocalyptic threat that we’ve been told it is.”
Either way, even if people believe that catastrophic predictions for global warming are the correct way to approach environmentalism, this article highlights that wind and solar – while certainly being appropriate for applications such as heating a pool, and thus earning a place in the energy mix – cannot and will not replace conventional power.
As Michael Shellenberger, Time Magazine Hero of the Environment 2008, said in an article published in Forbes in May 2019: “The reason renewables cannot power modern civilisation is because they were never meant to. One interesting question is why anybody ever thought they could”. His recent book ‘Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All’ details his rationale.
What is needed in the next one or two centuries is a ‘New Energy Revolution’. Future energy may be completely new, possibly more renewable, and fusion- or fission-based, but will have little to do with wind and photovoltaic. To reach this New Energy Revolution, more must be invested in education and base research (power generation, storage, supra-conductors, etc) while simultaneously investing in conventional power to make it more efficient and environmentally friendly. There will be the need to invest in fossils to clean them up, not divest from them. This is the most sensible path to save the planet from the negative impact that human existence has on it. However, please consider, humankind has never been better off than today. Shouldn’t we celebrate this fact?
Previously published in the October 2020, issue of International Cement Review
by Dr. Lars Schernikau, HMS Bergbau Group, Germany & Singapore
About the Author
Dr. Lars Schernikau, born and raised in Berlin, Germany studied at New York University and INSEAD in France before earning his PhD in Energy Economics from Technical University in Berlin. Lars has extensive knowledge and experience in the raw material and energy sector. Lars has founded, worked for, and advised a number of companies and organizations in the energy, raw material, and coal sectors in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. Before joining the world of energy and raw materials over 15 years ago he worked at Boston Consulting Group in the US and Germany. He published two industry trade books on the Economics of the International Coal Trade (Springer, available on Amazon) in 2010 and 2017. He is a member of various economics, energy and environmental associations including the non-profit CO2 Coalition in the US. He is a regular speaker at international energy and coal conferences and advised governments and leading energy organizations on energy policy.
 Prepared by Lars Schernikau: primary electricity converted by a direct equivalent method. Source: data compiled by J David Hughes. Pre-1965 data from GRUBLER, A (1998) Technology, and Global Change: Data Appendix. Post-1965 data from BP, Statistical Review of World Energy (annual publication).
 MILLS, M (2019): The “New Energy Economy”: An Exercise in Magical Thinking. New York, USA: Manhattan Institute, 26 March. www. manhattan-institute.org/green-energy-revolution-near-impossible
 Global Wind Atlas: www.globalwindatlas.info [Accessed 24 April 2020]
 Schernikau analysis based on Agora Energiewende – https://www.agora-energiewende.de/ [Accessed 20 July 2020]
 STATISTA (2019): Global electricity prices in 2018, by select country – www.statista.com/ statistics/263492/electricity-prices-in-selected-countries/
 WANNER, B (2019): Is exponential growth of solar PV the obvious conclusion? – www.iea.org/ commentaries/is-exponential-growth-of-solar-pv-the-obvious-conclusion
 IEA (2020): Clean energy progress after the Covid-19 crisis will need reliable supplies of critical minerals – www.iea.org/articles/clean-energy-progress-after-the-covid-19-crisis-willneed-reliable-supplies-of-critical-minerals
 MARTIN, C (2020): Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills – www. bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-02-05/ wind-turbine-blades-can-t-be-recycled-so-they-re-piling-up-in-landfills
 PETERSON, J (2020): What Greta Thunberg does not understand about climate change – https:// youtu.be/y564PsKvNZs”.
Governments have a choice: stimulate fossil fuel industries or invest in a more resilient recovery, powered by renewable energy. This is a once in a generation chance, write Achim Steiner and Francesco La Camera.
Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme; Francesco La Camera is Director General of the International Renewable Energy Agency
April was a difficult month for oil. Faced with an abrupt drop in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, some producers – quite literally – have nowhere left to put it. Reports have emerged of a flotilla of supertankers idling at sea, with at least 160 million barrels of crude in their vast holds. The drop in the price of oil was so precipitous that for a moment — for the first time in history — a loaf of bread was more expensive than a barrel of the ‘black gold’.
With more than half of humanity on lockdown during this pandemic, a decline in energy demand was inevitable. Air traffic was down 60% and road traffic by nearly 50% by the end of the first quarter of 2020. Global demand for coal is projected to fall by 8% in 2020. At some point soon, however, societies and economies will get back to work. The danger is that they will get ‘back to normal’. ‘Normal’ was a world steeped in the climate crisis, riddled with inequalities, with entire economies pegged to volatile oil prices, and seven million people dying each year from polluted air.
As governments determine how to invest tax-payers’ money in their social and economic recovery from this pandemic, they have a choice to make: stimulate fossil fuel industries — a short-term band-aid that will reinforce the collision course with nature — or invest in the future: in a more resilient recovery, powered by renewable energy. Energy contributes 73% of global emissions. This is a once in a generation chance to set things straight. And there are blueprints to draw from.
Consider the Middle East and North Africa, which saw a ten-fold increase in solar and wind power capacities in the past decade, and a doubling of capacities in the past two years alone. This was by design, not by accident, aided by political decisions and market-based mechanisms that lowered solar costs, reformed subsidies, and created dedicated government institutions and renewable energy development zones, creating the potential for more jobs and more stable economic growth in the region.
Decarbonization is not a painless prospect; oil exporting countries in Africa, for example, depend on hydrocarbon proceeds to balance their books. Angola and Nigeria, who derive 90 percent of export earnings and more than two-thirds of government revenue from oil sales, could lose up to US $65 billion in oil-related incomes as a result of falling oil prices exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Oil-importing countries, particularly Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, may experience a short-term benefit from lower oil prices, but a COVID-19-induced recession will damage their social and economic prospects and threatens to push millions of people back into poverty.
This illustrates why an extended debt standstill for all vulnerable countries, as called for by the United Nations, is so important. Countries need to flatten their debt curve to create fiscal space for the COVID-19 response. Recovery measures must simultaneously respond to the pandemic and focus on building back better. Therefore, even as this pandemic is unfolding, here are five energy choices decision-makers should consider:
Invest in renewable energy as the economical choice: Taking health and education benefits into account, the savings accrued by decarbonizing the global economy by 2050 would be eight times the cost, according to new research from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the socio-economic gains would be massive. Cumulative global GDP would grow by USD 98 trillion above business-as-usual between now and 2050 and renewable energy jobs would quadruple to 42 million. Transitioning to renewables does not mean turning off the fossil-fuel tap overnight. But for a continent such as Africa, where necessary electricity-generating infrastructure is yet to be built, the cost per kWh of renewable energy could be the most effective option – not a burden, therefore, but a net benefit. Policymakers should keep this positive energy horizon firmly in sight in designing stimulus packages.
Use climate agreements as part of the agenda for recovery: As part of the Paris international climate change agreement, nearly every country in the world developed a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – a plan to reduce emissions and increase resilience to climate impacts. Right now, as we help countries to prepare, respond and recover in the face of COVID-19, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), IRENA and other partners are simultaneously working with 110 countries through our Climate Promise to deliver on these plans. NDCs offer a ready-made, publicly backed framework of solutions to help countries find a path through this pandemic – with international partners and financing already committed to support.
Design bailouts that work for the environment: Investing to expand the fossil fuel supply infrastructure is short-termism. Some countries are already using COVID-bailouts to design a greener future. The Austrian government, for example, made state aid for Austrian Airlines conditional on support to climate policy targets. All stimulus and recovery packages have the same potential to address the current economic downturn and climate crisis simultaneously.
To read the full article please follow the link below to the EurActiv website
Competitive power generation costs make investment in renewables highly attractive as countries target economic recovery from COVID-19, new IRENA report finds.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2 June 2020 — Renewable power is increasingly cheaper than any new electricity capacity based on fossil fuels, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published today finds. Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019 shows that more than half of the renewable capacity added in 2019 achieved lower power costs than the cheapest new coal plants.
The report highlights that new renewable power generation projects now increasingly undercut existing coal-fired plants. On average, new solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind power cost less than keeping many existing coal plants in operation, and auction results show this trend accelerating – reinforcing the case to phase-out coal entirely. Next year, up to 1 200 gigawatts (GW) of existing coal capacity could cost more to operate than the cost of new utility-scale solar PV, the report shows.
Replacing the costliest 500 GW of coal with solar PV and onshore wind next year would cut power system costs by up to USD 23 billion every year and reduce annual emissions by around 1.8 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to 5% of total global CO2 emissions in 2019. It would also yield an investment stimulus of USD 940 billion, which is equal to around 1% of global GDP.
“We have reached an important turning point in the energy transition. The case for new and much of the existing coal power generation, is both environmentally and economically unjustifiable,” said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA. “Renewable energy is increasingly the cheapest source of new electricity, offering tremendous potential to stimulate the global economy and get people back to work. Renewable investments are stable, cost-effective and attractive offering consistent and predictable returns while delivering benefits to the wider economy.
“A global recovery strategy must be a green strategy,” La Camera added. “Renewables offer a way to align short-term policy action with medium- and long-term energy and climate goals. Renewables must be the backbone of national efforts to restart economies in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. With the right policies in place, falling renewable power costs, can shift markets and contribute greatly towards a green recovery.”
Renewable electricity costs have fallen sharply over the past decade, driven by improving technologies, economies of scale, increasingly competitive supply chains and growing developer experience. Since 2010, utility-scale solar PV power has shown the sharpest cost decline at 82%, followed by concentrating solar power (CSP) at 47%, onshore wind at 39% and offshore wind at 29%.
Costs for solar and wind power technologies also continued to fall year-on-year. Electricity costs from utility-scale solar PV fell 13% in 2019, reaching a global average of 6.8 cents (USD 0.068) per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Onshore and offshore wind both declined about 9%, reaching USD 0.053/kWh and USD 0.115/kWh, respectively.
To read the full article please follow the link to the original source, IRENA Website.
Offshore wind farms will generate enough electricity to power every home in the UK within a decade, Boris Johnson will pledge later.
Speaking at Conservative party conference, the PM will announce £160m to upgrade ports and factories for building turbines to help the country “build back greener”.
The plan aims to create 2,000 jobs in construction and support 60,000 more.
He will say the UK is to become “the world leader in clean wind energy”.
“Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle – the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands,” he will say.
The scheme will see the money invested into manufacturing in Teesside and Humber in northern England, as well as sites in Scotland and Wales.
Mr Johnson said the government was raising its target for offshore wind power capacity by 2030 from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts.
The commitments are the first stage of a 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution” from the government, with No 10 promising the rest of the details later this year to “accelerate our progress towards net zero emissions by 2050”.
The net zero target means greenhouse gas emissions would be dramatically slashed and any remaining emissions offset, neutralising environmental impacts and slowing climate change.
Mr Johnson’s speech comes amid a “fractious” mood on the Conservative backbenches about his handling of the Covid-19 crisis, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says.
She said the occasion could provide the prime minister with an opportunity to sell his vision of the country post-pandemic to party members.
But she added this year’s speech – to be delivered virtually without a live audience – would not allow him to plug into the energy of a crowd as he normally would.
To read the full article follow the link posted below to the BBC Website.
“Green hydrogen” made with wind and solar electricity could become the cheapest form of what the Australian government has described as a “transformative fuel” much faster than expected, analysts believe.
Chinese manufacturers have reported making systems to create hydrogen with renewable energy for up to 80% less than official Australian estimates from just two years ago.
Energy analysts said it suggested green hydrogen was likely to leapfrog hydrogen made with gas and coal as the most cost-effective form of the energy before the end of the decade, and by the time an industry could be developed at scale.
The government has nominated “clean hydrogen” as a priority low-emissions technology that could eventually help replace fossil fuels in transport, electricity and in industrial processes as the world moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But it has not defined what “clean hydrogen” would mean in terms of emissions.
What are the key technologies in the Coalition’s low emissions roadmap, and can they deliver?
Its recent low-emissions technology statement forecast the cheapest way to produce it in the short-term might be to use gas or “coal gasification” with carbon capture and storage (CCS). It said production methods using renewable energy would become cheaper as demand grew.
But an analysis by BloombergNEF has found electrolysers used in China could already be as little as a fifth of the cost estimated in a CSIRO roadmap released in 2018, which has been used as the basis for government estimates. The consultancy suggested green hydrogen could cost less than $2 a kilogram – the “stretch goal” nominated by Angus Taylor, the energy and emissions reduction minister, at which the fuel would become competitive with existing technologies – before 2030.
“We think electrolysers can get much cheaper much sooner than most expect,” said Kobad Bhavnagri, BloombergNEF’s Sydney-based global head of industrial decarbonisation.
“The way we see it is there is very little demand for hydrogen from fossil fuels with CCS. It doesn’t fit the scale-up model for an emerging industry.”
The International Renewable Energy Agency last year also acknowledged in a report last year that Chinese manufacturers had claimed electrolysers were already available for a cost that had been considered a best-case scenario for 2040.
The government estimates hydrogen could create more than 8,000 jobs and generate about $11bn a year in GDP by 2050. Major economic powers including Germany and Japan are eyeing Australia as a potential source of hydrogen as the world moves away from fossil fuels, in line with the goals of the Paris agreement.
Germany has dedicated more than A$15bn of Covid-19 stimulus spending to developing a domestic hydrogen industry, and has agreed with Australia to undertake a joint feasibility study into its potential as an energy source. The European Commission recently launched a strategy that positions green hydrogen as central to the continent’s goal to reach “climate neutrality” – net zero emissions – by 2050.
In Australia, the most ambitious proposal to date is for what is known as the Asian Renewable Energy Hub. Planned for the Pilbara, its scale is extraordinary: 1,600 large wind turbines and a 78 sq km array of solar panels working to power 14 gigawatts of hydrogen electrolysers.
Speaking at an online summit hosted by the Smart Energy Council this week, the hub’s executive director, Alex Hewitt, said the scale of the proposed development – which he described as the world’s largest power plant – meant it could create green hydrogen for less than the government’s benchmark of $2 a kilogram. “That’s the beauty of very intense, massive, properly correlated renewable energy,” he said.
The hub plans to largely use the hydrogen to create “green ammonia”, effectively replacing gas in the ammonia production process. Hewitt said ammonia was “a great way to ship hydrogen” as transporting it as a liquid was likely to be both logistically challenging and much more expensive.
The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, has written to the CSIRO asking it to update its 2018 analysis on the basis that recent contract prices for green hydrogen are already about 50% less than the best-case scenario the science agency had projected for 2025.
Bandt said CSIRO was not at fault – the green hydrogen industry has developed rapidly – but he was concerned the government would neglect the zero emissions option in its plan in favour of fossil fuels and miss economic opportunities if forecasts were not updated.
“With green hydrogen, Australia can export our sunlight,” Bandt said. “There is no point having a technology roadmap if the figures are all wrong. Up-to-date estimates are critical to making policies that benefit users and support the job-creating industries of the future.”
A spokesperson for Taylor responded: “Why would the government listen to Adam Bandt over CSIRO and the chief scientist?”
Green hydrogen is created by using an electrolyser to run an electrical current through water, separating it into hydrogen and oxygen. Gas is used to make hydrogen through a different process involving high-pressure steam and a catalyst such as nickel, known as steam-methane reforming. One of its by-products is carbon dioxide, which is either released into the atmosphere or – under the government’s proposal – captured and pumped underground.
The hope is that hydrogen will prove an emissions-free alternative to coal and gas in industries that operate at incredibly high temperatures. While estimates about the scale of a future industry vary significantly, experts believe it is likely to be more cost effective if used to help create local green industries, such as emissions-free steel, rather than converted into liquid form, as gas is, before it is exported.
Bloomberg NEF projected that green hydrogen would cost US$1.33 a kilogram by 2030, falling to about $0.76 a kilogram by 2050.
By comparison, it suggested hydrogen created using gas with CCS was likely to cost about $1.92 a kilogram at both dates assuming gas prices stayed cheaper than it had been in recent years, and using coal with CCS would cost US$2.51 a kilogram.
Alan Finkel, the chief scientist and head of the council advising the government on its technology roadmap, has recommended a “certificate of origin” be attached to every kilogram sold that listed how much CO2 had been emitted in its creation.
In an interview with the ABC, he said no country would buy hydrogen that was not “clean”, as the industry was being developed specifically as a replacement for fossil fuels, and some countries had indicated that included creating it using fossil fuels and CCS.
But, he said: “I think realistically the scale of hydrogen made from solar and wind is going to precede any other source.”
This article was taken from The Guardian. Please follow the link posted below to the original source
According to Ulstein, the jack-up can operate 75 per cent of the time in zero-emission mode. Using readily available technology, the additional cost is limited to less than five per cent of the total CAPEX, the company said.
Most new jack-up designs are featuring a battery hybrid system in addition to diesel gen sets, with a future option for a hydrogen-powered fuel cell system.
A high-power battery energy storage system (BESS), however, comes with downsides such as heavy weight and high cost. That is not beneficial for a WTIV design, where weight savings are essential for minimizing elevated weight and optimising the variable deck load, Ulstein said.
”We have carefully analysed the operational cycle of WTIVs and looked at the power demand in the various modes of operations,” said Ko Stroo, Product Manager at Ulstein.
”This analysis showed that ca. 75% of its time, a WTIV is in jacked-up position performing crane operations. Using a combination of a hydrogen fuel cell system and a relatively small battery energy storage system (BESS) is then sufficient to meet the overall power demand on board and crane peak loads.”
This is Ulstein’s second hydrogen hybrid vessel design following the SX190 construction support ship.
”The same design philosophy as on our first hydrogen powered SX190 design, resulted in a much more attractive business case when applied to a turbine installation vessel,” said Edwin van Leeuwen, managing director of Ulstein’s Rotterdam design office.
The hydrogen hybrid system of the ULSTEIN J102 design has been developed in such a way, that future developments in hydrogen technology can easily be fitted into the vessel without major modifications, Ulstein said.
”The limited availability of hydrogen bunker infrastructure in ports is often seen as a major hurdle. With our modular storage lay-out, we want to break the chicken and egg dilemma,” said Stroo.
”It creates flexibility to operate the vessel worldwide, even when bunker infrastructure is not yet present.”
This article was written by Adnan Duraković and it was taken from the OffShoreWind website. Click on the link below to the original article