Renew On Line (UK) 52

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 152 Nov-Dec 2004

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. £50m for wave and tidal

2. Renewables over 5%

3. North Sea -CO2 sink?

4. Biofuels push

5. Solar Worries

6. Deep sea wind

7. The Wind debate : New anti-wind lobby

8. Policy Developments  New Planning Guide

9. Regional Developments: NW, NE, Scotland

10. World Developments : US, China, EU

11. Nuclear News: Nuclear  Economics

10. World Developments

California makes PV mandatory 

California now requires new housing developments to install solar PV panels. Senate Bill 1652 (the ‘Solar Homes’ bill)  recently passed, requires builders of new developments with more than 25 homes to install solar photovoltaic systems on a minimum percentage of new homes, starting in 2006. The bill originally called for at least 25% of homes to include panels, but in committee stage this percentage was removed in favour of a minimum standard. It does not cover self- or custom-built homes, apartments or condominia.

The legislation was supported by environmental and public interest groups, but was opposed by the California Building Industry Association, which expressed concern with the cost of solar systems. It’s much cheaper, by about one third, to build PV into the new houses than to retrofit it to existing buildings- the California Energy Commission estimated that a 2 kW solar array installed on a new home in 2006 would cost US$11,000 and be cost-effective under net metering. Further cost savings would be achieved as California’s market grows and as large builders purchase and install solar systems in bulk. In addition, the California Energy Commission expects the price of PV to decline by 5% each year.  California builds 135,000 single-family homes each year, and a 25% minimum level would result in 65 MW of PV capacity- three times the current PV market in the state. Residential homes consume 87% of California's electricity and  CEC estimates that 500-1,000MW of new capacity will be needed each year.

* Massachusetts has developed a comprehensive Climate Protection Plan, committing the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2012 through energy efficiency and renewables. And the U.S. Dept of Agriculture is to provide US$23m to develop renewable energy systems in rural areas.

 Wind rush in China ?

China could account for 14% of the world’s wind output by 2020, according to the Chinese version of ‘Wind Force 12'  produced by Greenpeace, the European Wind Energy Association and the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA). It predicts that China’s wind energy reserve would surpass the total amount of current power generation in the country.  It suggests that 170,000 MW of wind capacity could be installed to generate 417 TWh a year- reducing annual CO2 emissions by 325 megatonnes.  It would need a total cumulative investment of Euro 105 bn but would create 382,000 jobs. Greenpeace commented China is on the verge of a major breakthrough. If it acts now, it could be the major player in the global energy revolution.”

With the recent production of a progressive Renewable Energy Promotion Law, China is expected to significantly address its growing environmental and energy security concerns. The President of CREIA noted, “For 100 years since the industrial revolution, we have always looked down for our energy resources which has made our environment sick. Now is the time to look upwards to the sun and the wind”.

12% from wind by 2020

The global version of the EWEA’s “Wind Force 12” says wind generation cost Euro 823/kW in 2002, and will decrease to Euro 504 by 2020, and it claims that by 2020 wind could deliver 12% of the world’s electricity, develop into a EUR75 billion p.a. business and create around 2 million jobs.

EU to miss  Targets ?

The European Union may have to reduce its long term targets for power generated from renewables due to the  likely failure to achieve its medium term targets for 2010 of 12% of total energy generation as originally set in the Renewables Directive. It is expected that actual generation from renewables will only be 10% by 2010, and instead of the EU25 2010 electricity target of 21%, only  around 18-19% will be produced.  The EU has also raised concerns about a potential loophole in the EU’s emerging emissions trading system which may allow the10 new countries that joined the EU in May to use the ‘free reserves’ in the carbon emission caps set for new entrants, to meet their commitments without having to cut emissions. To provide a breathing space, the European Commission has indicated that it wants to delay setting a target for 2020 until 2007, although there will be discussions meantime on the Euro Parliaments proposed 20% by 2020 energy target.  

Lower Dutch take-up ?

So far 2.8 million consumers have signed up to green power tariff schemes in the Netherlands-  about 40% of households. But this was partly because they could offset the extra costs by claiming a reduction in their energy tax- and in some cases pay less than normal.  Now that incentive is being phased out- to zero next year. A study in 2002 indicated that 46% of Dutch consumers would be willing to pay up to 15% more. Even so, say, with the full cost now being faced, take-up could fall.

PV boom 

But it is not all bad news in the EU. Installed solar PV capacity in Germany last year was 397.6 MW, up from 277.6 MW in 2002. The Dutch were in second place at 48.6 MW, up from 26.3 MW in2002.  Spain was third with 27.3 MW, Italy 26, France 21.7, Austria 16.8, Great Britain 5.5, Sweden 3.6, Luxembourg 3.5, Finland 3.4, Greece 3.3, Portugal 2.1, Denmark 1.9 and Belgium with 1.1 MW. The total EU capacity of 562.3 MW compared with 392 MW in 2002.

 ‘Plenty more oil’

With oil prices having risen above $50 per barrel, the long predicted oil crisis may be upon us, but some beg to differ.  For example, Russian experts say that Oil and gas are not the result of ‘near surface’ geological history linked to decaying biological materials as is usually thought, but are primordial materials, a planetary inheritance, which ‘erupt from great depths’.  This has evidently been a common view in Russia for some time- it’s claimed that oil has been extracted from sites where geologists  thought there was none. If it comes from much deeper down, then the resource may be much larger than is usually thought. Someone should tell Shell!    For more see

Growth despite cuts

Although it is gloomy about the overall energy prognosis and the growth of fossil fuel use (see later), in its new report ‘Renewable Energy- Market & Policy Trends in IEA Countries,’ the International Energy Agency notes that the overall share of renewables in total primary energy supply in IEA countries increased from 4.6% in 1970 to 5.5% in 2001. Solar and wind generation grew by 18% a year from 1970 to 2001, and the last decade has seen a 20% annual increase. This was despite the fact that, as the IEA also noted,  renewables received only 7.7% of total government energy RD&D funding from 1987 to 2002, with solar PV receiving 2.7%, wind 1.1% and bioenergy 1.6%. The IEA commented “As a percentage of total RD&D funding, renewables have received less since 1987 than in the earlier period of 1970 to 1986. The declining share of public funding for energy RD&D allocated to renewable energy appears to be inconsistent with the political intentions of many IEA countries to increase the share of renewables.”

The International Federation of Industrial Energy Consumers (IFIEC) however saw the issue of subsidies very differently. In its response to the Renewables Conference in Bonn it commented that “Renewable energies promotion must not jeopardise economic growth and jobs.”  It added that  a balance must be struck between the costs and benefits of promoting renewable energy; it must not be forgotten that energy costs directly affect the competitiveness of industrial energy users and the employment they create”.

However, the European Environment Agency reported that the EU and its 15 older member states only collectively provide Euro 5.3 billion a year in subsidies to renewables- one-sixth of the total subsidies given each year to the energy sector, estimated at Euro 29.2 billion.  Fossil fuel production and consumption receive Euro 21.7 billion in subsidies, two-thirds of the total- so that fossil fuel was getting four times the subsidy received by renewables.

The continued expansion of fossil fuel use inevitably constrains renewables. The IEA noted that, overall renewables dropped from providing 24% of the world’s total generation in 1970 to 15% in 2001- although part of this fall was because from 1990 to 2001, the more developed renewables like hydro and bioenergy, which make up the largest element, grew more slowly than the new renewables like wind power.

*According to BP’s latest Review of World Energy global energy consumption increased by 2.9% in 2003, with thermal generation outpacing this. But nuclear generation fell 2%, while hydro rose 0.4%.

Ducking Climate Change

Countries with cold climates and limited renewable resources ought to get less onerous carbon emission targets, according to a new study by the UK’s Royal Geographical Society: See  By way of  example, it says that if the UK had Portugals climate and Austria’s hydro resources its emissions would be 35% less than now.  This seems like special pleading. Surely what matters is total emissions- although we can argue whether they should be measured per capita or per GNP.  The Contraction and Convergence model (see Groups in Renew 152) provides one way to do this equitably, and was featured in Mayer Hillmans ‘modest proposal for saving the world’ as outlined in the Independent on 27th May. He also suggested imposing personal ‘carbon rationing’ for all individual energy consumption. It’s hard to see how it could be introduced worldwide. Moreover, wouldn’t the carbon trading he says would be allowed, let the rich buy themselves out of the constraints, while the poor would top up from the black market for cheap illicit energy that would no doubt emerge?  Mind you, one obvious alternative, putting up energy prices, could have the same problems, although it would be less bureaucratic to administer.

Some believe that the only solution to Climate Change is massive cuts in population, as the Optimum Population Trust argue (see Reviews  in Renew 152 and Renew 151) while  James Lovelock (see Renew 150/151) feels we should return to nuclear power. One way or another then some desperate measures are being promoted- especially by those who do not believe that renewables can help much.

By contrast, coming from basically the ‘do nothing, just adapt’ position, Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish contrarian, has been reiterating his view that ‘the total cost of global warming will be about $5 trillion (£2.8 trillion)’ while ‘the cost of the Kyoto Protocol will be at least $150 billion a year, and possibly much more. If we were to go even further- as many suggest- and curb global emissions to their 1990 levels, the total net cost to the world would be about $4 trillion extra- comparable to the cost of global warming itself.’ (Times 11th May).

This seems to ignore the fact that climate change will be ongoing and the impacts will be cumulative. If we do nothing except adapt as Lomborg seems to suggest, then year by year the impacts will worsen as temperatures rise further and the seas continue to expand. By contrasts once we have invested in clean energy technology to cut emissions, then we can just replace it when it  needs updating- and in any case all the existing power plants will need replacing over the next 40 years or so. To limit climate change, we may need to do this faster than we would otherwise have done, but that should not cost a lot more than we would have spent anyway. Or is he claiming that this investment will slow the economy down? Surely it will act as a stimulus!

Gloomy Futures

In its new report ‘Oil Crises and Climate Challenges: 30 Years of Energy Use in IEA Countries’ the International Energy Agency says that increased demand for generation capacity will be met by new fossil fuel-based power plants in many IEA countries, not by renewables. An IEA spokesman also warned that ‘energy savings rates across all sectors and in almost all countries have slowed since the late 1980’s, as has the decline in CO2 emissions relative to GDP. This shows that the oil price shocks in the 1970’s and the resulting energy policies did considerably more to control growth in energy demand and CO2 emissions than energy efficiency and climate policies implemented in the 1990’s'.

The IEA adds“The recent low rate of energy savings poses a concern from both an environment and an energy security perspective. Oil and electricity demand is rapidly growing.”

In its preparatory report ‘Drivers of the Energy Scene’ for the World Energy Congress held in Sept. in Sydney, the World Energy Council similarly concluded that “Oil will continue to be the dominant marginal fuel in energy markets for many decades to come,” and that synthetic fuels will play an increasing role in the hydrogen economy. “Without the stimulus of higher real energy prices, efficiency improvements in energy production, transportation, distribution or end use cannot be sustained.”  It adds that policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could add $20 to the price of a barrel of oil- based on a climate surcharge $50 per tonne of CO2.

The U.S. Department of Energy also waded in, claiming that global consumption of green power will  only grow by 1.9% a year over the next quarter century, well below the 3.3% annual increase for gas-fired generation. However it noted that this projection did not include non-marketed biomass fuels in the developing world. Dispersed renewables such as solar panels were also not included in the projections since “there are few comprehensive sources of international data on their use”.

It predicted that global energy consumption will grow by 54% by 2025 in the reference case projection, with the strongest growth of 91% among developing nations, compared with a 33% increase for the industrialized world.

Gloomy stuff. However, the view that things will only change if prices rise, but that things can’t change since it will cost more, is somewhat contradictory. For example, the well respected US lobby group, the Union of Concerned Scientists has calculated that if the US adopted a sustainable approach, particularly in the transport sector, savings would be $11 bn from electricity and $15 bn from natural gas. Their analysis was based on computer model and assumptions from the U.S. Department of Energy. Increasing the national use of green power to 20% of the mix by 2020 would reduce both electricity and natural gas prices.

Renewables- 50% by 2040

Far from gloomy, the European Renewable Energy Councils report for the international conference on renewables in Bonn in June (see Renew 151) claimed that, on the basis of its “ambitious but realistic” Advanced International Policy Scenario (AIPS), renewables could contribute nearly 50% of total world primary energy consumption by 2040- and over 80% of world electricity. By contrast existing programmes, even if carried out with strong commitment, would only deliver about 27% of world energy by 2040, so its more ambitious programme will need a lot more effort- including legally binding targets. However EREC says it is technically feasible and reflects the experience and cumulative knowledge of its member groups, including the European Photovoltaic, Small Hydro, Solar Thermal, Biomass and Wind Energy Associations.

In the AIPS, Biomass, which is currently the main contributor (1080 million tones of oil equivalent), continues to expand (at around 2.-3%  p.a.) and provide the largest contribution- 3,271 mtoes in 2040.  Large hydro goes from 223 mtoes at present to to 358 mtoes by 2040, small hydro from 10 to 189 mtoes, with growth rates at between 8-10% p.a. However, the rate of expansion for wind, which currently supplies 5 mtoe, is much larger- 28% p.a. between now and 2010, then 20% p.a. to 2020, falling off afterwards- to 7% to 20230 and 2% to 2040, supplying 688 mtoes by then.  PV solar also grows at 28% p.a. up to 2010, but continues to 30% p.a. up to 2020, then 25% to 2030 and 13% to 2040- supplying 784 mtoes then comes to only 0.2 mtoe now.   Marine renewables only grow from zero now by 8% p.a. up to 2010, then 15% to 2020, 22% to 2030 and 21 to 2040- supplying 20 mtoes then.   Solar thermal grows from its current 01.mtoe by 16% p.a. to 2010, 22% to 2020, 18% to 2030 and 15% to 2040- supply 68 mtoes by then. Finally geothermal grows at, initially, 8% p.a., from 43 to 493 mtoes by 2040.  Overall renewables supply 6,351 million tonnes of oil equivalent by 2040- 47.7 % of primary energy- with primary energy demand assumed to have more than doubled by that point, kept in check by a major energy efficiency programme.

* The overview paper for the Bonn Conference also made far from gloomy reading- it suggested that renewables could supply 50% of world energy by 2050: see our Reviews section. And even more positively, the projection from the International Sustainable Energy Organization (see the cover of Renew 152 and its Groups section) talks of renewables supplying almost a 100% by 2050.

Climate Savings

The European Environment Agency says that the implementing of the Kyoto protocol could lead to substantial reductions in the control costs of air pollutants. The savings due to their being less need for air pollution controls would, it says, partly offset the direct costs induced by climate policies. For example, for Western Europe, the total cost of implementing the Kyoto protocol would be reduced by 7% from the baseline assumption, or 6.6 bn euros a year.  The study also concludes on the potentially “important efficiency gains” that climate change policies could have for Europe: “this saving could amount to 50% of the costs to implement the Kyoto protocol”.

*A report on the air pollution emissions performance of the USA’s 100 largest electric power producers shows that while overall emissions of nitrogen oxide  and sulfur dioxide are dropping, largely due to standards created in the Clean Air Act of 1990, emissions of carbon dioxide, which remain unregulated, are rising dramatically, although there were wide disparities between companies.

But the good news is that Russia’s lower house has ratified  the Kyoto accord- so, despite US opposition, the acccord should be activated shortly.

15% from Biomass

Echoing the conclusions of the UK’s Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (see Renew 151 and the Reviews section of this issue), a report by WWF and the European Biomass Industry Association (AEBIOM) claims that renewable biomass fuel from agriculture and forest products could provide 15% of the electricity industrialised countries will need by 2020. It says that this would require less than 2% of the land area of OECD countries and would not compete with food production or nature conservation. Currently, energy from biomass accounts for 15% of total energy consumed worldwide and for up to 90% in some developing countries- where it is used for heating and cooling.  So far though its use for electricity production is only marginal.

5MW Wind Turbine

 Substructure construction work started earlier this year on the world’s largest wind turbine, a 5MW unit developed by REpower at a site in Brunsbüttel, Germany. The complete turbine, which weighs more than 1,100tonnes, will be mounted onto a reinforced concrete structure, which in turn rests on about 40 concrete piles, each measuring 24m in length. That’s pretty invasive, and if this scale of design is taken up widely, care will have to be taken to avoid local environmental   impacts. However, in terms of visual perception, only a circular base plate with a diameter of about 23m will be visible on the surface.  But really the future for large machines like this is offshore- this is just a land based prototype. More at:

Global Energy Links

The UK has joined the USA’s Clean Energy Initiative and the USA the UK’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP). And the UK and German governments have set out their joint commitment to renewable and energy efficient technologies playing a role in tackling the problems of climate change.  Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said she was “particularly pleased that the United States has now joined the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership and joined as a partner, which will ensure their full engagement in its work”.  These partnerships relate to decisions taken and undertakings given at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.

Meanwhile the US also has a link with its fellow non- signatory to Kyoto- Australia.  The US-Australia Climate Action Partnership, set up in 2002, involves the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency with their Australian counterparts on 19 projects in renewable energy, carbon sequestration, hydrogen, fuel cells and clean coal technologies. In May this year they had fourth session, and issued a joint statement noting that “they will enhance their cooperation on renewable energy under the partnership, noting the important role renewable energy could play in meeting future energy needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.

However, the Australian governments new White paper on Energy focusses heavily on coal/ carbon sequestration.  More in Renew 153.

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