Renew On Line (UK) 53

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 153 Jan-Feb2005

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1.     Wave and Tidal move ahead

New Marine Renewables Centre

2.     Biomass Boost

£3.5m more

3. Wind power developments

Largest wind farm yet...      

4. Micro power shows off:

Micro wind boom

5. Funding programmes

£15.5m for Community Energy

£8.5m for Local  renewables

6. Policy Developments

Climate  Review

Emission Trading Review

Party Positions

7. Policy Issues and lobbying

‘Double the Climate Change Levy’

RO costs more than REFIT


8. Around the World

Australia, New Zealand, India ,Canary Isles, EU, US

9. Global Developments

IEA Research on renewables falls…

..but Solar hits 100 million

‘No’ to Large Hydro...

Climate Change 'a real threat'

10. Nuclear News

Ten new nukes? Not yet !

9. Global Developments

IEA Research on renewables falls…

The International Energy Agency’s report ‘Renewable Energy- Market and Policy Trends in IEA Countries’, says that between 1974 and 2002  nuclear fission received around 47.3% of the overall energy RD&D funding in the IEA countries, and nuclear fusion around 10.5%, while renewables only received about 8.1%.  Moreover, research in renewables has dropped by 40% since the rise after the mid 1970’s OPEC oil crisis. RD&D budgets in IEA countries between 1974 and 1986 totalled $158,240 billion. Of that, 16.7% or $26,496bn was allocated to renewables, including hydro. During this period, the research budget for renewables was $2,208 bn p.a., while  $8,607bn was spent on conservation, $15,948bn on nuclear fusion, $20,559 bn on fossil fuels & $84,866bn on nuclear fission.

However, between 1987 and 2002, total RD&D spending on energy technology fell to $132,781bn, with renewables only receiving 15.4% or $20,460 bn. Solar PV was the largest single technology at $3,636bn, followed by biomass at $2,083bn, wind at $1,465bn and geothermal at $1,221bn. Over this period, annual spending on renewables was $1,364bn. Renewables experienced annual growth rates of 3.2% in 1970-80, 2.4% from 1980-90, and 1.2% from 1990-2001. Geothermal was 8.3% per year in the first decade, rising to 9.4% before falling to 0.4% in the third, while wind and solar experienced 6.4% annual growth in the first decade, 23.5% in the second and 23.1% in the third. The IEA report was produced for the Renewables 2004  conference in Bonn last June.

* The World Wind Energy Association’s third conference, held in Beijing, last year with 1000 delegates, called for the creation of an International Renewable Energy Agency, and an International Renewable Energy Development Fund, as has been recommended at the Bonn conference last year. 

…but Solar hits 100 million

The world has installed more than 100 million square metres of solar thermal collectors, which are reducing CO2 emissions by 18 megatonnes a year. This milestone was achieved in 2001, according to a report from the International Energy Agency, ‘Solar Heating Worldwide: Markets & Contributions to the Energy Supply 2001’.

It’s based on data from 26 countries, representing 90% of the world's solar thermal market. The leading country is China, with 32 million sq.m, of which 20.8m sq.m was evacuated tube and 11.2m sq.m glazed water collectors. The US was in second place, with 25 million sq.m, of which 22.9 million was unglazed water collectors, 1.4 million glazed and 551,000 evacuated tube and 227,000 of glazed air collectors. Japan was third, with 12million sq.m, of which almost all were glazed water collectors. Turkey was fourth with 8.1m sq.m and Israel fifth with 3.9m sq.m, all of which were glazed water collectors.

Globally, glazed collectors comprise almost half of the market- 49 million sq.m. Another 27.7 million sq.m are unglazed and there are 22.3 million sq.m evacuated tube collectors.

“Since the beginning of the 1990’s, the solar thermal market has undergone a favourable development,” says the report. The majority of collectors in the U.S. were installed in the 1980s and most will be taken out of operation within the next decade as they reach the end of their lifespan. By comparison, most systems in Europe and China have been installed within the past ten years.  Israel is the largest per capita user of water collectors, with 608 sq.m per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by Greece (298) and Austria (220), while Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands have collector areas of between 10-28 sq.m per 1,000 inhabitants.  Between 2000 and 2001, flat plate and evacuated tube installations increased by 26%, and the annual collector yield of all solar thermal systems installed by 2001 in the 26 countries was 41,795 GWh (150,463 TJ) which is an oil equivalent of 6.7 bn litre p.a.

‘No’ to Large Hydro...

The International Rivers Network, (IRN) has produced a declaration calling for large hydropower to be excluded as a renewable energy option, which has been endorsed by 260 groups in 62 countries. The declaration was released at the international renewable energy conference in Bonn last June. Instead of large hydro, the declaration says that funds allocated to reduce environmental impacts of energy and to increase energy security should be used to promote modern biomass, geothermal, wind, solar, marine energy and small hydro sites that are less than 10 MW capacity.

The Declaration is in line with an earlier report from the World Commission on Dams (WCD: see Renew 129, 132). The IRN say that large reservoirs “can emit significant amounts” of greenhouse gases like methane, thus undermining hydros’ claim to being  ‘climate friendly’. Such project also have "major social and ecological impacts”  most obviously in terms of social dislocation resulting from the need to move people from the inundated areas,  and IRN say that efforts to mitigate local eco impacts typically fail.  Moreover, it says, the alleged economic and social benefits of large hydro projects are often illusory  “Large hydro does not have the poverty reduction benefits of decentralized renewables,” and including large hydro in funding initiatives would “crowd out funds for new renewables”.

Promoters of large hydro“regularly underestimate costs and exaggerate benefits” and large hydro is “slow, lumpy, inflexible and getting more expensive,” with large hydro plants taking six years to build- while “wind turbines and solar panels can start delivering benefits and repaying loans within months of entering construction.”   Finally, IRN say that many countries are already over-dependent on hydro and yet the large reservoirs are often rendered non-viable by sedimentation.

Of the twelve reasons for avoiding large hydro the IRN give, perhaps the most powerful is that, as the WCD argued, the biomass coming down stream can be trapped by the dam and rot producing methane- in some cases (in hot climates) the result being that the climate impact of a hydro project may be greater than a coal fired plant of similar generation capacity. The IRN say that “a growing body of evidence indicates that dams and reservoirs are globally significant sources of emissions”.  It also notes that the changing climate also holds “major implications” for the safety and performance of dams, with increased droughts reducing hydro generation and water storage, while increased floods threaten dam safety and may increase reservoir sedimentation.

·        China has sent armed troops to the world’s largest hydro project, the $25bn Three Gorges Dam, to protect it from terrorist attacks.

·        WWF has also produced a report critical of large hydro- ‘Rivers at Risk’

...but Small Hydro can be good

The IRN say that ‘while there is no directly proportional relationship between the installed capacity of a hydro plant and its impacts, in general one can expect higher impacts as the size of the project increases. Small hydro can, if responsibly implemented, be environmentally and socially low-impact and provide many of the benefits of new renewables, in particular providing power and related development benefits to dispersed rural communities. If badly implemented, however, without regard to community needs or its impacts on rivers and streams, small hydro can replicate many of the negative consequences of larger schemes. The cumulative impacts of multiple small hydro schemes on small watersheds are of particular concern. It is thus imperative that small hydro schemes be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis’.  

 It adds ‘the site-specific nature of hydro means that it has been difficult to reach international agreement on a size limit for small hydro. According to the International Association for Small Hydro, however, a limit of up to 10MW capacity “is becoming generally accepted”The European Small Hydro Association and the International Energy Agency’s Renewable Energy Working Party also define small hydro as less than 10MW.  It is therefore logical to use this upper limit of 10MW in efforts to promote renewables. To ensure that small hydro projects have low impacts and meet community priorities it is imperative that all small hydro schemes are planned, built and operated in line with the recommendations of the World Bank/IUCN-sponsored World Commission on Dams.’

·        The report, “Twelve Reasons to Exclude Large Hydro from Renewables Initiatives,” was published by IRN with Friends of the Earth International, Oxfam America, and a number of other groups, including the UK’s ITDG.

·        The International Hydropower Association came back with a riposte- see our Technology Section and their web site:  It claims that the IRN analysis is based on limited data and ignores the emissions that would have been produced locally in any case, without a dam.

Climate Change 'a real threat'

Last August, James Mahoney, an official in the Bush  Administration,  conceeded  in  a  report to Congress that greenhouse gas emissions were the only  likely  explanation  for global warming, although  subsequently President  Bush denied that  there was a policy  change.  But a report commissioned by the Pentagon last year confirmed the possibility  that global warming could disrupt ocean currents and lead to a 5 degree F average drop in  temperatutres in parts  of the USA and 6 degrees in N Europe.    It says that ‘global  warming  should  be  elevated  beyond  a  scientific  debate  to  a US national security  concern’. 

Meanwhile, Sir David King,  the UK governmen’s  chief scientific  adviser,  has warned  that global warning posed a greater threat than al-Qaida, and claimed that the seas would rise 6-7 metres if the Greenland ice cap melted and a further 110 metres if Antarctica melted and that “on current trends, cities like London, New York and New Orleans will be among the first to go”.  And recent reports suggest that the Greenland ice sheet  is melting up to 10 times faster than was previously thought... although just to confuse things, in  a recent OU Earth Science Dept. report,   Prof. Vincent Gauci   claimed that acid rain may help reduce climate change since it reduces methane generation.

However, more positively, the Kyoto protocul should be activated on Feb 16th, 90 days after Russia submitted  its   ratification papers to the UN. That also means that Russia is eligible as a host country for ‘Joint Implementation’ projects, and the emission reduction credits generated from these could also  be used under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, although probably not immediately, but  after 2008.  In addition, it is keen on setting up its own ETS, which it would like to link the EU scheme, and potentially Canadian and Japanese schemes. Overall Russia has around $10bn worth of carbon credits to trade.

Last word?   'There's plenty of oil’

At the beginning of 2004‘known supply potential rose to an all-time peak of almost 1,150bn barrels- enough to sustain the now relatively modest increase in annual demand for over 25 years. But new discoveries- including giant fields- continue to be made. Each of the 36 countries currently with reserves in excess of 1bn barrels will contribute significantly to future supplies- and other countries are expected to join them as exploration successes enable their reserves to grow.’

Peter  R Odell, Emeritus Professor of energy studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam.

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