Renew On Line (UK) 56

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 156 July-Aug 2005

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1.   Breaking News

2. Wind moves ahead...despite everything

3. Wave and tidal power

4. Solar Power ups and downs

5. Carbon storage ‘within a decade’

6. UK Funding for Sustainable energy

7. UK Policy Developments

8. Around the World - China, Germany, USA

9. World Developments- after Kyoto

10. Nuclear News- UK, China, France

8. Around the World

Decentral power best for China

Locally sourced renewables and other distributed generation technologies can meet China’s growth in energy demand (it’s risen 10% over the last decade) at a less cost than central generation, according to WADE, the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy, since they avoid transmission losses over the long distance. These losses, and the cost of building grid links, are an important factor in a country as large as China, given that its fossil energy sources are not evenly distributed.

In a report funded by REEEP, the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership and the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, WADE says that the use of decentralised energy could reduce retail power costs by 28%, and capital costs by 38% compared with a scenario of high centralised generation. Under a low-carbon scenario, WADE says that solar PV would contribute 11% of new capacity by 2020, while wind would provide 7% and bioenergy cogeneration 30%. CHP from coal and gas would provide 40% of the total.

* According to a report by Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday, (13 Feb 2005) China may actually taking notice of this sort of argument. He reports that it has ‘abruptly slowed and halted work on building 22 major dams and power stations in a dramatic greening of the policies’. He explained that ‘In the first instance of its kind, the Chinese State Environment Protection Agency laid down that the projects- which cover 13 of the country’s provinces and are worth a total of £7.5bn- should not proceed until their impact on the environment had been reviewed. Among the halted projects is an important power facility at the highly controversial Three Gorges dam on the Yangtse River’.   Of course this may be only a temporary halt (and presumably it does not effect China nuclear programme-see later), but it could also indicate a new approach.  Lean added that ‘China had already done far more than the US to combat the danger of climate change. Although its emissions of carbon dioxide rose rapidly between 1978 and 1996, they then fell sharply as a result of clean-up measures. US government figures suggest emissions dropped by 17% between 1996 and 2000, while the Chinese economy grew by 36%.  During the same period, US emissions grew by 5 %.’

Germany: 50% by 2050

Germanys ambitious renewable energy programme, which so far has led to the installation of over 15,000 windturbines (it now has nearly 17 GW of wind capacity installed) has been facing some problems, following various critical reports on wind power (see  wind  section earlier).  One had been commissioned by the German government but then evidently withheld. It was however leaked to Der Spiegel. According to the Telegraph (Jan. 30 ), it suggested that, if Germany presses ahead with its plan to double the number of wind turbines, annual energy costs for consumers will rise from £1bn to £3.7 bn by 2015. The report also says that the government will have to spend   an extra £1bn on laying almost 600 miles of new grid cable.

However, in a report produced last year, the Federal government had in effect tried to prepare people for this sort of outcome. It argued that investing now in developing wind and other renewables might be expensive, but it would pay off later. See our Reviews section. It will be interesting to see if they stick to their visionary  plan of trying to obtain 50% of Germanys energy (not just electricity) from renewables by 2050. So far, including energy from waste, they have achieved 25GW, so prospects are good... See.p4.


* One of the counter pressures is from the coal lobby who, as in the UK, claim that ‘clean coal’ technology, presumably including some form of carbon dioxide sequestration, could be a cheaper way to reduce emissions. However it is difficult to see how this could be a significant option- unlike the UK, Germany does not have access to offshore gas and oil wells for undersea carbon storage, and even the UK only has limited well space. 

Eurobarometer ‘low’

The contribution of renewables to primary energy consumption in the EU in 2003 was 5.48%, compared with an EU objective of 12% by 2010, according to the ‘2004 European Barometer of Renewable Energies’ prepared under the EurObserv’ER project by Observ’ER, Eurec Agency, Eufores and O.Ö. EnergieSparverband. The level in 2001 was 5.6% and 5.08% in 2002. It comments: “Renewable energies therefore did not do any better than simply defend their position without gaining any ground in terms of relative share. At this rate, the EU will not reach its objective of 12%”.

Big plans for the USA

Trying to defuse the conflicts over Kyoto, on the eve of his European visit in Feb, US President Bush said “there’s an opportunity now to work together to talk about new technologies that will help us both achieve a common objective, which is  a better environment for generations to come”.  He added “We care about the climate”,  pointing to the  massive US technology  programme. “It’s conceivable and hopeful we’ll have a zero emissions coal plant, which would be not only be good for the United States, but it would be good for the world”.

The US government is pushing ahead with a technology-led programme. Its 2006 Budget has earmarked over $1billion to support the development emissions-free energy technologies, including hydrogen fuel, clean coal, renewables and new nuclear technology. It’s a big programme, but then again you have to set it alongside Exxons’ $25bn profit over the last year.  And renewables are squeezed, with a 4% overall R&D funding cut, while fossil fuel get 19% more and nuclear 5.2% more. Wind is the only renewable to win out, with a 8.4% increase to $44m. All the others get cut- hydro by nearly 90%!

By contrast, the president’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative will receive an additional $35 million in funding in fiscal year 2006, bringing total funding to $260m.  In 2003, Bush proposed $1.2bn over five years for hydrogen generation technologies including nuclear and coal- but renewables may also benefit.  Certainly the new budget will, if agreed, provide $3.6bn in tax incentives up to 2010 to support the market adoption of renewable energy, as well as hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles.

To develop Cleaner Coal Technologies, the proposed 2006 budget provides $286m, an increase of $13m over 2005 levels, for the President’s Coal Research Initiative, to reduce emissions & improve efficiency.

Within this allocation, $68m is planned for the Clean Coal Power Initiative, of which $18m is for continuing the FutureGen coal-fueled, near-zero–emissions electricity and hydrogen generation project. He also made a commitment to FutureGen beyond 2006, by proposing a $257m advance appropriation for 2007 and $218m for Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle systems and carbon sequestration.

The 2006 Budget also supports nuclear power, aiming to advance near-term construction of new nuclear power plant design- including $56m in 2006 and $500m up to 2011 for the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative to assist with technical and regulatory feasibility requirements, leading to the construction and operation of new nuclear power plants in the USA- for the first time in three decades. In addition, $45m is allocated to the Generation IV nuclear programme, aimed at a ‘safe, economical, and proliferation resistant source of clean nuclear power and hydrogen in the future’.  It’s all part of a seven-year, $1.1bn effort to open a new nuclear plant by 2014.

Abraham exits pushing nuclear

“Current renewable technology alone cannot produce the vast quantities of electricity needed to meet the growing energy demand”.  So said outgoing US energy secretary, Spencer Abraham at a conference on Generation IV- the nuclear industries advanced nuclear programme. Predictably he added “Of all the forms of emission-free energy available today, only nuclear power can deliver large blocks of dispatchable electricity regardless of the weather, time of day or geographic location”. 

He went on “Without nuclear energy, countries will most likely have to choose between having enough electricity to maintain strong economic growth or cutting back on power production to control emissions. I think we can expect that the nations of the world are not prepared to lower their standards of living in order to keep emissions down.” 

He welcomed reports from the MIT, which envisions increasing the world’s nuclear capacity to 1,000 reactors by 2050, and from Princeton University, which advocated doubling the world’s current nuclear  capacity as a way to help combat greenhouse emissions growth. And he closed by echoing Eisenhowers ‘Atoms for Peace’ sentiments.   Iran and N Korea presumably excepted.

But putting it in perspective Dr. Stephen Herring of the Idaho National Laboratory said it would take 4,000 new nuclear reactors to generate enough hydrogen to replace

US gasoline consumption- F T 31/1/05.

‘Set America Free’

An initiative backed by the American Council on Renewable Energy and a raft of Defence and Security policy orientated groups, is calling for a $12bn four year programme to promote the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency (but also maybe coal and nuclear) to ‘Set America Free’ from imported energy.  Spokesmen for the plan   include former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey. 

In an ‘Open Letter to the American People’, the groups note that ‘America consumes a quarter of the world’s oil supply while holding a mere 3% of global oil reserves. It is therefore forced to import over 60% of its oil, and this dependency is growing. Since most of the world’s oil is controlled by countries that are unstable or at odds with the United States this dependency is a matter of national security. At the strategic level, it is dangerous to be buying billions of dollars worth of oil from nations that are sponsors of or allied with radical Islamists who foment hatred against the United States. The petrodollars we provide such nations contribute materially to the terrorist threats we face.’ 

They add “While the U.S. is not rich in oil or natural gas, we have a wealth of other energy sources that can be easily, cleanly, safely and cheaply used as fuel for automotive transportation.”  They note that the US has 25% of the world’s coal reserves, billions of tons a year of biomass and hundreds of million of tons of municipal waste. They also mention renewables and nuclear power.  So it’s very much the same mix as the Bush administration is already considering- except they want more and faster, with the primary motivation being security concerns not environmental concerns, or even the cost. But they claim it would be money well spent: ‘the resulting return on investment- in terms of enhanced energy and national security, economic growth, quality of life and environmental protection- should more than pay for the seed money required’.

* The US Sustainable Energy Coalition, made up of 48 pro- renewables groups around the country,  has written to President Bush to refute a claim, attributed to him in an interview in the Wall Street journal, that Nuclear Energy was ‘a renewable source of energy’.   The groups said that nuclear power, and ‘for that matter, oil, coal, and natural  gas,’ were  not renewable sources of energy but were ‘environmentally polluting and non-renewable’.  They added, helpfully, that the primary forms of renewable energy were ‘biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind’.

Wind OK on US grid

Wind power can be accommodated on the local power grid system at up to a 10% contribution, with no problems from  intermittency, according to the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority, which has released the final draft of a technical study by GE on integrating wind energy into the grid.  It says the state of New York could add 3,300 MW of wind capacity without major changes in the planning, operations or reliability of the power system.

This technical analysis lays to rest any concerns about integrating substantial amounts of wind energy into the New York grid, and finds that more wind power will in some cases improve reliability,” said Michael Jacobs of the American Wind Energy Association. “The technical findings will also be very useful to other regions that are adding wind to their systems, even with regional differences”.

The report says that incremental increase of 10% in wind can be accommodated by existing processes and resource in the state and, even without forecasts, wind energy displaces conventional generation, reduces system operating costs and reduces GHG emissions. No change to spinning reserve requirements would be needed and turbines improve post-fault response of the interconnected grid.

The report notes that in some parts of upstate NY, penetration of wind generation is actually 23% of peak zonal load, but it sees no problems with this, even though  capacity factors of inland wind sites in NY are 30% of rated capacity, and their effective capacities are in fact 10% due to seasonal and daily patterns of wind generation being out of phase with load patterns.

US green power up

The use of certified green power under the USA’s Green-e verification scheme rose by 76% in 2003, according to the Center for Resource Solutions, to 2.9 TWh. 88% of Green-e renewable sales were from new renewable sources, of which 67% were wind, 21%  biomass and the rest solar and small hydro, with just under half going to residential users.

*The US Dept. of Energy’s latest ‘Energy Outlook’, says that by 2025 US renewables will supply 489TWh, up from 359TWh in 2003, but not much; the Environmental Protection Agency say renewables & energy efficiency will at best cut the USA’s expected 40% growth in demand by 2025 by half.

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