Renew On Line (UK) 64

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 164 Nov-Dec 2006
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         

1. Energy Review and the RO

2. Scotland Accelerates
3. Micro power doubts
4. UK’s first combined PV and wind system
5. Marine Power - wave and tidal ups & downs
6. Tyndall say 90% CO2 cut needed
7. Local Biofuel growth stalled
8. Ramblers fear wind farms
9. Carbon Rationing
10. Planning for Decentral Power
11. UK funding for sustainable energy
12. UK Roundup
13. Renewables in Europe
14. World Renewables
15. Nuclear News

14. World Renewables

Biofuels around the world

Biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel can significantly reduce global dependence on oil, according to a new report by the Worldwatch Institute, released in collaboration with the German Agencies for Technical Cooperation and Renewable Resources. It notes that last year, world biofuel production surpassed 670,000 barrels per day, the equivalent of about 1% of the global transport fuel market. Although oil still accounts for more than 96% of transport fuel use, biofuel production has doubled since 2001 and is poised for even stronger growth as the industry responds to higher fuel prices and supportive government policies. ‘Co-ordinated action to expand biofuel markets and advance new technologies could relieve pressure on oil prices while strengthening agricultural economies and reducing climate-altering emissions’, says Worldwatch.

The new report, Biofuels for Transportation: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture and Energy in the 21st Century, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, is a comprehensive assessment of the opportunities and risks associated with the large-scale international development of biofuels. It includes information from existing country studies on biofuel use in Brazil, China, Germany, India, and Tanzania.

Brazil is the world’s biofuel leader, with half of its sugar cane crop providing more than 40% of its non-diesel transport fuel. In the United States, where 15% of the corn crop provides about 2% of the non-diesel transport fuel, ethanol production is growing even more rapidly. This surging growth may allow the U.S. to overtake Brazil as the world’s biofuel leader this year. Both countries are now estimated to be producing ethanol at less than the current cost of gasoline. Figures cited in the report suggest that biofuels could provide 37% of U.S. transport fuel within the next 25 years, and up to 75% if automobile fuel economy doubles. It also claims that biofuels could replace 20–30% of the oil used in European Union countries during the same time frame.

However, it warns that the large-scale use of biofuels carries significant agricultural and ecological risks. ‘It is essential that government incentives be used to minimize competition between food and fuel crops and to discourage expansion onto ecologically valuable lands.’ But the report also finds that biofuels have the potential to increase energy security, create new economic opportunities in rural areas, and reduce local pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG): ‘in general, most currently produced biofuels have a solidly positive GHG balance’.

Carbon/Energy Balance

The last point has been a contentious one for some time, given the energy needed for harvesting, transporting and processing the bulky crop and the emissions that would be produced. Worldwatch accept that the GHG balance of biofuels ‘varies dramatically depending on such factors as feedstock choice, associated land use changes, feedstock production system, and the type of processing energy used’ but it says that ‘despite controversy about the energy balance of biofuels, there is an emerging consensus that all common biofuels contain more useful energy than is required to produce them. Corn ethanol has been particularly controversial, but its average energy balance now clearly exceeds one, thanks to improved energy efficiency in both agriculture and ethanol refining.’

It adds ‘In the future, the type of processing energy used will be more relevant: a biofuel plant that uses biomass energy will contribute far more to reducing GHG emissions than one that uses coal energy’.

It says that ‘the greatest GHG benefits will be achieved with cellulosic inputs, such as dedicated energy crops and waste residues’ and claims that actually ‘energy crops have the potential to reduce GHG emissions by more than 100% (relative to petroleum fuels) because such crops can also sequester carbon in the soil as they grow. Estimated GHG reductions for biofuel feedstock include: fibers (switchgrass, poplar) 70-110%; wastes (waste oil, harvest residues, sewage) 65-100%; sugars (sugar cane, sugar beet) 40-90%; vegetable oils (rapeseed, sunflower seed, soybeans) 45-75%; and starches (corn, wheat) 15-40%.’
See our Features for some different views on biofuels.

Recent Biofuel developments cited in report

* In the USA, high oil prices and agricultural lobbying prompted passage in 2005 of Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that will require the use of 28.4 billion liters (7.5 billion gallons) of biofuels for transportation by 2012. Under new guidelines implementing the Energy Policy Act of 1992, many government fleet vehicles that run on diesel fuel are now required to use B20 (20% biodiesel) blends. Many in the industry believe that these targets represent a floor, rather than a limit, to biofuel production.

* In Brazil, the government hopes to build on the success of the Proálcool ethanol program by expanding the production of biodiesel. All diesel fuel must contain 2% biodiesel by 2008, increasing to 5% by 2013, and the government hopes to ensure that poor farmers in the north and northeast receive a fair share of the economic benefits of biodiesel production.

* As of early 2006, Columbia mandates the use of 10% ethanol in all gasoline sold in cities with populations exceeding 500,000. In Venezuela, the state oil company is supporting the construction of 15 sugar cane distilleries over the next five years, as the government phases in a national E10 (10% ethanol) blending mandate. In Bolivia, 15 distilleries are being constructed, and the government is considering authorizing blends of E25. Costa Rica and Guatemala are also in the trial stages for expanding production of sugar cane fuel ethanol. Argentina, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru are all considering biofuel programmes as well. Many of these countries have learned from Brazil.

*A European Union directive, prompted by the desire for greater energy security as well as the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, has set the goal of obtaining 5.75% of transportation fuel needs from biofuels by 2010 in all member states. In Feb 2006, the EU adopted an ambitious Strategy for Biofuels with a range of potential market-based, legislative, and research measures to increase the production and use of biofuels. Germany and France, in particular, have announced plans to rapidly expand both ethanol &biodiesel production, with the aim of reaching the EU targets before the deadline.

* In Japan, the government has permitted low level ethanol blends in preparation for a possible blending mandate, with the long-term intention of replacing 20% of the nation’s oil demand with biofuels or gas-to-liquid fuels by 2030.

* The Canadian government wants 45% of the country’s gasoline to contain 10% ethanol by 2010. Ontario will be the focus of the programme, with all fuel to be a 5% blend of ethanol by 2007.

* In SE Asia, Thailand, eager to reduce the cost of oil imports while supporting domestic sugar & cassava growers, has mandated an ambitious 10% ethanol mix in gasoline starting in 2007. Similarly, the Philippines will soon mandate 2% biodiesel to support coconut growers, and 5% ethanol, likely beginning in 2007. The palm oil industry plans to supply an increasing portion of diesel fuel requirements in Malaysia and Indonesia.

* In India, a rejuvenated sugar ethanol programme calls for E5 blends in most of the country, and depending on ethanol availability the government plans to raise this requirement soon to E10 and then E20. The Chinese government is making E10 blends mandatory in five provinces that account for 16% of the nation’s passenger cars.
* In Africa, efforts to expand biofuels production and use are being initiated or are under way in numerous countries, including Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya.

US Renewables up

Net generation of electricity from non-hydro renewable energy facilities in the USA has increased by 11% over the last year, according to the US Dept. of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. Total national output in Feb. 2006 was 7,371,000 MWh, compared with 6,643,000 MWh in Feb. 2005. 503,000 MWh of the new output was from electric utilities & 4,446,000 MWh from independent power producers. The balance was 183,000 MWh from the commercial sector and 2,238,000 from industry.

The highest output was in California which, at 1,663,000 MWh, represents almost one-quarter of the U.S. total. The increase in that state was 5.9% over last Feb, with 99,000 MWh from utilities, 1,463,000from IPPs, 33,000 from commercial and 68,000 MWh from the industrial sector. Total net generation was 2.2% higher than Feb. 2005, with hydro generation up 14.7%, coal up 1.4%, nuclear up 2.7%, natural gas up 2.5%.
The U.S. generates 52% of its electricity at coal-fired plants, while nuclear reactors contribute 21.4%, 13.9% from natural gas-fired facilities & 1.7% from oil-fired plants. Conventional hydroelectric facilities generate 8.2% of the total, while other renewables (primarily biomass but also including geothermal, solar and wind) and other miscellaneous energy sources generate the balance.

However not everything is rosy. Growth in the U.S. geothermal power sector could be ‘devastated’ by proposals from the Federal Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee, which, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, would terminate the geothermal research programme of the Dept. of Energy, along with hydro, leaving only research funding for wind, solar and biomass. Fortunately however some of these cuts were later reversed by Senate- see Renew 165. Source: Refocus Weekly

Green China

China’s President says he wants to build energy efficient & environment friendly society: ‘China should speed up the adjustment of its irrational economic structure and completely abandon the ‘extensive way’ of economic growth. China should promote economic growth based on improvement of quality of the people, efficient use of resources, environmental pollution reduction and the importance attached to quality and economic returns for the building of an energy-efficient and environment friendly society.’ Hu Jintao, President of China, quoted in the People’s Daily Online, May 20.

They do seem to be trying. China is expected to increase its renewable output to 10% by 2020, according to the Energy Research Institute of the National Development & Reform Commission. And China has become the top investor in the world for renewable energy, according to the Worldwatch./ Excluding large hydro, China invested US$6 bn in renewables last year out of a total of $38 bn.

* The World Bank is supporting a ‘China Renewable Energy Scale-up’ programme designed to promote rapid expansion of the use of renewable energy. The first phase of the CRESP programme is worth $40m.

G8 leaves it open

The G8 Summit in St Petersburg last year failed to agree common ground on nuclear energy and global warming. On Global Energy Strategy, all they could agree was that ‘Those of us committed to making the Kyoto protocol a success underline the importance we attach to it’. And on nuclear: ‘We recognise that G8 members pursue different ways to achieve energy security and the goals of climate protection. Those of us who have or are considering plans relating to the use and/or development of safe and secure nuclear energy believe that its development will contribute to global energy security, while simultaneously reducing harmful air pollution and addressing the climate change challenge.’ But it included a phrase reflecting German views: ‘We are committed to further reduce the risks associated with the safe use of nuclear energy’.

Putting a more optimistic spin on it, Tony Blair reported to the Commons that, on nuclear, ‘what was interesting was the statement by China that it intends to develop nuclear power, by India that it regarded it as indispensable and by many of the main oil producers including Kazakhstan that they would also balance their reliance on their own oil and gas with nuclear. This was also the conclusion of the J8, the young people from around the world who debated the issue.’

The G8 agreed on the need to accelerate discussions on a post-2012 climate change framework that included the US, China & India.

Kyoto II talks

The next stage in negotiating a climate agreement for the period after the current Kyoto protocol, which runs up to 2012, is a Conference of Parties to the UNFCC in Nov. in Nairobi, Kenya. A pre-meeting in Bonn in May only made slight progress e.g. on targets for developed countries, reducing emissions from deforestation in tropical countries and a timeframe for the negotiations. However earlier this year Canada’s new conservative government hinted that it would like to abandon the accord- which had been ratified by the previous Liberal government, committing Canada to reducing greenhouse emission by 6% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. The new prime Minister Stephen Harper and his environment minister have said the commitment is impossible to meet and have hinted that Canada favours a ‘made-in-Canada’ solution. Critics have warned that Canada stands to lose international credibility if it abandons the Kyoto deal and Provincial governments in Quebec, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador have said they will continue with plans to meet Kyoto targets, regardless of what Ottawa does. Canada Press

World Roundup

*Windpower Monthly has reported that versions of smaller wind turbines, which have dropped from the sales ranges of leading manufacturers, are being produced in Asia for the European, North American and Latin American markets where there are long delivery times for larger machines. ‘Reincarnations of turbines in the 225 kW to 600 kW size range are being made in India, Korea and also Russia, according to component suppliers. Going into competition with Vestas is its own Indian subsidiary, Vestas RRB, which for the first time in its 20 year history is selling wind turbines outside India’.

*ReFocus Weekly ( reported that Mexico’s state utility CFE is studying 500 hydro projects with total capacity of 40,000 MW, and that energy minister Fernando Canales says 1,400 potential geothermal sites have also been identified. It also noted that up to 5GW of wind power capacity could be installed on the Tehuantepec isthmus and said that CFE's ten-year expansion programme for renewables includes 450 MW from wind, 2,600 MW from large hydro and 217 MW from geothermal. A bill to create a renewable energies framework is, it noted, pending approval in the national senate after the lower house approved the initiative in December.

* Refocus also reported that the Asian Development Bank has approved a grant of US$900,000 for a technical assistance project to explore the potential of renewable energy in Azerbaijan, which ReFocus said ‘is one of the most attractive countries for alternative energy sources’. ADB has allocated $500,000, the Finnish & Azerbaijani governments each contributed $200,000. The one-year project will include preparation of a business plan for green power and the implementation of pilot projects.

*According to WADE’s latest World Survey of Decentralized Energy- 2006, 24% of electricity output from newly installed power generation plants in 2005 was derived from decentralized energy systems. This share is up from 13% in 2002. www.localpower. org/documents_pub/report_worldsurvey06.pdf

* Several new wind projects in the USA have been halted due to Federal government concerns about the impacts on military aircraft radar. This problem has already been faced in the UK- the MOD/CAA are assessing new BAE/Selex electronic systems designed to reduce the problem, with RAF tests near wind farms in Wales.

* According to Shahriyar Jalali, deputy director of the Renewable Energy Organization of Iran, projections indicate that at least 1% of the country’s electricity will come from renewables by the end of the fourth Five-Year Development Plan in 2010. That sounds better than their more familiar nuclear project. ReFocus

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