Doing it all with renewables

The European Union could obtain 92% of its energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2050 while cutting carbon emissions by 95% compared with 1990, according to a report.

Gosh, that\’s nice. So, how do we get there?

claims a mixture of existing technologies plus the widespread adoption of electric cars and demand reduction initiatives would allow a dramatic change in energy requirements without a huge reduction in quality of life.

Aaaah….demand reduction eh? Is this our usual \”if everyone just uses 50% less energy then our sums add up\” thing?

And reduction in quality of life: that\’s determined by whom? The yurt dwellers at Greenpeace?

The report is here.

today, businesses active in resource-efficient and renewable energy
technologies form a significant part of the economy, providing
millions of sustainable jobs in Europe.5

Oooh, my, we\’re only in the introduction and already we find an economic fallacy. Yes, jobs are a cost, not a benefit of such schemes.

But an answer is within reach: energy savings and
renewable energy, with zero fuel costs, zero reliance on scarce
resources, and zero climate damaging emissions, is an increasingly
attractive option.

That, I\’m afraid, is pure bullshit. There are no power generation systems which are zero carbon. Windmills and hydro have emissions: about the same as nuclear actually. And solar is about three times that level. And as for zero reliance upon scarce resources: what the hell are all of these things going to be built out of? Any economic good is by definition a scarce resource. And while I know I often argue that the technological revolution isn\’t going to be derailed by a shortage of the metals (gallium, germanium, neodymium etc) necessary to run it that\’s absolutely not the same as saying they\’re not scarce resources. They have an available supply and a price attached to them: they are scarce resources.

This scenario requires the rapid
phasing out of nuclear power generation and assumes a maximum
lifetime of 20 years for coal-fired power plants, half the technical
lifetime of such plants.

Oh dear again. So we\’re going to make it all more expensive by deliberately throwing away perfectly good, working, plant are we?

Exploitation of the large existing energy efficiency potential will
ensure that primary energy demand is reduced by more than a
third, from the current 73,880 PJ/a (2007) to 46,030 PJ/a in
2050, compared to 75,920 PJ/a in the Reference scenario. This
dramatic reduction is a crucial prerequisite for achieving a
significant share of renewable energy sources in the overall
energy supply system, compensating for the phasing out of
nuclear energy and reducing the consumption of fossil fuels.

No, not a 50% reduction….well, actually, yes, it probably is more than a 50% reduction from a business as usual projection. So we do have \”if everyone just uses 50% less energy then our sums add up\”.

significant share of the fluctuating power generation from wind
and solar photovoltaics will be used to supply electricity for
vehicle batteries and produce hydrogen as a secondary fuel in
transport and industry.

Given that I am in favour of that then I must be in favour of that, obviously. But I\’m not yet sure whether the primary generation is going to be cheap enough to make that work. To cover the conversion losses in using H2 as the battery in the system you do have to have really cheap primary electricity generation. Actually, in this next bit, yes, they do say that primary generation will be cheap enough to cover those losses.

Aaaaaah, here\’s what they\’re doing.

The worldwide photovoltaics (PV) market has been growing at over
35% per annum in recent years and the contribution it can make to
electricity generation is starting to become significant. The
importance of photovoltaics comes from its
decentralised/centralised character, its flexibility for use in an urban
environment and huge potential for cost reduction. Development
work is focused on improving existing modules and system
components by increasing their energy efficiency and reducing
material usage. Technologies like PV thin film (using alternative
semiconductor materials) or dye sensitive solar cells are developing
quickly and present a huge potential for cost reduction. The mature
technology crystalline silicon, with a proven lifetime of 30 years, is
continually increasing its cell and module efficiency (by 0.5%
annually), whereas the cell thickness is rapidly decreasing (from
230 to 180 microns over the last five years). Commercial module
efficiency varies from 14 to 21%, depending on silicon quality and
fabrication process.
The learning factor for PV modules has been fairly constant over the
last 30 years, with a cost reduction of 20% each time the installed
capacity doubles, indicating a high rate of technical learning.
Assuming a globally installed capacity of 1,600 GW by between
2030 and 2040 in the basic Energy [R]evolution scenario, and with
an electricity output of 2,600 TWh, we can expect that generation
costs of around 5-10 cents/kWh (depending on the region) will be
achieved. During the following five to ten years, PV will become
competitive with retail electricity prices in many parts of the world,
and competitive with fossil fuel costs by 2030. The advanced Energy
[R]evolution version shows faster growth, with PV capacity reaching
439 GW by 2020 – ten years ahead of the basic scenario.

Technology will save us after all.

This is really quite lovely. In order to make all their sums about planning everything work out they have assumed (quite rightly to my mind) that the cost/performance increases of recent decades will continue for several more decades.

However, if and when renewables become cheaper than fossil fuels (and in this prediction above they\’re cheaper even without putting a price upon carbon emissions) then of course we don\’t actually need to have a whole lot of planning, do we? We\’ll all naturally switch over to the cheaper form of energy generation as the current capital stock runs out.

So, in order to make the case for their planning they\’ve made an assumption which means that planning isn\’t required.

We can forget the rest of this report then.

6 thoughts on “Doing it all with renewables”

  1. Why do they want to “rapidly phase out nuclear”?

    Oh, it’s Greenwoo.

    So we do have “if everyone just uses 50% less energy then our sums add up”.

    Not. Going. To. Happen.

  2. But the same rules of cost/performance increase with technology applies equally ro coal, nuclear etc so they will stay ahead. Indeed if useless regulations were cut nuclear costs would probably immediately halve.
    Isn’y it great to be able to issue a report. It doesn’t have to be any more factual than anything the rest of us say but because it is a “report” (from an approved fakecharity) the press quote it as if it were true.

    “Global warming alarmists are corrupt, government funded parasites whose claims are obvious lies that could not withstand any serious media scrutiny if it had been applied. They also abuse children own Betamax video recorders & have bad breath. These are the findings of a recent report issued by the Institue of Raising Awareness of Truth in Eco-Social Inclusive Mainstream Policymaking. ”

    If it was government funded do you think the BBC would report it?

  3. PV is already dead technology, you’ll never have enough to recharge a car (because of the space it takes up), so it can only be used to heat water, and heat pipes are way more efficient, and as the basic materials are the same, they will stay more efficient.

    As mentioned, Greenwoo, probably from a PV producer/retailer.

  4. Your jobs point, that they’re a cost and so on, wasn’t a bad one originally but you now apply it to liberally. The text quoted there is perfectly reasonable, in fact a lot of your criticisms could simply be addressed by replacing ‘job’ with ‘income’.

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