Dr Rajiv Desai

An Educational Blog

COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE

Combat Climate Change (CCC):

______

A Houston interstate after Hurricane Harvey in August 2017

_______

Prologue:

Recently more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issued ‘warning to humanity’.  The scientists around the world are very concerned about the state of the world, the environmental situation and climate change. Experts say worldwide average temperatures have already risen 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times, largely due to carbon emissions from the United States and Europe over the past century. Many countries are already feeling the heat that is enveloping the globe, with dramatic floods, hurricanes and droughts across the world in recent months adding a sense of urgency to the climate talks. On June 1, President Donald Trump announced that the United States will pull out of the Paris Agreement, a 2015 deal to curb carbon emissions, invest in green technology, and take other steps to combat the existential threat of climate change by keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius below pre-industrial level. Following the announcement, countries like France and Canada reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement, while more than 80 mayors of cities across the U.S. announced they would continue to follow the guidelines agreed upon two years ago. With President Trump’s decision, the United States joins a small club: Nicaragua and Syria are the only other countries not a part of the Paris Agreement. The oil giants, led by Exxon, knew about climate change before almost anyone else. One of Exxon’s chief scientists told senior management in 1978 that the temperature would rise at least four degrees Fahrenheit and that it would be a disaster. Management believed the findings and companies like Exxon and Shell began redesigning drill rigs and pipelines to cope with the sea-level rise and tundra thaw. Yet, year after year, the industry used the review process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to stress “uncertainty,” which became Big Oil’s byword. In other words: Delay. Go slowly. Do nothing dramatic. As the company put it in a secret 1998 memo helping establish one of the innumerable front groups that spread climate disinformation, “Victory will be achieved when average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science and when recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the conventional wisdom.” We knew climate change was coming, but not how fast or how hard. And because no one wanted to overestimate – because scientists by their nature are conservative – each of the changes we’ve observed has taken us somewhat by surprise. The surreal keeps becoming the commonplace: For instance, after Hurricane Harvey set a record for American rainstorms, and Hurricane Irma set a record for sustained wind speeds, and Hurricane Maria knocked Puerto Rico back a quarter-century, something even weirder happened. Hurricane Ophelia formed much farther to the east than any hurricane on record, and proceeded to blow past Southern Europe (whipping up winds that fanned record forest fires in Portugal) before crashing into Ireland. If we don’t win very quickly on climate change, then we will never win. That’s the core truth about global warming. It’s what makes it different from every other problem we have faced.

_____

Abbreviations and synonyms:

RE = renewable energy

NRE = non-renewable energy

CO2 = carbon dioxide

CO2e = Carbon dioxide equivalent

GHGs = Greenhouse gases

CCS = Carbon capture and storage. The ‘carbon’ usually refers to the gas carbon dioxide.

Btu = British thermal unit

Toe = ton of oil equivalent

UNFCCC = United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

COP = Conference of the Parties

OECD = Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

IPCC = Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

IEA = International Energy Agency

IRENA = International Renewable Energy Agency

CCC = combat climate change

VRE = variable renewable energy

PV = photovoltaics

CSP = concentrated solar power

CPV = concentrator photovoltaics

Ton = Tonne = metric ton = 1000 kg

Gtc = gigaton carbon

GtCO2 = gigaton carbon dioxide

1 GtC = 3.67 GtCO2

CO2e/kWh = carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour

_____

Important terms:

It is important to understand the following terms when discussing climate change:

  1. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place. It refers to the temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind, cloudiness and precipitation of a region over a short period of time.
  2. Climate describes the average weather that a region experiences, usually calculated over a 30-year period. It encompasses all aspects of weather–temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind, cloudiness and precipitation–and is a guide for what kind of weather to expect. While weather can vary dramatically from one day to the next, climate cannot.
  3. Climate change refers to change in average weather patterns and can be caused by both natural processes and human activities. In the past, the earth’s climate has been affected by natural factors such as changes in solar output and the discharge of volcanic ash. In fact, the planet has been through many periods of cooling and warming. The last period of major cooling ended about 10,000 years ago.
  4. Global warming refers to an increase in average global surface temperature.
  5. A greenhouse gas (or GHG for short) is any gas in the atmosphere which absorbs and re‐emits heat, and thereby keeps the planet’s atmosphere warmer than it otherwise would be. The main GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone. Because CO2 is considered the most important greenhouse gas, some GHG assessments or reports only include CO2, and don’t consider the other greenhouse gases, and this can lead to an understatement of total global warming impact. Greenhouse gas inventories are more complete if they include all GHGs and not just CO2. GHGs occur naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere, but human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, are increasing the levels of GHG’s in the atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change.
  6. Carbon sinks are reservoirs that absorb and sequester (store) CO2 from the atmosphere. Examples of areas that can act as carbon sinks include forests, soils, peat, permafrost, ocean water, and carbonate deposits in the deep ocean.
  7. Carbon neutral is a term applied to individuals, businesses, or organizations whose activities contribute zero net greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. This requires that any GHG emissions produced by an activity must be offset with emissions reductions or carbon absorption in some other activity.
  8. Carbon offset is the process of reducing or avoiding GHG emissions in one place in order to “offset” GHG emissions occurring elsewhere.
  9. Energy is defined as a capacity/ability to do the work and it is measured in Joules. 1 joule is defined as the amount of energy exerted when a force of one newton is applied over a displacement of one meter. 1 newton is the force necessary to provide a mass of one kilogram with an acceleration of one metre per second per second. 1 kilo calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1 degree Celsius. 1 British Thermal Unit (Btu) is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of a pound of water by 1degree Fahrenheit. 1 tonne of oil equivalent (toe) is the amount of energy released by burning one tonne of crude oil.
  10. Power is defined as the rate at which the work is done which means work divided by time and it is measured in Watts.
  11. Capacity is the maximum output level of a generating plant. Actual output is generally lower, particularly where the energy source such as wind is intermittent.
  12. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colourless, odourless and non-flammable gas. It is produced by the combustion of carbon-containing fuels and is the dominant greenhouse gas by volume and impact. As CO2 equivalent, it is used as a standard unit for comparing emission levels of the different greenhouse gases, and as a measure for assessing carbon offsets.

____

Energy units used in this article:

Name Symbol scale
yotta Y  1024
zetta Z  1021
exa E  1018
peta P  1015
tera T  1012
giga G  109
mega M  106
kilo k  103

1 watt = 1 joule per second.

1 Giga-joule (GJ ) = 1 billion joules (1,000,000,000 joules or 109 joules)

31.7 watts = 1 GJ per year.

1 kilo-calorie = 4.2 kilo-joules.

1 Btu = 1055.05585 joules.

1 Exa-joule (EJ) = 1 billion GJ = 1018 J

1 Quadrillion Btu (quad) = 1015 Btu = 1.055 EJ

1 Kilowatt hour (kWh) = 1 kilowatt (1,000 watts) of power expended for 1 hour = 3,412 Btu.

Gigawatt of electricity = 109 watts, 1 billion watts, or 1,000,000,000 watts of electrical energy.

Gigawatt hour (GWh) = the amount of energy equivalent to a power of 1 gigawatt running for 1 hour.

Terawatt hour (TWh) = one trillion watts (1,000,000,000,000 W) of energy for one hour.

One petajoule = 1015 joules = 280 gigawatt hours

1Terawatt-year (TWyr) = 8.76 x 1012 kWh = 31.54 EJ = 29.89 quad

1 toe = 11.63 megawatt-hour (MWh) = 41.868 gigajoules (GJ) = 39,683,207.2 British thermal unit (Btu)

One megaton of oil equivalent (Mtoe) = 4.1868 x 1016 J

25 Mtoe = 1 quad approximately

_

Note:

There is slight confusion. Watts are usually measured in watt-hour. So 60 watt light bulb means bulb that uses 60 watt of energy per hour and not per second as prescribed by classical physics. A kilowatt-hour is 1,000 watts used for one hour. So a 100-watt light bulb operating for ten hours would use one kilowatt-hour.  Power plants are normally known by their generation capacity. So when you say that a plant is of 200 MW capacity, it means that the plant can generate 200 MW of energy in an hour of operation.  Major energy production or consumption is often expressed as terawatt hours (TWh) for a given period that is often a calendar year or financial year. A 365-day year equals to 8,760 hours, therefore one gigawatt equals to 8.76 terawatt hours per year. Conversely, one terawatt hour is equal to a sustained power of approximately 114 megawatts for a period of one year.

________

Carbon dioxide (CO2) measurement:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is measured in parts-per-million (ppm). This number tells how many parts of carbon dioxide there are in one million parts of air. Parts-per-million (ppm) is the ratio of one gas to another. For example, 390 ppm of CO2 means that if you could count a million gas molecules, 390 of them would be of carbon dioxide and 999,610 molecules would be some other gases. 1ppm = 0.0001% gas. Keep in mind that while ppm and % concentration tell you the ratio of one gas to another, they don’t tell you the weight of the target gas. Scientists use gigatons, which are 1012 kg, to express global carbon masses. Over the past 400,000 years, CO2 concentrations have shown several cycles of variation from about 180 parts per million during the deep glaciations of the Holocene and Pleistocene to 280 parts per million during the interglacial periods. Each part per million by volume of CO2 in the atmosphere contains approximately 2.13 gigatons of carbon. Currently CO2 constitutes about 0.041% (equal to 410 ppm) by volume of the atmosphere, which corresponds to approximately 3200 gigatons of CO2, which includes approximately 870 gigatons of carbon. Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. The atomic mass of carbon is 12, while the atomic mass of CO2 is 44. Therefore, to convert from gigatons carbon to gigatons of carbon dioxide, you simply multiply 44 over 12. The global mean CO2 concentration is currently rising at a rate of approximately 2 ppm/year and accelerating. Since global warming is attributed to increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as CO2, scientists closely monitor atmospheric CO2 concentrations and their impact on the present-day biosphere.

______

______

Introduction to Combat Climate Change (CCC):

In a world with thousands of coal-fired power plants, nearly 2 billion cars and trucks, and billions of tons of coal, oil, and natural gas mined and combusted, it is no surprise that some 40 billion metric tons of CO2 are discharged into the atmosphere annually. The oceans and the world’s plants absorb some, yet concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere inexorably rise year by year, climbing in 2016 past 400 parts per million, compared to 280 before the Industrial Revolution. This is setting off changes from a meltdown in the Arctic, to thawing glaciers worldwide, to weird weather and rising seas. Indeed, the atmosphere has now accumulated enough CO2 to stave off the next ice age for millennia, and every person on Earth now breathes air unlike that inhaled by any previous member of our species, Homo sapiens. To have any hope of slowing such pollution and, ultimately, reversing it, will require an energy revolution and some game-changing technological breakthroughs. After all, it took the advent of cheap methods to fracture underground shale rock with high-pressure water and sand — the technique known as fracking — to free natural gas and make it cheap enough to begin to kill coal in the U.S. As a result of this cheap natural gas freed by fracking, U.S. emissions of CO2 are now back down to levels last seen in the last decade of the 20th century. Of course, natural gas is still a fossil fuel and fracking generates sizable leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. So even though fracked natural gas is an improvement over coal, it still adds to the relentless buildup of CO2.

_

Overall, at least 1.2 billion people—16 % of the world’s population—currently live without electricity. And yet, the electricity required for people to read at night, pump a minimal amount of drinking water and listen to radio broadcasts would amount to less than 1 percent of overall global energy demand. Fossil fuel based energy systems serve poor people, especially rural dwellers, very badly. Access to energy, including electricity, is much better in urban zones; but the urban poor often suffer most heavily from severe local pollution from traditional energy sources, such as the dismal air quality in Beijing and New Delhi. And, poor people are widely viewed as most vulnerable to the climate change resulting from fossil fuel emissions. Developing and emerging economies face thus a two-fold energy challenge in the 21st century: Meeting the needs of billions of people who still lack access to basic modern energy services while simultaneously participating in a global transition to clean, low-carbon energy systems. And historic rates of progress toward increased efficiency, de-carbonization, greater fuel diversity and lower pollutant emissions need to be greatly accelerated in order to do so.

_

For the past 10 to 15 years, the energy sectors in most countries have been in turmoil. Many developing countries have been attempting to restructure their energy sectors, but are finding it difficult to implement reforms. The reasons include the multiplicity of actors involved, the changing perceptions of the relative roles of the market and governments, and the accumulation of policies of past decades, many of which may have made sense when they were proposed, but now impose unsustainable burdens. Meanwhile, a sharp run-up in world energy prices and growing concerns about the supply of conventional petroleum (and natural gas, in some parts of the world), combined with projections of continued strong growth of demand globally and greater awareness of the threats posed by climate change, have brought a heightened sense of urgency to national and international energy policy debates. The current energy outlook is challenging to say the least. Whether governments are chiefly concerned with economic growth, environmental protection or energy security, it is clear that a continuation of current energy trends will have many undesirable consequences at best, and risk grave, global threats to the well-being of the human race at worst. The situation in developing countries is in many ways more difficult than that for developed countries. Not only are there obvious resource constraints, but also a significant part of the population may lack access to basic energy services. Yet, developing countries also have some advantages. They can learn from past experience, avoid some of the policy missteps of the last half century and have an opportunity to “leapfrog” directly to cleaner and more efficient technologies. Fortunately many essential elements of a sustainable energy transition can be expected to mesh well with other critical development objectives, such as improving public health, broadening employment opportunities, nurturing domestic industries, expanding reliance on indigenous resources and improving a country’s balance of trade.

_

Renewable energy is seen as a necessary step toward sustainable energy development, diminution of the use of fossil fuels and mitigation of climate change, as stated for example by Elliott (2000): “With concerns about Climate Change growing, the rapid development of renewable energy technologies looks increasingly important.” However, the recent analysis of Nugent and Sovacool (2014) showed that, when their complete life-cycle is considered, renewable energies are not CO2 sinks yet. Nevertheless their greenhouses gas emission rate per unit of energy produced is much less than for energy sources based on fossil fuels and slightly less than for nuclear power. They also “uncover best practices in wind and solar design and deployment that can better inform climate change mitigation efforts in the electricity sector.” Elliott (2000) underlines that renewable energy deployment requires a new paradigm, of decentralized energy production and small production systems. The implementation of renewable energy will need social and institutional changes, even if technology for these systems already exists. Funding, incentive policies and statutory obligations on electricity suppliers may be needed to develop renewable energy faster. Lund (2007) demonstrates that, in Denmark, a transition toward 100% of renewable energy production is possible. Sovacool and Ratan (2012) conclude that nine factors linked to policy, social and market aspects favor or limit the development of wind turbines and solar energy, and explain why renewable energy is growing fast in Denmark and Germany compared to India and the USA. Sims et al. (2003) show that most renewable energies can, in certain circumstances, reduce cost as well as CO2 emissions, except for solar power, which remains expensive. However, Hernandez et al. (2014) review the environmental impacts of utility-scale solar energy installations (solar farms), which are typically implemented in rural areas, and show that they have low environmental impacts relative to other energy systems, including other renewables. Furthermore, solar power is also one of the few renewable energy sources that can be implemented on a large scale within cities themselves. Arnette (2013) shows that, compared to solar farms, individual rooftop solar panels are a very cost-effective means of increasing renewable energy generation and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. So they conclude that solar panel implementation on roofs should be part of a balanced approach to energy production.

_

In 2014, for the first time in history, the amount of new renewable generation capacity surpassed that of new fossil fuel-based systems on a global basis. This trend continued in 2015 with new renewable capacity outstripping fossil fuels by a factor of more than two. Investment volumes are correspondingly large with the amount of money committed to renewables (excluding large hydro-electric projects) reaching $286 billion in 2015. In 2016, investments volumes declined to $246 billion, but newly installed capacity increased by 9% compared to 2015, due to ongoing declines in costs. This energy revolution holds the potential to extend four considerable new advantages to the world’s poor populations.

First, the modular nature of renewable systems, notably solar, combined with substantial endowments of sun in the rural areas of many developing countries, opens unprecedented opportunities for rural electrification, allowing children to study after sundown, cold storage of medicines and produce, automated grain milling, and water pumping for drinking and irrigation (among many other items).

Second, especially if the battery performance to price ratio continues to rise dramatically and stimulate adoption of electric modes of transport, the intense local air pollution that has frequently afflicted poor urban dwellers since the dawn of the industrial revolution should finally begin to subside.

Third, as demand for fossil fuels wanes, the price of fossil fuels is likely to remain low or, in the case of oil, fall. Because the transition away from fossil fuels will take time, the price of fossil fuels will remain macroeconomically significant for many years. The large majority of poor people live in net fuel importing countries. For these people, low fossil fuel prices are an economic boon. At the same time, lower income inhabitants of fuel exporting countries have very often not benefitted from the resource revenues, leading many analysts to proclaim a ‘resource curse’ (think Venezuela). On this view, lower fossil fuel prices may improve long-run prospects for poor people in resource exporting countries.

Finally, more renewables and less fossil fuel use means lower emissions and less climate change, with strong positive implications for prospects for poor people almost everywhere, most notably in the developing world. Poor people are widely regarded as being first in line to suffer from climate change, as they have fewer means to cope with climactic changes, and developing countries make up a majority of the areas expected to be hit the hardest by these changes. Reducing emissions and therefore the severity of climate change impacts could spare an unknown but potentially large number of poor people for whom climate change costs could prove catastrophic.

_

If internal combustion was the monumental technological achievement that, over the decades, contributed to climate change, perhaps new technologies can help solve the crisis.  Innovation is not a silver bullet, however. Neither better technology, nor changing to low-carbon behavior will be sufficient on its own; both will be necessary. It’s hard to imagine that technology alone will enable people in the highest per capita emitting countries (e.g. the U.S.) to reduce their emissions by 90-95 percent without substantial changes to how they travel and what they consume.

______

Despite impressive gains by renewable energy technologies, fossil fuels remain the dominant form of energy production for heat, electric power and transportation, and their use continues to grow rapidly increasing carbon dioxide.

______

______

Energy:

_

Energy has been harnessed by human beings for millennia. Initially it was with the use of fire for light, heat, cooking and for safety, and its use can be traced back at least 1.9 million years. Prior to the development of coal in the mid-19th century, nearly all energy used was renewable. Almost without a doubt the oldest known use of renewable energy, in the form of traditional biomass to fuel fires, dates from 790,000 years ago. Use of biomass for fire did not become commonplace until many hundreds of thousands of years later, sometime between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago. Probably the second oldest usage of renewable energy is harnessing the wind in order to drive ships over water. This practice can be traced back some 7000 years, to ships in the Persian Gulf and on the Nile. Moving into the time of recorded history, the primary sources of traditional renewable energy were human labor, animal power, water power, wind, in grain crushing windmills, and firewood, a traditional biomass. In the broadest sense, almost all of the energy we use today, including fossil fuels, can be considered a form of solar energy. The most familiar forms of energy, such as wood, oil, gas, and coal, are embodied forms of solar energy gathered, stored, and transformed by natural processes.

_

All societies require energy services to meet basic human needs (e.g., lighting, cooking, space comfort, mobility, communication) and to serve productive processes. For development to be sustainable, delivery of energy services needs to be secure and have low environmental impacts. Sustainable social and economic development requires assured and affordable access to the energy resources necessary to provide essential and sustainable energy services. This may mean the application of different strategies at different stages of economic development. To be environmentally benign, energy services must be provided with low environmental impacts and low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, 85% of current primary energy driving global economies comes from the combustion of fossil fuels and consumption of fossil fuels accounts for 56.6% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions.

_

Energy is constantly needed for the production of goods and services in order to steer the economy towards desirable directions. The demand for energy today is far greater in highly technological society. The campaign for using renewable energy resources is becoming stronger today because of the finite nature of fossil fuel energy resources as well as the greenhouse gases emission which many scientists believe cause global warming and other forms of undesirable externalities.  Energy powers human progress, from job generation to economic competitiveness, from strengthening security to empowering women, energy is the great integrator: it cuts across all sectors and lies at the heart of all countries’ core interests. Now more than ever, the world needs to ensure that the benefits of modern energy are available to all and that energy is provided as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This is a matter of equity, first and foremost, but it is also an issue of urgent practical importance – this is the impetus for the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.

_

Although energy is critical to economic growth and human development, affordable commercial energy is beyond the reach of one-third of humanity, and many countries and individuals are vulnerable to disruptions in energy supply. Further, energy production and use have negative impacts at the local, regional, and global levels that threaten human health and the long-term ecological balance. Physical resources are plentiful enough to supply the world’s energy needs through the 21st century and beyond, but that their use may be constrained by environmental and other concerns. Options to address these concerns are greater energy efficiency, renewables, and next-generation technologies. A variety of new renewable and advanced energy technologies may be able to provide substantial amounts of energy safely, at affordable costs and with near-zero emissions.

_

Since the dawn of the industrial age, the ability to harness and use different forms of energy has transformed living conditions for billions of people, enabling them to enjoy a level of comfort and mobility that is unprecedented in human history, and freed them to perform increasingly productive tasks. For most of the last 200 years, the steady growth in energy consumption has been closely tied to rising levels of prosperity and economic opportunity in much of the world. However, humanity now finds itself confronting an enormous energy challenge. This challenge has at least two critical dimensions. It has become clear that current patterns of energy use are environmentally unsustainable. The overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels, in particular, threatens to alter the Earth’s climate to an extent that could have grave consequences for the integrity of both natural systems and vital human systems. At the same time, access to energy continues to divide the ‘haves’ from the ‘have-nots.’ Globally, a large fraction of the world’s population—more than two billion people by some estimates—still lacks access to one or several types of basic energy services, including electricity, clean cooking fuel and an adequate means of transportation.

_

In U.S. primary energy consumption per person (or per capita consumption) is about 303 million British thermal units (Btu). The world per capita consumption of primary energy is about 75 million Btu. So an average American consumes 4 times more energy than world average. First industrial revolution was launched in 18’th century by the chemical energy of coal. Second industrial revolution was launched in 20’th century by the energy from petroleum and nuclear power. GDP is the single important driver of energy demand and GDP per capita is a measure of standard of living and therefore population growth needs more energy to maintain quality of life. World’s total energy consumption per capita per year is 73 GJ and developed countries use 198 GJ and developing countries use 41 GJ. America uses 327 GJ, China 48 GJ and India 21 GJ. On average, 25% of world’s energy consumption is in electricity. The average electricity consumption of the world per capita is 721 watts and developed countries use 2224 watts, developing countries use 324 watts, America 3705 watts, China 494 watts and India 175 watts. The human development index of the UN shows that countries with higher electricity consumption per capita have better human development record.

_

While energy is the foremost contributor to carbon emissions, access to it is also a critical enabler of human and economic development. At the same time, the billions who lack access have not contributed to climate change. Any concerns that achieving energy access for all would magnify the challenges of energy security or climate change are unfounded: it would only increase global energy demand by 1% in 2030 and CO2 emissions by 0.6%. The latest figures, recently published in the World Energy Outlook 2016, show that an estimated 1.2 billion people, 16% of the global population, still do not have access to electricity. Access to clean cooking receives far less attention than electrification and in many ways is more difficult to achieve. An estimated 2.7 billion people, or almost 40% of the global population who are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, still rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking. Despite the urgency of the problem, investment is falling far short of what the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates is needed to achieve universal access by 2030 – around $50bn (£40bn) per year. Dedicated policies to promote access are essential to break the vicious cycle of energy poverty, in which growth in incomes and living standards are severely hindered by a lack of energy services. Technology can also be a major enabler of effective policymaking and improvement on the ground: decentralised renewable energy is providing an increasingly viable way to close the access gap in rural areas, particularly for remote settlements far from the existing grid.

_

World energy consumption is the total energy used by the entire human civilization. Typically measured per year, it involves all energy harnessed from every energy source applied towards humanity’s endeavours across every single industrial and technological sector, across every country. It does not include energy from food, and the extent to which direct biomass burning has been accounted for is poorly documented. Closely related to energy consumption is the concept of total primary energy supply (TPES), which – on a global level – is the sum of energy production minus storage changes. Since changes of energy storage over the year are minor, TPES values can be used as an estimator for energy consumption. However, TPES ignores conversion efficiency, overstating forms of energy with poor conversion efficiency (e.g. coal, gas and nuclear) and understating forms already accounted for in converted forms (e.g. photovoltaic or hydroelectricity).  In 2014, world primary energy supply amounted 155,481 terawatt-hour (TWh) or 13,541 Mtoe (567 EJ), while the world final energy consumption was 109,613 TWh or about 29.5% less than the total supply. World total primary energy supply (TPES), or “primary energy” differs from the world final energy consumption because much of the energy that is acquired by humans is lost as other forms of energy during the process of its refinement into usable forms of energy and its transport from its initial place of supply to consumers. Energy crisis is defined as the shortage/disruption of energy supply resulting in the rise of energy price which adversely affects the economy/security of the world with lowering standard of living and poor quality of life. Energy crisis occurs due to labour strike, accident, war ,terrorist strike, overconsumption of energy, depletion of energy sources, business corruption, severe weather, energy theft etc.

_

As economies develop and become more complex, energy needs increase greatly. Historically, as supplies of firewood and other biomass energy proved insufficient to support growing economies in Europe and the United States, people turned to hydropower (also a form of stored solar energy), then to coal during the nineteenth century, and then to oil and natural gas during the twentieth century. In the 1950s nuclear power was introduced into the energy mix. Each stage of economic development has been accompanied by a characteristic energy transition from one major fuel source to another. Today, fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—are by far the dominant energy source in industrial economies, and the main source of energy production growth in developing economies. But the twenty-first century is already seeing the start of the next great transition in energy sources—away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources. This transition is motivated by many factors, including concerns about environmental impacts (particularly climate change), limits on fossil fuel supplies, prices, and technological change. Society will eventually adopt renewable energy, since fossil fuels are limited in supply and only created over geologic time. Thus the question is not whether society will shift to renewable energy, but when. Fossil fuel reserve lifetimes may be extended by new technologies for extraction, but the need to minimize the damaging effects of climate change is a more immediate problem than fossil fuel depletion. If the worst impacts of rising temperatures and climate alteration are to be avoided, society needs to switch to renewable energy sources while much fossil carbon is still safely buried in the earth’s crust.

_

_

The global energy system currently relies mainly on hydrocarbons such as oil, gas and coal, which together provide nearly 80 per cent of energy resources. Traditional biomass – such as wood and dung – accounts for 11 per cent and nuclear for 3 to 4 per cent, while all other renewable sources combined contribute just 3 to 4 per cent. Energy resources, with the exception of nuclear, are ultimately derived from the sun. Non-renewable resources such as coal, oil and gas are the result of a process that takes millions of years to convert sunlight into hydrocarbons. Renewable energy sources convert solar radiation, the rotation of the earth and geothermal energy into usable energy in a far shorter time.

_

World delivered energy use by sector:

_

_

Based on statistical data from 2011 by the US Department of Energy Information, primary consumption of energy by source and sectors were:

The above data shows almost 90% of sources of energy in the US were non-renewable; therefore it would be beneficial to employ renewable energy resources (wind, solar, geothermal, wave and biomass energy) because of their availability and cleanliness.

_

International Energy Outlook 2017:

In the International Energy Outlook 2017 (IEO2017) Reference case, total world energy consumption rises from 575 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2015 to 736 quadrillion Btu in 2040, an increase of 28%.  Most of the world’s energy growth will occur in countries outside of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where strong, long-term economic growth drives increasing demand for energy. Non-OECD Asia (including China and India) alone accounts for more than half of the world’s total increase in energy consumption over the 2015 to 2040 projection period. By 2040, energy use in non-OECD Asia exceeds that of the entire OECD by 41 quadrillion Btu in the IEO2017.  Economic growth—as measured by gross domestic product (GDP)—is a key determinant in the growth of energy demand.  The world’s GDP (expressed in purchasing power parity terms) rises by 3.0%/year from 2015 to 2040.  In the long term, the IEO2017 Reference case projects increased world consumption of marketed energy from all fuel sources—except coal, where demand is essentially flat—through 2040 as seen in the figure below. Renewables are the world’s fastest-growing energy source, with consumption increasing by an average 2.3%/year between 2015 and 2040. The world’s second fastest-growing source of energy is nuclear power, with consumption increasing by 1.5%/year over that period.

_

Limiting the magnitude of future climate change will require significant reductions in climate forcing, and GHGs emitted by the energy sector are the single largest contributor. Hence, many strategies to limit climate change typically focus on reducing GHG emissions from the energy sector. These strategies can be grouped into four major categories:

(1) reductions in demand, typically through changes in behavior that reduce the demand for energy;

(2) efficiency improvements, or reducing the amount of energy needed per unit of goods and services produced (also called energy intensity) through changes in systems, behaviors, or technologies;

(3) development and deployment of energy systems that emit few GHGs or other climate forcing agents, or at least emit fewer GHGs per unit energy consumed than traditional fossil fuel-based technologies; and

(4) direct capture of CO2 or other GHGs during or after fossil fuel combustion.

These general strategies are discussed in subsequent sections.

____

Primary and secondary energy source:

A primary energy source is defined as one that is captured directly from natural resources. A secondary energy source is one obtained from a primary energy source through a transformation process, typically with the aim to make it suitable for a particular energy use. Primary energy source in the world can be divided in Renewable and Non-Renewable energy source, which is converted into secondary energy source like electricity and hydrogen. Secondary energy source is energy carrier which stores, transports and delivers energy to home/industry in usable form. For example, coal is the primary energy source in a thermal power plant which generates electricity which is energy carrier, which is delivered in our home to cook food or cool home.

 

_

In a typical energy system, consumers (the demand side) wish to receive specific services provided by the energy delivered to them by producers (supply side). Energy sources typically require transformation into secondary energy carriers, which then deliver energy to the point of end use. Here energy is transformed again by appropriate technologies to provide the service demanded. Renewable energy sources can serve as a primary energy supply. All renewable energy sources can be converted to electricity. In principle, energy can always be converted from one form to another. In actual practice, however, there will be some forms that will be preferred due to cost-effectiveness.  Analysis of energy flows is described using four different organizing principles: primary energy, secondary energy carriers, energy services and economic sector.

Figure below shows several simplified energy flow pathways of renewable energy from source to end use linking these four parts. Energy transport and storage are often needed to provide a stable energy service to the consumer, making the energy pathway more complicated. These aspects are not shown in the figure.

_____

Electricity:

Electricity is actually a secondary energy source, also referred to as an energy carrier. That means that we get electricity from the conversion of other sources of energy, such as fossil fuel (coal, oil and natural gas), nuclear, hydropower, wind power or solar energy. These are called primary sources. The total worldwide annual primary energy supply in 2014 was 155,481 TWh and approximately 16 percent of the total primary energy was used in generating electricity. In 2014, world energy consumption for electricity generation was coal 40.8%, natural gas 21.6%, nuclear 10.6%, hydro 16.4%, ‘others’ (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, etc.) 6.3% and oil 4.3%. Coal and natural gas were the most popular energy fuels for generating electricity. Electricity is the most widely used and rapidly growing form of secondary energy supply. It offers great flexibility of distribution and use, is relatively efficient, very safe for the consumer, and environmentally benign in end-use. In the IEO2017 Reference case, world net electricity generation increases by 45%, rising from 23.4 trillion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2015 to 34.0 trillion kWh in 2040. Electricity is the world’s fastest-growing form of end-use energy consumption, as it has been for many decades. Power systems continue to evolve from isolated, non-competitive grids to integrated national and international markets. Long-term global prospects continue to improve for generation from renewable energy sources and natural gas as seen in the figure below.

Renewables are the fastest-growing source of energy for electricity generation, with average increases of 2.8%/year from 2015 to 2040. By 2040, generation from renewable energy sources surpasses generation from coal on a worldwide basis. Although consumption of non-fossil fuels is expected to grow faster than fossil fuels, fossil fuels still account for 77% of energy use in 2040. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel in the projections.

______

Hydrogen:

Hydrogen is not an energy source, it is an energy carrier, and potentially a means of storing energy. Currently, most of the world’s hydrogen is produced from natural gas by a process called steam reforming. Using this process, Carbon Dioxide is still released leading to climate change, and non-renewable resources are still consumed. There is another way to make hydrogen, however, which is the use of electricity to break water down into hydrogen and oxygen. If this is done using renewable energy sources, the ‘hydrogen economy’ is born. Hydrogen can be used to very efficiently generate electricity in fuel cells. Fuel cells are based on the chemical reaction in which hydrogen and oxygen combine to make water, but instead of letting the reaction happen explosively, it happens in a controlled process that generates large amounts of electricity and relatively little heat. Because it can be stored and transported without losses, hydrogen may be an important intermediary in going from our fossil-fuel economy to one based on renewable energy, and because it is a high-energy fuel it may be particularly important in transport, although batteries may instead fill this role. Deployed at scale, hydrogen could account for almost one-fifth of total final energy consumed by 2050. This would reduce annual CO2 emissions by roughly six gigatons compared to today’s levels, and contribute roughly 20 per cent of the abatement required to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius. The assessment has been done in a study released by the Hydrogen Council recently.

_____

Energy services, efficiency, intensity and saving:

Energy services are the tasks to be performed using energy. A specific energy service can be provided in many ways. Lighting, for example, may be provided by daylight, candles or oil lamps or by a multitude of different electric lamps. The efficiency of the multiple conversions of energy from primary source to final output may be high or low, and may involve the release of large or small amounts of CO2 (under a given energy mix). Hence there are many options as to how to supply any particular service. In this report, some specific definitions for different dimensions of efficiency are utilized.

Energy efficiency is the ratio of useful energy or other useful physical outputs obtained from a system, conversion process, transmission or storage activity to its energy input. Hence the fraction of solar, wind or fossil fuel energy that can be converted to electricity is the conversion efficiency. There are fundamental limitations on the efficiency of conversions of heat to work in an automobile engine or a steam or gas turbine, and the attained conversion efficiency is always significantly below these limits. Current supercritical coal-fired steam turbines seldom exceed a 45% conversion of heat to electric work (Bugge et al., 2006), but a combined-cycle steam and gas turbine operating at higher temperatures has achieved 60% efficiencies (Pilavachi, 2000; Najjar et al., 2004).

Energy intensity is the ratio of energy use to output. If output is expressed in physical terms (e.g., tonnes of steel output), energy intensity is the reciprocal of energy productivity or energy efficiency. Alternatively (and often more commonly), output is measured in terms of populations (i.e., per capita) or monetary units such as contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) or total value of shipments or similar terms. At the national level, energy intensity is the ratio of total domestic primary (or final) energy use to GDP. Energy intensity can be decomposed as a sum of intensities of particular activities weighted by the activities’ shares of GDP. At an aggregate macro level, energy intensity stated in terms of energy per unit of GDP or in energy per capita is often used for a sector such as transportation, industry or buildings, or to refer to an entire economy.

Energy savings arise from decreasing energy intensity by changing the activities that demand energy inputs. For example, turning off lights when not needed, walking instead of taking vehicular transportation, changing the controls for heating or air conditioning to avoid excessive heating or cooling or eliminating a particular appliance and performing a task in a less energy intensive manner are all examples of energy savings (Dietz et al., 2009). Energy savings can be realized by technical, organizational, institutional and structural changes and by changed behaviour.

___

Developed vs. developing countries vis-à-vis energy:

Massive improvements in the efficiency of technologies and devices have facilitated continuing reductions in the quantity of energy required to produce a unit of goods and services in industrialized economies. This has resulted in the “decoupling” of economic output from energy consumption—two measures which, until recently, were assumed to grow more or less in lockstep with each other. Figure below upper graph shows that the rates of growth of primary energy use and gross domestic product (GDP) for member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) were almost the same between 1960 and 1978, but then began to diverge, providing more output for less energy. A similar divergence appears in lower graph, which presents the same data for developing countries, although it occurs nearly 15 years later (in 1993).

_

Developed nations are promoting clean energy technologies due to their heightened sensitivity towards the environment and being mandated under the various international climate conventions like the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, or, UNFCCC. On the other hand, the reasons for developing economies to advocate renewable energy technologies include enhancement of their energy security (reduction in energy imports), besides bridging the energy deficit and enabling energy access to the masses through decentralized systems in form of lifeline energy services like cleaner forms of basic lighting devices (solar lanterns) and cooking systems (biogas plants).

_

Developing Countries need Fossil Fuels:

Fossil fuels are still the cheapest, most reliable energy resources available. When a developing country wants to build a functional economic system and end rampant poverty, it turns to fossil fuels. Developing countries currently cannot sustain themselves, let alone grow, without relying heavily on fossil fuels. Global warming typically takes a back seat to feeding, housing, and employing these countries’ citizens. Yet the weather fluctuations and consequences of climate change are already impacting food growth in many of these countries. India, for example, is home to one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion citizens living in poverty. That’s 400 million people in one country without sufficient food or shelter. India hopes to transition to renewable energy as its economy grows, but the investment needed to meet its renewable energy goals “is equivalent to over four times the country’s annual defense spending, and over ten times the country’s annual spending on health and education.” Unless something changes, developing countries like India cannot fight climate change and provide for their citizens. In fact, developing countries will only accelerate global warming as their economies grow because they cannot afford alternatives. Wealthy countries cannot afford to ignore the impact of these growing, developing countries.

_____

_____

Non-renewable energy (NRE):

There are nine major areas of energy resources. They fall into two categories: non-renewable and renewable. Non-Renewable energy (NRE) is defined as the energy source which cannot be replenished naturally in a relatively short time. Renewable energy (RE) is defined as the energy source which is derived from natural sources replenished constantly.  Non-renewable energy resources, like coal, nuclear, oil, and natural gas, are available in limited supplies. This is usually due to the long time it takes for them to be replenished. Renewable resources are replenished naturally and over relatively short periods of time. The five major renewable energy resources are solar, wind, water (hydro), biomass, and geothermal. Since the dawn of humanity people have used renewable sources of energy to survive — wood for cooking and heating, wind and water for milling grain, and solar for lighting fires. A little more than 150 years ago people created the technology to extract energy from the ancient fossilized remains of plants and animals. These super-rich but limited sources of energy (coal, oil, and natural gas) quickly replaced wood, wind, solar, and water as the main sources of fuel. Today, 85 % of world’s energy need is met with NRE and 15 % with RE. It is estimated that NRE will be depleted in 200 years, and then, world’s energy need ought to be met with RE to sustain standard of living and quality of life. Also, RE is better than NRE because it has unlimited supply, environment friendly, less pollutant, less global warming, generate employment and stabilize energy price.

_

Some resources can be thought of as both renewable and non-renewable.

  • Wood can be used for fuel and is renewable if trees are replanted.
  • Biomass, which is material from living things, can be renewable if crops are replanted.

_

Non-renewable energy resources:

Type of fuel Where it is from Advantages Disadvantages
Coal (fossil fuel)
  • Formed from fossilised plants and consisting of carbon with various organic and some inorganic compounds.
  • Mined from seams of coal, found sandwiched between layers of rock in the earth.
  • Burnt to provide heat or electricity.
  • Ready-made fuel.
  • It is relatively cheap to mine and to convert into energy.
  • Coal supplies will last longer than oil or gas.
  • When burned coal gives off atmospheric pollutants, including greenhouse gases.
Oil (fossil fuel)
  • A carbon-based liquid formed from fossilised animals.
  • Lakes of oil are sandwiched between seams of rock in the earth.
  • Pipes are sunk down to the reservoirs to pump the oil out.
  • Widely used in industry and transport.
  • Oil is a ready-made fuel.
  • Relatively cheap to extract and to convert into energy.
  • When burned, it gives off atmospheric pollutants, including greenhouse gases.
  • Only a limited supply.
Natural gas (fossil fuel)
  • Methane and some other gases trapped between seams of rock under the earth’s surface.
  • Pipes are sunk into the ground to release the gas.
  • Often used in houses for heating and cooking.
  • Gas is a ready-made fuel.
  • It is a relatively cheap form of energy.
  • It’s a slightly cleaner fuel than coal and oil.
  • When burned, it gives off atmospheric pollutants, including greenhouse gases.
  • Only limited supply of gas.
Nuclear
  • Radioactive minerals such as uranium are mined.
  • Electricity is generated from the energy that is released when the atoms of these minerals are split (by nuclear fission) in nuclear reactors.
  • A small amount of radioactive material produces a lot of energy.
  • Raw materials are relatively cheap and can last quite a long time.
  • It doesn’t give off atmospheric pollutants.
  • Nuclear reactors are expensive to run.
  • Nuclear waste is highly toxic, and needs to be safely stored for hundreds or thousands of years (storage is extremely expensive).
  • Leakage of nuclear materials can have a devastating impact on people and the environment. The worst nuclear reactor accident was at Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986.
Biomass
  • Biomass energy is generated from decaying plant or animal waste.
  • It can also be an organic material which is burned to provide energy, e.g. heat, or electricity.
  • An example of biomass energy is oilseed rape (yellow flowers you see in the UK in summer), which produces oil.
  • After treatment with chemicals it can be used as a fuel in diesel engines.
  • It is a cheap and readily available source of energy.
  • If the crops are replaced, biomass can be a long-term, sustainable energy source.
  • When burned, it gives off atmospheric pollutants, including greenhouse gases. If crops are not replanted, biomass is a non-renewable resource.
Wood
  • Obtained from felling trees, burned to generate heat and light.
  • A cheap and readily available source of energy.
  • If the trees are replaced, wood burning can be a long-term, sustainable energy source.
  • When burned it gives off atmospheric pollutants, including greenhouse gases.
  • If trees are not replanted wood is a non-renewable resource.

_

Fossil fuel:

Fossil fuels make up a large portion of today’s energy market, although promising new renewable technologies are emerging. Most non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Carbon is the main element in fossil fuels. For this reason, the time period that fossil fuels formed (about 360-300 million years ago) is called the Carboniferous Period.  All fossil fuels formed in a similar way. Hundreds of millions of years ago, even before the dinosaurs, Earth had a different landscape. It was covered with wide, shallow seas and swampy forests. Plants, algae, and plankton grew in these ancient wetlands. They absorbed sunlight and created energy through photosynthesis. When they died, the organisms drifted to the bottom of the sea or lake. There was energy stored in the plants and animals when they died. Over time, the dead plants were crushed under the seabed. Rocks and other sediment piled on top of them, creating high heat and pressure underground. In this environment, the plant and animal remains eventually turned into fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum). Fossil fuels were formed millions of years ago due to actions of the heat of the earth’s core and the pressure from rocks and soil over the remnants of dead animals and plants. Today, there are huge underground pockets (called reservoirs) of these non-renewable sources of energy all over the world. Coal supplies 25 %, oil 37 % and natural gas 23 % of the world energy need. At the present rate of energy consumption in the world, coal will be over in 133 years, oil in 48 years and natural gas in 61 years. Burning fossil fuels generates carbon dioxide. Most renewable energy sources are carbon-free. This means that they do not emit any carbon dioxide when they generate energy. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric are carbon-free. Nuclear is also considered a carbon-free energy source, because unlike fossil fuel, it does not burn.

_

The nuclear energy we use comes from an isotope of Uranium called U-235. Unlike fossil fuels, U-235 has cosmic origins: it was formed by one or more supernovae around 6 billion years ago, about 1.5 billion years before the Earth was formed and this material was inherited by the solar system of which the Earth is a part. Today its slow radioactive decay provides the main source of heat inside the Earth, causing convection and continental drift.  Again, this is not renewable energy source on a human timescale. Nuclear fission is the most common technique to harness nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants produce some sort of nuclear waste called radioactive elements.

_

To summarize: coal, oil, and natural gas are fossil fuels. Even though they all get their energy from the sun, none of them are renewable. Nuclear is also non-renewable, but it is not a fossil fuel.

______

How long will fossil fuels last?

Estimates from international organisations suggest that if the world’s demand for energy from fossil fuels continues at the present rate that oil and gas reserves may run out within some of our lifetimes. Coal is expected to last longer.

Estimated length of time left for fossil fuels:

Fossil fuel Time left
Oil 50 years
Natural gas 70 years
Coal 250 years

_

Another estimate of reserve status of the fossil fuels in the world and daily consumption is shown in the table below:

It can be seen from various estimates that fossil fuel resources in the world will run out in a very short period of time.

______

Positive Aspects of Non-renewable Energy:

The energy infrastructure of much of the industrialized world is built to be powered by fossil fuel. Non-renewable fossil fuels provide most of our total energy needs including heating, transportation and electricity generation. This pre-existing infrastructure makes the use of fossil fuels much easier to adopt than renewable options, which require a greater initial investment. Photovoltaic solar cells or windmills, for example, may require substantial amounts of money to install. But an existing building can draw energy from an electrical grid and current natural gas pipelines without any new equipment. Non-renewable energy sources are also able to generate a more constant supply of power, as long as their fuel exists. Renewable energy sources may rely on irregular or less frequent conditions, such as sunlight to generate solar power or wind to turn turbines.

______

Harms associated with the use of Fossil Fuels:

The harms that relate to the use of fossil fuels include the following:

  • Global warming
  • Acid rains
  • Dangers posed by leaded fuels
  • Oil spills
  • Gas leaks and explosions
  • Water pollution caused by poorly managed coal mines
  • Air pollution
  1. Global warming (vide infra):

Global warming refers to the gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface and its atmosphere which has been attributed to the accumulation of greenhouse gases. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), water vapour, nitrogen oxides and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). All the greenhouse gases except CFCs are naturally produced and their concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing due to human activities.  CO2 is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for more than 50 percent of the global temperature rise. This has occurred because of the burning of fossil fuels and wood products. Notwithstanding the increase in the levels of CO2, there is continuing loss of the world’s forests that serve as CO2 sinks (green plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere). Through the process called photosynthesis, green plants constantly remove CO2 from the atmosphere and combine it with water vapour in the presence of sunlight, to produce carbohydrates and oxygen:

6 CO2 + 6H2O + Sunlight → C6H12O6 + 6 O2↑

Methane may be produced naturally when wet organic matter decomposes under bacteria action in the absence of oxygen. Such decompositions could take place in landfills, swampy/paddy fields, digestive tracks of ruminants and termites and septic tanks. Man induced methane emissions may come from leaks in natural gas distribution systems, leaks of refinery gases in petroleum reefing and coal mining.  The burning of fossil fuels also produces significant amounts of nitrous oxides. During the burning of fossil fuels, nitrogen in the air combines with oxygen at high temperatures to produce nitrous oxides.

The effects of global warming include the following:

  • Rise in mean (average) global temperature
  • Rising sea levels
  • Occurrence of weather extremes
  • Shifting of vegetative zones
  1. Acid rains:

Acid rains are caused by the release of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen when fossil fuels burn. The oxides combine with water vapour in the air to form acids, which return to the ground as acid rain. It is important to note that acidified clouds could travel great distances before releasing the acid rain. The problems posed by acid rains include corrosion of the built environment, soil degradation, water pollution and depletion of forests.

  1. Dangers posed by leaded fuels:

The oil industry adds lead to petrol (gasoline) to help engines run more smoothly. Vehicles that burn leaded gasoline pour out leaded fumes that contaminate the air. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has established that smoke from the combustion of leaded fuels in vehicles causes cancer and high blood pressure in adults and in children it impairs mental development, reduces intelligence thus hindering learning ability and causes behavioural disorders.  Technological advances in vehicle engine design have made it possible for engines to run on unleaded petrol. Today lead-free petrol does not have negative effect on new vehicles but many older-models need to have their engines adjusted. Leaded fuel has now been phased out in most developed countries and sub-Saharan Africa, but is still in use in some North African and Asian countries.

  1. Oil spills:

This is leakage of fuel oil from storage vessels, oil tankers, pipelines, tanker trucks or other vessels used for transporting fuel oil. Oil spills seriously damage the land, vegetation, and water bodies, including the oceans. Fuel oil is poisonous if ingested by animals. In addition, spilled oil damages the feathers of birds or the fur of animals, often causing death.

  1. Gas leaks and explosions:

Gas leaks and explosions sometimes accompany the harnessing and utilization of fossil fuels especially in the coal mines and storage plants. The explosions are sometimes accompanied by fire outbreaks. Gas leaks and explosions have claimed several lives, caused severe injuries to people and destroyed property worldwide.

  1. Water pollution caused by poorly managed coal mines:

Excavated areas that have been strip mined for coal but are not filled and revegetated cause water pollution as surface water runoff from the mined area can flush sediments and sulphur-bearing compounds into nearby streams and rivers. This could endanger human life, plant and wildlife communities.

  1. Air pollution:

Emissions from vehicles, thermal power plants and factories contain unburned hydrocarbons, particulates, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur that contribute to the lowering of the quality of air. These substances in the air could irritate the eyes, throat and the lungs.

_______

_______

Nuclear power plants:

Nuclear power plants today generally produce electricity after splitting heavy elements during fission. The products of the fission collide with water in a reactor, releasing energy, causing the water to boil, releasing steam whose enhanced partial pressure turns a turbine to generate electricity. The most common heavy elements split are 235U and 239Pu. When a slow-moving neutron hits 235U, the neutron is absorbed, forming 236U, which splits, for example, into 92Kr, 141Ba, three free neutrons, and gamma rays. When the fragments and the gamma rays collide with water in a reactor, they respectively convert kinetic energy and electromagnetic energy to heat, boiling the water. The element fragments decay further radioactively, emitting beta particles (high-speed electrons). Uranium is originally stored as small ceramic pellets within metal fuel rods. After 18–24 months of use as a fuel, the uranium’s useful energy is consumed and the fuel rod becomes radioactive waste that needs to be stored for up to thousands of years. With breeder reactors, unused uranium and its product, plutonium, are extracted and reused, extending the lifetime of a given mass of uranium significantly. Nuclear energy consumption in Tera-watt-hour per 1 million population shows France using 4.2 twhr, America 2.7, India/China 0.01 twhr. World’s uranium ore reserve is 5.5 million tons with yearly consumption of 65000 tons of uranium in nuclear power plants to generate electricity. So uranium will be over in 85 years. Nuclear power, with a 10.6% share of world electricity production as of 2013, is second only to hydroelectricity as the largest source of low-carbon power. Over 400 reactors generate electricity in 31 countries.

_

A Yale University review published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology analyzing CO2 life cycle assessment (LCA) emissions from nuclear power (Light water reactors) determined that: “The collective LCA literature indicates that life cycle GHG emissions from nuclear power are only a fraction of traditional fossil sources and comparable to renewable technologies.”  While some have raised uncertainty surrounding the future GHG emissions of nuclear power as a result of an extreme potential decline in uranium ore grade without a corresponding increase in the efficiency of enrichment methods. In a scenario analysis of future global nuclear development, as it could be effected by a decreasing global uranium market of average ore grade, the analysis determined that depending on conditions, median life cycle nuclear power GHG emissions could be between 9 and 110 g CO2-eq/kWh by 2050, with the latter high figure being derived from a “worst-case scenario” that is not “considered very robust” by the authors of the paper, as the “ore grade” in the scenario is lower than the uranium concentration in many lignite coal ashes. In their 2014 report, the IPCC comparison of energy source’s global warming potential per unit of electricity generated, which notably included albedo effects, mirror the median emission value derived from the Warner and Heath Yale meta-analysis for the more common non-breeding Light water reactors, a CO2-equivalent value of 12 g CO2-eq/kWh, which is the lowest global warming forcing of all baseload power sources, with comparable low carbon power baseload sources, such as hydropower and biomass, producing substantially more global warming forcing 24 and 230 g CO2-eq/kWh respectively. In 2014, Brookings Institution published The Net Benefits of Low and No-Carbon Electricity Technologies which states, after performing an energy and emissions cost analysis, that “The net benefits of new nuclear, hydro, and natural gas combined cycle plants far outweigh the net benefits of new wind or solar plants”, with the most cost effective low carbon power technology being determined to be nuclear power.

_

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama stated, “Nuclear power represents more than 70% of our noncarbon generated electricity. It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option.”

Above graph illustrates nuclear power is the United States’ largest contributor of non-greenhouse-gas-emitting electric power generation, comprising nearly three-quarters of the non-emitting sources. Nuclear power is an established technology that could meet a significant portion of the world’s energy needs. France obtains roughly 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear sources and Japan obtains 27 percent (EIA, 2007). About 20 percent of U.S. electricity comes from nuclear reactors, by far the largest source of GHG-free energy (EIA, 2009). The reliability of U.S. reactors has increased dramatically over the past several decades, but no nuclear power plants had been ordered for over 30 years, largely because of high costs, uncertain markets, and public opposition. Nuclear power may be uncompetitive compared with fossil fuel energy sources in countries without a carbon tax program, and in comparison to a fossil fuel plant of the same power output, nuclear power plants take a longer amount of time to construct. Improved availability and upgrades have kept nuclear power’s share of generation constant at 20 percent despite the growth of other generation technologies. A nuclear revival has been initiated recently, largely because of concerns over limiting the magnitude of climate change. The U.S. government is providing loan guarantees for the first set of plants now being planned to compensate for uncertainties in costs and regulation. If these plants are successful in coming online at reasonable cost, their numbers could grow rapidly.

_

Analysis in 2015 by Professor and Chair of Environmental Sustainability Barry W. Brook and his colleagues on the topic of replacing fossil fuels entirely, from the electric grid of the world, has determined that at the historically modest and proven-rate at which nuclear energy was added to and replaced fossil fuels in France and Sweden during each nation’s building programs in the 1980s, within 10 years nuclear energy could displace or remove fossil fuels from the electric grid completely, “allowing the world to meet the most stringent greenhouse-gas mitigation targets.”.  In a similar analysis, Brook had earlier determined that 50% of all global energy, that is not solely electricity, but transportation fuels etc. could be generated within approximately 30 years, if the global nuclear fission build rate was identical to each of these nation’s already proven decadal rates (in units of installed nameplate capacity, GW per year, per unit of global GDP (GW/year/$). This is in contrast to the completely conceptual paper-studies for a 100% renewable energy world, which would require an orders of magnitude more costly global investment per year, an investment rate that has no historical precedent, having never been attempted due to its prohibitive cost, and with far greater land area that would be required to be devoted to the wind, wave and solar projects, along with the inherent assumption that humanity will use less, and not more, energy in the future. As Brook notes the “principal limitations on nuclear fission are not technical, economic or fuel-related, but are instead linked to complex issues of societal acceptance, fiscal and political inertia, and inadequate critical evaluation of the real-world constraints facing [the other] low-carbon alternatives.”

_

Public opinion about nuclear power varies widely between countries. A poll by Gallup International (2011) assessed public opinion in 47 countries. The poll was conducted following a tsunami and earthquake which caused an accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. 49% stated that they held favourable views about nuclear energy, while 43% held an unfavourable view. Another global survey by Ipsos (2011) assessed public opinion in 24 countries. Respondents to this survey showed a clear preference for renewable energy sources over coal and nuclear energy. Ipsos (2012) found that solar and wind were viewed by the public as being more environmentally friendly and more viable long-term energy sources relative to nuclear power and natural gas. However, solar and wind were viewed as being less reliable relative to nuclear power and natural gas. In 2012 a poll done in the UK found that 63% of those surveyed support nuclear power, and with opposition to nuclear power at 11%. In Germany, strong anti-nuclear sentiment led to eight of the seventeen operating reactors being permanently shut down following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

__

While nuclear power does not emit GHGs, there are other serious concerns associated with its production, including radioactive wastes (especially long-term storage of certain isotopes), safety, and security concerns related to the proliferation of nuclear weapons (MIT, 2003). The absence of a policy solution for the disposal of long-lived nuclear wastes, while not technically an impediment to the expansion of nuclear power, is still a concern for decision makers. New reactor construction has been barred in 13 U.S. states as a result, although several of these states are reconsidering their bans. Safety concerns stem from the potential for radioactive releases from the reactor core or spent fuel pool following an accident or terrorist attack. Nuclear reactors include extensive safeguards against such releases, and the probability of one happening appears to be very low. Nevertheless, the possibility cannot be ruled out, and such concerns are important factors in public acceptance of nuclear power. Proliferation of nuclear weapons is a related concern, but after 40 years of debate, there is no consensus as to whether U.S. nuclear power in any way contributes to potential weapons proliferation. A critical question is whether there are multilateral approaches that can successfully decouple nuclear power from nuclear weapons (Socolow and Glaser, 2009). Finally, public opinion is less skeptical of nuclear power in the abstract than it once was, but a majority of Americans oppose the location of nuclear (and coal or natural gas) power plants near them (Ansolabere and Konisky, 2009; Rosa, 2007). Some evidence suggests that the lack of support for nuclear power is based in part on a lack of trust in the nuclear industry and federal regulators (Whitfield et al., 2009).

_

Current U.S. nuclear power plants were built with technology developed in the 1960s and 1970s. In the intervening decades, ways to make better use of existing plants have been developed, along with new technologies that improve safety and security, decrease costs, and reduce the amount of generated waste—especially high-level waste. These technological innovations include improvements or modification of existing plants, alternative new plant designs (e.g., thermal neutron reactor and fast neutron reactor designs), and the use of alternative (closed) nuclear fuel cycles. The new technologies under development may allay some of the concerns noted above, but it will be necessary to determine the functionality, safety, and economics of those technologies through demonstration and testing.

_

Nuclear fusion:

Nuclear fusion in the sun, which occurs when high-energy atoms collide and fuse together, is the primary source of energy for all life on earth. Fusion produces no greenhouse gases or harmful waste and is far more energy efficient than fossil fuels. The fuel that powers nuclear reactors, hydrogen isotope nuclei, is virtually inexhaustible. However, fusion reactions require conditions which are extremely difficult — and expensive — to recreate. The fuel must be heated to 180 million degrees Fahrenheit, and the reactions must occur in a controlled manner that does not damage the container in which they take place. There are several experiments underway that seek to make nuclear fusion a viable energy source within the next few decades. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), currently under construction in France, is a fusion reactor called a tokamak, a machine consisting of a doughnut-shaped magnetic chamber. Inside the chamber, hydrogen gas is subjected to intense heat and pressure, causing it to transform into plasma and allowing fusion reactions to take place. Heat energy produced by the reactions is contained by the tokamak’s magnetic field and eventually harnessed. Halfway across the world from ITER, a Canadian company called General Fusion is developing a magnetized target fusion system, a machine in which plasma is compressed by steam-powered pistons to produce the conditions for the fusion reaction. The generated heat is absorbed by a wall of molten lead-lithium, which is used to heat water that powers an electricity-generating steam turbine.

_____

_____

Climate change and global warming:

_

_

Climate:

_

The climate system is a complex, interactive system consisting of the atmosphere, land surface, snow and ice, oceans and other bodies of water, and living things. The atmospheric component of the climate system most obviously characterises climate; climate is often defined as ‘average weather’. Climate is usually described in terms of the mean and variability of temperature, precipitation and wind over a period of time, ranging from months to millions of years (the classical period is 30 years). The climate system evolves in time under the influence of its own internal dynamics and due to changes in external factors that affect climate (called ‘forcings’). External forcings include natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and solar variations, as well as human-induced changes in atmospheric composition. Solar radiation powers the climate system. There are three fundamental ways to change the radiation balance of the Earth: 1) by changing the incoming solar radiation (e.g., by changes in Earth’s orbit or in the Sun itself); 2) by changing the fraction of solar radiation that is reflected (called ‘albedo’; e.g., by changes in cloud cover, atmospheric particles or vegetation); and 3) by altering the longwave radiation from Earth back towards space (e.g., by changing greenhouse gas concentrations). Climate, in turn, responds directly to such changes, as well as indirectly, through a variety of feedback mechanisms.

_

The reason the Earth’s surface is this warm is the presence of greenhouse gases, which act as a partial blanket for the longwave radiation coming from the surface. This blanketing is known as the natural greenhouse effect. The most important greenhouse gases are water vapour and carbon dioxide. The two most abundant constituents of the atmosphere – nitrogen and oxygen – have no such effect. Clouds, on the other hand, do exert a blanketing effect similar to that of the greenhouse gases; however, this effect is offset by their reflectivity, such that on average, clouds tend to have a cooling effect on climate (although locally one can feel the warming effect: cloudy nights tend to remain warmer than clear nights because the clouds radiate longwave energy back down to the surface). Human activities intensify the blanketing effect through the release of greenhouse gases. For instance, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by about 35% in the industrial era, and this increase is known to be due to human activities, primarily the combustion of fossil fuels and removal of forests. Thus, humankind has dramatically altered the chemical composition of the global atmosphere with substantial implications for climate.

_

Because the Earth is a sphere, more solar energy arrives for a given surface area in the tropics than at higher latitudes, where sunlight strikes the atmosphere at a lower angle. Energy is transported from the equatorial areas to higher latitudes via atmospheric and oceanic circulations, including storm systems. Energy is also required to evaporate water from the sea or land surface, and this energy, called latent heat, is released when water vapour condenses in clouds. Atmospheric circulation is primarily driven by the release of this latent heat. Atmospheric circulation in turn drives much of the ocean circulation through the action of winds on the surface waters of the ocean, and through changes in the ocean’s surface temperature and salinity through precipitation and evaporation.  Due to the rotation of the Earth, the atmospheric circulation patterns tend to be more east-west than north-south. Embedded in the mid-latitude westerly winds are large-scale weather systems that act to transport heat toward the poles. These weather systems are the familiar migrating low- and high-pressure systems and their associated cold and warm fronts. Because of land-ocean temperature contrasts and obstacles such as mountain ranges and ice sheets, the circulation system’s planetary-scale atmospheric waves tend to be geographically anchored by continents and mountains although their amplitude can change with time. Because of the wave patterns, a particularly cold winter over North America may be associated with a particularly warm winter elsewhere in the hemisphere. Changes in various aspects of the climate system, such as the size of ice sheets, the type and distribution of vegetation or the temperature of the atmosphere or ocean will influence the large-scale circulation features of the atmosphere and oceans. There are many feedback mechanisms in the climate system that can either amplify (‘positive feedback’) or diminish (‘negative feedback’) the effects of a change in climate forcing. For example, as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases warm Earth’s climate, snow and ice begin to melt. This melting reveals darker land and water surfaces that were beneath the snow and ice, and these darker surfaces absorb more of the Sun’s heat, causing more warming, which causes more melting, and so on, in a self-reinforcing cycle. This feedback loop, known as the ‘ice-albedo feedback’, amplifies the initial warming caused by rising levels of greenhouse gases. Detecting, understanding and accurately quantifying climate feedbacks have been the focus of a great deal of research by scientists unravelling the complexities of Earth’s climate.

_

Climate is generally defined as average weather, and as such, climate change and weather are intertwined. Observations can show that there have been changes in weather, and it is the statistics of changes in weather over time that identify climate change. While weather and climate are closely related, there are important differences. A common confusion between weather and climate arises when scientists are asked how they can predict climate 50 years from now when they cannot predict the weather a few weeks from now. The chaotic nature of weather makes it unpredictable beyond a few days. Projecting changes in climate (i.e., long-term average weather) due to changes in atmospheric composition or other factors is a very different and much more manageable issue. As an analogy, while it is impossible to predict the age at which any particular man will die, we can say with high confidence that the average age of death for men in industrialised countries is about 75. Another common confusion of these issues is thinking that a cold winter or a cooling spot on the globe is evidence against global warming. There are always extremes of hot and cold, although their frequency and intensity change as climate changes. But when weather is averaged over space and time, the fact that the globe is warming emerges clearly from the data.

______

Climate change:

Climate change is a global problem with global consequences. In 2006, warmer-than-average temperatures were recorded across the world for the 30th consecutive year. Increasing average temperatures are melting glaciers and polar ice caps and raising sea levels, putting coastal areas at greater risk of flooding. Mounting evidence indicates that these changes are not the result of the natural variability of climate. The scientific consensus is that the Earth’s climate system is unequivocally warming, and that it is extremely likely (meaning 95% probability or higher) that this warming is predominantly caused by humans. In 2013, 12,000 peer reviewed papers on climate science were analyzed. This analysis showed that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is happening and is human-caused. It is likely that this mainly arises from increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, partially offset by human-caused and volcanic aerosols; natural change has had little effect. The theory of human-induced climate change is supported by numerous respected scientific bodies, including the British Royal Society, the American National Academies and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC, established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), released its fourth assessment report in 2007. It declared that “warming of the climate’s system is unequivocal” and that there is a “very high confidence” that human activity since 1750 has played a significant role in overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide (CO2). One of the greatest concerns associated with climate change is the anticipated increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. The ice storm that struck eastern Canada in 1998 illustrates the magnitude of the potential impact of these events. In addition to extreme weather events, other changes associated with climate change are more gradual. Lakes and rivers generally freeze later and thaw earlier than they used to, resulting in difficulties building and maintaining the ice roads that are vital for many northern communities.

_

We know that carbon dioxide traps heat. We know that the concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased significantly during the industrial age, recently topping the 400 parts per million (ppm) level. We know that we are converting huge masses of liquid and solid fossil fuels into gases in an extremely short period of time. We know that sea levels are rising. We know that the atmospheric experts have predicted that increasing carbon dioxide levels will lead to increasing overall global temperatures and more extreme weather events (hot and cold and dry and wet). Obviously all these events are not coincidences. Climate skeptics and deniers often misrepresent “scientific uncertainty” to undermine climate science findings. Therefore, when it comes to scientific consensus on global warming, it is important to clarify what type of uncertainty exists, and what type does not: there is strong certainty on the types of impacts that global warming is causing (or would be likely to cause under a given scenario for emissions), but less certainty on the exact timing and intensity of these impacts.  For instance, on the issue of sea level rise, we know with certainty that it will happen – it is already happening – and projections under different scenarios give us a range of possible rise.  We don’t know an exact value, however, for future sea level rise, because in large part it is dependent on the rate of future emissions, which is unknown.

____

The threat of climate change:

Human societies have long been subject to disruption by climate change. In the past, most of these variations have reflected natural phenomena, from fluctuations in levels of solar radiation to periodic eruptions of volcanoes. But in future most climate change is likely to result from human actions and in particular from the burning of fossil fuels and changes in global patterns of land use. These and other developments have been increasing the atmospheric concentrations of certain gases – chiefly carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane and nitrous oxide – called greenhouse gases (GHGs) because, accumulating in the upper atmosphere, they act like the roof of a greenhouse, trapping long-wave radiation and thus raising temperatures and provoking other forms of climatic disruption. This process has been accelerating. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased exponentially from about 280 parts per million (ppm) in 1800 to about 410 ppm today and there have been similar increases for methane and nitrous oxide. The rate at which the levels will rise in the future is difficult to estimate; this will depend on a complex interplay of many factors, including rates of population expansion, economic growth and patterns of consumption. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has projected that by 2100 atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide could have reached between 540 ppm and 970 ppm and that, as a result, global surface temperature could rise by between 1.4°C and 5.8°C. However, the effects will be not be uniform. For one thing, the changes will differ from one location to another; global warming will, for example, be greater at higher latitudes than in the tropics. And there could also be different weather consequences; while some regions will have more intense rainfall, others will have more prolonged dry periods and a number of regions will experience both. The social consequences too will vary, depending, for example, on levels of development; in South Asia extra tropical storms could kill tens of thousands of people, while in the United States they might kill fewer people but lead to billions of dollars’ worth of damage. And even within the same society there will be differential social impacts; for young people greater heat stress may simply be a minor inconvenience, while for the elderly it can be fatal. But across the world and in every country those most at risk will typically be the poorest, and in developing countries these will often be those who depend most for their survival on a healthy natural environment, such as ethnic tribes or nomadic groups, fishing communities, smallholders and livestock herders.  The impact will vary according to a society’s capacity to prepare for these disruptions – and to respond. When faced with a sea level rise, countries such as those around the North Sea, for example, have advanced technological and institutional systems that enable them to take appropriate action, while small island States in the South Pacific, lacking the necessary resources, will have fewer options.

_

The greenhouse effect:

The earth’s atmosphere is like a blanket that keeps the planet warm. The greenhouse effect is a heat-trapping process that occurs naturally in the atmosphere. Without the greenhouse effect, the average temperature of the earth would be a frigid -19°C instead of the balmy 14°C that we currently enjoy. The greenhouse effect—the natural phenomenon by which the Earth’s atmosphere traps and holds warmth from the sun—is vital to our survival. Without it, the Earth’s surface temperature would be about 33°C cooler and unable to support life as we know it. Trace gases carbon dioxide, ozone, methane, nitrogen oxides, and others in the atmosphere absorb and retain radiated heat before it escapes into space. Because CO2 exists in the atmosphere in far larger quantities than other trace gases, it is responsible for more than half the greenhouse effect. But too much of this good thing can cause global climate change. If the amounts of CO2 and other trace greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are increased, more heat will be trapped. This could change climate patterns, temperature, and atmospheric processes.

_

Anthropogenic and natural sources of greenhouse gases
Anthropogenic sources Natural sources
Carbon dioxide Fossil fuel combustion; deforestation; industrial processes. Respiration by plants and animals; oceans; decay and fermentation of organic matter; forest and grass fires.
Methane Livestock and rice cultivation; biomass burning; landfills; coal mining. Wetlands.
Nitrous oxide Fossil fuel combustion; wood combustion; nitrogenous fertilizers. Anaerobic denitrification in soil and water.
Hydrofluorocarbons Foam insulation; metal production; coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners.
Perfluorocarbons Aluminium production; refrigeration; air conditioning; semi-conductor manufacturing.
Sulphur hexafluoride Magnesium smelting; aluminium production; electrical switchgear manufacture and failure.

_

_

Global warming potential of greenhouse gases:
 Greenhouse gas 100-year global warming potential (GWP) index
Carbon dioxide (CO2) 1
Methane (CH4) 21
Nitrous oxide (N2O) 310
Sulphur hexafluoride (SF 6) 23,900
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) 140 to 11,700
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) 6,500 to 9,200

_

It’s worth noting that different greenhouse gases last in the atmosphere for different lengths of time, and they also absorb different amounts of heat. The “global warming potential” (or “GWP”) of a GHG indicates the amount of warming a gas causes over a given period of time (normally 100 years). GWP is an index, with CO2 having the index value of 1, and the GWP for all other GHGs is the number of times more warming they cause compared to CO2. E.g. 1kg of methane causes 21 times more warming over a 100 year period compared to 1kg of CO2, and so methane as a GWP of 21.

Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e):

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common GHG emitted by human activities, in terms of the quantity released and the total impact on global warming. As a result the term “CO2” is sometimes used as a shorthand expression for all greenhouse gases, however, this can cause confusion, and a more accurate way of referring to a number of GHGs collectively is to use the term “carbon dioxide equivalent” or “CO2e”.

“Carbon dioxide equivalent” or “CO2e” is a term for describing different greenhouse gases in a common unit. For any quantity and type of greenhouse gas, CO2e signifies the amount of CO2 which would have the equivalent global warming impact. A quantity of GHG can be expressed as CO2e by multiplying the amount of the GHG by its GWP.

E.g. if 1kg of methane is emitted, this can be expressed as 21kg of CO2e (1kg CH4 X 21 = 21kg CO2e).

“CO2e” is a very useful term for a number of reasons: it allows “bundles” of greenhouse gases to be expressed as a single number; and it allows different bundles of GHGs to be easily compared (in terms of their total global warming impact). However, one word of caution when comparing CO2e totals is that it is important to know that the same GHGs are included in the totals being compared, in order to be sure that like‐for‐like comparisons can be made. It is also worth noting that “CO2e” is also sometimes written as “CO2eq”, “CO2equivalent”, or even “CDE”, and these terms can be used interchangeably.

__

__

Greenhouse gas emissions by sector:

In 2007, transport (including shipping and aviation) was responsible for 6.6 gigatons of CO2 emissions globally, 23% of all energy related CO2 emissions. In addition to generating CO2, transport—driven by internal combustion engines—is also responsible for small amounts of other GHG emissions including methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases, as well as acoustic noise and significant local air pollution from SO2, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, unburnt hydrocarbons and particulates, all of which affect health and the environment. Where combustion can be reduced or avoided entirely such as in electric and hybrid powertrains, or shifted to power stations where exhaust products can be cleaned up more effectively, the welfare and health benefits of low carbon transport—for example, better urban air quality—are immediately apparent and represent a strong selling point, independent of their impact on climate change.

____

Greenhouse gas from electricity generation:

Electricity generation from fossil fuels is responsible for 37% of U.S. CO2, a greenhouse gas and major contributor to climate change. To create lasting climate change mitigation, the replacement of high carbon emission intensity power sources, such as conventional fossil fuels—oil, coal and natural gas—with low-carbon power sources is required.

As seen in the figure above, hydroelectricity and nuclear power together provide the majority of the generated low-carbon power fraction of global total power consumption. International Energy Agency (IEA) has measured that towards limiting the temperature rise to two degree centigrade (450 ppm scenario by 2050), the total installed capacity of renewable energy sources for electricity production needs to be augmented 3770 GW by 2035. This shall require annual investments of over US $550 billion in climate change mitigation and adjustment technology.

____

World carbon dioxide emissions:

Since about 1750 human activity has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Measured atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are currently 120 ppm higher than pre-industrial levels. Natural sources of carbon dioxide are more than 20 times greater than sources due to human activity, but over periods longer than a few years natural sources are closely balanced by natural sinks, mainly photosynthesis of carbon compounds by plants and marine plankton. As a result of this balance, the atmospheric mole fraction of carbon dioxide remained between 260 and 280 parts per million for the 10,000 years between the end of the last glacial maximum and the start of the industrial era. Natural sources include decomposition, ocean release and respiration.

_

Figure below shows CO2 emissions by fuel type as burning fossil fuels make atmospheric CO2 level rise:

Coal is responsible for 43% of carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion, 36% is produced by oil and 20% from natural gas.

_

_

Figure below shows fossil fuel CO2 emission per year (2012) and cumulative (1751-2012) in gigatons of carbon (GtC):

_

Global CO2 emissions:

1 gigaton of carbon (GtC) = 1 billion tonnes of carbon

To convert carbon to carbon dioxide (CO2), multiply GtC number by 3.67.

1 GtC = 3.67 GtCO2

Global carbon (C) emissions from fossil fuel use were 9.795 gigatons (Gt) in 2014 (or 35.9 Gt of carbon dioxide).  Fossil fuel emissions (including cement production) accounted for about 91% of total CO2 emissions from human sources in 2014. This portion of emissions originates from coal (42%), oil (23%), gas (19%), cement (6%) and gas flaring (1%). Changes in land use are responsible for about 9% of all global CO2 emissions. The largest national contributions to the net growth in total global emissions in 2013 were China (58% of the growth), USA (20% of the growth), India (17% of the growth), and EU28 (a decrease by 11% of the growth). From 1870 to 2014, cumulative carbon emissions totalled about 545 GtC.  Emissions were partitioned among the atmosphere (approx. 230 GtC or 42%), ocean (approx. 155 GtC or 28%) and the land (approx. 160 GtC or 29%). The 2014 level of CO2 in the atmospheric was 143% of the level when the Industrial Revolution started in 1750. Today we have cumulative carbon emissions ∼370 GtC from all fossil fuels.

_

Once we release the carbon dioxide stored in the fossil fuels we burn, it accumulates in and moves amongst the atmosphere, the oceans, the land, and the plants and animals of the biosphere. The released carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Only after many millennia will it return to rocks, for example, through the formation of calcium carbonate – limestone – as marine organisms’ shells settle to the bottom of the ocean. But on time spans relevant to humans, once released the carbon dioxide is in our environment essentially forever. It does not go away, unless we, ourselves, remove it.

_

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged at a record-breaking speed in 2016 to the highest level in 800,000 years, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The abrupt changes in the atmosphere witnessed in the past 70 years are without precedent. Globally averaged concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 ppm in 2015 because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Nino event. Concentrations of CO2 are now 143% of pre-industrial (before 1750) levels, according to the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

Rapidly increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have the potential to initiate unprecedented changes in climate systems, leading to severe ecological and economic disruptions.

Population growth, intensified agricultural practices, increases in land use and deforestation, industrialization and associated energy use from fossil fuel sources have all contributed to increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial era, beginning in 1750. Since 1990, there has been a 40% increase in total radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – by all long-lived greenhouse gases, and a 2.5% increase from 2015 to 2016 alone, according to figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement. Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet. CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer. The laws of physics mean that we face a much hotter, more extreme climate in the future. There is currently no magic wand to remove this CO2 from the atmosphere. The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago, the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now.

_

Atmospheric CO2 and temperature correlation:

Not a hard correlation to see. The reason for this is simple—CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The way an actual greenhouse works is the glass lets in sun energy and traps a lot of it inside as heat. There are a handful of chemicals in our atmosphere that do the same thing—sun rays come in, bounce off the Earth, and they’re on their way out when the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere block some of them and spread them through the atmosphere, warming things up. Mars has an average temperature of -55ºC (-67ºF), but Venus has an average temperature of 462ºC (864ºF). Why? CO2. Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth so the sun’s energy easily escapes, while Venus’s atmosphere is much thicker, with 300 times the CO2 as Earth, so it traps in a ton of heat. Mercury is closer to the sun than Venus, but with no atmosphere, it’s cooler than Venus. During the day, Mercury gets almost as hot as Venus, but at night it gets freezing, while Venus is just as hot at night as it is during the day, because the heat lives permanently in its thick atmosphere. So it makes sense that an increase in CO2 here would increase temperature—but by how much? When compared to the Pre-Industrial average temperature, our current average temperature has risen by a little less than 1ºC. But as CO2 levels keep rising, most scientists expect temperatures to keep rising. The UN-supported Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from different countries, came out with a report that laid out the temperature projections of a number of independent labs as seen in the figure below. This is what those labs think will happen if no action is taken to alter the current trends in CO2 emissions:

The IPCC also says that the changes in both CO2 levels and temperature are caused by human activity.

_

The Temperature doesn’t need to change very much to cause havoc:

18,000 years ago, global temperatures were about 5ºC lower than the 20th century average. That was enough to put Canada, Scandinavia, and half of England and the US under a half a mile of ice. That’s what 5ºC can do. 100 million years ago, temperatures were 6-10ºC higher than they are now—and every region of the Earth was tropical, there was no permanent ice anywhere, ocean levels were 200 meters higher.

So we’re currently in this not-that-big window we probably should try to stay in:

_

Humans are now the main cause of changes of Earth’s atmospheric composition and thus the drive for future climate change. The principal climate forcing, defined as an imposed change of planetary energy balance, is increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel emissions, much of which will remain in the atmosphere for millennia. The climate response to this forcing and society’s response to climate change are complicated by the system’s inertia, mainly due to the ocean and the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica together with the long residence time of fossil fuel carbon in the climate system. The inertia causes climate to appear to respond slowly to this human-made forcing, but further long-lasting responses can be locked in. More than 170 nations have agreed on the need to limit fossil fuel emissions to avoid dangerous human-made climate change, as formalized in the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, the stark reality is that global emissions have accelerated and new efforts are underway to massively expand fossil fuel extraction by drilling to increasing ocean depths and into the Arctic, squeezing oil from tar sands and tar shale, hydro-fracking to expand extraction of natural gas, developing exploitation of methane hydrates, and mining of coal via mountaintop removal and mechanized long-wall mining. The growth rate of fossil fuel emissions increased from 1.5%/year during 1980–2000 to 3%/year in 2000–2012, mainly because of increased coal use.

_

The Framework Convention does not define a dangerous level for global warming or an emissions limit for fossil fuels. The European Union in 1996 proposed to limit global warming to 2°C relative to pre-industrial times, based partly on evidence that many ecosystems are at risk with larger climate change. The 2°C target was reaffirmed in the 2009 “Copenhagen Accord” emerging from the 15th Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention, with specific language “We agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, as documented in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius…”. A global warming target is converted to a fossil fuel emissions target with the help of global climate-carbon-cycle models, which reveal that eventual warming depends on cumulative carbon emissions, not on the temporal history of emissions. The emission limit depends on climate sensitivity, but central estimates, including those in the upcoming Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are that a 2°C global warming limit implies a cumulative carbon emissions limit of the order of 1000 GtC.

_

The industrial era has been fuelled by the burning of fossil fuels to provide energy for industry, transportation, heat and electric power. The trapping of radiant heat by carbon dioxide released during combustion of these fuels is now understood to be a major contributor to global warming and climate change. In 2007, the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of IPCC expressed very high confidence (>90%) that the global average net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming. There is a measured increase in global average temperature of 0.76°C (± 0.2°C) between 1850-1899 and 2001-2005, and the warming trend has increased significantly over the last 50 years. Although other greenhouse gases (GHGs) contribute to this warming, CO2 from fossil fuels accounts for some 60% of the underlying radiative climate forcing, and by 2008 concentrations had increased from preindustrial levels of 280 ppm to 385 ppm (Solomon et al, 2009). Recent studies have demonstrated that climate change is accelerating, that the warming may be significantly greater and the consequences more severe and irreversible than previously realized. Solomon et al. report that “climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop.” Additional carbon dioxide and some methane is released from coal mining, oil and gas production and natural gas transmission and distribution leaks, forest clearing and burning and by land use change. Analysis also suggests that additional warming from carbon black may be adding to radiative forcing (Ramanathan, 2009) along with other changes in the albedo or reflectivity of the earth’s surface. AR4 [WG1] projected that by the end of this century global annual average temperature will have risen by between 1.1 and 6.4°C depending on which of the SRES socio-economic scenarios best fits actual future GHG emissions. More recent projections, by Prinn et al. (Prinn, 2009), indicate a warmer range of 3.5 to 7.4°C. The adverse impacts of such climate change (and the associated sea level rise) on water supply, ecosystems, food security, human health and coastal settlements were assessed by AR4 [WG2]. A very recent report summarizes multiple trends and concludes that climate change is accelerating on every front from glacial melting to temperature and sea level rise (Copenhagen Diagnosos, 2009) The severity of the consequences of reaching irreversible tipping  points temperature rises have lead many governments to advocate limiting temperature rises to 2°C above preindustrial values. It is the total concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere that directly affects the global temperature.  GHG emission rates from fossil fuels currently exceed the ability of natural sinks to absorb them, so the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will continue to increase unless and until emissions decrease to less than the rate that they can be removed from the atmosphere by the natural sinks of the ocean and the terrestrial biosphere. If global emissions continue to increase, then global average temperature will increase by 3-5°C by 2100. To limit the average temperature increase to 2°C requires emissions to decrease sufficiently to stabilise CO2 concentration below 450 ppm. This in turn implies that global emissions will have to decrease by 50-80% below current levels by 2050 and to begin to decrease instead of their current projected rapid increase by about 2020. Renewable energy (RE) in combination with end use efficiency is one of the few solutions that enable reducing CO2 output while maintaining energy services and economic growth. Various forms of RE are universally available, and can readily be introduced in both developed and developing countries. However currently RE contributes only 18% of global energy use, of which13% is from traditional use of biomass (firewood, dung and agricultural waste), much of which is both inefficient and ecologically unsustainable. On the other hand, the use of wind power and solar energy (PV) are both increasing rapidly from a low base: indeed in 2008 the investment in new RE systems by the electric power sector globally and in both the EU and the USA exceeded their investment in new coal and gas energy systems. The potential energy supply from RE is very large.  Apart from climate change mitigation, renewable energy can play a significant role in meeting sustainable development goals, enhancing energy security, employment creation and meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For example, use of modern energy services from renewable energy can contribute to freeing up household time in developing countries, and reducing smoke related diseases especially for women and children. This time can be reallocated to tending agricultural tasks, improving agriculture productivity, and develop micro-industries to build assets, increase income, and financial well-being of rural communities, thereby helping to alleviate poverty.

_

Global warming enhances heat stress, disease, severity of tropical storms, ocean acidity, sea levels, and the melting of glaciers, snow pack, and sea ice. Further, it shifts the location of viable agriculture, harms ecosystems and animal habitats, and changes the timing and magnitude of water supply. It is due to the globally-averaged difference between warming contributions by greenhouse gases, fossil-fuel plus biofuel soot particles, and the urban heat island effect, and cooling contributions by non-soot aerosol particles as seen in the figure below. The primary global warming pollutants are, in order, carbon dioxide gas, fossil-fuel plus biofuel soot particles, methane gas, halocarbons, tropospheric ozone, and nitrous oxide gas. About half of actual global warming to date is being masked by cooling aerosol particles, thus, as such particles are removed by the clean-up of air pollution, about half of hidden global warming will be unmasked. This factor alone indicates that addressing global warming quickly is critical. Stabilizing temperatures while accounting for anticipated future growth, in fact, requires about an 80% reduction in current emissions of greenhouse gases and soot particles.

Figure above shows primary contributions to observed global warming from 1750 to today from global model calculations. The fossil-fuel plus biofuel soot estimate accounts for the effects of soot on snow albedo. The remaining numbers were calculated by the author. Cooling aerosol particles include particles containing sulfate, nitrate, chloride, ammonium, potassium, certain organic carbon, and water, primarily. The sources of these particles differ, for the most part, from sources of fossil-fuel and biofuel soot.

_____

What would happen to the climate if we were to stop emitting carbon dioxide today, right now?

Would we return to the climate of our elders?

The simple answer is no.

If we stop emitting today, it’s not the end of the story for global warming. There’s a delay in temperature increase as the climate catches up with all the carbon that’s in the atmosphere. After maybe 40 more years, the climate will stabilize at a temperature higher than what was normal for previous generations. This decades-long lag between cause and effect is due to the long time it takes to heat the ocean’s huge mass. The energy that is held at the Earth by the increased carbon dioxide does more than heat the air. It melts ice; it heats the ocean. Compared to air, it’s harder to raise the temperature of water – it takes time, decades. However, once the ocean temperature is elevated, it adds to the warming of the Earth’s surface. So even if carbon emissions stopped completely right now, as the oceans catch up with the atmosphere, the Earth’s temperature would rise about another 0.6 degree C. Scientists refer to this as committed warming. Ice, also responding to increasing heat in the ocean, will continue to melt. There’s already convincing evidence that significant glaciers in the West Antarctic ice sheets are lost. Ice, water, and air – the extra heat held on the Earth by carbon dioxide affects them all. That which has melted will stay melted – and more will melt.

______

Global warming from vehicles using fossil fuel:

While diesel fuel contains slightly more carbon (2.68kg CO₂/litre) than petrol (2.31kg CO₂/litre), overall CO₂ emissions of a diesel car tend to be lower. In use, on average, this equates to around 200g CO₂/km for petrol and 120g CO₂/km for diesel. Natural gas contains less carbon than any other fossil fuel and thus produces fewer carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when burned. While NGVs do emit methane, another principle greenhouse gas, the increase in methane emissions is more than offset by a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions. CNG fuelled vehicle emits 20 to 29 percent fewer GHG emissions than a comparable gasoline or diesel fuelled vehicle on a well-to-wheel basis. For natural gas vehicles that run on biomethane, the GHG emissions reduction approaches 90 percent. Despite lower carbon dioxide emissions, diesel cars may promote more global warming than gasoline cars. Laws that favor the use of diesel, rather than gasoline, engines in cars may actually encourage global warming, according to a 2002 study. Although diesel cars obtain 25 to 35 percent better mileage and emit less carbon dioxide than similar gasoline cars, they can emit 25 to 400 times more mass of particulate black carbon and associated organic matter (“soot”) per kilometer [mile]. The warming due to soot may more than offset the cooling due to reduced carbon dioxide emissions over several decades. Diesel engines made after 2005 have all had particulate filters installed. A diesel engine with a filter removes 99.99% of black carbon emissions and today all the diesel cars have filters, so there are virtually no black carbon emissions anymore. Thus new, well maintained diesel cars, built to the latest standards have similar emissions to new petrol vehicles. So as far as global warming potential is concerned, both diesel and petrol (gasoline) are same and worse than CNG vehicles although diesel vehicles also produce large quantities of noxious pollutants.

_

How does the hole in the ozone layer affect global warming?

The hole in the ozone layer in the earth’s upper atmosphere (stratosphere) reduces the greenhouse effect because ozone is a greenhouse gas. However, ozone in the stratosphere filters out ultraviolet radiation from the sun that is harmful to life on earth.  Ozone in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) is created by chemical reactions between pollutants and sunlight. Ozone in the troposphere is dangerous to human health because it can cause lung damage and other cardiopulmonary problems when inhaled.

__

The Link between Economic Growth and CO2:

According to a World Bank report, “poor and middle-income countries already account for just over half of total carbon emissions.” And this percentage will only rise as developing countries grow. Achieving a global society in which all citizens earn a living wage and climate catastrophe is averted requires breaking the link between economic growth and increasing carbon emissions in developing countries. Today, most developing countries that decrease their poverty rates also have increased rates of carbon emissions. In East Asia and the Pacific, the number of people living in extreme poverty declined from 1.1 billion to 161 million between 1981 and 2011—an 85% decrease. In this same time period, the amount of carbon dioxide per capita rose from 2.1 tons per capita to 5.9 tons per capita—a 185% increase. South Asia saw similar changes during this time frame. As the number of people living in extreme poverty decreased by 30%, the amount of carbon dioxide increased by 204%. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people living in poverty increased by 98% in this thirty-year span, while carbon dioxide per capita decreased by 17%. Given the current energy situation, if sub-Saharan Africans are to escape extreme poverty, they will have to increase their carbon use—unless developing countries step in to offer clean alternatives.

_____

_____

Impact of climate change:

_

Sea level rise:

The important point is that the uncertainty is not about whether continued rapid CO2 emissions would cause large sea level rise, submerging global coastlines – it is about how soon the large changes would begin. The carbon from fossil fuel burning will remain in and affect the climate system for many millennia, ensuring that over time sea level rise of many meters will occur – tens of meters if most of the fossil fuels are burned. That order of sea level rise would result in the loss of hundreds of historical coastal cities worldwide with incalculable economic consequences, create hundreds of millions of global warming refugees from highly-populated low-lying areas, and thus likely cause major international conflicts.

_

Shifting climate zones:

Humans may adapt to shifting climate zones better than many species. However, political borders can interfere with human migration, and indigenous ways of life already have been adversely affected. Impacts are apparent in the Arctic, with melting tundra, reduced sea ice, and increased shoreline erosion. Effects of shifting climate zones also may be important for indigenous Americans who possess specific designated land areas, as well as other cultures with long-standing traditions in South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.

_

Human Extermination of Species:

Biodiversity is affected by many agents including overharvesting, introduction of exotic species, land use changes, nitrogen fertilization, and direct effects of increased atmospheric CO2 on plant ecophysiology. However, an overriding role of climate change is exposed by diverse effects of rapid warming on animals, plants, and insects in the past three decades. A sudden widespread decline of frogs, with extinction of entire mountain-restricted species attributed to global warming, provided a dramatic awakening. There are multiple causes of the detailed processes involved in global amphibian declines and extinctions, but global warming is a key contributor and portends a planetary-scale mass extinction in the making unless action is taken to stabilize climate while also fighting biodiversity’s other threats. Mountain-restricted and polar-restricted species are particularly vulnerable.  IPCC reviewed studies relevant to estimating eventual extinctions. They estimate that if global warming exceeds 1.6°C above preindustrial, 9–31 percent of species will be committed to extinction. With global warming of 2.9°C, an estimated 21–52 percent of species will be committed to extinction. A comprehensive study of biodiversity indicators over the past decade reveals that, despite some local success in increasing extent of protected areas, overall indicators of pressures on biodiversity including that due to climate change are continuing to increase and indicators of the state of biodiversity are continuing to decline.

_

Coral Reef Ecosystems:

Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse marine ecosystem, often described as the rainforests of the ocean. Over a million species, most not yet described, are estimated to populate coral reef ecosystems generating crucial ecosystem services for at least 500 million people in tropical coastal areas. These ecosystems are highly vulnerable to the combined effects of ocean acidification and warming. Acidification arises as the ocean absorbs CO2, producing carbonic acid, thus making the ocean more corrosive to the calcium carbonate shells (exoskeletons) of many marine organisms. Geochemical records show that ocean pH is already outside its range of the past several million years. Warming causes coral bleaching, as overheated coral expel symbiotic algae and become vulnerable to disease and mortality. Coral bleaching and slowing of coral calcification already are causing mass mortalities, increased coral disease, and reduced reef carbonate accretion, thus disrupting coral reef ecosystem health. Consequences of lost coral reefs can be economically devastating for many nations, especially in combination with other impacts such as sea level rise and intensification of storms.

_

Climate Extremes:

Changes in the frequency and magnitude of climate extremes, of both moisture and temperature, are affected by climate trends as well as changing variability. Extremes of the hydrologic cycle are expected to intensify in a warmer world. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, so precipitation can be heavier and cause more extreme flooding. Higher temperatures, on the other hand, increase evaporation and can intensify droughts when they occur, as can expansion of the subtropics.  Global warming of ∼0.6°C since the 1970s has already caused a notable increase in the occurrence of extreme summer heat. Heat waves lasting for weeks have a devastating impact on human health: the European heat wave of summer 2003 caused over 70,000 excess deaths. This heat record for Europe was surpassed already in 2010. The number of extreme heat waves has increased several-fold due to global warming and will increase further if temperatures continue to rise.

_

Human Health:

Impacts of climate change cause widespread harm to human health, with children often suffering the most. Food shortages, polluted air, contaminated or scarce supplies of water, an expanding area of vectors causing infectious diseases, and more intensely allergenic plants are among the harmful impacts. More extreme weather events cause physical and psychological harm. World health experts have concluded with “very high confidence” that climate change already contributes to the global burden of disease and premature death. IPCC projects the following trends, if global warming continue to increase, where only trends assigned very high confidence or high confidence are included: (i) increased malnutrition and consequent disorders, including those related to child growth and development, (ii) increased death, disease and injuries from heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts, (iii) increased cardio-respiratory morbidity and mortality associated with ground-level ozone. While IPCC also projects fewer deaths from cold, this positive effect is far outweighed by the negative ones. Health impacts of climate change are in addition to direct effects of air and water pollution. A clear illustration of direct effects of fossil fuels on human health was provided by an inadvertent experiment in China during the 1950–1980 period of central planning, when free coal for winter heating was provided to North China but not to the rest of the country. Analysis of the impact was made using the most comprehensive data file ever compiled on mortality and air pollution in any developing country. A principal conclusion was that the 500 million residents of North China experienced during the 1990s a loss of more than 2.5 billion life years owing to the added air pollution, and an average reduction in life expectancy of 5.5 years. The degree of air pollution in China exceeded that in most of the world, yet assessments of total health effects must also include other fossil fuel caused air and water pollutants, as discussed in the following section on ecology and the environment.

Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use (NRC, 2009f) estimated that the damages associated with energy production and use in the United States totalled at least $120 billion in 2005, mostly through the health impacts of fossil fuel combustion. While this is undoubtedly a small fraction of the benefits that energy brings, it reinforces the message that there are significant benefits associated with reducing the use of energy from fossil fuels.

_

Environmental impact of fossil fuel mining:

The ecological impact of fossil fuel mining increases as the largest, easiest to access, resources are depleted. A constant fossil fuel production rate requires increasing energy input, but also use of more land, water, and diluents, with the production of more waste. The increasing ecological and environmental impact of a given amount of useful fossil fuel energy is a relevant consideration in assessing alternative energy strategies.

Coal mining has progressively changed from predominantly underground mining to surface mining, including mountaintop removal with valley fill, which is now widespread in the Appalachian ecoregion in the United States. Forest cover and topsoil are removed, explosives are used to break up rocks to access coal, and the excess rock is pushed into adjacent valleys, where it buries existing streams. Burial of headwater streams causes loss of ecosystems that are important for nutrient cycling and production of organic matter for downstream food webs. The surface alterations lead to greater storm runoff with likely impact on downstream flooding. Water emerging from valley fills contain toxic solutes that have been linked to declines in watershed biodiversity. Even with mine-site reclamation intended to restore pre-mined surface conditions, mine-derived chemical constituents are found in domestic well water. Reclaimed areas, compared with unmined areas, are found to have increased soil density with decreased organic and nutrient content, and with reduced water infiltration rates. Reclaimed areas have been found to produce little if any regrowth of woody vegetation even after 15 years, and, although this deficiency might be addressed via more effective reclamation methods, there remains a likely significant loss of carbon storage.

Oil mining has an increasing ecological footprint per unit delivered energy because of the decreasing size of new fields and their increased geographical dispersion; transit distances are greater and wells are deeper, thus requiring more energy input. The area of land required per barrel of produced oil increased by a factor of 12 between 1955 and 2006 leading to ecosystem fragmentation by roads and pipelines needed to support the wells. Additional escalation of the mining impact occurs as conventional oil mining is supplanted by tar sands development, with mining and land disturbance from the latter producing land use-related greenhouse gas emissions as much as 23 times greater than conventional oil production per unit area. Landscape changes due to tar sands mining and reclamation cause a large loss of peatland and stored carbon, while also significantly reducing carbon sequestration potential. Lake sediment cores document increased chemical pollution of ecosystems during the past several decades traceable to tar sands development and snow and water samples indicate that recent levels of numerous pollutants exceeded local and national criteria for protection of aquatic organisms.

Gas mining by unconventional means has rapidly expanded in recent years, without commensurate understanding of the ecological, environmental and human health consequences. The predominant approach is hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of deep shale formations via injection of millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals under pressure, thus liberating methane. A large fraction of the injected water returns to the surface as wastewater containing high concentrations of heavy metals, oils, greases and soluble organic compounds. Management of this wastewater is a major technical challenge, especially because the polluted waters can continue to backflow from the wells for many years. High levels of methane leakage from fracking have been found, as well as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Methane leaks increase the climate impact of shale gas, but whether the leaks are sufficient to significantly alter the climate forcing by total natural gas development is uncertain. Overall, environmental and ecologic threats posed by unconventional gas extraction are uncertain because of limited research, however evidence for groundwater pollution on both local and river basin scales is a major concern.

Today, with cumulative carbon emissions ∼370 GtC from all fossil fuels, we are at a point of severely escalating ecological and environmental impacts from fossil fuel use and fossil fuel mining, as is apparent from the mountaintop removal for coal, tar sands extraction of oil, and fracking for gas.

______

Climate change and health: 2017 Lancet study:

For decades, scientists have predicted how climate change will hurt people’s health. Now an international team of researchers say they’re already seeing some of the damage. For decades, scientists have been making predictions about how climate change will hurt health around the world. But actually showing a link? That’s been pretty tough. Take for example, mosquito-borne diseases. It’s easy to blame rising temperatures for the global spread of Zika or the explosion of dengue fever. Mosquitoes thrive in higher temperatures, right?

Yes and no.

Warmer weather doesn’t necessarily mean mosquitoes are more likely to spread viruses like dengue, yellow fever and Zika. Higher temperatures can actually reduce transmission of viruses because the insect’s lifespan can decrease in warmer weather. So the mosquito may die before the virus has time to mature and become infectious inside of it.

In other words, climate’s connection to health is extraordinarily complicated.

Now international team of scientists has taken a step toward untangling this problem on a global scale.

Around the world, people have experienced an average increase in temperature about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and the study — published recently in The Lancet journal — finds several signs that even this small amount of warming threatens the health of hundreds of millions of people each year. Climate change is hurting people’s health more than previously thought, a team of 63 doctors, scientists, and public health officials wrote in a report published in the medical journal Lancet. “The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible” the team warns, in the first of what is expected to be an annual report based on 40 indicators. The scientists found that climate change already is having an impact worldwide on health, labor productivity, food scarcity, the spread of infectious disease, and exposure to air pollution and heat waves.

  1. First, the number of vulnerable people exposed to heat waves has surged worldwide, the study finds. In the past few years, more about 125 million people over age 65 experienced heat waves each year, compared to about 19 million people each year in the 1990s. Heat waves aren’t just an inconvenience. Heat kills. And it also exacerbates existing problems, such heart disease and kidney problems.
  2. The second major consequence of warming temperatures is an increase in weather-related disasters. The frequency of floods, droughts and wildfires, collectively, has increased by 46 percent since the 1980s, rising from about 200 events each year to 300 events per year. And some of that increase is due to climate change, the Lancet study finds.
  3. And then there’s the question of mosquito-borne diseases. Since 1990, annual cases of dengue worldwide have doubled each decade. Much of this rise is likely due to rapid urbanization and global travel, the World Health Organization says. But researchers do find that climate change has contributed to dengue’s explosion — at least a little bit. Specifically, the team estimates that climate change has increased dengue transmission by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus by 3 percent and 6 percent, respectively, since 1990.
  4. Finally, the Lancet study also analyzes what countries are doing to slow down climate change. For the past 25 year, countries have been basically doing very little to reduce carbon emissions. Progress has been woefully inadequate.

Nick Watts, executive director of Lancet Countdown, says: “If anybody says we can adapt our way out of this, the answer is, of course you can’t.”

______

Climate change to impoverish 100 million: World Bank official:

Climate change will push 100 million more people below poverty line by 2030, World Bank country director for Turkey, Europe and Central Asia said recently. One of the World Bank’s priorities is to deal with climate change, Johannes Zutt said in an event titled “Developing Green Organized Industrial Zone (OIZ) Framework for Turkey” at a hotel in capital Ankara. He highlighted that industries and supply chains are key actors in development. “These actors, which help to reduce poverty and increase prosperity, also cause climate change,” he added. He underlined that 5 percent of direct greenhouse gas emission and 10 percent of indirect emissions were generated by industries.

_____

Impact of climate change on energy:

All energy systems are susceptible to climate variability and extremes. For example, decreasing water levels and droughts can lead to the shutdown of thermal power plants that depend on water-based cooling systems. Dry periods, alternating with floods, can shift erosion and deposition patterns, altering growth rates of biomass and affecting the quality and quantity of the potential fuel output. The melting of glaciers, induced by temperature increases, can have a negative effect on hydropower systems by causing infrastructure damage from flooding and siltation, as well as affecting generation capacity. The efficiency of solar PV declines with high temperatures and dust accumulation, and most of today’s wind turbines shut down in winds exceeding 100 to 120 kilometres per hour.

A 2013 report by the US Department of Energy details many of the interconnections between climate change and energy.

These include:

  • Increasing risk of shutdowns at thermoelectric power plants (e.g. coal, gas and nuclear) due to decreased water availability which affects cooling, a requirement for operation;
  • Higher risks to energy infrastructure located along the coasts due to sea level rise, the increasing intensity of storms, and higher storm surge and flooding;
  • Disruption of fuel supplies during severe storms;
  • Power plant disruptions due to drought; and
  • Power lines, transformers and electricity distribution systems face increasing risks of physical damage from the hurricanes, storms and wildfires that are growing more frequent and intense.

There are many instances of nuclear plants operating at reduced power or being temporarily shut down due to water shortages or increased water temperature (which can adversely affect reactor cooling and/or cause fish deaths and other problems with the dumping of waste heat in water sources). Reactors in several countries have been forced to close during heat waves, when they’re needed the most. For example, France had to purchase power from the UK in 2009 because almost a third of its nuclear generating capacity was lost when it had to cut production to avoid exceeding thermal discharge limits.

_
Global warming reduces available wind energy, new research says:

A switch to wind energy will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and reduce the global warming they cause. But there’s a catch, says climate researcher Diandong Ren, a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin in a paper appear in the AIP’s Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy: rising temperatures decrease wind speeds, making for less power bang for the wind turbine buck. The prevailing winds in the “free” atmosphere about 1,000 meters above the ground are maintained by a temperature gradient that decreases toward the poles. “For example, Wichita, Kansas is cooler, in general, than Austin, Texas,” Ren says. “The stronger the temperature contrast, the stronger the wind.” But as the climate changes and global temperatures rise, the temperature contrast between the lower latitudes and the poles decreases slightly, because polar regions tend to warm up faster. And as that temperature contrast becomes weaker, so too do the winds. Wind turbines are powered by winds at lower altitudes — about 100 meters above the ground — where, Ren says, “frictional effects from local topography and landscapes further influence wind speed and direction. In my study, I assume that these effects are constant — like a constant filter — so wind speed changes in the free atmosphere are representative of that in the frictional layer.” Ren calculates that a 2-4 degree Celsius increase in temperatures in Earth’s mid to high-latitudes would result in a 4-12 percent decrease in wind speeds in certain high northern latitudes. This means, he says, that with “everything else being the same, we need to invest in more wind turbines to gain the same amount of energy. Wind energy will still be plentiful and wind energy still profitable, but we need to tap the energy source earlier” — before there is less to tap.

______

______

Climate change mitigation:

Climate change mitigation consists of actions to limit the magnitude or rate of long-term climate change. Climate change mitigation generally involves reductions in human (anthropogenic) emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Mitigation may also be achieved by increasing the capacity of carbon sinks, e.g., through reforestation.  Mitigation policies can substantially reduce the risks associated with human-induced global warming. According to the IPCC’s 2014 assessment report, “Mitigation is a public good; climate change is a case of the ‘tragedy of the commons’. Effective climate change mitigation will not be achieved if each agent (individual, institution or country) acts independently in its own selfish interest, suggesting the need for collective action. Some adaptation actions, on the other hand, have characteristics of a private good as benefits of actions may accrue more directly to the individuals, regions, or countries that undertake them, at least in the short term. Nevertheless, financing such adaptive activities remains an issue, particularly for poor individuals and countries.”  Examples of mitigation include phasing out fossil fuels by switching to low-carbon energy sources, such as renewable and nuclear energy, and expanding forests and other “sinks” to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Energy efficiency may also play a role, for example, through improving the insulation of buildings. Another approach to climate change mitigation is climate engineering. Most countries are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of GHGs at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference of the climate system. Scientific analysis can provide information on the impacts of climate change, but deciding which impacts are dangerous requires value judgments. In 2010, Parties to the UNFCCC agreed that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 °C (3.6 °F) relative to the pre-industrial level. With the Paris Agreement of 2015 this was confirmed, but was revised with a new target laying down “parties will do the best” to achieve warming below 1.5 °C. The current trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions does not appear to be consistent with limiting global warming to below 1.5 or 2 °C. Other mitigation policies have been proposed, some of which are more stringent or modest than the 2 °C limit.

_

Greenhouse gas concentrations and stabilization:

One of the issues often discussed in relation to climate change mitigation is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has the ultimate objective of preventing “dangerous” anthropogenic (i.e., human) interference of the climate system. As is stated in Article 2 of the Convention, this requires that greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations are stabilized in the atmosphere at a level where ecosystems can adapt naturally to climate change, food production is not threatened, and economic development can proceed in a sustainable fashion. There are a number of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. These include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and a group of gases referred to as halocarbons. The emissions reductions necessary to stabilize the atmospheric concentrations of these gases varies. CO2 is the most important of the anthropogenic greenhouse gases. There is a difference between stabilizing CO2 emissions and stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of CO2. Stabilizing emissions of CO2 at current levels would not lead to a stabilization in the atmospheric concentration of CO2. In fact, stabilizing emissions at current levels would result in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 continuing to rise over the 21st century and beyond. The reason for this is that human activities are adding CO2 to the atmosphere faster than natural processes can remove it. According to some studies, stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations would require anthropogenic CO2 emissions to be reduced by 80% relative to the peak emissions level.  An 80% reduction in emissions would stabilize CO2 concentrations for around a century, but even greater reductions would be required beyond this. Other research has found that, after leaving room for emissions for food production for 9 billion people and to keep the global temperature rise below 2 °C, emissions from energy production and transport will have to peak almost immediately in the developed world and decline at ca. 10% per annum until zero emissions are reached around 2030. In developing countries energy and transport emissions would have to peak by 2025 and then decline similarly. Stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of the other greenhouse gasses humans emit also depends on how fast their emissions are added to the atmosphere, and how fast the GHGs are removed. Stabilization for these gases is described in the later section on non-CO2 GHGs.

_

Other frequently discussed means include energy conservation, increasing fuel economy in automobiles (which includes the use of electric hybrids), charging plug-in hybrids and electric cars by low-carbon electricity, making individual-lifestyle changes (e.g., cycling instead of driving), and changing business practices. Many fossil fuel driven vehicles can be converted to use electricity, the US has the potential to supply electricity for 73% of light duty vehicles (LDV), using overnight charging. The US average CO2 emissions for a battery-electric car is 180 grams per mile vs. 430 grams per mile for a gasoline car. However, using coal powered electricity electric cars do nothing to cut emissions, using natural gas electricity they’re like a top hybrid and using low carbon power they result in less than half the total emissions of the best combustion vehicle, manufacturing included. The emissions would be displaced away from street level, where they have “high human-health implications. Increased use of electricity “generation for meeting the future transportation load is primarily fossil-fuel based”, mostly natural gas, followed by coal, but could also be met through nuclear, tidal, hydroelectric and other sources. A range of energy technologies may contribute to climate change mitigation. These include nuclear power and renewable energy sources such as biomass, hydroelectricity, wind power, solar power, geothermal power, ocean energy, and; the use of carbon sinks, and carbon capture and storage. For example, Pacala and Socolow of Princeton have proposed a 15 part program to reduce CO2 emissions by 1 billion metric tons per year − or 25 billion tons over the 50-year period using today’s technologies as a type of Global warming game. Another consideration is how future socio-economic development proceeds. Development choices (or “pathways”) can lead differences in GHG emissions. Political and social attitudes may affect how easy or difficult it is to implement effective policies to reduce emissions.

__

There are numerous specific responses to climate change (Pacala and Socolow, 2004; IPCC AR4, 2 2007), notably

  • Renewable energy technology (vide infra) substituting for fossil fuels
  • End use energy efficiency gains and production efficiency through newer technologies and/or improved operational practices
  • Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) from fossil fuel or biomass combustion
  • Fossil fuel switching to lower carbon fuels such as substituting natural gas or biomass for coal
  • Nuclear power substituting for coal and natural gas
  • Forest, soils and grassland sinks to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
  • Reduce non- CO2 heat trapping greenhouse gases (CH4, N2O, HFC, SF6)
  • Geoengineering such as albedo adjustments, and ocean fertilization

____

Zero (low) carbon growth:

It is often assumed that economic growth is tied to energy use, and since 80% of primary energy comes from fossil fuels, CO2 emissions naturally increase. Historically, energy consumption per capita has been very roughly proportional to GDP per capita, but this connection was broken in many economies following the oil price shocks of the 1970s. This lowered the energy intensity of economic growth, decreasing the ratio of energy use/ GDP thereby slowed the growth of GHG emissions. Indeed the energy/ GDP ratio declined by 33% between 1970 and 2004 (IPCC, 2007). Energy supply appears adequate to supply most energy services in most of the developed countries. In most developing countries, on the other hand, many people lack even basic energy services and especially those that are supplied by electricity. Since it is energy services and not energy that people need, it is possible to meet those needs in an efficient manner that reduces energy consumption, and with low carbon technologies that minimise CO2 emissions. All the long-term energy scenarios expect high growth rate of energy consumption in developing countries, so that energy supply with low or zero CO2 emissions and low energy intensity are indispensable. Researchers caution against ‘mitigation’ options that cast climate change as the sole problem when it is really just one symptom of the more fundamental problem of unsustainable development. Thus, the geo-engineering ‘solutions’ that are sometimes suggested to moderate climate change may address global warming but leave untouched the unsustainable use of energy resources which is causing that problem. These efforts may also cause unanticipated biogeophysical and social problems. For example, deliberately releasing large quantities of sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere to reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface is likely to increase the amount of ‘acid rain’ and will not address the increasing acidification of the oceans by CO2 or the choking of cities by the increasing number of motor cars on the road (Robock et al., 2009). More constructively, Figure below shows a potential framework of options for achieving “low carbon growth”. These include end use efficiency improvements, more efficient energy conversion technologies, more stringent standards and market based measures, and renewable energy.  Renewable energy and energy efficiency represent two of the major options available. Renewable energy in combination with end use efficiency is potentially one of very few solutions that enable the world to actually reduce CO2 output while maintaining energy services and economic growth.

Figure above shows potential framework for reducing carbon output.

__

Adaptation to climate change:

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change envisaged two main strategies to address global warming: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation involves finding ways to slow the emissions of GHGs or to store them, or to absorb them in forests or other carbon sinks. Adaptation, on the other hand, involves coping with climatic change – taking measures to reduce the negative effects, or exploit the positive ones, by making appropriate adjustments. Until recently, policy makers concentrated on mitigation, partly because of worries that highlighting adaptation options might reduce the urgency for mitigation. But there was also an implied division of responsibility. For while mitigation clearly demanded positive action by governments, adaptation was a task that might perhaps be left to others, allowing adjustments to occur automatically through the “invisible hands” of natural selection and market forces. It is now clear, however, that mitigation and adaptation are not alternatives; both need to be pursued actively and in parallel. Mitigation is essential and adaptation is inevitable. Mitigation is essential because, without firm action now, future generations could be confronted with climate change on a scale so overwhelming that adaptation might no longer be feasible. But mitigation will not be enough on its own. Even if today’s efforts to reduce emissions are successful some adaptation will be inevitable because climate change occurs only after a long time-lag. Current global warming is the consequence of emissions decades ago, and the process will continue; even the most rigorous efforts at mitigation today will be unable to prevent climate changes in future. Moreover, it is also evident that governments cannot leave adaptation entirely to social or market forces. To some extent, adjustment decisions will indeed take place in a dispersed and fairly autonomous fashion, at the household or individual level: farmers, for example, may react to changes in temperature by growing different crops, or homeowners or businesses may respond to hotter weather by buying air conditioning systems. But other essential forms of adaptation will demand that institutions, both public and private, plan their strategies and take action in advance. Coastal authorities, for example, will aim to address sea level rises by building dykes, and housing authorities that want future constructions to withstand climate changes will need to introduce appropriate building codes. This distinction between reactive and anticipatory adaptation is illustrated in figure below. Clearly, natural systems can only react but human systems, both public and private, can and should anticipate and plan ahead.

_

Technologies for adaptation:

In many cases people will adapt to climate change simply by changing their behaviour – by moving to a different location say, or by changing their occupation. But often they will employ different forms of technology, whether “hard” forms, such as new irrigation systems or drought-resistant seeds, or “soft” technologies, such as insurance schemes or crop rotation patterns. Or they could use a combination of hard and soft, as with early warning systems that combine hard measuring devices with soft knowledge and skills that can raise awareness and stimulate appropriate action. Many of these technologies are already available and widely used. The global climate system has always confronted human societies with extreme weather events and in many respects future climate change will simply exacerbate these events, altering their scale, duration or intensity. Thus it should be possible to adapt to some extent by modifying or extending existing technologies. These may date back hundreds of years. Local communities have, for example, used traditional technologies to cope with regular flooding by building houses on stilts, and many communities continue to do so, even if they use more modern materials such as concrete pillars or corrugated iron roofs. Other technologies might be considered “modern”, dating from the industrial revolution in the late eighteenth century. Farmers have taken advantage of technological advances to cope better with arid environments, introducing new crop hybrids and making better use of scarce water, as with systems of drip irrigation. Nowadays human societies can also take advantage of “high” technologies such as earth observation systems that can provide more accurate weather forecasts, or crops that are based on genetically modified organisms. Finally too, people can look towards horizon of future technologies yet to be invented or developed – which might include crops that need little or no water, or a malaria vaccine. Whatever the level of technology, its application is likely to be an iterative process rather than a one-off activity. Adaptation technologies can be implemented in five major areas: regional and local climate modelling and early warning, coastal zone management, water resources, agriculture and public health as seen in the figure below.

________

________

Renewable energy (RE):

Renewable energy could be defined as “energy resource that can renew itself as quickly as the energy received from the energy resource or more quickly than the consumption speed of the resource” (Ceylan, Sezgin and Demirbilek 2008). According to this definition, it can be said that there is no possibility of renewable energy to run out as other fossil fuels (coal, oil etc.). Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy often provides energy in four important areas: electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, transportation, and rural (off-grid) energy services. In a broad sense renewable energy sources refer to hydropower, biomass energy, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, and ocean energy. The term ’new’ renewables suggests a greater focus on modern and sustainable forms of renewable energy, in particular: modern biomass energy, geothermal heat and electricity, small-scale hydropower, low-temperature solar heat, wind electricity, solar photovoltaic and thermal electricity, and marine energy. Discussions on biomass are sometimes clouded by problems of definition. The term combustible renewables and waste (CRW) includes all vegetable and animal matter used directly or converted to solid fuels, as well as biomass-derived gaseous and liquid fuels, and industrial and municipal waste converted to energy. The main biomass fuels in developing countries are firewood, charcoal, agricultural residues and dung, often referred to as traditional biomass.

_

On average, even after passing through hundreds of kilometers of air on a clear day, solar radiation reaches Earth with enough energy in a single square meter to run a mid-size desktop computer—if all the sunlight could be captured and converted to electricity. Photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies harvest some of that energy now and will grow in both usage and efficiency in the future. The Sun’s energy warms the planet’s surface, powering titanic transfers of heat and pressure in weather patterns and ocean currents. The resulting air currents drive wind turbines. Solar energy also evaporates water that falls as rain and builds up behind dams, where its motion is used to generate electricity via hydropower.

_

Some regions of the world are particularly well-suited for wind and/or solar energy. For example, solar energy potential is highest in the Southwestern United States, Northern Africa and the Middle East, and parts of Australia and South America. Some of the best regions for wind energy include Northern Europe, the southern tip of South America, and the Great Lakes region of the United States. Geothermal energy is abundant in countries such as Iceland and the Philippines. Every world region has some renewable energy resources, though availability and cost of using these vary. Most renewable energy is ultimately solar energy. The sun’s energy can be used directly for heat or electricity. Hydropower comes from falling water, which occurs because solar energy evaporates water at low elevations that later rains on high elevations. The sun also creates wind through differential heating of the earth’s surface. Biomass energy comes from plant matter, produced in photosynthesis driven by the sun. Thus biomass, wind, and hydropower are just secondary sources of solar energy. Non-solar renewable energy sources include geothermal energy, which comes from the earth’s core, in some combination of energy left from the origin and continued decay of nuclear materials. Tidal energy is another non-solar renewable energy source, being driven by the moon. Though nuclear power from fission is not renewable, there is great debate about whether nuclear power should be part of the post-fossil-fuel energy mix.

_

Based on REN21’s 2016 report, renewables contributed 19.2% to humans’ global energy consumption and 23.7% to their generation of electricity in 2014 and 2015, respectively. This energy consumption is divided as 8.9% coming from traditional biomass, 4.2% as heat energy (modern biomass, geothermal and solar heat), 3.9% hydroelectricity and 2.2% is electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. Worldwide investments in renewable technologies amounted to more than US$286 billion in 2015, with countries like China and the United States heavily investing in wind, hydro, solar and biofuels.  Globally, there are an estimated 7.7 million jobs associated with the renewable energy industries, with solar photovoltaics being the largest renewable employer. As of 2015 worldwide, more than half of all new electricity capacity installed was renewable.

_

The worldwide growth of renewable energy is shown by the green line.

_

Renewable energy resources exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to other energy sources, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency is resulting in significant energy security, climate change mitigation, and economic benefits. The results of a recent review of the literature concluded that as greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters begin to be held liable for damages resulting from GHG emissions resulting in climate change, a high value for liability mitigation would provide powerful incentives for deployment of renewable energy technologies. Renewable energy sources are considered to be zero (wind, solar, and water), low (geothermal) or neutral (biomass) with regard to greenhouse gas emissions during their operation. A neutral source has emissions that are balanced by the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during the growing process. However, each source’s overall environmental impact depends on its overall lifecycle emissions, including manufacturing of equipment and materials, installation as well as land-use impacts. In international public opinion surveys there is strong support for promoting renewable sources such as solar power and wind power. At the national level, at least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more than 20 percent of energy supply. National renewable energy markets are projected to continue to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond. Some places and at least two countries, Iceland and Norway generate all their electricity using renewable energy already, and many other countries have the set a goal to reach 100% renewable energy in the future. For example, in Denmark the government decided to switch the total energy supply (electricity, mobility and heating/cooling) to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

_

While many renewable energy projects are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to rural and remote areas and developing countries, where energy is often crucial in human development. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that renewable energy has the ability to lift the poorest nations to new levels of prosperity. As most of renewables provide electricity, renewable energy deployment is often applied in conjunction with further electrification, which has several benefits: Electricity can be converted to heat (where necessary generating higher temperatures than fossil fuels), can be converted into mechanical energy with high efficiency and is clean at the point of consumption. In addition to that electrification with renewable energy is much more efficient and therefore leads to a significant reduction in primary energy requirements, because most renewables don’t have a steam cycle with high losses (fossil power plants usually have losses of 40 to 65%). Renewable energy systems are rapidly becoming more efficient and cheaper. Their share of total energy consumption is increasing. Growth in consumption of coal and oil could end by 2020 due to increased uptake of renewables and natural gas.

_

The World Energy Committee states that there exists no risk free energy resource and for this reason, while choosing the energy resources, cost factors must be considered with environmental effects. Today, prevention of environment pollution and conservation of environment have a dimension exceeding national borders. The risks that result from using of fossil fuels increasingly (petroleum, coal, gas) must be decreased (air pollution, thinning of ozone layer, acid rains etc.). To decrease such risks, besides to increasing of energy productivity, energy resources that emit less sera gas in the atmosphere (like CO2) must be preferred. Otherwise, destruction of ecological balance and disasters in future will be inevitable. The negative effects of renewable energy resources on environment are lesser than the conventional energy resources. Costs of renewable energy resources are lesser than the fossil origin fuels. They never consume as they are renewable and in contrary to the conventional fuels, they do not exhibit a significant threat for environment and human health.

_

The selection of energy has global implications that affect greenhouse gas emissions, water resource distribution, mineral consumption, and equipment manufacturing and transportation. The school of thought is that renewable energy technologies are more sustainable than many current sources of energy. There is a need for verification of the sustainability of renewable energy, which can easily be done by resource-use optimization, techno-economic feasibility and cost analysis, life cycle assessment, environmental externalities analysis, cost benefits analysis, manufacturing cost analysis, research and development targets and barrier identification and water requirements and distribution analysis. In general renewable energies are not adaptable to every single community because of two main factors, the distribution of the natural resources that has dependency on the geographical locations and energy-use with its dependency on the culture of individual community. The other limitations are growth rate and infrastructure. Application of any renewable energy requires a sustainability analysis, which has dependency on three main components: environmental effects, externalities costs, and economics and financing. Each one of these variables has a major impact on the application of renewable energies; therefore before committing communities to different sorts of renewable energies, a thorough research must be done in order to have an assurance that no social, environmental or economical problems arise or are compromised because of them.

_

The incentive to use 100% renewable energy has been created by global warming and other ecological as well as economic concerns. Mark Z. Jacobson says producing all new energy with wind power, solar power, and hydropower by 2030 is feasible and existing energy supply arrangements could be replaced by 2050. Barriers to implementing the renewable energy plan are seen to be “primarily social and political, not technological or economic”. Jacobson says that energy costs with a wind, solar, water system should be similar to today’s energy costs. According to a 2011 projection by the (IEA) International Energy Agency, solar power generators may produce most of the world’s electricity within 50 years, dramatically reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Critics of the “100% renewable energy” approach include Vaclav Smil and James E. Hansen. Smil and Hansen are concerned about the variable output of solar and wind power, nimbyism, and a lack of infrastructure.

_

Renewable energies include:

  • Wind energy: the energy obtained from the wind
  • Solar energy: the energy obtained from the sun. The main technologies here are solar photovoltaic (using the light from the sun) and solar thermal (using the sun’s heat)
  • Hydraulic or hydroelectric energy: energy obtained from rivers and other freshwater currents
  • Biomass and biogas: energy extracted from organic material
  • Geothermal energy: heat energy from inside the Earth
  • Tidal energy: energy obtained from the tides
  • Wave energy: energy obtained from ocean waves
  • Bioethanol: organic fuel suitable for vehicles and obtained from fermentation of vegetation
  • Biodiesel: organic fuel for vehicles, among other applications, obtained from vegetable oils

_

Three generations of technologies:

Renewable energy includes a number of sources and technologies at different stages of commercialization. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has defined three generations of renewable energy technologies, reaching back over 100 years:

  • First-generation technologies emerged from the industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century and include hydropower, biomass combustion, geothermal power and heat. These technologies are quite widely used.
  • Second-generation technologies include solar heating and cooling, wind power, modern forms of bioenergy, and solar photovoltaics. These are now entering markets as a result of research, development and demonstration (RD&D) investments since the 1980s. Initial investment was prompted by energy security concerns linked to the oil crises of the 1970s but the enduring appeal of these technologies is due, at least in part, to environmental benefits. Many of the technologies reflect significant advancements in materials.
  • Third-generation technologies are still under development and include advanced biomass gasification, biorefinery technologies, concentrating solar thermal power, hot-dry-rock geothermal power, and ocean energy. Advances in nanotechnology may also play a major role.

First-generation technologies are well established, second-generation technologies are entering markets, and third-generation technologies heavily depend on long-term research and development commitments, where the public sector has a role to play.

_

In order to assess the role of renewable energy in the satisfaction of global energy demand, it is necessary to look at its shares in the categories of primary energy, final energy, electricity generation and electric generating capacity. Table below lists the shares of global renewable energy in these four energy categories.

The table includes three sets of values for these four energy types. The first set (first row) shows the total shares of renewable energy including traditional biomass. If traditional biomass is not considered (second row), the shares in primary energy and final energy decrease to 7 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively. The third set of shares (last row) lists the shares of renewable energy without traditional biomass and if only small hydropower is considered. In this case, the share of renewable energy is reduced to 4.6 per cent in electricity generation and 8.0 per cent in electricity capacity.

__

Renewable energy often displaces conventional fuels in four areas: electricity generation, hot water/space heating, transportation, and rural (off-grid) energy services. All sources of renewable energy are used to generate electric power. In addition, geothermal steam is used directly for heating and cooking. Biomass and solar sources are also used for space and water heating. Ethanol and biodiesel (and to a lesser extent, gaseous biomethane) are used for transportation.

  • Power generation

By 2040, renewable energy is projected to equal coal and natural gas electricity generation. Several jurisdictions, including Denmark, Germany, the state of South Australia and some US states have achieved high integration of variable renewables. For example, in 2015 wind power met 42% of electricity demand in Denmark, 23.2% in Portugal and 15.5% in Uruguay. Interconnectors enable countries to balance electricity systems by allowing the import and export of renewable energy. Innovative hybrid systems have emerged between countries and regions.

  • Heating

Solar water heating makes an important contribution to renewable heat in many countries, most notably in China, which now has 70% of the global total (180 GWh). Most of these systems are installed on multi-family apartment buildings and meet a portion of the hot water needs of an estimated 50–60 million households in China. Worldwide, total installed solar water heating systems meet a portion of the water heating needs of over 70 million households. The use of biomass for heating continues to grow as well. In Sweden, national use of biomass energy has surpassed that of oil. Direct geothermal for heating is also growing rapidly. The newest addition to Heating is from Geothermal Heat Pumps which provide both heating and cooling, and also flatten the electric demand curve and are thus an increasing national priority.

  • Transportation

Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermentation, mostly from carbohydrates produced in sugar or starch crops such as corn, sugarcane, or sweet sorghum. Cellulosic biomass, derived from non-food sources such as trees and grasses is also being developed as a feedstock for ethanol production. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Bioethanol is widely used in the USA and in Brazil. Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles. Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats using transesterification and is the most common biofuel in Europe. A solar vehicle is an electric vehicle powered completely or significantly by direct solar energy. Usually, photovoltaic (PV) cells contained in solar panels convert the sun’s energy directly into electric energy. The term “solar vehicle” usually implies that solar energy is used to power all or part of a vehicle’s propulsion. Solar power may be also used to provide power for communications or controls or other auxiliary functions. Solar vehicles are not sold as practical day-to-day transportation devices at present, but are primarily demonstration vehicles and engineering exercises, often sponsored by government agencies. However, indirectly solar-charged vehicles are widespread and solar boats are available commercially.

_

Energy storage:

Energy storage is a collection of methods used to store electrical energy on an electrical power grid, or off it. Electrical energy is stored during times when production (especially from intermittent power plants such as renewable electricity sources such as wind power, tidal power, solar power) exceeds consumption, and returned to the grid when production falls below consumption. Pumped-storage hydroelectricity is used for more than 90% of all grid power storage.

______

Renewable energy and sustainable development:

Energy is a requirement in our everyday life as a way of improving human development leading to economic growth and productivity. The return-to-renewables will help mitigate climate change is an excellent way but needs to be sustainable in order to ensure a sustainable future for generations to meet their energy needs. Renewable energy has a direct relationship with sustainable development through its impact on human development and economic productivity. Renewable energy sources provide opportunities in energy security, social and economic development, energy access, climate change mitigation and reduction of environmental and health impacts. RE can contribute to sustainable development.

  • RE can accelerate access to energy, particularly for the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity and the additional 1.3 billion people using traditional biomass
  • RE deployment can reduce vulnerability to supply disruptions and market volatility
  • Low risk of severe accidents
  • Environmental and health benefits

_____

Alternative Energy vs. Renewable Energy:

There is a marked difference between the terms “alternative energy” and “renewable energy”. Alternative energy refers to any form of energy which is an alternative to the traditional fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal. Renewable energy, on the other hand, refers to forms of alternative energy that are renewed by the natural processes of the Earth, such as solar energy or wind energy.

_

Is renewable energy clean energy?

Even the term renewable doesn’t have a strict definition. Everyone can agree that wind and solar are renewable, but beyond that, things can get contentious. Is a brand-new large-scale hydroelectric dam “renewable”? (According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, no.) What about wood pellets? (According to the EU, yes.) Municipal waste? (Depends whom you ask.) Each rule defines the terms afresh and allows for different fuel sources to be anointed accordingly. And the documents that make these distinctions are, of course, political, subject to the same last-minute manoeuvring and local interests as any other industry. Even wind and solar aren’t necessarily as “clean” as you might expect. Germany’s Energiewende strategy was launched in 2010 with the express goals of lowering its carbon output well below its 1990 levels and shifting its electric grid toward wind and solar. By 2016, the country had seemingly achieved its goal; for a brief and shining moment that year, Germans were getting a staggering 90 percent of their power from renewables. But during this same heady period, their carbon emissions actually rose and have proved stubbornly high in the year since. The reasons for Germany’s rising emissions are multifold—it has shifted away from nuclear and also just started consuming more energy in general. But at least one is related to the mechanics of power grids: Wind and solar (at least for now) still need backup power sources that can run when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Power grids are designed to have a constant perfect match of supply and demand and—because we don’t yet have the battery technology available at an industrial scale for storage of wind and solar energy—we are reliant on backup power systems to keep the system running consistently. Germany’s backup power is, overwhelmingly, coal. And although coal’s share of the German power grid is declining, the country is still, in essence, doubling up, with an older, more polluting system running by necessity alongside a newer, less polluting one. This is just one examples of our understanding of “renewable” or “clean” going awry.

_____

_____

Solar energy:

_

The total solar energy incident on the surface of the earth averages about 86,000 terawatts (TW), which is more than 5,000 times the 15 TW of energy currently used by humans (of which roughly 12 TW now comes from fossil fuels) and more than 100 times larger than the energy potential of the next largest renewable source, wind energy (Hermann, 2006). Hence, the potential resource of solar energy is essentially limitless, which has led many to conclude that it is the best energy resource to rely on in the long run. Currently, this resource is exploited on a limited scale—total installed worldwide solar energy production totalled 15 gigawatts (GW) in 2008, or just 0.1 percent of total energy production.

_

Solar energy, radiant light and heat from the sun, is harnessed using a range of ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating, photovoltaics, concentrated solar power (CSP), concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), solar architecture and artificial photosynthesis.  Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute solar energy. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air. Active solar technologies encompass solar thermal energy, using solar collectors for heating, and solar power, converting sunlight into electricity either directly using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). A photovoltaic system converts light into electrical direct current (DC) by taking advantage of the photoelectric effect. Solar PV has turned into a multi-billion, fast-growing industry, continues to improve its cost-effectiveness, and has the most potential of any renewable technologies together with CSP. Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s. CSP-Stirling has by far the highest efficiency among all solar energy technologies. The large magnitude of solar energy available makes it a highly appealing source of electricity. The United Nations Development Programme in its 2000 World Energy Assessment found that the annual potential of solar energy was 1,575–49,837 exajoules (EJ). This is several times larger than the total world energy consumption, which was 559.8 EJ in 2012.

_

In New York, the average home uses 7,092 kWh of electricity annually. Choosing a clean source of electricity like solar panels can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning 5,253 pounds of coal each year. Solar panels do not release any emissions as they generate electricity. However, emissions are released during the manufacturing, materials transportation, installation, maintenance, decommissioning and dismantling of the solar energy systems. Nevertheless, the amount of these associated emissions pale in comparison to emissions created by natural gas, oil, and coal. In 2011, the International Energy Agency said that the development of affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating global warming, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are global. Hence the additional costs of the incentives for early deployment should be considered learning investments; they must be wisely spent and need to be widely shared. Italy has the largest proportion of solar electricity in the world, in 2015 solar supplied 7.8% of electricity demand in Italy. In 2016, after another year of rapid growth, solar generated 1.3% of global power.

_

Typically, photovoltaics are found on the roofs of residential and commercial buildings. Additionally, utilities have constructed large (greater than 100 MW) photovoltaic facilities that require anywhere from 5 to 13 acres per MW, depending on the technologies used. The currently operating solar PV capacity is estimated at 1.1 GW(e). The efficiency at which PV cells convert sunlight to electricity varies by the type of semiconductor material and PV cell technology. The efficiency of most commercially available PV modules ranges from 5% to 15%. Researchers around the world are trying to achieve higher efficiencies. More experimental photovoltaic panels, like concentrating solar panels, can convert 40% of incident solar energy into electricity. These panels utilize varying band gaps and mirror arrays and are used more for large-scale solar power generation. Solar energy has immense theoretical potential. The amount of solar radiation intercepted by the Earth is much higher than annual global energy use. Large-scale availability of solar energy depends on a region’s geographic position, typical weather conditions, and land availability.

_

Negative side of solar energy:

Solar power is the most abundant renewable resource on our planet. In spite of this abundance, only 0.04% of the basic power used by humans comes directly from solar sources because using a photovoltaic (PV) panel costs more than burning fossil fuels. The main problem of using solar energy is the cost involved. Despite advances in technology, solar panels remain almost prohibitively expensive. Organic materials have recently been intensively studied for PV applications, not because of harvesting the sun’s power more efficiently, but because power generation from organic photovoltaic (OPV) materials will cost considerably less than other PV technologies.  Concentrating solar power uses the heat from the sun to produce steam, which in turn powers a generator that creates electricity. This also has low operating costs and high efficiency, and can produce a reliable supply of energy by utilizing thermal storage. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70 percent over the past 10 years. Currently the cost per watt to install solar is around $3. In addition, solar panel users can often lock-in electricity prices and once panels are paid for, it’s almost free to use. The cost of new photovoltaic power is dropping rapidly, and if the photovoltaic industry continues to grow and improve technologically, by 2020 the cost will be comparable to the cost of conventional power, as will the cost of solar thermal power. Even when the cost of the panels is ignored, the system required to store the energy for use can also be quite costly. Although some solar energy can be collected during even the cloudiest of days, efficient solar energy collection is dependent on sunshine. Even a few cloudy days can have a large effect on an energy system, particularly once the fact that solar energy cannot be collected at night is taken into account. Solar technologies do not cause emissions during operation, but they do cause emissions during manufacturing and possibly on decommissioning (unless produced entirely by ‘solar breeders’). One of the most controversial issues for PV was whether the amount of energy required to manufacture a complete system is smaller or larger than the energy produced over its lifetime. Nowadays the energy payback time of grid-connected PV systems is 3 to 9 years, and is expected to decrease to 1 to 2 years in the longer term. For stand-alone PV systems with battery storage the situation is less favourable. The energy payback time of modern Solar Home Systems is now 7 to 10 years. This may come down to roughly 6 years, of which 5 are due to the battery. This is a little sign as to what has to happen in research and development for solar energy. The availability of some of the elements in thin-film PV modules (like indium and tellurium) is also a subject of concern, although there are no short-term supply limitations. Of special concern is the acceptance of cadmium-containing PV modules, although the cadmium content of modules appears to be well within limits for safe use.

_

How to use Solar Energy at Night:

Solar power plants are limited to generating energy only when there is sunshine. So engineers have tried a number of different technologies to store the sun’s energy so that such power plants can be more broadly employed. They have tried batteries but too much of the energy that goes in is not returned, and they tend to be too expensive, according to an analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Compressing air or pumping water uphill are more promising, but the opportunities to do that are limited by the number of caverns and the availability of water and reservoirs.  Molten salts can store the sun’s heat during the day and provide power at night: Because most salts only melt at high temperatures (table salt, for example, melts at around 1472 degrees Fahrenheit, or 800 degrees Celsius) and do not turn to vapor until they get considerably hotter—they can be used to store a lot of the sun’s energy as heat. Simply use the sunlight to heat up the salts and put those molten salts in proximity to water via a heat exchanger. Hot steam can then be made to turn turbines without losing too much of the original absorbed solar energy.  Melting salts at temperatures above 435 degrees Fahrenheit (224 degrees Celsius) can deliver back as much as 93 percent of the energy, plus the salts are ubiquitous because of their application as fertilizers. But that extra energy comes at a cost. First, the power plant has to be enlarged so that it is both generating its full electrical capacity as well as heating up the salts. And then there is the additional expense of the molten salt storage tanks.

______

Urban heat island (UHI) and solar panels:

Basics of absorbing the Sun’s Energy:

The average reflection coefficient (think of 1.00 as a perfect mirror, and 0.00 as a surface that absorbs all incoming energy), or albedo, of the earth is between 0.30 and 0.35. When humans move in and pave everything, that albedo decreases — meaning that more solar radiation is absorbed. The albedo of fresh and worn asphalt is 0.04 and 0.12 respectively. The average insolation (the term for the amount of the sun’s energy reaching the earth) over all 24 hours of the day is 250 Watts per square meter, which is the amount of energy used by about 25 CFLs. Cutting the albedo in half by changing the reflectivity of the land effectively doubles the amount of energy absorbed. A square meter of asphalt might absorb an average 225 W/m2 per day, or 5.4 kilowatt-hours (kWh), worth of energy.

_

Cool Roof and Benefit from Lighter-Colored Roofing Materials:

In building terminology, a cool roof is a roof covered in materials with a high solar reflectance and thermal emittance, or the ability to release heat quickly, rather than storing it and radiating it toward the inside of the building. While a cool roof does not need to consist of a mirror, they are often white, or lighter in color. One study revealed that, if every structure on earth were given a cool roof, the collective effect on radiative forcing, the measure of climate change impact, would be 0.01-0.19 W/m2 (By comparison, the net impact of human emissions on the earth is about 1.6 W/m2.)

_

Heat absorbed by Solar Panels:

Photovoltaic panels range from blue to black but they are smooth and have an albedo around 0.3. But it is not the albedo itself that matters, it is the relative change in albedo from the status quo. Since most solar panels are roof-mounted, and most roofs are covered in dark tar-paper shingles, covering the roof with solar panels may actually represent a positive change in reflectivity. The solar panels would absorb 1.8 kWh per square meter per day, far less than the 5.4 kWh absorbed by asphalt. The same solar panel, assuming 15% efficiency would also generate 0.9 kWh of electricity per square meter per day. Although solar panels absorb heat much like a roof would, the fact that they are raised up off the roof significantly changes the amount of infrared radiation (heat) that makes it into the house. Think of it this way: the solar panel absorbs about 30% of the sun’s heat energy, re-emits half out toward the sky and half toward the roof, which absorbs about 30% of the heat emitted by the solar panel or only 5% of the sun’s heat (30% of 50% of 30%).

_

The main impact of cities on the local weather is the Urban Heat Island (UHI). Cities are warmer than the surrounding countryside, and this can lead to a health crisis during heat waves, as was the case in Paris in 2003 with 15,000 premature deaths (Fouillet et al., 2006) or in Moscow with 11,000 premature deaths in 2010 (Porfiriev, 2014). It also has to be considered that, due to climate warming, the UHI impacts will become even larger than they are now (Lemonsu et al., 2013). Therefore, several strategies are being studied to reduce the UHI in summer. Gago et al. (2013) have reviewed several research works analyzing strategies to mitigate the UHI, including changes in green spaces, trees, albedo, pavement surfaces, vegetation, and building types and materials. Santamouris et al. (2011) have reviewed of several advanced cool materials systems usable to reduce the UHI. Such materials could be implemented on roofs in order to reflect more energy to the sky (high albedo, high emissivity) or to delay the heat transfer toward the inside the building (phase change materials). Masson et al. (2013) showed that changes in agricultural practices in the vicinity of Paris and the use of cool materials for roofs and pavement would decrease the UHI by 2 K and 1 K, respectively.

_

Solar panels absorb solar energy to produce energy usable in buildings, either directly in the form of heat (typically to warm water) or as electricity. However, in doing so, they modify the energy balance of the urban surface in contact with the atmosphere, and so possibly influence the urban micro-climate. They also reduce the radiation received by the roof, and hence the building energy balance. Solar panels change the way sunlight is reflected and absorbed by the Earth. Any radiation they take in is radiation that’s not being absorbed by the Earth. This leads to a cooling effect in the region surrounding the array.

_

To sum up, the deployment of solar panels is good both for producing energy (and hence contributing to a decrease of greenhouse gas emissions) and for decreasing the UHI, especially in summer, when it can be a threat to health.

______

Solar thermophotovoltaics:

A team of MIT researchers reported the development of a solar thermophotovoltaic device that could potentially push past the theoretical efficiency limits of the conventional photovoltaics used in solar panels.  Those standard solar cells can only absorb energy from a fraction of sunlight’s color spectrum, mainly the visual light from violet to red. But the MIT scientists added an intermediate component made up of carbon nanotubes and nanophotonic crystals that together function sort of like a funnel, collecting energy from the sun and concentrating it into a narrow band of light. The nanotubes capture energy across the entire color spectrum, including in the invisible ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths, converting it all into heat energy. As the adjacent crystals heat up to high temperatures, around 1,000 °C, they reemit the energy as light, but only in the band that photovoltaic cells can capture and convert. The researchers suggest that an optimized version of the technology could one day break through the theoretical cap of around 30 percent efficiency on conventional solar cells. In principle at least, solar thermophotovoltaics could achieve levels above 80 percent, though that’s a long way off, according to the scientists. But there’s another critical advantage to this approach. Because the process is ultimately driven by heat, it could continue to operate even when the sun ducks behind clouds, reducing the intermittency that remains one of the critical drawbacks of solar power. If the device were coupled with a thermal storage mechanism that could operate at these high temperatures, it could offer continuous solar power through the day and night.

______

Perovskite solar cells:

Perovskite solar cells are cheap, easy to produce, and very efficient at absorbing light. A thin film of the material, a class of hybrid organic and inorganic compounds with a particular type of crystal structure, can capture as much light as a relatively thick layer of the silicon used in standard photovoltaics. One of the critical challenges, however, has been durability. The compounds that actually absorb solar energy tend to quickly degrade, particularly in wet and hot conditions. But research groups at Stanford, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, among other institutions, made considerable strides in improving the stability of perovskite solar cells this year, publishing notable papers in Nature, Nature Energy, and Science.

______

Artificial photosynthesis:

The term, artificial photosynthesis, is commonly used to refer to any scheme for capturing and storing the energy from sunlight in the chemical bonds of a fuel (a solar fuel). Photocatalytic water splitting converts water into hydrogen ions and oxygen, and is a major research topic of artificial photosynthesis. Light-driven carbon dioxide reduction is another process studied, that replicates natural carbon fixation. Artificial photosynthesis could yield an entirely new, emissions-free energy source. In 2011, Nocera unveiled his “artificial leaf” — a credit-card-sized silicon solar wafer that, when placed in a glass of tap water and exposed to sunlight, generates hydrogen and oxygen bubbles that can be stored and — when needed — recombined in a fuel cell to generate electricity.

____

____

Wind power:

Wind was the second largest renewable energy source (after hydropower) for power generation. Wind is the air movements constituted by the effects of power produced from unequal heating and cooling of the earth. Wind energy is the motion energy of the airstream which constitutes the wind. The average wind speed needs to be above 5m/s (18km per hour) to make installing a wind turbine worthwhile. It is calculated that the earth can use 9.000 TWh/year capacity of wind energy in the area between 50 degree northern and southern latitudes. It is also stated that 27% of the total terrestrial area of the earth is under the influence of higher than annual average of 5.1 m/s wind speed. Wind energy resources are primarily coast, long sloping hills, mountain passes, exposed terrain and windy valleys.  Airflows are used to run wind turbines. Wind turbine is the system which converts kinetic energy in the wind into mechanic energy first and then electrical energy. Modern utility-scale wind turbines range from around 600 kW to 5 MW of rated power, although turbines with rated output of 1.5–3 MW have become the most common for commercial use. The largest generator capacity of a single installed onshore wind turbine reached 7.5 MW in 2015. The power available from the wind is a function of the cube of the wind speed, so as wind speed increases, power output increases up to the maximum output for the particular turbine. The efficiency of wind power generation increases with the turbine height since wind speeds generally increase with increasing height. In addition to height, the power in the wind varies with temperature and altitude, both of which affect the air density. As such, larger turbines capture faster winds. Areas where winds are stronger and more constant, such as offshore and high altitude sites, are preferred locations for wind farms. Typically full load hours of wind turbines vary between 16 and 57 percent annually, but might be higher in particularly favorable offshore sites. In Denmark, wind energy met more than 40% of its electricity demand while Ireland, Portugal and Spain each met nearly 20%. Wind power produced more than 3 percent of global electricity in 2016 with 487 GW of global capacity. Capacity is indicative of the maximum amount of electricity that can be generated when the wind is blowing at sufficient levels for a turbine. Because the wind is not always blowing, wind farms do not always produce as much as their capacity. With more than 149 MW, China had the largest installed capacity of wind generation in 2016. The United States, with 82 GW, had the second-largest capacity.  Globally, the long-term technical potential of wind energy is believed to be five times total current global energy production, or 40 times current electricity demand, assuming all practical barriers needed were overcome. This would require wind turbines to be installed over large areas, particularly in areas of higher wind resources, such as offshore. As offshore wind speeds average ~90% greater than that of land, so offshore resources can contribute substantially more energy than land stationed turbines. Large turbines are generally sited in flat open areas of land, within mountain passes, on ridges, or offshore. Although less efficient, small turbines (e.g., 1–10 kW) are convenient for use in homes or city street canyons.

_

Wind power is a clean energy source that can be relied on for the long-term future. A wind turbine creates reliable, cost-effective, pollution free energy. It is affordable, clean and sustainable. One wind turbine can be sufficient to generate energy for a household. The more the wind blows, the more power will be produced by wind turbines. But, of course, the wind does not blow consistently all the time. The term used to describe this is “capacity factor,” which is simply the amount of power a turbine actually produces over a period of time divided by the amount of power it could have produced if it had run at its full rated capacity over that time period. A more precise measurement of output is the “specific yield.” This measures the annual energy output per square meter of area swept by the turbine blades as they rotate. Overall, wind turbines capture between 20 and 40 percent of the energy in the wind. So at a site with average wind speeds of 7 m/s, a typical turbine will produce about 1,100 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per square meter of area per year. If the turbine has blades that are 40 meters long, for a total swept area of 5,029 square meters, the power output will be about 5.5 million kWh for the year. An increase in blade length, which in turn increases the swept area, can have a significant effect on the amount of power output from a wind turbine.

_

Wind farms:

A wind farm, when installed on agricultural land, has one of the lowest environmental impacts of all energy sources:

  • It occupies less land area per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity generated than any other energy conversion system, apart from rooftop solar energy, and is compatible with grazing and crops.
  • It generates the energy used in its construction in just 3 months of operation, yet its operational lifetime is 20–25 years.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution produced by its construction are very tiny and declining. There are no emissions or pollution produced by its operation.
  • In substituting for base-load (mostly coal power) wind power produces a net decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and a net increase in biodiversity.
  • Modern wind turbines are almost silent and rotate so slowly (in terms of revolutions per minute) that they are rarely a hazard to birds.

_

Negatives side of wind power:

Wind power must still compete with conventional generation sources on a cost basis. Depending on how energetic a wind site is, the wind farm might not be cost competitive. Even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, the technology requires a higher initial investment than fossil-fueled generators. Good wind sites are often located in remote locations, far from cities where the electricity is needed. Transmission lines must be built to bring the electricity from the wind farm to the city. The intermittent and unpredictable nature of the wind power would limit its contribution to any region, unless large-scale energy storage or intercontinental transmission is available. Environmental constrains, such as the presence of forests and protected areas, further limit the location of the wind turbines, as would simple public acceptance. Wind farms are not necessary attractive, and they have generated complaints about noise, interference with radio, TV and radar signals, and the killing of or interfering with, migratory birds.

______

______

Hydropower:

Hydropower includes hydroelectric, wave and tidal power.

Hydroelectric:

In 2015 hydropower generated 16.6% of the world’s total electricity and 70% of all renewable electricity.  Since water is about 800 times denser than air, even a slow flowing stream of water, or moderate sea swell, can yield considerable amounts of energy. Hydroelectricity is obtained by mechanical conversion of the potential energy of water in high elevations. Roughly speaking, one gallon of water per second falling one hundred feet can generate one kilowatt of electricity. Water generates electricity when it drops gravitationally, driving a turbine and generator. While most hydroelectricity is produced by water falling from dams, some is produced by water flowing down rivers (run-of-the-river electricity). In order to generate electricity from the kinetic energy in moving water, the water has to move with sufficient speed and volume to spin a propeller-like device called a turbine, which in turn rotates a generator to generate electricity.  Hydroelectricity is ideal for providing peaking power and smoothing intermittent wind and solar resources. When it is in spinning-reserve mode, it can provide electric power within 15–30 s. Hydroelectric power today is usually used for peaking power. The exception is when small reservoirs are in danger of overflowing, such as during heavy snowmelt during spring. In those cases, hydro is used for baseload.

There are many forms of water energy:

  • Historically hydroelectric power came from constructing large hydroelectric dams and reservoirs, which are still popular in third world countries. The largest of which is the Three Gorges Dam (2003) in China and the Itaipu Dam (1984) built by Brazil and Paraguay.
  • Small hydro systems are hydroelectric power installations that typically produce up to 50 MW of power. They are often used on small rivers or as a low impact development on larger rivers. China is the largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world and has more than 45,000 small hydro installations.
  • Run-of-the-river hydroelectricity plants derive kinetic energy from rivers without the creation of a large reservoir. This style of generation may still produce a large amount of electricity, such as the Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia river in the United States.

Hydropower is produced in 150 countries, with the Asia-Pacific region generating 32 percent of global hydropower in 2010. For countries having the largest percentage of electricity from renewables, the top 50 are primarily hydroelectric. China is the largest hydroelectricity producer, with 721 terawatt-hours of production in 2010, representing around 17 percent of domestic electricity use. Large conventional hydropower projects currently provide the majority of renewable electric power generation. With nearly 1,100 gigawatts (GW) of global capacity, hydropower produced an estimated 4,100 terawatt hours (TWh) of the 24,659 TWh total global electricity in 2016.

_

Hydropower is a clean and renewable energy source. Considering the economic, technical and environmental benefits of hydropower, most countries give priority to its development. For example, China has the richest hydro resources on the planet with a total theoretical hydropower potential of 694GW. Developing hydropower is of great importance to alleviate the energy crisis and environmental pollution resulting from the rapid economic growth of China and other countries in the 21st century. Hydropower has several advantages over most other sources generating electrical power. These include a high level of reliability, proven technology, high efficiency, very low operating and maintenance costs, and the ability to easily adjust to load changes. Generally many hydropower plants are located in conjunction with reservoirs, which provide water, flood control, and recreation benefits for the community. In addition, hydropower does not produce waste products that cause acid rain, and greenhouse gases. An assessment of its energy potential requires detailed information on the local and geographical factors of runoff water (available head, flow volume per unit of time, and so on). The total theoretical potential of hydro energy is estimated at 150 Exajoules a year while the technical potential of hydroelectricity is estimated at 50 Exajoules a year. Because rainfall varies by region and country, hydro energy is not evenly accessible. Rainfall may also vary in time, resulting in variable annual power output.

_

Negative side of hydroelectricity:

Considering the criticism of large dams, modern construction tries to include in the system design several technologies that minimise the social and ecological impacts. Some of the most important impacts are the displacement of local communities, particularly indigenous people, changes in fish amount and fish biodiversity, sedimentation, biodiversity perturbation, water quality standards, human health deterioration, and downstream impacts. Other disadvantages of hydropower include high initial costs of facilities; dependence on precipitation (no control over amount of water available); and inundation of land and wildlife habitat (creation of reservoir). Dams that have flooded areas with live vegetation can emit methane, a powerful global warming gas, as that organic material decomposes. For example, the Tucurui dam in Brazil created a reservoir in the rainforest before clearing the trees. As the plants and trees began to rot, they reduced the oxygen content of the water, killing off the plants and fish in the water, and released large quantities of methane. Because large conventional dammed-hydro facilities hold back large volumes of water, a failure due to poor construction, natural disasters or sabotage can be catastrophic to downriver settlements and infrastructure. During Typhoon Nina in 1975 Banqiao Dam failed in Southern China when more than a year’s worth of rain fell within 24 hours. The resulting flood resulted in the deaths of 26,000 people, and another 145,000 from epidemics. Millions were left homeless. Also, the creation of a dam in a geologically inappropriate location may cause disasters such as 1963 disaster at Vajont Dam in Italy, where almost 2000 people died. Large Dam construction has been linked to increased propensity of Earthquakes. Massive Earthquakes in China and Uttarakhand in India were linked to the building of Massive Dams in these countries.

_

Pumped storage:

Another type of hydropower technology is called pumped storage. In a pumped storage plant, water is pumped from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir during off-peak times when electricity is relatively cheap, using electricity generated from other types of energy sources. Pumping the water uphill creates the potential to generate hydropower later on. When the hydropower power is needed, it is released back into the lower reservoir through turbines. Inevitably, some power is lost, but pumped storage systems can be up to 80 percent efficient. There is currently more than 90 GW of pumped storage capacity worldwide, with about 20 percent of that in the United States. The need to create storage resources to capture and store for later use the generation from high penetrations of variable renewable energy (e.g. wind and solar) could increase interest in building new pumped storage projects.

_

Wave power, which captures the energy of ocean surface waves, and tidal power, converting the energy of tides, are two forms of hydropower with future potential; however, they are not yet widely employed commercially.

Wave power:

Winds passing over water create surface waves. The faster the wind speed, the longer the wind is sustained, the greater the distance the wind travels, and the greater the wave height. The power in a wave is generally proportional to the density of water, the square of the height of the wave, and the period of the wave. Wave power devices capture energy from ocean surface waves to produce electricity. One type of device is a buoy that rises and falls with a wave, creating mechanical energy that is converted to electricity that is sent through an underwater transmission line to shore. Another type is a floating surface-following device, whose up-and-down motion increases the pressure on oil to drive a hydraulic ram to run a hydraulic motor.

Tidal power:

Tides are characterized by oscillating currents in the ocean caused by the rise and fall of the ocean surface due to the gravitational attraction among the Earth, Moon, and Sun. A tidal turbine is similar to a wind turbine in that it consists of a rotor that turns due to its interaction with water during the ebb and flow of a tide. A generator in a tidal turbine converts kinetic energy to electrical energy, which is transmitted to shore. The turbine is generally mounted on the sea floor and may or may not extend to the surface. The rotor, which lies under water, may be fully exposed to the water or placed within a narrowing duct that directs water toward it. Because of the high density of seawater, a slow-moving tide can produce significant tidal turbine power; however, water current speeds need to be at least 4 knots (2.05 m s−1) for tidal energy to be economical. In comparison, wind speeds over land need to be about 7 m s−1 or faster for wind energy to be economical. Since tides run about six hours in one direction before switching directions for six hours, they are fairly predictable, so tidal turbines may potentially be used to supply baseload energy.

_____

_____

Biomass, bioenergy and biofuels:

Biomass is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms. It most often refers to plants or plant-derived materials which are specifically called lignocellulosic biomass. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly via combustion to produce heat, or indirectly after converting it to various forms of biofuel. Conversion of biomass to biofuel can be achieved by different methods which are broadly classified into: thermal, chemical, and biochemical methods. Wood remains the largest biomass energy source today; examples include forest residues – such as dead trees, branches and tree stumps, yard clippings, wood chips and even municipal solid waste. In the second sense, biomass includes plant or animal matter that can be converted into fibers or other industrial chemicals, including biofuels. Industrial biomass can be grown from numerous types of plants, including miscanthus, switchgrass, hemp, corn, poplar, willow, sorghum, sugarcane, bamboo, and a variety of tree species, ranging from eucalyptus to oil palm (palm oil).

_

Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Rotting garbage, and agricultural and human waste, all release methane gas – also called landfill gas or biogas. Crops, such as corn and sugarcane, can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel, ethanol. Biodiesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils and animal fats. Also, biomass to liquids (BTLs) and cellulosic ethanol are still under research. There is a great deal of research involving algal fuel or algae-derived biomass due to the fact that it’s a non-food resource and can be produced at rates 5 to 10 times those of other types of land-based agriculture, such as corn and soy. Once harvested, it can be fermented to produce biofuels such as ethanol, butanol, and methane, as well as biodiesel and hydrogen. The biomass used for electricity generation varies by region. Forest by-products, such as wood residues, are common in the United States. Agricultural waste is common in Mauritius (sugar cane residue) and Southeast Asia (rice husks). Animal husbandry residues, such as poultry litter, are common in the United Kingdom.

_

Biomass can be classified as plant, animal manure or municipal solid waste. Forestry plantations, natural forests, woodlands and forestry waste provide most woody biomass, while most non-woody biomass and processed waste comes from agricultural residues and agro-industrial activities as seen in the table below. Sweden is probably the world leader in creating a working biomass market, which utilises biomass for energy purposes such as domestic heating with advanced heating systems and district heating. The growing contribution of biomass has been combined with increases in the number of companies that supply wood and wood products, as well as the number of parties that use biomass as an energy source. Sweden plans to increase the 25 percent share of biomass in the total primary energy supply to 40 percent by 2020.

Types and Examples of Plant Biomass:

Woody biomass Non-woody biomass Processed Waste Processed fuels
 

• Trees

• Shrubs and scrub

• Bushes such as coffee and tea

• Sweepings from forest floor

• Bamboo

• Palms

 

 

• Energy crops such as sugarcane

• Cereal straw

• Cotton, cassava, tobacco stems and roots

• Grass

• Bananas, plantains and the like

• Soft stems such as pulses and potatoes

• Swamp and water plants

 

 

• Cereal husks and cobs

• Bagasse

• Wastes from pineapple and other fruits

• Nut shells, flesh and the like

• Plant oil cake

• Sawmill wastes

• Industrial wood bark and logging wastes

• Black liquor from pulp mills

• Municipal Waste

 

 

• Charcoal from wood and residues

• Briquette and densified biomass

• Methanol and ethanol

• Plant oils from palms, rape, sunflower and the like

• Producer gas

• Biogas

 

_

In 2010, worldwide biofuel production reached 105 billion liters (28 billion gallons US), up 17% from 2009, and biofuels provided 2.7% of the world’s fuels for road transport, a contribution largely made up of ethanol and biodiesel. Global ethanol fuel production reached 86 billion liters (23 billion gallons US) in 2010, with the United States and Brazil as the world’s top producers, accounting together for 90% of global production. The world’s largest biodiesel producer is the European Union, accounting for 53% of all biodiesel production in 2010. As of 2011, mandates for blending biofuels exist in 31 countries at the national level. The International Energy Agency has a goal for biofuels to meet more than a quarter of world demand for transportation fuels by 2050 to reduce dependence on petroleum and coal.

_

Bioethanol is carbon neutral:

_

Biofuel for aviation:

NASA’s study showed that biofuel produces fewer and smaller soot particles than standard jet fuel. That would reduce aviation’s contribution to global warming in ways beyond the possible effect on contrails and cirrus clouds. Tiny particles of black carbon (that is, soot) suspended in the atmosphere soak up the sun’s energy like a black sweater on a hot day and radiate the heat back into the atmosphere. So less soot, less warming. Replacing fossil fuel with biofuel also reduces the amount of carbon dioxide that is added to the atmosphere. Growing plants absorb CO2 from the air.

_

In 2016, global biomass electric power capacity stood at 112 GW. In 2015, the United States had 16 GW of installed biomass-fueled electric generation capacity. In the United States, most of the electricity from wood biomass is generated at lumber and paper mills using their own wood waste; in addition, wood waste is used to generate the heat for drying wood products and other manufacturing processes. Biomass waste is mostly municipal solid waste, i.e., garbage, which is burned as a fuel to run power plants. On average, a ton of garbage generates 550 to 750 kWh of electricity. Landfill gas contains methane that can be captured, processed and used to fuel power plants, manufacturing facilities, vehicles and homes. In the United States, there is currently more than 2 GW of installed landfill gas-fired generation capacity at more than 600 projects.

_

Recycling garbage:

There are some waste disposal companies around the world who have wisely begun a process that could possibly revolutionize energy production. Upon reception of waste, they are separating materials known to produce a number of highly kinetic, mainly gases, materials. One company in the United States, alone, that owns one-hundred and thirty disposal sites was estimated, by the Environmental Protection Agency, to have produced five-hundred and fifty megawatts of electrical energy. This was estimated to have powered 440,000 homes and did the same work as 2.2 million tons of coal. Instead of polluting the Earth, humanity’s waste could sustain it into the future.

_

Many different disciplines are contributing to the development of new bioenergy strategies, including biochemistry, bioenergetics, genomics, and biomimetics research. For example, research in plant biology, metabolism, and enzymatic properties will support the development of new forms of biofuel crops that could potentially have high yields, drought resistance, improved nutrient use efficiency, and tissue chemistry that enhances fuel production and carbon sequestration potential. Significant research is also being directed toward strategies for cellulose treatment, sugar transport, and the use of microbes to break down different types of complex biomass, as well as on advanced biorefineries that can produce biofuels, biopower, and commercial chemical products.

_

Negative side of biomass energy:

Wide-scale development of bioenergy crops could have significant unintended negative consequences if not managed carefully. Conversion of solar energy to chemical energy by ecosystems is typically less than 0.5 percent efficient, yielding less than 1 W/m2, so relatively large land areas would be required for biomass to be a major source of energy. If the land required to grow bioenergy crops comes from deforesting or converting natural lands, there could be a net increase in GHG emissions as well as losses of biodiversity and ecosystem services. If grown on marginal lands, increased emissions of N2O, a potent GHG, may result as a side effect of nitrogen fertilizer use. If bioenergy crops are grown on existing agricultural areas, food prices and food security could be compromised. Biomass energy can be a carbon neutral energy source, which makes it very attractive. However, erosion is a problem related to the cultivation of many annual crops. The best-suited energy crops are perennials, with much better land cover than food crops. Increased water use caused by additional demands of new vegetation can also become a concern in some regions. Furthermore the use of pesticides can affect the quality of groundwater and surface water, which in turn impacts on plants and animals. The use of plantation biomass will result in removal of nutrients from the soil that have to be replenished in one way or another. Biomass plantations can also be criticized because the range of biological species they support is much narrower than what natural forests support. However, if plantations are established on degraded land or excess agricultural lands, the restored lands are likely to support a more diverse ecology. Finally, the collection, transport and use of biomass increase the use of vehicles and infrastructures and cause emissions to the atmosphere. A wide variety of social issues, some related to environmental factors, are barriers to a greater use of bio energy.

______

______

Geothermal energy:

High Temperature Geothermal energy is from thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth’s geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet and from radioactive decay of minerals. The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface. The adjective geothermal originates from the Greek roots geo, meaning earth, and thermos, meaning heat. The heat that is used for geothermal energy can be from deep within the Earth, all the way down to Earth’s core – 4,000 miles (6,400 km) down. At the core, temperatures may reach over 9,000 °F (5,000 °C). Heat conducts from the core to surrounding rock. Extremely high temperature and pressure cause some rock to melt, which is commonly known as magma. Magma convects upward since it is lighter than the solid rock. This magma then heats rock and water in the crust, sometimes up to 700 °F (371 °C). From hot springs, geothermal energy has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since ancient Roman times, but it is now better known for electricity generation.

_

There are three components to the geothermal resource base: (1) geothermal heating and cooling, or direct heating and cooling by surface or near-surface geothermal energy; (2) hydrothermal systems involving the production of electricity using hot water or steam accessible within approximately 3 km of Earth’s surface; and (3) enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) using hydraulic stimulation to mine the heat stored in low-permeability rocks at depths down to 10 km and use it to generate electricity.

_

Generating geothermal electric power typically involves drilling a well, perhaps a mile or two in depth, in search of rock temperatures in the range of 300 to 700°F. Water is pumped down this well, where it is reheated by hot rocks. It travels through natural fissures and rises up a second well as steam, which can be used to spin a turbine and generate electricity or be used for heating or other purposes. The conversion efficiency of geothermal power plants is rather low, about 5 to 20 percent. Several wells may have to be drilled before a suitable one is in place and the size of the resource cannot be confirmed until after drilling. Additionally, some water is lost to evaporation in this process, so new water is added to maintain the continuous flow of steam. Like biopower and unlike intermittent wind and solar power, geothermal electricity can be used continuously. Very small quantities of carbon dioxide trapped below the Earth’s surface are released during this process.

_

Low Temperature Geothermal refers to the use of the outer crust of the earth as a Thermal Battery to facilitate Renewable thermal energy for heating and cooling buildings, and other refrigeration and industrial uses. In this form of Geothermal, a Geothermal Heat Pump GHP and Ground-coupled heat exchanger are used together to move heat energy into the earth (for cooling) and out of the earth (for heating) on a varying seasonal basis. Low temperature Geothermal is an increasingly important renewable technology because it both reduces total annual energy loads associated with heating and cooling, and it also flattens the electric demand curve eliminating the extreme summer and winter peak electric supply requirements. Thus Low Temperature Geothermal/GHP is becoming an increasing national priority with multiple tax credit support and focus as part of the ongoing movement toward Net Zero Energy.

_

At least 82 countries used direct geothermal power in 2016. Geothermal provided an estimated 157 TWh globally in 2016, one half in the form of electricity (with an estimated 13.5 GW of capacity) and the remaining half in the form of heat. (Total global electricity generation in 2016 was 24,659 TWh). In the United States, 17.4 billion kWh of geothermal electricity was generated in 2016, making up about 5 percent of non-hydroelectric renewable electricity generation, but only 0.4 percent of total electricity generation.

_

Negative sides of geothermal energy:

The Gestation Time for permitting, financing, drilling etc. can easily take 5-7 years to develop a geothermal energy field. Compare this to 6 months for a small wind farm or 3 months for a Solar PV plant. Also the technology improvement has been slow with setbacks. Geothermal fluids contain a variable quantity of gas, largely nitrogen and carbon dioxide with some hydrogen sulphide and smaller proportions of ammonia, mercury, radon, and boron. Most of the chemicals are concentrated in the disposal water, routinely re-injected into drill holes, and thus not released into the environment. The concentrations of the gases are usually not harmful. The gas emissions from low-temperature geothermal resources are normally only a fraction of the emissions from the high-temperature fields used for electricity production.

_____

Ocean thermal energy:

Exploiting natural temperature differences in the sea using some form of heat engine, potentially the largest source of renewable energy of all, has been considered and discussed for the best part of a century. But the laws of thermodynamics demand as large a temperature difference as possible to deliver a technically feasible and reasonably economic system. Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) requires a temperature difference of about 20 degrees Celsius, and this limits the application of this technology to a few tropical regions with very deep water. Offshore OTEC is technically difficult because the need to pipe large volumes of water from the seabed to a floating system, the huge area of heat exchanger needed, and the difficulty of transmitting power from a floating device in deep water to the shore.

_____

_____

Worldwide available energy resources:

An important requirement for an alternative energy technology is that sufficient resource is available to power the technology and the resource can be accessed and used with minimal effort. In the cases of solar-PV, CSP, wind, tidal, wave, and hydroelectricity, the resources are the energy available from sunlight, winds, tides, waves, and elevated water, respectively. In the case of nuclear, coal-CCS, corn ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol, it is the amount of uranium, coal, corn, and cellulosic material, respectively.  Table below gives estimated upper limits to the worldwide available energy (e.g., all the energy that can be extracted for electricity consumption, regardless of cost or location).

_____

____

Pros and cons of various RE and NRE energy sources:

Source Advantages Disadvantages
Wind   Renewable energy source

  Very low greenhouse gas emissions

  Very low air pollution emissions

  Very low water requirements

  Very safe for workers and public

  Intermittent energy source

  Limited to windy areas

  Potentially high hazard to birds

  Moderate land requirements

Solar   Renewable energy source

  Very low greenhouse gas emissions

  Very low air pollution emissions

  Very low water requirements

  Modular, low-profile, low-maintenance

  Very safe for workers and public

  Intermittent energy source

  High land requirements

  Expensive

  Manufacture involves some toxics

Biomass   Renewable energy source

  Very low greenhouse gas emissions

  Can produce energy on-demand

  Energy is easily stored

  Low energy return on investment

  High air pollution emissions

  Very high water and land requirements

  High occupational hazards

Small Hydro   Renewable (if silt removed in reservoir)

  Very low greenhouse gas emissions

  Very low air pollution emissions

  Inexpensive to build and operate

  Safe for workers and public

  Dependent on stream flow

  Large numbers of small dams can have significant effects on terrestrial and aquatic habitats, possibly as great as a large dam producing the same amount of electricity

Large Hydro   Very high return on energy investment

  Very low greenhouse gas emissions

  Very low air pollution emissions

  Inexpensive once dam is built

  Can produce energy on-demand

  Provide water storage and flood-control

  Non-renewable (silt removal unfeasible)

  Very high land requirements

  Extremely high impacts to land and water habitat

  Best sites are already developed or off-limits

  Disastrous impacts in case of dam failure

Natural Gas   Inexpensive

  Low land requirements

  Can produce energy on-demand

  Relatively safe for workers and public

  Non-renewable energy source

  High greenhouse gas emissions

  Relatively moderate air pollution emissions

  Danger of explosion if handled improperly

Coal   Inexpensive

  Abundant

  Low land requirements

  Can produce energy on-demand

  Non-renewable energy source

  Very high greenhouse gas emissions

  Very high air pollution emissions

  High land/water impacts from acid rain, mine drainage

  Highly hazardous occupation

Nuclear   Low greenhouse gas emissions

  Low air pollution emissions

  Low land requirements for power plants (though not for waste storage)

  Can produce energy on-demand

  Non-renewable energy source

  High water requirements

  Relatively expensive

  Waste remains dangerous for thousands of years

  Serious accident would be disastrous

_____

_____

Rural energy:

Access to electricity opens opportunities that are taken for granted by those who enjoy continuous access. Yet 1.4 billion people in developing countries lack access to electricity. This largely means that TV and radio are not available, lighting comes from candles and fires, telephone services are absent etc. A number of options to use renewable energy for electrification exist and the markets are growing.

Solar home systems:

These usually consist of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel, battery, charging controller, and end uses like lighting or heating. Lanterns powered by solar energy provide lighting only. In recent years, large markets have developed, particularly in rural areas of developing countries. Installations may service single households or public buildings, like schools and health centres.

Biogas for cooking and lighting:

A biogas digester converts wastes (animal and plant) into fuels for lighting, heating, cooking, and electricity generation. Digesters can be small and serve a household or larger and provide fuels for many households. Unfortunately, market development is hampered by community and political issues, as well as some technical challenges.

Mini-grids:

Small-scale grids can provide electricity for communities with a high density. Traditionally, mini-grids have been powered by diesel generators or small hydro. However, solar PV, wind turbines, or biomass digesters, often in hybrid combinations, can replace or supplement diesel power.

Small scale wind power:

Wind power system for a single household has been piloted in a few countries. Performance of these systems has been good, except sometimes during the summer when winds drop. Many households are therefore upgrading their systems with solar PV to complement the wind resource.

Agricultural water pumping:

Water pumps driven by wind have historically played a role in rural areas. More recently, interest is growing in solar PV powered water pumps, along with biogas for water pumping in dual-fuel engines running on diesel and biogas.

Small industry:

Stand-alone energy systems can power small industries, thereby creating local jobs and opportunities. In fact, the development of mini-grids and industry go hand in hand. As small businesses grow, the economic viability of mini-grids increases. With the availability of energy, new possibilities open up.

Drinking water:

Renewable energy can power mechanical pumping and filtering (as well as ultraviolet disinfection) to provide clean drinking water. This is emerging as a potential major market in developing countries.

Crop drying:

Crop often needs to be dried for perseverance. Direct solar radiation is widely used for this purpose.

____

____

Environmental impacts of renewable energy technologies:

All energy sources have some impact on our environment. Usage of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and gas, results in serious greenhouse effect and environmental pollution, which have a great influence in the world. Hence it is important to understand the environmental impacts associated with producing power from renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower. The exact type and intensity of environmental impacts varies depending on the specific technology used, the geographic location, and a number of other factors. Various aspects of the impact of renewable energy sources can be analyzed, including, among others: air and water emissions, waste generations, specially hazardous materials, noise generation, land use, global warming emissions. By understanding the current and potential environmental issues associated with each renewable energy source, we can takes steps to effectively avoid or minimize these impacts as they become a larger portion of our electric supply. A whole series of determinants are favouring the development of the energy sector based on renewable resources: increasing social awareness of the need to limit emissions of harmful substances, legislation, pro‐environmental policies of governments, by‐laws, support in the form of programmes and financial mechanisms, not to mention the rising costs of energy from conventional sources and the need to ensure energy security.

_

Little to no global warming emissions:

According to data aggregated by the International Panel on Climate Change, life-cycle global warming emissions associated with renewable energy—including manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance, and dismantling and decommissioning—are minimal. Compared with natural gas, which emits between 0.6 and 2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (CO2e/kWh), and coal, which emits between 1.4 and 3.6 pounds of CO2e/kWh, wind emits only 0.02 to 0.04 pounds of CO2e/kWh, solar 0.07 to 0.2, geothermal 0.1 to 0.2, and hydroelectric between 0.1 and 0.5. Renewable electricity generation from biomass can have a wide range of global warming emissions depending on the resource and how it is harvested. Sustainably sourced biomass has a low emissions footprint, while unsustainable sources of biomass can generate significant global warming emissions. Increasing the supply of renewable energy would allow us to replace carbon-intensive energy sources and significantly reduce U.S. global warming emissions. For example, a 2009 UCS analysis found that a 25 percent by 2025 national renewable electricity standard would lower power plant CO2 emissions 277 million metric tons annually by 2025—the equivalent of the annual output from 70 typical (600 MW) new coal plants. In addition, a ground-breaking study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory explored the feasibility and environmental impacts associated with generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2050 and found that global warming emissions from electricity production could be reduced by approximately 81 percent.

_

The brief comparison between environmental benefits and costs of the use of different types of RES is presented in below.

_

The figure above shows relative amounts of greenhouse gas emissions from various types of electricity generation methods, data expressed as CO2 equivalents.

__

__

Table below gives an overview of specific environmental impacts of renewable energy sources in relation to conventional sources:

_

_

Life cycle air emissions from fossil fuels and renewables:

The likely life-cycle emissions (taking into account fuel cultivation, harvesting, collection, transportation and processing, as well as power plant construction, operation and decommissioning) from main renewable energy technologies and conventional electricity generation are shown in two tables below. The results are purely indicative but show the variations and relative differences between the various fuel inputs. Life-cycle emissions from renewable energy use are small compared with those from fossil fuel plants. The studies upon which the figures are based did not examine nuclear energy. Though nuclear power generation does have a major environmental impact, it releases no sulphur dioxide (SO2) or nitrogen oxides (NOx) and little carbon dioxide (CO2). Its life cycle emissions of these gases falls within the ranges shown for non-hydroelectric renewable energy.

_

Life cycle air emissions from renewable energy (g/kWh):

Energy Crops Hydro Hydro Solar Solar Wind Geothermal
Current Practice Future Practice Small Scale Large Scale Photovoltaic Thermal Electric
CO2 17-27 15-18 9 3.6-11.6 98-167 26-38 7-9 79
SO2 0.07-0.16 0.06-0.08 0.03 0.009-0.024 0.20-0.34 0.13-0.27 0.02-0.09 0.02
NOx 1.1-2.5 0.35-0.51 0.07 0.003-0.006 0.18-0.30 0.06-0.13 0.02-0.06 0.28

_

_

Life cycle air emissions from conventional electricity generation (g/kWh):

Coal Oil Gas Diesel
Best Practice Flue Gas
Desulphurisation
& Low NOx
Best Practice Combined
Cycle Gas
Turbines
Embedded
CO2 955.0 987.0 818.0 430.0 772.0
SO2 11.8 1.5 14.2 1.6
NOx 4.3 2.9 4.0 0.5 12.3

_

Above figures and tables conclusively proves that GHGs emissions from renewable energy sources are very small compared to burning fossil fuel. Renewable energy entails a number of other potential environmental impacts. On the negative side, renewable energy can make large tracts of land unusable for competing uses, disrupt marine life, bird life and flora/fauna, and produce visual and noise pollution. Generally though, these potential environmental impacts are site-specific and there are a number of ways to minimise the effects, which are usually small and reversible. There are environmental benefits from renewables other than reduction of greenhouse gas and other air emissions. For example, hydroelectric schemes can improve water supplies and facilitate reclamation of degraded land and habitat. The use of bioenergy can have many environmental benefits if the resource is produced and used in a sustainable way. If the land from which bioenergy is produced is replanted, bioenergy is used sustainably and the carbon released will be recycled into the next generation of growing plants.

_

Several parameters are used to compare impacts of fossil fuels and renewables:

  1. Life-cycle assessment (LCA):

Life-cycle assessment (LCA) attempts to estimate the overall energy usage and environmental impact from the energy produced by a given technology by assessing all the life stages of the technology: raw materials extraction, refinement, construction, use, and disposal. Here, LCA is used to compare the relative impacts of various fossil-fuel-based and renewable sources of electricity. To place all analyses on a common footing, impacts are expressed in terms of emission or usage rate Environmental Impacts of per kilowatt-hour (kWh). A major complication in comparing LCAs is that there is no set standard for carrying out such analyses. While it is the goal in using LCAs to cover technologies from cradle to grave in a systematic way, there is variability in the assumptions, boundaries, and methodologies used in these assessments. Therefore, caution should be used in comparing LCAs; each is an approximation of a technology’s actual impact.

  1. Net Energy Ratio:

The NER is defined as the ratio of useful energy output to the grid to the fossil-fuel energy consumed during the lifetime of the technology. As such, it is critical to assessing whether or not a renewable energy source reduces our use of fossil fuel. Net energy ratio (NER) quantifies how much net energy a technology produces over its life cycle. Renewable energy sources generally have an NER value greater than one. Unlike renewable sources, conventional energy technologies have NERs of less than 1.

  1. Energy Payback Time:

The energy payback time (EPBT) is a measure of how much time it takes for an energy technology to generate enough useful energy to offset energy consumed during its lifetime. As such it provides an indication of the temporal fossil-fuel needs and emissions as an energy infrastructure is transformed from a carbon-intensive to a low-carbon system.  Energy payback time defines how long it takes for a given energy technology to recoup the lifetime energy invested in its development once the technology starts generating electricity. Wind EPBT ranges from 0.26 and 0.39 years and EPBT values for PV range from 7.5 years to less than 1 year. The length of the EPBT has important implications for how long it will take to displace fossil-fuel sources of energy with renewable sources.

These metrics offer insight into the overall energy and environmental performance of generation technologies, especially in making macro-level resource acquisition and development decisions.

_______

The environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy: 2010 study:

There are three commonly held misperceptions of renewable energy: that the available resource is too small to be useful; that its inherently variable nature is too difficult to manage; and that it is too costly to develop. A slew of recent reports, profiled at a conference organised by the UK Energy Research Centre, challenge these myths fundamentally.

_

The Offshore Valuation is a major new study supported by a broad consortium of government and industry bodies and coordinated by the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC), an independent think tank. It is the first report to attempt a full economic valuation of the UK’s offshore renewable energy resource. Its findings have been startling: by developing less than a third of the practical wind, wave and tidal resource around the British Isles, UK could become a net electricity exporter, generating by 2050 the electricity equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil per year. Doing so could bring multiple benefits to the UK: £31 billion of revenues from electricity exports to Europe, 145,000 green jobs, and insurance against fossil fuel price volatility. Other recent reports compound the evidence that, far from being too small a resource to be useful, renewable energy potential is in fact vast.  A large-scale wind, water, and solar energy system can reliably supply all of the world’s energy needs, with significant benefit to climate, air quality, water quality, ecological systems, and energy security, at reasonable cost.

_

There may be plenty of wind, wave, tidal and solar energy available – but surely, say detractors, it is simply too variable to be useful: but the wind only blows a third of the time…’; in fact, overcoming renewable variability is a well-understood engineering challenge to which many solutions exist. Various speakers at the conference discussed prospects for a European supergrid, which would go quite some way towards addressing the problems of variable supply. For example, a low-pressure weather system over Britain, causing wind power output to drop, could be buffered against by importing power from Spanish solar arrays or Norwegian hydro stations. Far from being a pipe dream, this is something that governments are already actively working to build: the new Coalition agreement pledges to “deliver an offshore electricity grid in order to support the development of a new generation of offshore wind power”. Finally, there is the cost of renewable energy. Clearly, transforming our energy systems from predominantly fossil sources to predominantly renewable ones will require very large upfront costs. But these costs are in fact sound investments which pay back over the lifetime of the installed infrastructure. Furthermore, a new report commissioned by the European Climate Foundation finds that there is very little difference in cost between having a 40 per cent renewable electricity system and an 80 per cent renewable electricity system. This is hugely significant – effectively meaning that the choice between different energy system outcomes need not be made on the basis of cost differences, but rather on grounds of public acceptability, energy security, job creation and so on. Existing legislation and planning consents mean that we are already on the way to having a 40 per cent renewable electricity system across the EU by the early 2020s. The question is: when will we make the decision to go all-out, and commit ourselves to a fully renewable future?

_______

_______

Is renewable energy not big enough?

A vast and inexhaustible energy supply:

Today, renewable energy provides only a tiny fraction of its potential electricity output in the United States and worldwide. But numerous studies have repeatedly shown that renewable energy can be rapidly deployed to provide a significant share of future electricity needs, even after accounting for potential constraints. Throughout the United States, strong winds, sunny skies, plant residues, heat from the earth, and fast-moving water can each provide a vast and constantly replenished energy resource supply. These diverse sources of renewable energy have the technical potential to provide all the electricity the nation needs many times over. Estimates of the technical potential of each renewable energy source are based on their overall availability given certain technological and environmental constraints. In 2012, NREL found that together, renewable energy sources have the technical potential to supply 482,247 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. This amount is 118 times the amount of electricity the nation currently consumes. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, already gets 25% of its electricity from renewables, and is aiming for 80% by 2050. Wind power was Spain’s top source of electricity in 2013, ahead of nuclear, coal & gas. Renewables supplied 42% of mainland Spain’s electricity in 2013. In 2012 China’s wind power generation increased more than generation from coal. Portugal generated more than 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources during the first quarter of 2013. In the US, nine states are getting 12% or more of their electricity from wind. Iowa & South Dakota exceed 25%. Philippines produces 29% of its electricity with renewables, targeting 40% by 2020. Denmark is going to produce 100% of its heat and power with renewable energy by 2035 and all energy by 2050.

_______

Can renewable energy supply electricity 24/7?

Can electricity grid handle renewable energy?

_

Variable renewable energy:

Variability inherently affects solar energy, as the production of electricity from solar sources depends on the amount of light energy in a given location. Solar output varies throughout the day, the seasons, with cloud cover and by latitude on the globe. Windblown sand erodes glass in dry climates, protective layers add expenses. These factors are fairly predictable, and some solar thermal systems make use of molten salt heat storage to produce power when the sun is not shining. Wind-generated power is a variable resource, and the amount of electricity produced at any given point in time by a given plant will depend on wind speeds, air density, and turbine characteristics (among other factors). If wind speed is too low (less than about 2.5 m/s) then the wind turbines will not be able to make electricity, and if it is too high (more than about 25 m/s) the turbines will have to be shut down to avoid damage. While the output from a single turbine can vary greatly and rapidly as local wind speeds vary, as more turbines are connected over larger and larger areas the average power output becomes less variable. Capacity factors for PV solar are rather poor varying between 10-20% of the rated nameplate capacity. Onshore wind is better at 20-35% and offshore wind is best at 45%. This means that more total capacity needs to be installed in order to achieve an average output for the year. The factor relates to statements about capacity increases, generation may have increased by a much smaller figure. Mark Z. Jacobson says that there is no shortage of renewable energy and a “smart mix” of renewable energy sources can be used to reliably meet electricity demand: Because the wind blows during stormy conditions when the sun does not shine and the sun often shines on calm days with little wind, combining wind and solar can go a long way toward meeting demand, especially when geothermal provides a steady base and hydroelectric can be called on to fill in the gaps.

As physicist Amory Lovins has said:

The variability of sun, wind and so on, turns out to be a non-problem if you do several sensible things. One is to diversify your renewables by technology, so that weather conditions bad for one kind are good for another. Second, you diversify by site so they’re not all subject to the same weather pattern at the same time because they’re in the same place. Third, you use standard weather forecasting techniques to forecast wind, sun and rain, and of course hydro operators do this right now. Fourth, you integrate all your resources — supply side and demand side…

The combination of diversifying variable renewables by type and location, forecasting their variation, and integrating them with despatchable renewables, flexible fuelled generators, and demand response can create a power system that has the potential to meet our needs reliably. Integrating ever-higher levels of renewables is being successfully demonstrated in the real world.

Mark A. Delucchi and Mark Z. Jacobson report that there are at least seven ways to design and operate variable renewable energy systems so that they will reliably satisfy electricity demand:

  1. Interconnect geographically dispersed, naturally variable energy sources (e.g., wind, solar, wave, tidal), which smoothes out electricity supply (and demand) significantly.
  2. Use complementary and non-variable energy sources (such as hydroelectric power) to fill temporary gaps between demand and wind or solar generation.
  3. Use “smart” demand-response management to shift flexible loads to a time when more renewable energy is available.
  4. Store electric power, at the site of generation, (in batteries, hydrogen gas, molten salts, compressed air, pumped hydroelectric power, and flywheels), for later use.
  5. Over-size renewable peak generation capacity to minimize the times when available renewable power is less than demand and to provide spare power to produce hydrogen for flexible transportation and heat uses.
  6. Store electric power in electric-vehicle batteries, known as “vehicle to grid” or V2G.
  7. Forecast the weather (winds, sunlight, waves, tides and precipitation) to better plan for energy supply needs.

_

Baseload Electricity:

The “base load” is the minimum level of demand on an electrical grid over a span of time, some variation in demand may be compensated by varying production or electricity trading. The criteria for baseload power generation are low price, availability and reliability. Over the years as technology and available resources evolved, a variety of power sources have been used. Hydroelectricity was the first method and this is still the case in a few wet climates like Brazil, Canada, Norway and Iceland. Coal became the most popular baseload supply with the development of the steam turbine and bulk transport, and this is standard in much of the world. Nuclear power is also used and is in competition with coal, France is predominantly nuclear and uses less than 10% fossil fuel. In the US, the increasing popularity of natural gas is likely to replace coal as the base. There are no countries where the majority of baseload power is supplied by wind, solar, biofuels or geothermal, as each of these sources fails one or more of the criteria of low price, availability and reliability. Nuclear energy is a base load energy source that generates power more than 90 percent of the time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on average. Wind and solar energy sources run average capacity factors of 33 percent and 25 percent, respectively. A 100 percent capacity factor would mean that the energy source was producing at 100 percent power output every hour of every day of the year.

_

Renewable energy can meet all our energy needs in a safe and reliable way. When the shares are small, balancing supply and demand goes with the flow as part of the overall grid management. As shares of wind and solar approach 30% and more, smart integration becomes important.  The key is to have a mix of sources spread over a wide area: solar and wind power, biogas, biomass and geothermal sources. In the future, ocean energy can contribute too. Electricity grids are the networks used to transmit and distribute power from production source to end user, when the two may be hundreds of kilometres away. Sources include electrical generation plants such as a nuclear reactor, coal burning power plant, etc. A combination of sub-stations and transmission lines are used to maintain a constant flow of electricity. An electricity grid – the system that connects power stations to consumers – can handle large shares of variable renewable energy if it is designed to do so. Adding wind and solar on top of ‘business as usual’ is not how it works. What’s needed is a gradual transformation of the whole energy system to accommodate modern energy production and consumption. Intelligent technologies can track and manage energy use patterns, provide flexible power that follows demand through the day, use better storage options and group producers together to form virtual power plants. With all these solutions we can secure the renewable energy future needed. We just need smart grids to put it all together and effectively ‘keep the lights on’.  Typically the ones who claim that wind and solar will bring trouble to the grid are the old players, who failed to take renewable energy seriously and over-invested in fossil fuel capacities instead. Renewable energy is now eating their profits and making their old business models out-of-date. In reality, Europe, for example, can switch to 77% renewable electricity by 2030 while maintaining affordable security of supply.

What is a smart grid?

A smart grid is a system that can connect (and switch between) a number of energy sources (solar, wind, etc.), at many different sites, to provide a constant flow of electricity to users. It allows us to create a network of electricity production sites that spread over a wide area. So for example, it would allow you to create solar power on the roof of your house, and feed extra power back into the grid. This is part of what makes the grid “smart”: components can “talk” and “listen” to each other, making the supply of electricity much more flexible, reliable, and efficient. With smart grid solutions, we are no longer just passive consumers of energy, but active producers and consumers of energy. The power lines, transformers, and control stations that make up our current energy grid are old, increasingly unreliable, and not adequate to handle a significant increase in renewable energy. To move toward a cleaner energy economy, we must improve our nation’s electrical grid, as well as construct the transmission infrastructure needed to connect renewable energy facilities to cities and regions with high power demand.

_

Figure below is future smart grid with thermal storage to supply uninterrupted power to home, commercial and industrial use from various energy sources:

Linking together many stable, intermittent, and distributed resources as well as grid-based storage in an extensive “smart” grid is needed to smooth out the fluctuations experienced at individual installations and improve the overall efficiency of transmission. Grid intelligence involves extensive use of advanced measurement, communications, and monitoring devices together with decision-support tools. Taken together, the elements of a smart grid would also increase grid resilience, reducing the risk of widespread collapse following a local disruption or damage from natural events (such as storms and flooding) as well as physical and cyber-attacks. Improved two-way information flows form the foundation of new ways for consumers to understand and control their electricity consumption.

_______

Renewable energy more reliable and resilient energy system:

Wind and solar are less prone to large-scale failure because they are distributed and modular. Distributed systems are spread out over a large geographical area, so a severe weather event in one location will not cut off power to an entire region. Modular systems are composed of numerous individual wind turbines or solar arrays. Even if some of the equipment in the system is damaged, the rest can typically continue to operate. For example, in 2012 Hurricane Sandy damaged fossil fuel-dominated electric generation and distribution systems in New York and New Jersey and left millions of people without power. In contrast, renewable energy projects in the Northeast weathered Hurricane Sandy with minimal damage or disruption.  The risk of disruptive events will also increase in the future as droughts, heat waves, more intense storms, and increasingly severe wildfires become more frequent due to global warming. Renewable energy sources are more resilient than coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants in the face of these sorts of extreme weather events. For example, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power depend on large amounts of water for cooling, and limited water availability during a severe drought or heat wave puts electricity generation at risk. Wind and solar photovoltaic systems do not require water to generate electricity, and they can help mitigate risks associated with water scarcity.

______

Renewables improve public health and environmental quality:

Generating electricity from renewable energy rather than fossil fuels offers significant public health benefits. The air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas plants is linked to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, and cancer. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy has been found to reduce premature mortality and lost workdays, and it reduces overall healthcare costs. An Environmental Protection Agency study published found that by the end of the century, 57,000 fewer Americans would die each year from poor air quality if the worst effects of climate change were averted. Another Harvard study adds to recent research showing that taking global action on climate change could improve public health. The aggregate national economic impact associated with these health impacts of fossil fuels is between $361.7 and $886.5 billion, or between 2.5 percent and 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems generate electricity with no associated air pollution emissions. While geothermal and biomass energy systems emit some air pollutants, total air emissions are generally much lower than those of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. In addition, wind and solar energy require essentially no water to operate and thus do not pollute water resources or strain supply by competing with agriculture, drinking water systems, or other important water needs. In contrast, fossil fuels can have a significant impact on water resources. For example, both coal mining and natural gas drilling can pollute sources of drinking water. Natural gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) requires large amounts of water and all thermal power plants, including those powered by coal, gas, and oil, withdraw and consume water for cooling. Biomass and geothermal power plants, like coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, require water for cooling. In addition, hydroelectric power plants impact river ecosystems both upstream and downstream from the dam. However, NREL’s 80 percent by 2050 renewable energy study, which included biomass and geothermal, found that water withdrawals would decrease 51 percent to 58 percent by 2050 and water consumption would be reduced by 47 percent to 55 percent.

______

Renewables provide energy security and long term certainty:

The majority of oil & gas sources are concentrated in certain regions, many of which are getting more technically challenging and more expensive to reach, whereas renewable energy is domestic. It provides security of supply, helping a nation reduce its dependence on imported sources. It plays a significant role in addressing our energy needs by replacing foreign energy imports with clean and reliable home-grown electricity with the added bonus of fantastic local economic opportunities. To have great diversity in a nation’s energy supply is yet another way to strengthen energy security. A diversified portfolio of energy assets contributes to a long-term, sustainable energy strategy that protects the power supply from market fluctuations and volatility. They say ‘never put all your eggs in one basket’ – and with energy it is no different; it is a wise move to maintain a share of renewable energy in the nation’s energy mix. Today, hydro, wind and solar are the three main pillars for renewables. The average wind or solar farm is built for up to 25 to 30 years of operation, or even longer for hydro power plants. The operator is aware that the equipment will be refurbished and expects that the newly upgraded solar module or wind turbine will be considerably more efficient at a lower cost. Therefore renewables shall continue to generate electricity for a very long time while their efficiency continues to increase, further boosting competitiveness.

______

Cost of renewable energy:

Is renewable energy is too expensive?

You can’t get too far in a discussion about the nation’s electric power sector without running into the question of costs. How do renewable sources, such as solar and wind, stack up against fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas? How much will it cost utilities and ratepayers to build—and operate—a new power plant?

In recent years the costs of wind and solar energy have declined substantially. Today renewable technologies are the most economical solution for new capacity in a growing number of countries and regions, and are typically the most economic solution for new grid-connected capacity where good resources are available. There are no input costs for wind and solar energy. So for example, while one needs to buy coal for a coal-fired power plant to generate electricity (and coal mining itself has massive environmental costs), solar and wind energy don’t have input costs like that – sunlight and wind are free. As a result, they replace more expensive production in the electricity market, lowering wholesale electricity prices.

Then there are hidden costs of Coal and Nuclear. Market price aside, coal and nuclear power have huge hidden costs that aren’t included in the price that we pay for electricity. We’re talking about the costs of water pollution, health impacts, the plant’s huge water footprint, and climate change. For instance, in the United States, accounting for these hidden costs, conservatively doubles to triples the price of electricity from coal per kWh generated. In South Africa, the Energy utility Eskom is currently building a coal-fired power plant, and it’s estimated that the plant will cause damage of up to 5.7 bln US$ for every year it operates. These massive costs aren’t taken into account when the price of coal power is calculated — but they are still very real!

_

Current and Projected Future Costs of Renewable Energy Technologies: 2001 study:

Table above shows current and projected future costs for selected renewable technologies. For comparison, typical (wholesale) electricity production costs in many developed countries in recent years have been on the order of 2–4 c/kWh; retail prices have been on the order of 8 c/kWh; prices in off-grid niche markets have been on the order of 14 c/kWh and peak power prices have typically ranged from 15–25 c/kWh. The figures are somewhat dated, but indicate the extent to which additional experience, larger-scale deployment and continued technology improvement may reduce future costs. The prospects for continued cost reductions are promising in view of the recent rapid growth in renewable energy markets. During the past several years, the global rate of increase in installed wind and photovoltaic capacity has averaged as much as 30 percent per year, creating some of the world’s most rapidly expanding markets for energy technology.

_

Falling costs and increased competitiveness:

Costs for renewable energy technologies have fallen dramatically in recent years. Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules in 2014 cost up to 80% less than at the end of 2009, while wind turbine prices declined by almost a third over the same period. Falling costs have made renewable energy technologies increasingly competitive with conventional fossil fuels as seen in the figure below.

 

Substantial cost reductions in the past few decades in combination with government policies have made a number of renewable energy technologies competitive with fossil fuel technologies in certain applications. The present status of ‘new’ renewables shows that substantial cost reductions can be achieved for most technologies. However, making these renewable energy sources competitive will require further technology development and market deployments and an increase in production capacities to mass-production levels.

_

The graphic below shows that rooftop residential solar costs are expected to decline 42 percent between 2014 and 2016 for commercial and industrial photovoltaic installations, and levelized cost will drop 28 percent over the same period. More efficient installation techniques, lower costs of capital and improved supply chains are the driving forces behind these projected cost reductions.

_______

Economic benefits of renewable energy:

  1. GDP:

Doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 would increase global GDP by up to 1.1% or USD 1.3 trillion. A study shows that such a transition increases global GDP in 2030 between 0.6% and 1.1%, or between around USD 700 billion and USD 1.3 trillion compared to business as usual. Most of these positive impacts on GDP are driven by the increased investment in renewable energy deployment, which triggers ripple effects throughout the economy. If the doubling of the renewable share is achieved through a higher rate of electrification of final energy uses, the increase in global GDP is even higher, amounting to some 1.1%, or USD 1.3 trillion globally. Improvements in human well-being and welfare would go far beyond gains in GDP. The benefits of renewables reach well beyond the traditional and limited measurements of economic performance.

  1. Welfare:

Doubling the share of renewables by 2030 has a positive impact on global welfare, which increases by 2.7 % compared to a 0.6% GDP improvement. If achieved through higher electrification of heat and transport, global welfare would further rise by 3.7%. A combined indicator for welfare considers a number of factors including:

  • Economic impacts based on consumption and investment;
  • Social impacts based on expenditure on health and education; and
  • Environmental impacts, measured as greenhouse gas emissions and materials consumption.
  1. Jobs:

Renewable energy development outperforms fossil fuels in two important ways when it comes to driving job growth: a) Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labor-intensive. This means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels and b) Installing renewable energy facilities uses primarily local workers, so investment dollars are kept in local communities. Making the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources could provide the much-needed kick to the economy. According to a 2007 study from the University of Tennessee, the state of Pennsylvania could generate about 44,000 new jobs and increase net farm income by $460 million by adopting renewable energy. The renewable energy industry supports American jobs. More than 119,000 people worked in solar-related industries in 2012, while wind energy development employed 75,000 full-time workers across the U.S., including 30,000 jobs at manufacturing facilities throughout the country. In 2009, the Union of Concerned Scientists conducted an analysis of the economic benefits of a 25 percent renewable energy standard by 2025; it found that such a policy would create more than three times as many jobs as producing an equivalent amount of electricity from fossil fuels—resulting in a benefit of 202,000 new jobs in 2025. Renewable energy jobs will grow across all technologies, with a high concentration in the same technologies that account for a majority of the employment today, namely bioenergy, hydropower and solar. Along the renewable energy value chain, most renewable energy jobs will come from fuel supply (bioenergy feedstocks), installations and equipment manufacturing.

  1. Lower Consumer Expense:

Production of renewable energy is usually more efficient compared to traditional energy. The American Wind Energy Association claims that a sufficient number of wind plants – that could be built in four years – could eliminate the gas shortage. All other forms of renewable energy sources also turn out to be way cheaper than traditional non-renewable sources. What this means for consumers is that they can save money on their utility bills.  Increasing renewable energy also helps stabilize electricity rates and provide long-term savings. Once a wind or solar facility is installed, the “fuel” is free. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are subject to potentially volatile prices that can lead to significant fluctuations in electricity rates.

  1. Investment:

Renewable energy development promotes investments in the U.S. economy. In 2012, wind power made up 42 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity additions, representing a $25 billion investment in the U.S. economy. Investing in renewable energy can also have a massive impact on the government’s expenses. For example, Germany is a major net importer of power. As per estimations, the country could be using only renewable energy by 2050 that could help it save billions of dollars as it would not need to import energy. UCS analysis found that by 2025 national renewable electricity standard would stimulate $263.4 billion in new capital investment for renewable energy technologies, $13.5 billion in new landowner income biomass production and/or wind land lease payments, and $11.5 billion in new property tax revenue for local communities. Renewable energy projects therefore keep money circulating within the local economy, and in most states renewable electricity production would reduce the need to spend money on importing coal and natural gas from other places.

_____

Economics of climate change mitigation:

The Stern Review proposes stabilising the concentration of greenhouse-gas emissions in the atmosphere at a maximum of 550ppm CO2e by 2050. The Review estimates that this would mean cutting total greenhouse-gas emissions to three quarters of 2007 levels. The Review further estimates that the cost of these cuts would be in the range −1.0 to +3.5% of World GDP, (i.e. GWP), with an average estimate of approximately 1%. Stern has since revised his estimate to 2% of GWP. For comparison, the Gross World Product (GWP) at PPP was estimated at $74.5 trillion in 2010, thus 2% is approximately $1.5 trillion. The Review emphasises that these costs are contingent on steady reductions in the cost of low-carbon technologies. Mitigation costs will also vary according to how and when emissions are cut: early, well-planned action will minimise the costs. One way of estimating the cost of reducing emissions is by considering the likely costs of potential technological and output changes. Policy makers can compare the marginal abatement costs of different methods to assess the cost and amount of possible abatement over time. The marginal abatement costs of the various measures will differ by country, by sector, and over time.

_

Figure above shows total extreme weather cost and number of events costing more than $1 billion in the United States from 1980 to 2011. If you total all costs of all extreme weather events due to climate change, it would be more than cost of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

_____

Cost benefit of renewable energy:

_

The United States and the world as a whole must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050 in order to significantly reduce the risks posed by unabated climate change. While an 80 percent reduction may sound like a Herculean task, a new report from the Risky Business Project, From Risk to Return: Investing in a Clean Energy Economy, finds that achieving that reduction is both technically and economically feasible—and creates a huge business opportunity.

So how much would all of this cost?

We would need to invest an average of about $320 billion a year from 2020 to 2050, but the benefits would far outweigh these costs. For example, we would see returns in the form of:

  • Lowering the country’s fossil fuel bill. We would spend less on fossil fuel costs — about $65 billion per year less in the 2020s, growing to nearly $700 billion per year in the 2040s.
  • More jobs. A clean energy economy could generate roughly one million additional jobs in the decades ahead, with some of the biggest gains coming in construction and utilities.
  • Cleaner air, protected environment. Not only would we reduce climate risks, we would also dramatically reduce air pollution from burning fossil fuels.

________

Green finance:

Banking giant HSBC has pledged US$100 billion (£76 billion) to “fight climate change”, to be spent on sustainable finance and investment over the next eight years. It also commits to increasing its own use of renewable energy and to reducing its funding of coal projects.  HSBC is following a growing trend among investment banks which includes a US$200 billion funding commitment from JP Morgan Chase, the acquisition of the UK’s Green Investment Bank by Macquarie, and exits from coal lending by Deutsche Bank, Credit Agricole and others.

_

Undoubtedly the move to a green economy requires significant investment, over and above today’s levels. For 2016-2030, the OECD estimates an additional US$600 billion infrastructure investment per year is needed to meet Paris Agreement climate goals, across energy, transportation and other sectors.  As part of this transition, green energy investment is already growing rapidly: the United Nations reports doubling of clean energy asset finance over the past decade, with US$1,657 billion being raised in total 2007-2016, much of it from bank lending. So US$300 billion over the next decade from HSBC and JP Morgan, while significant, will not in itself be game-changing. It does, however, reflect the continued growth that we have seen for some time, driven by the declining cost of renewable power and broadly supportive government policies. Banks are also encouraging the growth of the “green bond” market, where companies and governments raise money specifically for environmentally positive projects such as new wind farms, solar technology or more energy efficient housing – with the money ring-fenced and externally monitored. The green bond market remains small, at less than 2% of annual global bond issuance. However volumes are growing rapidly and observers including the OECD see this market as important to climate finance. HSBC and other banks have been active in green bonds, issuing their own bonds and helping others access the market.

_

What’s in it for the banks?

  1. Some question banks’ motivation: pressure group Banking on Climate Change points out that the world’s largest banks lent $290 billion to coal, liquid natural gas and environmentally sensitive oil projects in 2014-16, with JP Morgan the third-largest lender and HSBC at number eight. Announcing green finance packages is one way of deflecting criticism for such activities.
  2. Likewise, the risk of climate change litigation is rising, with Columbia Law School pointing to the tripling of climate cases since 2014. A recent action against the Commonwealth Bank of Australia highlights the potential for banks to be sued. In the face of litigation, now withdrawn, CBA acknowledged climate change as a significant risk, published a climate policy for the first time and withdrew from lending to a controversial coal project. Actions like those announced by HSBC recently, can be seen in the context of avoiding similar issues.
  3. That said, HSBC and others may well be following growing demand from their own – particularly younger – customers for sustainability-related products. All successful organisations need to adapt to changes in customer preferences, and any generational shift in environmental views requires banks – like other companies – to adjust their marketing approach.

______

______

Disadvantages of Renewable Energy:

  1. Cost:

The biggest disadvantage of renewable energy is that the cost of the energy is relatively higher than non-renewable energy. The initial costs of renewable energy still make many people ignore it completely when comparing it with fossil fuel on two aspects: total cost and over the same time period. For example, installation of solar energy water heater costs many times in comparison with a heater, so they decided to buy heaters for hot water solution. According Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) (2008) reported that turbine installation costs $ 47.5 billion; by contrast, we only have to spend a much smaller amount of money to build thermal power station about $ 2,25 billion (Shah 2011). He also pointed that other incidental costs such as maintenance costs and production costs cause price increasing. Generally, it is price that the reason has prevented approaching and using clean energy as compared to the fossil fuel sources of energy.

_

  1. Not every form of renewable energy is commercially viable.

Many forms of renewable energy must be collected at a specific location, which means distribution networks must be setup to take advantage of the power that can be generated. These networks require a massive fossil fuel investment that can take generations to neutralize with the use of renewable energy. From tidal power to geothermal, the commercial viability of many renewable energy resources is not available right now.

  1. Many forms of renewable energy are location-specific.

Even solar energy has limited potential in some locations. In Seattle, Washington, just 71 days per year are classified as “sunny,” or having a cloud cover that is less than 30%. Northern cities may go prolonged periods without any sunlight during the winter months. Because renewable energy is often location-specific, it may not be available for every community to use.

  1. The electricity generation capacity is still not large enough.

There are still challenges to generation of large quantities of power in renewable energy technology compared to traditional forms of energy generation like fossil fuel. Fossil fuel still produces large quantities of electricity today, by far. This, essentially, means that it can’t be solely relied upon to power the whole nation. This means that either we need to set up more such facilities to match up with the growing demand or look out for ways to reduce our energy consumption. This phenomenon indicates that a balance of different energy sources will still prevail for some years to come.

  1. Many forms of renewable energy require storage capabilities.

With traditional power resources, a home or business is connected to a local distribution grid so that it can be accessed 24/7. When using a renewable energy resource, back-up and storage resources must be included with the power generation opportunity. Sunlight doesn’t happen at night. Wind speeds are not always consistent. The storage capabilities that are required can push the cost of a new renewable energy system beyond what the average person or community can afford.

  1. Pollution is still generated with renewable energy.

Renewable energies are cleaner than most fossil fuels, but “cleaner” and “clean” are very different terms. A resource like biomass still burns waste products and puts pollution into the atmosphere. This includes carbon and methane, which are classified as greenhouse gases. The technologies and facilities that are used to build renewable energy resources require fossil fuels, as do the transportation and distribution networks. In many instances, renewable energy relies on fossil fuels, whereas fossil fuels do not rely on renewables. Hydroelectricity projects can cause a dramatic change in the development of wildlife and ecosystem along the river and flood risks.

  1. Renewables often require subsidies to make them affordable.

In the United States, an emphasis on biofuels and renewable energies led to the creation of ethanol as a crude oil replacement. Despite taxpayer-funded subsidies in place for this corn-based fuel, only 430,000 barrels per day were produced in 2007. That was enough to replace 2% of the oil that was being consumed while corn prices skyrocketed because of the crops being funnelled into this renewable fuel.

  1. Some forms of renewable energy require a massive amount of space.

Another con of renewable energy is that to produce large amount of energy, large amount of solar panels and wind farms have to be set up. For this, large areas of land are needed to produce such massive amount of energy on large scale. A rooftop solar PV system typically requires 100-130 SF (about 12 m2) of shade-free roof area per kW of capacity.

Acres needed for a 1,800 MW Power Production Facility:

  • Nuclear Power Plant 1,100 Acres
  • Solar Farm 13,320 Acres
  • Wind Farm 108,000 Acres

However if you’re just comparing the land footprint of a coal plant to the land footprint of a solar thermal plant, California’s proposed Blythe plant will require a whopping 7,000 acres of Mohave Desert in order to deliver 2,100 GWh per year. The area of a coal plant producing the same output will typically be one square mile (640 acres) or less. But is that really a fair comparison? What about the land required to mine the coal? Shouldn’t that be part in the equation?

______

______

Information & communication technology (ICT) and climate change:

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are a combination of devices and services that capture, transmit and display data and information electronically. These include personal computers (PCs) and peripherals, broadband telecom networks and devices, and data centres.

ICTs can impact on climate change in three main ways:

  • by driving down emissions in the ICT sector itself through the introduction of more efficient equipment and networks;
  • by reducing emissions and enabling energy efficiency in other sectors through, for example, substituting for travel and replacing physical objects by electronic ones (dematerialization); and
  • by helping both developed and developing countries adapt to the negative effects of climate change using ICT-based systems to monitor weather and the environment worldwide.

_

Yes – digital technologies consume energy. The International Energy Agency forecasts that the growing use of residential ICTs and consumer electronics goods will triple electricity consumption by 2030 if no action is taken to improve their efficiency.  Importantly, it also concludes that adoption of the most efficient technologies would slash electricity consumption by more than half, holding the increase to 1 percent a year through 2030 – despite the rising use of electronic goods.  This level of energy savings would save 260 gigawatts in additional power demand – more than the current electrical generating capacity of Japan. Many initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of the ICT sector already are underway. Japan’s $32 million Green IT Project promotes highly energy efficient ICTs in three areas.  It aims to reduce energy consumption of network components and data centres by more than 30%.  And Japan is experimenting with organic light-emitting diodes to cut the power consumption of displays by 50%. We can do far more.  Infuse green ICTs across industry and you can save up to ten times more energy than they use.  The biggest gains are in power generation and distribution, buildings and transportation – three areas which contribute to the bulk of greenhouse gases. A recent report by The Climate Group estimates the use of information technologies in smart buildings, smart electricity grids, smart transport and logistics – among other industrial uses — can help slash annual global greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2020. That’s a dramatic gain – nearly equal to the annual emissions of either the United States or China. ICTs are also essential building blocks for carbon pricing systems. Technology can offer cost-effective market-driven solutions, using sensors, software and networks. The next step is to design systems to reliably measure, track and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

_

Many industries already rely on software systems to optimize transportation systems to reap big energy savings.  Kraft Foods, for example, introduced a “smart transportation” and logistics management system in 2007 to better plan its delivery and supply chain routes.  The program took 1,500 trucks off the road and cut one million miles in unnecessary driving – eliminating 3.3 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. And industries are getting more creative with ICTs every day.  The forestry industry in northern Europe is using information technology to eliminate the 10 percent of timber it wastes each year by better matching customers with the right size logs. That is the equivalent of a forest the size of Luxembourg.

_

Digital technology gives us the ability to monitor the environment and reduce energy use in real time.  High-speed broadband networks — the backbone of our Internet economy — enable a continual two-way flow of information between customers and utilities. Connect smart energy meters to the network and remote adjustment systems will put energy-hungry buildings on a crash diet. The impact could be huge.  Buildings account for 40 percent of energy use in the EU. It is estimated that effective energy policy and technology could reduce a building’s carbon footprint by 17%.  A smart electricity grid would allow consumers to store electricity in smart appliances, like the battery of an electric car, when prices are low.  That would conserve energy that today goes wasted as surplus.  The smart grid will also let millions of consumers inject electricity back into the grid.  This intelligent, two-way exchange will help governments get the price right on energy use, allowing smarter choices and driving down waste.  The potential for savings from smart grids is even more dramatic in developing countries, where electricity generation is highly inefficient. Smart grids have another big advantage. They allow renewable energies to feed into national power systems.  Both practices help manage peak demand and reduce the need for extra power plants.

_

Using ICTs to monitor the global environment/ecosystem:

ICT systems that are involved in environment and climate monitoring, data dissemination and early warning include:

  • weather satellites that track the progress of hurricanes and typhoons;
  • weather radars that track the progress of tornadoes, thunderstorms, and the effluent from volcanoes and major forest fires;
  • radio-based meteorological aid systems that collect and process weather data, without which the current and planned accuracy of weather predictions would be seriously compromised;
  • Earth observation-satellite systems that obtain environmental information such as atmosphere composition (e.g. CO2, vapour, ozone concentration), ocean parameters (temperature, surface level change), soil moisture, vegetation including forest control, agricultural data and many others;
  • terrestrial and satellite broadcasting sound and television systems and different mobile radio-communication systems that warn the public of dangerous weather events, and aircraft pilots of storms and turbulence;
  • satellite and terrestrial systems that are also used for dissemination of information concerning different natural and man-made disasters (early warning), as well as in mitigating negative effects of disasters (disaster relief operations).

_

Using ICTs to monitor deforestation and forest degradation:

The impact of climate change on the rainforest is considered of such magnitude that the issue of deforestation was added as one of the five main topics in the UN negotiations towards a new achievable balanced outcome. Land use and tropical deforestation release annually 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which represents more than 17 per cent of the total of GHG emissions. For this reason, the protection of forests can be a major element to mitigate climate change. A recent study by British researchers estimates that a temperature rise of 4 degrees by 2100 would destroy up to 85 per cent of the rainforest. A more modest temperature increase of 2 degrees could kill one-third of the trees over the next 100 years. Higher temperatures can also lessen rainfall in the forest and increase the risk of drought.  It is estimated that reducing tropical deforestation by 50 per cent over the next century would help prevent 500 billion tonnes of carbon from going into the atmosphere per year. This reduction in emissions would account for 12 per cent of the total reductions targeted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Several countries have announced projects to channel millions in funding to tropical countries such as Brazil to help in the protection of vulnerable forests. Tropical countries also have access to funding under a UN plan of extending carbon trading to forests, the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative. As part of the Cancun Agreements, governments agreed to boost action to curb emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries with technological and financial support. ICTs can contribute to this issue, for instance, by developing technological paths to sustainability and protection of tropical forest, as well as to enhance data collection on the condition of the forests. Satellites that are now able to take images through clouds and at night and remote sensing applications are critical for monitoring the health of the world’s tropical forests trees and deforestation of these vast forests.

_

Using ICT to reduce GHGs emissions:

  1. Smarter ICT can help cut emissions by:
  • reducing the power consumption of ICTs themselves;
  • turning equipment off when not in use;
  • using standby modes;
  • requiring low-carbon equipment in procurement specifications; and
  • having a longer equipment lifecycle before replacement.
  1. ICTs can reduce emissions in other sectors. These include:
  • Smart motor systems – through changes to the design of electric motors to allow them to run at speeds optimized to the task.
  • Smart logistics – through efficiencies in transport and storage.
  • Smart buildings – through better building design, management and automation.
  • Smart grids – which would be of most benefit to countries such as India, where reductions in emissions could be as high as 30 per cent.
  1. Other examples include reducing emissions from the Healthcare sector through remote diagnosis and treatment, and the application of teleworking and telepresence to a range of sectors.
  2. Environmental load reduction may also come from ICT dematerialization, in particular, by substituting higher carbon products and activities with ICT enabled lower carbon alternatives. These alternatives include:
  • online media;
  • e-ticketing;
  • e-commerce;
  • e-paper;
  • videoconferencing;
  • teleworking or other remote-participation service.

Using ICTs can enhance the efficiency of energy use, enhance the efficiency and reduce the production and consumption of goods, and reduce the movement of people and goods.

_

ICT helping tackle Climate Change could help cut Global Emissions 20% by 2030:

Major companies in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector are stepping up their efforts to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and to decarbonize the entire global economy, with several firms now demonstrating that the sector is ready to put its money where its mouth is. The UN’s Momentum for Change Initiative is showcasing some of the best examples that show how the sector can be instrumental in making huge impacts to cut emissions in the next 15 years. Motivated both by consumers who today expect ICT companies to do their best to combat climate change and on common sense economic grounds, such firms are increasingly making use of renewable energy, mostly wind and solar. For example, Google’s multi-million investments in renewable energy include a Swedish wind farm and a solar plant in Chile. Facebook Inc. recently set a goal of running half its operations with clean energy by the end of 2018, with the ultimate aim of reaching 100%. Adobe has pledged to power all its operations entirely with 100% renewable electricity by 2035. Given its high energy demand, the ICT sector is still a net source of global greenhouse gas emissions. The data centers used to power digital services now contribute approximately 2% of global GHG emissions – on par with the aviation sector. It doesn’t have to stay that way. According to the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), ICT has the potential to slash global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20% by 2030 through helping companies and consumers to more intelligently use and save energy. Luis Neves, GeSI Chairman, is optimistic about the ability of the industry to be fully sustainable. He says: “Our findings show an ICT-enabled world by 2030 that is cleaner, healthier and more prosperous with greater opportunities for individuals everywhere.” Luis Neves says the emissions avoided through the use of ICT are already nearly ten times greater than the emissions generated by deploying it. As the figure below shows, the sector could help avoid the production of around 12 gigatonnes of CO2 by the year 2030.

_

Figure above shows Digital-enabled CO2e emissions trajectory towards 2030, compared to IPCC BAU scenario:

_

Google and renewable energy:

Google data centres use lot of electricity. Alphabet [Google’s holding company] uses 6.2 terrawatt hours a year, according to the latest data. To put that in perspective, the city of San Francisco uses about 5 terrawatt hours a year. And Google’s electricity consumption is growing by 20 per cent year on year. Google’s servers, which power about 3.5 billion searches a day and billions more video streams and social media accounts, are responsible for an estimated 2 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The California-based firm wants to rein in its monster footprint, and the man to do it is the global director of data center energy and location strategy Gary Demasi, who led Google’s delegation at the Paris climate talks in 2015. Google data centers are 50 per cent more efficient than the average data centre you’d see in the market. Google has been using machine learning to increase the efficiency of its data centres. Though Google has been carbon neutral since 2007, it wants to go a step further by cutting fossil fuels out of its energy supply altogether and becoming 100 per cent renewable-powered. The company is investing US$2.5 billion in renewable energy projects, and currently procures about 2.6 gigawatts of renewable energy making it the biggest corporate buyer in history.

_____

_____

Technology to combat climate change:

“The fact is that there is no one in the world who can explain how we could cut our emissions by four fifths without shutting down virtually all our existing economy. What carries this even further into the higher realms of lunacy is that such a Quixotic gesture would do nothing to halt the world’s fast-rising CO2 emissions, already up 40 per cent since 1990. There is no way for us to prevent the world’s CO2 emissions from doubling by 2100”

–Christopher Booker

Skeptics often make the argument that we simply don’t have the technology necessary to reduce emissions this much, this quickly. Pacala and Socolow (2004) investigated this claim by examining the various technologies available to reduce GHG emissions.  Every technology they examined “has passed beyond the laboratory bench and demonstration project; many are already implemented somewhere at full industrial scale.”  The study used the concept of a “stabilization wedge”, in which “a wedge represents an activity that reduces emissions to the atmosphere by a certain amount. The study identifies 15 current options which could be scaled up to produce at least one wedge: The idea is elegant and simple. To stabilize emissions in the next 50 years, the world must reduce emissions by about 7 gigatons of carbon (not carbon dioxide) compared to “business as usual” scenarios. So Socolow and Pacala identify 15 stabilization wedges that, if deployed at a significant global scale, could conceivably reduce emissions by 1 gigaton each. At 1 gigaton apiece, each technology wedge still represents a huge investment, but they are nonetheless conceivable.

  1. Improved fuel economy
  2. Reduced reliance on cars
  3. More efficient buildings
  4. Improved power plant efficiency
  5. Substituting natural gas for coal
  6. Storage of carbon captured in power plants
  7. Storage of carbon captured in hydrogen plants
  8. Storage of carbon captured in synthetic fuels plants
  9. Nuclear power
  10. Wind power
  11. Solar photovoltaic power
  12. Renewable hydrogen
  13. Biofuels
  14. Forest management
  15. Agricultural soils management

This is not an exhaustive list, and there are other possible wedges, such as other renewable energy technologies they did not consider. The study notes that “Every one of these options is already implemented at an industrial scale and could be scaled up further over 50 years to provide at least one wedge.”  Implementing somewhere between 7 and 14 wedges would be necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. The bottom line is that while achieving the necessary GHG emissions reductions and stabilization wedges will be difficult, it is possible.  And there are many solutions and combinations of wedges to choose from.

__

There is no single solution to global warming, which is primarily a problem of too much heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. The technologies and approaches outlined below are all needed to bring down the emissions of these gases by at least 80 percent by mid-century.

  • Boosting energy efficiency: The energy used to power, heat, and cool our homes, businesses, and industries is the single largest contributor to global warming. Energy efficiency technologies allow us to use less energy to get the same—or higher—level of production, service, and comfort. This approach has vast potential to save both energy and money, and can be deployed quickly.
  • Greening transportation: The transportation sector’s emissions have increased at a faster rate than any other energy-using sector over the past decade. A variety of solutions are at hand, including improving efficiency (miles per gallon) in all modes of transport, switching to low-carbon fuels, and reducing vehicle miles travelled through smart growth and more efficient mass transportation systems.
  • Revving up renewables: Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy are available around the world. Multiple studies have shown that renewable energy has the technical potential to meet the vast majority of our energy needs. Renewable technologies can be deployed quickly, are increasingly cost-effective, and create jobs while reducing pollution.
  • Phasing out fossil fuel electricity: Dramatically reducing our use of fossil fuels—especially carbon-intensive coal—is essential to tackle climate change. There are many ways to begin this process. Key action steps include: not building any new coal-burning power plants, initiating a phased shutdown of coal plants starting with the oldest and dirtiest, and capturing and storing carbon emissions from power plants. While it may sound like science fiction, the technology exists to store carbon emissions underground. The technology has not been deployed on a large scale or proven to be safe and permanent, but it has been demonstrated in other contexts such as oil and natural gas recovery. Demonstration projects to test the viability and costs of this technology for power plant emissions are worth pursuing.
  • Managing forests and agriculture: Taken together, tropical deforestation and emissions from agriculture represent nearly 30 percent of the world’s heat-trapping emissions. We can fight global warming by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and by making our food production practices more sustainable.
  • Exploring nuclear: Because nuclear power results in few global warming emissions, an increased share of nuclear power in the energy mix could help reduce global warming—but nuclear technology poses serious threats to our security and, as the accident at the Fukushima Diaichi plant in Japan illustrates to our health and the environment as well. The question remains: can the safety, proliferation, waste disposal, and cost barriers of nuclear power be overcome?
  • Developing and deploying new low-carbon and zero-carbon technologies: Research into and development of the next generation of low-carbon technologies will be critical to deep mid-century reductions in global emissions. Current research on battery technology, new materials for solar cells, harnessing energy from novel sources like bacteria and algae, and other innovative areas could provide important breakthroughs.
  • Ensuring sustainable development: The countries of the world—from the most to the least developed—vary dramatically in their contributions to the problem of climate change and in their responsibilities and capacities to confront it. A successful global compact on climate change must include financial assistance from richer countries to poorer countries to help make the transition to low-carbon development pathways and to help adapt to the impacts of climate change.

__

Substantial reductions in CO2 emissions from the energy sector will require integrated deployment of multiple technologies: energy efficiency, renewables, coal and natural gas with CCS, and nuclear. Widespread deployment is expected to take on the order of years to decades. Such system-level implementation and integration require not only technology research and development but also research on potential hidden costs of implementation, the barriers to deployment, and the infrastructure and institutions that are needed to support implementation. All technologies have multiple impacts that require analysis and trade-offs in making choices among them.

_

_

A scenario illustrating the potential for technologies to reduce worldwide emissions of CO2 by 2030 is shown in Figure below. The scenario is based on the “450 Stabilization Case” developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) to reduce annual energy-related CO2 emissions to 23 gigatonnes by 2030 (IEA 2007). The chart shows that end-use electricity efficiency and fuel efficiency have the potential to reduce expected 2030 emissions by 47 per cent. Renewable energy sources, in general, could reduce 2030 emissions by 20 per cent.

Figure above shows potential CO2 emission reduction by technology area.

_

_

Technology Transfer:

The UNFCCC technology transfer framework defines five key elements for meaningful and effective actions: (1) technology needs and needs assessment; (2) technology information; (3) enabling environments; (4) capacity building, and (5) mechanisms to facilitate institutional and financial support to technology cooperation, development and transfer. While UNFCCC agreements contain many references to technology transfer to developing countries, the focus of implementation has generally been on creating conditions in developing countries conducive to foreign investment and building capabilities to absorb and utilize imported technologies. Less emphasis has been placed on measures which governments of technology supplier countries can and should take to facilitate and accelerate technology transfer. Nor, until now, have there been effective methods of measuring and verifying the extent of environmentally sound technology transfer. Technology transfer involves more than hardware supply; it can involve the complex processes of sharing knowledge and adapting technology to meeting local conditions. Domestic technical and managerial capacities, institutions and investments in technological learning all influence the effectiveness with which technology can be absorbed and adapted. These considerations complicate the measurement problem. Human resource and institutional development are crucial to facilitating technology utilization. Institutional development includes capacities for technology and business assessment, incubation, and technology testing and demonstration. The mitigation and adaptive capacities of countries can be enhanced when climate policies are integrated into national sustainable development strategies.

_______

_______

Energy conservation and energy efficiency:

Energy conservation is defined as a practice of reduced quantity of energy utilisation by either energy efficiency or reduced energy consumption. Energy efficiency is defined as the total energy developed in usable work divided by the total energy available from the source fuel for that work. Every year, energy is wasted through transmission, heat loss, and inefficient technology —costing families and businesses money and leading to increased carbon pollution and climate change. Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to combat climate change, clean the air, and save consumers and businesses money. Energy conservation is broader than energy efficiency in that it encompasses using less energy to achieve a lesser energy demanding service, for example through behavioral change, as well as encompassing energy efficiency. Examples of conservation without efficiency improvements would be heating a room less in winter, driving less, or working in a less brightly lit room. As with other definitions, the boundary between efficient energy use and energy conservation can be fuzzy, but both are important in environmental and economic terms. This is especially the case when actions are directed at the saving of fossil fuels. Reducing energy use is seen as a key solution to the problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, improved energy efficiency in buildings, industrial processes and transportation could reduce the world’s energy needs in 2050 by one third, and help control global emissions of greenhouse gases. Every year America loses 130 billion dollars due to inefficient energy consumption and can save 23 % of energy by year 2020 by energy efficiency.  Energy saved is energy produced. Fluorescent light bulb uses only 25 % energy as compared to incandescent bulb. Replacing conventional light bulbs with LED lighting can cut energy consumption by as much as 90%. The building sector offers the greatest potential for energy savings through efficiency; options range from simple approaches like insulation and caulking, to the use of more efficient appliances and lighting, to changing patterns of building use. Buildings represent approximately 40% of total energy consumption in the EU. Reducing the amount of energy used for heating and cooling homes, offices and other establishments would therefore have a tremendous impact. In the long term, insulation is the simplest and most effective way to make a building more energy efficient. Proper insulation can reduce the energy bill for good with no extra effort or sacrifice.

_

Although most of today’s electricity comes from large, central-station power plants, new technologies offer a range of options for generating electricity nearer to where it is needed, saving on the cost of transmitting and distributing power and improving the overall efficiency and reliability of the system. Improving energy efficiency represents the most immediate and often the most cost-effective way to reduce oil dependence, improve energy security, and reduce the health and environmental impact of the energy system. By reducing the total energy requirements of the economy, improved energy efficiency could make increased reliance on renewable energy sources more practical and affordable.

_

The price mechanism can be an important part of any policy intended to reduce energy consumption. Prices encourage efficiency, but they can also change behavior. For example, if gasoline prices rise, whether from taxes or market forces, people who commute long distances may buy a more efficient vehicle or they may switch to public transportation or move closer to work. Nevertheless, the impact of prices on consumers and the economy are an important area for further research. It should be noted that prices are not the only feature involved in consumer choice, and the response to increased energy prices (the elasticity of demand) is often modest. There are many possible explanations for this: modest changes in price are not noticed, consumers cannot easily change some aspects of their consumption (for example, it is not always feasible to sell a car with low gas mileage to buy one with higher mileage when gas prices rise, at least in the short run), and there are many other factors that influence decisions that affect energy consumption and in some circumstances may have more influence than prices.

_____

Convert wasted heat into electricity:

Fossil fuel-based energy sources still make up more than 80 percent of the total energy supply and are inefficient, meaning they produce a lot of waste heat. In a coal-fired power plant, at least 56 percent of the energy is wasted. So we need to develop the technologies to harvest this wasted heat. Thermoelectric materials provide an opportunity for this, as they’re well suited for use in power plants. About two thirds of the energy from gasoline used in cars and trucks is also wasted heat. One of the most important applications for thermoelectric generators is reducing the carbon footprint of transport by using the waste heat from the exhaust pipe to generate power. Basically, classical thermodynamics covers steam engines that use steam as a working fluid, or jet engines or car engines that use air as a working fluid. Thermoelectrics use electrons as the working fluid.  Thermoelectric materials can convert heat to electricity, meaning they have incredible potential to turn the waste heat all around us into a green source of energy.  Thermoelectric materials have not yet reached widespread use and are most commonly used in portable cooling devices for cars. However, there are also many attempts to use thermoelectric devices for harvesting waste heat. For example, there are wristwatches that run on thermoelectric power from body heat, and several plans for designing wearable thermoelectric energy harvesters. Of course, the human body produces relatively low-grade heat. High-grade heat offers other opportunities, and thermoelectric generators have been developed to harvest energy from wood stoves and the exhaust tubes of trucks and automobiles. Thermoelectric generators could be used in power plants in order to convert waste heat into additional electrical power and in automobiles as automotive thermoelectric generators (ATGs) to increase fuel efficiency.

_____

_____

Fuel switching:

Fuel switching on the demand side refers to changing the type of fuel used to satisfy a need for an energy service. To meet deep decarbonization goals, like the 80% reduction by 2050, many primary energy changes are needed. Energy efficiency alone may not be sufficient to meet these goals, switching fuels used on the demand side will help lower carbon emissions. Progressively coal, oil and eventually natural gas for space and water heating in buildings will need to be reduced. Natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels, with the lowest GHG emissions per unit of energy, emitting about half of the CO2 of coal when burned for electricity generation, as well as generally lower emissions of other pollutants. Natural gas also emits lower levels of particulate matter (PM) or soot. Natural gas produces more energy than any of the fossil fuels. It has a 92% efficiency rate from wellhead to home, compared to electricity generated by coal, which operates at only a 32% efficiency rate, according to National Fuel. Natural gas energy is also cost effective.  Natural gas emits far fewer greenhouse gases (i.e. CO2 and methane—CH4) than coal when burned at power plants, but evidence has been emerging that this benefit could be completely negated by methane leakage at gas drilling fields and other points in the supply chain. A study performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Gas Research Institute (GRI) in 1997 sought to discover whether the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from increased natural gas (predominantly methane) use would be offset by a possible increased level of methane emissions from sources such as leaks and emissions. The study concluded that the reduction in emissions from increased natural gas use outweighs the detrimental effects of increased methane emissions. More recent peer-reviewed studies have challenged the findings of this study, with researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reconfirming findings of high rates of methane (CH4) leakage from natural gas fields. A 2011 study by noted climate research scientist, Tom Wigley, found that while carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion may be reduced by using natural gas rather than coal to produce energy, it also found that additional methane (CH4) from leakage adds to the radiative forcing of the climate system, offsetting the reduction in CO2 forcing that accompanies the transition from coal to gas. A 2014 meta-study of 20 years of natural gas technical literature shows that methane emissions are consistently underestimated but on a 100-year scale, the climate benefits of coal to gas fuel switching are likely larger than the negative effects of natural gas leakage. Shifting electric generation from coal to natural gas could significantly reduce emissions. Such a shift would be useful but would not by itself reduce emissions sufficiently for a low-emissions future to minimize climate change. Thus, natural gas is more likely to be a bridge than a final solution. Additionally, the feasibility of natural gas as a bridge fuel will depend on the stringency of any emissions-limiting policies that are adopted.

_____

_____

Renewable energy solutions to climate change:

_

Table below shows various renewable energy technologies and their end use applications:

__

Can renewable energy supply the World’s energy needs?

With the significant benefits from renewable energy, we can’t deny that roles of it are more and more important. According to Pulsinelli (2012), despite the world economic crisis, China spent $52 billion on renewable energy in 2011 and the United States was close behind with investments of $51 billion. At present, renewable energy contributes about 20% in electricity consumed worldwide (Perkowski 2012). It is evident that the two nations, which took the head in renewable energy investment, have known thoroughly out the importance of renewable energy. Nowadays, by advances and achievements of science and technology scientists are having every confidence in bright future of renewable energy.

Renewable energy is a practical, affordable solution to our electricity needs. By ramping up renewable energy, we can:

  • Reduce air pollution
  • Cut global warming emissions
  • Create new jobs and industries
  • Diversify our power supply
  • Decrease dependence on coal and other fossil fuels
  • Move world toward a cleaner, healthier energy future

We have the technologies and resources to reliably produce at least 40 percent of our electricity from renewable energy sources within the next 20 years, and 80 percent by 2050.

_

The natural energy flows through the earth’s ecosystem, and the geographical and technical potential of what they can produce for human needs, exceeds current energy use by many times (approximately 425 EJ in 2002). But in order to place renewable energy resources in perspective it is important to examine the long-term energy resource availability from the viewpoint of theoretical maximums, or ultimately recoverable resources as seen in the table below. This is known as the theoretical potential. Admittedly, it can be argued that an analysis based on recoverable resources is irrelevant because hydrocarbon occurrences or natural flows become resources only if there is demand for them and appropriate technology has been developed for their conversion and use. The appraisal of technical potential therefore takes into account engineering and technological criteria. In any case, the picture is clear, renewable energy resources are immense and will not act as a constraint on their development.

Global Renewable Resource Base (Exajoules a Year):

Resource Current use# Technical potential Theoretical potential
Hydropower 10.0 50 150
Biomass energy 50.0 >250 2,900
Solar energy 0.2 >1,600 3,900,000
Wind energy 0.2 600 6,000
Geothermal energy 2.0 5,000 140,000,000
Ocean energy 7,400
TOTAL 62.4 >7,500 >143,000,000

#The current use of secondary energy carriers (electricity, heat and fuels) is converted to primary energy using conversion factors involved.

_

Energy consumption accounts for 35% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The use of renewable energy has reached a global tipping point, where the price competitiveness of solar and new technologies are raising demand for clean energy sources in emerging and developed markets alike. In fact, renewables are expected to become the cheapest form of new power generation by 2020, according to recent research by Morgan Stanley. In the U.S, the solar industry already employs more workers than coal, oil and natural gas combined, and the solar market alone is expected to grow almost 25% per year on average through 2022, to reach $422 billion. Across the globe, smart-grid and Internet-of-Things technologies are making energy grids more efficient, reliable and low cost. Energy storage technology is also reaching a point where renewables can finally become a dependable source of power on electricity grids. China far outstrips all other countries in the Index in terms of total energy consumption and emissions. Yet its government is highly focused on reducing pollution and energy emissions. The International Energy Agency forecasts that nearly 40% of total renewable power capacity growth will come from China by 2020. India’s government is also actively expanding renewables use. In 2016, the country unveiled the world’s largest solar power plant. India is now on track to become the world’s third biggest solar market in 2017, behind the U.S. and China.

_

Renewable energy offers an immediate means to decarbonise the global energy mix. Doubling the share of renewable energy by 2030 could deliver around half of the required emissions reductions and, coupled with energy efficiency, keep the average rise in global temperatures below 2 °C and prevent catastrophic climate change. Renewable energy deployment brings economic growth and sustainable development. Promoting renewables means providing secure and clean energy supply while supporting GDP growth, improving trade balances, creating local value and jobs. Solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment, for example, creates twice the number of jobs per unit of electricity generation compared with coal or natural gas. IRENA analysis shows that, with the right policies, renewable energy could generate over 24 million jobs worldwide by 2030. If environmental and human health externalities are priced into the global energy mix over time, the renewable energy transition would result in net savings. Transition to a sustainable energy future by 2030 is technically feasible and economically viable. The falling cost of renewable energy technologies, notably solar and wind power, contributes considerably to the growing competitiveness of renewables vis-à-vis conventional fuels. Solar PV modules, for instance, cost three-quarters less today than in 2009, while wind turbine prices have declined by almost a third over the same period. Cost reductions coupled with effective enabling policies have meant that renewable energy capacity additions have continued to outpace those of nuclear and fossil fuels in the power sector since 2011. For this remarkable growth to become global, further investment is needed in countries and regions that are embarking on a transformation of their energy systems over the coming decade. Effective action against climate change calls for scaling up investments in renewable energy. IRENA’s analysis shows that global annual investment in renewables can reach USD 900 billion by 2030. In order to avoid lock-in with unsustainable energy systems, annual investments between now and 2020 should reach USD 500 billion, almost a doubling from current levels of investments. For successful climate action, the renewable share must continue to increase in electricity but must also rise in transport, heating and cooling.

__

Barriers and obstacles to renewable energy:

The most significant barriers to the widespread implementation of large-scale renewable energy and low carbon energy strategies, at the pace required to prevent runaway climate change, are primarily political and not technological. According to the 2013 Post Carbon Pathways report, which reviewed many international studies, the key roadblocks are:

  • Climate change denial
  • Efforts to impede renewable energy by the fossil fuel industry
  • Political paralysis
  • Unsustainable consumption of energy and resources
  • Path dependencies and outdated infrastructure
  • Financial and governance constraints

_

Non-technical barriers to acceptance of renewable energy:

Many energy markets, institutions, and policies have been developed to support the production and use of fossil fuels. Newer and cleaner technologies may offer social and environmental benefits, but utility operators often reject renewable resources because they are trained to think only in terms of big, conventional power plants. Consumers often ignore renewable power systems because they are not given accurate price signals about electricity consumption. Intentional market distortions (such as subsidies), and unintentional market distortions (such as split incentives) may work against renewables. Benjamin K. Sovacool has argued that “some of the most surreptitious, yet powerful, impediments facing renewable energy and energy efficiency in the United States are more about culture and institutions than engineering and science”. The obstacles to the widespread commercialization of renewable energy technologies are primarily political, not technical, and there have been many studies which have identified a range of “non-technical barriers” to renewable energy use. These barriers are impediments which put renewable energy at a marketing, institutional, or policy disadvantage relative to other forms of energy.

Key barriers include:

  • Difficulty overcoming established energy systems, which includes difficulty introducing innovative energy systems, particularly for distributed generation such as photovoltaics, because of technological lock-in, electricity markets designed for centralized power plants, and market control by established operators. As the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change points out: National grids are usually tailored towards the operation of centralised power plants and thus favour their performance. Technologies that do not easily fit into these networks may struggle to enter the market, even if the technology itself is commercially viable. This applies to distributed generation as most grids are not suited to receive electricity from many small sources. Large-scale renewables may also encounter problems if they are sited in areas far from existing grids.
  • Lack of government policy support, which includes the lack of policies and regulations supporting deployment of renewable energy technologies and the presence of policies and regulations hindering renewable energy development and supporting conventional energy development. Examples include subsidies for fossil-fuels, insufficient consumer-based renewable energy incentives, government underwriting for nuclear plant accidents, and complex zoning and permitting processes for renewable energy.
  • Lack of information dissemination and consumer awareness.
  • Higher capital cost of renewable energy technologies compared with conventional energy technologies.
  • Inadequate financing options for renewable energy projects, including insufficient access to affordable financing for project developers, entrepreneurs and consumers.
  • Imperfect capital markets, which includes failure to internalize all costs of conventional energy (e.g., effects of air pollution, risk of supply disruption) and failure to internalize all benefits of renewable energy (e.g., cleaner air, energy security).
  • Inadequate workforce skills and training, which includes lack of adequate scientific, technical, and manufacturing skills required for renewable energy production; lack of reliable installation, maintenance, and inspection services; and failure of the educational system to provide adequate training in new technologies.
  • Lack of adequate codes, standards, utility interconnection, and net-metering guidelines.
  • Poor public perception of renewable energy system aesthetics.
  • Lack of stakeholder/community participation and co-operation in energy choices and renewable energy projects.

With such a wide range of non-technical barriers, there is no “silver bullet” solution to drive the transition to renewable energy. So ideally there is a need for several different types of policy instruments to complement each other and overcome different types of barriers. A policy framework must be created that will level the playing field and redress the imbalance of traditional approaches associated with fossil fuels. The policy landscape must keep pace with broad trends within the energy sector, as well as reflecting specific social, economic and environmental priorities.

_

Table below shows Summary of Major Barriers to Deployment of New Energy Technologies:

CCTP Goal Area External Benefits and Costs High Costs Technical Risks Market Risks Incomplete and Imperfect Information Lack of Specialized Knowledge Infrastructure Limitations Industry Structure Policy Uncertainty Competing Fiscal Priorities
Energy End-Use and Infrastructure
Energy Supply
Carbon Capture and Sequestration
Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases
NOTE: CCTP stands for Climate Change Technology Program. Checks indicate that a barrier is judged to be a critical or important obstacle to the deployment of two or more technology strategies within a particular CCTP goal area.

______

______

Electrical energy storage for mitigating climate change:

Electrical energy storage devices are capable of storing electrical energy for use when supply fails to meet demand. These devices are likely to play an increased role in a future energy system, where a higher proportion of electrical energy is generated using intermittent renewable technologies, such as wind and solar. Electricity from these sources is generated intermittently and they cannot guarantee sufficient supply of electricity on demand by themselves.

There are a number of factors that make it challenging to plan how electrical energy storage can contribute to a reliable, clean future energy system. Firstly, electrical energy storage technologies have not been trialled on a sufficiently large scale. Secondly, there are a wide range of storage technologies, and for many of these the costs and technical characteristics are not yet well-defined. Finally, there is much uncertainty around the structure of the future energy system so it is challenging to make decisions around the role for electrical energy storage. Academic and industrial experts agree that effective electrical energy storage will play a crucial role in moving to a world powered by low-carbon electricity. Irrespective of the need to meet climate change targets, electrical energy storage technologies are essential to further enable the current rapid growth in renewable energy technologies, alongside other technologies to balance supply and demand. The electrical energy storage technologies that will be in use on a large scale within 5-15 years are likely to have already been invented, unless innovation and commercialisation radically speeds up over historical rates. Such technologies include: pumped hydropower, compressed air, thermal storage, electrolysis, aqueous batteries (e.g. lead-acid), non-aqueous batteries (e.g. lithium-ion, sodium-ion and lithium-sulphur), flow batteries (e.g. vanadium redox flow, zinc bromide redox flow), power-to-gas, supercapacitors and flywheels. On many small islands and in remote communities, renewable electricity coupled with electrical energy storage is already the lowest cost option for electricity supply.

_

There are a large number of electrical energy storage technologies available with very different technical characteristics. Broadly, these may be grouped as follows:

  • Electrochemical storage technologies, which store chemical potential energy (e.g. batteries).
  • Mechanical storage technologies, which store mechanical potential energy (e.g. pumped hydroelectric storage, compressed air energy storage and flywheels).
  • Thermal storage technologies, which store heat energy.
  • Electrical storage technologies, which store energy in electrical fields (e.g. supercapacitors, supermagnetic energy storage).

_

Broadly, electrical energy storage technologies may be grouped into those most suitable for

(1) storing and delivering large quantities of electrical energy (‘high energy’, e.g. pumped hydropower, compressed air, flow batteries, hydrogen, liquid air and pumped heat),

(2) storing and delivering electrical energy rapidly (‘high power’ e.g. capacitors, flywheels and superconducting magnetic energy storage) and

(3) a combination of both (e.g. batteries).

The future electricity system is likely to need a range of appropriate, safe and affordable storage solutions to fulfil both high power and high energy services at a range of spatial scales.

_

Better batteries:

For many forms of renewable energy, price is a limiting factor. Despite predictions of the devastating long-term costs of burning fossil fuels, many people are swayed by the cheap cost of coal and oil compared to solar or wind energy. One way to bring down the cost of renewable energy is to improve energy storage systems. Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University says, “The single technology that will make the most difference is not energy generation: it’s energy storage. We need cheap, reliable batteries for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.” Build a better battery and clean energy could be stored on wind or solar farms and then used to light up homes, run cars, and even power industry. The biggest struggle in developing a better battery—one that can store more and is less likely to burst into flames than current lithium ion batteries used in smartphones and some electric cars—is scaling up from a lab setting to commercial production. Tesla is sticking with lithium ion batteries but hugely scaling up manufacturing. By the time the company’s Gigafactory in the Nevada desert is fully running in 2020 it will produce as many batteries in a year as were produced worldwide in 2013. If other companies can learn from Tesla, more ground-breaking battery types might become widely available. Air-based batteries (zinc-air, aluminum-air, and more) would be able to draw on air from the environment. Israeli company Phinergy says its aluminum-air batteries could give electric cars a range of 1,000 miles (the current average is less than 100 on a full charge). A big drawback to aluminum-air batteries is that the metal degrades, making them hard to recharge. While air battery companies work on solving that problem, a company called Ambri is developing a liquid-metal battery in which two layers of liquid metal are separated by a layer of molten salt. A liquid-metal battery could be used for large-scale grid energy storage. The wide availability of the batteries’ common-earth components mean it would be cheap to manufacture, and the company claims its design would have a very long life span of 300 years.

_

Power-to-Gas enables Massive Energy Storage:

Power-to-Gas (PtG) enables the natural gas pipeline network to be used for energy storage, resolving many of the integration issues that plague intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. It is well known that finding a solution for scalable energy storage is critical in the pursuit of achieving a renewable energy future. While batteries, pumped-hydro, flywheels and other technologies have their merits, none are able to offer seasonal deep storage at the terawatt scale. Power-to-Gas is an elegant innovation that simply takes excess renewable electricity to create renewable hydrogen and methane for injection into natural gas pipelines or use in transportation. Existing gas pipelines can store hundreds of terawatt hours of carbon neutral methane for indefinite periods of time.

_

Wireless energy transfer:

Wireless power transfer is a process whereby electrical energy is transmitted from a power source to an electrical load that does not have a built-in power source, without the use of interconnecting wires. Currently available technology is limited to short distances and relatively low power level. Orbiting solar power collectors would require wireless transmission of power to Earth. The proposed method involves creating a large beam of microwave-frequency radio waves, which would be aimed at a collector antenna site on the Earth. Formidable technical challenges exist to ensure the safety and profitability of such a scheme.

_____

_____

Transport:

Transport represents 23% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. But the demand for transport is only going to increase. Part of the reason for the enormous energy consumption of transport, and associated greenhouse gas emissions, is the way society is organized – patterns of trade and urban development commit us to inefficiencies in transport which have been subsidized by the historically low cost of oil. Deep-seated changes in the way we build our infrastructure and run our economy are needed. Modes of mass transportation such as bus, light rail (metro, subway, etc.), and long-distance rail are far and away the most energy-efficient means of motorized transportation for passengers, able to use in many cases over twenty times less energy per person-distance than a personal automobile. Modern energy-efficient technologies, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and carbon-neutral synthetic gasoline & Jet fuel may also help to reduce the consumption of petroleum, land use changes and emissions of carbon dioxide. Utilizing rail transport, especially electric rail, over the far less efficient air transport and truck transport significantly reduces emissions. With the use of electric trains and cars in transportation there is the opportunity to run them with low-carbon power, producing far fewer emissions.

_

The important inefficiency in our transport system comes from the internal combustion engine, which wastes most of the heat from the fuel as heat or noise. In today’s vehicles, only about 13% of the energy from the fuel actually reaches the wheels. And in a single-occupant vehicle, only about 1% of the fuel-energy is actually moving the driver. Energy production is more efficient in a power plant than it is in a car engine. To use an example with an identical source fuel, burning natural gas in a power plant is about 60% efficient, meaning 40% of the energy of the fuel is lost in the energy production process. In a car, burning gas is less than 25% efficient, with the vast majority of the energy lost to heat. The larger more complex system at a power plant will always be far better at capturing waste heat than a tiny car engine. The good news is that the technology exists today to make vehicles that are vastly more efficient than the ones we are driving. Using advanced materials such as carbon fibres, it is possible to make a car far lighter, and therefore more fuel efficient, without compromising safety. It seems clear that it is necessary to develop alternative energy sources for transportation to replace fossil fuel. Two promising technologies are electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). Developing these two key technologies in the next five years will have a decisive impact on our future and will help establish an economic mechanism with which oil prices can be contained within a reasonable range. If these two systems can be commercialized, they will help lower both oil prices and carbon dioxide emissions. And, while fuel cells have advanced greatly over the past decade, battery technology has come even further, and a number of high performance electric cars are already on the market this year, and more will be coming over the next few years. Electric cars eliminate much of the waste energy that occurs with internal combustion engines. The Tesla Roadster emits no tailpipe emissions, uses lithium ion batteries to achieve 220 mi (350 km) per charge, while also capable of going 0–60 in under 4 seconds. We have already found alternative ways of powering vehicles, such as with electricity, but in order to do it on a wide scale, we need much more efficient batteries and much more efficient battery-charging technology. Researchers at the University of Surrey say they have made a scientific breakthrough in this regard. They say they have discovered new materials offering an alternative to battery power and proven to be between 1,000-10,000 times more powerful than the existing battery alternative, a supercapacitor.  The new technology is believed to have the potential for electric cars to travel to similar distances as petrol cars without the need to stop for lengthy recharging breaks of between 6 and 8 hours, and instead recharge fully in the time it takes to fill a regular car with petrol. The electric vehicle market is expected to account for 75% of global car sales by 2050, according to the International Energy Association. There are even efforts underway to create solar-panel equipped vehicles.

______

______

Industry and Manufacturing:

Making the things we use every day puts an enormous strain on the climate – about 30% of emissions come from industry. Corporations are increasingly taking up the battle against industrial pollution as part of their own sustainability efforts. Recently, for instance, a conglomeration of oil companies – including Saudi Aramco, Royal Dutch Shell and BP – announced a $1 billion investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology development over the next 10 years.  Public outcry against industrial pollution is also driving governments in advanced and emerging economies to take action. In South Korea, the government has launched a carbon emissions trading scheme, and called for a legal framework for CCS, in spite of resistance from some industrial groups who believe the crackdown could hurt the country’s international competitiveness. The biggest opportunities for tech investment in this sector lie in emerging economies, namely China and India, where the industrial sectors are expected to grow by 25% and 40%, respectively, through 2020. This raises the urgency for innovations that reduce what are already dangerous pollution levels in both countries. China, where air pollution is a highly political issue, has sought to position itself as a climate leader, pushing a progressive agenda, including plans to implement a cap-and-trade program in 2017. In its most recent five-year plan, China announced that it would seek to reduce factory emissions by 25%. Meanwhile, India’s government has targeted a 20% reduction in the country’s emissions by 2020, after its air pollution levels surpassed even China’s in 2016. Indian corporations have also embraced clean-air tech innovations. In early 2017, for example, a plant in Tuticorin, southern India, installed technology that captures and converts carbon dioxide from its coal-powered boiler into baking soda. This is the first industrial-scale carbon capture venture that has turned carbon emissions into a commercial opportunity. Carbon Engineering is a Canadian start-up which is working on exactly that – taking carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and then using it to produce fuel. According to the company, “direct air capture can remove far more CO2 per acre of land footprint than trees and plants”. The company is already running a demonstration plant in Squamish, British Columbia, that is removing one ton of CO2 from the air every day.

_____

_____

Buildings:

The greenhouse gas emission of buildings is also significant. We need lighting, power, heating and cooling whether at home or in the office, at school or in a hospital. The combined emissions from these sources contribute almost 20% of global emissions. New buildings can be constructed using passive solar building design, low-energy building, or zero-energy building techniques, using renewable heat sources. Existing buildings can be made more efficient through the use of insulation, high-efficiency appliances (particularly hot water heaters and furnaces), double- or triple-glazed gas-filled windows, external window shades, and building orientation and siting. Renewable heat sources such as shallow geothermal and passive solar energy reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted. In addition to designing buildings which are more energy-efficient to heat, it is possible to design buildings that are more energy-efficient to cool by using lighter-coloured, more reflective materials in the development of urban areas (e.g. by painting roofs white) and planting trees. This saves energy because it cools buildings and reduces the urban heat island effect thus reducing the use of air conditioning.  Reclaimed and natural materials offer the added benefits of substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced in making the materials needed to build your home.

_

In Canada, heating accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Although we think that in Canada’s cold climate we need to use this energy, in fact at least half of this, and probably much more, could be saved by building efficient, highly insulated buildings that take full advantage of the sun’s radiation in winter. If well designed, these houses would also be cooler in summer. Maximizing the capture of the sun’s energy in winter and minimizing it in summer is called passive solar design. The key to passive solar design is efficient windows that are placed and oriented in the house to capture the maximum winter sun. However, it’s important to realize that even in passive solar design windows rarely gain more energy in the day than they lose at night.

______

______

Agriculture:

According to the EPA, agricultural soil management practices can lead to production and emission of nitrous oxide (N2O), a major greenhouse gas and air pollutant. Activities that can contribute to N2O emissions include fertilizer usage, irrigation and tillage. Fertilizer is the engine of agriculture, helping crops grow. But if it’s applied imprecisely, the excess can convert to nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Fortunately, advances in science are allowing farmers to use more precise levels of fertilizer, saving them money and reducing waste. The management of soils accounts for over half of the emissions from the Agriculture sector. Cattle livestocks account for one third of emissions, through methane emissions. Manure management and rice cultivation also produce gaseous emissions. Methods that significantly enhance carbon sequestration in soil include no-till farming, residue mulching, cover cropping, and crop rotation, all of which are more widely used in organic farming than in conventional farming. Because only 5% of US farmland currently uses no-till and residue mulching, there is a large potential for carbon sequestration.  A 2015 study found that farming can deplete soil carbon and render soil incapable of supporting life; however, the study also showed that conservation farming can protect carbon in soils, and repair damage over time.

_____

_____

Biotechnology to combat climate change:

To meet the drastic reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions needed to halt climate change, a suite of solutions is required. Industrial biotechnology is one such solution, currently being deployed across the globe. Clearly defined, industrial biotechnology is the application of life sciences to traditional manufacturing and chemical synthesis. Industrial biotechnology is used in applications such as biofuels, biobased products and the improvement of manufacturing processes. In the Americas, the most common biofuel currently in production is ethanol-derived from corn or sugarcane. The United States commercially produces corn-based ethanol, which is effectively capped at 56.8 billion litres per year under the United States Renewable Fuel Standard. Brazil produces 598 million metric tonnes of sugarcane to produce 25.5 billion litres of ethanol. In 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that in the United States, advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues or dedicated energy crops, reduce lifecycle GHG emissions by over 100 per cent compared to fossil alternatives. In addition, dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass or miscanthus can increase long-term sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide in soils, and biotech crop varieties can substantially improve yields, leading to reduced deforestation. Biofuels made from algae also provide sustainable solutions to fossil energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, some algal strains are capable of doubling their mass several times per day. In some cases, more than half of that mass consists of lipids or triacylglycerides —the same material found in vegetable oils. These bio-oils can be used to produce such advanced biofuels as biodiesel, green diesel, green gasoline and green jet fuel. Biobased products, such as chemicals and plastics produced from renewable biomass, provide superior GHG and energy independence benefits as compared to traditional products made from petroleum feedstocks. In fact, many biobased products are carbon negative on a lifecycle basis because they sequester atmospheric carbon within the product itself. These product applications used in everyday life can range from biobased carpets, car seats, pens, packaging, pharmaceuticals, detergents and even personal care products such as cosmetics or lotions made from feedstocks such as algae. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimated in 2009 that industrial biotechnology has the potential to save the planet up to 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Industrial biotechnology is a critical technology for combating climate change and empowering economic development. It is the key to producing clean, renewable alternatives to petroleum-based fuels and products, and can greatly reduce the energy consumption and GHG emissions from a wide range of industrial processes by enhancing efficiency, reducing waste and capturing and converting carbon dioxide.

______

______

Negative emission technologies (NETs):

If we can’t stop carbon emissions altogether, then we need to counterbalance them by taking some CO2 back out of the atmosphere. This is necessary in order to achieve net-zero emissions. To get to net-zero emissions, we need to have some of what are called “negative emissions” technologies, or things which will suck the CO2 out of the air to compensate for the ongoing release.  NETs take more CO2 out of the atmosphere than they put in. No one single technology can solve climate change, but many have been proposed that could contribute to reducing atmospheric CO2. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a type of NET. A study published recently warned that all the scenarios for keeping global temperature rise to 2C require “negative emissions” – removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it on land, underground or in the oceans. Although plenty of negative emissions technologies have been proposed, none are ready to be rolled out around the world, or, in some cases, even demonstrated to work at scale. Here are the most frequently proposed NETs:

  1. Afforestation and reforestation
  2. Biochar
  3. BECCS
  4. ‘Blue carbon’ habitat restoration
  5. Building with biomass
  6. Cloud or ocean treatment with alkali
  7. Carbon capture & storage including direct air capture
  8. Enhanced ocean productivity
  9. Enhanced weathering
  10. Soil carbon sequestration

_

  1. Afforestation and reforestation

The annual deforestation rate of 7 million to 8 million hectares a year annually between 1990 and 2005 produced 5.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or 17 to 20 percent of all global emissions, more than all the cars, boats and planes in the world. Calculated another way, slash-and-burn agriculture, the primary cause of rainforest deforestation, accounts for 15 percent of humanity’s carbon dioxide. By most accounts, deforestation in tropical rainforests adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads. According to the World Carfree Network (WCN), cars and trucks account for about 14 percent of global carbon emissions, while most analysts attribute upwards of 15 percent to deforestation.  Afforestation means planting trees where there were previously none. Reforestation means restoring areas where the trees have been cut down or degraded. Because trees take up CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, planting more trees means boosting how much CO2 forests absorb and store. As a method of removing CO2 from the atmosphere, this is one of the most feasible options, although it still has drawbacks and uncertainties. Estimates suggest that afforestation and reforestation can sequester CO2 at a rate of 3.7 tonnes per hectare per year, and comes with an associated cost of $20-100 per tonne. One potential obstacle to afforestation is land availability and suitability. This depends on a range of factors, including global population, diet, the efficiency and intensity of agriculture, and rising competition from bioenergy. Planting vast areas of forests could also cause complex changes in cloud cover, reflectivity, and the soil-water balance. All of these could also have an impact on the Earth’s climate.

_

  1. Biochar:

Biochar is the name given to charcoal that is added to soils rather than burned as a fuel. The charcoal is produced by burning biomass, such as wood, crop wastes and manure, while cutting off the supply of oxygen. This process is known as pyrolysis. The carbon in the resulting biochar is very slow to break down. This means the carbon it absorbed from the atmosphere while it was mere biomass is locked up for – potentially – hundreds or even thousands of years. A recent study found that biochar has the potential to sequester up to 4.8bn tonnes of CO2e per year. It has fewer disadvantages than many negative emissions technologies with limited need for additional land and water. However, as adding biochar makes soil darker, it reduces its albedo, meaning the land will absorb more of the sun’s energy and warm more rapidly. In addition, one study found that charcoal might not stay in soils as long as scientists think, and instead much of it dissolves and is washed into rivers, wetlands, and eventually the oceans.

_

  1. BECCS:

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage – more commonly known by the acronym BECCS – is widely viewed as the negative emissions technology offering the most promise of drawing significant quantities of CO2 out of the atmosphere at the lowest cost. Put simply, BECCS achieves net negative emissions through sequestering underground the emissions resulting from the burning of biomass for power. Negative emissions are achieved because of a “double gain” with the biomass, as it grows, having already drawn CO2 out of the atmosphere before the CCS process begins at the power plant. A recent study suggests BECCS could be used to sequester around 12bn tonnes of CO2e per year globally. Despite a small handful of demonstration projects in the US, BECCS has yet to be proved at a commercially viable scale. Deploying BECCS at such an epic global scale also leaves many unanswered questions about the implications for land and water use. For example, would harvesting such vast quantities of bioenergy compete with food crops and biodiversity conservation? Also, opinions differ on whether there is enough capacity, and in the right locations, to store captured CO2 underground. A commentary in Nature Climate Change published in 2014, authored by many scientists who have examined BECCS, urged caution:  “Its credibility as a climate change mitigation option is unproven and its widespread deployment in climate stabilisation scenarios might become a dangerous distraction.”

_

  1. ‘Blue carbon’ habitat restoration:

Salt marshes, mangroves, and seagrass beds act as natural defences against climate change, capturing CO2 from the atmosphere – even faster than terrestrial forests – and storing it in their leaves, stems and in the soil. Carbon stored in coastal or marine ecosystems is known as ‘blue carbon’. Globally, the destruction of a third of coastal and marine wetlands to make way for houses, ports and other commercial activity is shrinking the size of the ‘blue carbon’ sink. Exposed soils also release CO2, turning coastal ecosystems from net absorbers of greenhouse gases to net sources. Carbon emissions from degraded mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses are thought to be equivalent to 3–19% of those produced annually from deforestation, though some large uncertainties still remain. Conserving and restoring coastal ecosystems so that they can continue to draw CO2 out of the air has been suggested as a way to mitigate climate change. Global projects to coordinate research and raise awareness about so called ‘blue carbon’ habitat restoration highlight the many benefits on top of reducing emissions, such as providing nursery grounds for wildlife and offering protection against coastal storms.

_

  1. Building with biomass

Plant-based materials can be used in construction, storing carbon and preserving it for as long as the building remains standing. For example, timber and bamboo can be used for structural elements, hemp and wool for insulation, and hemp-lime for walling. These materials provide an alternative to standard construction materials, including steel and concrete, which are typically carbon-intensive to produce. Natural materials have additional benefits, such as the ability to regulate moisture and absorb pollution.  Architects are starting to incorporate natural construction materials into their designs. In 2015, seven townhouses made of straw went on the market in Bristol, for instance. However, lack of investment, certification and expertise in the UK are currently obstacles to large-scale deployment.

_

  1. Cloud or ocean treatment with alkali:

When CO2 dissolves in water it makes carbonic acid, removing CO2 from the air. The reaction explains why rising CO2 levels are making the oceans more acidic. CO2 is not very soluble in water, but the reaction can be enhanced by adding alkali. Two Russian scientists suggest adding strong alkali to clouds to create alkali rain that washes CO2 out of the atmosphere. It suggests current global CO2 emissions could be offset by spraying 56m tonnes of potassium hydroxide into clouds across 0.4% of the Earth’s surface. The second idea would see large quantities of lime (calcium oxide) added to the ocean. The lime would be made by heating limestone (calcium carbonate), a well-known industrial process. Adding lime to the sea would increase its capacity to absorb CO2, while also part-offsetting ocean acidification. The lime would need to be spread over a wide area to avoid saturating the water. At saturation, limestone would re-form, rendering the effort worse than pointless. One study estimates the costs at a relatively modest $72-159 per tonne of CO2 captured. However, the amount of limestone needed would be very large. To remove a billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere would require roughly 2.5bn tonnes of limestone. The current global coal mining industry produces around 8bn tonnes per year. Adding alkali to clouds or oceans at such large scale is likely to be frowned on under international law. It would also have uncertain environmental impacts.

________

  1. Carbon capture & storage including direct air capture:

Carbon dioxide is the world’s biggest global warming villain. Released by the combustion of fossil fuels, it remains in the atmosphere longer than other greenhouse gasses like methane and nitrous oxide. Even if we curb emissions after Paris, the CO2 that’s already been emitted will remain for generations. So, why not simply remove all the carbon dioxide that’s in the air?

_

Carbon capture and storage (CCS):

Carbon capture is the ability to capture the emissions coming from a fossil fuel power plant or industry and then compressing it and burying the carbon dioxide underground so that it doesn’t enter the atmosphere and increase global average temperatures.  Carbon capture is controversial because it is based on cleaning up existing “dirty” energy generators, rather than “clean” sources, like wind and solar power. There is a perception that carbon capture and storage is subtractive, whereas renewable energy is additive, because it is adding more power. But that’s the wrong way to think about it, because if our goal is to reduce emissions, then all technologies that can reduce emissions should be given the same fair play on the market. Approaches for capturing the CO2 released from coal- and gas-fired power plants and compressing and storing it underground (either in geological formations or via mineralization) are an important subject of research. While many of the component processes needed for this form of CCS are already used—for example, CO2 injection is often used to improve yield or extend the lifetime of oil fields—there is currently only one demonstration CCS facility integrated with electrical power production in the United States, and there are only a handful worldwide. As a result, many questions remain about the technological feasibility, economic efficiency, and social and environmental impacts of this approach.

_

Figure above shows both terrestrial and geological sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions from a coal-fired plant.

_

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a method to mitigate climate change by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources such as power plants and subsequently storing it away safely instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. The IPCC estimates that the costs of halting global warming would double without CCS. The International Energy Agency says CCS is “the most important single new technology for CO2 savings” in power generation and industry. Though it requires up to 40% more energy to run a CCS coal power plant than a regular coal plant, CCS could potentially capture about 90% of all the carbon emitted by the plant. Norway’s Sleipner gas field, beginning in 1996, stores almost a million tons of CO2 a year to avoid penalties in producing natural gas with unusually high levels of CO2. As of late 2011, the total planned CO2 storage capacity of all 14 projects in operation or under construction is over 33 million tonnes a year. This is broadly equivalent to preventing the emissions from more than six million cars from entering the atmosphere each year. According to a Sierra Club analysis, the US coal fired Kemper Project is the most expensive power plant ever built for the watts of electricity it will generate.

_

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the diversion of CO2 from point emission sources to underground geological formations (e.g., saline aquifers, depleted oil and gas fields, unminable coal seams), the deep ocean, or as carbonate minerals. Geological formations worldwide may store up to 2000 Gt-CO2, which compares with a fossil-fuel emission rate today of ∼30 Gt-CO2 yr−1. To date, CO2 has been diverted underground following its separation from mined natural gas in several operations and from gasified coal in one case. However, no large power plant currently captures CO2. Several options of combining fossil fuel combustion for electricity generation with CCS technologies have been considered. In one model, integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology would be used to gasify coal and produce hydrogen. Since hydrogen production from coal gasification is a chemical rather than combustion process, this method could result in relatively low emissions of classical air pollutants, but CO2 emissions would still be large unless it is piped to a geological formation. However, this model (with capture) is not currently feasible due to high costs. In a more standard model considered here, CCS equipment is added to an existing or new coal-fired power plant. CO2 is then separated from other gases and injected underground after coal combustion. The remaining gases are emitted to the air. Other CCS methods include injection to the deep ocean and production of carbonate minerals. Ocean storage, however, results in ocean acidification. The dissolved CO2 in the deep ocean would eventually equilibrate with that in the surface ocean, increasing the backpressure, expelling CO2 to the air. Producing carbonate minerals has a long history. Joseph Black, in 1756, named carbon dioxide “fixed air” because it fixed to quicklime (CaO) to form CaCO3. However, the natural process is slow and requires massive amounts of quicklime for large-scale CO2reduction. The process can be hastened by increasing temperature and pressure, but this requires additional energy.  In order for any technology to be commercial, there is a need to establish markets. Unlike other low-carbon technologies such as renewables and nuclear, CCS has only one purpose: to reduce CO2 emissions. Therefore, markets will only be established by climate policy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

_

In order to keep the global average temperature from warming no more than 2°C by the year 2100 relative to the global temperature prior to industrial revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide must be capped at 450 parts per million. To do that, global greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 must be between 40 and 70 percent lower than they were in in 2010. That would be a huge feat, and would require vast “decarbonization,” according to the IPCC. That means a major rollout of renewable energy technology that emits no carbon at all, a global emphasis on energy efficiency and, among other things, capturing emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and burying them deep underground or storing them elsewhere — forever. In fact, all fossil fuel power generation without CCS would need to be totally phased out. The total amount of carbon that would need to be diverted from being emitted into the atmosphere is stunning: Current global atmospheric CO2 emissions total roughly 30 gigatons, or 30 billion metric tons per year. That’s about the equivalent of 1 billion barrels of compressed CO2 per day, or more than 10 times the amount of oil transported around the globe on a daily basis.

_

Direct Air Capture:

While conventional CCS is an attractive option for centralized power stations, there may be opportunities for other CCS technologies that may be more economic or environmentally preferable in certain situations or could be used to remove CO2 released by many small sources. Direct air capture means sucking CO2 out of the air. It can then be buried underground or used in chemical processes to make anything from plastic to fuel. There are several ways to capture CO2 from air. The most common approach is to pass air over a special liquid. CO2 sticks to this mixture while the rest of the air does not. The mixture is then recycled by releasing the CO2, using heat. Direct capture devices are sometimes likened to artificial trees. Unlike a real forest, they would need little land. It is still an open question whether there would be enough capacity to store all the captured CO2 underground. Estimates suggest direct air capture could sequester all the CO2 currently emitted each year. The barriers to this are practical and financial. The concentration of CO2 in air (0.04%) means it theoretically need many times more energy to capture than the CO2 in a coal plant chimney, where the concentration is around 300 times higher. This would make direct capture costly. Some firms say they will be able to capture CO2 from air for $25 a tonne. Other estimates for capture, storage and regeneration of the capture medium range from $400 to $1,000 per tonne of CO2. Most of the energy needed by direct capture schemes is for separating the CO2 from the capture mixture, usually by heating. This energy could come from waste heat or evaporation, rather than electricity. Major challenges remain in making such systems viable in terms of cost, energy requirements, and scalability. Direct capture approaches must also deal with the same challenges of long-term storage of the captured CO2 as conventional CCS.

_

Fossil fuel phased out with carbon neutral and carbon negative fuels:

Fossil fuel may be phased-out with carbon neutral and carbon negative pipeline and transportation fuels created with power to gas and gas to liquids technologies.  Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel flue gas can be used to produce plastic lumber allowing carbon negative reforestation. Carbon-neutral fuels can refer to a variety of energy fuels or energy systems which have no net greenhouse gas emissions. One class is synthetic fuel (including methane, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel or ammonia) produced from sustainable or nuclear energy used to hydrogenate waste carbon dioxide recycled from power plant flue exhaust gas or derived from carbonic acid in seawater. Other types can be produced from renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectric power stations. Such fuels are potentially carbon-neutral because they do not result in a net increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases. To the extent that carbon-neutral fuels displace fossil fuels, or if they are produced from waste carbon or seawater carbonic acid, and their combustion are subject to carbon capture at the flue or exhaust pipe, they result in negative carbon dioxide emission and net carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere, and thus constitute a form of greenhouse gas remediation. Such power to gas carbon-neutral and carbon-negative fuels can be produced by the electrolysis of water to make hydrogen used in the Sabatier reaction to produce methane which may then be stored to be burned later in power plants as synthetic natural gas, transported by pipeline, truck, or tanker ship, or be used in gas to liquids processes such as the Fischer–Tropsch process to make traditional fuels for transportation or heating. Carbon-neutral fuels are used in Germany and Iceland for distributed storage of renewable energy, minimizing problems of wind and solar intermittency, and enabling transmission of wind, water, and solar power through existing natural gas pipelines. Such renewable fuels could alleviate the costs and dependency issues of imported fossil fuels without requiring either electrification of the vehicle fleet or conversion to hydrogen or other fuels, enabling continued compatible and affordable vehicles. A 250 kilowatt synthetic methane plant has been built in Germany and it is being scaled up to 10 megawatts.

_

NanoCO2 harvester:

To help slow the climate-changing rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, researchers have developed nanoCO2 harvesters that can suck atmospheric carbon dioxide and deploy it for industrial purposes. Nanomaterials can convert carbon dioxide into useful products like alcohol. The materials could be simple chemical catalysts or photochemical in nature that work in the presence of sunlight. Nanoparticles offer a promising approach to this because they have a large surface-area-to-volume ratio for interacting with CO2 and properties that allow them to facilitate the conversion of CO2 into other things. The challenge is to make them economically viable. Researchers have tried everything from metallic to carbon-based nanoparticles to reduce the cost, but so far they haven’t become efficient enough for industrial-scale application. One of the most recent points of progress in this area is work by scientists at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum and the Lille University of Science and Technology in France. The researchers developed a nanoCO2 harvester that uses water and sunlight to convert atmospheric CO2 into methanol, which can be employed as an engine fuel, a solvent, an antifreeze agent and a diluent of ethanol. Made by wrapping a layer of modified graphene oxide around spheres of copper zinc oxide and magnetite, the material looks like a miniature golf ball, captures CO2 more efficiently than conventional catalysts and can be readily reused.

_______

  1. Enhanced ocean productivity:

Just like land plants, marine plants absorb CO2 as they photosynthesise. Artificially increasing the rate at which tiny microscopic plants photosynthesise could, in theory, accelerate the removal of atmospheric CO2 and slow the pace of climate change. One idea is to inject the nutrient iron into parts of the ocean where it is currently lacking, triggering a “bloom” of microscopic plants called phytoplankton. As CO2 is removed from the surface ocean, more can enter from the air above it. And when the plants die, they fall to the bottom of the ocean and lock carbon away in the sediment for hundreds or thousands of years.

_

 

Microscopic ocean plants called phytoplankton gobble up carbon dioxide and drag it to the bottom of the ocean when they die. Colony size is limited by a lack of natural iron, but experiments have shown that sowing the ocean with iron sulfate powder creates large blooms.  Other studies suggest fertilising the ocean with nitrogen or pumping nutrient-rich, deep water into the nutrient-depleted surface ocean could do a similar job in terms of stimulating plant growth. As well as drawing down CO2, it’s thought ocean fertilisation could increase the amount of dimethyl sulphide marine organisms release, altering the reflectivity of clouds and potentially slowing temperature rise that way, too.

_

  1. Enhanced weathering:

Enhanced weathering is the removal of carbon from the air into the earth, enhancing the natural carbon cycle where carbon is mineralized into rock. Natural weathering of rocks — a chemical process — removes about one billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year, about two per cent of total man-made CO2 emissions. The process begins with rain, which is usually slightly acidic having absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere on its journey to the ground. The acidic rain reacts with the rocks and soils it lands on, gradually breaking them down and forming bicarbonate in the process. What if technology could accelerate that process? Spreading a powdered form of a greenish iron silicate called olivine across certain landscapes — especially over the oceans and in the tropics — does just that, experiments have shown.

_

  1. Soil carbon sequestration:

Modern farming methods, such as intensive ploughing, crop burning and the application of industrial fertilisers, have led to huge amounts of carbon in the soil being oxidised when exposed to the air and entering the atmosphere as CO2. Advocates of soil carbon sequestration propose that making some fairly simple changes to farming methods could reverse this process and return agricultural soils to being carbon sinks. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, scientists have estimated that converting natural ecosystems into farmland has released 50-100bn tonnes of carbon from the soil into the atmosphere. However, through measures such as grassland restoration and the creation of wetlands and ponds, large amounts of carbon in the atmosphere could be sequestered, even exceeding the earlier carbon that had been lost.

______

Oliver Geden, a climate analyst and head of the European Union research division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, says it’s “pretty clear” that without carbon removal technologies, the world community will not reach the goals agreed upon in Paris of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 or 2 degrees C (2.7 to 3.6 F). Even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that a massive amount of CO2 removal will be required this century — at least 500 billion metric tons pulled back out of the air — if we are to avoid the worst of global warming.

_

Tim Flannery’s message of hope: new third way technologies will help combat climate change:

In a new book the high-profile scientist “brings news of tools in the making” that could help avoid the climate catastrophe he has long warned about. The upbeat title – Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for solutions to the climate crisis – stems from Flannery’s investigation of nascent technologies with the potential to draw large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. There are no silver bullets, but together they provide grounds for optimism about humanity’s capacity to deal effectively with global warming. Flannery labels them a “third way” because they are distinct from the two other well-known strategies to combat climate change – emission reduction and geoengineering schemes to interfere in the climate system.  Flannery says the third way alternatives he has identified are very different from radical geoengineering proposals because they “recreate, enhance or restore” the processes that created a balance of greenhouse gasses prior to human interference. The third way is in large part about creating our future out of thin air. This encompasses proposals and experiments that mostly draw CO₂ out of the air and sea at a faster rate than occurs presently, and to store it safely. It’s what plants and a fair few rocks do.

_

Some third way alternatives are already quite well-known, such as large-scale reforestation & afforestation and the addition of biochar to the soil. But Flannery sees even greater potential in less familiar methods to draw carbon from the atmosphere including large-scale seaweed farming, the manufacture of carbon-negative cement and new techniques for making plastic that draws CO₂ from the air. He canvasses strategies to absorb CO₂ by the “enhanced weathering” of silicate rocks and even making “CO₂ snow” in the Antarctic that could be stored in ice pits. Scientists are also investigating how the earth’s albedo, or reflectiveness, could help cool the planet. By painting infrastructure white, cities might offset some of the warming they are now experiencing.  In Flannery’s assessment third way strategies could together be pulling about four gigatonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere a year by 2050, about 40 per cent of current emissions. “These are the technologies we need to be focussing on, that will give us a future,” he says. But these innovations will only be effective if major investments are made in developing them now.

The new breed of “third way” technologies that could help avert climate disaster:

  • Seaweed farms – the cultivation of seaweed could be used to absorb CO₂ efficiently and on a large scale.
  • Carbon-negative cement – the manufacture of cement contributes about 5 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions but new methods of cement production are being developed that allow CO₂ to be absorbed and sequestered in cement over long periods.
  • Carbon-negative plastic – plastics are now oil-based but carbon-capture technologies have been developed that combine air with methane-based greenhouse gas emissions to produce a plastic material.
  • New carbon capture and storage – Conditions in some places on earth might allow the storage of CO₂ in liquid of solid form. One idea is to use the pressure deep in the ocean to keep CO₂ in liquid or solid form. Another is to capture and store CO₂ in the Antarctic as dry ice or CO₂ snow.

______

______

Geoengineering:

_

The best way to reduce global warming is, without any doubt, cutting down our anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. But the world economy is addict to energy, which is mainly produced by fossil carbon fuels. As economic growth and increasing world population require more and more energy, we cannot stop using fossil fuels quickly, nor in a short term. On the one hand, replacing this addiction with carbon dioxide-free renewable energies, and energy efficiency will be long, expensive and difficult. On the other hand, meanwhile effective solutions are developed (i.e. fusion energy), global warming can be alleviated by other methods. Some Geoengineering schemes propose solar radiation management technologies that modify terrestrial albedo or reflect incoming shortwave solar radiation back to space.

_

The goal is simple: prevent some of the sun’s rays from hitting the planet’s surface, forcing them instead back up into space. The main purpose of solar radiation management seeks to reflect sunlight and thus reduce global warming. There are a variety of hypothesized methods of solar radiation management, although most have been tested only using computer models. Scientists could spray aerosols into the stratosphere or inject seawater into clouds to whiten them. Both methods would theoretically cause fewer of the sun’s rays to reach the Earth’s surface. Closer to the ground, roofs could be painted white for the same reason, although the total surface area of roofs across the globe is so small that this would have a limited effect. None of these tactics make the underlying issues of carbon dioxide go away, but climate change predictions are now dire enough that Geoengineering may soon get some real-world trials.

_

Among the climate change community, there is one controversial idea gaining momentum. To reduce carbon and lower the Earth’s temperature, some scientists want to create brighter, whiter clouds. Using “sunlight reflection methods,” marine clouds would be seeded with salt or some other particles. In theory, Geoengineering techniques would generate highly reflective clouds that would send sunlight back into space. Even if it works as intended, solar radiation management would do nothing to reduce atmospheric CO2, which is making oceans too acidic. There is also the danger of knock-on consequences, including changes in rainfall patterns, and what scientists call “termination shock” — a sudden warming if the system were to fail.  Cloud seeding to change weather patterns may cause droughts in some areas and too much rain in others.

_

In a paper published in the journal Science in 2006, Wigley advocated a combination of Geoengineering and more conventional policies to mitigate global warming and reach the goal of climate stabilization. Wigley explained that his thinking was stimulated by the eruption of the Pinatubo volcano, which was associated with a significant decrease of global temperature in the following months. Scientists studying the phenomenon concluded that this drop in atmospheric temperatures was probably due to sulfate aerosols thrown into the atmosphere by the eruption. Wigley proposed to use Pinatubo-like artificial emissions of sulfate aerosols or similar stuff to counter the greenhouse effect due to accumulating atmospheric CO2.

_____

_____

National and International efforts to combat climate change:

The United Nations Climate Change Conferences are yearly conferences held in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They serve as the formal meeting of the UNFCCC Parties (Conference of the Parties, COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change, and beginning in the mid-1990s, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The main current international agreement on combating climate change is the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force on 16 February 2005. The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to the UNFCCC. Countries that have ratified this protocol have committed to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases.

_

“Bringing down emissions of greenhouse gases asks a good deal of people, not least that they accept the science of climate change. It requires them to make sacrifices today so that future generations will suffer less, and to weigh the needs of people who are living far away.”

— The Economist, 28 November 2015

_

Many countries, both developing and developed, are aiming to use cleaner technologies.  Use of these technologies aids mitigation and could result in substantial reductions in CO2 emissions. Policies include targets for emissions reductions, increased use of renewable energy, and increased energy efficiency. It is often argued that the results of climate change are more damaging in poor nations, where infrastructures are weak and few social services exist. The Commitment to Development Index is one attempt to analyze rich country policies taken to reduce their disproportionate use of the global commons. Countries do well if their greenhouse gas emissions are falling, if their gas taxes are high, if they do not subsidize the fishing industry, if they have a low fossil fuel rate per capita, and if they control imports of illegally cut tropical timber.

_

Renewable Energy Drivers:

Factors affecting renewable energy deployment include market conditions (e.g., cost, diversity, proximity to demand or transmission, and resource availability), policy decisions (e.g., tax credits, feed-in tariffs, and renewable portfolio standards) as well as specific regulations. At least 176 countries, more than half of which are developing, had renewable energy policy targets in place at the end of 2016. Businesses with sustainability goals are also driving renewable energy development by building their own facilities (e.g., solar roofs and wind farms), procuring renewable electricity through power purchase agreements, and purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs).

_

Temperature targets:

Actions to mitigate climate change are sometimes based on the goal of achieving a particular temperature target. One of the targets that has been suggested is to limit the future increase in global mean temperature (global warming) to below 2 °C, relative to the pre-industrial level.  The 2 °C target was adopted in 2010 by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Most countries of the world are Parties to the UNFCCC. The target had been adopted in 1996 by the European Union Council. Temperatures have increased by 0.8 °C compared to the pre-industrial level, and another 0.5–0.7 °C is already committed. The 2 °C rise is typically associated in climate models with a carbon dioxide equivalent concentration of 400–500 ppm by volume; the January 2015 level of carbon dioxide alone was 400 ppm by volume, and rising at 1–3 ppm annually. Hence, to avoid a very likely breach of the 2 °C target, CO2 levels would have to be stabilised very soon; this is generally regarded as unlikely, based on current programs in place to date. The importance of change is illustrated by the fact that world economic energy efficiency is improving at only half the rate of world economic growth. There is disagreement among experts over whether or not the 2 °C target can be met. For example, according to Anderson and Bows “there is little to no chance” of meeting the target. On the other hand, according to Alcamo et al. (2013):

  • Policies adopted by parties to the UNFCCC are too weak to meet a 2 or 1.5 °C target. However, these targets might still be achievable if more stringent mitigation policies are adopted immediately.
  • Cost-effective 2 °C scenarios project annual global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before the year 2020, with deep cuts in emissions thereafter, leading to a reduction in 2050 of 41% compared to 1990 levels.

Scientific analysis can provide information on the impacts of climate change and associated policies, such as reducing GHG emissions. However, deciding what policies are best requires value judgements.  For example, limiting global warming to 1 °C relative to pre-industrial levels may help to reduce climate change damages more than a 2 °C limit.  However, a 1 °C limit may be more costly to achieve than a 2 °C limit. According to some analysts, the 2 °C “guardrail” is inadequate for the needed degree and timeliness of mitigation. In 2015, two official UNFCCC scientific expert bodies came to the conclusion that, “in some regions and vulnerable ecosystems, high risks are projected even for warming above 1.5°C”. This expert position was, together with the strong diplomatic voice of the poorest countries and the island nations in the Pacific, the driving force leading to the decision of the Paris Conference 2015, to lay down this 1.5 °C long-term target on top of the existing 2 °C goal. On the other hand, some economic studies suggest more modest mitigation policies. For example, the emissions reductions proposed by Nordhaus (2010) might lead to global warming (in the year 2100) of around 3 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels.

_

Three options to reduce emissions:

The graph above shows three “pathways” to meet the UNFCCC’s 2 °C target, labelled “global technology”, “decentralised solutions”, and “consumption change”. Each pathway shows how various measures (e.g., improved energy efficiency, increased use of renewable energy) could contribute to emissions reductions.

_____

Bonn summit November 2017:

The 2015 Paris accord set a target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) — or 2 degrees at the most — by the end of the century. But diplomats didn’t agree on the details of how their nations will reach that ambitious goal. The Bonn talks tried to flesh out the rule book that countries have to abide by. Germany likes to portray itself as a leader in the fight against global warming and Merkel’s reputation as the “climate chancellor” is partly built on the pivotal role she played during past negotiations. But environmentalists note that Germany still gets about 40 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants — one of the most carbon intensive sources of energy. And German highways are also virtually unique in having no general speed limit, despite the fact that auto emissions rise dramatically at higher speeds. Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions increased by an estimated 10 million tonnes from 2014 to 2015, in a blow to the country’s claims to climate leadership. Higher demand for heating oil and diesel, plus use of lignite (brown coal) for power generation, was behind the 1.1% bounce, according to Green Budget Germany. If prosperous Germany fails to meet its own emissions targets, as current predictions suggest, critics say that would send a bad signal to the rest of the world

_

The question of whether cleaner fossil fuels and nuclear power should help the world combat climate change is highlighting stark divisions at a conference here. Officials from the Trump White House and panellists invited to its only official event at this conference argued the two resources need support, while hundreds of rowdy protesters insisted coal is incompatible to addressing climate change, called out the administration for revoking environmental regulations and said renewable energy was the path forward. Why it matters: Studies by some of the most well-respected and objective institutions, including the United Nations that is hosting the conference in Bonn and the International Energy Agency, say nuclear power and technology that captures carbon emissions from coal plants are essential to cutting emissions in a cost-effective way to the level scientists say we must. That’s on top of huge advancements in renewable energy, energy efficiency and other technologies.

_

The 23rd Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which concluded in Bonn in November 2017, had mixed results, but the outcome was more on the positive side than on the negative. The climate change negotiation process is used to hard bargaining and incremental gains. But the Bonn meeting also had something to show.  Developing countries wanted the next meeting to discuss not only the actions of developed countries in cutting emissions during the pre-2020 period but also their efforts in extending finance and technology to poor countries to help them fulfil their promises. This is a key part of the world’s strategy to fight climate change. This has been included in the agenda, and the developed countries have agreed to submit a report by March next on the progress made by them on their pre-2020 commitments. But this may not mean that all promises of transfer of finance and technology will be fulfilled. Their failure, however, will lead to tensions before the Paris pact comes into force. A full picture may emerge only in the next six months. Developing countries are happy with another agreement on steps to help agriculture cope with climate change, as they have a big stake in this matter. One major achievement of the meet was the reaffirmation by all countries to abide by the Paris accord after the Trump administration’s decision to pull the US out of it. There was a feeling anyway that the impact of Trump’s decision would be limited because many states, businesses and companies in the US have agreed to support the Paris agreement and work to meet its objectives. The conference also saw a ‘coal alliance’ deciding to work for a quicker phase-out of coal-based power generation and the India-led Solar Alliance setting higher targets than before for installed capacity. The rules for implementation of the Paris agreement will have to be finalised next year. Some progress towards that has been made in Bonn.

_______

_______

Policy to combat climate change:

Human-made climate change concerns physical sciences, but leads to implications for policy and politics. Conclusions from the physical sciences, such as the rapidity with which emissions must be reduced to avoid obviously unacceptable consequences and the long lag between emissions and consequences, lead to implications in social sciences, including economics, law and ethics. Intergovernmental climate assessments purposely are not policy prescriptive. Yet there is also merit in analysis and discussion of the full topic through the objective lens of science, i.e., “connecting the dots” all the way to policy implications. Consequently, at present, as the most easily extracted oil and gas reserves are being depleted, we stand at a fork in the road to our energy and carbon future. Will we now feed our energy needs by pursuing difficult to extract fossil fuels, or will we pursue energy policies that phase out carbon emissions, moving on to the post fossil fuel era as rapidly as practical?

_

Policies promoting renewable energy can be classified into: (1) regulatory policies, (2) fiscal incentives, (3) public finance mechanisms, and (4) climate-led policies. Regulatory policies include feed-in-tariffs, quotas or portfolio standards, priority grid access, building mandates, and biofuel blending requirements. Fiscal incentives refer to tax policies and direct government payments such as rebates and grants. Public finance includes mechanisms such as loans and guarantees. Climate-led efforts include carbon pricing mechanisms, cap and trade, emission targets, and others. Many countries are using a menu of policy incentives instead of a single policy approach. Policy makers realize that these incentives need to be coherent, stable and designed for the long-term to be able to attract the necessary funds for robust deployment and strong markets that ultimately will reduce the cost of renewable energy. The type of policy incentives varies by country, region and type of renewable source of energy that countries are promoting. Feed-in-tariffs represent one of the most common policies being widely used in many countries, especially to promote renewable electricity generation.

_

_

Many of these incentive policies are associated with national targets which by 2010 have been announced in almost 100 countries. Targets are being defined in terms of renewable shares in primary energy, final energy, electricity generation and electric capacity. Most targets are defined for shares of electricity generation and typically aim at 10 per cent to 30 per cent of renewable energy in total electricity generation within one or two decades. More specific targets are also being defined in terms of various technologies. A number of countries have been very successful in the promotion of renewable energy through the use of coherent and stable policies. Germany, with a strong policy of feed-in-tariffs supporting investments in wind, solar and biomass, has been able to sustain an accelerated growth in the use of renewable energy. In 2010, there was a sharp increase in deployment of small-scale solar projects to about 9 GW of new solar capacity. China is leading the world in installed new renewable energy capacity with an annual five-year growth rate of 106 per cent. A combination of national clean energy policies, including feed-in-tariffs for wind and subsidies for rooftop and building integrated PV solar, has been very successful. China is also leading in manufacturing producing almost 50 per cent of all wind turbines and solar module shipments. The Republic of Korea shows one of the highest annual five-year growth rates in capacity (88 per cent). Its stimulus package of $32.2 billion is one of the most generous. Renewable energy is promoted by feed-in-tariffs, tax exemptions for dividends and long-term loans for manufacturing facilities. Brazil is using electricity generation subsidies and preferential loans to provide incentives for the use of wind, small hydropower and biomass. Its key renewable energy sectors include ethanol for transport with a production of 36 billion litres annually and biomass electric capacity of about 8 GW. India is using different policy instruments to promote renewable energy including feed-in-tariffs for wind and solar, accelerated depreciation for small hydropower and biomass, and preferential tax rates for other renewable energy projects. Its new renewable power capacity now totals 19 GW based on biomass, small hydropower and solar.

_

Here are some policies to phase out carbon emissions:

_

Carbon markets and Carbon emissions trading:

Carbon markets are powerful tools for fighting climate change, since they create flexible economic incentives for reducing greenhouse gas pollution. They also reward innovators who develop cleaner technologies. As carbon markets continue to expand, coordination among programs will be increasingly important to ensure environmental integrity and maximize benefits. States, provinces, and cities worldwide are deploying carbon markets in an effort to cut pollution and accelerate low-carbon economic growth. This momentum is especially welcome given that global and national actions to fight climate change are often characterized by frustratingly slow progress. With the creation of a market for trading carbon dioxide emissions within the Kyoto Protocol, it is likely that financial markets will be the centre for this potentially highly lucrative business. The European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the largest multi-national, greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world. It commenced operation on 1 January 2005, and all 28 member states of the European Union participate in the scheme which has created a new market in carbon dioxide allowances estimated at 35 billion Euros (US$43 billion) per year. The Chicago Climate Exchange was the first (voluntary) emissions market, and is soon to be followed by Asia’s first market (Asia Carbon Exchange). A total of 107 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent have been exchanged through projects in 2004, a 38% increase relative to 2003 (78 Mt CO2e).

_

Figure above shows carbon emission trading and carbon tax around the world.

_

Carbon Pricing:

Carbon Pricing is to put a price on carbon pollution as a means of bringing down emissions and drive investment into cleaner options. There are several paths governments can take to price carbon, all leading to the same result. They begin to capture what are known as the external costs of carbon emissions – costs that the public pays for in other ways, such as damage to crops and health care costs from heat waves and droughts or to property from flooding and sea level rise – and tie them to their sources through a price on carbon. A price on carbon helps shift the burden for the damage back to those who are responsible for it, and who can reduce it. Instead of dictating who should reduce emissions where and how, a carbon price gives an economic signal and polluters decide for themselves whether to discontinue their polluting activity, reduce emissions, or continue polluting and pay for it. In this way, the overall environmental goal is achieved in the most flexible and least-cost way to society. The carbon price also stimulates clean technology and market innovation, fuelling new, low-carbon drivers of economic growth.

There are two main types of carbon pricing: emissions trading systems (ETS) and carbon taxes. An ETS – sometimes referred to as a cap-and-trade system – caps the total level of greenhouse gas emissions and allows those industries with low emissions to sell their extra allowances to larger emitters. By creating supply and demand for emissions allowances, an ETS establishes a market price for greenhouse gas emissions. The cap helps ensure that the required emission reductions will take place to keep the emitters (in aggregate) within their pre-allocated carbon budget. A carbon tax directly sets a price on carbon by defining a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions or – more commonly – on the carbon content of fossil fuels. It is different from an ETS in that the emission reduction outcome of a carbon tax is not pre-defined but the carbon price is. The choice of the instrument will depend on national and economic circumstances. There are also more indirect ways of more accurately pricing carbon, such as through fuel taxes, the removal of fossil fuel subsidies, and regulations that may incorporate a “social cost of carbon.” Greenhouse gas emissions can also be priced through payments for emission reductions. Private entities or sovereigns can purchase emission reductions to compensate for their own emissions (so-called offsets) or to support mitigation activities through results-based finance. Some 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces already use carbon pricing mechanisms, with more planning to implement them in the future.  Together the carbon pricing schemes now in place cover about half their emissions, which translates to about 13 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.

_

Emissions tax:

An emissions tax on greenhouse gas emissions requires individual emitters to pay a fee, charge or tax for every tonne of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere. Most environmentally related taxes with implications for greenhouse gas emissions in OECD countries are levied on energy products and motor vehicles, rather than on CO2 emissions directly. Emission taxes can be both cost-effective and environmentally effective.  Difficulties with emission taxes include their potential unpopularity, and the fact that they cannot guarantee a particular level of emissions reduction. Emissions or energy taxes also often fall disproportionately on lower income classes. In developing countries, institutions may be insufficiently developed for the collection of emissions fees from a wide variety of sources.

_

Phase out fossil fuel Subsidies:

When considering lifetime subsidies, the oil, coal, gas and nuclear industries have received approximately $630 billion in U.S. government subsidies. Wind, solar, biofuels and other renewable sectors have received a total of roughly $50 billion in government investments. Also, oil and gas subsidies were five times greater than renewables during the first 15 years of each subsidy’s life and more than 10 times greater for nuclear. Furthermore, consider that non-renewable subsidies are guaranteed to renew, offering those industries decision-making security, while renewable subsidies have been uncertain.  A 2016 study estimated that global fossil fuel subsidies were $5.3 trillion in 2015, which represents 6.5% of global GDP. Studies by the International Energy Agency point out that global subsidies for fossil fuels outstrip those for renewable energy nearly 10-fold.  According to the IEA the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, over $500 billion annually, will reduce 10% greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. These subsidies are intended to protect companies and consumers from fluctuating fuel prices, but what they actually do is keep dirty energy companies very profitable. Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies would be a victory in the fight against climate change, and it’s considered critical to shifting the world to a clean energy economy. But progress is slow, due to the global complexity of the subsidies, and to the lobbyists fighting to keep them in place. As the International Energy Agency explains, steep economic, political and social hurdles need to be overcome.

_

Unlock the profit of living rainforests:

Living rainforests have little market value when compared to the value of clearing land for lumber and agriculture. But, deforestation must be stopped. Halting deforestation and allowing degraded forests to recover could account for 24 percent to 30 percent of global annual greenhouse gas emissions. Enter an economic concept known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which is catching on in the Amazon, Mexico and Indonesia. In a REDD program, a jurisdiction that commits to reducing deforestation below an established baseline receives valuable credits in a carbon market for its contribution to reducing carbon emissions. In Brazil, a program like this could keep forests standing and increase GDP.

_

Investments:

The market for new and renewable sources of energy is becoming very dynamic. Financing of global clean energy grew 30 per cent from 2009 to 2010 with investments totalling a record $211 billion. OECD countries and large emerging economies like China, India and Brazil are now becoming leaders with stable long-term national policies attracting record investments. China’s investment in clean energy in 2010 represents a record at $48.9 billion and the highest followed by Germany and the United States. The top investment in 2010 continued to be for wind power at $94.7 billion followed by solar at $26.1 billion. Countries are following different strategies in their investments. The United States has the highest investment in venture capital which is for the early stage of the technology development cycle with the objective of capitalizing later. Europe has concentrated on stimulus for demand using regulatory policies such as feed-in-tariffs to meet targets which promote renewable electricity generation. Asia is trying to capture the supply chain of technologies such as photovoltaic modules and wind turbines.

_

Stop methane leaks

Methane is 21 times more potent than CO2 in the short term. About a quarter of the warming we’re experiencing today is due to methane. In the U.S., the oil and gas industry is the biggest source of methane leaks. Fixing these leaks is key. Oil and gas operators should improve their own monitoring of natural gas leaks; state and national policy to reduce methane leaks across the supply chain help ensure that all sectors of the industry are doing their part.

_

Cut soot emissions:

A new study found that dust-like particles of soot in the air are now emerging as the second most important — but previously overlooked — factor in global warming. Soot pollution is a major health risk around the world, especially wherever traditional cookstoves are still used to prepare meals and provide home heating. Soot can be inhaled, leading to numerous illnesses. The primary component of soot is black carbon, which harms the climate by directly absorbing light and reducing the reflectivity of snow and ice, and by interacting with clouds, according to reports by EPA, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In developed nations, black carbon is on the decline, largely due to tighter controls on the burning of diesel fuel. The outlook is less certain in developing nations, although awareness of the problem is growing, thanks to programs such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

_____

Countries are using different policies for promoting research, development, demonstration, deployment and commercialization of new and renewable sources of energy. Over 115 countries now have some type of policy support to promote renewable energy. Most of these efforts are coordinated only at national levels. One example at the regional level is the European Union which has advanced the goal of 20 per cent renewable energy in final energy use by 2020.

_

So far, the countries that have experienced the most success in moving away from fossil fuels are Germany and Cuba. Germany guarantees fixed tariffs to producers of renewable energy. Cuba has focused on efficiency and also organic farming, which conserves energy through its lower water requirements, reduced use of farm equipment, and rejection of fertilizers and pesticides. The German model might be replicated in developed countries, but not in developing ones. A large percentage of Germany’s renewable-generator owners are individuals, cooperatives, or communities, and such entities in developing nations lack the capital to invest in renewable energy. The Cuban experience is even more difficult to replicate, as organic farming is not as remunerative as commercial cropping.

_____

_____

China:

China may be the planet’s biggest polluter but it’s also powering ahead of other countries on renewable energy.

_

China’s emissions are largest and projections show no change:

No climate plan is complete without a systematic strategy for reducing China’s emissions. Fortunately, in 2014, the nation pledged to cap greenhouse gases and increase non-fossil fuel to 20 percent of its energy mix by 2030. Reaching this goal will require sustained efforts from Beijing to transition to low-carbon fuel – China burns half the world’s coal, but it is also the largest investor in clean energy. In 2013, China installed more solar capacity than the U.S. did over the previous six decades, and 45 percent of the world’s new wind energy production that same year also took place in China. In 2015, China invested more than $100 billion in clean energy, more than double the U.S. investment. In terms of clean energy employment, of the approximately 8.1 million clean energy jobs worldwide, 3.5 million are in China, while approximately 1 million are in the U.S. China’s National Energy Administration predicts that clean energy investment will produce 13 million jobs in China between 2016 and 2020.

_

China leads on Climate Change. Though “peak coal” use in China was not expected to be attained until 2025 at the earliest, recent research, which was published by the International Energy Agency, indicates that in fact China may have achieved “peak coal” in 2013. Since 2013, coal consumption has continued to decline: coal consumption decreased in China in 2014 by 2.9 percent to 4.116 billion MT; by 3.7 percent in 2015 to 3.965 billion MT and by 4.7 percent in 2016 to 3.779 billion MT. As a consequence of the steady decline in the consumption of coal in China, coal as a percentage of total energy use in China dropped to 62 percent in 2016 from 64 percent in 2015. As a point of comparison, in 1990, coal consumption, as a percentage of total energy consumption in China, was 76 percent. The steadily declining intensity of energy use, the quickening pace of “de-carbonization” of the Chinese energy sector, the increase in use of natural gas as an alternative fuel (from 6 percent of total energy consumption in 2016 to 10 percent in 2020) and the slowdown of GDP growth together have provided space for the transformation of the energy sector in China. Additionally because of the transformation of China’s economy, there is a growing gap between economic growth and energy growth.

_

For the first time ever, China’s National Energy Administration in January 2017 established a mandatory target to reduce coal energy consumption. It also set a goal for clean energy to meet 20% of China’s energy needs by 2030.  Analysts expect China to easily meet that target. To help reach the 2030 goal, China is betting big on renewable energy. It pledged in January to invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($367 billion) in renewable power generation — solar, wind, hydro and nuclear — by 2020. The country has already become a major manufacturer and exporter of renewable energy technology, supplying some two-thirds of the world’s solar panels.  China also has a strong grip on wind power. It produces nearly half of the world’s wind turbines — at a rate of about two every hour.

Chinese exports of environmental goods and services surged ahead of Germany and the U.S., according to a report that shows how the climate change fight is shifting international trade.

_____

_____

India:

In 2016, NGO Germanwatch estimated that India suffered direct infrastructural damage of about $21 billion due to extreme weather events, equivalent to almost 1% of India’s total GDP – and about the half of the entire health budget. Energy transition away from fossil fuels is not cost-free and required significant investment. As a result, developing countries such as India, which is also the fourth largest carbon emitter after China, the US and the European Union, is likely to adopt the easiest and cheapest technologies to boost its GDP, pushed in part by the costs needed to deal with climate adaptation. It is little wonder then, that coal-based power plants remain one of the key drivers of energy growth in India. The huge losses and expenses a country such as India faces in dealing with these issues limit its ability to allocate funds to easy but expensive solutions which, in turn, lead to massive carbon emissions.  As developing countries make poor choices – partially due to the poor choices made by developed countries in the past – this problem is likely to increase. The Delhi smog cannot be disentangled from a larger global problem, which will not go away without a global solution.

_

India meets its electricity demands with 65 percent use of non-renewables, 19 percent of that demand is met with hydropower, 12 percent from other renewables, and 2 percent from nuclear power. Access to energy is a tremendous problem in India and major inequalities of access plague the subcontinent. According to one census, 77 million households in India still use kerosene for lighting. The problem is even more acute in rural India where up to 44 percent of households lack access to electricity. While India has undertaken various programs and initiatives to address energy poverty, they have been faced with logistical problems and inadequate implementation locally. In the case of rural villages, access issues and geographical hindrances make addressing the issue extremely costly and difficult. India faces exploding demand and insufficient supply. As the country’s population and needs continue to grow rapidly, it will also need major reforms in infrastructure and efficiency. While many analysts point to developing solar and nuclear capabilities as essential, India will need greater capacity and efficiency in all sectors to meet India’s energy needs. How and if India chooses to confront this pressing problem will have ramifications for the country and the world. Starting a dialogue and drawing greater attention are a good start.

_

Among the various renewable energy resources, solar energy potential is the highest in India. The equivalent energy potential is about 6000 million GWh of energy per year. India lies in the sunny regions of the world. Most parts of India receive 4–7 kWh of solar radiation per square meter per day with 250–300 sunny days in a year. The National Solar Mission targeting 20,000MW grid solar Power, 2000MW of off-grid capacity including 20 million solar lighting systems and 20 million square meters solar thermal collector area by 2022 is under implementation. In terms of wind power installed capacity, India is ranked 5th in the World. The present total installed capacity stands at 21136.40 MW. It contributes to around 75% of the grid- connected renewable energy power installed capacity. Today India is a major player in the global wind energy market.  Despite the high installed capacity, the actual utilization of wind power in India is low because policy incentives are geared towards installation rather than operation of the plants. This is why only 1.6% of actual power production in India comes from wind although the installed capacity is 8.6%.  Hydro projects in India, which are under 25MW incapacity, are classified as “small hydropower” and considered as a “renewable” energy source. The sector has been growing rapidly for the last decade. SHP is by far the oldest renewable energy technology used to generate electricity in India. The current total installed capacity of small hydro power plants is 3803.68MW. India had at least 3.4GW of utility-based installed capacity in biomass power and bagasse-based cogeneration plants as of mid-2013.

_____

_____

Public awareness, support and contribution to combat climate change:

_

Public support to combat climate change:

Pew Research Center’s spring 2015 survey found that people around the world are concerned about climate change and want their governments to take action.

Majorities in all 40 nations polled say climate change is a serious problem, and a global median of 54% believe it is a very serious problem. Still, the intensity of concern varies substantially across regions and nations. Latin Americans and sub-Saharan Africans are particularly worried about climate change. Americans and Chinese, whose countries have the highest overall carbon dioxide emissions, are less concerned. Most people in the countries surveyed say rich nations should do more than developing nations to address climate change. A median of 54% agree with the statement “Rich countries, such as the U.S., Japan and Germany, should do more than developing countries because they have produced most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions so far.” A median of just 38% think “developing countries should do just as much as rich countries because they will produce most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in the future.” To deal with climate change, most think changes in both policy and lifestyle will be necessary.

_

At the start of 2017, Pew conducted a poll on attitudes toward renewable energy and in March 2017 Gallup conducted a similar poll. According to Gallup’s Frank Newport, the poll reported that:

  • 59% say protecting environment is more important than traditional energy
  • Over seven in 10 favor development of alternative energy vs. oil, gas, coal
  • Majority favor higher emissions standards, enforcement of regulations

Gallup’s poll confirmed similar results in the Pew poll, but Pew drilled down deeper and found partisan differences in views on energy. Pew found that the only group favoring fossil fuel development over renewable energy development was conservative Republicans. But partisanship was only one part of the story: Pew’s most significant finding was that age is a significant factor in attitudes toward renewable energy. The strongest support for renewable energy was from those aged 18-29. Among young people, 75% favored alternative energy compared to 19% interested in developing new sources of fossil fuels. Among those 30-49 years old the numbers were 72% renewable compared to 24% fossil. Even those 50-64 emphasized renewable over fossil fuels by 59% to 32%, and among those 65 and older, renewables were still favored by 50 to 38%. The only outliers were conservative Republicans. They still want to “drill baby drill.” Unfortunately, those fossil fuel zealots are the people controlling the three branches of the federal government in America. Whether it is pro-gun lobby or pro-fossil fuel lobby, republican leaders are in the forefront. Choice Awareness theory emphasizes the fact that different organizations see things differently and that current organizational interests hinder passing renewable energy policies. Given these conditions leaves the public with a situation of no choice. Consequently, this leaves the general public in a state to abide by conventional energy sources such as coal and oil. In a broad sense most individuals, especially those that do not engage in public discourse of current economic policies, have little to no awareness of renewable energy. Enlightening communities on the socioeconomic implications of fossil fuel use is a potent mode of rhetoric that can promote the implementation of renewable energy sources.  Why are young people so much more anti-fossil fuel and pro-renewable energy? Because they understand the negative environmental impacts of fossil fuels. They have lived their entire lives understanding these impacts and they believe that technology can help reduce those impacts. Young people have a fundamental belief in the transformative potential of new technology.

______

Can people themselves combat climate change?

Yes.

Lifestyle and behavior:

We emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide when we burn fossil fuels like coal—or when the cattle that get turned into burgers fart. When those emissions enter the atmosphere, they trap the sun’s heat, warming the planet. It’s basic physics. The increased heat can become catastrophic by melting the polar ice caps, raising sea levels, and creating weather patterns that are less predictable, more volatile, and more dangerous. Because we’ve been warming the planet this way since the early days of the industrial revolution, we can’t completely avoid the effects of climate change. But by lowering our emissions now, we can avoid the worst effects. Environmental groups encourage individual action against global warming, often aimed at the consumer. Common recommendations include lowering home heating and cooling usage, burning less gasoline, supporting renewable energy sources, buying local products to reduce transportation, turning off unused devices, and various others.

_

Many of the solutions that are currently encouraged, like swapping out old lightbulbs for more efficient ones, have only a low to moderate impact on climate change— with low impact defined as a reduction of less than 0.2 tons of carbon emissions per year, and moderate impact defined as a reduction of more than 0.2 tons and less than 0.8 tons. That might sound like a lot. But Americans emit a whopping 16.1 tons of CO2 per person per year while EU 6.9, Russian 12.3, Chinese 7.7 and Indian 1.9. Poorer African nations such as Kenya are on an order magnitude less again. That goal, which is designed to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, would have us lower our annual emissions to around 2.1 tons of CO2 per person per year.  Examining CO2 per capita around the world also shows us the gulf between the developed world’s responsibility for climate change and that of the developing world.

_

The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report emphasises that behaviour, lifestyle and cultural change have a high mitigation potential in some sectors, particularly when complementing technological and structural change. In general, higher consumption lifestyles have a greater environmental impact. Several scientific studies have shown that when people, especially those living in developed countries but more generally including all countries, wish to reduce their carbon footprint, there are several actions they can take. According to Wynes, co-author (along with Kimberly Nicholas of Sweden’s Lund University) of a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the four ‘high impact’ actions that create the most for your emission reduction are ones most of us avoid:

  1. Not having an additional child (58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent emission reductions per year)
  2. Living car-free (2.4 tonnes CO2)
  3. Avoiding one round-trip transatlantic flight (1.6 tonnes)
  4. Eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tonnes)

These appear to differ significantly from the popular advice for “greening” one’s lifestyle, which seem to fall mostly into the “low-impact” category: Replacing a typical car with a hybrid (0.52 tonnes); Washing clothes in cold water (0.25 tonnes); Recycling (0.21 tonnes); Upgrading light bulbs (0.10 tonnes); etc. The researchers found that public discourse on reducing one’s carbon footprint overwhelmingly focuses on low-impact behaviors, and that mention of the high-impact behaviors is almost non-existent in the mainstream media, government publications, K-12 school textbooks, etc. The researchers added that “Our recommended high-impact actions are more effective than many more commonly discussed options (e.g. eating a plant-based diet saves eight times more emissions than upgrading light bulbs). More significantly, a US family who chooses to have one fewer child would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers who choose to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives.”

__

Drawdown:

Hawken is a legend in environmental circles. Since the early 1980s, he has been starting green businesses, writing books on ecological commerce, consulting with businesses and governments, speaking to civic groups, and collecting honorary doctorates (six so far).  A few years ago, he set out to pull together the careful coverage of solutions that had so long been lacking. With the help of a little funding, he and a team of several dozen research fellows set out to “map, measure, and model” the 100 most substantive solutions to climate change, using only peer-reviewed research. The result, released in April 2017, is called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Unlike most popular books on climate change, it is not a polemic or a collection of anecdotes and exhortations. In fact, with the exception of a few thoughtful essays scattered throughout, it’s basically a reference book: a list of solutions, ranked by potential carbon impact, each with cost estimates and a short description. A set of scenarios show the cumulative potential. It is fascinating, a powerful reminder of how narrow a set of solutions dominates the public’s attention. Alternatives range from farmland irrigation to heat pumps to ride-sharing.  The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 — more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT).  See figure below. Also sitting atop the list, with an impact that dwarfs any single energy source: refrigerant management. Every refrigerator and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat to enable chilling. Refrigerants, specifically CFCs and HCFCs, were once culprits in depleting the ozone layer. Thanks to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, they have been phased out. HFCs, the primary replacement, spare the ozone layer, but have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a group of manmade chemicals used for industrial processes, especially air conditioning and refrigeration. Because HFCs do not harm the ozone layer, decades ago companies began using them instead of other chemicals that were known to be damaging. But HFCs aren’t good for the climate. When it comes to trapping heat, they are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide over the first few years they’re emitted, earning them the name “super pollutants.” Fortunately, the United Nations agreed in 2016 to a landmark deal – the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol – to phase down the use of HFCs. Because HFCs have been labeled as the world’s fastest-growing group of greenhouse gases, this is a huge win for the climate. Scientists suggest that this action could prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century. Substitutes are already on the market, including natural refrigerants such as propane and ammonium. Both reduced food waste and plant-rich diets, on their own, beat solar farms and rooftop solar combined.

_____

Dietary change:

Eat less meat to avoid dangerous global warming, scientists say:

The livestock industry is a massive contributor to climate change. It takes more power to make one burger than to fully power seven iPads. Beef alone requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and has five times more climate-warming emissions, which estimates to a fifth of total emissions, according to a new paper published by Bard College, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Yale University. Overall, food accounts for the largest share of consumption-based GHG emissions with nearly 20% of the global carbon footprint, followed by housing, mobility, services, manufactured products, and construction. Food and services are more significant in poor countries, while mobility and manufactured goods are more significant in rich countries.  A 2014 study into the real-life diets of British people estimates their greenhouse gas contributions (CO2eq) to be: 7.19 kg/day for high meat-eaters through to 3.81 kg/day for vegetarians and 2.89 kg/day for vegans. Research led by Oxford Martin School finds widespread adoption of vegetarian diet would cut food-related emissions by 63% by 2050 and make people healthier too. China introduced new dietary guidelines in 2016 which aim to cut meat consumption by 50% and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1 billion tonnes by 2030. A 2016 study concluded that taxes on meat and milk could simultaneously result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions and healthier diets. The study analyzed surcharges of 40% on beef and 20% on milk and suggests that an optimum plan would reduce emissions by 1 billion tonnes per year.

_

Societal controls:

Another method being examined is to make carbon a new currency by introducing tradeable “personal carbon credits”. The idea being it will encourage and motivate individuals to reduce their ‘carbon footprint’ by the way they live. Each citizen will receive a free annual quota of carbon that they can use to travel, buy food, and go about their business. It has been suggested that by using this concept it could actually solve two problems; pollution and poverty, old age pensioners will actually be better off because they fly less often, so they can cash in their quota at the end of the year to pay heating bills and so forth.

___________

___________

Discussion:

_

Human beings habitually prioritize their own right to nature over other species’ rights to it; energy growth has depended on this habit.  It has also depended on private ownership of nature, which allows an investor—individual, enterprise, state—to make small energy investments that deliver large amounts of surplus energy. Surplus energy spurs human development and lifestyle changes, and the desire for development drives further energy growth. Fossil fuels, with their high energy density, have played a major role in the human growth story. In 2012, fossil fuels provided 82 percent of the world’s primary energy—and they are responsible, along with land use changes, for annual emissions of about 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Half of those emissions are not sequestered back to the Earth. This is the main cause of global warming. For civilization to continue sustainably, human beings must shift from fossil fuels to solar energy—despite the technical problems. And investments are needed in biotic and other low-energy innovations. But in the end, global energy consumption must be reduced by something on the order of 60 percent. This will require a number of profound non-technological changes. Energy equity must be established among the world’s nations—people in wealthy countries should not, as they do today, use hundreds of times as much energy as people in the poorest countries. Ownership rights over nature must be discarded in favor of the right to use nature without destroying it. The global economy must prioritize “risk minimization for all” over “gain maximization for a few.” A steady-state economy—a sustainable economy that maintains nature’s balance—must be established.

_

The Need for Stronger Climate Action:

Action to reduce the impact of climate change is critical. The consequences of rapidly rising global temperatures will be far-reaching and devastating for humans and the environment unless urgent action is taken globally to curb emissions. Limiting the global temperature rise requires concerted global action. According to an analysis carried out by Climate Action Tracker (2015), the INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions) offer higher reduction potential compared to pledges announced earlier. When INDCs submitted by 1 October 2015 are aggregated and scaled up to the global level, total GHG emissions amount to 53-55 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon-dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) in 2030. Although this represents a significant improvement, there is still a gap of 15-17 Gt CO2eq to reach the 2 °C target. If all INDCs are fully implemented, there would still be an estimated increase in average global temperature rise of approximately 2.7 °C by the end of the century as seen in the figure below. This analysis does, however, not account for the inherent dynamics of markets, such as the renewable energy market, and the potential for economies of scale and further cost reductions.

__

Longevity issues of renewable energy sources:

Even though a source of renewable energy may last for billions of years, renewable energy infrastructure, like hydroelectric dams, will not last forever, and must be removed and replaced at some point. Events like the shifting of riverbeds, or changing weather patterns could potentially alter or even halt the function of hydroelectric dams, lowering the amount of time they are available to generate electricity. Hydropower dams are also affected by silting which may or may not be cost-effective to remove. Some have claimed that geothermal being a renewable energy source depends on the rate of extraction being slow enough such that depletion does not occur. If depletion does occur, the temperature can regenerate if given a long period of non-use. The government of Iceland states: “It should be stressed that the geothermal resource is not strictly renewable in the same sense as the hydro resource.” It estimates that Iceland’s geothermal energy could provide 1700 MW for over 100 years, compared to the current production of 140 MW.  Radioactive elements in the Earth’s crust continuously decay, replenishing the heat.

_____

Renewable Energy Availability:

A recent study concluded that renewable energy sources, based on wind, water, and sunlight (abbreviated as WWS; not including biomass), could provide all new energy globally by 2030, and replace all current non-renewable energy sources by 2050 (Jacobson and Delucchi 2011, p. 1154). Table below shows estimates of the potential energy from various renewable energy sources, converted into trillions of watts. Projected global energy demand in 2030 is 17 trillion watts. Thus we see in Table below that the availability of energy from wind and solar in likely developable locations is more than sufficient to meet all the world’s energy needs. The authors’ analysis envisions:

“…a world powered entirely by WWS, with zero fossil-fuel and biomass combustion. We have assumed that all end uses that feasibly can be electrified use WWS power directly, and that the remaining end uses use WWS power indirectly in the form of electrolytic hydrogen (hydrogen produced by splitting water with WWS power). The hydrogen would be produced using WWS power to split water; thus, directly or indirectly, WWS powers the world.”

_

The authors then estimate the infrastructure that would be necessary to supply all energy worldwide from WWS in 2030. Table below presents their results, based on the assumption that 90% of global energy is supplied by wind and solar, and 10% by other renewables. They also consider the land requirements for renewable energy infrastructure, including the land for appropriate spacing between wind turbines. Total land requirements amount to about 2% of the total global land area, with most of this the space between wind turbines that could be used for agriculture, grazing land, or open space. Also, wind turbines could be located offshore to reduce the land requirements.

______

Why are renewables still not widespread?

Because, especially in these economically tentative times and even with the technology improving all the time, there is still not nearly enough funding available for renewables. This is made even more difficult by the extensive lobbying by the gas industry which is trying to re-brand itself as “green”. Natural gas is not a renewable substitute and can only further contribute to global warming with carbon dioxide emissions albeit half of coal. Only by providing a long-term, financially-sound setting for renewables can there be any hope of them having a worthwhile effect on reducing carbon dioxide levels to help to keep climate change at bay.

_____

Renewables can reduce CO2 emissions by 70% by 2050: A 2017 study:

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the energy sector can be reduced by 70 per cent by 2050 and completely phased-out by 2060 with a net positive economic outlook – according to new findings. The report “Perspectives for the Energy Transition: Investment Needs for a Low-Carbon Energy Transition” was released recently by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report argues that increased deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency in G20 countries and globally can achieve the emissions reductions needed to keep global temperature rise to no more than 2°C, avoiding the most severe impacts of climate change. In 2015, 32 gigatonnes (Gt) of energy-related CO2 were emitted across the world. According to the report, emissions will need to decline continuously to 9.5 Gt by 2050, in order to curb global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. IRENA said that 90 per cent of this energy CO2 reduction can be achieved through the expansion of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. At present, renewables account for 24 per cent of global power production and 16 per cent of primary energy supply. To achieve this scale of decarbonisation, the report affirms that renewable energy sources should represent 80 per cent of global power generation and 65 per cent of total primary energy supply. The report projects that the energy mix will look significantly different in 2050, with total fossil fuel use standing at a third of present levels. The use of coal will see the most significant decline, while oil demand will fall by 45 per cent. Furthermore, the report outlines that the energy sector’s renewable transition must go beyond the power sector into all end-use sectors. The construction and transport sectors need to adopt more bioenergy, solar heating, and electricity from renewable sources that substitute conventional energy. The report specifies that electric vehicles must become the predominant car type in 2050, liquid biofuel production must grow ten-fold and high efficiency all-electric buildings should become the norm. A combined total of 2 billion buildings will need either to be newly constructed or renovated. Finally, the report calls for policy efforts to create an enabling framework and re-design of current energy markets. It prescribes stronger price signals and carbon pricing to help provide a level playing field when complemented by other measures, emphasising the importance of considering the needs of those without energy access.

_____

100% renewable energy:

The endeavor to use 100% renewable energy for electricity, heating and cooling, and transport is motivated by global warming, pollution and other environmental issues, as well as economic and energy security concerns. Shifting the total global primary energy supply to renewable sources requires a transition of the energy system. In 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that there are few fundamental technological limits to integrating a portfolio of renewable energy technologies to meet most of total global energy demand. Renewable energy use has grown much faster than even advocates anticipated.  In 2014, renewable sources such as wind, geothermal, solar, biomass, and burnt waste provided 19% of the total energy consumed worldwide, with roughly half of that coming from traditional use of biomass. The most important sector is electricity with a renewable share of 22.8%, most of it coming from hydropower with a share of 16.6%, followed by wind with 3.1%. There are many places around the world with grids that are run almost exclusively on renewable energy. At the national level, at least 30 nations already have renewable energy contributing more than 20% of the energy supply.

_

Even in the early 21st century it was extraordinary for scientists and decision-makers to consider the concept of 100 per cent renewable electricity. However, renewable energy progress has been so rapid that things have totally changed since then: Solar photovoltaic modules have dropped about 75 per cent in price. Current scientific and technological advances in the laboratory suggest that they will soon be so cheap that the principal cost of going solar on residential and commercial buildings will be installation. On-shore wind power is spreading over all continents and is economically competitive with fossil and nuclear power in several regions. Concentrated solar thermal power (CST) with thermal storage has moved from the demonstration stage of maturity to the limited commercial stage and still has the potential for further cost reductions of about 50 per cent. Renewable energy use has grown much faster than even advocates had anticipated.  Wind turbines generate 39 percent of Danish electricity, and Denmark has many biogas digesters and waste-to-energy plants as well. Together, wind and biomass provide 44% of the electricity consumed by the country’s six million inhabitants. In 2010, Portugal’s 10 million people produced more than half their electricity from indigenous renewable energy resources. Spain’s 40 million inhabitants meet one-third of their electrical needs from renewables. It is estimated that the world will spend an extra $8 trillion over the next 25 years to prolong the use of non-renewable resources, a cost that would be eliminated by transitioning instead to 100% renewable energy. Research that has been published in Energy Policy suggests that converting the entire world to 100% renewable energy by 2030 is both possible and affordable, but requires political support. It would require building many more wind turbines and solar power systems but wouldn’t utilize bioenergy. Other changes involve use of electric cars and the development of enhanced transmission grids and storage. Reinventing Fire is a book by Amory Lovins released in October 2011. By combining reduced energy use with energy efficiency gains, Lovins says that there will be a $5 trillion saving and a faster-growing economy. This can all be done with the profitable commercialization of existing energy-saving technologies, through market forces, led by business

____

100% Renewable Electricity to Power the World by 2050: A 2017 Study Says:

_

A global transition to 100 percent renewable electricity, far from being a long-term vision, is happening now, the study says. It is the work of Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the Energy Watch Group (EWG), and was published at the UN climate change conference, COP23, which is meeting in Bonn. The authors say a global electricity system based entirely on renewable energy will soon be feasible day in, day out, at every moment throughout the year, and would be more cost-effective than the existing system, based largely on fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Current renewable energy potential and technologies, crucially including storage to guarantee a constant power supply, can generate sufficient secure power to meet the entire world’s electricity demand by 2050, they argue. With political backing it could happen even sooner.

The key findings as laid out in the study are as follows:

  1. Existing renewable energy potential and technologies, including storage can generate sufficient and secure power to cover the entire global electricity demand by 2050. The world population is expected to grow from 7.3 to 9.7 billion. The global electricity demand for the power sector is set to increase from 24,310 TWh in 2015 to around 48,800 TWh by 2050.
  2. Total levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) on a global average for 100% renewable electricity in 2050 is €52/MWh (including curtailment, storage and some grid costs), compared to €70/MWh in 2015.
  3. Due to rapidly falling costs, solar PV and battery storage increasingly drive most of the electricity system, with solar PV reaching some 69%, wind energy 18%, hydropower 8% and bioenergy 2% of the total electricity mix in 2050 globally.
  4. Wind energy increases to 32% by 2030. Beyond 2030 solar PV becomes more competitive. The solar PV supply share increases from 37% in 2030 to about 69% in 2050.
  5. Batteries are the key supporting technology for solar PV. The storage output covers 31% of the total demand in 2050, 95% of which is covered by batteries alone. Battery storage provides mainly diurnal storage, and renewable energy based gas provides seasonal storage.
  6. Global greenhouse gas emissions significantly reduce from about 11 GtCO2eqin 2015 to zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, as the total LCOE of the power system
  7. The global energy transition to a 100% renewable electricity system creates 36 million jobs by 2050 in comparison to 19 million jobs in the 2015 electricity system.
  8. The total losses in a 100% renewable electricity system are around 26% of the total electricity demand, compared to the current system in which about 58% of the primary energy input is lost.

The study is a challenge for policymakers and politicians, the authors say, as it refutes an argument frequently used by critics of renewable fuels—that they cannot provide a full energy supply on an uninterruptible basis. The new study, however, makes the case that 100% renewable electricity is not just a far-off possibility, but a potential current-day reality — given the right political conditions. The technologies already exist, according to the authors of the study who claim that existing renewable energy potential and technologies (including storage) can already generate sufficient and secure power to cover the entire global electricity demand by 2050.

______

______

The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy:

_

Many people still think that it will not be long before renewable energy such as solar and wind becomes outright cheaper than fossil fuels, thereby leading to a rapid expansion of the thin orange slither in the graph below. This is an ideologically very attractive notion, but it is questionable whether this is in fact physically possible. So, what does renewable energy have to accomplish before it can compete with fossil fuels in an open market? Well, in short, we will have to overcome the diffuse and intermittent nature of renewable energy more efficiently than we can overcome the declining reserve qualities and unrefined nature of fossil fuels.

In other words, renewables need to overcome the following two challenges in order to displace fossil fuels in a fair market:

  1. Solar panels and wind turbines need to become cheaper than raw fossil fuels. This is the challenge posed by the diffuse nature of renewables.
  2. Storage solutions need to become cheaper than fossil fuel refineries (e.g. power plants). This is the challenge posed by the intermittent nature of renewables.

Point number 1 is the way in which we procure our energy (mining/drilling fossil fuels or deploying solar panels and wind turbines) and point number 2 is the way in which we make this energy useful to society at higher levels of penetration (refining fossil fuels to electricity or smoothing out the intermittent surges of renewable energy). Without point number 1, point number 2 cannot exist and without point number 2, the energy procured in point number 1 cannot sustain a complex society such as ours. Thus, if renewables are to challenge fossil fuels in an open market, technology must advance to the point where renewables can compete under both these points.

_

The average commercially available solar panel is only about 13% efficient. And because the energy source is so diffuse, vast areas need to be covered in order to harvest this diffuse energy. As a result of this challenge, it was previously calculated that the solar panel price needs to fall to about $0.31/W installed in order to compete with coal at $100/ton. It is therefore clear that installed solar prices still need to fall about one order of magnitude before we can see a sustained market driven displacement of coal by PV. Is this possible? Well, the most optimistic projection sees solar PV levelling off at about $1.44/W installed which is more than quadruple the required level. Perhaps we will be pleasantly surprised by some technological miracle in the medium-term future, but achieving the required prices with current PV technology will unfortunately be completely impossible. Now let us see variability of wind generation in Germany in 2012. On a countrywide basis, the output varied over more than two orders of magnitude from a minimum of 0.115 GW to a maximum of 24 GW. It is clear that a large amount of extra infrastructure will be needed in order to smooth out this erratic output to something that better resembles the demand profile. Solar PV is of course even worse because it generates no power whatsoever for the majority of the time and delivers most of its energy in the few hours around noon. Again, there can be no doubt that we have a wide range of technically proven solutions to this problem i.e. energy storage. But again, the challenge is to deploy these solutions at a lower cost than that involved in the refinement of fossil fuels.

_

A coal power plant is the most expensive kind of fossil fuel refinery. For example, a standard coal-fired power plant must sell electricity for about $0.06/kWh, but coal at $100/ton costs only $0.015/kWh. The remaining $0.045/kWh represents the price of refining coal to electricity and arises primarily from the low efficiency and high capital costs of coal plants. So, how does energy storage compare? Well, a recent test of lead acid and Li-ion batteries found that these technologies could store energy for about $0.34 and $0.40 per kWh over their respective lifetimes. Hence, we again have to conclude that the most ideal renewable energy storage solution is still about one order of magnitude away from challenging fossil fuels on a level playing field. The Li-ion battery throughput cost of $0.40/kWh was calculated for an initial cost of $600 per kWh of capacity. Most optimistic projections for Li-ion battery costs give longer-term prices at about $200 per kWh of capacity. At these prices, battery storage would be about triple the price of refining coal to electricity. Again, we need a technological miracle.

_

So, these are the facts. In order for intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar PV to effectively compete with fossil fuels like coal, both the price of installed solar panels and the price of battery storage will need to reduce by a full order of magnitude. In addition, optimistic long-term projections state that both solar panels and battery storage will reach technological maturity at roughly triple the cost of their fossil fuel counterparts.

Does this mean that it is fundamentally impossible for renewable energy to trump fossil fuels?

______

Can Renewable Energy solve the Global Climate Change Challenge?

1750 is generally accepted as the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels were 278 ppm. CO2 levels are now 410 ppm. 78% of all energy consumption worldwide is supplied by fossil fuels. To reduce CO2 levels in our atmosphere by only 1 ppm requires the removal of 7.81 billion tons of CO2 plus the amount we are now adding. To put this in perspective, 400 Mw Solar Power Plant will offset 400,000 tons/yr of GHG. It would require 19,525 such solar power plants to offset CO2 levels by only 1 ppm.

_

Climate Change is the result of carbon gas emissions which are caused by Industrialization which is driven by Population growth. As population increases CO2 emissions will increase. We are part of carbon cycle life, we exhale carbon dioxide and our flatulence is methane or CH4. Our plastics, pharmaceuticals, and just about everything we consume contains carbon. The amount of carbon in our atmosphere began its meteoric rise about the time of the beginning of the industrial revolution. Therefore carbon gases are the result of industrialization. Industrialization is production of cars and everything else that makes are life easier and is driven by population growth. Our explosive population growth has reached the limit of the planet to support us without drastic changes in lifestyle.

_________

Do alternative energy sources displace fossil fuels?  A 2012 study:

A fundamental, generally implicit, assumption of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and many energy analysts is that each unit of energy supplied by non-fossil-fuel sources takes the place of a unit of energy supplied by fossil-fuel sources.  However, owing to the complexity of economic systems and human behaviour, it is often the case that changes aimed at reducing one type of resource consumption, either through improvements in efficiency of use or by developing substitutes, do not lead to the intended outcome when net effects are considered. The average pattern across most nations of the world over the past fifty years is one where each unit of total national energy use from non-fossil-fuel sources displaced less than one-quarter of a unit of fossil-fuel energy use and, focusing specifically on electricity, each unit of electricity generated by non-fossil-fuel sources displaced less than one-tenth of a unit of fossil-fuel-generated electricity. These results challenge conventional thinking in that they indicate that suppressing the use of fossil fuel will require changes other than simply technical ones such as expanding non-fossil-fuel energy production.

______

Google Engineers explain in 2014 why they stopped R&D in Renewable Energy:

In 2007, when Google unveiled its initiative to make renewable energy competitive with coal, called RE<C, it represented a major breakthrough for the industry. Then, in 2011, Google stopped its R&D efforts prematurely. Two Google engineers who worked on the RE<C initiative have finally opened up about why the team halted their efforts. And it wasn’t because they thought existing renewables were enough to decarbonize the global economy. “Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach,” wrote Google’s Ross Koningstein and David Fork in a piece published in IEEE’s Spectrum. It’s a striking admission from a company that has relentlessly supported the growth of renewable energy.

_

“As we reflected on the project, we came to the conclusion that even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions,” wrote Koningstein and Fork. The team came to that conclusion after examining different scenarios for renewable energy penetration using a low-carbon modeling tool from the consulting firm McKinsey. They compared those scenarios to former NASA scientist James Hansen’s famous 2008 model showing that a 350 ppm emissions level was needed to stabilize the climate. They decided to combine our energy innovation study’s best-case scenario results with Hansen’s climate model to see whether a 55 percent emission cut by 2050 would bring the world back below that 350-ppm threshold. Their calculations revealed otherwise. Even if every renewable energy technology advanced as quickly as imagined and they were all applied globally, atmospheric CO2 levels wouldn’t just remain above 350 ppm; they would continue to rise exponentially due to continued fossil fuel use. So in best-case scenario, which was based on most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others. Their reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require…radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.

_

The key problem appears to be that the cost of manufacturing the components of the renewable power facilities is far too close to the total recoverable energy – the facilities never, or just barely, produce enough energy to balance the budget of what was consumed in their construction. This leads to a runaway cycle of constructing more and more renewable plants simply to produce the energy required to manufacture and maintain renewable energy plants, an obvious practical absurdity. Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race. If this study is to be believed, solar and other renewables will never in the foreseeable future deliver meaningful amounts of energy. The engineers stop short of advocating for specific technology investments such as advanced nuclear.

_______

Can advances in science and technology prevent global warming? A 2006 study:

The most stringent emission scenarios published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) would result in the stabilization of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) at concentrations of approximately 550 ppm which would produce a global temperature increase of at least 2 ◦C by 2100. Given the large uncertainties regarding the potential risks associated with this degree of global warming, it would be more prudent to stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations at or below current levels which, in turn, would require more than 20-fold reduction (i.e., ≥95%) in per capita carbon emissions in industrialized nations within the next 50–100 years. Using the Kaya equation as a conceptual framework, this paper examines whether CO2 mitigation approaches such as energy efficiency improvements, carbon sequestration, and the development of carbon-free energy sources would be sufficient to bring about the required reduction in per capita carbon emissions without creating unforeseen negative impacts elsewhere. In terms of energy efficiency, large improvements (≥5-fold) are in principle possible through aggressive investments in R&D and the removal of market imperfections such as corporate subsidies. However, energy efficiency improvements per se will not result in a reduction in carbon emissions if, as predicted by the IPCC, the size of the global economy expands 12–26-fold by 2100. Terrestrial carbon sequestration via reforestation and improved agricultural soil management has many environmental advantages, but has only limited CO2 mitigation potential because the global terrestrial carbon sink (ca. 200 Gt C) is small relative to the size of fossil fuel deposits (≥4000 Gt C). By contrast, very large amounts of CO2 can potentially be removed from the atmosphere via sequestration in geologic formations and oceans, but carbon storage is not permanent and is likely to create many unpredictable environmental consequences. Renewable energy can in theory provide large amounts of carbon-free power. However, biomass and hydroelectric energy can only be marginally expanded, and large-scale energy installations (i.e., wind, photovoltaics, and direct thermal) are likely to have significant negative environmental impacts. Expansion of nuclear energy is highly unlikely due to concerns over reactor safety, radioactive waste management, weapons proliferation, and cost. In view of the serious limitations and liabilities of many proposed CO2 mitigation approaches, it appears that there remain only few no-regrets options such as drastic energy efficiency improvements, extensive terrestrial carbon sequestration, and cautious expansion of renewable energy generation. These promising CO2 mitigation technologies have the potential to bring about the required 20-fold reduction in per capita carbon emission only if population and economic growth are halted without delay. Therefore, addressing the problem of global warming requires not only technological research and development but also a re-examination of core values that equate material consumption and economic growth with happiness and wellbeing.

______

Technology’s role in a climate solution limited:

If the world is to avoid “severe, widespread, and irreversible climate impacts,” carbon emissions must decrease quickly—and achieving such cuts, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, depends in part on the availability of “key technologies.” But arguments abound against faith in technological solutions to the climate problem. Electricity grids may be ill equipped to accommodate renewable energy produced on a massive scale. Many technological innovations touted in the past have failed to achieve practical success. Even successful technologies will do little good if they mature too late to help avert climate disaster. To what extent can the world depend on technological innovation to address climate change? And what promising technologies—in generating, storing, and saving energy, and in storing greenhouse gases or removing them from the atmosphere—show most potential to help the world come to terms with global warming? But will any of the major technological approaches to reducing emissions actually work?

One candidate solution is to derive energy from biomass, which already provides 10 percent of the energy people use. Biomass is a widespread resource and can easily be converted to provide energy services. Unfortunately, biomass is already over-harvested—people use 16 percent of the energy that plants produce each year. Further harvesting will only exacerbate the ugly environmental gashes on the planet that biomass extraction, through deforestation and other land use changes, has already caused.

Hydropower provides 2.4 percent of the world’s primary energy, but 40 percent of hydropower’s deployable potential has been tapped. Resistance to dams has increased because dams destroy upstream forests and agricultural land; downstream areas can flood when excess water is released from reservoirs. Hydropower is unlikely to be expanded much except in some hilly regions.

Nuclear energy, meanwhile, provides about 5 percent of human beings’ energy requirements. But the world is moving away from thermal nuclear energy. It is dirty—uranium mining carries serious health consequences, and about 300,000 metric tons of highly radioactive spent fuel core are stored at reactor sites around the world. It is unsafe—already there have been three major accidents at power reactors. It is open to misuse—enriched uranium can be diverted to make bombs. And it is expensive—much costlier than fossil fuels.

Next, concentrated solar power and photovoltaics, along with wind, provide about 1 percent of global energy. These sources are growing at 15 to 40 percent a year, but have several drawbacks. They suffer from intermittence. They can only be sited at favorable locations. They cannot be used directly for locomotion. They have environmental impacts that aren’t often discussed. The manufacture of photovoltaic panels entails carbon dioxide emissions. It is often taken for granted that solar energy is inherently environmentally sustainable and that its carbon credentials don’t require scrutiny. The fact is that even solar power plants have an environmental footprint on a lifecycle basis. For instance, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) has a footprint of 20 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity produced, in addition to consuming vast amounts of water. Similarly, photovoltaic (PV) power plants also have carbon footprints which, on a lifecycle basis can range from 12g per kWh for a facility using First Solar’s thin film modules, to as much as 24 g per kWh – for one using multi-crystalline silicon panels. It’s generally assumed that it only takes a few years before solar panels have generated as much energy as it took to make them, resulting in very low greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional grid electricity. However, a more critical analysis shows that the cumulative energy and CO2 balance of the industry is negative, meaning that solar PV has actually increased energy use and greenhouse gas emissions instead of lowering them. In fact, analyses of the life cycle of photovoltaics indicate that if manufacturing grows at an annual rate exceeding the inverse of the panels’ carbon dioxide “payback” time, photovoltaics will account for more emissions in their manufacture than will be saved through their use. To illustrate, the average carbon dioxide “payback” period for photovoltaics is now about eight years—meaning that photovoltaics must grow no faster than about 12 percent annually in order to qualify as a net carbon dioxide mitigator. But in fact, photovoltaics grew at annual rate of 40 percent from 1998 to 2008, and at 59 percent between 2008 and 2014. Thus photovoltaics have been a net emitter for years. However, a review of 40 years of photovoltaics development shows strong downward trends of environmental impact of photovoltaics production, following the experience curve law. For every doubling of installed photovoltaic capacity, energy use decreases by 13 and 12% and greenhouse gas footprints by 17 and 24%, for poly- and monocrystalline based photovoltaic systems, respectively. As a result, a break-even between the cumulative disadvantages and benefits of photovoltaics, for both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, occurs between 1997 and 2018, depending on photovoltaic performance and model uncertainties.  Wind facilities and photovoltaic plants require significantly more land than do fossil fuel plants. Both solar and wind energy depend on rare earth elements that will likely become scarce in 20 years or so. As recently as five years ago, China accounted for 95 percent of the world’s rare-earth production, raising fears that it might exert monopolistic control. China’s share of production has since dropped, but China still has the world’s largest reserves of rare earths by far, and worries about monopolistic behavior persist. Meanwhile, renewable energy technologies that could function without rare earths, particularly photovoltaic technologies, are not close to commercial deployment. Wind power has an altogether different problem, as shown by recent research on wind farms in Kansas. This research indicates that turbines on large wind farms, as they remove kinetic energy from atmospheric flow, reduce wind speeds and thus limit generation rates. This is one reason that deployable wind energy represents a miniscule resource when measured against current energy demand. Wind energy simply cannot replace fossil fuels (even as it introduces environmental problems such as bird mortality). Realistic estimates suggest that deployable wind energy can satisfy only 5 percent of today’s global energy demand, and significant amounts of carbon dioxide are emitted in the manufacture of both wind and solar equipment. And these energy sources are still more expensive than fossil fuels.

What about capturing and storing carbon dioxide so it’s never released into the atmosphere? For several reasons, enthusiasm for carbon capture and storage (CCS) has waned. To begin with, only 14 CCS projects are operational, with eight more under construction. Together, their capacity represents only one-tenth of 1 percent of current carbon dioxide emissions. And many of these projects are combined with enhanced oil recovery projects—which neutralize the reductions in emissions achieved by capture and storage.

Energy efficiency, meanwhile, is sometimes seen as an easy route to decreasing emissions. But there is a limit to how much can be achieved through efficiency. Moreover, the Jevons paradox comes into play—if energy availability increases due to greater efficiency, energy will become cheaper and consumption will rise.

______

______

Scientists squabble over Renewable-Energy Plan:

A team of prominent researchers sharply critiqued an influential paper arguing that wind, solar, and hydroelectric power could affordably meet most of the U.S. energy needs by 2055, saying it contained modelling errors and implausible assumptions that could distort public policy and spending decisions. The rebuttal appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the same journal that ran the original 2015 paper. Several of the nearly two dozen researchers say they were driven to act because the original authors declined to publish what they viewed as necessary corrections, and the findings were influencing state and federal policy proposals. The fear is that legislation will mandate goals that can’t be achieved with available technologies at reasonable prices, leading to “wildly unrealistic expectations” and “massive misallocation of resources,” says David Victor, an energy policy researcher at the University of California, San Diego, and coauthor of the critique. “That is both harmful to the economy, and creates the seeds of a backlash.” The authors of the earlier paper published an accompanying response that disputed the piece point by point. In an interview with MIT Technology Review, lead author Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, said the rebuttal doesn’t accurately portray their research. He says the authors were motivated by allegiance to energy technologies that the 2015 paper excluded. “They’re either nuclear advocates or carbon sequestration advocates or fossil-fuels advocates,” Jacobson says. “They don’t like the fact that we’re getting a lot of attention, so they’re trying to diminish our work.” In the original paper, Jacobson and his coauthors heralded a “low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem.” It concluded that U.S. energy systems could convert almost entirely to wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources by, among other things, tightly integrating regional electricity grids and relying heavily on storage sources like hydrogen and underground thermal systems. Moreover, the paper argued, the system could be achieved without the use of natural gas, nuclear power, biofuels, and stationary batteries. Lead author Christopher Clack, chief executive of Vibrant Clean Energy and a former NOAA researcher, described Jacobson’s accusation that the authors were acting out of allegiance to fossil fuels or nuclear power as “bizarre.” The 21 authors of the rebuttal, which features a conflict-of-interest statement, include energy, policy, storage, and climate researchers affiliated with prominent institutions like Carnegie Mellon, the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Brookings Institution, and Jacobson’s own Stanford. Clack says he was motivated to oversee the additional peer-review process because he believed the earlier conclusions were wrong, and the authors refused to correct them. He added that the process took more than a year and went through two reviews by the journal’s editorial board. “We stayed the course because we believe it, and want the truth out there,” he says.

_______

_______

Futility of renewable energy:

When a physicist confronted with the proposition that it is possible to build a perpetual motion machine, he can without actually having to investigate the detail of the proposed project, declare with complete certainty that it is impossible, since it would necessarily violate the laws of known physics. The physicist does not need to build it and test it in order to make that statement. But to the layman, confronted with a (deliberately) complex object which, on the face of it seems to embody the principle, without the viewpoint acquired through years of studying physical systems in detail, the possibility seems to be there, and, indeed he can equally well conceive that opponents of it are not stating as near to a fact as science can get, but are merely offering an (ego driven) contrary opinion. Against this challenge, there is, in the limit, no real hope of offering refutation to someone who firmly believes (and will not be dissuaded from) an opinion that contravenes fact. Men have, and still do, die, rather than relinquish strongly held beliefs. Even clear factual evidence can be distorted by ‘confirmation bias’ to the extent that, in the face of evidence that would clearly refute a proposition, they will still cling to it and construct fantastic and complex scenarios to explain why, in this particular case, and this alone, the experimental results fail to support their proposition. So it is against this backdrop of extreme emotional attachment to ‘renewable energy’ and extreme ignorance of the principles underlying power generation, and in the face of extreme opposition to any contradiction of its precepts, that we have to – perhaps vainly – attempt to lead those who are prepared to be led, down a path of a somewhat technical nature, in order to understand why, despite its seeming usefulness, it is in the end a deeply disappointing, wasteful and ultimately fruitless exercise. And why simply spending more money on it will never achieve the hoped for results.

Dispatch:

In terms of national and international systems, the system that has evolved is (for very sound reasons) to have a multiplicity of generators connected to a mesh or grid of wires that distribute the power to a multiplicity of loads over a wide geographical area. The reasons why there are more than one power station, are redundancy, and geographical limitations. The reason why there are not as many generators as loads, is economic. In general the cost of generating plant, both in financial and in terms of materials is considerably in excess of the cost of distributing the power. Generators are expensive. Wires are cheap. Also, by using a broad geographical grid to interconnect generators and loads, the demand can be somewhat ‘averaged out’. That means that whilst one region may be having higher demand than another, no extreme generating capacity is needed as the imbalance is catered for by the relatively efficient flows around the whole grid. So we see that the traditional grids that we have, are optimized to connect large power stations located reasonably close to demands and interconnected into national (Europe) or region (USA) sized grids, using interconnects that are not too large, as they are only balancing systems, not designed to connect large amounts of generation in one place to large loads elsewhere. One of the hardest technical jobs the grid and power station operators face is that at any given instant the power they are generating must exactly match the power that is needed. There is simply no storage on the grid itself in any shape size or form. At best there are a few seconds of power in terms of the flywheels comprised by the spinning rotors in the generators before grid power is completely lost if one or more generators lose their power input.  So because the grid can store no energy at all, and power must match demand at all times, there is a need to have a multiplicity of ‘hands on the throttles’ of all the power stations, to adjust power at all times to match the demand, and since demand is only predictable to a certain level, this means that some power stations are at all times ‘throttled back’ from what they might be producing – and indeed some are throttled back so far that they are generating nothing at all, a condition known as spinning reserve – such power stations are ready to take up the load at short notice, but are essentially burning fuel, doing nothing. And this brings us to the concept that is unknown to most outside the generating business, the concept of dispatch which is used to describe the processes involved in adjusting generator output to match demand. This is such an important and relevant – possibly the most important and relevant – issue when it comes to analysing renewable energy. Suffice to say that the key issue is that, lacking any ability to store electricity on the grid itself, there is no alternative but co-operation with dispatchable power sources, when attempting to match generated output to actual real-world demand. And that technologies that render this more difficult, are in general to be shunned. The problems of fluctuating demand is, so to speak, bad enough already without making it far worse and that is precisely what renewable energy – of the more popular sort – does. Markets use bid stacks to make sure that the lowest-cost power plants are dispatched first and the most expensive power plants are dispatched last. This market-based system is designed to deliver the lowest-cost electricity to consumers while also keeping power plant owners from operating at a loss.

Intermittency:

Intermittency is, quite simply, the fluctuating availability of an energy source. All power generating technology suffers from it. Things break and need mending. Supplies of fuel can get interrupted. Routine maintenance can shut down a plant for weeks. But where we are considering conventional power stations that rely on stored energy fuel sources – coal, gas or uranium and the stored renewables of hydroelectricity, geothermal, and biofuels – such loss of availability is the exception to the rule, and equally as importantly, generally characterised by being both infrequent and of significant duration. Taking down a coal plant for a boiler inspection is a week or more to let it cool down, inspect it and restart it. But it happens only once a year (and generally in summer when demand is lower anyway). By contrast, when considering the intermission of ‘intermittent’ renewable energy – that is wind, solar, tidal and wave power, the intermittency is characterised by being persistent and of short duration. Solar power varies from nothing at night to full power during the day every day, tidal does similar twice a day (roughly). Wind power fluctuates randomly but with a general period that approximates to 3-5 days, that being the average time it takes for a low pressure system with associated wind to pass over a reasonable geographical area.

Energy (power) density:

The proposed mass adoption of renewable energy on a hitherto undreamed of scale has made another issue that was unimportant with conventional power stations, extremely relevant, and that is energy density, or rather power density. In its simplest terms what power density means in the context of electrical power generation is ‘how big does my power station have to be, in order to generate the power I want? With the most useful metric being how much land (or sea) area it is going to use up. And here we encounter the most easily understood, and the most insoluble of renewable energy’s – including the ‘stored energy’ renewable sources like biofuel and hydroelectricity – its power density is very low.

What is energy and power density, and why is it important? If we construct a table of the average power output of an area of land planted with biofuels, with windmills, with solar panels, and with a conventional fossil or nuclear power station we get the following:

The United Kingdom’s electricity demand is around 35GW on average. If the entire agricultural land area of the United Kingdom were dedicated to growing biofuel, it wouldn’t be enough to even provide electricity , let alone run cars. If a power station the size of Fukushima (4.7GW) were to be replaced with a wind farm of the same average output, it would render an area about the size of Greater London in which ~10m people live permanently uninhabitable. In essence it can be seen that renewable energy competes directly with other uses that the land, the sea and the spaces above it, have need to also utilise. The power density of renewable energy is not something we can change by any alteration of the technology that we have. Perhaps we can genetically engineer better biofuel crops – algae perhaps, but we can’t improve wind capture except by building higher, because essentially, all the energy there is in the wind to be harvested, is already being extracted by the turbines. Solar PV is already pushing 30% efficiency or more. There is no way that it will ever exceed 100%!  In real terms that means that renewable energy necessarily has a massive impact on the environment, simply because the scale of it has to be so large to collect what is – any way you look at it – a very diffuse and fleeting amount of energy.

_

In a nutshell:

Renewable energy must of necessity involve huge installations – on account of its low power density – and also must be interoperated with other technologies to the point where it may be considered as little more than bolt on fuel saving devices – by reason if its intermittency are in place. The absolute necessity of co-operation with fossil plant to balance the intermittency and provide the dispatchability that it lacks, engenders no increase in energy security and very little insulation from fuel price fluctuations. Two reasons that are often upheld as reasons for its adoption. Intermittency is in every way not a detail to be brushed to one side when discussing renewable energy, it is, with low power density, the core of the whole case against renewable energy. It makes an ‘all renewable ‘ grid completely impossible in countries that do not have extensive hydroelectricity. It makes nonsense of claims that intermittent renewable energy improves energy or price security. It reduces claims that intermittent renewable energy reduces emissions. It means that the more renewable energy you attempt to employ, the less effective it is and the more expensive it gets.

_______

______

The Climate Challenge: Can renewables really do it alone? 2015 study:

Renewables are Good, but not Good Enough:

It is important to be clear-minded about what renewables can deliver as part of an affordable, reliable, and low-emissions electricity system. Despite tremendous technological advances in renewable generation, storage, and transmission, there are still serious challenges. A large-scale penetration of renewables into the power grid would require:

  1. Significant overbuilding of generation to meet demand;
  2. Costly grid upgrades and storage expansion;
  3. Storage that might not be available in time; and
  4. A huge build-out of transmission infrastructure.

We must continue to expand the use of renewables. But we must also recognize their limitations and put equally serious effort and political capital into bringing to scale other low-carbon technologies.

_

The Many Problems of a Mostly Renewables Grid:

While it might be technically possible to build a mostly renewable electricity system in the U.S., the more pertinent question is whether it can be done at an affordable cost and realistic timeframe. As leading climate writer Dave Roberts has noted: “At a certain point, in a given grid system, the cost of integrating more [renewables] exceeds the benefits.” This is a point that the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) echoes in its own research. In fact, almost everything is subject to the law of diminishing marginal returns—one can binge-watch more Game of Thrones than is enjoyable or over-water the lawn. However, there are specific features of renewable energy that make it especially susceptible to this phenomenon. In particular, solar and wind require massive overbuilding of capacity before they can reliably supply a significant percentage of electricity on a grid system. In addition, integrating this wind and solar capacity into the grid at such high concentrations comes with its own technical challenges and costs, even when taking into account battery storage. And lastly, there are issues with land-use that make a mostly renewables grid less feasible and less affordable.

_

Scaling-up requires significant Overbuilding:

All electricity sources are rated by their “capacity factor”: the ratio of the actual amount of electricity generated by, say, a wind turbine or a solar facility, versus the maximum amount of electricity that the plant theoretically could generate if it ran continuously and in ideal conditions.

Because wind and solar are variable—the wind sometimes doesn’t blow, and  night-time and clouds limit solar—the capacity factors of these two variable renewable energy sources (VREs) are extremely low. This is particularly stark when compared to baseload technologies like zero-emission nuclear, carbon-intense coal, and natural gas, which emits half the CO2 of coal. This means that we would need a lot more wind or solar capacity to provide the same amount of electricity to the grid as existing baseload sources.

_

Let’s examine, for example, the well-studied goal of obtaining 20% of U.S. electricity generation from wind power. (Keep in mind, that’s a pretty low target if we’re going for a grid that is around 80% VREs). Because wind is not available all the time, it might have to represent much more than half of all generation at times in order to reach the 20% annual average. But there’s another problem: wind energy tends to be most abundant at night and in the spring and fall, when demand is low. Reaching the 20% average therefore becomes harder still. This issue has already arisen in places with a high penetration of VREs. Take Denmark for example: in 2014, 39% of its electricity was generated by wind. But how does Denmark manage this if capacity factor is such a challenge? It is selling wind energy into a much bigger system that could absorb excess wind and account for its variability. Put simply, Denmark is not actually using all of its wind generation. It is selling wind electricity to neighboring countries when there is too much and buying electricity from them when there isn’t enough.

Energy expert Roger Andrews explains:

The key to Denmark’s high level of wind penetration is its location on the Nordic Grid between its larger neighbors Norway, Sweden and Germany, who between them generated 26 times as much electricity as Denmark in 2013. This gives Denmark access to an additional 5,820 MW of interconnector capacity that it makes full use of the Nordic Grid, where other countries provide non-wind/non-renewable energy when the wind is not blowing in Denmark. The same thing happens in the U.S. For instance, Iowa is said to get 28.5% of its electricity from wind and that’s true in terms of markets and accounting: 28.5% of the power contracts signed by Iowa utilities are with wind generators.

But there is another part to this story. Like Denmark, Iowa is part of a larger grid system known as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) grid region, which includes all or part of 13 other states. The MISO grid cannot be divided into wind electrons and coal electrons. Every load (user of electricity) on the grid is, physically speaking, consuming the same mix of energy. Currently, the MISO grid gets 5.7% of its energy from wind and, thus, so does Iowa. (Technically, even MISO isn’t a whole system, since it is interconnected to neighboring grids and the larger Eastern Interconnection). Regardless of the interconnections, the other problem for VREs is that their low capacity factor means that the challenge to the grid goes up as their penetration rate increases. Going back to Denmark, Andrews finds that increasing wind capacity to 50% of total capacity does not mean that Denmark will get 50% of its electricity from wind. This is because 20% of it would exceed demand during windy periods and have to be “curtailed” [that is, dumped]. In fact, to reach 50% wind generation, Andrews found that Denmark would need to overbuild by nearly 60%, leading to even more wind power curtailment.  Researchers Michael Milligan and Brendan Kirby published a study coming to the same conclusion about VREs in the U.S. The problem is equally acute for solar. MIT did an extensive study in 2015 of solar and concluded that at high levels of solar penetration, “it will be increasingly necessary to curtail production from solar facilities.” This is underscored by the case of Germany, where the oversupply of solar generation forces electricity producers to curtail extra production because prices may turn negative. If they didn’t curtail this extra solar, electricity producers would have to pay users to take the power. For example, German solar output surged 83 percent in the first three months of 2014, leading to 55 hours of negative prices where solar had to be curtailed. That’s a lot of wasted energy. Because low capacity factor means that waste goes up with penetration, the problem of adding ever more renewables to the grid is like squeezing an increasingly dry sponge. You can always get a little bit more out of it but eventually that extra squeeze is just not worth the effort.

_

It is difficult to maintain Grid Stability with high levels of Renewables:

The flip side of wasting unneeded electricity is producing too little electricity to meet demand. System operators are required to meet federal reliability criteria, which usually means a reserve margin of 15% more power than the load requires at a given time. More often than not, VREs are unable to meet this threshold. A study by GE Energy Consulting and NREL found that in the U.S.’s Western Interconnect, variable renewables—at maximum peak—can provide only 55%-60% of the region’s electricity without risking the stability of the entire system.

The problem goes back to capacity factor. In California, for example, the average wind turbine produces around 28% of its rated capacity because the wind is so variable.  So if you have to ensure power all the time, you need some serious back-up from always-available sources. For instance, JP Morgan analyzed projected energy scenarios in renewable-heavy California and Germany, assuming 80% of electricity demand is met by renewables by 2050. Their analysis finds that in a renewables heavy grid, there will be substantial periods of unmet demand that will likely be filled by natural gas and coal generation. As David Roberts put it: “Since the output of VRE plants cannot be predicted with perfect accuracy in day-ahead and day-of forecasts, grid operators have to keep excess reserve running just in case.” The issue here is “dispatchable capacity”: the amount of power that a systems operator can order-up to meet demand. That requires continued reliance on baseload power plants (nuclear, coal, gas). An MIT study came to the same conclusion in March of 2015 and a 2014 study from the UN found the same set of problems as penetration increases. The threat to grid stability posed by high VRE penetration was summed-up neatly by a separate study from UC-Berkeley:

It’s easy to appreciate the dilemma. A grid operator might want to use more VREs, but their job is to keep the power on at all times. If you’re in an elevator, an operating room, or an industrial site when the power goes off, you will not want to be told to wait for the wind to start blowing. This combination of problems relating to VREs’ capacity factor—escalating wasted electricity when renewables flood the grid and grid stability requirements when they aren’t doing enough—means that to approach an 80% renewables grid would require a massive overbuilding of both renewable capacity, storage, and load-switching. That all means that costs go up significantly for both renewables and back-up natural gas plants, which provide energy when demand peaks, as penetration rates increase.

_

Large-Scale Storage may not be ready in Time:

So if the principal problem with renewables is their variability, then perhaps energy storage can smooth out their supply curves and make them more like baseload power. This could happen at some point. But more innovation is required before storing electricity at utility-scale is close to becoming commercially viable, other than in a limited number of places using pumped storage. (Water is pumped up a hill at night using excess baseload power, and it generates hydro power when it flows back down during the day to meet peak demand.)

Can we build batteries bigger and make them feasible grid solutions anytime soon?

Despite the hopeful recent headlines, that’s not at all clear. Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson did a study that called for 605,400 MWs of new storage capacity to transition to an all-renewables portfolio. That is a lot of power to store—the equivalent of the output of 600 modern nuclear reactors. U.S. grid storage as of August 2013 was a fraction of that—just 24,600 MWs, and most of that was pump storage that cannot be readily expanded. We would need to increase storage capacity nearly 25-fold, using technology that we don’t yet have. While pump storage is limited by geography, electrochemical batteries using lithium-ion, lead acid, or sodium sulphur still need to overcome various energy density, performance, charging, and cost issues. Even cutting-edge, much discussed battery technology still pales in comparison to the scope of the challenge. So while Tesla’s Powerpack is pretty extraordinary by contemporary standards—it can store the equivalent of 100 standard car batteries— scaling-up nationally would be rather daunting in the face of the costs required to get there. For example, according to a thought experiment by journalist Will Boisvert, providing power to the entire country for just 34 hours would require 160 million Powerpacks and would cost $4 trillion for the Powerpacks alone, not including installation.  Granted, this is more than we would need—the entire grid would be unlikely to lose both wind and sun power all at once. But whatever the real number we’d have to deploy to be safe, the amount of storage required to back up a large portion of a VRE-heavy grid would be enormous.

_

Massive Investments in Transmission would be needed:

On top of all this, a significant challenge is that renewable resources are not where people live. Areas of the U.S. with ample wind and solar tend to have few people—think the plains of Texas, the Montana prairie, and the Nevada desert. To get the power to the people, we would need new transmission lines. This could end up costing a tremendous amount. The Department of Energy (DOE), NREL, and others have studied integrating wind as 20% of the electricity system. (Again, 20% wind is pretty low if we’re shooting for an 80% VRE grid). The DOE study estimated the cost of expanded transmission at $23 billion, while a similar study by American Electric Power (AEP) estimates such a system would require investments on the order of $60 billion. The even more recent Joint Coordinated System Plan estimated that integrating 20% wind into most of the eastern U.S. electricity system would cost up to $80 billion. Whichever study you believe, the bottom line is that transmission costs for 20% wind generation would be incredibly high.

And that’s just for wind power. We’d face similar cost challenges expanding utility-scale solar in the remote deserts of the Southwest, home to America’s best solar resources.  Supposing that the U.S. met 70% of its electricity demand through solar by 2050, a study by the National Academies Press found that this would require an approximate 3,000 GW of added solar capacity. The study concluded that the market would not bear the costs of such an expansion and asserted that the solar plan would require a federal subsidy of $426 billion. That is roughly the initial cost (in 2015 dollars) of the entire interstate highway system, which is more than 40,000 miles long.

But it’s not just cost that blocks the way. Renewables also take up a lot of room relative to their energy generation capacity. For instance, the scenario with 70% solar would cover 46,000 square miles of the Southwest U.S. (the size of Mississippi) and would need additional space for energy storage to address variability issues. How does land use for renewables compare with other forms of generation? Well, to produce electricity for 1,000 households per year, solar requires 8.4 acres and wind needs 6 acres, while baseload nuclear (0.69 acres), coal (0.74 acres), and natural gas (0.39 acres) are an order of magnitude lower. The large amount of land needed for renewables can raise a variety of local concerns about the loss of other recreational uses of land, vistas, and impact on wildlife.

_

Replacement cost of existing non-renewable energy with renewables:

To replace all of the nuclear, coal, and natural gas currently generating electricity around the world in a timeframe necessary to mitigate climate change would require building 20,000-30,000 GW of new generation by 2030 and over 50,000 by 2050. To put that in perspective, a nuclear plant produces one GW and costs about $10 billion; we are talking about producing enough power to match 50,000 of them. The authors of one aggressive, renewables-only plan assume costs “on the order of $100 trillion worldwide, over 20 years, not including transmission.” By way of comparison, the GDP of the entire world in 2013 was $74 trillion, less than ¾ of the cost of renewables-only energy.

However, significant carbon emission reductions do not have to be so costly. For example, in the case of Germany and California, JP Morgan finds that a balanced approach that embraces other low-carbon energy technologies can be just as effective while costing much less. Similarly, a study from the University of Adelaide found that it costs 50% more to address climate change without deploying nuclear. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) determined that it would cost up to 138% more to fight climate change without carbon capture and storage (CCS)—compared to a cost increase of just 6% if there is limited penetration of renewables.

On a global level, it is unlikely that renewables can reach high penetrations at an acceptable cost and in a timeframe that prevents runaway climate change. Even in the US, the technical and economic challenges of a mostly renewables energy portfolio are overwhelming. When combined with the obvious political challenge of expending those kinds of resources in the fight against climate change—a fight that many leaders of one major political party still deny we should take on—it is clear that it won’t happen here either.

_

In a nutshell:

Renewables are improving, and their share of the grid can and must go up—hopefully reaching a substantial share of capacity. But we also must aggressively pursue other low carbon sources that can bring large quantities of baseload power to the grid in the right places and in cost-effective ways. That means adding carbon capture and sequestration to fossil plants and building new and advanced nuclear plants. To get there, we will have to invest in them and not place all of our money, innovation, and political efforts on the hope of U.S. and global grids powered only by the wind and sun.

________

________

Nuclear energy to combat climate change:

Nuclear energy is a divisive topic. It offers zero carbon emissions at the cost of a potential meltdown. Increasing attention has been paid to the potential of using thorium for nuclear fission instead of uranium. According to some estimates, thorium reactors could produce only a thousandth of the waste of current reactors. It’s also much harder to weaponize. Alternately, some researchers hope to do away with fission altogether. Science fiction writers have long dreamed humanity might be able to harness nuclear fusion, the same process that powers the sun. Fusion reactors wouldn’t have the same risk of explosion as fission reactors, and the process would release three to four times the amount of energy.

_

Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy:

The advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy have made this energy source one of the most controversial on the market today. Advocates for and against nuclear energy are equally passionate about their causes. Understanding the pros and cons of this energy source can help you make a more informed decision about your own energy use. Nuclear energy is used to produce electricity. Heat generated from the splitting of uranium atoms in a process known as fission is used to produce steam. This steam in turn powers turbines, which are used to produce the electricity that supplies the surrounding community. Nuclear power stations are set up in a multiple-step process that has been designed to help contain the energy and many of its negative by-products. This process alone is the base of several advantages and disadvantages for this energy source.

Advantages of Nuclear Energy:

Despite potential drawbacks and the controversy that surrounds it, nuclear energy does have a few advantages over some other methods of energy production.

  1. Expense

Less uranium is needed to produce the same amount of energy as coal or oil, which lowers the cost of producing the same amount of energy. Uranium is also less expensive to procure and transport, which further lowers the cost.

  1. Reliability

When a nuclear power plant is functioning properly, it can run uninterrupted for up to 540 days. This results in fewer brownouts or other power interruptions. The running of the plant is also not contingent of weather or foreign suppliers, which makes it more stable than other forms of energy.

  1. No Greenhouse Gases

While nuclear energy does have some emissions, the plant itself does not give off greenhouse gasses. Studies have shown that what life-cycle emissions that the plants do give off are on par with renewable energy sources such as wind power. This lack of greenhouse gases can be very attractive to some consumers.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy:

One of the reasons that nuclear energy falls under fire so frequently is due to the many disadvantages it brings.

  1. Raw Material

Uranium is used in the process of fission because it’s a naturally unstable element. This means that special precautions must be taken during the mining, transporting and storing of the uranium, as well as the storing of any waste product to prevent it from giving off harmful levels of radiation.

  1. Water Pollutant

Nuclear fission chambers are cooled by water. This water is then turned into steam, which is used to power the turbines. When the water cools enough to change back into liquid form, it is pumped outside into nearby wetlands. While measures are taken to ensure that no radiation is being pumped into the environment, other heavy metals and pollutants can make their way out of the chamber. The immense heat given off by this water can also be damaging to eco systems located nearby the reactor.

  1. Waste

When the uranium has finished splitting, the resulting radioactive by-products need to be removed. While recycling efforts of this waste product have been undertaken in recent years, the storage of the by-product could lead to contamination through leaks or containment failures.

  1. Leaks

Nuclear reactors are built with several safety systems designed to contain the radiation given off in the fission process. When these safety systems are properly installed and maintained, they function adequately. When they are not maintained, have structural flaws or were improperly installed, a nuclear reactor could release harmful amounts of radiation into the environment during the process of regular use. If a containment field were to rupture suddenly, the resulting leak of radiation could be catastrophic.

  1. Shutdown Reactors

There have been several nuclear reactors that have failed and been shutdown that are still in existence. These abandoned reactors are taking up valuable land space, could be contaminating the areas surrounding them, yet are often too unstable to be removed.

______

Nuclear power debate:

The nuclear power debate is a long-running controversy about the risks and benefits of using nuclear reactors to generate electricity for civilian purposes. The debate about nuclear power peaked during the 1970s and 1980s, as more and more reactors were built and came online, and “reached an intensity unprecedented in the history of technology controversies” in some countries. Thereafter, the nuclear industry created jobs, focused on safety and public concerns mostly waned. In the last decade, however, with growing public awareness about climate change and the critical role that carbon dioxide and methane emissions play in causing the heating of the earth’s atmosphere, there’s been resurgence in the intensity nuclear power debate once again. Nuclear power advocates and those who are most concerned about climate change point to nuclear power’s reliable, emission-free, high-density energy and a generation of young physicists and engineers working to bring a new generation of nuclear technology into existence to replace fossil fuels. On the other hand, skeptics can point to two frightening nuclear accidents, the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and subsequently the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, combined with escalating acts of global terrorism, to argue against continuing use of the technology.

_

Proponents of nuclear energy argue that nuclear power is a clean and sustainable energy source which provides huge amounts of uninterrupted energy without polluting the air or emitting the carbon emissions that cause Global warming. Use of nuclear power provides plentiful, well-paying jobs, energy security, reduces a dependence on imported fuels and exposure to price risks associated with resource speculation and Middle East politics. Proponents advance the notion that nuclear power produces virtually no air pollution, in contrast to the massive amount of pollution and carbon emission generated from burning Fossil fuel like coal, oil and natural gas. Modern society demands always-on energy to power communications, computer networks, transportation, industry and residences at all times of day and night. In the absence of nuclear power, utilities need to burn fossil fuels to keep the energy grid reliable, even with access to solar and wind energy, because those sources are intermittent. Proponents also believe that nuclear power is the only viable course for a country to achieve energy independence while also meeting their “ambitious” NDC’s (nationally determined contributions) to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement signed by 195 nations. They emphasize that the risks of storing waste are small and existing stockpiles can be reduced by using this waste to produce fuels for the latest technology in newer reactors. Finally, even though alarmist media reports of nuclear accidents raised fear levels a lot, in fact the Chernobyl disaster caused 56 direct deaths and Fukushima reactors caused no actual deaths as a result of the nuclear meltdown. The operational safety record of nuclear is excellent when compared to the other major kinds of power plants and by preventing pollution, actually saves lives every year.

_

Opponents say that nuclear power poses numerous threats to people and the environment and point to studies in the literature that question if it will ever be a sustainable energy source. These threats include health risks, accidents and environmental damage from uranium mining, processing and transport. Along with the fears associated with nuclear weapons proliferation, nuclear power opponents fear sabotage by terrorists of nuclear plants, diversion and misuse of radioactive fuels or fuel waste, as well as naturally-occurring leakage from the unsolved and imperfect long-term storage process of radioactive nuclear waste. They also contend that reactors themselves are enormously complex machines where many things can and do go wrong, and there have been many serious nuclear accidents. Critics do not believe that these risks can be reduced through new technology. They further argue that when all the energy-intensive stages of the nuclear fuel chain are considered, from uranium mining to nuclear decommissioning, nuclear power is not a low-carbon electricity source.

______

Nuclear power is only solution to climate change, says Jeffrey Sachs:

Earth Institute director says urgency of problem and immaturity of renewable energy industry leave little option but nuclear. Combating climate change will require an expansion of nuclear power, respected economist Jeffrey Sachs said recently, in remarks that are likely to dismay some sections of the environmental movement. Prof Sachs said atomic energy was needed because it provided a low-carbon source of power, while renewable energy was not making up enough of the world’s energy mix and new technologies such as carbon capture and storage were not progressing fast enough. “We won’t meet the carbon targets if nuclear is taken off the table,” he said. He said coal was likely to continue to be cheaper than renewables and other low-carbon forms of energy, unless the effects of the climate were taken into account. “Fossil fuel prices will remain low enough to wreck [low-carbon energy] unless you have incentives and [carbon] pricing,” he told the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Manila. A group of four prominent UK environmentalists, including Jonathon Porritt and former heads of Friends of the Earth UK Tony Juniper and Charles Secrett, have been campaigning against nuclear power in recent weeks, arguing that it is unnecessary, dangerous and too expensive. Porritt told the Guardian: “It [nuclear power] cannot possibly deliver – primarily for economic reasons. Nuclear reactors are massively expensive. They take a long time to build. And even when they’re up and running, they’re nothing like as reliable as the industry would have us believe.” But Sachs said the world had no choice because the threat of climate change had grown so grave. He said greenhouse gas emissions, which have continued to rise despite the financial crisis and deep recession in the developed world, were “nowhere near” falling to the level that would be needed to avert dangerous climate change. He said: “Emissions per unit of energy need to fall by a factor of six. That means electrifying everything that can be electrified and then making electricity largely carbon-free. It requires renewable energy, nuclear and carbon capture and storage – these are all very big challenges. We need to understand the scale of the challenge.”

_______

The real economics of nuclear power:

If there is any area of power generation that has more hype and spin than ‘renweables’ associated with it, it is nuclear power. If someone drops a cigarette butt in a pot of paint thinners in a factory, and starts a fire, it rates two lines in the local paper. If two workers get blistered fingers in a nuclear power plant it rates headlines internationally. Those whose job it is to promote renewable energy are well aware that the greatest threat to their narrative comes from real fact based analysis of nuclear power. So leaving aside for now all the hype and concern about safety, decommissioning and waste disposal, how does nuclear power stack up? The worst case new nuclear build is at Okiluoto, and it’s been a fertile hunting ground for the anti-nuclear campaign being used to show that ‘nuclear is always more expensive that you think , and ‘its way more expensive than wind’. And yet, we can use these figures to estimate the cost of nuclear power. £3bn a GW. Leading to a cost of around £0.09p per unit, running into baseload. And if – unlike the cost of renewable energy, which stubbornly refuses to reduce its costs – more new generation reactors are built, those costs – which overran because of mistakes made in the construction – should be reducible by a considerable amount. That is cheaper than even the headline cost of wind calculated by ignoring the intermittency and the indirect costs. Even the costs of a totally nuclear grid running in dispatched mode at 50% average capacity factor would only double the cost to a similar figure to the true cost of onshore wind power when calculated as an adjunct to a gas powered grid.

  1. Nuclear power beats onshore wind power on every single metric ever seen used to advance the case for renewable energy
  2. Using similar costs of capital and reasonable maintenance costs, it’s cheaper than onshore wind. And way cheaper than solar PV, tidal, or offshore wind.
  3. It offers tremendous energy security by stockpiling, recycling or even breeding nuclear fuel. Renewable energy depends on fossil fuel to function.
  4. It has been (even with Chernobyl) the safest power generation technology in terms of associated death rates of any, per unit power generated. Way better than renewable energy.
  5. It completely displaces fossil power off the grid and offers high penetration zero carbon operation at reasonable costs. Renewable starts expensive, and gets more expensive the more its deployed, and can never realistically get to more than 30% grid capacity without spiralling cost and reducing efficacy. And requires that all fossil plant be retained and even more be built.
  6. Power density is high enough that, in the case of the United Kingdom only about 20 nuclear power stations could take care of the entire baseload, replacing coal, and reducing emissions on the grid by 50% or more. The actual footprint covered would be massively less than any renewable solution thus releasing land for other uses like agriculture, or human habitation.
  7. Power stations could be sited close to where the demand is, eliminating or severely curtailing the need for any grid expansion. There simply isn’t the space or the conditions to site ‘renewable solutions’ close to demand.

In short it is – apart from costing 50% more than coal or gas in today’s heavily regulated environment – the ideal solution to zero carbon generation or generation in the absence of fossil fuels.

If nuclear is – and on the evidence it is – simply a better cheaper way of generating low carbon electricity, it completely destroys the case for renewable energy.

Safety, waste disposal, and decommissioning:

When people who are opposed to nuclear power are questioned, they raise the four horsemen of the alleged nuclear apocalypse, the cost, the safety, the disposal of nuclear waste, and the problem of decommissioning. It has been dealt with the raw costs of supplying nuclear power, and found it to be in isolation if not currently cost effective compared with current fossil prices, certainly far more cost effective than any renewable power alternative. And it has been also shown that it represents a far lower impact on the landscape, environment and infrastructure than renewable energy.

  1. Let’s look first at decommissioning. The cheap way to decommission a reactor and still keep any radioactive release to approximately zero, is first to remove the used fuel rods. As is done in any routine refuelling exercise. Those are then taken to interim storage – typically water tanks – where the highly radioactive by products of fission decay into stable compounds over a period of a few years. After which time the fuel rods are reprocessed into new fuel (most of the fuel in a fuel rod is not used: The reaction stops when they become poisoned by the creation of new elements that inhibit the reaction) and a small quantity of high level waste that cannot be reused in current reactor designs (although there is a strong probability that they can be burnt in 5th generation reactors that are under discussions). What is left over is either very very small (the odd long lived radio nuclide that can’t be used as fuel) or not especially radioactive (the casings of the fuel rods are of course contaminated with various elements generated by being bombarded with neutrons, but mostly these decay rapidly to stable compounds). In fact the general principle is, the more dangerously radioactive something is, the quicker it decays into something that is not. As far as dealing with the rest of the reactor – well there’s a fair bit of water used in a reactor and that needs storing for a few years until its radioactivity subsides, and a few gases in it as well that need a few years to lose radioactivity as well. And likewise the containment vessels of concrete and steel contain transmuted elements that need to decay, but a few years – a decade or two – results in a reactor shell and materials that are so non-radioactive that it’s perfectly possible to go in with normal power tools and knock the thing down without having to take any special precautions beyond the normal ones in place for demolition of any other industrial structure.
  2. When discussing safety, of course everybody knows that at Fukushima, a tsunami that killed upwards of 20,000 people elsewhere killed two people. And crippled a reactor which subsequently killed no one, although a large area was evacuated as a precaution. And, as previously pointed out, the whole of that evacuation area could have been covered in windmills and still not done the same job, rendering it permanently uninhabitable. You may be able to live close to wind turbines but no one lives under them. Fukushima showed more than anything how safe nuclear power is, as every single system worked correctly: It withstood the earthquake and correctly shut itself down. It even withstood the tsunami. The sole failure was in fact the flooding of the diesel generators. The ensuing core meltdown was correctly contained. Warnings got out in time, iodine pills were issued. And evacuation was managed. Even though the calculations are that more people died from being forced to evacuate than would have died from any slight radiation. A nuclear accident of some sort or another is always possible. Nothing is perfect, but the reality is that with the sole exception of Chernobyl, which was a poorly built reactor to a flawed design that was handled totally incompetently, no one has died from nuclear related causes from the nuclear power industry. And the lessons learnt from Chernobyl and Fukushima are not how dangerous nuclear power is, but how safe it is. Despite releases of stellar magnitudes, very few people have died at Chernobyl. That was a big reactor whose guts were totally exposed and burnt for several days. The hottest and most biologically active (radiological) parts of the release were gone relatively quickly. No one died at Three Mile Island and the radioactive release caused no real issues. A properly built reactor did what its designers intended, and contained a core meltdown as it should. Nuclear materials are dangerous, but they are nowhere as dangerous as they are presented. Reactor design is better, with passive cooling (which would have eliminated Fukushima problems) being adopted in many designs, but the real lesson of Fukushima is how an incident that was, (in the context of the whole tsunami disaster), completely trivial, got world attention, and put the program of nuclear power back a decade. Causing countries to adopt fossil fuel solutions instead, increasing world emissions. Meanwhile reactors in Japan are restarting and resuming construction. Japan knows it has no real alternative. Hence the dithering about policy.

______

How Nuclear Power can Stop Global Warming:

In addition to reducing the risk of nuclear war, U.S. reactors have also been staving off another global challenge: climate change. The low-carbon electricity produced by such reactors provides 20 percent of the nation’s power and, by the estimates of climate scientist James Hansen of Columbia University, avoided 64 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution. They also avoided spewing soot and other air pollution like coal-fired power plants do and thus have saved some 1.8 million lives. And that’s why Hansen, among others, such as former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, thinks that nuclear power is a key energy technology to fend off catastrophic climate change. “We can’t burn all these fossil fuels,” Hansen says, noting that as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy source they will continue to be burned. “Coal is almost half the [global] emissions. If you replace these power plants with modern, safe nuclear reactors you could do a lot of [pollution reduction] quickly.” Indeed, he has evidence: the speediest drop in greenhouse gas pollution on record occurred in France in the 1970s and ‘80s, when that country transitioned from burning fossil fuels to nuclear fission for electricity, lowering its greenhouse emissions by roughly 2 percent per year. The world needs to drop its global warming pollution by 6 percent annually to avoid “dangerous” climate change in the estimation of Hansen and his co-authors in a recent paper in PLoS One. “On a global scale, it’s hard to see how we could conceivably accomplish this without nuclear,” added economist and co-author Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, where Hansen works.

The only problem: the world is not building so many nuclear reactors.

China leads the world in new nuclear reactors, with 29 currently under construction and another 59 proposed, according to the World Nuclear Association. And China has not confined itself solely to the typical reactors that employ water and uranium fuel rods; it has built everything from heavy-water reactors originally designed in Canada to a small test fast-reactor. Yet, even if every planned reactor in China was to be built, the country would still rely on burning coal for more than 50 percent of its electric power.

_

Nuclear requires emissions of greenhouse gases for construction, including steel and cement as well as the enrichment of uranium ore required to make nuclear fuel. Over the full lifetime of a nuclear power plant, that means greenhouse gas emissions of roughly 12 grams of CO2-equivalent per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, the same as wind turbines (which also require steel, plastics, rare earths and the like in their construction) and less than photovoltaic panels, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

_

A big problem is cost. The construction of large nuclear power plants requires a lot of money to ensure safety and reliability. For example, for the U.S. to derive one quarter of its total energy supply from nuclear would require building roughly 1,000 new reactors (both to replace old ones and expand the fleet). At today’s prices for the two AP-1000 reactors being built in Georgia, such an investment would cost $7 trillion, although that total bill might shrink with an order of that magnitude.

_

New dawn:

Nuclear reactors are beginning to get the kind of scientific attention not seen since at least the end of the cold war. Novel designs with alternative cooling fluids other than water, such as Transatomic Power’s molten salt–cooled reactor or the liquid lead–bismuth design from Hyperion Power, are in development. Alternative concepts have attracted funding from billionaires like Bill Gates. Transatomic Power even won the top prize from energy investors at the 2013 summit of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, or ARPA–E, in 2013. “The intellectual power of what’s been done in the nuclear space should allow for radical designs that meet tough requirements,” Gates told ARPA–E’s 2012 summit, noting that the modelling power of today’s supercomputers should allow even more innovation. “When you have fission, you have a million times more energy than when you burn hydrocarbons. That’s a nice advantage to have.”

_

Hansen, for one, argues that abundant, clean energy is necessary to lift people out of poverty and begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a swelling human population. Nuclear is one of the technologies available today—and with room for significant improvement and innovation. In that sense, natural gas is a bridge fuel to disaster, even with some form of CO2 capture and storage, and the world must immediately transition to renewables and nuclear. But significant hurdles remain, not least the decades required for design, licensing and construction of even existing nuclear technologies, let alone novel ideas. That may mean advanced nuclear power cannot contribute much to efforts to combat climate change in the near term, which leaves current reactor technology as the only short-term nuclear option—and one that is infrequently employed at the global scale at present.

_______

Could nuclear fission energy, etc., solve the greenhouse problem? The affirmative case:

For effective climate change mitigation, the global use of fossil fuels for electricity generation, transportation and other industrial uses, will need to be substantially curtailed this century. In a recent Viewpoint in Energy Policy, Trainer (2010) argued that non-carbon energy sources will be insufficient to meet this goal, due to cost, variability, energy storage requirements and other technical limitations. However, his dismissal of nuclear fission energy was cursory and inadequate. Here author argues that fossil fuel replacement this century could, on technical grounds, be achieved via a mix of fission, renewables and fossil fuels with carbon sequestration, with a high degree of electrification, and nuclear supplying over half of final energy. Author shows that the principal limitations on nuclear fission are not technical, economic or fuel-related, but are instead linked to complex issues of societal acceptance, fiscal and political inertia, and inadequate critical evaluation of the real-world constraints facing low-carbon alternatives.

______

______

Nuclear power is no solution to Climate Change:

Here are the arguments:

  1. Nuclear power is not panacea for global warming:

“Saying that nuclear power can solve global warming by itself is way over the top”.

— Senior International Atomic Energy Agency energy analyst Alan McDonald, 2004.

Nuclear power could at most make a modest contribution to climate change abatement. The main limitation is that it is used almost exclusively for electricity generation, which accounts for less than 25% of global (anthropogenic) greenhouse emissions. Doubling current nuclear capacity would reduce emissions by roughly 6% if nuclear displaced coal. A 2007 report by the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) states that if nuclear power grew approximately three-fold to about 1000 GWe (gigawatt electricity) in 2050, the increase in global greenhouse emissions projected in business-as-usual scenarios could be reduced by about 10−20% − assuming that nuclear displaced coal.

_

  1. Nuclear power does emit greenhouse gases:

Claims that nuclear power is ‘greenhouse free’ are false. Nuclear power is more greenhouse intensive than most renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures. Life-cycle greenhouse emissions from nuclear power will increase as relatively high-grade uranium ores are mined out and give way to the mining of lower-grade ores. Greenhouse emissions arise across the nuclear fuel cycle – uranium mining, milling, conversion, and enrichment; reactor construction, refurbishment and decommissioning; waste management (e.g. reprocessing, and/or encasement in glass or cement); and transportation of uranium, spent fuel, etc.

In a 2008 ground-breaking study Sovacool screened 103 lifecycle studies of greenhouse emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle to identify the most current, original, and transparent studies. He found that the mean value from those studies was 66 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (gCO2e/kWh).

Sovacool’s paper provides the following figures (gCO2e/kWh):

Wind 9−10
Hydro 10−13
Biogas 11
Solar thermal 13
Biomass 14−31
Solar PV 32
Biomass 35−41
Geothermal 38
Nuclear 66
Natural gas 443
Diesel 778
Heavy oil 778
Coal 960−1050

In a 2009 paper prepared for the Australian Uranium Association, academic Manfred Lenzen concluded that life-cycle greenhouse emissions for nuclear power range from 10−130 gCO2e/kWh with the main variables being ore grades, enrichment technology, reactor fuel re-load frequency and burn-up, and to a lesser extent enrichment level, plant lifetime, load factors, and enrichment tails assay.

_

  1. Nuclear weapons proliferation:

Global expansion of nuclear power would inevitably involve the growth and spread of stockpiles of weapons-useable fissile material and the facilities to produce fissile materials (enrichment plants for highly enriched uranium; and reactors and reprocessing plants for plutonium). Global expansion of nuclear power would lead to an increase in the number of ‘threshold’ or ‘breakout’ nuclear states which could quickly produce weapons drawing on expertise, facilities and materials from their ‘civil’ nuclear program. A regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan using less than 0.3% of the current global arsenal would produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history and global ozone depletion equal in size to the current hole in the ozone, only spread out globally.”

_

  1. Renewables and Energy Efficiency can combat global warming:

Global renewable power capacity more than doubled from 2004 to 2014 (and non-hydro renewables grew 8-fold). Over that decade, and the one before it, nuclear power flatlined. Global renewable capacity (including hydro) is 4.6 times greater than nuclear capacity, and renewable electricity generation more than doubles nuclear generation. A growing body of research demonstrates the potential for renewables to largely supplant fossil fuels for power supply globally. Energy efficiency and renewables are the Twin Pillars of a clean energy future. A University of Cambridge study concluded that 73% of global energy use could be saved by energy efficiency and conservation measures − making it far easier to achieve a low-carbon, non-nuclear future.

The Union of Concerned Scientists argued in a 2013 report about renewables and energy efficiency:

“Low-carbon power is not necessarily water-smart. Electricity mixes that emphasise carbon capture and storage for coal plants, nuclear energy, or even water-cooled renewables such as some geothermal, biomass, or concentrating solar could worsen rather than lessen the sector’s effects on water. That said, renewables and energy efficiency can be a winning combination. This scenario would be most effective in reducing carbon emissions, pressure on water resources, and electricity bills. Energy efficiency efforts could more than meet growth in demand for electricity in the US, and renewable energy could supply 80% of the remaining demand.”

_

  1. Lack of skilled people to handle so many reactors:

No matter how fast you try to build new nuclear plants, there aren’t enough engineers and technicians with the required expertise to build the number of nuclear power plants needed during the next 30 years just to replace the existing nuclear power plants set to go off line, let alone build 1,000 new power reactors in the U.S. alone.

_

  1. Growth of nuclear power too low to curb climate change:

An International Atomic Energy Agency conference statement said nuclear power is not attracting enough investment to limit climate change, and more clarity from policymakers may be needed to support its development. The statement suggested that one way to spur growth of nuclear power and help meet the goal of limiting global average temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius would be to include nuclear energy in definitions of clean energy incentives. Fewer than 10 countries currently do so. Without constructing 20 to 30 nuclear power plants per year we cannot fulfil our obligations on climate change and stop increasing average temperatures.

_____

_____

Division of climate change community:

The climate-change community is strongly divided on a number of issues: there is disagreement, first, between those who propose carbon taxes and those who propose cap-and-trade policies; second, between those who propose a large use of nuclear energy as a mode of clean energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and those who believe nuclear energy has too many problems to be used for this purpose; third, between those who propose geoengineering as a way to prevent catastrophic global warming and those who are opposed to this; fourth, between those who think the prevention of climate change catastrophes is compatible with economic growth, or with the market economy more generally, and those who think it is not. James Hansen, Tom Wigley, Paul Krugman and Daniel Tanuro are public figures who illustrate these divisions, which are extremely important for climate-change activism.

_

James Hansen has long advocated taxing fossil fuels to reduce carbon emissions. By doing so, he has found himself opposing not only climate change deniers, but also many politicians, businessmen, and economists who favor so-called cap-and-trade policies. A carbon tax implies making fossil fuels more expensive, which presumably would create incentives to reduce their use and promote the use of zero-emission sources of energy. Contrarily, a cap-and-trade scheme starts by giving polluters permits to emit given quantities of CO2; then a cap on emissions is set and in following years this cap will be reduced, supposedly creating a market for businesses, so that those who have developed strategies to reduce emissions will be able to make a profit by selling the permits they do not need, all of which will supposedly lead to reductions in emissions. Experience with implementation of a carbon tax is very limited. The Canadian province of British Columbia has tried this, but a carbon tax never has been attempted in any national economy. Schemes for cap-and-trade of CO2 emissions, on the other hand, have been tried in the European Union, Australia, Canada, and California. Looking at the results of these cap-and-trade experiments, it is hard to deny that they have been completely unsuccessful in reducing emissions. That is certainly the opinion of James Hansen, who also thinks that these cap-and-trade schemes for CO2 emissions are “popular” among politicians and bankers because they open up nice opportunities for corporations and banks to make windfall gains from trading permits. The Australian economist Clive Spash has provided substantial evidence that Hansen is right on this issue. The carbon tax that Hansen advocates has sometimes been criticized by left-wing intellectuals as a regressive tax. This is a dubious criticism because taxes against tobacco, alcohol, and sugared beverages are also regressive, but that does not diminish their enormous value in favoring the health of precisely those people who are most affected by the tax.

_

The full-scale nuclearization that Hansen proposes meets with strong opposition not only among environmental activists and organizations but also among many intellectuals who view nuclear energy as risky and incompatible with any decent model of society (perhaps not by chance, the strongest rebuttal to Hansen’s defense of nuclear energy came from a group of Japanese scientists). Hansen argues that electricity is greatly needed above all by poor countries, and that new models of nuclear plants have neither the risks of accident nor produce the nuclear garbage that plagued former plants. He advocates nuclear plants built to a standard design, which would make them cheaper and less susceptible to accident, as floating islands attached to the coast, so that any major accident might sink the plant, but would not generate major land contamination as in Chernobyl and Fukujima.

_

On the one hand, by advocating nuclear energy Hansen has put himself at odds with activists and organizations in the environmental and conservationist fields; on the other hand, by criticizing cap-and-trade schemes for CO2 and condemning the Paris agreement as a fig leaf to cover the ass of governments that are actually doing nothing to prevent climate catastrophe, Hansen has put himself at odds with politicians, supporters of cap-and-trade schemes and other liberal economists who advocate these climate-change policies. Hansen’s position has evolved in this way toward a tragic and isolated stance that perhaps illustrates how ominous is the issue at hand. One of the climate change scientists who joined Hansen in signing the letter in favor of using nuclear energy to prevent climate change was the Australian physicist Tom Wigley. According to published reports, Wigley had a major role in developing the climate-change science that is behind the reports of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His advocacy of nuclear power to prevent catastrophic climate change suggests a tendency to look for technological solutions to social problems.

______

______

Nuclear power ought to be key part of green energy mix:

There are many questions and rumours and sometimes misconceptions, whether intentionally or unintentionally about the harmful and enormous danger of using nuclear energy. Although we have ample solar energy and wind energy, those who promote these renewable concepts have neglected the rest of the truth related to the characteristics of electricity consumption and the need for sustainable electricity. The obvious fact is that drastic adjustments are required to the energy mix that will form the basis of the future economy that does not depend on hydrocarbons for normal operation. The key question that is just what that energy mix is going to be that could sustainable provide for humanity’s energy needs while also preserving the environment. While renewables are generally regarded as the solution, the definition of what does and what does not qualify as renewable energy, tends to focus on sources such as wind, solar, biomass hydro power sources while neglecting or downplaying the role of nuclear power. Many experts believe this line of thinking is both unfair and detrimental to the effort of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and combating climate change, in which nuclear power and other renewables should be teaming up rather than competing.

_

The capacity of electricity source should be more than 50 per cent of the maximum loads which isn’t supported by renewable energy. On the other hand, the continuity of the wind throughout the day and even throughout the year or tens of years is inconsistent, and there are periods of stillness. What is the alternative of these sources? There is no conflict between different energy sources but there must be integration. We can achieve maximum benefits from energy mix at appropriate cost. There is an urgent need to clarify these facts with complete transparency and without conflict and the need for a clear and wise media discourse.  And actual data speaks quite clearly for nuclear power being an essential part of the global energy mix that can sustain and support humanity’s growing electricity demands without reliance on hydrocarbons. In a scientific paper Burden of Proof, a group of Australian researchers led by Ben Heard, Executive Director of climate change think tank Bright New World, examine 28 different global energy consumption scenarios and how renewables such as wind and solar perform in terms of supplying power under these scenarios. Notably, of the 28 scenarios analysed in the report, only two simulated power supply to periods of under 1 hour – that is, the baseload power supply that is critical to the functioning of any economy and even those did not take into account the exponentially growing demand for electricity worldwide. The conclusion of the report was unequivocal – renewables, at least for the observable future, are even theoretically unable to form the basis of any country’s energy mix.

_

This leaves nuclear power, which is uniquely capable of producing clean energy in a stable and reliable manner regardless of the weather and other external conditions, as the only viable alternative to hydrocarbons in supplying baseload power for humankind’s needs. This conclusion is borne out by the realities that the world’s countries are increasingly coming to face, In the UK, the country’s electricity network operator, National Grid, has estimated that, in to meet the 2 deg C target set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the UK needs to build 14.5 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2035, this being the only scenario where the carbon reduction goals are met. Then there is the case of Germany, whose rejection of nuclear power as part of the Energiewende policy has already cost the German economy and taxpayers more than $200 billion in subsidies for renewables, doubling the electricity tariffs, while failing to reduce the country’s emissions. Dr Mohamed Mounir Megahed, independent technical consultant, Nuclear Energy Applications, said: “Renewable energy resources can play an important role in the energy mix of any country and can reduce the adverse environmental impacts of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal), but they are not a reliable alternatives for these sources of energy or even for nuclear energy that provides electricity 24/7.” In addition, there are several problems related to the use of renewable sources of energy, including problems related to the nature of the source itself, and technological problems related to the development of various technological options, and economic problems related to the cost of different renewable energy systems.

_

As a result, the alternative to nuclear energy is not renewable energy but fossil fuels (coal) and this is what happened in Germany, instead of reducing carbon emissions after these policies, they are steadily increasing. Not only that, but wind and solar have proved to be prone to catastrophic failures at times when the demand for electricity is highest. This January, for instance, heavy clouds and fog meant that Germany’s wind and solar power generation ground to a complete halt. Again, the deficit had to be made up through increased use of coal and gas – and nuclear, as the remaining operational NPPs were generating power at full capacity to keep the country’s economy running. In a reasonable approach to a sustainable energy economy, however, such trade-offs would be both self-defeating and unnecessary. Rather than pitting nuclear power against renewables, the world’s countries will benefit greatly by accepting nuclear as an integral part to form the basis of a low-carbon economy of the future, and learning to use it in combination with other renewables to create a truly sustainable energy mix. Dr Mohamed El Sobki, professor at the Engineering Faculty, Cairo University, said: “The importance of creating the ideal energy mix from different resources, if only sustainability and availability are valid. The objective is not diversification itself, but the sustainability of the resource is what matters most.”

______

______

2 degree or 1 degree:

Fed up with slow (or in some cases, backwards) progress on climate change, environmental advocates are mulling desperate measures. Emerging at the head of this pack is arguably the world’s most prominent climate scientist: James Hansen, a former NASA researcher turned activist. In a provocative study, Hansen and a group of colleagues make the case for why radical action is needed. The now commonly embraced international target of keeping global warming at a maximum of 2°C above pre-industrial levels—a hard-won, but politically negotiated goal—is actually much too high, Hansen says, and we should instead aim for 1°C. That would be barely a blip higher than current levels of global warming (around 0.8°C), but still the highest level ever experienced over the 10,000-year course of human civilization. “Our objective is to define what the science indicates is needed, not to assess political feasibility,” the paper says.

Why 1°C is the danger level:

Hansen’s main point is simple: If the Earth hasn’t experienced temperatures warmer than 1°C as a result of natural climate variability for at least the last 100,000 years, that’s probably about where we should draw our human-caused global warming line-in-the-sand. Beyond that point, things start to unravel pretty quickly.  As warming crosses 1°C, Hansen and his colleagues’ research shows that additional heat is stored mostly in the deep ocean, where it can remain locked away for hundreds or thousands of years. (Water circulates very slowly down there). That essentially locks in further climate change, even if emissions are drastically reduced later on, because that circulating water will continually replenish the surface with relative warmth from below. Additional warming will also begin to trigger feedbacks (melting permafrost, thawing methane) that will unleash additional greenhouse gases and drive further warming.

As warming approaches 2°C, it locks in an additional 10-20 meters of sea level rise over the next few hundred years—enough to flood every coastal city in the world. Ecosystem collapse would be virtually assured, as plants and animals that have evolved into precise niches over hundreds of thousands of years are forced to adapt to new conditions in just a decade or two. Even assuming we eventually stop emitting CO2 completely, reaching 2°C could, the study shows, mean we remain above 1°C for hundreds of years or more. And if warming goes over 2°C, Hansen and his colleagues present a familiar litany of climate impacts: mass extinctions, stronger storms, and increasingly severe effects for human health, along with “major dislocations for civilization.”

The study’s key takeaway is that unless CO2 emissions peak right about now—which they are clearly not doing—in just a few more years we will lock in a 2°C rather than a 1°C temperature rise. That will set climate impacts in motion for the next thousand years or so, barring advances in technology that are currently largely discredited as either too expensive or too impractical on the scale necessary to reverse the warming that’s already baked into the system. Hansen and his associates admonish the environmental community for doing the same things over and over again—advocating for renewable energy, recycling, and hybrid cars—and expecting different results. The change that is produced in this way is much, much too slow, they say. Their study concludes with what can only be characterized as a call to arms: a global challenge akin to the anti-slavery and civil rights movements, begging the world’s young people to disrupt their governments and demand immediate action on climate change.

Are there no other options?

Hansen and his co-authors argue there is a sliver of hope the world could stay near a 1°C goal if there were a bilateral agreement between the US and China—the world’s two biggest carbon emitters. Such a deal would need to immediately implement a gradually escalating carbon tax, rebate the revenue to its citizens equally per person, and place trade duties on any other country not willing to join in. That could quickly shift the world to a low-carbon economy, perhaps with enough cushion to prevent the most dangerous aspects of climate change. However, the authors dismiss this possibility as extremely unlikely. Another possible silver bullet, trusting technology to zap climate change by sucking carbon dioxide directly from the air is also a non-starter. Hansen et al calculate that the cost of immediately implementing free-air carbon capture, an unproven technology at large scale, would be around $50 trillion, though they admit that cost could come down a bit with future advances.

_____

_____

We are not doing enough says UN report in October 2017:

Governments should accept that we shall probably be living in a world 3 deg C warmer than it is today by the end of this century unless they urgently step up the speed at which they cut greenhouse gases, a United Nations assessment says. As things stand, the UN says, even fully implementing the goals of the Paris Agreement (concluded in 2015) will deliver only one third of what is needed for the world to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. CO2 emissions have remained stable since 2014, driven in part by renewable energy, notably in China and India, raising hopes that emissions have peaked, as they must by 2020 to remain on a successful climate trajectory. But the report warns that other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are still rising, and a global economic growth spurt could easily see CO2 emissions heading upwards again. The Emissions Gap report says current Paris pledges make 2030 emissions likely to reach 11 to 13.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) above the level needed to stay on the least-cost path to meeting the 2 deg C target. One gigatonne is roughly equivalent to one year of transport emissions in the European Union (including aviation). The emissions gap in the case of the 1.5 deg C target is 16 to 19 GtCO2e, higher than previous estimates as new studies have become available. Avoiding new coal-fired power plants, and faster phasing out of existing ones, would help. There are an estimated 6,683 operating coal-fired power plants in the world, with a combined capacity of 1,964 GW. If they work until the end of their lifetimes and are not retrofitted with carbon capture and storage, they will emit an accumulated 190 Gt of CO2. In early 2017, an additional 273 GW of coal-fired capacity was under construction and 570 GW planned. These new plants could lead to additional accumulated emissions of approximately 150 GtCO2. Ten countries make up approximately 85% of the entire coal pipeline: China, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea.

_____

_____

Scientists monitoring the Earth’s climate and environment have delivered a cascade of grim news this year:

  1. Earth’s average surface temperature last year was a record 1.1 degree Celsius (1.98 Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era.
  2. Many climate scientists argue that capping CO2 at 450 ppm offers a fighting chance at staying under the 2 C threshold. But others say the limit for a “climate safe” world is much lower, at about 350 ppm.
  3. Climate models predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer as early as 2030. At the other end of the world, Antarctic sea ice last year hit the lowest extent ever recorded by satellites. Earth’s two massive ice sheets — atop Greenland and Antarctica — are shedding 286 billion and 127 billion tonnes of mass per year, respectively.
  4. The number of climate-related extreme events — such as droughts, forest fires, floods and major storm surges — has doubled since 1990, research has shown.
  5. Sea level rise — caused mainly by water expanding as it warms, as well as runoff from ice sheets and glaciers — is now 3.4 millimetres (0.13 inches) per year. Since 1993, the global ocean watermark has gone up by 84.8 mm (3.3 inches).
  6. The last three Novembers — 2015, 2016, and 2017 — are the three warmest Novembers in 137 years of modern record-keeping.

_____

_____

Global warming’s worst-case projections look increasingly likely: December 2017 study:

A new study based on satellite observations finds that temperatures could rise nearly 5 °C by the end of the century. Global warming’s worst-case projections look increasingly likely, according to a new study that tested the predictive power of climate models against observations of how the atmosphere is actually behaving. The paper, published on 6/12/2017 in Nature, found that global temperatures could rise nearly 5 °C by the end of the century under the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s steepest  prediction for greenhouse-gas concentrations. That’s 15 percent hotter than the previous estimate. The odds that temperatures will increase more than 4 degrees by 2100 in this so-called “business as usual” scenario increased from 62 percent to 93 percent, according to the new analysis. Climate models are sophisticated software simulations that assess how the climate reacts to various influences. For this study, the scientists collected more than a decade’s worth of satellite observations concerning the amount of sunlight reflected back into space by things like clouds, snow, and ice; how much infrared radiation is escaping from Earth; and the net balance between the amount of energy entering and leaving the atmosphere. Then the researchers compared that “top-of-atmosphere” data with the results of earlier climate models to determine which ones most accurately predicted what the satellites actually observed.

_

The simulations that turned out to most closely match real-world observations of how energy flows in and out of the climate system were the ones that predicted the most warming this century. In particular, the study found, the models projecting that clouds will allow in more radiation over time, possibly because of decreased coverage or reflectivity, “are the ones that simulate the recent past the best,” says Patrick Brown, a postdoctoral research scientist at the Carnegie Institution and lead author of the study. This cloud feedback phenomenon remains one of the greatest areas of uncertainty in climate modelling. The UN’s seminal IPCC report relies on an assortment of models from various research institutions to estimate the broad ranges of warming likely to occur under four main emissions scenarios. In another key finding, the scientists found that the second-lowest scenario would be more likely to result in the warming previously predicted under the second-highest by 2100. In fact, the world will have to cut another 800 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions this century for the earlier warming estimates to hold. (By way of comparison, total greenhouse-gas emissions stood at about 49 gigatons last year.) Various politicians, fossil-fuel interest groups, and commentators have seized on the uncertainty inherent in climate models as reasons to doubt the dangers of climate change, or to argue against strong policy and mitigation responses.  “This study undermines that logic,” Brown says. “There are problems with climate models, but the ones that are most accurate are the ones that produce the most warming in the future.”

_

The goal of the research was to evaluate how well various climate models work, in hopes of “narrowing the range of model uncertainty and to assess whether the upper or low end of the range is more likely,” Brown wrote in an accompanying blog post. Ken Caldeira, a climate researcher at Carnegie and coauthor of the paper, says the growing body of real-world evidence for climate change is helping to refine climate models while also guiding scientists toward those that increasingly appear more reliable for specific applications. But an emerging challenge is that the climate is changing faster than the models are improving, as real-world events occur that the models didn’t predict. Notably, Arctic sea ice is melting more rapidly than the models can explain, suggesting that the simulations aren’t fully capturing certain processes.  “We’re increasingly shifting from a mode of predicting what’s going to happen to a mode of trying to explain what happened,” Caldeira says.

_____

_____

Harvesting Energy from Humans:

Movement produces kinetic energy, which can be converted into power. In the past, devices that turned human kinetic energy into electricity, such as hand-cranked radios, computers and flashlights, involved a person’s full participation. But a growing field is tapping into our energy without our even noticing it. Consider, for example, a health club. With every step you take on a treadmill and with every bicep curl, you turn surplus calories into motion that could drive a generator and produce electricity. The energy from one person’s workout may not be much, but 100 people could contribute significantly to a facility’s power needs. That’s the idea behind the Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon, where machines like stationary bikes harvest energy during workouts. Pedaling turns a generator, producing electricity that helps to power the building. For now, body energy supplies only a small fraction of the gym’s needs, but the amount should increase as more machines are adapted. “By being extremely energy-efficient and combining human power, solar and someday wind, I believe we’ll be able to be net-zero for electricity sometime this year,” says the gym’s owner, Adam Boesel. His bikes, by the way, aren’t the first to put pedal power to work. In some parts of the world, cyclists have been powering safety lights for years with devices called bicycle dynamos, which use a generator to create alternating current with every turn of the wheels.

_

Dance clubs are also getting in on the action. In the Netherlands, Rotterdam’s new Club WATT has a floor that harnesses the energy created by the dancers’ steps. Designed by a Dutch company called the Sustainable Dance Club, the floor is based on the piezoelectric effect, in which certain materials produce an electric current when compressed or bent. (The most common example is a cigarette lighter, in which a hammer causes a spark to be emitted when it strikes a piezoelectric crystal.) As clubgoers dance, the floor is compressed by less than half an inch. It makes contact with the piezoelectric material under it and generates anywhere from two to 20 watts of electricity, depending on the impact of the patrons’ feet. For now, it’s just enough to power LED lights in the floor, but in the future, more output is expected from newer technology. In London, Surya, another new eco-nightclub, uses the same principle for its dance floor, which the owners hope will one day generate 60 percent of the club’s electricity.

_

Beyond body-powered gyms and dance clubs, ideas are also in the works to provide electricity for more ordinary, useful things. Researchers are creating ways to power small mobile devices like cellphones, MP3 players and laptops when there is no access to conventional energy sources. Max Donelan of the Locomotion Laboratory at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, in collaboration with American and Canadian researchers, is developing an electromagnetic generator fitted to a standard knee brace. The prototype, which Donelan unveiled, turns a one-minute walk into enough current for a half-hour cellphone conversation. The knee generator uses sophisticated electronics to ensure that it grabs only excess energy. A computer measures the angle of the knee during every step to determine when to engage and disengage the generator. In the course of an ordinary stride, we use muscle energy both to accelerate the leg forward in an arc and then to brake its downward motion. The generator kicks in only during the swing phase of a footstep when the muscles are already braking, so it doesn’t take power away from your step and slow you down. The electricity then flows through a wire to charge or power a battery or device. Such a device has many possible uses. The Canadian military is partially funding Donelan’s research because soldiers carry as many as 30 pounds of batteries for communications and navigation equipment—a load that could be significantly lightened by an alternative energy source. Public-safety workers such as firefighters and police could also use the technology to power handheld equipment during emergencies. In the future, artificial limbs that require batteries may instead be designed with Donelan’s technology. And next-generation devices could run gadgets like cellphones, global positioning systems, iPods and digital cameras. This could be particularly useful for hikers and mountain climbers, who spend much of their time away from power sources.

_

An elite cyclist can produce more than 400 watts, more than half a horsepower, for an hour or more at a stretch. But the average person, even somebody in good shape, can generate only 50 to 150 watts during an hour of strenuous exercise.  Pedalling a stationary bike with dynamo at a reasonable pace generates about 100 watts of power per hour. That’s the same energy-per-time used by a 100-watt light-bulb. So if you pedalled 24 hours every day, you’d generate 2.4 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy daily.  The efficiency in the electrical systems involved would drop that number to approximately 1.6 kWh. So one person pedalling 24 hours daily would generate 1.6 kWh electricity. Americans use 12071 kWh electricity per person per year while world average is 2674 and Indian average is 1022.  Dividing the figures by 365, we know that American uses 33 kWh and Indian uses 2.8 kWh electricity per person daily; while human efforts of 24 hours per day by pedalling a stationary bike with dynamo at a reasonable pace only generates 1.6 kWh electricity.  So it is impossible to generate electricity by human efforts alone for our daily use no matter how herculean our efforts are.

______

______

Nuclear fusion our last hope:

Even if there is no climate change, we’d still need to plan for our energy future. The fossil fuel problem is obvious: we cannot simply generate more coal, oil, or natural gas when our present supplies run out. We’ve been burning pretty much every drop we can get our hands on for going on three centuries now, and this problem is going to get worse. Even though we have hundreds of years more before we’re all out, the amount isn’t limitless. There are legitimate, non-warming-related environmental concerns, too. Even if we ignored the CO2-global climate change problem, fossil fuels are limited in the amount Earth contains, and also extracting, transporting, refining and burning them cause large amounts of pollution. The burning of fossil fuels generates pollution, since these carbon-based fuel sources contain a lot more than just carbon and hydrogen in their chemical makeup, and burning them (to generate energy) also burns all the impurities, releasing them into the air. In addition, the refining and/or extraction process is dirty, dangerous and can pollute the water table and entire bodies of water, like rivers and lakes. On the other hand, renewable energy sources are inconsistent, even at their best. Try powering your grid during dry, overcast (or overnight), and drought-riddled times, and you’re doomed to failure. The sheer magnitude of the battery storage capabilities required to power even a single city during insufficient energy-generation conditions is daunting. Simultaneously, the pollution effects associated with creating solar panels, manufacturing wind or hydroelectric turbines, and (especially) with creating the materials needed to store large amounts of energy are tremendous as well. Even what’s touted as “green energy” isn’t devoid of drawbacks. But there is always the nuclear option. Even the most advanced chemical reactions generate about a million times less energy per unit mass compared to a nuclear reaction.  However, that word ‘nuclear’ itself is enough to elicit strong reactions from many people. The idea of nuclear bombs, of radioactive fallout, of meltdowns, and of disasters like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. And that’s a fear that’s not wholly without foundation, when it comes to nuclear fission. But fission isn’t the only game in town. Whereas nuclear fission involves taking heavy, unstable (and already radioactive) elements like Thorium, Uranium or Plutonium, initiating a reaction that causes them to split apart into smaller, also radioactive components that release energy, nothing involved in fusion is radioactive at all. The reactants are light, stable elements like isotopes of hydrogen, helium or lithium; the products are also light and stable, like helium, lithium, beryllium or boron. So far, fission has taken place in either a runaway or controlled environment, rushing past the breakeven point (where the energy output is greater than the input) with ease, while fusion has never reached the breakeven point in a controlled setting.  Even if there is no climate change, the problem of powering the world, and doing so in a sustainable, pollution-free way, is one of the most daunting long-term ones facing humanity. Nuclear fusion as a power source has never been given the necessary funding to develop it to fruition, but it’s the one physically possible solution to our energy needs with no obvious downsides.

______

______

Moral of the story:

_

  1. After going through details of climate change, I have come to know that different researchers have estimated different figures for energy supply, consumption, efficiency, cost and GHGs emissions for the same energy source; different figures of global warming, and also the ability to reduce GHGs by the same technology is differentially estimated. It’s also well documented that different parts of the earth warm at different speeds. Although there is scientific consensus that climate change & global warming is happening, there is no scientific consensus on how to deal with it. If you do not support renewables, you become anti-environmentalist and you are motivated by allegiance to fossil fuel technologies. If you support nuclear energy, then you are proliferating nuclear weapons. This is wrong. We all are one species, Homo sapiens; and we have only one planet to live, the earth. It should be our endeavour not to promote mutually assured destruction but to promote mutually assured survival. Therefore everybody should advance clean, cheap, available and reliable energy source.

_

  1. Climate describes the average weather that a region experiences, usually calculated over a 30-year period and climate change is change of climate attributed directly or indirectly to human activities in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time period. Global warming is increased earth’s average surface temperature due to increased concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere due to human activities, primarily the combustion of fossil fuels and removal of forests. Soot in the air is now emerging as the second most important factor in global warming. Because CO2 exists in the atmosphere in far larger quantities than other trace gases, it is responsible for more than half the greenhouse effect. Global warming is one of the main causes of climate change. Global warming and climate change are not the same although many people use these terms interchangeably.

_

  1. Energy is critical to economic growth and human development. The human development index of the UN shows that countries with higher electricity consumption per capita have better human development record. However, overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels threatens to alter the Earth’s climate and at the same time, access to energy continues to divide the ‘haves’ from the ‘have-nots.’ Globally, a large fraction of the world’s population—more than two billion people by some estimates—still lacks access to one or several types of basic energy services, including electricity, clean cooking fuel and an adequate means of transportation.

_

  1. It is estimated that total world energy consumption rises from 575 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2015 to 736 quadrillion Btu in 2040, an increase of 28%. China and India alone accounts for more than half of the world’s total increase in energy consumption over the 2015 to 2040 projection period. Although consumption of non-fossil fuels is expected to grow faster than fossil fuels, fossil fuels would still account for 77% of energy use in 2040.

_

  1. About 16% of the world’s population currently live without electricity. Any concerns that achieving energy access for all would magnify the challenges of energy security or climate change are unfounded: it would only increase global energy demand by 1% in 2030 and CO2 emissions by 0.6%.

_

  1. Economic growth—as measured by gross domestic product (GDP)—is a key determinant in the growth of energy demand. Massive improvements in the efficiency of technologies and devices have facilitated continuing reductions in the quantity of energy required to produce a unit of goods and services in industrialized economies. This has resulted in the “decoupling” of economic output from energy consumption—two measures which, until recently, were assumed to grow more or less in lockstep with each other.

_

  1. In the broadest sense, almost all of the energy we use today except nuclear can be considered a form of solar energy although Sun is a large nuclear fusion reactor. Non-renewable resources such as coal, oil and gas are the result of a process that takes millions of years to convert sunlight into hydrocarbons. Renewable energy sources convert solar radiation, the rotation of the earth and geothermal energy into usable energy in a far shorter time.

_

  1. About 80% of current primary energy driving global economies comes from the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and combustion of fossil fuels accounts for 56 to 83% of all anthropogenic (from human activities) GHG emissions, and other anthropogenic contributions come from deforestation, changes in land use, soil erosion, and agriculture. Coal is responsible for 43% of carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion, 36% is produced by oil and 20% from natural gas. Land use and tropical deforestation release annually 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which represents about 17 per cent of the total of GHG emissions. Natural sources of carbon dioxide are more than 20 times greater than sources due to human activity and closely balanced by natural sinks, mainly photosynthesis of carbon compounds by plants and marine plankton, maintaining CO2 level around 260 to 280 ppm before industrial revolution (1750). Natural sources include decomposition, ocean release and respiration. GHG emission rates from fossil fuels currently exceed the ability of natural sinks to absorb them, so the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will continue to increase unless and until emissions decrease to less than the rate that they can be removed from the atmosphere by the natural sinks of the ocean and the terrestrial biosphere. China is now the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, but unlike the US, the world’s second-biggest emitter, China appears truly committed to climate action.

_

  1. In order to keep the global average temperature from warming no more than 2°C by the year 2100 relative to the global temperature prior to industrial revolution (before 1750), the concentration of carbon dioxide must be capped at 450 parts per million. Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations would require anthropogenic CO2 emissions to be reduced by 50 to 80% below current emissions level and that reduction should begin immediately. Current global atmospheric CO2 emissions total roughly 36 gigatons or 36 billion metric tons per year (GtCO2). The emissions will need to decline continuously to 9.5 gigatons per year by 2050, in order to curb global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. World consensus to limit global warming to 2°C relative to pre-industrial times implies a cumulative carbon emissions limit of the order of 1000 GtC. Remember 1 GtC = 3.67 GtCO2. The current level of global warming is around 0.8°C above the pre-industrial level and current level of CO2 is 410 ppm while pre-industrial CO2 level was 280 ppm. If global emissions continue to increase, then global average temperature will increase by 3-5°C by 2100. The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago, the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now. Once CO2 reaches the atmosphere, it stays there for thousands of years. The decisions people make today will have ramifications well into the future. We need stronger climate action because even if all intended nationally determined contributions are fully implemented, there would still be an estimated increase in average global temperature rise of approximately 2.7 °C by the end of the century.

_

  1. Today, we have cumulative carbon emissions ∼370 GtC from all fossil fuels in atmosphere since 1750. GHGs emission rate per unit of energy produced by renewable energy is much less than for energy sources based on fossil fuels and slightly less than for nuclear power. Compared with natural gas, which emits between 0.6 and 2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (CO2e/kWh) every year, and coal, which emits between 1.4 and 3.6 pounds of CO2e/kWh, wind emits only 0.02 to 0.04 pounds of CO2e/kWh, solar 0.07 to 0.2, geothermal 0.1 to 0.2, and hydroelectric between 0.1 and 0.5. According to the median emission value derived from the Warner and Heath Yale meta-analysis for the more common non-breeding Light water reactors, greenhouse gas emissions of roughly 12 grams of CO2-equivalent per kilowatt-hour of electricity is produced, the same as wind turbines (which also require steel, plastics, rare earths and the like in their construction) and less than photovoltaic panels. Nuclear power is the most cost effective low carbon power technology.

_

  1. Climate change will cause sea level to rise resulting in the loss of hundreds of historical coastal cities worldwide with incalculable economic consequences, create hundreds of millions of global warming refugees from highly-populated low-lying areas, and thus likely cause major international conflicts. With global warming of 2.9°C, an estimated 21–52 percent of species will be committed to extinction. Global warming causes extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts, floods, and storms. Climate change is already having an impact worldwide on health, labor productivity, food scarcity, spread of infectious disease, exposure to air pollution, heat waves and cyclones. India is the fourth largest carbon emitter after China, the US and the European Union, and suffered direct infrastructural damage of about $21 billion due to extreme weather events due to global warming, equivalent to almost 1% of India’s total GDP – and about the half amount it spends on the entire health budget.

_

  1. Poor people are widely viewed as most vulnerable to climate change and pollution resulting from fossil fuel emissions as they have fewer means to cope with climactic changes and developing countries make up a majority of the areas expected to be hit the hardest by these changes. Reducing emissions and therefore the severity of climate change impacts could spare potentially large number of poor people for whom climate change costs could prove catastrophic.

_

  1. Developed nations are promoting renewable energy technologies due to their heightened sensitivity towards the environment. On the other hand, the reasons for developing economies to advocate renewable energy technologies include enhancement of their energy security (reduction in energy imports), besides bridging the energy deficit and enabling energy access to the masses through decentralized systems in form of lifeline energy services like cleaner forms of basic lighting devices (solar lanterns) and cooking systems (biogas plants). However, developing countries need fossil fuels as fossil fuels are still the cheapest, most reliable energy resources available. When a developing country wants to build a functional economic system and end rampant poverty, it turns to fossil fuels. Global warming typically takes a back seat to feeding, housing, and employing these countries’ citizens. Today, most developing countries that have decreased their poverty rates have increased rates of carbon emissions. Yet the weather fluctuations and consequences of climate change are already impacting food growth in many of these countries. Climate change will push 100 million more people below poverty line by 2030. Developing countries cannot fight climate change and provide for their citizens because tremendous investment is needed to meet its renewable energy goals. In fact, developing countries will only accelerate global warming as their economies grow because they cannot afford alternatives. Wealthy countries cannot afford to ignore the impact of these growing, developing countries. Wealthy nations should remember that they became rich due to industrial revolution which initiated global warming in the first place. We are living in a vicious cycle where climate change will impoverish people and to bring poor people out of poverty, more fossil fuel will be burned worsening climate change. Wealthy nations can break this vicious cycle by taking responsibility for their historic emissions and contribute the funds and transfer of technologies to developing countries needed to help combat climate change. Even today Americans emit a whopping 16.1 tons of CO2 per person per year and India 1.9; and the goal to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, would have us lower our annual emissions to around 2.1 tons of CO2 per person per year.

_

  1. Although fossil fuels are cheap and reliable energy sources, they cause global warming & climate change, air pollution, oil spills, acid rains causing corrosion of the built environment, soil degradation, water pollution & depletion of forests, gas leaks & explosions.

_

  1. Natural gas (primarily methane) is the cleanest of the fossil fuels, with the lowest GHGs emissions per unit of energy, emits lower levels of particulate matter or soot, emits about half of the CO2 of coal when burned for electricity generation, as well as generally lower emissions of other pollutants, and the climate benefits of coal to gas fuel switching are likely larger than the negative effects of natural gas leakage. More importantly, natural gas is three times more efficient than electricity in providing energy for end-use applications.

_

  1. Apart from climate change mitigation, renewable energy can play a significant role in meeting sustainable development goals, enhancing energy security, public health benefits, employment creation and meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The campaign for using renewable energy resources is becoming stronger today because of the finite nature of fossil fuel energy resources as well as the greenhouse gases emissions from fossil fuel burning that cause global warming. Although renewable energy can help combat climate change, it can make large tracts of land unusable for competing uses, disrupt marine life, bird life and flora/fauna, and produce visual and noise pollution.

_

  1. Renewable energy development outperforms fossil fuels in two important ways when it comes to driving job growth: a) Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labor-intensive. This means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels and b) Installing renewable energy facilities uses primarily local workers, so investment dollars are kept in local communities. IRENA analysis shows that, with the right policies, renewable energy could generate over 24 million jobs worldwide by 2030.

_

  1. There are two main strategies to address global warming: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation involves finding ways to slow the emissions of GHGs or to store them, or to absorb them in forests or other carbon sinks. Adaptation, on the other hand, involves coping with climatic change, taking measures to reduce the negative effects, or exploit the positive ones, by making appropriate adjustments. Examples of mitigation include phasing out fossil fuels by switching to low-carbon energy sources, such as renewable and nuclear energy, energy efficiency and expanding forests and other “sinks” to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. People will adapt to climate change simply by changing their behaviour, by moving to a different location say, or by changing their occupation or employing various technologies for adaptation.

_

  1. Improving energy efficiency (end use efficiency improvements & more efficient energy conversion technologies) represents the most immediate and often the most cost-effective way to reduce oil dependence, improve energy security, and reduce the health and environmental impact of the energy system. Electricity generation from renewable energy is much more efficient and therefore leads to a significant reduction in primary energy requirement because most renewables don’t have a steam cycle with high losses (fossil power plants usually have losses of 40 to 65%). End-use electricity efficiency and fuel efficiency have the potential to reduce expected 2030 emissions by 47 per cent while renewable energy sources could reduce 2030 emissions by 20 per cent. Buildings represent approximately 40% of total energy consumption in the EU and insulation is the simplest and most effective way to make a building more energy efficient. By reducing the total energy requirements of the economy, improved energy efficiency could make increased reliance on renewable energy sources more practical and affordable. However, energy efficiency improvements per se will not result in a reduction in carbon emissions if, as predicted by the IPCC, the size of the global economy expands12–26-fold by 2100.

_

  1. By most accounts, deforestation in tropical rainforests adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads. Tropical deforestation contributes to global warming, and global warming of 2 degree Celsius by itself can destroy 33 % rainforests. So we are in a vicious cycle of deforestation causing global warming and global warming causing deforestation. Only reforestation and afforestation can break the vicious cycle.

_

  1. The average CO2 emission for a battery-electric car is 180 grams per mile while it is 430 grams per mile for a gasoline car. In today’s vehicles, only about 13% of the energy from the fuel actually reaches the wheels. Energy production is more efficient in a power plant than in internal combustion car engine. Electric car eliminates much of the waste energy that occurs with internal combustion engine. However using coal powered electricity, electric cars do nothing to cut emissions.

_

  1. For many years, environmentalists have argued for the adoption of renewable energy as a replacement for traditional energy resources. But from business perspective, renewable energy is not feasible alternative as private costs are higher than private benefits albeit social benefits are high. However, by internalising social cost e.g. carbon tax and by incentivising private benefits e.g. tax redemption and subsidies, renewable energy can be encouraged in business. Global subsidies for fossil fuels outstrip those for renewable energy by nearly 10-fold. This trend needs to be reversed. According to the IEA the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, over $500 billion annually, will reduce 10% greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

_

  1. There is very little difference in cost between having a 40 per cent renewable electricity system and an 80 per cent renewable electricity system. This is hugely significant – effectively meaning that the choice between different energy system outcomes need not be made on the basis of cost differences, but rather on grounds of public acceptability, energy security, job creation and so on.

_

  1. Information and communication technology (ICT) can help slash annual global greenhouse gas emissions 15 to 20 % in next two decades.

_

  1. The deployment of solar panels is good both for producing energy (and hence contributing to a decrease of greenhouse gas emissions) and for decreasing urban heat island especially in summer when it can be a threat to health. However the manufacture of photovoltaic panels entails carbon dioxide emissions. It is often taken for granted that solar energy is inherently environmentally sustainable and that its carbon credentials don’t require scrutiny. The fact is that even solar power plants have an environmental footprint on a lifecycle basis. For instance, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) has a footprint of 20 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity produced, in addition to consuming vast amounts of water. Similarly, photovoltaic (PV) power plants also have carbon footprints which, on a lifecycle basis can range from 12 to 24 g per kWh.

_____

  1. Renewable energy supporters say that there are three commonly held myths of renewable energy: that the available resource is too small to be useful; that its inherently variable nature is too difficult to manage; and that it is too costly to develop. They say that plenty of wind and solar energy is available and renewable variability can be overcome by a “smart mix” of renewable energy sources, interconnecting power plants which are widely geographically distributed, by coupling them with peak-load plants such as gas turbines fueled by biofuels or natural gas which can quickly be switched on to fill in gaps of low wind or solar production and electric storage technology. They say that costs for renewable energy technologies have fallen dramatically in recent years and falling costs have made renewable energy technologies increasingly competitive with conventional fossil fuels. They also say that the most significant barriers to the widespread implementation of large-scale renewable energy and low carbon energy strategies, at the pace required to prevent runaway climate change, are primarily political and not technological. I disagree. In my view the most significant barriers to the widespread implementation of large-scale renewable energy are technological and economical as narrated below:

-1. To reduce CO2 levels in our atmosphere by only 1 ppm requires the removal of 7.81 billion tons of CO2 plus the amount we are now adding. To put this in perspective, a 400 Mw Solar Power Plant will offset 400,000 tons/year of CO2. It would require 19,525 such solar power plants to offset CO2 levels by only 1 ppm.

-2. The “base load” is the minimum level of demand on an electrical grid over a span of time, some variation in demand may be compensated by varying production or electricity trading. The criteria for baseload power generation are low price, availability and reliability. Over the years as technology and available resources evolved, a variety of power sources have been used. There are no countries where the majority of baseload power is supplied by wind, solar, biofuels or geothermal, as each of these sources fails one or more of the criteria of low price, availability and reliability.

-3. To produce large amount of energy, renewable energy (wind, solar) require a massive amount of space or land as compared to coal or nuclear power plant. If a power station the size of Fukushima (4.7GW) were to be replaced with a wind farm of the same average output, it would render an area about the size of Greater London in which ~10m people live permanently uninhabitable. In essence it can be seen that renewable energy competes directly with other uses that the land, the sea and the spaces above it, have need to also utilise.

-4. Electricity from solar and wind is generated intermittently and they cannot guarantee sufficient supply of electricity on demand by themselves. Effective electrical energy storage is crucial in moving to a world powered by low-carbon electricity. In order for intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar PV to effectively compete with fossil fuels like coal, both the price of installed solar panels and the price of battery storage will need to reduce by a full order of magnitude. Optimistic long-term projections state that both solar panels and battery storage will reach technological maturity at roughly triple the cost of their fossil fuel counterparts.

-5. Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work. Even if every renewable energy technology advanced as quickly as imagined and they were all applied globally, atmospheric CO2 levels would continue to rise exponentially due to continued fossil fuel use. The key problem appears to be that the cost of manufacturing the components of the renewable power facilities is far too close to the total recoverable energy which leads to a runaway cycle of constructing more and more renewable plants simply to produce the energy required to manufacture and maintain renewable energy plants, an obvious practical absurdity. Reversing this trend would require…radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.

-6. The more renewable energy (except large scale hydroelectricity) you attempt to employ, the less effective it is and the more expensive it gets. Renewable energy must necessarily involve huge installations on account of its low power density and must co-operate with fossil fuel plant to balance the intermittency and provide the dispatchability that it lacks. We are living in the world of extreme emotional attachment to ‘renewable energy’ and extreme ignorance of the principles underlying power generation. In a given grid system, the cost of integrating more renewables exceeds the benefits.

-7. Capacity factor is simply the amount of power renewable actually produces over a period of time divided by the amount of power it could have produced if it had run at its full rated capacity over that time period. Wind and solar energy sources run average capacity factors of 33 percent and 25 percent, respectively. This means that we would need a lot more wind or solar capacity to provide the same amount of electricity to the grid as existing baseload sources. And as their penetration rate increases, lot of energy is wasted.

-8. Unrealistic goals that can’t be achieved with available renewable energy technologies at reasonable prices to combat climate change will lead to unrealistic expectations and massive misallocation of resources.

-9. International Energy Agency (IEA) has measured that towards limiting the temperature rise to two degree centigrade (450 ppm scenario by 2050), the total installed capacity of renewable energy sources for electricity production needs to be augmented 3770 GW by 2035. This shall require annual investments of over US $550 billion in climate change mitigation and adjustment technology. Another study found that to replace all of the nuclear, coal, and natural gas currently generating electricity around the world by renewable energy sources to mitigate climate change would costs on the order of $100 trillion worldwide, over 20 years, not including transmission. Current renewable energy technology is either too expensive or too impractical on the scale necessary to reverse global warming.

-10. A fundamental, generally implicit, assumption is that each unit of energy supplied by non-fossil-fuel sources takes the place of a unit of energy supplied by fossil-fuel sources. However due to complexity of economic systems and human behaviour, each unit of electricity generated by non-fossil-fuel sources displaced less than one-tenth of a unit of fossil-fuel-generated electricity.

_____

  1. I support nuclear energy to combat climate change for following reasons:

-1.  Nuclear energy is a base load energy source that generates power more than 90 percent of the time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on average. Nuclear power offers tremendous energy security by stockpiling, recycling or even breeding nuclear fuel.  Capacity factor of nuclear energy is 90 % while wind and solar energy sources run average capacity factors of 34 percent and 24 percent, respectively.  Due to low capacity factor of wind and solar, to ensure power all the time, we need some serious back-up from always-available sources. There will be substantial periods of unmet demand that will likely be filled by fossil fuel combustion. Renewable energy depends on fossil fuel to function. At 7 p.m. when demand peaks, the wind may not be moving, and the sun has set and so we have to engage fossil fuels.

-2. Studies by some of the most well-respected and objective institutions say that nuclear power technology and technology that captures carbon emissions from coal plants are essential to cutting emissions in a cost-effective way to the level scientists say we must.

-3. Nuclear power is reliable, emission-free, high-density energy. The speediest drop in greenhouse gas pollution on record occurred in France in the 1970s and ‘80s, when that country transitioned from burning fossil fuels to nuclear fission for electricity, lowering its greenhouse emissions by roughly 2 percent per year. The world needs to drop its global warming pollution by 6 percent annually to avoid “dangerous” climate change. On a global scale, it’s hard to see how we could conceivably accomplish this without nuclear power.

-4. The principal limitations on nuclear fission are not technical, economic or fuel-related, but are instead linked to complex issues of societal acceptance, fiscal and political inertia, and inadequate critical evaluation of the real-world constraints facing low-carbon alternatives. The main limitation is that it is used almost exclusively for electricity generation, which accounts for less than 25% of global (anthropogenic) greenhouse emissions.

-5. What happened in Germany is eye-opener. They tried to pit nuclear power against renewables and landed up using coal resulting in increased emissions. Rather than pitting nuclear power against renewables, the world will benefit greatly by accepting nuclear as an integral part to form the basis of a low-carbon economy of the future, and learning to use it in combination with renewables to create a truly sustainable energy mix.

-6. Power density of nuclear is high enough that, in the case of the United Kingdom only about 20 nuclear power stations could take care of the entire baseload, replacing coal, and reducing emissions on the grid by 50% or more. The actual footprint covered would be massively less than any renewable solution thus releasing land for other uses like agriculture, or human habitation.

-7. Nuclear completely displaces fossil power off the grid and offers high penetration zero carbon operation at reasonable costs. Renewable starts expensive, and gets more expensive the more its deployed, and can never realistically get to more than 30% grid capacity without spiralling cost and reducing efficacy, and requires fossil fuel plants to be retained and even more be built. Nuclear power stations could be sited close to where the demand is, eliminating or severely curtailing the need for any grid expansion. There simply isn’t the space or the conditions to site ‘renewable solutions’ close to demand. In short nuclear is – apart from costing 50% more than coal or gas in today’s heavily regulated environment – the ideal solution to zero carbon generation or generation in the absence of fossil fuels. If nuclear is – and on the evidence it is – simply a better cheaper way of generating low carbon electricity, it completely destroys the case for renewable only approach.

-8. There are serious concerns associated with nuclear power production, including radioactive wastes (especially long-term storage of certain isotopes), safety, and security concerns related to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. New technologies have developed to improve safety and security, decrease costs, and reduce the amount of generated waste—especially high-level waste. A nuclear accident of some sort or another is always possible. Nothing is perfect, but the reality is that with the sole exception of Chernobyl, which was a poorly built reactor to a flawed design that was handled totally incompetently, no one has died from nuclear related causes from the nuclear power industry.

______

  1. To combat climate change we need energy mix, energy efficiency, various advanced energy technologies, low carbon economy, reforestation and life style change. Energy mix would include fossil fuel with CCS technology, coal to gas fuel switching, building new and advanced nuclear plants and renewables. Though it requires up to 40% more energy to run a CCS coal power plant than a regular coal plant, CCS could potentially capture about 90% of all the carbon emitted by the plant. All fossil fuel power generation without CCS would need to be totally phased out.

_

  1. To combat climate change, we need changes not only in policy and technology but also in lifestyle. Population expansion and patterns of consumption cause increase in GHGs and thereby contribute to global warming. Educating girls and family planning to control population and eating plant based diet avoiding meat are the most effective lifestyle & behavioural measures to reduce global warming. That goal would have us lower our annual emissions to around 2.1 tons of carbon per person. People cannot pass buck to government, policies and technologies to combat climate change. Effective climate change mitigation will not be achieved if each agent (individual, institution or country) acts independently in its own selfish interest. All greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters ought to be held liable for damages resulting from GHG emissions resulting in climate change.

_

  1. Mounting evidence indicates that global warming and climate change are not the result of the natural variability of climate. The theory of human-induced climate change is supported by numerous respected scientific bodies, including the British Royal Society, the American National Academies and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Various politicians, policy makers, American media, fossil-fuel interest groups, and commentators have seized on the uncertainty inherent in climate models as reasons to doubt the dangers of climate change, or to argue against strong policy and mitigation responses. But their logic is undermined because climate models that are most accurate are the ones that produce the most warming in the future. Earth’s average surface temperature last year was a record 1.1 degree Celsius (1.98 Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era. The last three Novembers — 2015, 2016, and 2017 — are the three warmest Novembers in 137 years of modern record-keeping. If anybody denies climate change and its adverse impact, either he/she is ignorant or dishonest or insane. Combat climate change is nothing but sacrifices we make today so that future generations will suffer less.

_

  1. Solar and wind are viewed by public as being more environmentally friendly and more viable long-term energy sources relative to nuclear power and natural gas but the fact is that solar and wind are far less reliable relative to nuclear power and natural gas; and emissions from nuclear is equivalent to wind, and emissions from natural gas is half of coal. Solar and wind require massive overbuilding of capacity before they can reliably supply a significant percentage of electricity on a grid system. In addition, integrating this wind and solar capacity into the grid at such high concentrations comes with its own technical challenges and costs, even when taking into account battery storage. And lastly, there are issues with massive land-use that make a mostly renewables grid less feasible and less affordable. The quantum and probability of harm from climate change is far greater than the quantum and probability of harm from nuclear power. Emissions per unit of energy need to fall by a factor of six and renewables alone cannot do it. We need to educate people to accept nuclear power and switch from coal to natural gas to combat climate change in addition to renewables who are good, but not good enough.

_______

_______

Dr. Rajiv Desai. MD.

December 22, 2017

_______

Postscript:

In my view, global warming above 2 degrees Celsius is inevitable unless we harness nuclear fusion. I hope that I am wrong.

______

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Designed by @fraz699.