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Archive for the ‘Renewable energy’ Category

Renewable Electricity, many reasons for hope

In a previous post, I mentioned the rough figure of 42% of the energy in the world devoted to electricity production, sometimes,  when we talk about energy and climate change we only think in electricity. It is a mistake I do frequently. So, OK it is just 42%, it is not all but it is almost half of the problem. So it seems a good starting point for the solution as well. And though the situation is not wonderful and we are in a hurry, there are some sings for hope just in the electricity production data by country. They are in the following figures:

Share of renewable electricity by country, divided in the top consumers (80% of world electricity) and the rest

Share of renewable electricity by country, divided in the top consumers (80% of world electricity) and the rest

Share of Hydro power in the total renewable electricity by country, divided in the top consumers (80% of world electricity) and the rest

Share of Hydro power in the total renewable electricity by country, divided in the top consumers (80% of world electricity) and the rest

The so-called top producers correspond to the 16 countries that concentrate the 80% of consumption, the data come from the Wikipedia and are from 2009-2010, in this moment they should be better for many places.

Anyway, my hope comes from those facts:

  • The top producers are less renewable than the rest. But even there, there  are 2 countries with most electricity from renewables, so it is possible to maintain a “big” electricity system this way.
  • “The rest” show a lot of countries very renewable. It is hopeful because they should be the ones needing more new energy, so they can install it renewable. In th other hand this confirms that the problem and solution is concentrated in a few bunch of countries.
  • Among “the rest” hydro power is their main source of renewable energy, among top consumers too, but with significant amount of others as wind, solar or even Geothermal. This is interesting as the future and present should come from them.
  • Finally, electricity can be the way to decarbonize other sectors as transport (the road is the most important contributor there)

The rough figure of World emissions

CO2 Emission percentaje by production sector in the world, source of data IEA.

CO2 Emission percentage by production sector in the world, source of data IEA.

I frequently think that the climate change solution is in transforming the power production sector and consumers mentality somehow. However, many times remember too that transportation is important and I got in mind the simple figure that one out of three CO2 tons comes from transport. Rough numbers help but it is always better to be more precise, and the two figures in this blog follow this purpose. They have been obtained with the open data from the Internationa Egergy Agency (IEA) and show total emissions in 2010.

The first one, at the beginning, displays the emission proportions by emission production sectors. In some cases, these divisions are not easy to understand but the main conclusion can be that electricity production is responsible for more than 40% of emissions and this is good news in my opinion because the progress in low-carbon electricity production has been much fester than in other factors and because in fact there are many countries producing most of their electricity without fossil fuels. Transport and industry account for other more or less 20% each (in industry excluding electricity use). Transport is a bit lower that the 33% that I expected and it is mainly road transport. Residential sector is surprisingly low.

CO2 Emission percentaje by consuming sector in the world, source of data IEA.

CO2 Emission percentaje by consuming sector in the world, source of data IEA.

In the other hand, the last figure classifies the same data by consuming sector. So roughly, industry is the objects we use, transport is transport and residential our houses. In this case, industry leads the figure with 36%, and transport and residential follow close to 20%.

The main reference is that we should reach 10-20% of current emissions to be on the safe side, so we have to make important effort in all areas.

Renewable possibilities in the third world


Bangladesh location in the earth from Wikipedia

Bangladesh location in the earth from Wikipedia

The installation of solar panels to electrify 1 million houses in Bangladesh is in my opinion great news, not just for the KWh produced for those people by clean means reducing some CO2 tons.

It also means that for poor people off-grid solar energy makes more sense than whole big investment in new grid systems fed by fossil fuels with uncertain costs in the future.

Al also means that the technology developed in rich countries (and not so rich ones) after a fossil fuel based 200 year industrialisation maybe effectively used to start using low-carbon electricity in places that have not known it before.

Symbolically means that it is possible to start improving every day  life conditions based on solar energy of small-scale without going the fossil way from the beginning, becoming rich and after that reducing emissions.

And finally, it means that for many people living with almost nothing in many places, they can dream of improving their living standards without spoiling the climate of their grandchildren.

Qatar government announcing big solar investment.

Qatar Coat of Arms, source: Wikipedia

Qatar Coat of Arms, source: Wikipedia

COP18 conference held in Qatar has produced at least a first beneficial output. The government has announced an important investment to produce 1800 MW by solar power out of a total electricity capacity of 7000 MW. Even better, they will encourage particulars to produce electricity at home by small solar panels with a feed-in-tarif.

As they explained, the official reason to such a political impulse in one of the mayor producers of liquefied gas is the reduction of cost and the abundance of sun in their home. Good reasons, I suppose that holding the COP18 being the biggest emitter (mentioned in many blogs) is another one.

I hope it will become true, because we need the commitment of everyone in this big challenge of climate change, and the competitions to avoid last places in this shameful classification could help.

Hydropower conference Hydro 2012


Photograph from the conference door

This conference has been held in Bilbao these days with good coverage in the news. I was positively surprised by the media impact of this conference as hydro power was a very important power source in the past here but is not in the main discussions nowadays.

In fact, the power of the water coming from the rivers has been one of the first industrial era power sources and it is still the most important renewable energy and the most widespread, maybe its great advantage is that it is not considered as renewable sometimes or that it has not grown in the last years. Or maybe hat it is very cheap because installation investments were done many years ago. Anyway, one way or another I have always thought that it produces a considerable percentage or world energy, however , checking actual figures I was negatively surprised to discover that its 3000 TWh of yearly production only account for the 2% of world energy demand.

As I did not assist the conference I do not know what kind of subjects were discussed there. Perhaps they covered many of the questions a have about water as energy source as:

Why did they say that Europe is not so interesting for this market compared to for example South America?
What is the potential of traditional hydropower to overcome thi
Why is mini and micro hydro power so forgotten as energy source?
Are the methane production of big hydro power well determined?
How advanced is the tidal wave power?
Did they visit the small but interesting tidal power station in Motriku? (60 Km from Bilbao)
Or tidal energy was out of the scope of this conference and traditional hydro power industry?

El Hierro, a renewable island

A map from El Hierro island

A map from El Hierro island

El Hierro is the smallest of the main Canary islands, with only 278 Km2 and 10000 inhabitants maybe for this reason it was the perfect place to accomplish an ambitious project: Get its electricity only from renewable sources. 5 wind mills will be enough for that but supported by an energy storage system, when the mills are not producing electricity for the grid they will feed pumps to raise sea water to a natural deposit. In case electricity is needed and there is no wind a hydropower station will work with this water coming from the deposit. A more detailed explanation is here.

Although small (10000 people) this project is ambitious and promising at the same time. Why? Because it works in a scale between the big country and the familiar house but at the same time it is a complete electrical system as Canary islands are not connected to other grids and for this reasons they have been reluctant to introduce too many renewable sources that would challenge the stability of their small grids fueled with diesel power plants. So it has been easier to try a total replacement (although fuel power plants will continue to be operative for backup) that a mixed system.

At the same time this is an opportunity, because Canarian electricity is expensive, more expensive than standard renewable technology and I haven’t found the cost of this project but it would not surprise me to find it is cheaper in the long-term that standard power production in El Hierro. This data would be great to make a more precise assessment.

Anyway, the most important achievement of this project in my opinion is that renewables have been able to become the main power generation source in a whole electrical system that clearly is in another scale compared to a household. It is a 10000 people scale distributed in a 278 Km2 location. By itself it will not change the general emission trend of the world because even if there are 700 million people living in islands, most of those inhabitants live in much greater islands. But it is a step to change scale and every difficult achievement has been done step by step.

There are internal fights in Spanish government about Energy politics

The conservative government in Spain is breaking records in its politics against renewable energy. The time where Obama mentioned Spain as example seems far away. After Rajoy took office one of the first energy politics by Industry minister caller Soria was to stop feed-in-tarif. Later, it went even further planning a new tax for some energy sources, for example renewables. The great driving force in Sorias speeches was “tarif-deficit“, a concept deserving a post by itself but roughly defined as the difference of accepted official prizes for energy producers and final lower retail prizes for customers. The op-ed in the local reference in the sector energias renovables considering the previous Industry minister as the worse for renewables is simply outdated.

Is this the same as could happen in USA if republicans reach the white house? I do not think iso, t is more complicated. In spanish energy policy conservatives and socialists have not been so far in last years. In fact, some progressive press has criticized solar industry, considering them conected to conservative local governments. So, in this complex but worsening history it is refreshing to find p recently divergences between governmet ministers and see them became public. It is not the first time these divergences are made public. But this time it is stronger and somehow hopeful. Just two short comments for outside observers:

1.- It would be very important to obtain a widespread support for renewables, because this gives more security to the investment. For this, it is a key factor to explain how they are more expensive now but an investment for the future (as research, which by the way is suffering the same problems due to the crisis)

2.- It is important to design renewables growth not only expecting more power demand, also and preferably expecting power demand reduction, as it is happening now in Spain. This is the only way to avoid more than 450 ppm of CO2 in our beloved atmosphere.