VIEWS: 14 PAGES: 80 POSTED ON: 10/5/2012
SUSTAINABLE ENERGY BLOG ANTHOLOGY January 2011 ARTICLES THAT REMAIN RELEVANT AFTER SOME OF THE SMOKE HAS CLEARED This is a selection of articles that appeared on the Leonardo Energy Sustainable Energy Blog over the past four years. They are discussions that are as timely today as when first posted. The collection is certainly not an exhaustive, all-embracing overview. However it does attempt to present a broad spectrum of themes, issues, and opinions that have been flying around in the world of sustainable energy in recent years. When writing for the Sustainable Energy Blog, we try to look at all of the many facets of this domain. We try to discuss the positive as well as the negative issues and to especially look for pioneering or mind-broadening visions. Our hope is that it will help you to rediscover some of the hot — but as yet unresolved — issues. As such, this Anthology can be used as a sort of ‘Crash Course’ for professionals who want to gain rapid insight into the varied topics that make up sustainable energy. This anthology is not a final conclusion, but rather an evolving document that will be updated from time to time by adding new relevant content and by removing what has become outdated. We hope all readers will use the ‘Comments’ function on the LE Sustainable Energy Blog to contribute their own ideas and thoughts on the articles. We wish you pleasant, but most of all, informative reading. Page 1 of 80 CONTENT Articles that remain relevant after some of the smoke has cleared ...................................................................... 1 Content ................................................................................................................................................................... 2 An integrated, global view on the energy problem ................................................................................................ 5 Sustainable Energy (SE) Without the hot air ...................................................................................................... 5 What are the energy sources of the next generation? ....................................................................................... 6 Studies can prove anything ................................................................................................................................ 8 The need for a Master Plan .............................................................................................................................. 10 Climate change: pay now or ask for credit? ..................................................................................................... 11 The develoment of renewable energy technologies (Wind, PV, CSP, Ocean) ...................................................... 13 New growth factors for wind industry .............................................................................................................. 13 Wind power does not need 100% back-up capacity ........................................................................................ 15 New capacity in the EU: wind in number one .................................................................................................. 16 Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants in the desert ...................................................................................... 17 Concentrating Solar Power in California ........................................................................................................... 18 The next generation of PV plants ..................................................................................................................... 18 Quantum-dot solar power ................................................................................................................................ 19 Increasing PV efficiency: R&D breakthrough .................................................................................................... 19 10% solar electricity in the US by 2025? ........................................................................................................... 20 The power of the oceans .................................................................................................................................. 21 Ocean power predicted to increase hundredfold in six years .......................................................................... 22 World’s first tidal stream generating system ................................................................................................... 23 Future cost development of renewable energy ............................................................................................... 24 The cost development of wind energy ............................................................................................................. 25 The cost development of PV energy ................................................................................................................. 26 The cost development of solar thermal energy................................................................................................ 27 Islands powered solely by renewable energy ................................................................................................... 29 Page 2 of 80 A critical view on the renewable energy boom .................................................................................................... 30 Not all renewable power systems are sustainable ........................................................................................... 30 How fast can we move? .................................................................................................................................... 31 The capacity factor of wind power ................................................................................................................... 32 Small wind turbines struggling to gain momentum ......................................................................................... 33 Emissions from photovoltaic manufacturing .................................................................................................... 34 The impact of GHG emission reduction projects connected to the electricity grid ......................................... 36 Different opinions on nuclear and CCS ................................................................................................................. 37 Light neutrons, heavy debate ........................................................................................................................... 37 Nuclear policy: at national or at EU level? ........................................................................................................ 39 Nuclear energy for developing countries? ....................................................................................................... 40 Life expectancy of nuclear power stations ....................................................................................................... 41 The high financial risk of nuclear energy .......................................................................................................... 42 The economic cost of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) ................................................................................ 43 Capturing carbon with enzymes ....................................................................................................................... 44 No more nuclear or coal? ................................................................................................................................. 44 Electrification (EV, electric heating) ..................................................................................................................... 46 Near future cars ................................................................................................................................................ 46 Plug-in electrical vehicles.................................................................................................................................. 49 My car is saving the food in the freezer ........................................................................................................... 50 EEStor’s high performance ultracapacitors ...................................................................................................... 50 Sony City uses waste heat from sewage treatment plant ................................................................................ 51 All new houses to be zero-emission ................................................................................................................. 52 Towards an all-electrical society? ..................................................................................................................... 53 Fuel Cell Trains .................................................................................................................................................. 55 The electricity grid of the future ........................................................................................................................... 56 Nine different Demand Response Programmes ............................................................................................... 56 Creating micro grids for connecting DG units ................................................................................................... 56 Extended microgrids, including storage ........................................................................................................... 57 Page 3 of 80 What is the definition of a ‘smart grid’? ........................................................................................................... 57 Rapid charging of plug-in electric vehicles ....................................................................................................... 58 EE technology ....................................................................................................................................................... 59 Productivity and maintenance benefits of EE ................................................................................................... 59 Is ICT responsible for raising energy demand? ................................................................................................. 60 Energy Efficiency and Peak Demand reduction ................................................................................................ 61 U.S. continues their leading role in motor efficiency ....................................................................................... 62 Science Magazine reports on the efficiency gap .............................................................................................. 62 The vast potential of energy efficiency in India ................................................................................................ 64 EE and REW policies.............................................................................................................................................. 64 Energy efficiency not a priority for EU project funding .................................................................................... 64 America’s leading energy efficiency programmes ............................................................................................ 65 Thailand’s revolving fund to stimulate EE ........................................................................................................ 66 How much energy saving is 1 per cent per year? ............................................................................................. 66 The rebound effect of energy savings .............................................................................................................. 67 Corporate energy efficiency strategies ............................................................................................................. 69 EU struggling with specifying its own targets ................................................................................................... 69 What amount of GHG emission reductions will actually be reached domestically? ........................................ 70 Reverse auction market feed-in tariffs ............................................................................................................. 72 How green is green power? .............................................................................................................................. 73 Are decreasing subsidies a blow to the wind industry? ................................................................................... 74 Harebrained solutions for the energy problem .................................................................................................... 75 Harebrained solutions for the energy problem ................................................................................................ 75 The quest for concentrated wind power .......................................................................................................... 76 Solar highways .................................................................................................................................................. 77 Geo-engineering does not offer an easy way out ............................................................................................ 78 Energy linkages ..................................................................................................................................................... 79 Micro-gardening or solar electricity? ............................................................................................................... 79 Page 4 of 80 AN INTEGRATED, GLOBAL VIEW ON THE ENERGY PROBLEM SUSTAINABLE ENERGY (SE) WITHOUT THE HOT AIR A CRYSTAL-CLEAR AND QUANTITATIVE VIEW OF THE ROAD TOWARDS A LOW-CARBON ECONOMY The book Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air by David J.C. MacKay is a unique case among all of the current publications on this topic. If every author and decision maker involved with climate change and energy issues would take this book as a starting point before making any claims or proposals, the world would be saved a huge amount of discussion-energy, energy-to-disentangle-confusion, and energy-spent-on-fruitless- efforts. 'What exactly do you mean by "a huge amount"?' David MacKay would ask me at this point. Indeed, one of the remarkable facts about his book is that it is free of meaningless claims. In his introduction, he cites that most publications on sustainable energy do not give numbers or examples that are easily compared or put into perspective. What they do give are data used simply to impress. MacKay’s book, on the other hand, constructs several numeric examples on how to create a low carbon economy in the UK. He reduces all figures to the unit of kWh per person per day, making the problem suddenly very transparent. FACING THE NUMBERS The first part of the book is called 'Numbers, not adjectives'. It builds up a red stack enumerating the energy cost of the main energy-consuming activities within the UK, and a green stack adding up all potential renewable resources available in the UK. Out of this exercise comes the first main conclusion: 'If economic and public objections are set aside, it would be possible for the current average energy consumption of 125 kWh per person per day to be provided from domestic UK renewable sources'. However, the financial cost and the impact on the British and Northern Ireland countryside and seaside would be so immense, that it is very unlikable that the public would ever accept such an extreme arrangement. Consequently, an energy plan is needed to fill the gap. MAKING THE PLANS Such energy plans are worked out in the second part of the book, called 'Energy plans that add up'. MacKay sees four possible contributions to fill the gap: 1) reducing energy consumption by using more efficient technology, 2) coal fired generation with carbon capture and storage, 3) nuclear energy, and 4) importing renewable energy from regions that have plenty of sunshine, mainly the Sahara Desert. Concerning the reduction of energy use, MacKay focuses on two large fossil fuel consuming functions, namely heating and transport. Each of these functions are responsible for approximately 40 kWh per person per day. The book proposes to entirely electrify both functions, through the use of electric vehicles and heat pumps. This has a double advantage: it significantly reduces energy consumption and the energy that is still required can be produced by carbon free power generation systems. MEETING THE DEMAND THAT IS LEFT Page 5 of 80 Meeting the remaining energy demand after switching to high efficiency electrical technology can be accomplished in various ways. But each has certain drawbacks. Generating all required electricity — after efficiency improvements — by domestic renewables is not completely impossible, but would still demand a high price from the countryside and seaside. To complement domestic renewables, coal fired power plants with CCS can be used, but MacKay points out that they are not really sustainable on two counts. The first is obviously that the global coal reserve is finite and therefore not truly sustainable. His second point is that there is also a significant amount of carbon dioxide released during the coal mining process. Importing solar energy from the Sahara Desert is the most sustainable option from an environmental point of view, but might raise geopolitical problems. Nuclear energy has the disadvantages of nuclear waste and safety issues, but MacKay puts those drawbacks into perspective by comparing it to other waste and safety issues around the world. By combining the various options in different ways, the book draws six possible plans for a zero-carbon economy in the UK, without expressing any preference between them. It invites the reader to compose their own preferred zero-carbon energy plan, which is made easier thanks to the transparent figures that are provided. The principal message MacKay wants to pass on to the reader is that the energy plans need to 'add up' before they are worth considering. The last two chapters of the book are dedicated to a more specialized audience, providing technical details on energy systems and useful data that back-up the figures provided in the first part of the book. REFERENCES You can freely download the book 'Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air' by David MacKay at his website WHAT ARE THE ENERGY SOURCES OF THE NEXT GENERATION? 'SEARCHING FOR A MIRACLE' Last September, an interesting new analysis was published by two California-based think tanks: Searching for a miracle / "Net Energy" limits & the fate of industrial society. The report, written by Richard Heinberg, is a joint initiative by the International Forum on Globalization and the Post Carbon Institute. As with the book Sustainable energy / Without the hot air by David Mc Kay (on which we reported earlier on this blog), the report by Heinberg has as its principal merit a comprehensive analysis of the energy problem. With global warming becoming an increasingly important topic and the all-time peak of global oil production most probably behind us (July 2008, 87.9 million barrels per day), we can no longer hide behind local solutions. The world’s energy use will need a radical change in the upcoming decades. But contrary to David Mc Kay’s book, Heinberg’s study also takes the cost, the reliability, and the potential transition speed of possible energy resources into account, as well as their physical and technical potential. However, Heinberg looks at the energy solutions separately and does not propose scenarios in which demand and production figures are added up and matched, as Mc Kay did. It is worth noting that both experts put emphasis on the need for energy conservation and on the advantages of electricity as an energy carrier. Another common viewpoint of both experts is that they see only a very limited potential for biomass, ethanol, and biodiesel. Both also view wind energy and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) as very powerful options for the future. Page 6 of 80 ASSESSING THE AVAILABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES The report by Heinberg analyses 18 different energy sources. It is notable that all of them are presently available on the market in a more or less developed form. Heinberg clearly does not pin much hope on new 'magical' solutions that still only exist as concepts or laboratory models. Taking the urgency of the matter into account, he postulates that we will have to make do with the solutions we already have at hand. It will take less time to solve the primary issues of existing technologies than it will to develop entirely new energy solutions from scratch, and we must always bear in mind the risk that the theoretical or hypothetical new energy solutions may never deliver at all. The report uses nine criteria to assess the potential future of the 18 available energy sources. Those criteria can be grouped into six basic categories: Direct monetary cost Environmental impact Renewability Potential scale of contribution Reliability Energy Return On Energy Investment (EROEI). The importance of 'net energy' Much emphasis is laid on the EROEI criterion, also called 'net energy'. It is seen as a key figure to understand the world energy system. The EROEI of US oil was 100:1 in 1930. It fell to 30:1 in 1970, and is currently less than 20:1. According to Heinberg, the high EROEI that oil formerly enjoyed was directly responsible for the development of the energy guzzling economy we have today. The drama of his argument lies in his assertion that it is very unlikely that we will find a new energy resource with such a high EROEI any time soon. Even though the reserves of oil and natural gas are still significant, the EROEIs of those resources will most probably continue their steep decrease. This is also the case for coal but to a lesser degree, since today coal still has an EROEI of around 65:1. Heinberg shatters the illusion that we still have coal available for a few hundreds of years. He predicts the world coal peak around 2025 and a steep decline in its EROEI after 2040. The minimum EROEI necessary to sustain a modern industrial society is considered to be 10:1. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will make the EROEI of coal decline even faster, and for this reason Heinberg does not see coal with CCS as a sustainable solution. The report’s general conclusion is that, even without taking climate change and other environmental issues into account, we will be forced to shift towards a non-fossil-fuel economy in the coming decades. WHICH TECHNOLOGIES HAVE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POTENTIAL? What are the cards we have in hand to build a new energy economy? As could be expected, Heinberg does not foresee any silver bullet. For various reasons, he downplays the possibilities of nuclear energy, hydroelectric energy, passive solar energy, biomass, biodiesel, and ethanol. Nuclear energy has many drawbacks: uranium is non-renewable, the initial investments are huge, the environmental impact of the fuel cycle is high, and nuclear power plants require a great deal of water. Hydroelectric energy is either on too small a scale and thus does not add up, or too large a scale with local environmental and social impacts that are in most cases too high to be acceptable. Passive solar energy is certainly a valuable concept, but too limited in scale to contribute significantly to the world’s energy needs. Biomass, biodiesel, and ethanol have an EROEI below 5:1. The report sees significant potential for wind energy, solar photovoltaic energy (PV), Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), wave energy, and tidal energy, but even the potential of this 'energy mix of the future' is limited. PV has Page 7 of 80 serious drawbacks in its relatively high cost and relatively low EROEI, and the potential of tidal energy is limited to a few regions of the world. Wave energy will need more research before we know its true potential. So, most probably, wind energy and CSP will have to make up the largest share in any viable future energy mix. ELECTRICITY AS THE PREFERRED ENERGY CARRIER Apart from the energy source question, there is also the question of which energy carrier is going to take over the role that is currently performed by liquid fossil fuels. Hydrogen presents problems that are so substantial we are unlikely to ever see a 'hydrogen economy', says the report. Its energy density per unit of volume is too low and too much energy is lost in the various conversion steps a hydrogen economy entails. Electricity has more potential, but if it is chosen as a systematic energy carrier, a few barriers still have to be overcome. The energy density of electrical batteries needs to be enhanced, and solutions need to be developed to efficiently transport electricity from remote renewable production centres to distant population centres. ENERGY CONSERVATION ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL Given the limited potential of the 'energy mix of the future' as stated in the report, the central message of Searching for a Miracle is a pessimistic one. This is in contrast with the relatively optimistic point of view of David Mc Kay in Sustainable Energy / Without the hot air. According to Heinberg, it will be impossible to ever bring the entire world population up to the current American energy standards. Even bringing the world population up to European standards seems too ambitious. Maintaining today’s world average energy use per capita is most probably the only thing we can hope to accomplish, and even that will require sacrifices in terms of cost, quality, and reliability of the energy. Heinberg sees energy conservation, mitigating population growth, and limiting economic growth as indispensible if we are to develop a sustainable energy economy. In the chapter 'The case for conservation', he lists several possible measures. Those include, among other things, the construction of highly efficient rail- based transit systems, the retrofit of building stocks for maximum energy efficiency, the internalisation of the full costs of energy to reflect its true price, aggressive measures for demand-side management, and intensive water conservation programmes. That last argument is based on the fact that currently high amounts of energy are used by pumps for moving water. A 100 GJ PER PERSON PER YEAR SHOULD SUFFICE Heinberg concludes his report on a positive note. We should not strive to bring the world up to current American energy standards. He cites Vaclav Smil, who investigated the relationship between the annual energy use per capita and the feeling of well-being. According to those statistics, the feeling of well-being expands proportionally with the per capita energy consumption up to about 100 GJ per capita per year. Above this figure, the feeling of well-being does not continue to follow the increasing energy consumption and even starts to go down again. Consequently, Heinberg takes 100 GJ per capita per year as a general target and not the 325 GJ per capita per year as currently consumed in the US. Note that David Mc Kay used a similar guiding number, when he proposed to bring the current rate of 178 GJ/capita/year (125 kWh/capita/day) in the UK down to 105 GJ/capita/year (80 kWh/capita/day) through energy efficiency. The world average in 2008 was 74 GJ/capita/year. STUDIES CAN PROVE ANYTHING Page 8 of 80 EVEN THAT A COGENERATION UNIT ON NATURAL GAS CAN COMPETE WITH NUCLEAR ENERGY IN TERMS OF CO 2 EMISSIONS It is often difficult to see the wood for the trees on the present day energy landscape. There are probably as many contradictory studies being carried out on how to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as there are on how to lose weight. If a study is published today 'proving' that a diet without potatoes is the most effective, you can be sure that tomorrow someone will launch the Potato Diet, 'losing weight by eating as many potatoes as you want!' How green is biomass? How green are photovoltaic cells? What amount of CO 2 emissions is attributable to nuclear energy? What is the cost of nuclear energy? Is carbon capture and storage a sustainable technology? Is cogeneration green? How big are the earth’s oil reserves? You can find studies that prove any position you want take on those subjects. SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO READ FURTHER DOWN THE TEXT Recently, the German Federal Department for Environment, Protection of Nature and Nuclear Reactor Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit) put out a press release n which they claimed that 'a cogeneration unit on natural gas can compete with nuclear energy in terms of CO2 emissions'. Much further down the text, they clarify this statement. If a building or industrial installation requires 2 kWh of heat and 1 kWh of electricity, a cogeneration unit on natural gas will produce less GHG emissions than the combination of electricity from nuclear energy and heat from fuel oil. Well yes, of course. THE PROBLEM IS NOT NECESSARILY IN THE STUDIES This press release reveals the origin of many contradictory results. In most cases, the problem is not the credibility of the studies themselves. The differences originate from the points of departure (what exactly are you comparing?), the interpretation of the results (what do the figures actually mean?), and the way the results are communicated (what will you tell the reader and what do you withhold or downplay?). Whether it is 'economically sound to continue with nuclear energy', for instance, depends primarily on your starting point. Do you mean to continue with existing nuclear power plants, do you want to continue building new reactors on existing nuclear sites, or do you intend to create brand new nuclear sites? Are you taking the cost of nuclear waste into account? What about the risk of a nuclear accident? The same sort of situation arises when you address the question of whether 'cogeneration is green or not'. Will all the heat from the unit be consumed? And if yes, will it be consumed locally, or will it require heat transport? SOME GENERAL PRINCIPLES REMAIN It is usually dangerous to make generalisations about specific situations. The balance can often go in one direction or another, depending on case-specific conditions. Does this mean that there are no general statements to make at all on energy and climate change mitigation? I do not think so. The following general principles remain firm: By eating less you will lose weight: reducing energy consumption will reduce GHG emissions A varied diet is good for your health: the optimal energy solution is a mix of various technologies And, if you dare to cast doubt on those principles, I will provide you with a dozen credible studies that prove them correct. Page 9 of 80 THE NEED FOR A MASTER PLAN GAINING PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION EFFORTS At present, we do not have a proven tool that quantifies the environmental impact of various electricity generation systems. And without it, we cannot take well-founded decisions concerning our energy future. That is one of the conclusions in the paper Environmental Effects of Electricity Generation by The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) . Current discussions about the Severn barrage and the construction of a wind park on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland (see article in the Sunday Times) illustrate in practice how urgently such a tool is needed. These cases also show that such a decision tool alone will not be enough to guarantee that we are taking the best available measures to mitigate climate change. There is also a need for a European structure in which such a decision tool can be applied. EMOTIONAL RESISTANCE As the IET paper makes clear, the environmental impact of renewable energy is not zero. If we want to apply renewable energy generation on a scale comparable to fossil fuels, whatever form it takes will have a significant impact in terms of aesthetics, land use, and the eco-system. Consequently, renewable energy projects will continue to face increasing ‘Not-In-My-Backyard’ resistance at the same time they are gaining in their contribution to global energy needs. An undeniable, tangible effect in someone's backyard today will always have greater personal impact than a global, complex phenomenon that occurs over the course of a century or more. Countering such resistance can be accomplished in two ways. The first is elevating the emotional rhetoric ever higher to dramatise climate change as leading directly to the end of world. The second one is more durable but also more difficult: use rational arguments that stand like a rock. Make sure that the complex global phenomenon is very clear to people, and propose a mix of solutions that is undeniably the best we can do. The former is what Al Gore did in the movie An Inconvenient Truth – at least in its best moments, since the movie was not completely free of over-dramatisation either. Unfortunately, the movie keeps surprisingly silent about solutions. SEARCHING FOR THE BEST AVAILABLE SOLUTIO NS Regarding the Severn barrage, an answer to the following questions might go a long way towards convincing local populations, bird watchers, and other environmentalists: Have all other measures for reducing CO 2 emissions been considered? Are there no effective measures available at a lower price? Will building the barrage actually lead to a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions or will it only be used to increase energy consumption? Presently, there is no clear answer to these questions. The UK government needs to be able to state unequivocally that ‘We are making maximum efforts to stimulate energy efficiency, since this fourth fuel has the least environmental impact. We have thoroughly investigated which of the possible measures will have the least financial, environmental, and social cost in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including the Severn barrage. With this barrage, we will be able to close down 2,000 MW of coal-fired power plants, leading to a CO2 reduction of x tons a year.’ In short, building this barrage should be part of a master plan — preferably pan-European — that can be explained and proven to the general public that it is the best available solution for mitigating climate change. COMPLEX MARKET MECHANISMS Page 10 of 80 The idea of a master plan with executive power, however, contradicts the philosophy of a liberalised market. If the UK government acted strictly along the lines of the liberalised energy market, it: Could force the market to reduce greenhouse gas emissions Should leave it completely up to the market how to achieve these reductions Should not grant a permit to build the Severn barrage, since that would affect state-protected nature reserves In short, it would ask the impossible of the various market players and stakeholders, since the dilemma of local versus global impact would not be solved. The third way is to design a master plan that indicates the measures with the least financial, environmental, social cost, but to leave its execution to the market. That is to set up market mechanisms that work in such a way that the least cost for the market players coincides with the least cost for society. Those mechanisms however are virtually guaranteed to be highly complex, so complex in fact that it will be difficult to gain the support of a broad public. Have you ever tried to explain the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) or the green certificates system to laymen? Moreover, there is no guarantee that those mechanisms will function as desired, as proved by the failure of the ETS (see blog post EU emissions trading scrutinized). As the Severn case illustrates, it is very difficult to incorporate all required considerations (up to and including eco-diversity and local tourism) into such market mechanisms. MAKING THE SOLUTIONS AS CLEAR AS THE PROBLEM Thanks to missionaries like Al Gore, the broad public is today convinced that climate change is real. But before people will be willing to undertake the efforts necessary to mitigate the effects, they will need the assurance that those efforts are part of a clear, generally acknowledged master plan, for which all available measures have been investigated and the options with the least cost to society clearly identified. As long as there is no such plan implemented, some people will keep on reasoning that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and decisions like the one on the Severn barrage will be impossible to take in a satisfying manner for all parties concerned. CLIMATE CHANGE: PAY NOW OR ASK FOR CREDIT? AN ETHICAL AS WELL AS AN ECONOMIC QUESTION If we continue business-as-usual, climate change — according to both the worst prognoses and the more optimistic ones — will confront humanity with serious consequences and a high price tag. However, the cost to society of mitigating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions is also high. So inevitably, the question arises: what we should do? Pay today for mitigating climate change or pay later to deal with its consequences? This question is most often presented as a mere economic problem. Not so, says John Broom in the Scientific American article ‘The ethics of climate change’. The answer, he maintains, also entails ethical decisions. John Broom refers to the ‘Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change’ by Nicolas Stern and the UK Treasury, and to the studies of William Nordhaus at Yale University. While Stern concludes that urgent action to control Greenhouse Gas emissions is required, Nordhaus’s position is that the need to act is not acute. Broom identifies and explains the premises at the basis of this contradictory outcome. Page 11 of 80 THE PROBLEM OF THE DISCOUNT FACTOR The difference between the conclusions of Stern and Nordhaus primarily derives from fact that each economist uses a different discount rate for future goods. The economic value of goods diminishes when they only become available at a certain point in the future. Therefore, the value of future goods is discounted when they are compared with present day goods. Stern uses a discount rate of 1.4% while Nordhaus is using 6%. The latter figure is also the one that is used by the money market. The discount rate is a consequence of three elements: Economic growth: the more goods people have, the less they value new goods The idea that people in the future can make a lower claim on goods, because they will be richer than we are (= prioritism) The idea that people in the future can make a lower claim on goods or simply because of their temporal distance from us allows us to care less about them than we do about our own generation (= temporal impartiality) The first element is a non-ethical parameter, based solely on economic prediction. However, the degree to which the second and the third element should be incorporated in the discount factor, if at all, is a purely ethical decision. Nicolas Stern does not accept temporal impartiality, William Nordhaus does. Nordhaus substantiates his choice by saying that the average behaviour of people on the money market includes temporal impartiality. So he sees ‘temporal impartial thinking’ as a democratic fact that we must accept, and not as an ethical choice. He accused Stern of basing his calculations on his personal ethical premises. John Broom disagrees with the Nordhaus choice: 1) Goods on the money market are of a different kind than those that are at stake due to climate change, so this market cannot reveal ethical judgements about the value of future well-being. 2) A democratic standpoint is not the average of individual opinions. Most individuals tend to be impatient, but it is the power of a democratic society that it can surpass this short-sighted way of thinking by debate and deliberation. The Stern standpoint is one of many valuable contributions to this democratic debate. So regardless of which discount factor is used in these kinds of calculations, its choice will always be an ethical one. MINIMIZING THE RISK AT ANY COST? It is remarkable that Stern, Nordhaus, and Broom all accept economic growth as an absolute fact. Nevertheless, Broom points out that there exists a small but real chance that climate change could lead to a worldwide catastrophe. Will the global economy keep on growing in times of such a catastrophe? Economic growth is not a foregone conclusion nor is it a natural law. Consequently, there is a certain degree of risk that people in the future will not be richer than we and would therefore result in an inverse discount factor. This idea can be incorporated into the arithmetic by conventional risk calculation. But is that the end of it? I don’t know. Maybe there is another ethical question arising here, at the risk of sounding naïve. If something seems to be threatening the peaceful continued existence of our civilization and we are technically capable of removing this threat, should we not always try to do that, whatever the cost? If we are not heading towards such a catastrophe, it might turn out cheaper to pay for the consequences later instead of acting now. But do Page 12 of 80 we want to rely on ‘if’ for such a serious matter? In other words, to what degree are we willing to put the future at risk and which cost are we willing to pay to remove this risk? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I think these kinds of problems require a wide global debate. It is time that the topic on the global public forums shifts from whether climate change is real or not, to how and when we prefer to pay the cost, a decision that should be based on both economic and ethical considerations. REFERENCES Article ‘The Ethics of Climate Change: Pay Now or Pay More Later’ by John Broome in Scientific American (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-ethics-of-climate-change) THE DEVELOMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES (WIND, PV, CSP, OCEAN) NEW GROWTH FACTORS FOR WIND INDUSTRY IMPROVING TECHNOLOGY, EXPANSION OFF-SHORE, AND EXPLORING THE BUILDING SECTOR POTENTIAL The wind sector has been growing spectacularly over the past decade. However, to sustain these impressive growth figures over the next twenty years in Europe and North America, business-as-usual will not be enough. In several European countries, the number of remaining onshore sites for building new wind farms is already declining. Maintaining current growth will require going off-shore, or at least off the beaten track. Some offshore wind farms are already in operation but there is still a huge potential — if the technology can overcome some of its current teething problems (see blog post ‘How fast can we move?’) Further expansion of the onshore potential is possible by scaling up existing wind farms in both size and efficiency; radical new design proposals are being put forward Building-integrated wind turbines have both advocates and sceptics in regards to their potential to open up a completely new market DEVELOPING OFFSHORE WIND Given its target of 20% renewables by 2020, the EU sees offshore wind as a major power source for the future. EU Energy Commissioner Andrès Piebalgs declared at the European Wind Energy Conference in March that he is counting on the potential of offshore wind energy to ‘ensure that the growth trend in wind energy continues’. He indicated that he would develop an Action Plan by the end of this year outlining the means by which the EU can facilitate the development of offshore wind energy. Piebalgs also clearly stated that ‘a maritime grid infrastructure is needed for the development of offshore wind energy. […] As this is not yet in place, it must be developed fairly quickly and a central question is how it should be financed.’ In the meantime, the US has yet to see its first offshore wind project even begin construction. Surprisingly enough, it could very well be a group of commercial fishermen and dock operators who will lead the way. I say surprisingly because the commercial fishing industry has almost universally opposed offshore Page 13 of 80 developments as a duel threat to fishing grounds and navigation. The state of New Jersey wants to become the home of the first offshore wind farm in the US and is providing a grant for the best project proposal. One of the leading contenders is the Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey group. This group has apparently concluded that offshore wind farms are inevitable and that its members will be in a much more powerful position by joining rather than fighting it. If wind turbines are going to limit access to some of their traditional trawling grounds, they want to make sure that they can at least harvest the wind instead. The active participation of commercial fishermen will enhance the chances of overall success. They are intimately familiar with the local weather, ocean currents, and continental shelf topography. Faced with ever- declining fish stocks worldwide, they are a group of experienced people ready and willing to work offshore. Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey hopes to install its first pilot of 20 MW by 2011 and to expand it to 320 MW by 2013. Another group equally well acquainted with working offshore is the Norwegian oil and gas company StatOilHydro. In May of this year they decided to build the world’s first full scale floating wind turbine. The 2.3 MW wind turbine will be attached to the top of a spar-buoy, a design already being used for some oil and gas production platforms and for various oceanographic instrumentation systems. It will be located approximately 10 kilometres from the coast near the city of Stavanger, Norway. The floating element of this pilot installation will have a draft at some 100 meters below sea level providing it with the required stability in the often-turbulent North Sea storms. Floating wind turbines, if they are able to reach technical and economic maturity, have the potential to give a significant boost to the wind sector. It would enable the location of wind farms not only in shallow near- coastal waters but also at locations with sea depths of 120 to 700 metres where wind speeds are favourable and the visual impact minimal. RADICAL NEW CONCEPTS The StatOilHydro project combines known technology in an innovative way. The California-based Selsam SuperTurbine company, on the contrary, has developed a radical new concept for offshore floating wind turbines. It consists of a long shaft bending in the wind like a reed and containing several rotors at different heights. The shaft connects to a buoy carrying the generator. The SuperTurbine website enumerates many potential advantages of this concept: Lower cost by eliminating unnecessary material and components High yield per unit since it contains several rotors at different heights which affect each other favourable Limited visual impact Can be installed in both deep and shallow water without foundations at the sea bottom Can be laid down and even submerged to withstand extreme storms This is, of course, strictly the current promotional position of the company as they try to sell the concept. The bottom line will be the cost per kWh that this new type of turbine will be able to produce. Moreover, the technology will first have to prove itself in rigorous field tests before it can be regarded as a viable option for the future. On the Physics Forum, Fred Garvin fears that the rotor dynamics of this concept could be a nightmare. Probably closer to realization are the Jet Engine wind turbines by FloDesign, a Massachusetts-based company. The Jet Engine channels the wind into a vortex that spins the small, high speed rotor blades. This makes them at least twice as efficient as traditional rotor blade turbines. Moreover, they are capable of operating both at Page 14 of 80 lower and at higher wind speeds than traditional turbines, enhancing the capacity factor of the unit (see blog post ‘The capacity factor of wind power’). FloDesign turbines are easier to install since they have much smaller blades — they fit into a single standard size long haul truck — and are inherently safer. A no less important advantage is that they can be placed closer together on a site, optimizing land use. If all those arguments prove out and this technology is cost-efficient, it could boost the yield of onshore wind farms. BUILDING-INTEGRATED WIND SYSTEMS A new domain for expanding wind energy is building-integrated wind turbines. Like any new idea, it has its sceptics. They point out that wind passing around buildings generally shows a high level of turbulence that can affect the efficiency of the turbines. Nevertheless, proponents can point to the Bahrain World Trade Center in Manama, Bahrain, inaugurated last April, to prove that this barrier can be overcome. It is the first building integrating utility-scale wind turbines into its design. The turbines are mounted on the three bridges that span the gap between two sail-shaped buildings, and not on the rooftop. The architecture of the building shape is designed to funnel wind through the gap between the two buildings to provide the maximum amount of wind passing through the turbines. The turbines have a capacity of 225 kWp each and provide 11 to 15% of the buildings energy needs. They are expected to operate 50% of the time. Will we all have our own personal wind turbine on our house one day? I have my doubts and, frankly, I hope we will not. Many can still recall the sea of television aerials that once created an urban visual pollution all of it own before the advent of cable. Nevertheless, it appears that residential wind turbines are getting cheaper. The E2D Windmaster of the California-based company Freetricity’s is probably the first affordable roof- mounted residential wind turbine. It is small enough to be used in residential areas and powerful enough to provide 25% to 50% of the electricity needed by the average household. The system connects via an inverter, rather like a photovoltaic system. A unique feature is that it comes with a battery and can be used as a backup system during electrical blackouts. It is probably also an appropriate solution for off-grid houses in remote, windy regions. REFERENCES Article ‘Brussels to push for development of offshore wind energy’ on euobserver.com (http://euobserver.com/9/25893?rss_rk=1) Article ‘Fish Juice: N.J. Fisherman Angling To Develop Offshore Wind’ in The Wall Street Journal (http://blogs.wsj.com/environmentalcapital/2008/06/03/fish-juice-nj-fisherman-angling-to-develop- offshore-wind/) Article ‘StatoilHydro to build first full scale offshore floating wind turbine’ on the StatoilHydro Website (http://www.statoilhydro.com/en/NewsAndMedia/News/2008/Pages/hywind_fullscale.aspx) Article ‘Ten Times the Turbine’ on PopSci.com (http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-05/ten- times-turbine) Article ‘Wind Turbine Concept Inspired by Jet Engines’ on Alternative Energy ( http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/wind-turbine-concept-jet-engines/) Article ‘First Large Building-Integrated Wind Turbines Spin in Bahrain’ on the EERE News Website (http://www.eere.energy.gov/news/news_detail.cfm/news_id=11712) Article ‘Inexpensive residential wind turbine’ on Environmental News Network (http://www.enn.com/energy/article/34768) WIND POWER DOES NOT NEED 100% BACK-UP CAPACITY Page 15 of 80 A DETAILED ANALYSIS BY THE TECHNICAL RESEARCH CENTRE OF FINLAND One of the major drawbacks of wind energy is that it requires extra reserve capacity to compensate for the intermittency of its power output. Opponents of wind energy even contend that it requires a 100% back up: they claim each megawatt of wind power would require a megawatt from a combined cycle power plant as a standby. A study by the Technical Research Centre of Finland has now demonstrated this last claim to be incorrect. SIZE MATTERS The study “Design and operation of power systems with large amounts of wind power” was commissioned by the International Energy Agency (IEA) for its Wind Implementing Agreement, and resulted in a state-of-the-art report. It shows that the amount of back up needed for wind energy varies greatly according to the systems’ characteristics. The size of the system and the correlation of wind production with peak demand are two major and decisive factors. In systems that cover a large area, wind-forces vary from region to region, leading to an aggregation benefit. Large systems are also more stable, making it easier to compensate the intermittency of wind power. Moreover, the increased regulation efforts associated with wind energy are implemented more cost-effectively in large systems. LIMITING THE IMPACT OF INTERMITTENCY The impact of intermittency and the need for back-up capacity can be controlled and limited. Useful actions are: Creating appropriate grid connection requirements Extending and enforcing transmission networks Integrating wind power production and production forecasts into system and market operations 60% BACK UP The conclusion of this study is clear. Though a large part of wind capacity does indeed require another plant to be on stand-by, this back-up requirement never reaches 100%. In areas where wind production is high during peak demand and the share of wind is no more than 30% of production, a mere 60% back up would be sufficient. In other cases, larger back-up capacities might be required, up to 95% at worst. Finally, the influence of wind power on the systems management does not need to be purely negative. Recent wind power technology makes it possible for wind power plants to participate in voltage regulation and to support the grid in the event of faults such as significant voltage drops. REFERENCES Article “Wind Power Need Not Be Backed Up By An Equal Amount of Reserve Power” on ScienceDaily (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071207000819.htm) Publication “Design and operation of power systems with large amounts of wind power” by the Technical Research Centre of Finland (http://www.vtt.fi/vtt_show_record.jsp?target=julk&form=sdefe&search=57725) NEW CAPACITY IN THE EU: WIND IN NUMBER ONE Page 16 of 80 TREND CHANGE OR COINCIDENCE? In 2008, wind energy was the preferred technology for new generation capacity in the EU. According to the Planet 2025 NewsNetwork, 43% of all the new power capacity commissioned in the EU last year was wind power. This compares to 35% for natural gas, 13% for oil, 4% for coal, and 2% hydroelectric power. After years of natural gas dominance, this sounds like a real trend change. Has the era of renewable energy begun? That may be, but nevertheless, a few observations are in order. Firstly, one has to wonder whether this surge in wind power construction is caused by a particularly weak year for conventional power plants, rather than by the attraction of the wind power sector itself. Secondly, the EU presently has approximately 160,000 individuals directly and indirectly employed in the manufacture and installation of wind power. More than €10 billion a year is being invested to install more than 8,000 MW of new capacity each year. Yet despite this extensive building activity, wind still does not produce much more than 4% of the EU’s electricity demands. This shows again just how massive the electricity generation system actually is. Despite the seemingly huge effort on the part of its proponents, the share of wind energy in the European energy mix still seems to grow at a snail’s pace. The European and North American electricity systems — built up over several decades — are so enormous, that they have a huge inertia when faced with change. This inertia is something to keep at the back of our mind when conceiving the energy systems of the future; wrong choices can last out long. CONCENTRATED SOLAR POWER (CSP) PLANTS IN THE DESERT A HUGE POTENTIAL FROM A PROVEN TECHNOLOGY In the photovoltaic industry boom, another solar power technology has somehow been overshadowed: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). CSP uses mirrors to concentrate the sun rays on a pipe or vessel. These contain a gas or liquid that is heated to around 400° C and is then used to power conventional steam turbines. The technology is proven — a CSP plant in the California desert has been functioning very effectively for fifteen years. One major advantage of CSP is that the medium heated during the day can be stored in vessels to keep the turbines running at night. One of the principal advocates for CSP is the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC), an initiative in conjunction with the Club of Rome. TREC suggests building large CSP power plants in the North- African and Middle East deserts and transporting the electrical energy to Europe via a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) grid. They have calculated that it would be feasible to build a total of fifty square kilometres of facilities in the desert capable of generating 100 GW (about 10% of the total EU-25 generation capacity). The project would include a HVDC transmission grid to transport the energy to Europe. It could be built up gradually, to be completed by 2050. The financial investments would be large (around 400 billion Euros) but not impossible, and the output competitive with fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Greenpeace executed another study concluding that CSP has the potential to generate 37 GW worldwide by 2025, and 600 GW or 5% of the worldwide electricity demand by 2040. Page 17 of 80 CONCENTRATING SOLAR POWER IN CALIFORNIA ECONOMIC, ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS INVESTIGATED The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted a study to assess the effect of deploying Concentrating Solar Power Plants (CSP) in California. It investigated the economic return, the impact on the energy supply, as well as the environmental benefits. The final paper of the study can be downloaded from TroughNet. The NREL chose a 100 MW parabolic trough plant with six hours of storage as the representative CSP plant to focus the results of the study. Cumulative deployment scenarios of 2,100 MW and 4,000 MW between 2008 and 2020 were assumed. California has certainly enough potential CSP sites to realize such scenarios. COMPARISON WITH NATURAL GAS PLANTS CSP was compared with natural gas power plants, since these are currently the most frequent choice in California (simple cycle gas plants for peak duty and combined cycle gas plants of intermediate duty). CSP plants are of the same order of magnitude as natural gas power plants. If they include six hours of storage capacity, they can combine the peak duty of simple cycle natural gas plants with the intermediate duty of combined cycle gas plants. A HIGHER COST, EXPECTED TO GRADUALLY DECREASE The Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) of a CSP plant in the first deployment phase is estimated to be $148/MWh, which is higher than a combined cycle gas plant ($104/MWh), but lower than a simple cycle natural gas plant ($168/MWh). For plants installed in later stages of the development scenarios, CSP cost is expected to fall and the technology to become a competitive choice for both peaking and intermediate duties. ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS The proposed CSP deployment scenarios would create the following benefits: Each dollar spent on CSP would contribute approximately $1.40 to California’s GDP, compared to $0.90 up to $1.00 for a dollar spent on natural gas plants CSP is expected to create 94 jobs for each 100 MW, compared to 56 jobs for a simple cycle natural gas plant and 13 jobs for a combined cycle natural gas plant CSP plants could reduce the impact of natural gas price increases and volatility on the price of electricity The 4,000 MW scenario would result in an annual reduction of 300 tons NOx emissions, 180 tons of CO emissions, and 7.6 million tons of CO2 emissions THE NEXT GENERATION OF PV PLANTS GROWING FROM 10 MW TO MORE THAN 100 MW Worldwide, various photovoltaic (PV) solar plants of five up to fifteen megawatts are in full operation. Page 18 of 80 In the meantime, a new generation of PV plants capable of producing up to ten times more electricity is coming on line. In Spain, two plants of more than 50 MW have been commissioned (Olmedilla and Puertollano) In Germany, 5 plants of more than 40 MW and are in use (Strasskirchen, Turnow-Preilack, Köthen, Finsterwalde and Brandis) The Spanish company Acciona has built 46 MW plant in Moura, Portugal The Chinese company Zhonghao New Energy Investment plans a 100 MW plant in Dunhuang City (China), to be commissioned in 2011. Firm plans also exist for a 100 MW plant in the Negev Desert, Israel, for a 116 MW plant in Beja, Portugal and for a 300 MW plant in New Mexico, USA. QUANTUM-DOT SOLAR POWER ONE OF THE TEN “EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES 2007” OF THE MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW Quantum-dots are tiny crystals of semiconductors just a few nanometres wide. Due to their unique ability to interact with light, they have the potential of significantly increasing the efficiency and lower the price of photovoltaic cells. Currently, the most efficient photovoltaic cells are made out of crystalline silicon. In silicon, one photon of light frees one electron from its atomic orbit. In quantum-dots made out of particular materials, up to seven electrons are freed per photon when exposed to high-energy ultraviolet light. Moreover, quantum-dots can be produced by simple chemical reactions, while crystalline silicon wafers are relatively expensive to manufacture. To date however, the extra-electron effect has been observed only in isolated quantum dots. In a working quantum-dot solar cell, most electrons are swallowed up before they leave the semiconductor dot. A commercial application of this technology is presumably still many years away. But the potential is already real enough for Moser Baer PhotoVoltaic Ltd to acquire a significant minority stake in Stion Corporation, one of the main R&D companies studying nanostructures technology. Moser Baer PhotoVoltaic Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Moser Baer India Ltd. INCREASING PV EFFICIENCY: R&D BREAKTHROUGH AMERICAN SCIENTISTS CAPTURE LOST ENERGY The solar energy falling onto the earth is incredibly abundant but the majority gets lost anyway. So what is the big deal about improving the efficiency of solar cells? Well for starters, highly efficient PV cells could create a complete sea change on the cost, material use, and the amount of land presently employed in harvesting the sun’s energy. Today, the efficiency limit of photovoltaic cells is approximately 31 percent. For a long time this was thought to be a physical border, as certain high-energy photons in sunlight exceed the band-gap energy in a PV cell. That energy, in the form of so-called ‘hot electrons,’ is too high to be turned into usable electricity and is lost as heat in conventional solar cells. Page 19 of 80 Well, it seems we had better start referring to that physical border in the past tense. The ‘hot electrons’ could not be captured — until now. According to the peer reviewed weekly Journal, Science, published on 18 June by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a team of material chemists at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Minnesota have demonstrated that this lost energy can indeed be salvaged and transferred to an adjacent electron-conducting layer. Their experiment, carried out using a system consisting of quantum dots coupled with a titanium dioxide layer, was the first time that this ‘hot- electron transfer’ has been achieved directly. Making use of this concept could potentially increase the efficiency of a PV cell to more than 65 percent. A great deal of science and engineering needs to be carried out yet so this does not mean that such highly efficient PV cells are likely to be on the market soon. There are still many barriers to overcome, for instance, how to channel the recovered energy for practical use. However, at the very least, this news provides strong evidence that improving the efficiency of PV cells is not yet even close to its limit. REFERENCES IEEE Spectrum: Breakthrough in Capturing Lost Energy in Solar Cells (http://www.diigo.com/annotated/d6fcef473022580ace50ccb74769827a) Article Science/AAAS: ‘Hot-Electron Transfer from Semiconductor Nanocrystals’, free abstract http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/328/5985/1543 10% SOLAR ELECTRICITY IN THE US BY 2025? FEASIBLE IF ALL STAKEHOLDERS ACTIVELY CO-OPERATE A new study by Clean Edge concludes that generating 10% of the electricity consumed in the US with solar energy by 2025 is a feasible target. The Utility Solar Assessment (USA) Study has presented utilities, solar companies, and regulators a roadmap of how to reach this target. Today, solar energy in the US contributes a mere 0.06% of all power generated. Reaching 10% by 2025 would require an active and co-ordinated effort on the part of all stakeholders. The following are the main action points mentioned in the report: Utilities should take advantage of solar energy’s ability to generate peak power, and they should implement solar energy as a key element in the build-out of the smart grid Solar companies need to bring the cost of a solar installation down to $3 per watt peak by 2018 Regulators and policy makers should continue the current system of tax credits for solar energy for the foreseeable future MASSIVE INVESTMENTS REQUIRED Such a coordinated effort would have to be combined with massive investments. Clean Edge has calculated the required investment to be between $26 and $33 billion annually from now until 2025. To put these figures into perspective: the total investment in new power plants, transmission lines, and distribution lines in the US in 2007 was $70 billion. Page 20 of 80 An investment of this magnitude is not as high a risk as it may at first appear, since solar energy is expected to achieve grid parity soon. When that point is reached, solar energy will become inherently profitable, even without tax credits. Clean Edge estimates that for large parts of the US, grid parity will arrive around 2015. Grid parity has already been reached in some parts of California. REFERENCES Introduction to the report ‘Utility Solar Assessment (USA) Study’ on the Clean Edge Web site (http://www.cleanedge.com/reports/reports-solarUSA2008.php) THE POWER OF THE OCEANS POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTION TO THE ENERGY MIX STILL UNKNOWN There is a growing consensus as to the degree renewable energy sources will be able to contribute to the energy mix in the next 20 years. However there is one element that may be underestimated; the power of the oceans. Approximately two-thirds of the earth is covered by oceans and seas. This large surface area captures a huge amount of solar heat naturally. This results in a thermal gradient between the top and the bottom of the oceans which can be harvested in a variety of different ways for the generation of electricity. Local variations in sunlight lead to the geographical temperature differences that power ocean currents and the displacement of air. Those can be harvested by marine current power stations and off-shore wind farms. The wind also creates waves which can be used to generate electricity. Finally, the gravity of the moon moves the sea causing tidal variances; movements that can be harvested by tidal power stations. The combined potential of all those generation systems in the coming decades is still largely unknown. OFF-SHORE WIND POWER Off-shore wind farms are already big business around the world. If Europe is to maintain its present pattern of continuous growth in wind energy over the coming decades, it will have to rely mainly on off-shore wind farms. Many off-shore wind farms are already operational and an even larger number of projects are under construction, in the design phase, or under consideration. TIDAL POWER The commissioning of the first commercial tidal power plant, at La Rance in France, dates back to 1968. Although the technology is easy and proven, the hoped for breakthrough did not occur. This was primarily due to its high capital cost and long pay-back period. But given today’s energy context, the long delayed breakthrough could very well happen quite soon. Large-scale projects are being considered (see table) in Argentina, Canada, India, Russia, the UK, and USA. Some novel technologies are being suggested in order to reduce the high capital costs. Those include compressed air to drive air turbines instead of conventional hydro turbines; using magneto-hydrodynamic generators for direct conversion of the energy of a tidal current into electricity; and replacing a conventional rigid dam with a flexible barrier to concentrate the tidal current utilized by the two previous possibilities. OCEAN WAVE POWER Page 21 of 80 Various technological concepts to harvest wave power exist. Some of them are being proved in operational prototypes; others are still in a research or development phase. This year, the first commercial wave power plant will go in operation in northern Portugal. It makes use of the Pelamis power generating device built by Ocean Power Systems in Scotland. The technologies to harvest wave power can be grouped as follows: Tapered channel or reservoir systems. These are shoreline devices that drive the waves into an elevated reservoir. Water flow out of this reservoir is used to generate electricity, using a standard hydroelectric turbine. Oscillating column systems, using air pressure generated by the wave movement to drive turbines. This must be used on or near the shore. Fixed or semi-fixed offshore devices which make use of the pressure differential in the water column that occurs at some particular submerged point as the wave passes over that point. The pressure differential is used by a variety of means to cause a fluid to flow in a circuit, which is then used to drive a turbine and generator. Offshore devices which utilize their buoyancy to cause movement in a part of the device as it moves up and down in the wave. This movement can then be used directly in a linear generator, or indirectly through a hydraulic system and a turbine such as in the Pelamis device. Piezoelectric systems MARINE CURRENT POWER Harvesting the energy of marine currents is still at an early stage of development. There are no commercial grid-connected turbines currently operating, and only a small number of prototypes and demonstration units have been tested. The most likely type to be commercially developed is submerged water turbines similar to wind turbines, though various alternative designs have been proposed as well. OCEAN THERMAL ENERGY CONVERSION (OTEC) OTEC makes use of the temperature difference between the warm surface water and the cold deep water to drive a heat engine. For the system to be efficient, a minimum temperature difference of 20°C is required, which restricts the technology to use in tropical oceans. OTEC is particularly promising as an alternative energy resource for tropical island communities that rely heavily on imported fuel. The Sea Solar Power Company has designed an OTEC system that is said to be economically efficient. A prototype of this system has been installed in Hawaii. OCEAN POWER PREDICTED TO INCREASE HUNDREDFOLD IN SIX YEARS $4 BILLION INVESTMENT REQUIRED Ocean power is still a minor in the renewable energy sector. It consists mainly of wave power and tidal stream power, and both technologies have only just embarked on their first commercial projects. Today, less than 10 MW of ocean power capacity has been installed. However, according to a report by Greentech Media and the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, this technology could reach 1 GW of installed capacity and grid parity within six years from now. Such progression would require $2 billion of investment in research, design and development and another $2 billion in commercial production and installation. Compare those figures with the $500 million investment made between 2001 and 2007. Page 22 of 80 How this technology will develop in the next few years depends greatly on the investment climate and the willingness of the power sector to buy in to these type of projects. These, in turn, depend on the readiness of governments to create dedicated policies and incentives for this sector. NO TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH REQUIRED One of the main reasons for the fast-growing potential of ocean power is the well-understood principles of mechanical and electrical engineering its technology is based on. So, unlike some other types of renewable energy, we are not waiting for a technological breakthrough. In addition, there is an abundance of ocean energy available and it’s denser than, for instance, wind energy. Another significant advantage is its predictability, making it much easier to dispatch. Wave power can be predicted fairly precisely three to five days in advance, and tidal power can be perfectly predicted an impressive 100 years in advance. Of course, the disadvantage of ocean power is its geographical limits; the technology is limited to coastal areas. This is, however, only a minor disadvantage, since nearly 50 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the coast. Wave power is readily available along most coasts, although tidal energy has the additional disadvantage that the number of coastal sites that are suited to it is restricted. It is not surprising that the ocean power industry has been developing mainly in locations with the greatest market potential, namely the U.K and Canada. The U.K could generate close to 20 per cent of its electricity from ocean power resources, Canada more than 25 per cent. In the U.S., the ocean electricity potential is a little under 9 per cent. GRID PARITY IN REMOTE ISLAND COMMUNITIES As with most renewable energy technologies, the biggest cost of ocean power is the system’s infrastructure. A large part of this cost would go on the connection to the grid. Its remote location in the ocean also has a significant bearing on cost; the systems must be robust enough to avoid high maintenance expenditure. Consequently, to obtain grid parity, the infrastructure’s costs have to be reduced. Having said that, grid parity also depends on the cost of grid electricity. For this reason, grid parity for wave power could come soon in remote island communities where the cost of electricity is very high. REFERENCES Article ‘Forecasting the Future of Ocean Power’ on Greentech Media (http://www.greentechmedia.com/GreentechMedia/Report/ForecastingtheFutureofOceanPower.html) WORLD’S FIRST TIDAL STREAM GENERATING SYSTEM 1.2 MW PLANT INSTALLED OFF THE NORTHERN IRELAND COAST A new type of renewable energy has been connected to the European grid: tidal energy turbines. The SeaGen Tidal System has been installed in the Strangford Narrows, about 400 metres off the coast of Northern Ireland, by Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT). The installation was completed last April and the generators were successfully connected to the grid on 17 July. It produces 1.2 MW of power, operating 18 to 20 hours a day. The total manufacturing and installation cost was nearly £10 million. LIKE A WIND TURBINE, BUT MORE PREDICTABLE Page 23 of 80 The Seagen Tidal System consists of a fixed structure bearing two 16 m diameter axial flow rotors, each connected to a generator via a gearbox. In contrast with other existing tidal power plants — such as the one on the Rance in France — this system does not require a barrage closing in an estuary. It is sited offshore on a large piling. The technology is similar in many respects to a wind turbine. However, its principle advantage compared to most other renewable sources is that tidal energy is entirely predictable. In addition, its visual impact is much smaller since it is almost entirely submerged. The slow rotation speed (10 to 15 revolutions per minute) is unlikely to pose a threat to either fish or marine mammals. POTENTIAL SITES IDENTIFIED The manufacturer MCT aims at developing a 10.5 MW tidal energy farm of the same type off the coast of the Welsh Island of Anglesey within the next three years. The main barrier to a large-scale development of this technology is likely to be the limited number of suitable sites. Nevertheless, other potential sites have already been identified in the UK, as well as in Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Indonesia, New-Zealand, Turkey, and the US. ‘With the right funding and regulatory framework, we believe we can realistically achieve up to 500 MW of tidal capacity by 2015 based on this new SeaGen technology,’ says Martin Wright, Managing Director of MCT. REFERENCES Article on the Energy Blog (http://thefraserdomain.typepad.com/energy/2008/04/largest-tidal- s.html) Article ‘Tidal Power now online feeding Irish grid’ on Mendo Coast Current (http://mendocoastcurrent.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/tidal-power-now-online-feeding-irish-grid/) Website Marine Current Turbines Ltd (http://www.marineturbines.com/) FUTURE COST DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY How will the cost of the various renewable energy systems evolve in the future? That is a question a great many people are concerned about. To make the transition to a sustainable energy economy, the development and deployment of renewable energy systems will be indispensable. While all of these technologies presently have a higher cost than traditional energy systems, it is generally believed that they will become cheaper once they have gone through their learning curve. Predicting those cost development curves is crucial for the accuracy of decision support tools. THE NEEDS PROJECT: PREDICTING THE LEARNING CURVES The NEEDS project (New Energy Externalities Development for Sustainability) aims at predicting the cost development curves of all low carbon electricity generation technologies. This provides investors and policy makers alike with knowledge as to what degree investing in a particular renewable technology is likely to be worthwhile. EXTRAPOLATING THE FUTURE FROM THE PAST Page 24 of 80 How do you predict the future if you don’t happen to be Nostradamus? One way is to look at historical cost development curves and extrapolate from them. This can be done for a complete system, but the results will become more accurate when predictions are made that include various subsystems and are then aggregated. For example, the learning curve of wind power should include the learning curves of wind turbine components, site cost, wind capture, and maintenance costs. A key figure characterizing the experience curve is the ‘experience ratio’ or ‘progress ratio’. This ratio expresses the evolution of the cost for each doubling of the cumulative production. An experience ratio of 80% means that the cost is reduced to 80% for each doubling of the cumulative production. BOTTOM-UP ANALYSIS AND EXPERT ASSESSMENTS The future is never an exact repetition of the past, so predictions based solely on extrapolation risk being far off the mark. The NEEDS project therefore added two additional input channels to adjust their prediction. One is a bottom-up approach analysing the evolutions that are happening in the field. The second are expert assessments about possible future development within their domain. In three upcoming articles, we will summarize the conclusions of the NEEDS paper as well as a few other sources on the cost development of wind energy, photovoltaic energy, and solar thermal energy. THE COST DEVELOPMENT OF WIND ENERGY DESIGN IMPROVEMENTS PROVIDE THE MAIN POTENTIAL; MATERIAL COSTS THE MAIN BARRIER When predicting the learning curve of wind energy, a distinction should be made between on-shore and off- shore wind. While the former started to develop in the mid 1970s, the latter only took off around the year 2000 and is consequently still lacking extensive historical data. As the figures of the NEEDS study show, today’s off-shore wind and on-shore wind electricity prices are of the same order of magnitude. COST OF SYSTEM DROPS FASTER THAN COST OF TURBINE Historical cost development curves of on-shore wind show large differences that depend mainly on the timeframe, the system boundaries, and the geographical area. As a general rule one can say that the experience ratio is higher for the complete system than for the turbine alone. This is confirmed by the bottom- up study of NEEDS, which shows that the relative share of the turbine cost in the complete wind energy cost increased in the past decades. COST REDUCTIONS MAINLY THROUGH DESIGN CHANGES The bottom-up study also shows that cost reductions for wind turbines are mainly achieved through design changes, and not through cheaper manufacturing of the same pieces. Those design changes can range from incremental changes improving the electricity output of an existing model, to the design of a new and bigger type of turbine with higher capacity and efficiency. Cost reductions in the future are expected to be based on such incremental design changes. Turbines are also expected to be increasingly designed to be site specific, i.e. to achieve maximum efficiency on a specific landscape location. Page 25 of 80 MATERIAL PRICES ARE DECISIVE FACTOR The expert assessment in the NEEDS study added two additional insights to the case. First, the price of materials is a decisive factor in the wind turbine cost. The market prices of steel and fibre glass account for more than half of the turbine cost. This limits the potential of cost reductions through improving manufacturing efficiency. A second important remark is that a distinction should be made between production cost and contract price. The latter is determined by market supply and demand. For example, the experts noted that contract prices for off-shore wind are currently rising due to heavy demand accompanied by high risks. STABLE POLICY REQUIR ED FOR SUPPLY TO FOLLOW DEMAND This last remark shows once again the importance of stable political support measures for renewable energy. High demand caused by government support will only result in a fundamental increase in supply capacity if the likelihood is high that this support will be continued in the following years. Temporary support measures will lead to temporary boosts in demand, resulting in a price increase instead of in a growth of supply capacity. ENCOURAGING PROGRESS RATIOS The conclusion of the NEEDS study predicts a progress ratio of 88 to 92% for wind turbines. Regarding electricity from wind energy, the study predicts a higher progress ratio: 85% for less windy regions and 80% for off-shore wind and windy on-shore areas. THE COST DEVELOPMENT OF PV ENERGY DIVERSIFICATION COMPLICATES PRICE PREDICTIONS In regards to PV energy, we will focus on grid connected systems only, since they represent the large majority of the market. The cost of a grid connected PV system is composed of the PV module cost and the ‘BOS’ cost (Balance of System). The BOS consists of the structures for mounting the PV modules and of the power- conditioning equipment that converts the DC power of the modules into the AC grid power. PREDICTION NOT STRAIGHTFORWARD Three difficulties arise when trying to predict the future cost development of PV energy starting from existing experience curves. 1) The cost decrease over the past four decades was not at all linear. It alternated periods of sharp decline with periods in which it stayed more or less constant. As a result, experience cost curves that do not represent large time spans can result in a distorted perspective. 2) Various PV technologies exist and are difficult to represent with a single experience curve. New types of PV systems may break through in the near future that completely change the average cost of PV modules. 3) Even if the future cost of individual PV modules can be predicted, this does not mean the cost of electricity generated by those PV systems can be easily determined. Factors such as geographical location, local support mechanisms, and the size of systems will have a major influence on the average PV electricity cost. THE COST DEVELOPMENT OF SILICON PV MODULES Page 26 of 80 Experience curves for crystalline silicon show that the progress ratio has been around 80% over the past decades. This ratio is likely to stay more or less the same on the medium term. The main cost reduction potential for PV modules lies in PV cell efficiency improvement, a decrease in the price of silicon, and in the building of bigger manufacturing facilities. According to the expert assessments of the NEEDS study, the share of the material price in the total cost of the module is likely to grow in the upcoming years. The expected progress ratio of the BOS is also predicted to be around 80%. The bottom-up analysis shows that the cost reduction of the PV mounting structures is reaching its limit. However, a significant cost reduction potential is still present in the inverter. Current inverter costs of 0.5 euro/Wp (large system) to 0.8 euro/Wp (small system) can evolve to 0.2 — 0.4 euro/Wp in the foreseeable future. Concerning the cost of electricity from silicon PV modules, the NEEDS study predicts it will drop below € 0.2/kWh within the next five years in the sunny regions of the world (Spain, the US south-west, India, Australia, and southern China). The same could happen in the more temperate regions of North America and Europe within ten to fifteen years. A study by the University of Jaén (Spain) predicts that for Concentrated Photovoltaic power (CPV), the average level of electricity cost will decrease to 0.119 — 0.148 €/kWh in sunny regions by 2015. WHICH INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES WILL BREAK THROUGH? Once the thin film technology and all the other technologies currently under development are taken into account, predictions for the PV cost development become much harder to make. The expert assessments of the NEEDS study show that the efficiency of thin film PV modules could make a big leap forward in the coming decades. Also, modules with a combination of thin film and silicon technology, combining the small material use of the former with the high efficiency of the latter, can lead to significant cost reductions. Moreover, more innovative alternatives are under development such as dye-sensitized photochemical solar cells, conducting polymer cells, quantum solar cells, and modular organic solar cells. It is very difficult to predict which of these technologies — if any — will break through, and if they do, when this breakthrough will occur, and above all, how its learning curve will look. THE COST DEVELOPMENT OF SOLAR THERMAL ENERGY INCREMENTAL CHANGES CAN RESULT IN SUBSTANTIAL COST REDUCTIONS The technologies for producing electricity from solar thermal energy can be divided into three main categories: Parabolic trough and Fresnel systems Central receiver systems, including the solar updraft tower Parabolic dish systems, usually combined with a Stirling heat engine The first commercial CSP plant, which was built in California in the 1980s, used the parabolic trough concept. It has a total capacity of 354 MW. For many years, this was the only large scale CSP plant in the world. Elsewhere, only small demonstration plants were built. The high investment cost hampered further deployment. In 2006, a new commercial 1 MW parabolic trough CSP plant was built in Tucson, Arizona. Since then, the development of CSP as a commercial electricity generating technology has taken off. Many CSP projects are currently being built, the majority of which are in Spain and the USA. It is very likely that because of this market boom, investment costs for CSP will go down. The question is how much and how quickly. DEDUCING EXPERIENCE RATIOS Page 27 of 80 Since experience with CSP is still very limited, it very difficult to draw experience curves that are useful in making reasonably accurate predictions. The parabolic trough system is still the only CSP technology to be considered commercially viable, and even this technology has only seen three doublings in capacity since its entry into the market. One way to refine predictions is by aggregating the experience curves for various subsystems (collectors, storage system, power block, etc.). The NEEDS study employed this approach in calculating a progress ratio ranging between 85% and 92%. A few of the price estimations that have been published recently implicitly assume a positive relationship between capacity growth and energy price reduction, creating an experience ratio. The Spanish Plan de Energías Renovables includes 500 MW of new CSP capacity and projects a cost decline of 20% during the construction of those plants. This additional 500 MW would represent an approximate doubling of the present global CSP capacity. Consequently, the Plan de Energías Renovables figure converts to a progress ratio of 80% The CSP Today market association predicts that the cost of electricity from CSP will have dropped from the current 20 €c/kWh to 8€c/kWh when the global CSP capacity reaches 4 GW — three doublings of the capacity. This CSP Today figure converts to a progress ratio of 75%. SCALING-UP IS KEY TO REDUCING INVESTMENT COSTS Many studies have been conducted on how various technical developments could lead to cost reductions for CSP. One comprehensive source of data is the ECOSTAR study, whose conclusions were integrated into the EU th Paper ‘Renewable Energy Technologies/Long-Term Research in the 6 Framework Programme 2002-2006.’ Regarding the parabolic trough, the ECOSTAR study relies heavily on incremental technology innovations for achieving cost reductions, including: Cheaper concentrator fluids A lower TCO for storage systems Increased unit size of the power block Volume production effects ECOSTAR predicts an investment cost reduction in parabolic troughs of 55 to 65% over the next 15 years. Concerning central receiver technologies, ECOSTAR identifies the following as the main sources of cost reductions: Use of molten salt as a heat transfer fluid (molten salt is currently used for thermal storage) Use of saturated steam as a heat transfer fluid Scaling-up the size of the plants Integration of the solar module with a gas turbines system Volume production effects In general, ECOSTAR considers the scaling-up of plant size as the principal source of future cost reductions. ECOSTAR predicts that the cost of CSP electricity will come down to 6 €c/kWh by 2020 in Southern Spain, and even to 4.5 €c/kWh in areas with high solar irradiation. Page 28 of 80 Thermal storage increases the investment costs of CSP plants, but according to ECOSTAR, it will most likely ultimately lead to a lower cost of electricity generated from CSP. AN EXPERIENCE RATIO OF 88% The NEEDS study concludes that the impact of each individual improvement in technology and efficiency in CSP is small, but taken all together the incremental changes that are currently in the pipeline show a considerable potential for cost decreases. By taking the input from experience curves, bottom-up analysis, and expert assessments into account, NEEDS suggests an experience ratio of 88%. It does however underline the huge uncertainty of this value by setting a lower sensitivity value at 83% and an upper sensitivity value at 93%. ISLANDS POWERED SOLELY BY RENEWABLE ENERGY SITES INCLUDE SAMSO, IN DENMARK, EL HIERRO IN SPAIN, AND DONGTAN IN CHINA In the midst of the discussion on how large the share of renewable energy in the energy mix could grow, three islands have taken a more radical course. They are aiming at nothing less than 100 per cent renewable energy. And no, these are not islands with one or two inhabitants, perhaps a lighthouse, and a few sheep. Samso has a population of 4,300 people. In El Hierro there are 10,500, and the city of Dongtan is planning for a population of 50,000 inhabitants. SAMSO, AN ECOLOGICAL WONDERLAND In 1997 Samso won a national contest to select the island with the best plan for becoming 100 per cent energy-sustainable within a ten year frame. Today, 100 per cent of their electricity comes from wind power. The excess wind power is sold to the mainland. To heat their homes and buildings, they installed a district heating system powered by solar power and biomass (wood pellets and straw). Samso farm tractors and the ferry boats serving the island are powered by locally grown rapeseed oil. Only private cars still consume non- renewable energy, but given the excess of wind power generated on the island, they are easily carbon neutral. The next energy project will be to develop a hydrogen plant powered by wind energy to supply the car fleet with renewable energy. EL HIERRO RELYING ON RENEWABLE ELECTRICIT Y El Hierro in Spain’s Canary Islands will receive 100 per cent of its electricity supply from renewable sources by 2009. It will rely on a combination of wind power and hydroelectricity. A pumping station will be used for storage and to balance supply and demand. Excess wind energy will be used to power two desalination plants. An existing diesel-powered plant on the island will be maintained for emergencies. THE NEW ECO-CITY OF DONGTAN NEAR SHANGHAI In China, the Dongtan Eco City is being constructed on the marshes of Chongming Island, at the mouth of the Yangtze and opposite of Shanghai. Dongtan will have a population of 50,000 people by 2010, rising to 500,000 people by 2040. It will generate 100 per cent of its electricity needs through solar, wind, biomass, and waste power stations. Hydrogen filling stations will supply lightweight fuel cell cars. Traditional motorbikes will be Page 29 of 80 forbidden, replaced by electric scooters or bicycles. A Dongtan inhabitant will have an ecological footprint of about two hectares, three times less than an inhabitant in Shanghai. Building Dongtan will cost US2$ billion for the first phase alone and probably a multiple of that for the complete project. According to the Chinese authorities, this sum is sensible since Dongtan was designed to serve as a prototype for the entire country. Critics however question the logic of such a project when you have a city like Shanghai (20 million people) just across the river. Shanghai has virtually no buildings with lagging in the roofs, energy efficient and draught-free window frames, or any other simple and cost-effective energy saving measures. Moreover, planning is underway to build ten NON-eco-friendly suburbs of a million inhabitants each simultaneously with Dongtan. REFERENCES Article ‘How Denmark is leading the way in renewable energy’ on MoneyWeek (http://www.moneyweek.com/file/10587/how-denmark-is-leading-the-way-in-renewable-energy.html) Article ‘Danish Island is Energy Self-Sufficient’ on CBS News (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/03/08/eveningnews/main2549273.shtml) Article ‘Island powered solely by renewables’ on Development Crossing (http://www.developmentcrossing.com/development_crossing/2007/03/island_powered_.html) Article ‘China to build First Eco-City’ on CRIEnglish.com (http://firstname.lastname@example.org) Article ‘Dongtan Eco-Village, model of sustainability or simply green-washing?’ on China Travel Industry Blog (http://www.ccontact.com/Blog/2007/04/19/dongtan-eco-village-model-of-sustainability-or-simply-green- washing/) A CRITICAL VIEW ON THE RENEWABLE ENERGY BOOM NOT ALL RENEWABLE POWER SYSTEMS ARE SUSTAINABLE RENEWABLE ENERGY SYSTEMS SHOULD NOT RELY ON SCARCE RESOURCES In the quest for alternatives to fossil fuels, renewable energy systems are being rapidly developed across a wide spectrum. However, the fact that these new systems replace depletable fossil fuels with renewable sources is in itself not a guarantee of high sustainability. The article Why sustainable power is unsustainable in New Scientist draws attention to this often under-appreciated fact. In our growing focus on energy and climate change, we have a tendency to applaud every renewable energy technology that is being developed and without considering its other sustainability aspects. The New Scientist cites three examples of ‘unsustainable sustainable power systems’: 1) Multiple-junction PV cells, which have promising performance in so far as efficiency goes, but use the relatively rare metal Indium 2) Hydrogen fuel cells, which use the very scarce metal Platinum as a catalyst (but then again: is hydrogen really a source of renewable energy, or only an alternative energy carrier?) 3) Bio-fuels, which make use of large areas of scarce arable land Page 30 of 80 Renewable energy systems that rely on rare metals such as indium or platinum do not have the potential to take us towards a global zero carbon emission economy. That said, the conclusion that all renewable energy systems make use of materials available in a (more or less) limited supply does not mean that their negative impact is as great as that of fossil fuel systems. Life Cycle Analyses clearly show that energy use has in general a far greater environmental impact than material use. And even the development of those renewable energy systems which make use of very scarce materials is not necessarily a wasted effort. Such systems can be quite useful during a transition period and the technical developments that were realized designing them can be the starting point for further development towards more sustainable alternatives. HOW FAST CAN WE MOVE? TECHNICAL AND SOCIAL BARRIERS FOR IMPLEMENTING SUSTAINABLE ENERGY When reading the news one sometimes gets the impression that evolving towards sustainable power production is only a question of politics and economics. It is often forgotten that, once the political decision has been taken and the systems have become profitable, everything still has to start. Implementing renewable energy systems on a large scale is not simply pulling a switch. There are numerous technical and social barriers that have to be taken into account. And each of these barriers put a finite limit on the speed at which growth can take place. It might be frustrating in times when climate mitigation and energy security require urgent actions, but denying those barriers and forcing things forward without due consideration and diligence can turn out to be counterproductive in the long run. NEW TECHNOLOGY REQUIRES EXTENSIVE TESTING Taken in this perspective, one could wonder if the wind market isn’t running too fast for its own good. In the early nineties, with relatively small scale production of onshore turbines of up to 500 kW, technical problems on wind turbines were rare. Between 2000 and 2006, the installed capacity more than quadrupled from 17.4 GW to 74.2 GW and turbine sizes were rising to several MW. During the same period, an increasing number of newly installed wind turbines were facing technical problems with gearboxes (bearings, alignment, housing, etc.). According to Jan van Egmond, Managing Director of the consultancy firm Quality in Wind, those problems: ‘…can at least partly be explained by a continuous market pressure to increase the size and capacity of turbines. In some cases inadequate built-in safety factors may be chosen, or too little time taken between prototype stage and mature commercial product to solve unavoidable teething problems.’ Most of the early mechanical gearbox problems now seem to be under control. However, in the meantime the wind industry has had to face a major new problem: excessive corrosion on offshore wind turbines is causing large wind farms like Horns Rev in Denmark to be taken out of service. It is a dangerous game to try to cope with teething problems only after massive production and implementation is already underway. Recalls are extremely costly on several counts. They can easily bankrupt young companies and ultimately damage the reputation of the entire technology. Such setbacks can require decades to recover. If the wind industry is to be truly sustainable, it will have to withstand market pressure Page 31 of 80 and execute all of the laboratory and prototype testing normally required for the successful launch of new product types. SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE IS KEY Along with technical barriers, there are social barriers that limit the rate of growth of sustainable energy systems. Energy infrastructure is deeply embedded in the fabric of society, so before a successful move forward can accomplished, all stakeholders need to be on board. This has been aptly proven by the tribulations of the Cape Wind Project, a 420 MW offshore project on the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the U.S. Despite public opinion surveys showing that a majority of the people in the region support the project, it has been stalled by opposition from local residents and some environmental groups. An approach like that used in the Spanish region of Navarre could have avoided such problems. Spain has about the same wind energy capacity as the U.S. and seventy per cent of it is located in the small province of Navarre. This region has very good wind conditions, but the real secret of their success might lie in their integration program giving each stakeholder a voice in the process. A public/private company was established whose shareholders include the government, the regional electricity supply company, local industry, and the regional bank. Residents, businesses, and environmental groups were offered project buy- ins. By being involved in the process, residents have realized that environmental and socio-economic benefits of wind energy outweigh the disadvantages. Creating structures that involve all stakeholders in the development process right from the start takes time, but makes the development more secure. It avoids the situation where one day the whistle blows on the project and everything goes back to zero. Clearly, the rate of growth of sustainable energy systems is limited by both technical and social barriers. It is of no use to try to pretend that these barriers do not exist. They must be accommodated because they cannot be ignored. REFERENCES Article ‘Gearbox failures and design solutions’ on Renewable Energy World (http://www.renewable- energy-world.com/display_article/272844/121/ARTCL/none/WINDR/1/Trouble-spots--/) Article ‘Tall orders/Wind turbines need better gear oils’, on the Web site of Lubrizol (http://www.lubrizol.com/press-room/news/2007/LnG_WindTurbines.pdf) Article ‘Lessons in RE Development from Navarre, Spain’ on Renewable Energy Access (http://www.renewableenergyaccess.com/rea/news/ate/story?id=50281) THE CAPACITY FACTOR OF WIND POWER GLOBAL AVERAGE AROUND 20% The success of wind power is usually measured by the growth in installed capacity. This capacity however is peak power: the maximum power at optimum wind speed. The average output of a wind turbine is always lower. The capacity factor of a wind turbine expresses the ratio of average power output to peak power. Many national and European targets assume a capacity factor of 30%, while the world’s average capacity factor in 2005 was only 19.6%. Page 32 of 80 WIND SPEED MAIN QUALIFYING FACTOR The capacity factor of a wind turbine is determined by: 1) Operation at less than maximum output. Most wind turbines have their maximum output power at wind speeds between 12-15 m/s and 25 m/s. Below that range, the power output decreases by the third power of the wind velocity. In other words, at half the optimal wind speed (7.5 m/s), power output is only one eighth of peak power. 2) Shut down due to excessive or inadequate wind velocity. In general, wind turbines shut down when wind speeds drop below 3-4 m/s or rise above 25 m/s. 3) Other shut downs. These may occur due to scheduled maintenance, equipment failure, or for safety reasons during a grid incident. These same events also determine the capacity factor of conventional fossil fuel power plants, which varies roughly between 50% and 90%. THE GREATER THE NUMBER OF WIND FARMS, THE LOWER THE CAPACITY FACTOR The average capacity factor differs significantly between countries. Countries with well exploited wind resources tend to have a lower capacity factor. Germany for instance has a capacity factor of only 16.9%. That is because the best sites get developed first, and subsequent development goes onto sites with poorer wind characteristics, thus reducing the average capacity factor. The U.S. have a large installed capacity, but a high capacity factor (28.8%), meaning that it still has a large wind development potential left to exploit. Given this perspective, the target of the European Wind Association seems rather unrealistic. It aims to reach the figure of 180 GW installed capacity in Europe with an average capacity factor of 31.7% by 2010. It is argued that a large part of the growth in the European wind sector in the upcoming two years will be achieved by off-shore wind parks, which are believed to have higher capacity factors. However, figures from the UK from 2005 indicate that this is not necessarily true. The UK on-shore wind park (1,651 MW) has an average capacity factor of 27.4% and the off-shore wind park (304 MW) a capacity factor of 27.2%. Wind characteristics tend to be better for off-shore turbines but off-shore wind turbines also require more maintenance. This can explain why the UK capacity factor turns out to be similar than that of the on-shore turbines. REFERENCES Briefing sheet ‘Wind Turbine Technology’ by British Wind Energy Association (2005)(http://www.bwea.com/pdf/briefings/technology05_small.pdf) ‘EWEC 2007 Review’ by the European Wind Energy Association (http://www.ewea.org/fileadmin/ewea_documents/documents/publications/WD/2007_June/wd- june-review.pdf) Website ‘Wind Web Tutorial’ by the American Wind Energy Association (http://www.awea.org/faq/wwt_statistics.html#How%20much%20wind%20generating%20capacity% 20currently%20exists%20in%20the%20U.S.%20How%20much%20will%20be%20added%20over%20th e%20next%20several%20years) Report ‘Renewables and Waste in World in 2005’ by the International Energy Agency (http://www.iea.org/Textbase/stats/renewdata.asp?COUNTRY_CODE=29&Submit=Submit) Blog post ‘The capacity factor of wind power’ on Lightbucket (http://lightbucket.wordpress.com/2008/03/13/the-capacity-factor-of-wind-power/) Blog post ‘Finding good sites for wind turbines is not so easy’ on Leonardo Energy (http://www.leonardo-energy.org/drupal/node/1346) SMALL WIND TURBINES STRUGGLING TO GAIN MOMENTUM Page 33 of 80 MARKET TRENDS AND POTENTIAL ENERGY PRODUCTION Compared to the traditional wind market, the market for small wind turbines has been growing at a slow speed. But according to Miamari Siitoinen, Marketing Director of Eagle Windpower Oy, ‘the wind is turning’ and small wind turbines are currently witnessing a strong increase in demand (see article Energy & Enviro Finland). To what extent is that good news? What is the potential share of small wind turbines in the renewable energy mix? Sander Mertens of the Technical University Delft in the Netherlands conducted a research project (see webcast) comparing various quality parameters of small wind turbines presently on the market. The study shows that the potential of small wind production is overrated. Most small wind turbines are expensive and yield less than the manufacturer’s claim, concluded Sander Mertens. He supports the introduction of quality certificates indicating the actual efficiency of residential wind turbines. That said, some types of small wind turbines show good results. The Finnish technology company Eagle Windpower Oy developed a small wind turbine making use of nanotechnology. It possesses lighter and stronger blades, enabling the doubling of the wing size. According to Juha Siitonane of Eagle Windpower Oy, this results in ‘an increase in power production of 30 per cent compared to traditional small wind power stations’. According to Mertens’ study, it is mainly the very small systems used in residential environments that have the poorest efficiency. Most of the Eagle Windpower systems, on the contrary, are bigger and mounted on a tower of 7 to 20 metres high. The company mainly targets emerging economies. In those countries, small wind turbines can be used to improve the reliability of the electricity supply at residential or commercial sites, or to power water supply in remote regions. EMISSIONS FROM PHOTOVOLTAIC MANUFACTURING ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THE COMPLETE PV LIFE-CYCLE All means of electricity generation, including photovoltaic (PV) systems, create polluting emissions when the entire life-cycle is taken into account. In the case of PV systems, those emissions are concentrated in the manufacturing stage. PV manufacturing is energy intensive, resulting in the emissions that accompany the use of standard grid electricity. The energy balance of a PV system is expressed by the Energy Pay-Back Time (EPBT), which is the time it takes for the PV system to generate the amount of energy equal to that used in its production. A new paper by M. Vasilis, V. Fthenakis, H.C. Kim and E. Alsema, published in the January 2008 Environmental Science & Technology, finds yet again that PV technologies generate far less life-cycle atmospheric emissions per GWh than conventional fossil-fuel generation technologies. It states that at least 89% of the harmful emissions into the atmosphere could be prevented if conventional grid electricity was to be replaced by photovoltaic electricity. According to this paper, the EPBT of a PV system varies between 1 and 6 years. Two years ago, a comparable literature study by the Energy Bulletin reported EPBTs between 2 and 8 years (see blog post). EPBT VARIES ACCORDING TO SITE The first part of the Environmental Science & Technology paper tackled the question of EPBT and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions of PV systems. The larger the energy yield of the PV system, the faster the energy consumed during its manufacturing phase is gained back, so obviously the EPBT depends heavily upon the Page 34 of 80 average insolation at a particular manufacturing site. The paper refers to four studies conducted on monochrystaline silicon PV panels in four different geographic regions: In the Netherlands, with an insolation of 1,000 kWh/m2/yr, an average EPBT of 3.5 years was reported (A. Meijer, M.A.J. Huijbregts, J.J. Schermer, 2003) In Switzerland, with an average insolation of 1,100 kWh/m2/yr, EPBT was found to vary between 3 and 6 years (N. Jungbluth, 2005) For a rooftop installation in Southern Europe, enjoying an insolation of 1,700 kWh/m2/yr, a study calculated EPBT to be 1.7 to 2.7 years (E; Alsema, M. de Wild-Scholten, 2004) For ground-mounted installations in the U.S., subjected to an insolation of 1,800 kWh/m2/yr, EPBT was calculated to be only 1.1 years (V.M. Fthenakis, H.C. Kim, 2005) GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS IN PV LIFE-CYCLE The GHG emissions over the life-cycle of a PV panel are strongly related to the EPBT. They can mainly be allocated to the use of electrical energy during the manufacture of PV panels. Consequently, those emissions differ for the same PV panel according to the energy mix that is used for generating electricity in that particular location. The findings in the Environmental Science & Technology paper were calculated with three different energy mixes and for four different types of PV panels: multichrystaline silicon (Multi-Si), monochrystaline silicon (mono-Si), ribbon silicon (ribbon-Si) and thin film cadmium telluride (CdTe). In the UCTE energy mix, the CO2 emissions vary between 21 g CO2-eq/kWh for the thin film CdTe to 43 g CO2-eq/kWh for Mono-Si. The Thin Film CdTe panel clearly demonstrates the best results, but differences between PV systems are small in comparison with the difference of PV systems and conventional fossil-fuel based generation. The UCTE average CO2 emission for power generation is 470 g CO 2-eq/kWh. HEAVY METAL EMISSIONS IN PV LIFE-CYCLE The study not only takes GHG emissions over the life-cycle into account, but heavy metal emissions as well. Heavy metals are emitted directly during the manufacturing process of PV systems, or via the use of grid electricity during the manufacturing process. Here again thin-film CdTe PV panels present the best results, even for cadmium emissions. This type of PV cell requires much less electrical energy for its manufacture, so it produces fewer heavy metal emissions attributed to the use of grid electricity. This lower energy consumption more than compensates for the higher direct cadmium emissions occurring during its manufacturing process. CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT The above conclusions describe the picture with state-of-technology over the last five years, but should not be interpreted as final. The trend in the environmental impact of PV manufacturing is decreasing even further and the energy efficiencies are increasing. As a result, the EPBT and the life-cycle environmental profile of PV panels can be expected to continue to improve in the upcoming years. The paper also considered the future possibility of a ‘PV breeder’ scenario, in which a large part of the electrical energy used in PV manufacturing is generated by PV panels. Such a scenario would cut the current GHG emissions of PV life-cycles more or less in half. A last consideration in the paper is that a future high penetration of PV energy on the grid would require altering the grid concept and structure. It is difficult to predict whether these changes would have a positive or Page 35 of 80 a negative impact on the emissions, but it would in each case have to be taken into account in future life-cycle analyses of PV systems. REFERENCES Paper ‘Emissions from Photovoltaic Life Cycles’ by Environmental Science & Technology, January 2008, published on ACS Publications (http://pubs.acs.org/cgi- bin/abstract.cgi/esthag/2008/42/i06/abs/es071763q.html) ²Leonardo Energy blog article ‘PV Systems: the energy to produce them versus the energy they produce’ (http://www.leonardo-energy.org/drupal/node/895) Article ‘Greenhouse gas emissions from energy systems: comparison and overview’, Paul Scherrer Institute, 2003 (http://gabe.web.psi.ch/pdfs/Annex_IV_Dones_et_al_2003.pdf) THE IMPACT OF GHG EMISSION REDUCTION PROJECTS CONNECTED TO THE ELECTRICITY GRID HOW MUCH WILL GHG EMISSIONS OF THE COMPLETE SYSTEM BE REDUCED BY IMPLEMENTING THE PROJECT? How do you calculate the final GHG emission reductions resulting from an energy efficiency or renewable energy project? One of the complexities of this task is that the applications are in most cases connected to the grid. As a result, not only the local effects need to be calculated, but also the effect on the entire grid including all of its power plants. A joint project of the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has drawn up some excellent guidelines for executing this challenging task. The Guidelines, while designed to be used by governments and business leaders, are also interesting reading for anyone eager to gain more insight into the electricity grid as a system with all its intricate interactions and decision factors. WHAT’S THE BASELINE SCENARIO? The GHG emission reductions by the activity should be calculated relative to a baseline. One of the complexities is to determine these baseline emissions. They can be defined as the GHG emissions from the sources of electricity that are avoided by the project. These can be of two kinds: 1) Avoided emissions of the operation of existing power plants on the grid, called the Operational Margin OM 2) Avoided emissions of the construction and operation of new power plants on the grid, called the Built Margin BM Each project has baseline emissions consisting of a weighted sum of Built Margin and Operational Margin emissions. The Built Margin emissions can be estimated from the GHG emission rates of recent capacity additions, or in some cases, from planned capacity and capacity currently under construction. Page 36 of 80 Estimating the Operational Margin emissions requires identifying which power plants are operating within the margin (last to be switched on-line, first to be switched off-line) during times when the project activity is operating. This can be a complex and data intensive task. DOES IT MEET DEMAND FOR NEW CAPACITY? Another difficult task is to determine to which degree the project has an effect on the Built Margin and to which degree on the Operational Margin. Or in other words: to what extent does the project’s activity meet the demand for new capacity, and therefore avoid the building of other new capacity units. There are three questions to consider in this regard: 1) Does demand for new capacity exist? This will almost always be the case. 2) Is the project activity considered as a source of new capacity? Some projects may be implemented which have nothing to do with the need for new capacity, for instance, energy efficiency projects. 3) What is the project’s activity capacity value? The capacity value is the amount of capacity a power plant can be statistically relied upon to provide during times of greatest demand. A single wind turbine will have a capacity value close to zero. By bundling several wind turbines, this can raise to, for instance, 10 per cent (‘the wind will always be blowing somewhere’). The capacity value of a coal- fired plant on the other hand will approach 100 per cent (not 100 per cent, since the plant will experience outages at some point). WHAT ARE THE GRID BOUNDARIES? A last complexity for making the baseline calculation is how to define the grid boundaries. The Guidelines suggest defining them by the grid that is under control of a single grid operator. This is a simplification though, since the project activity may also affect generation on neighbouring grids. But when all the estimates are completed and the intended change in GHG emissions caused by the project activity is calculated, the work is still not done. There can also be ‘secondary effects’ from unintended changes. Examples include the GHG emissions caused by the production, refining, and transportation of biomass, or the methane emissions caused by organic decomposition in hydro reservoirs. In short, calculating the real GHG emission reductions caused by grid coupled systems is much more complex than you would expect. The paper did a good job in throwing light on this complex matter and in creating realistic and practical guidelines. REFERENCES Paper ‘Guidelines for Quantifying GHG Reductions from Grid-Connected Electricity Projects’ by the WRI and WBCSD DIFFERENT OPINIONS ON NUCLEAR AND CCS LIGHT NEUTRONS, HEAVY DEBATE ON THE NUCLEAR ENERGY DISCOURSE Page 37 of 80 Am I pro or am I con regarding nuclear energy? I honestly do not know. I cannot answer the question without putting in caveats. Or maybe I just don’t want to answer it. I feel a fierce resistance to answering it with an unequivocal yes or no, because the question is simply too heavy! I realized this when reading the essay ‘Paradoxes on death penalty’ by Gerrit Krol. Krol is a Dutch writer, thinker, and computer scientist. In 1992 he published ‘For who wants evil / Reflections on death penalty’. In this book, he does not take a position in favour of nor against the death penalty; it only brainstorms freely on the subject and considers both pro and con arguments. But that was enough to cause him to be publicly denounced. Krol reacted with a new essay, ‘Paradoxes on death penalty’. This text contains the following apt analysis: ‘Death penalty seems to be a political problem with such a heavy weight, that just like natural gravity, it pulls to it everything that is coming near, no matter of which kind. If there are no exceptions, a man stops thinking. Whoever has never seen an apple not fall when released, hasn’t got the slightest clue on what is gravity. He does not see what is happening, when the apple falls. Only when two apples, when released, keep on turning around each other, one starts to imagine what gravity could be. You would wish that a problem that risks crushing human judgement by its weight, could be made a little lighter, so that in its less threatening form, leaves intact our ability to judge.’ That’s it. That is what is hampering a real public debate on nuclear energy. Both supporters and opponents are too blind to see the exceptions in their arguments. The subject is so heavy, so overly-symbolic, that it has become a black hole that sucks up every attempt to think on it with an open mind. THE BURDEN OF ITS MILITARY ORIGIN It is not too difficult to explain how nuclear technology got loaded with such a heavy symbolic value. We all know its military origin, we know the history of Los Alamos and we all have seen pictures of Hiroshima after the bomb. Nuclear energy is both the height of human achievement and the height of human horror. It is the perfect real-world example for both the people who believe that technology leads us to heaven, and those who believe technology leads us to hell. Consequently, the debate being fought out under the flag of nuclear energy is a debate that reaches much further than the actual subject, far into the realm of Weltanschauung. One would have expected that with the end of the Cold War and its seemingly permanent state of nuclear peril, the debate would have grown less sharp. Indeed, this has happened but only relatively. Under the pressure of rising concern over climate change, a few rare individual green thinkers have recently even dared to express the heretical opinion that not everything to do with nuclear power is evil and placed themselves in favour of nuclear energy. But in general the debate stays in a constant state of trench warfare in which nobody dares to leave his trench for a free wander into the open field of rational and emotion-free debate. EXAMPLES OF TWISTED REASONING The following are a few examples of how prejudices can prevent sound argumentation: Greenpeace made up a ranking of the available electricity supply packages in Belgium according to their environmental performance. The package ‘Electrabel Groen’ is set into the last, red category, although it only makes use of renewable energy. The argument: ‘Because the investments [Electrabel] made in nuclear energy and their interest to keep on investing in nuclear energy, Electrabel Groen is given the minimum score in the category investments (- 1).’ So suddenly the whole company of Electrabel is judged, and not merely the product Electrabel Groen. Moreover, despite this disputable low score, Electrabel Groen still gets 25 points. It is nevertheless ranked below Essent, which received Page 38 of 80 0 points but is allowed into the middle, brown category. That is very strange reasoning: first setting up a scoring system and then saying that this system is not valid for the ranking. For Greenpeace, nuclear energy seems to be infinitely heavy, not able to fit into any scoring system. The arguments on the other side are often not any better. In their study ‘The role of electricity’, Eurelectric investigated the impact of energy policies and technologies up to the year 2050. Four scenarios were developed using the PRIMES and PROMETHEUS models. In all of these scenarios, nuclear energy is coupled to the development of Carbon Capture and Storage at fossil fuel power plants. The individual influence of nuclear energy can therefore not be assessed. But the policy recommendations contain the following threatening sentence: ‘Any policy that tends to exclude specific elements of this balanced portfolio will fail to build a robust and economically-sound low- carbon electricity system.’ In other words, an ill-disguised defence of nuclear energy rather than a sound conclusion based on the simulated scenarios. See my Sustainable Energy blog post ‘Studies can prove whatever you want them to’ of 7 July 2007. It contains another striking example. LIGHTENING THE DEBATE TO ENLIGHTEN THE QUESTION In order to develop a genuine and honest debate and an enlightened vision of nuclear energy, the subject should first be liberated from its heaviness and its symbolic baggage. A good start would be to put the importance of the issue into perspective. Whether we continue with nuclear energy or not is just one of the many questions on our energy future. Worldwide, nuclear energy accounts for only 6 per cent of the total energy consumed. This figure is not likely to change drastically in the coming years. Whatever policy will be followed, nuclear technology on its own does not have the potential to ensure a worldwide security of energy supply, nor can it be a complete solution for climate change. Is nuclear waste a major problem? Certainly. It is a serious ethical issue whether we may produce something that requires safeguarding for thousands of years. But today it’s too late; the nuclear waste is already there. We will have to find a solution for it anyway, whether or not we continue with nuclear energy. This debate should have been held in 1950. So in the end, am I pro or am I con regarding nuclear energy? Maybe it is not that important to be either. What is important though is that we keep on thinking and debating with a free and open mind using arguments based on factual data and not just emotional opinions. REFERENCES http://www.greenpeace.org/belgium/nl/groene_stroom/ranking http://www.ce2030.be/finalrep_publ.htm#summary NUCLEAR POLICY: AT NATIONAL OR AT EU LEVEL? COOPERATION ON NUCLEAR SAFETY AND WASTE MANAGEMENT The new EU High Level Group on nuclear safety and waste management held its first meeting on October 12. Whether or not one supports nuclear energy, the Group is an initiative that can only be welcomed. Nuclear waste is a clear and present problem and urgently needs a solution. It is certainly preferable that countries developing new nuclear plants, such as Bulgaria, Finland, France, and Romania, do so under agreed safety Page 39 of 80 conditions. Since safety concerns don’t stop at national borders, it is helpful that the High Level Group contains representatives from both member states that operate nuclear plants and member states that don’t. EU DIVIDED ON NUCLEAR FUTURE At the press conference following the first meeting of the Group, EU Energy Commissioner Piebalgs told reporters that ‘a lively debate’ characterized the meeting. This is no surprise, given the diametrically opposed positions of countries like France and Finland on one side and Denmark and Austria on the other. It is these differences of opinion (see previous blog post ‘Incarnation of evil or saviour of the planet?’) that make a common EU standpoint on the future of nuclear energy highly unlikely anytime in the next ten years. Piebalgs confirmed this by declaring that nuclear energy is ‘clearly in the competence that lies with the member states’ although he also stated that ‘nuclear [energy] is here to stay’. ITALY HAVING FOREIGN AFFAIRS The lack of common EU position doesn’t necessarily need to be a problem. But since the energy market and the energy grid are united, the differences in nuclear policies between countries can lead to strange situations. Take Italy, for instance. Following a referendum in 1987, shortly after the Tsjernobyl accident, Italy shut down all of its reactors and placed a moratorium on new plants. This moratorium will not be cancelled any time soon. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi recently confirmed that ‘the political conditions for rediscussing nuclear power do not exist’. But on the other hand, Italy is very active in international research groups studying generation III and IV nuclear reactors. Italy also imports about 15,000 GWh of nuclear energy from France annually. And Italy’s former state-owned power company ENEL is very active in nuclear energy outside Italy’s borders. After taking over of 67 per cent of the shares of the Spanish company ENDESA, ENEL now controls about 3,000 MW of nuclear reactors in Spain. ENEL also has a 66 per cent ownership in Slovakia’s Slovenske Elektrarne, which operates 2,400 MW of nuclear capacity and is building two new 440 MW reactors. Moreover, ENEL has expressed interest in building new nuclear capacity in Bulgaria (2,000 MW) and Romania (1,400 MW). When it comes to nuclear energy, it seems that Italy has only foreign affairs, which is hardly the same as saying that it has no affairs at all. NUCLEAR ENERGY FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES? NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY IMPEDES WIDESPREAD USE OF GENERATION III NUCLEAR REACTORS One example of a generation III nuclear reactor is the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). The ESBWR rectifies a few important disadvantages of previous reactor generations. It incorporates improved fuel technology as well as passive safety systems. The reactor shuts down safely in any emergency without operator action or electronic feedback. The ESBWR design reduces capital cost by 25 to 40 percent, a vitally important consideration in cash-strapped developing countries. This cost reduction has been made possible by simpler design of the circuits to Page 40 of 80 incorporate natural circulatory forces and to modern computer-aided manufacturing technologies. The latter enables a modular approach to the nuclear plant construction. PROLIFERATION THREADS The primary impediment to the use of generation III reactors in developing countries is the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Much of the material and knowledge employed in civilian nuclear programmes can indeed be used to develop nuclear weapons. In the MIT Technology Review, Per Peterson (UC Berkeley professor of nuclear engineering) sums up the five main proliferation thread categories and how we could cope with them: 1) Clandestine diversion of materials from state facilities operated within the Non-Proliferation Treaty. 2) The production of materials in clandestine state facilities. 3) The abrogation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty by a country, overtly misusing facilities and materials. 4) Terrorist theft of materials for nuclear explosives. 5) Terrorists attacking a nuclear facility with the aim of generating a deliberate release of radioactivity. According to Peterson, these threads could be countered by: 1) More comprehensive IAEA safeguards at nuclear facilities. 2) A stringent export control for dual-use equipment. 3) Effective international action to make it highly unattractive for countries to abrogate the Non- Proliferation Treaty. 4) Ensuring adequate physical protection of nuclear facilities and that all links in the nuclear chain are safe. 5) Making it so difficult for terrorists to attack nuclear power plants that they give up and go elsewhere. However those remedies also come at a price and none of them can guarantee a 100 percent safety. So the question is whether it is worth taking the risks. LIFE EXPECTANCY OF NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS SURVEILLANCE CAPSULES MEASURE REACTOR VESSEL DEGRADATION In countries where there is an ongoing public discussion about a nuclear power phase-out, you often hear the phrase ‘the life expectancy of the nuclear power plant’. Strictly speaking however, nuclear power stations do not have a fixed life expectancy. The initial design lifespan is usually 30 to 40 years. This is the figure used for the financial depreciation of the investment in the plant. However, nearly all elements in a nuclear power plant can be replaced except for the reactor vessel. This is consequently the crucial element in determining the true life expectancy of the plant. The safe and useful life of a reactor vessel depends on the degree to which it is neutron leak proof. This factor is monitored by surveillance capsules. RE-EVALUATION EVERY TEN YEARS Nuclear power plants are required to renew their exploitation licence every ten years. A safety commission is assembled when the date for renewal of the licence approaches and they make an assessment regarding Page 41 of 80 whether or not the plant can operate safely for another ten years. One of the means used to make this assessment is by verifying the results of the surveillance capsules. Consequently, apart from political decisions, the life expectancy of a nuclear power plant is re-evaluated every ten years for an additional decade of operation. Operations will continue if: The surveillance capsules prove that the reactor vessel can continue to operate in absolute safety All replacement and maintenance investments necessary to guarantee a safe and reliable operation are economically justified REFERENCE Speech by Eric van Walle, director-general of the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK-CEN, on the Strategic st Forum on Energy Supply in the 21 Century (Brussels, 18 December 2006) http://www3.sckcen.be/sckcen_en/ THE HIGH FINANCIAL RISK OF NUCLEAR ENERGY HAS SOLAR PV BECOME CHEAPER THAN NUCLEAR? In August 2010, both The New York Times and CleanTechnica.com reported on a paper from Duke University in North Carolina claiming that the costs of solar energy and nuclear energy have passed an historical crossover point at 16 dollar cents per kilowatthour. Solar photovoltaics are now supposed to be a lower-cost alternative to new nuclear plants. How accurate is this claim? Why are the figures on the cost of nuclear energy so divergent? And to what extent are solar photovoltaic energy and nuclear energy competitors? FIGURES MIGHT BE STRETCHED, BUT TRENDS ARE CLEAR In The New York Times, an editor’s note was added one week after publication admitting that the article gave an ‘imbalanced presentation’ of the issue, since the concerned study was prepared for an environmental advocacy group and therefore did not take into account other points of view and did not contact the Nuclear Energy Institute. Personally I also have my doubts concerning the extent to which the figures of this study represent hard facts. You can make these kinds of studies prove anything you want them to. Nevertheless, it is certainly a fact that the cost of photovoltaic energy, after a period of stagnation, has been decreasing rather sharply in the past two or three years. And it is also true that PV energy is one of the cleanest market-ripe energy solutions available today, even if you take the material and energy use during the manufacturing of the panels into account. The cost of projected nuclear power plants is much more difficult to assess, as it incorporates a multitude of risk factors. The high uncertainty associated with the construction cost and time frame is one of the main disadvantages of this technology. Because of this, private investors are not very keen on investing in new nuclear power plants. Without increased government support (tax credits, loan guarantees...), it will be difficult for new nuclear power plants to be built in the near future. NUCLEAR POWER: FINANCIAL RISK VERSUS SAFETY RISK Page 42 of 80 The high uncertainty that is involved in nuclear constructions is inherent to projects that have a total commitment to safety. 99% safe is not enough for a nuclear power station; the risk should be ‘ALARA’, as they say in nuclear jargon, ‘As Low As Reasonably Acceptable’. One cannot take ‘calculated risks’ on nuclear safety, and what is not calculated, is uncertain. Or to put it another way: the financial risk and the nuclear safety risk have an inverse relationship, and since the latter is kept as low as possible, the financial risk is inevitably high. 12 YEARS UNDER CONSTRUCTION If this high risk is combined with Murphy’s law, that everything that can go wrong does go wrong, you get the example of the struggling Olkiluoto III power plant in Finland, one of the few nuclear plants that are currently under construction in Europe. Licensed in December 2000, the commissioning date for this unit was first set to May 2009. After postponing this deadline several times, it has now been set to 2013. After Siemens has withdrawn, the remaining contractor Areva is in a dispute with the utility company over who will bear the cost overruns. This example will certainly not stimulate investors and contractors to step into similar projects. Because of the high risk that is involved in these kinds of projects, the nuclear industry in the US has proposed a financing system that requires electricity users to pay for the cost of new reactors during their construction phase. In other words, the financial uncertainty is passed on to the consumer. With construction periods such as that of Olkiluoto, that would make electricity users start pay higher prices 12 years before the plant is actually commissioned. It is hard to imagine broad public support for such a measure. NO REAL COMPETITION BETWEEN PV AND NUCLEAR So has photovoltaic power become cheaper than nuclear power? In fact, the question itself maybe starts from a false premise. Photovoltaic energy and nuclear energy can hardly be seen as competitors. Perhaps the competition for nuclear power lies rather in other types of carbon free, large-scale centralized power plants, such as coal fired power plants with carbon capture and storage and concentrated thermal solar power plants. These are the technologies that we have on hand to fill the gap between distributed renewables and the high quantity, availability, and reliability of power supply that is demanded. Maybe in the future, highly efficient cells will bring solar PV power to the scale of nuclear power, but today, cost is not the only obstacle to large scale commercialization of solar PV. REFERENCES CleanTechnica.com: ‘Historic Report: Solar Energy Costs Now Lower than Nuclear Energy’ NYTimes: ‘Nuclear Energy Losing Cost Advantage’ THE ECONOMIC COST OF CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE (CCS) IPCC FIGURES Capturing the carbon of fossil fuel power generation plants and storing it underground sounds a great idea for mitigating climate change. It would allow for continued fossil fuel use in the coming decades. But along with several major technical issues that still need to be solved, one must also wonder whether Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will ever be economically feasible. Page 43 of 80 The Oil Drum posted an article on this subject, based on a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). It estimates that for a pulverized coal plant, the additional cost of CCS would amount to 20 to 30 per cent on top of the industrial base price. The consequence would be an increase in the general electricity generation cost of US$0.01 to 0.05 per kWh. By using carbon storage for ‘Enhanced Oil Recovery’ (EOR), this additional electricity production cost would be reduced to US$0.01 to 0.02 per kWh. POLITICAL SUPPORT IS INDISPENSABLE This leads the Oil Drum to the following conclusion: ‘Only with continued political support will this technological mitigation option for climate change become viable. The best option is full support of carbon dioxide capture and storage in the European emissions trading scheme, to make pioneering projects […] viable. For larger application beyond a few projects, the price of a ton of carbon needs to increase, or the costs of capture and storage will need to come down significantly.’ COMBINING CCS WITH ENERGY EFFICIENCY MEASURES One reader of the Oil Drum remarks that this extra cost of 20 to 30 per cent is not insurmountable, and suggests compensating for the extra electricity cost by realizing energy savings of 20 to 30 per cent. This would be technically feasible and politically acceptable. However, if CCS is to be combined with far-reaching energy efficiency measures, this would require an even larger amount of initial capital investment from the economy. REFERENCES Article on the Oil Drum Web site: ‘CO2 capture and storage: The economic costs’ http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/2802#comments IPCC ‘Special Report on Carbon dioxide and Storage’ http://arch.rivm.nl/env/int/ipcc/pages_media/SRCCS- final/IPCCSpecialReportonCarbondioxideCaptureandStorage.htm CAPTURING CARBON WITH ENZYMES A PROMISING TECHNIQUE BY CO2 SOLUTION The research company CO2 Solution of Quebec City, Canada, has developed a new way to capture carbon dioxide from smokestacks. It has genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to produce an enzyme that converts carbon dioxide into bicarbonate, a raw material that can be sequestered underground or used to produce substances such as baking soda, chalk, or limestone. The main advantage of a bioreactor containing this enzyme, compared to other systems, is that it does not require separation of the carbon dioxide. It can be used for any gaseous effluent containing carbon dioxide. CO2 Solution has already tested its process on a small municipal incinerator and on an aluminium smelter. It is now working with power plant equipment manufacturer Babcock and Wilcox on ways to adapt the technology to power stations. The biggest challenge will be to produce enough of the enzymes to process the enormous quantity of carbon dioxide that is emitted from coal- or gas-fired power plants. NO MORE NUCLEAR OR COAL? Page 44 of 80 A SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN ARTICLE PROVOKES A LOT OF REACTION An article in the recent April edition of Scientific American, discusses the statement of Jon Wellinghoff that the U.S. will never need to build another coal or nuclear power plant. He claims that all of the new capacity that is required could be delivered by new wind, solar, and biomass plants and — in a transition period — by new natural gas plants. ‘Nuclear and coal plants are too expensive,’ he claims. Jon Wellinghoff is the new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. With this statement he goes beyond those of other Obama administration officials, who have strongly endorsed renewables and energy efficiency, but also say nuclear and fossil energies will continue to play a major role. Scientific American noted that Wellinghof’s statement generated some sceptical reactions from leading experts at universities, research institutes, and energy associations. A lively debate on this topic has also taken off on the Power Globe expert forum. IS BASELOAD AN ANACHRONISM? Jay Apt, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, reacted to Wellinghoff by saying renewables are not suitable for delivering baseload because of their intermittent character. This provoked Wellinghoff to respond that ‘Baseload is an anachronism’. According to Wellinghoff, the claim that ‘We need baseload’ is like saying ‘We need mainframes’ for computing. He maintains that the ‘baseload’ concept comes from the time when we had cheap but inflexible nuclear and coal plants, and flexible but expensive natural gas plants. But when wind is the cheapest source, it will be dispatched first, and that requires a completely different approach. We will have ‘distributed generation’ just like we have ‘distributed computing’. According to Wellinghoff, ‘The technology for renewable energies has come far enough to allow this vision to move forward.’ THE ‘WE NEED ALL TECHNOLOGIES’ ADAGE Another reaction comes from James Owens of the Edison Electric Institute. ‘As we intensify the transition to a low-carbon future, we need to have all generation options on the table,’ he says, ‘including advanced nuclear, advanced clean coal with carbon capture and storage, as well as natural gas.’ This is the ‘We need all technologies’ adage that has become more or less a consensus in the electrical energy world. But again Wellinghoff does not agree. He reminds us that we need to go for the cheapest solution, and that is certainly not nuclear, he claims. According to his figures, a new nuclear power plant costs $7,000 a kilowatt, which is more than solar energy. ‘Coal plants are sort of in the same boat, although they are not quite as expensive,’ he observes. EXTERNALITIES DUE TO INTERMITTENCY? The discussion has continued on Power Globe. On that forum, the conversation quickly moved towards the question of what degree the intermittency of wind energy is an issue and how large the share of wind in the energy mix can be. One forum participant stated that the intermittency of wind energy is in fact an externality which should be internalized by a kind of ‘intermittency tax’. Another participant reacted to this with the statement that big nuclear and coal plants require more ‘back up’ than wind farms. The spinning reserve on the grid must indeed be tuned to the size of the biggest single generator. If that generator unexpectedly drops out, back-up should still be provided. If wind farms are spread over a large enough geographical area, they are less likely to drop out all at once and thus require less back-up. Page 45 of 80 This clearly is at loggerheads with the claim of the James Schlesinger and Robert Hirsch column in The Washington Post. ‘Why are we ignoring things we know?’ they ask. ‘Solar and wind electricity systems must be backed-up 100 percent by other forms of energy to ensure against blackouts.’ SPAIN AND DENMARK AS POSITIVE EXAMPLES? All of these claims resulted in an extensive discussion on Power Globe on the dispatchability of wind energy. European experts tried to convince their American counterparts with the positive examples of Spain and Denmark. Both of those examples are being countered by contradictory arguments. Spain is not comparable with the U.S. one participant claims, since the Iberian Peninsula is virtually an island in the electrical grid. Because of that, they need a large percentage of back-up generation capacity anyway, which makes the connection of a large number of wind farms easier. The case of Denmark is refuted as an example for the U.S. for exactly the opposite reason. Because of its strong connection with the German grid, it can and does import large amounts of electrical energy from abroad to compensate for shortages on days with little wind. MAYBE WE UNDERSTAND LESS THAN WE THINK Discussions like this quickly demonstrates how easy it is to forget how extremely complex the electrical system really is. Can we do without coal or nuclear? It is easy to make a statement on this topic based on what you believe and to cite a few pro or con factual arguments in answer to this question. But it is extremely difficult to give a well-founded answer that takes all aspects into account. Revis James, director of the Electric Power Institute, has probably provided the most insightful reaction. He states that ‘It is just not clear yet how fast renewables can be added without creating reliability issues. No one knows what the magic number is. There is a lot that is not still understood about the implications of a large share of renewables.’ ELECTRIFICATION (EV, ELECTRIC HEATING) NEAR FUTURE CARS HOW FAR AWAY IS MASS MARKETING OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES? Electric vehicles are being taken more seriously than ever before. And not just by environmentalists and electrical engineers. Some of the world’s biggest car companies are finally seeing the writing on the wall. Is this a positive evolution? In my opinion, it certainly is. Even if the electricity is produced with coal-fired power stations without carbon capture, a plug-in hybrid car will still emit about 25 per cent less CO2 over its life cycle than a standard gasoline car . Moreover, electricity generation is evolving towards an increasing share of carbon free renewables in its energy mix. Does the current interest mean that mass production of electrical vehicles is on the horizon? Yes, but it is not likely to be tomorrow. First of all, the current hype is based more on promises and prospects than any hard facts and proven hardware. The inescapable truth is that there are still no true electrically powered standard cars available on the mass market. Secondly, what will be achieved in the market as a whole in the next few years depends largely on progress in battery technology, and more specifically, lithium-ion battery technology . Page 46 of 80 THE TOYOTA PRIUS — GOOD BUT NOT GREAT What about the Toyota Prius? I don’t think you can call the Prius an electric vehicle even with a generous definition of what qualifies as an electric car. It is a gasoline powered vehicle with an oversized battery and regenerative breaking to improve efficiency. Moreover, its environmental performance is overrated. George Monbiot even accused Toyota of greenwashing (‘Greenwash Exposed – Toyota’ on Celsias ). He points out that back in 1983, a standard Peugeot 205 managed to get 72 miles per gallon on highways. The Toyota Prius, on the other hand, does only 51 miles per gallon. George Monbiot’s conclusion is that efficiency improvements on cars in the past quarter century were merely used to improve performance, not to reduce fuel consumption. ELECTRIC MICROCARS FOR COMMUTER TRAFFIC The fully electric powered vehicles available today are microcars like the Smart EV , the REVA-NXG  and the Tango . These city cars are still expensive, built in small series, and not available in all countries. The one-seat Tango by Commuter Cars is an interesting concept. It has half the width of a standard car, allowing it to pass through traffic jams almost like a motor cycle. It can use either lead-acid batteries giving it a driving range of 40-80 miles, or the more expensive NiMH batteries that extend the range to 60-160 miles. The lead- acid batteries can charge to 80 per cent in just 10 minutes from a 200 amp charging station, with a full charge taking no more than 3 hours. WHEN WILL THE FIRST PLUG-IN HYBRIDS BE RELEASED? In the meantime we are still waiting on the first plug-in hybrids to arrive on the mass market. And we will probably still be waiting for three or more years. The first Tesla Roadsters (see previous blog post) are scheduled to hit the road in the first quarter of 2008, but this car is an exclusive and expensive sports car. GM has announced that the Chevrolet Volt and the Opel Flextrum will be available on the market around 2010. The Chevrolet Volt  will have a single full charge electric-only driving range of 40 miles. A full charge will take 6.5 hours from a standard North American 120-volt, 20-Amp outlet. Unlike the Toyota Prius, it will be a series hybrid, meaning that its internal combustion engine is not directly connected to the wheels but is hooked to a generator that can resupply the batteries. This combustion motor increases the vehicle's driving range to 640 miles. The Chevrolet Volt is expected to cost $20,000 to $30,000. Toyota and Ford are also working on an affordable plug-in hybrid vehicle, but have yet to announce a possible year of release. IT ALL DEPENDS ON BATTERY TECHNOLOGY The reason why the year of release for the plug-in vehicles appears so uncertain is that lithium-ion battery technology is not yet fully mature. Cost, cell life, and safety remain unresolved concerns. Today, a small 12V Lithium-ion battery costs about $450/kWh or ten times the price of a traditional lead-acid battery. Moreover, the cost of the longer-life, more robust version suitable for use in electric vehicles rises to about $700/kWh, still more than double the $300 target. The lifespan of even the most advanced types of lithium-ion batteries are only marginally acceptable for use in the automotive industry. The most recent lithium-ion battery packs are designed to last for about 10 years and 5,000 full-discharge cycles. That is quite an achievement but still not good enough. Page 47 of 80 The biggest concern in the development of lithium-ion batteries is safety. Lithium-ion batteries can catch on fire and even explode. John Voelcker in the IEEE Spectrum article ‘Lithium Batteries Take to the Road’: ‘These catastrophes happen when a cell shorts out, gets hot, and starts an exothermic oxidizing reaction that kicks the temperature to hundreds of degrees Celsius in a fraction of a second. The heat then shorts out adjacent cells to produce a runaway thermal reaction that can be spectacular (…). And, unlike a gasoline fire, the conflagration can’t be smothered, because it gets oxygen from the cell’s intrinsic chemistry.’ There are several ways to avoid such catastrophic failures. The Tesla designers chose to link a large number of small battery cells in networks, to ensure that a problem in one cell cannot propagate into others. But this is an expensive option. A123 Systems  and some other start-ups are focusing on adapting the fundamental reactions in the cell itself to improve safety. GOING TOO FAST FOR THEIR OWN GOOD? The chief danger in the current electric vehicles hype is that pushed by climate change concerns and high fuel prices, car companies will be forced to go faster than safe progress allows. Controlling battery technology under laboratory conditions is one thing. Mass production and use in the car industry is quite another. Ideally, the new battery designs should be rigorously tested for at least half their lifespan before going into mass production and use. But that seems to be a luxury automotive industry battery developers can’t afford. The risk of going too fast is that battery technology will be installed prematurely in mass market cars. One battery explosion causing fatalities is all it will take to generate enough bad publicity to set the entire electric vehicle industry back a decade or more. These are indeed exciting and challenging times for battery and electric car developers. I’m very curious to see where the technology and market will be in three or four years. REFERENCES  CEIC Working Paper ‘For energy security and greenhouse gas reductions, plug-in hybrids a more sensible pathway than coal to liquids gasoline’, by Paulina Jaramillo and Constantine Samaras http://www.lowcvp.org.uk/assets/reports/CEIC_07_04.pdf  Article ‘Lithium Batteries Take to the Road’ by John Voelcker on IEEE Spectrum http://spectrum.ieee.org/sep07/5490  Article ‘Greenwash Exposed — Toyota’ by George Monbiot on Celsias http://www.celsias.com/2007/09/19/greenwash-exposed-toyota/  Article ‘Hybrid Technologies to Produce Electric Smart Car’, by Michael Graham Richard in Treehugger http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/09/hybrid_technolo_1.php  REVA Web site http://www.revaindia.com/  Commuter Cars Web site http://www.commutercars.com/  GM Chevrolet Web site for the Chevrolet Volt http://www.chevrolet.com/electriccar/  A123 Systems Web site http://www.a123systems.com/newsite/index.php# Page 48 of 80 PLUG-IN ELECTRICAL VEHICLES TAKING THE EDGE OFF OF FOUR CLASSICAL COUNTER-ARGUMENTS All over the years, electrical vehicles have been the object of much scepticism, even outright slander. The battle between believers and non-believers has been intense. Today plug-in electrical vehicles are close to a commercial breakthrough. The all electrical Tesla Roadster is planned for launch on the market later this year. GMs Chevrolet Volt and Toyota’s FT-HS (Future Toyota Hybrid Sport), which are both plug-in hybrids, are in development phase. And suddenly it looks like the edge has been taken off the four major counter-arguments: The power and capacity of the batteries will be too small The high voltage battery will present safety problems Electrical vehicles only transpose the emissions to power stations The electrical network will not be able to meet demand 1) THE POWER AND CAPACITY OF THE BATTERIES WILL BE TOO SMALL? The Tesla Roadster is proving the opposite. Its lithium-ion battery delivers up to 200 kW of electrical power and can store about 56 kWh of electrical energy. The electrical driving range of the Tesla Roadster will be about 200 miles without recharging. And as the battery technology gets better, this mileage will almost certainly continue to increase. 2) THE HIGH VOLTAGE BATTERY WILL PRESENT SAFETY PROBLEMS? The battery pack of the Tesla Roadster will work at 375 volts. During its design, particular attention has been spent on the multiple safety systems. Everything has been done to assure safety. It is expected that the Tesla Roadster will easily pass all U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Standards required tests. This involves crashing of complete cars with fully charged battery packs. 3) ELECTRICAL VEHICLES ONLY TRANSPOSE THE EMISSIONS TO POWER STATIONS? Power stations are still far from emission free, but the average power station is much less CO2 intensive than the average internal combustion motor. Two recent studies by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) confirm this fact. They show that widespread use of plug-in electrical vehicles in the U.S. would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Different scenarios for the year 2050 were calculated: A high CO2 intensity for the electricity sector (25 per cent increase by 2050), a medium CO2 intensity (4 per cent decrease) and a low CO2 intensity (85 per cent decrease) A low penetration of electrical vehicles on the market (20 per cent), a medium penetration (62 per cent) and a high penetration (80 per cent) The results show that even in the scenario with a low market penetration and a high CO2 intensity of power stations, electrical vehicles would still save 163 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Page 49 of 80 4) THE ELECTRICAL NETWORK WILL NOT BE ABLE TO MEET DEMAND? A recent study by the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium shows that the impact of plug-in electrical vehicles on the electrical grid would not be as large as commonly assumed. A market penetration of about 30 per cent by 2030 would raise electricity demand in Belgium by 5.1 per cent. That is certainly not a negligible figure and it has to be added to other expected increases in demand for electricity. It would require some additional infrastructure. But on the other hand, this figure is certainly not beyond reach of the electrical power sector. The study ‘The Consumption of Electrical Energy of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle in Belgium’ was presented at the European Ele-Drive Conference in Brussels (May 30 – June 1, 2007). REFERENCES Article ‘EPRI-NRDC Studies Highlight GHG and Air Quality Benefits of Plug-in Hybrids’ on the website of Green Car Congress (http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/07/epri-nrdc-studi.html) The EPRI report ‘Environmental Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles’ (http://www.epri- reports.org/) The Web site of Tesla Motors (http://www.teslamotors.com/) MY CAR IS SAVING THE FOOD IN THE FREEZER A CAR AND EMERGENCY POWER SUPPLY ALL IN ONE The more we rely on electric power, the more vulnerable we become when there is a grid power outage. Is that an argument against the development of electric cars? ‘We won’t even be able to recharge our car batteries during a power outage,’ critics say. A small California-based company, AC Propulsion, has turned this potential disadvantage into an advantage. It has developed battery systems for cars that can be charged by plugging into the house mains as well as delivering electricity back to the house. That would make it possible to run lights, the freezer and even electric heaters off the energy stored in the car. And if these battery systems are used in a plug-in hybrid vehicle, they can be paired with the car’s gasoline engine to recharge the batteries. So you will still be able to drive if necessary during, or immediately after, a power outage. EESTOR’S HIGH PERFORMANCE ULTRACAPACITORS GAME-CHANGING TECHNOLOGY OR MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING? There has been a lot of rumour flying around the energy sector lately about EEStor, a secretive Texas start-up. True: if EEStor can reach its ambitious goal of replacing the electrochemical battery with high performance ultracapacitors, that would indeed be a major breakthrough in the energy sector. The technology has the potential to radically change transport systems, offset the intermittency problem of some renewable energy power generators, and improve the stability of power grids. Page 50 of 80 But we’re not that far yet. Most specialists are very sceptical, warning that what EEStor aims at is too good to be true. They have not proven anything yet and some of the technical difficulties seem insurmountable at this point. CAPACITOR WITH HIGH SPECIFIC ENERGY The major advantage of ultracapacitors compared to electrochemical batteries is that they can absorb and release power in a very short time and in a virtually endless cycle with little degradation. Their big drawback up to now is that the energy they can store is 25 times less per kilogram than electrochemical batteries. EEStor now claims that it can make a ceramic ultracapacitor with a barium-titanate dielectric that can store 280 watt hours per kilogram. If true, this is more than double the 120 watt hours per kilogram of a lithium-ion battery. DIFFICULTIES TO OVERCOME It has been known for years that barium-titanate powder, if very pure, can have an extremely high permittivity — EEStor cites a permittivity of 18,500 (compared to 20 or 30 for a traditional ultracapacitor dielectric). But before barium-titanate ultracapacitors can be used in cars or devices, a few critical difficulties are still waiting to be solved: 1. Purity. The barium-titanate powder needs to be extremely pure. How will this be done on a mass- production scale? 2. Temperature. The performance of the barium-titanate dielectric is dependent on temperature; it won’t work at low temperatures. 3. Mechanical strength. The ceramic structure is brittle by nature, and will quickly develop microfractures caused by the thermal stress. This will lead to premature failure. 4. Leakage. The system requires a high voltage (3,500 V), however high-voltage capacitors self-discharge quickly. That means that the cars or devices would need to be recharged regularly even if they are not used. 5. Safety. What happens if a car with a 3,500 V energy system crashes? EEStor has not stated how they propose to overcome these difficulties. But they are claiming to be on track for producing an energy-storage system for electric vehicles, weighing less than 50 kilograms, allowing a 300- kilometers driving range, and able to recharge in less than 10 minutes. If true, it would not be the first time in history that a seemingly impossible technological breakthrough becomes reality. But it also would not be the first time that there has been Much Ado About Nothing for attracting investors to a technological start-up. We will just have to wait and see. SONY CITY USES WASTE HEAT FROM SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT HEAT PUMP REDUCES ENERGY AND WATER CONSUMPTION DRAMATICALLY When talking about a heat pump, most people will think of a system taking heat at low temperature from the ground, the air, or a water reservoir. However, other configurations are possible. Sony City, the new Sony headquarters in Tokyo, receives heating and cooling from a heat pump connected to a nearby sewage water treatment plant. Page 51 of 80 By recycling the heat from the sewage plant, the system achieves a Coefficient of Performance (COP) of 5.19, which is exceptionally high. It means that the building receives 5.19 units of energy for each unit of primary energy that is consumed. A CO2 EMISSION REDUCTION OF 70 PER CENT This unique system is described in a case story by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The system supplies hot water at 43 °C in wintertime, while in summer, a centrifugal chiller connected to the system supplies cold water at 7 °C. Both hot and cold water systems contain a large buffer reservoir. Compared to a conventional system with a natural gas boiler and an absorption chiller, this heat pump saves 70 per cent of CO2 emissions (3,500 tons of CO2/year) and 92 per cent of clean water (107,800 m3/year). To reduce electricity peak demand during the day, the heat pump is coupled to a sodium-sulphur (NAS) electric battery with an output capacity of 2.5 MW. It stores electricity at night and discharges the stored electricity during the day. PRACTICAL AND FINANCIAL BARRIERS It is a pity that the case story by the WBCSD contains so few technical details about the system, since it seems to be a truly unique concept. What the WBCSD case does describe are the barriers encountered while developing this project. Apparently, ‘developing a procedure to use public facilities for private use took up much of the project’s time’ and ‘the plan had to be submitted to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for approval, which proved to be a big challenge’. Apart from that, the high construction cost of such a facility will represent another hurdle for other potential users, even if the Internal Rate of Return of the installation is high. PARTNERSHIP WITH A UTILITY COMPANY Sony has developed this project in cooperation with the local utility Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). The two companies have been working together in a partnership since 1992, which has been a key factor in Sony’s energy savings campaign. Since 2002, TEPCO has developed several heat pump systems for Sony’s technological centres throughout Japan. The coefficient of performance of those heat pumps has been increasing steadily, culminating in this recent project for Sony City. REFERENCES Article ‘High-efficiency Heat Pumps: TEPCO’ on the WBCSD Website (http://www.wbcsd.org/plugins/DocSearch/details.asp?type=DocDet&ObjectId=MzA2OTA) Case study ‘High-efficiency Heat Pumps’ in the WBCSD Website (http://www.wbcsd.org/DocRoot/uPWCuUSDaI94LEFd7Gr7/TEPCOSonyCity.pdf) Sustainability Report Tepco 2005 (http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/env- com/environment/report/2005/pdf/003-e.pdf) ALL NEW HOUSES TO BE ZERO-EMISSION UK SETS EXAMPLE, WILL CALIFORNIA BE NEXT? The UK is taking the lead in sustainable building. In 2007, new housing regulations were agreed upon and go into full force in stages over the upcoming years. The regulations stipulate that from 2016 on, all new homes Page 52 of 80 in the UK will have to be zero-emission for heating, hot water, cooling, ventilation, and lighting. This corresponds to level 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. The Code for Sustainable Homes is a new standard that gives new homes a 0 to 6 rating based on their performance against 9 sustainability criteria. Level 0 is the base level and means the house meets current regulations; level 1 includes a 10 per cent energy efficiency improvement over current regulations; level 6 means a zero-carbon emission house for all energy use. The code was introduced as a voluntary standard in April 2007 and will become a mandatory label in April 2008. The new regulations impose level 3 for all new built homes by 2010, meaning a 25 per cent energy efficiency improvement. Level 4 or a 44 per cent energy efficiency improvement will be mandatory by 2013. By 2016, all new houses will have to comply with level 5. CALIFORNIAN HOUSES SELF-SUFFICIENT BY 2020? The California Public Utilities Commission suggested introducing a ‘zero-net-energy’ regulation for all new housing developments in the state by 2020. By making the houses much more energy efficient, all the energy a housing development needs could be generated locally with solar panels, windmills or small generators. Mandating energy self-sufficiency is thus perfectly possible, according to the Utilities Commission. However, the Utilities Commission has no legal authority over the construction industry. The California Energy Commission, which does have the power to set energy-efficiency standards for new buildings, is investigating the proposal from their intergovernmental colleagues. According to Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute, the goal of increasing energy efficiency of new houses is a very reasonable one. He cautioned, however, that zero-energy does not necessarily mean zero-carbon emissions. There should be no increased emphasis on on-site generation, since some small-scale electricity generation systems produce more carbon emissions than large centralized power plants. REFERENCES The Code for Sustainable Homes on the Planning Portal, UK Government's online planning and building regulations Web Site (http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/code_for_sust_homes.pdf) Article ‘Zero-emissions UK homes by 2016’ on BeyondZeroEmissions.org (http://beyondzeroemissions.org/media/2007/05/17/03/zero-emissions-uk-homes-2016-how-long- australia) Article ‘State regulators propose developing energy self-sufficiency by 2020’ on SFGate.com (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/09/18/BUMKS7VTF.DTL) TOWARDS AN ALL-ELECTRICAL SOCIETY? ELECTRIC DRIVES FOR SHIPS AND PLANES Trains are increasingly electrified, electric motorbikes are booming in Asia, and the all-electric car might be close to mass production. Some people are openly suggesting that water and air transport can become electric powered as well and complete the move to an ‘all electric society’. What are the chances of this th vision becoming a reality? Ships with electric propulsion systems already existed at the beginning of the 20 Page 53 of 80 century and are currently ready for a (limited) revival. However, development in powering large aircraft by electric propulsion is much less in evidence. THE NEW ELECTRICALLY POWERED SHIPS ARE COMING OUR WAY For ship propulsion, diesel engines and gas turbines are currently considered the conventional power systems. They drive the ship propeller via a large gearbox. It has not always been like that however. At the beginning of th the 20 century, turbo-electric systems were competing with mechanical drives. The American navy even had a class of electric powered battleships that served in the Second World War. After World War II, the idea of electric ship propulsion was completely abandoned as being too large and too heavy. Recently, following the development of power electronics and smaller, more powerful electric motors, the idea of turbo-electric ship propulsion has been brought to the attention of ship designers and builders again. In turbo-electric ship propulsion, the power isn’t supplied by battery packs as in electric vehicles, but by a gas turbine or diesel engine. Compared to conventional ship propulsion, it is basically an electric generator and motor replacing the gearbox. This is introducing an extra energy conversion step, decreasing inherent efficiency. The extra conversion step is also present in electric cars, but there it allows the small and inefficient fuel engine to be replaced by an electric motor running on power generated in highly efficient or renewable energy power stations. Consequently, it doesn’t come as a surprise that at maximum load, a turbo-electric ship propulsion system has a lower efficiency than a Diesel engine. However, the efficiency of a Diesel engine or a gas turbine drops steeply when working at less than maximum output. An electric drive on the contrary, could be composed of a series of electric motors which can be employed individually as needed and each run at their most economical setting. For ships that run most of the time at less than full power, such a modular electric drive becomes more efficient than any other propulsion system. Spare electrical power could be stored in battery packs or used for other appliances on board. Ships need electricity on board anyway for radar, navigation, lighting, and several kinds of appliances. By using an electric drive, all the power can be delivered by a single system, making power infrastructure simpler and easier to maintain. Considering these advantages, it doesn’t come as a surprise that electric propulsion is being mainly reconsidered for naval military vessels and cruise ships. These types of ships typically run most of the time at less than full power and require a great deal of electricity for other uses. A class of electrically driven warships is currently being developed for the British Navy. It will be the first series of vessels to be powered entirely by an electrical system since World War II. ELECTRICITY IN AIRPLANES BUT NOT FOR PROPULSION While the first commercial electrically driven ships are on their way, electric propulsion for large airplanes is still very much in the future. Electrically driven planes do exist already today, namely gliders with small electric motors for auxiliary propulsion. A few small experimental aircraft with electric propellers have also been built, utilizing high discharge lithium-ion batteries as those being used in some electric cars, or even photovoltaic cells. But large airplanes with electric motors are not a viable option at present. This is because the size and power-to-weight ratio of a battery or fuel cell powered electric system cannot compete with that of a kerosene powered jet engine. However, aeronautical engineers are working on constructing designs such as a ‘blended wing’, a flat, tail-less structure resembling a giant wing. This shape would allow much more space for electric batteries or generators. Such planes could be driven by ‘superconducting motors’, an electric engine that can generate three times the torque of a conventional motor of the same weight and power input. But then again, if those Page 54 of 80 would be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, an extra energy conversion step is introduced reducing the intrinsic efficiency. Moreover, having hydrogen on board creates an additional safety issue. On the other hand, if aircraft motors are to be powered by battery packs, a significant breakthrough in battery technology development would have to take place. The ‘blended wing’ aircrafts still seem to be in the realm of science fiction at present, but this does not mean that electricity has no major role to play in air transport systems. An increasing number of electrically powered devices such as landing gears and flaps are being added to aircraft. Those electric systems are lighter and can be made more reliable than their hydraulic and mechanical counterparts. INCREASINGLY ELECTRIC, BUT NOT ALL ELECTRIC The cases above demonstrate that in many fields, electricity is gaining ground compared to other energy carriers. In most cases this has positive effect on efficiency, emission reduction, and flexibility. However, the ‘all-electric-economy’ may well remain the eternal science-fiction dream. And so what? After all, the real goal is efficiency, not mere consistency. Ralph Waldo Emerson probably said it best: ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’ REFERENCES Article ‘Making waves / Maritime engineers are already embracing electric propulsion for ships — and electric planes could be next’ in the Economist (http://www.economist.com/search/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10202790) Article ‘Electric Drives for Battle ships’ by Nicolas Tesla, New York Herald, February 25, 1917 (http://www.tfcbooks.com/tesla/1917-02-25.htm) Article ‘Sonex Aircraft and AeroConversions Show Electric Propulsion System for Sport Aircraft’ on Green Car Congress (http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/07/sonex-aircraft-.html) FUEL CELL TRAINS A 100 kW fuel cell train has been successfully tested in Japan recently. It is the Japanese Railway Technical Research Institute, RTRI, who is behind this achievement. They have an extensive list of interesting objects on their Research agenda of which fuel cell technology is one. The concept of the present development includes making full use of the energy in a system that also saves the energy from braking. The tested object is said to be a one-carriage prototype able to reach speeds of 100km/hr. The technology is expected be ready for use in Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures, a mountainous region that lies just to the west of Tokyo, by the summer of 2007. There is a change from a Diesel Hybrid to a Fuel Cell Hybrid, as shown in the image. Page 55 of 80 http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/press/20060401/index.html http://www.rtri.or.jp/rtri/research2005/index_e.html THE ELECTRICITY GRID OF THE FUTURE NINE DIFFERENT DEMAND RESPONSE PROGRAMMES BY THE PACIFIC GAS AND ELECTRIC COMPANY Demand Side Management (DSM) programs aim at reducing peak demand and improving energy efficiency of electrical consumers. This can serve several goals, but the principal reasons are postponing the need for new generation capacity and reducing GHG emissions. DSM can be made a reality in various ways. In general, DSM programs provide financial benefits to customers that reduce their energy usage during times of peak demand. The Pacific Gas and Electricity Company (U.S.A.) offer nine different Demand Response Programs to its customers (see PC&EC Web site, http://www.pge.com/biz/demand_response/ ). Those nine programs provide a broad expression of formulas in which DSM can be executed. CREATING MICRO GRIDS FOR CONNECTING DG UNITS MAKING USE OF ALL THE BENEFITS OF DISTRIBUTED GENERATION (DG) Distributed Generation (DG) technologies like photovoltaic cells, wind-power, micro-turbines, and fuel cells have the potential to significantly reduce emissions and ultimately perhaps the production cost as well. Connecting them to the distribution grid however is a subject of major concern. One way of dealing with this could be to take a systems approach, viewing the generator and the associated loads as a subsystem or ‘micro grid’ that can be separated from the main grid. Such a micro grid would operate in parallel with the grid (when connected) or in island mode (when disconnected). It will disconnect from the grid during significant events (faults, voltage collapses), providing UPS services to its loads. If desired, it may also disconnect when the quality of power from the grid falls below certain standards. ENABLING A HIGH PENETRATION OF DG Such a micro grid approach allows for local control of the DG unit, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for central dispatch. It also has the potential to provide a higher local reliability than provided by the power system as a whole. The objective is to provide the features of micro grids without a complex control system requiring detailed engineering for each application. In this way, micro grids could enable a high penetration of DG without requiring re-design or re-engineering of the entire distribution system. A STUDY BY THE IEEE IEEE published an interesting study on micro grids. It discusses the concept, investigates the requirements for control systems, and works out a theoretical case study. Page 56 of 80 The design and construction of a full scale micro grid is currently in progress with the support of the California Energy Commission. REFERENCES Article in PSERC (Power Systems Engineering Research Center, U.S.A.) (http://www.pserc.org/ecow/get/publicatio/2007public/lasseter_asceg2-colum_2007.pdf EXTENDED MICROGRIDS, INCLUDING STORAGE A GENUINE PEER-TO-PEER, PLUG-AND-PLAY SUBGRID As described in a recent post (‘Creating microgrids for connecting DG units’), microgrids can be a way to enable high penetration of Distributed Generation (DG) without the need to completely re-design the distribution grid. Microgrids can even enhance the local level of power quality thanks to DG units. Another study by IEEE focuses on ‘extended microgrids’. An extended microgrid consists of a group of radial feeders, each of which include not only loads and a generation unit, but also a storage device. The extended microgrid is peer-to-peer; the system can continue operating with the loss of any component or generator. It is also plug-and-play; the unit can be placed at any point on the distribution grid without re- engineering. The following load diagram shows how an extended microgrid can operate. The load has a typical 24 hour profile with peak demand at 2.5 MW. The dispatched flow from the grid is constant at 1.5 MW. The storage device will charge at night (slanted lines). During daytime, the first 2 MW is provided by the local DG unit, the remaining power required to follow the load will be supplied by the discharging storage device. REFERENCES Article on PSERC (Power Systems Engineering Research Center, U.S.A.): ‘Extended Microgrid Using (DER) Distributed Energy Resources’ http://www.pserc.org/ecow/get/publicatio/2007public/lasseter_panel- v3_2007.pdf WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A ‘SMART GRID’? A CONCEPT OFTEN CAUSING CONFUSION The ‘smart grid’ is commonly presented as an indispensable part of the future power system. It is claimed that a true liberalized electricity market with a high penetration of distributed generation will only be able to supply a high degree of power reliability if grids are made smart. But what exactly is a ‘smart grid’? Reading through some literature on the subject, one quickly discovers that it can mean many different things to many different people, often leading discussions to end in confusion. A smart grid is neither a clearly defined single concept nor a single technology. Rather it is like a basket containing various combinations of balls. The context and the interpretation depend upon the user. Carnegie Mellon University recently published an article describing all of the various balls typically found in this Page 57 of 80 metaphorical basket. Some of them represent innovations that are still in the development phase, while others stand for technologies which have already been applied for years. Some of the balls found in the smart grid basket include: AT CUSTOMER LEVEL Meters that can be read automatically: this avoids sending out meter readers and can facilitate a fast and exact billing of consumption. It is already widely adopted by many power companies. Time-of-day and time-of-use meters: the former are meters that change the electricity price depending on the time of the day, the latter are meters that integrate the actual electricity price at any given moment in time. Meters that can communicate with the customers: a display shows the customers their current rate of electricity use, allowing them to adjust their consumption level in real time. Control of customer’s load: control systems that react to time-of-day or time-of-use meters to automatically switch certain circuits on or off. AT DISTRIBUTION GRID LEVEL Distribution system automation: A first step is the operating of the distribution grid from a central control room, avoiding the need to send people into the field for switching actions. Such systems have already been installed in several places around the world. A second step is to change the tree layout of the grid into a meshed layout. By also adding sensors and remote control switches, incidents can be isolated and cut off, minimizing problems for electricity consumers Selective load control: selectively switching off customers to avoid a complete black out. A step further is the ability to turn individual loads on or off within customer’s premises. ‘Islanding’ of micro-grids supplied by distributed generation units. This concept can, in its turn, have several different meanings. The basic idea is that local DGs locally increase the reliability of supply. AT TRANSMISSION GRID LEVEL Phase measurements: the efficiency and stability of power system operation could be improved with the addition of phase measurement at various key locations on the transmission grid and combined with advanced communication and control systems. FACTS: Flexible AC Transmission Control Devices or FACTS are advanced systems that can change the flow of power in transmission lines. A phase shift transformer is an example of a FACT. Distributed and autonomous control: models demonstrate that advanced automatic control systems that cooperate with each other could in some cases do a better job than a centralized human operation of the system. REFERENCE Article ‘The many meanings of ‘Smart Grid’’ by Carnegie Mellon University (https://wpweb2.tepper.cmu.edu/ceic/pdfs_other/Smart_Grid_July_09.pdf) RAPID CHARGING OF PLUG-IN ELECTRIC VEHICLES TECHNOLOGICAL DEAD END OR A CHALLENGE TO BE OVERCOME? Page 58 of 80 When screening the data sheets of prototypes electric vehicles and electric vehicle batteries, you often come across some spectacular recharging speeds. The 35 kWh lithium-ion batteries of Altair Nanotechnologies for instance are said to fully charge in a mere ten minutes. What the data sheets don’t say is that the electric connection must be capable of supplying sufficient power for this rapid recharging. Only ten minutes for 35 kWh? That would require a 250 kW connection. This is about 20 times the maximum power of a residential connection. Consequently, rapid charging would be impossible at home. Moreover, it would create a serious challenge for any grid connections for electric recharging stations located along the road. Several studies have asserted that a large penetration of plug-in electric vehicles is feasible without massive investments in new power generation and transmission infrastructure. But that is only true if those vehicles recharge at slow speed during the night, when there is sufficient idle generation and transmission capacity. Imagine a scenario where recharging stations are built along the highway and can simultaneously recharge twenty vehicles with 35 kWh batteries in ten minutes time. A single such station would require a 5,000 kW connection. If those stations need to be built at regular intervals along all of our roads, it will require an entirely new dedicated electricity grid. That is why some experts, like Andrew Burke, an electric vehicle engineering pioneer at the University of California, see the rapid charging of plug-ins as a technological dead end. Others, like Alan Gotcher, CEO of Altair Nanotechnologies, see those barriers merely as challenges that need to be overcome. Watch this space to see which of these two visions prove right. REFERENCES Article ‘Can plug-in hybrid electric vehicles keep the electric grid stable’ on IEEE Spectrum (http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/oct07/5630) Article ‘Electric-Car Maker Touts 10-Minute Fill-up’ on IEEE Spectrum (http://spectrum.ieee.org/nov07/5685) Article ‘California to rule on fate of EVs’ and a comment by Jeff Sutter (http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/nov07/5657) (http://blogs.spectrum.ieee.org/articles/2007/10/california_to_rule_on_fate_of.html) Study 'The Consumption of Electrical Energy of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle in Belgium' by KU Leuven, presented at the European Ele-Drive Conference in Brussels (May 30 – June 1, 2007) (http://www.esat.kuleuven.be/electa/publications/fulltexts/pub_1670.pdf) (http://www.ele- drive.com/) EE TECHNOLOGY PRODUCTIVITY AND MAINTENANCE BENEFITS OF EE ENERGY EFFICIENCY (EE) MEASURES HAVE SHORTER PAY-BACK PERIODS THAN GENERALLY ASSUMED Many energy efficiency (EE) measures in industry consist of improving purchasing and maintenance practices and procedures. These measures often have other positive implications than just energy savings. They can also reduce maintenance costs and increase the productivity of the site. These ancillary savings are often forgotten when calculating the pay-back rate of EE measures. In reality, EE measures often have significantly Page 59 of 80 shorter pay-back periods than previously assumed. This is the principal conclusion of a recent study by the U.S. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EE POTENTIAL TWICE AS LARGE AS GENERALLY ASSUMED The conclusion by the U.S. DOE confirms an earlier finding made in the paper ‘Productivity Benefits of Industrial Energy Efficiency Measures’, published in Energy 11 in 2003. This paper demonstrated a strong correlation between EE measures and productivity. Systematically taking into account the productivity benefits when calculating the pay-back period would actually double the potential of cost-efficient EE improvements, according to this paper. LCC IS BEST PRACTICE The strong correlation between EE, maintenance, and productivity is another excellent reason to make use of Life Cycle Costing (LCC). Using LCC when making purchasing and maintenance decisions ensures that all benefits are taken into account. This results in a more realistic, integrated, and accurate view of the potential optimization of a production line. Unfortunately, LCC can often involve rather complex calculations to execute and as a result have discouraged far too many potential beneficiaries from making them standard or even common practice. REFERENCE Paper ‘Ancillary Savings and Production Benefits in the Evaluation of Industrial Energy Efficiency Measures’ by DOE’s Office of EERE (http://industrial-energy.lbl.gov/node/157) Paper ‘Productivity Benefits of Industrial Energy Efficiency Measures’, published in Energy 11 (2003)(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V2S-48SBVBS- 4&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_url Version=0&_userid=10&md5=31e7242ef87cbe11f60a198253bddcc8) IS ICT RESPONSIBLE FOR RAISING ENERGY DEMAND? OR IS IT A TOOL USED FOR GENERATING ENERGY SAVINGS? In the eighties and the nineties, the energy consumption of ICT appliances was not an issue. At that time, it appeared to be miniscule in comparison to other energy consumption. In recent years however, this has changed dramatically. The ICT sector has matured and today’s huge server rooms can hardly be called minor energy users. Moreover, rising energy prices and climate change concerns have raised awareness over small consumers such as the stand by losses of communication appliances and PCs. As a result of this, the ICT sector is increasingly criticized for its steeply rising energy consumption. It is a fact that the carbon footprint of the ICT sector has been rising and is now estimated to be 2% of global emissions. But the ICT sector can’t be viewed separately from the rest of the economy. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has recently published a study (‘Information and Communication Technologies: The Power of Productivity’) stating that the innovative effects of ICT have contributed to an economy-wide reduction of the energy intensity in the U.S. ICT AS A LEVERAGE FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY Page 60 of 80 ICT has indeed not only been the engine of economic growth in recent decades, it has also been an important factor in improving the energy productivity of industry and business. ICT has enabled the design of new and more energy efficient appliances, it has played an important role in optimizing production processes, and it has replaced several energy-intense physical products and services with on-line services. The 3D design of turbine blades, computerized ‘virtual power plants’ to optimize efficiency, smart metering techniques… it are just three out of many examples that would not exist today without the ICT innovations of recent years. SAVING MORE ENERGY THAN IT CONSUMES U.S. energy intensity decreased an average of 1.8% between 1970 and 1996 and an average of 2.4 between 1996 and 2006. According to the ACEEE, this improvement can be attributed to the ICT sector, with 1996 as a watershed year in the expansion of ICT in Internet-based and other electronic applications. This is said to have brought about the accelerated energy intensity reduction in the last few years. The ACEEE assessment also points out that about ten kilowatt-hours are saved today through increased energy efficiency for every kilowatt-hour of electricity demanded by ICT. Those claims have to be taken with a grain of salt, though. It is not so hard to believe that such correlations exist to a certain extent, but proving them with these kinds of figures seems close to guesswork. There are also many other factors influencing the energy intensity of any economy. Sometimes it seems as if the same energy savings are being claimed several times; energy efficiency programmes, higher energy prices, ICT expansion, et cetera all claim paternity. Fortunately the ACEEE doesn’t simply sit back and rely on these claims to contend that the ICT sector is doing fine and can rest on its laurels. ICT’s efforts to bring down its own energy consumption continue to be of paramount importance for the sustainability of the sector. STILL A LARGE UNTAPP ED POTENTIAL And what about the future? According to John Laitner, ACEEE Director of Economic Policy Analysis and co- author of the study, the ICT sector will continue to play its important role as a catalyst for improving energy efficiency. He still sees a large untapped potential of productivity and efficiency gains due to adoption of ICT in households, businesses, and industry. REFERENCES Article ‘ICT Helps Energy Efficiency and Productivity: Report’ on GreenBiz.com(http://www.greenbiz.com/news/news_third.cfm?NewsID=55559) Article on ScienceGuide (http://www.scienceguide.nl/print.asp?articleid=105225) ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND PEAK DEMAND REDUCTION A NEW REPORT FROM THE ACEEE There are obvious overlaps between the results of energy efficiency programmes and peak load management. This is the case in spite of historically different objectives of both disciplines. Energy efficiency programs primarily seek to reduce customer energy use on a permanent basis through the installation of energy-efficient technologies. That will, in most cases, have the positive side effect of reducing peak demand. This is especially the case if it concerns the energy efficiency of appliances that are typically Page 61 of 80 used during periods of peak demand. A good example is the effect of energy efficient air conditioners on peak demand on a hot summer day. At the other side, load management programs generally focus on either curtailing or shifting demand away from high cost, peak demand periods. Curtailing demand in most cases means improving energy efficiency. As a result of these different focuses, the true relationship between these programmes is poorly understood. In which peak demand reductions result the energy efficiency programmes? And what are the energy savings resulting of load management? The lack of understanding of this relationship is one of the conclusions of a new study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), entitled ‘Examining the Peak Demand Impacts of Energy Efficiency: A Review of Program Experience and Industry Practices’. The study investigates the overlap of Energy Efficiency and Peak Demand control. It argues for utility companies and regulators to engage in more integration between both types of programmes. U.S. CONTINUES THEIR LEADING ROLE IN MOTOR EFFICIENCY PROPOSAL TO RAISE MINIMUM EFFICIENCY LEVEL While Europe keeps on discussing how motor efficiency should be monitored, the U.S. is about to take yet another step further in their motor efficiency programme. Under the driving force of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the U.S. has succeeded in significantly transforming their motor marketplace over the past 20 years. In 1992, the Energy Policy Act (EPACT-92) set a minimum efficiency performance standard (MEPS) for certain types of motors. This was followed by the NEMA Premium voluntary labelling programme to encourage companies that want go further than the obligatory standard. Last month, ACEEE, NEMA, and two utility companies proposed a plan to Congressional leaders to increase the existing MEPS-values and to expand the MEPS coverage to many other types of motors. They calculated that such a stricter standard would save 9,781 GWh per year, would reduce peak demand by 1,341 MW, and would reduce CO2 emissions by 2 million metric tons. ACEEE emphasized that the job will not be finished if this new standard is approved. Motor efficiency programmes must also ensure that correctly-sized motor systems are installed and optimized to meet the required load. REFERENCE ACEEE study ‘Impact of Proposed Increases to Motor Efficiency Performance Standards, Proposed Federal Motor Tax Incentives and Suggested New Directions Forward’ http://www.aceee.org/Motors/MEPS_ImpactsWP_07.pdf SCIENCE MAGAZINE REPORTS ON THE EFFICIENCY GAP Page 62 of 80 HOW TO DO MORE WITH OFF-THE-SHELF ENERGY EFFICIENT TECHNOLOGY The August edition of Science Magazine dedicated an eight page long focus article on how to leap the efficiency gap. This gap consists of the imbalance between the wide range of energy efficient technology that is readily available on the market and the rather small share this technology represents in the daily practice of industry, buildings, and transport. A DISCUSSION GOING BACK TO THE FIRST ENERGY CRISIS The article goes back to the seventies, when physicist Arthur Rosenfeld abandoned his focus on particle physics to shift his work at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) on energy efficiency research. In the eighties, human ecologist Edward Vine joined the laboratory, which marked the start of an ongoing — albeit friendly — argument between the two thinkers. While Rosenfeld always trusted that new technologies would bring the solution, Vine did not cease to emphasise that a change in behaviour and decision making is required for spurring energy efficiency forward. THE FRUIT IS LYING O N THE GROUND Science Magazine suggests that today, the tide is turning concerning this discussion: ‘For the most part, energy-efficiency programs around the world have followed Rosenfeld’s line. They offer financial incentives for adopting energy-saving, cost-effective technology, and trust that consumers will follow their self-interest. Yet many researchers are now coming to Vine’s point of view. Consumers don’t seem to act like fully informed, rational decision-makers when they make energy choices.’ Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winning physicist and now the U.S. Secretary of Energy, believes that the technology is readily available and only needs to be implemented: ‘Energy efficiency isn’t just low hanging fruit’, he has declared, ‘it’s fruit lying on the ground.’ REVEALING MARKET FAILURES So why is this fruit not being picked up? Science Magazine cites David Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC). He believes it is not the human psyche that prevents efficient technology from being picked up, but rather ‘market failures’. The latter term groups several market barriers, of which the most important is the ‘principal-agent problem’: the purchaser of the energy using technology is not the same as the purchaser of the energy itself. This not only happens in business-to-business environments, it also occurs in everyday consumer life. Think for example about hotel guests who don’t have to pay for their energy consumption, or landlords who buy cheap, inefficient technology because the tenants pay the utility bills. IS ENERGY TOO CHEAP? The Science article also tackles the question whether energy should be made more expensive to stimulate efficiency. Both followers and opponents of this thesis were asked for their vision. According to Lee Schipper of the Precourt Energy Efficiency Centre (PEEC) at Stanford University ‘The single most important step in that direction [of conserving energy], is to make energy more expensive’. This vision is at odds with that of David Goldstein, who is convinced that ‘low energy prices and efficiency can coexist’. REFERENCE Page 63 of 80 Science Magazine article ‘Leaping the Efficiency Gap’ (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/325/5942/804) THE VAST POTENTIAL OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN INDIA FIVE TIMES CHEAPER THAN NUCLEAR POWER A recent study by the World Resources Institute (WRI) calculated that India could reduce its annual electricity usage by 183.5 billion kWh by investing US$ 10 billion in energy efficiency improvements. India’s energy demand is expected to more than double by 2030. The country is consequently in need of a huge amount of new power generation capacity. Considering the figures of the WRI, the cheapest generating capacity for India will no doubt be energy savings. An annual production of 183.5 billion kWh corresponds more or less to 25 nuclear power stations of 1,000 MW (producing 7,500 GWh/y each). According to nuclearinfo.net, the construction of third generation nuclear power stations in Japan cost around US$ 2 billion for a single 1,000 MW plant. This means 25 nuclear power plants would cost US$ 50 billion, making nuclear power 5 times more expensive than the calculated cost of energy savings. However, the biggest barrier for energy efficiency improvement in India is not cost, but the availability of qualified technology, products, and people. According to Robin Murphy, WRI vice president of external relations, India is desperately in need of energy efficiency technology providers, equipment manufacturers, and — above all — energy service providers (ESCOs). Despite the rapid growth rate of the ESCO sector in India (an annual growth rate of 62% in 2008), this sector is still far too small for the country to aspire to effectively harvesting its huge energy savings potential. REFERENCES Article Renewable Energy World: ‘Energy Efficiency Could Save India 183.5 Billion kWh’ (http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2009/04/canadas-first-green-provincial- report-card-released) nuclearinfo.net: http://nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower/WebHomeCostOfNuclearPower EE AND REW POLICIES ENERGY EFFICIENCY NOT A PRIORITY FOR EU PROJECT FUNDING MONEY GOES TO GAS PIPELINE AND CCS Despite EU commissioner Piebalgs recent declarations that energy efficiency is the number one priority, the recently approved EU economic recovery funds for energy projects virtually completely overlooks energy efficiency. The allocation for renewable energy projects is also rather poor. Of the total budget of €3.98 billion, €1.44 billion goes to natural gas infrastructure projects such as a new pipeline from Azerbaijan to Germany. In addition, €1.05 billion goes to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, €0.91 billion to electricity infrastructure projects, and €0.565 billion to off-shore wind projects. Page 64 of 80 Following criticism from members of the European Parliament, it was decided that any unspent funds at the end of 2010 will go to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The poor endowment of energy efficiency from these funds is not that surprising. Such funds are principally created to support very large infrastructure works that would otherwise never find the required capital investment. Energy efficiency projects on the contrary are much smaller and more dispersed throughout the market. The question remains: where can energy efficiency receive financial support to help this critical matter along in these times of economic crisis. REFERENCES Article ‘EU energy project funding overlooks energy efficiency’ on Energy Efficiency News (http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/i/2245/) AMERICA’S LEADING ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAMMES A NEW ‘COMPENDIUM OF CHAMPIONS’ BY THE ACEEE The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently published a compendium of exemplary energy efficiency programmes. It is the second report of this kind; the first being completed in 2003. The Compendium contains the profiles of 90 of America’s leading energy efficiency programmes sponsored by the utility sector (electricity and natural gas). They are either funded by utility rates, public benefits charges, or other similar utility revenue mechanisms. The 90 programmes were selected from a large number of nominations. Together, the selected programmes achieved annual savings of 2,400 GWh of electricity, 400 MW of peak demand, and 125 million therms of natural gas (= 13.185 TJ or 3.663 GWh). COVERING THE ENTIRE SPECTRUM The report is available for free on the ACEEE website, including brief summary profiles of the 90 programmes selected. The programmes cover the entire spectrum of customers, including residential, small business, schools, offices, industries, and agriculture. They cover programmes for all types of energy appliances, from industrial processes to residential lighting. Also included are individual customers—tailored programmes that lead to comprehensive packages of energy efficiency measures at a single company or site. ADVOCATING A GREATER ROLE FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY According to ACEEE, the 90 selected programmes prove that energy efficiency works. The organization advocates ‘a greater role for energy efficiency in the energy resource portfolios of today and tomorrow’. It strongly regrets the fact that there are still large parts in the U.S. with little or no access to energy efficiency programmes such as those selected in the compendium. REFERENCE Introduction to the Compendium on the ACEEE website (http://www.aceee.org/pubs/u081.htm) Page 65 of 80 THAILAND’S REVOLVING FUND TO STIMULATE EE TEETHING PROBLEMS NEED TO BE REMOVED BEFORE COPYING IT IN OTHER COUNTRIES Thailand established its Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund in January 2003. The system aims at stimulating the financial sector’s involvement in energy efficiency projects. It provides capital at no cost to Thai banks, which in turn use this money to provide low cost loans for energy efficiency projects. The government allocated the initial pool of capital and provided a small number of staff to establish the financing model. The government carries no other risk since the main work of assessing the loan applications, administering the loans, and promoting the Fund is carried out by the banks. AN EVALUATION BY APEC After two years of operation, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) assessed the Fund. It concluded that the system certainly has some valuable ideas, but that some major issues need to be tackled before copying it in other countries. SOME MAJOR ADVANTAGES THAT WERE POINTED OUT: The repaid loans become available for recycling into new loans, hence the term ‘revolving fund’. Once the system is at cruising speed, no new capital needs to be injected. The cheap loans often leverage significant additional investments in the project by non-government sources. AND SOME MAJOR POINTS OF CRITICISM: Promotional activities have been too low key. Responsibility for promoting the fund has been split between the banks and the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE). The latter has no budget specifically allocated for this task. Applicants lacking adequate collateral have difficulties receiving a loan. The financing model does creates the possibility that low risk projects are financed via the Fund, projects that would have received financing anyway (= ‘free rides’). Another important remark is that these kinds of incentives only stimulate technologies which are already cost- efficient or close to it. This removes the investment barrier for certain technologies, but does not open up the market for new technologies. REFERENCE Paper ‘Thailand’s Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund: A Case Study’ by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Energy Working Group (http://www.ewg.apec.org/index.cfm?event=object.showContent&objectID=7AFA640A-65BF-4956- B8F7911BE1292BA4) HOW MUCH ENERGY SAVING IS 1 PER CENT PER YEAR? A STANDARDIZED DEFINITION IS LACKING Page 66 of 80 Last year, the EU approved the ‘Directive on Energy End-use Efficiency and Energy Services’. It includes the target of 9 per cent additional energy savings within the coming 9 years, or 1 per cent a year. But what does this target really mean? The problem is that there is no clear, widely accepted definition of ‘1 per cent energy saving per year’. What is the reference base? What is 0 per cent and what is 100 per cent? Expressing the efficiency improvement that is accomplished by replacing one electric motor with a more efficient one is a fairly straightforward process. But calculating the real effect of energy efficiency stimulation policies and incorporating all free rider, multiplier, and rebound effects is a completely different story. And it becomes even more complicated when looking several years ahead. For example, will you take the same reference base for 2008 as for 2016? In November 2006 the EU initiated a project to solve this definition problem: ‘Evaluation and Monitoring for the EU Directive on Energy End-Use and Energy Services (EMEEES)’. Hopefully it will be ready by the first of January 2008, when the Directive timeline starts running. And hopefully their solution will be pragmatic enough to minimize the administrative burden and the cost of monitoring. REFERENCE The ECEEE 2007 Summer Study “How much energy saving is 1% per year?” THE REBOUND EFFECT OF ENERGY SAVINGS HOW SHOULD WE COPE WITH THIS COMPLEX PHENOMENON? ‘What is the use of supporting energy efficient appliances, when rebound effects cancel out all net energy savings?’ This kind of scepticism regarding energy efficiency is being heard more and more in public debates. The rebound effect occurs when energy efficiency of products improves, but then people just use more of these products. The net effect is thus cancelling out any overall savings. The rebound effect can be both direct and indirect. For instance, a direct effect can occur when consumers buy a fuel efficient car, but then discover that they can drive much more for the same cost and alter their previous driving habits. The rebound effect can also be indirect as when people use the money they save by driving more efficiently for other energy services, such as an extra holiday by air to Spain. While this rebound effect certainly exists, it is being overused ‘as another reason to do nothing’, argues Bill Thompson in a post on WattWatt. Jumping to the conclusion that the rebound effect makes all energy efficiency measures useless is indeed an oversimplification that cannot be justified. THE PRICE ELASTICITY OF ENERGY The rebound effect is directly linked to what economists call price elasticity: that is, the degree to which a given population will buy less or more of something as the price goes up or down. If the price is elastic, it means that people do not immediately change their buying behaviour when the price changes. The rebound effect of energy savings supposes that the energy price is non-elastic: if the energy cost for an appliance goes down because of higher efficiency, people will use it more. If the cost of energy were to be non-elastic in all conditions, people would proportionally lower their consumption as the energy price goes up. This is clearly not happening. However, such a different behaviour when price goes up as when price goes down is not necessarily contradictory. Downward and upward price elasticity is not always similar. Page 67 of 80 The degree to which the energy price is elastic has been the subject of seemingly everlasting debate among th economists since the late 19 century. NOT CANCELLING OUT ALL ENERGY SAVINGS Concerning energy savings measures, one can say with relatively high confidence that a rebound effect is occurring to some degree, but that it is not cancelling out all savings. A study by the UK Energy Research Centre calculated that the long term rebound effect for personal transport, space heating, and space cooling is less than 30 per cent. In general, most studies estimate the rebound effect for improved energy efficiency in electric appliances to be 20 to 30 per cent. One way to reduce the rebound effect is to set up extensive education campaigns on the importance of energy savings before more energy efficient technologies become widely available on the market. Even though such campaigns do not have the potential to reach everybody, they can increase the social responsibility factor in the general population and in this way initiate at least a limited behavioural change. Another reaction could be to increase energy taxes. As the energy consumption of appliances decreases, energy taxes could be increased without affecting the purse of consumers. In this way, the externalities of energy will be charged through to a higher degree and consumers will be stimulated to actually use the increased efficiency to reduce their consumption. The degree to which this mechanism is effective depends upon upward price elasticity. GAINS OTHER THAN REDUCED ENERGY CONSUMPTION It is also important to note that reducing energy consumption is not everyone’s sole social and environmental preoccupation. The fact that increased energy efficiency is not used to reduce total energy consumption should not automatically be interpreted as making energy efficiency completely useless. It can enable new energy services. For instance, many of the energy efficiency improvements that have been realized for cars in the past 25 years were used to produce safer and thus heavier, more energy hungry cars. The higher efficiency did not necessarily lower the external costs of energy consumption, but it did lower the external costs of road traffic. Another example is that higher energy efficiency can also be used to reduce poverty in developing countries. It can make certain energy services available to people that would not otherwise be able to enjoy them. MUST BE MORE ACCURATELY INCORPORATED IN PREDICTIONS Obviously the rebound effect of energy efficiency is a very complex, far-reaching subject. It is certainly not a valid argument to completely dismiss the usefulness of energy efficiency campaigns. While it is true that it should be taken into account when predicting the results of those campaigns. In the past some of those predictions have been far too optimistic because they did not take adequate account of the rebound effect. REFERENCES Article ‘Definition and Implications of the Rebound Effect’ on The Encyclopedia of Earth (http://www.eoearth.org/article/Rebound_effect) Post ‘“Energy Rebound” – or another reason to do nothing’ by Bill Thompson on WattWatt (http://wattwatt.com/pulses/150/energy-rebound-or-another-reason-to-do-nothing/) ‘The Rebound Effect Report’ by the UK Energy Research Centre Page 68 of 80 (http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/ResearchProgrammes/TechnologyandPolicyAssessment/ReboundEffect.asp x) CORPORATE ENERGY EFFICIENCY STRATEGIES SOME BIG PLAYERS SET AN EXAMPLE If there is any measure for mitigating climate change and ensuring energy security that enjoys a corporate consensus, it is energy efficiency. Since it is both the cheapest and the fastest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it obviously should get number one priority. Yet there is the nagging impression that this fact is still having too little influence on actual daily energy practices. That impression may soon be changing. Several leading companies in the electricity manufacturing and service sector have made energy efficiency a top priority. Siemens, Schneider Electric, and ABB each published a dedicated energy efficiency report: Siemens: ‘Energy Efficiency — Achieving More with Less/Creating sustainable societies’ Schneider Electric: ‘How much is inefficiency costing you?/Creating a climate for change’ ABB: ‘Energy Efficiency — The other alternative fuel’ Publishing such reports is, of course, no guarantee that these ideas are being fully integrated into everyday practice. But at least the reports show that these companies have made the strategic decision to give energy efficiency a higher profile and to ‘sell’ it to their customers. Given the weight of these companies on the market, that just might be enough to create the momentum that is needed for a sea change in the energy efficiency mentality. REFERENCES ABB:http://www.abb.com/cawp/abbzh252/1e61c6abed230ba6c12571bf0058af8a.aspx EU STRUGGLING WITH SPECIFYING ITS OWN TARGETS HOW SHOULD THE 20 PER CENT RENEWABLES TARGET BE DIVIDED AMONG THE MEMBER STATES? The EU has set two remarkable targets to be reached by 2020: 20 per cent energy saving and 20 per cent renewables in the energy mix. Those targets are remarkable because they were set without specifying in detail what the numbers meant or how they should be achieved. This resulted in two post factum discussions: how much does 1 per cent energy saving mean (see previous blog post), and how should the 20 per cent renewables target be divided among the member states? The latter is currently the subject of a heated debate in which all governments are running for cover. The debate failed to reach a conclusion in December and is postponed to the Commission meeting of 23 January 2008. TWO DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO REACHING A GOAL Has the approach of the European Commission failed? It looks like it has, but it’s easy to be critical after the fact. Page 69 of 80 A more logical approach would have been to set a qualitative goal first. For example: ‘the energy sector has to do all that is technologically and economically sound to abate climate change.’ In a next step, a qualified technical commission should then define realistic target values to reach this goal, in consultation with all stakeholders. The risk of such an approach however is that the technical commission is not forced to leave the beaten track and will work towards a compromise. The concept ‘all that is sound’ risks rapid degradation. By first setting a rather arbitrary chosen far-reaching target without specifying the means to reach it, one can hope that the stakeholders will be forced to leave their business-as-usual positions. However, in the approach the EU is now following, there is again a discussion phase in which the goal can be degraded and a little ambitious compromise sought. The consequences of the 20 per cent energy savings target can vary a great deal according to how the percentages are defined. It is a very questionable approach to specify this definition only after the target has been set. The 20 per cent renewables target on the other hand risks degradation during the discussion on the partition among the Member States. COUNTRY GOVERNMENTS TRYING TO GET AROUND COMMITMENTS It is strange that some of the same governments that approved the general target are now arguing that this 20 per cent for their country is not realistic. More specifically, the UK government is trying everything to get around and away from all commitments. It is devoting itself to the creation of another trading scheme so that member nations who cannot comply with the target might be able to purchase renewable certificates. Such a trading scheme is not stimulating the buying and selling of real renewable power across borders, but only the buying and selling of virtual certificates. It would leave the entire system with little transparency and end up almost certainly in degrading results in the field. Fortunately, the EU Commission is not giving in easily. They worked out a partition mechanism that is partially based on GDP. Renewable sources currently account for 8.5 per cent of the EU energy consumption, meaning that an 11.5 percentage point increase is required to reach the 2020 goal. The Commission proposed that all member states would make an across-the-board increase of 5.75 per cent, and that the further 5.75 per cent would be divided up using a calculation based on GDP. I’m curious to see if this simple and fair proposition will stand the opposition from certain Member States. We will know more after the meeting of the Commission on January 23. REFERENCES Article ‘EU on target for Renewable Goal’ on Matter Network (http://featured.matternetwork.com/2007/11/eu-target-renewable-goal.cfm) Article ‘New EU renewables law takes shape’ on Euractive (http://www.euractiv.com/en/energy/new- eu-renewables-law-takes-shape/article-168998) Article ‘EU to Propose Renewable Energy Goal Based on GDP’ on Planet Ark (http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/45501/story.htm) Article ‘Energy: the fundamental unseriousness of Gordon Brown’ on The Oil Drum (http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/3126) WHAT AMOUNT OF GHG EMISSION REDUCTIONS WILL ACTUALLY BE REACHED DOMESTICALLY? KYOTO AND KYOTO MECHANISMS (KMS) Page 70 of 80 The Kyoto protocol, signed in 1997, included three flexible mechanisms to lower the overall cost of implementation: Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI), and Emission Trading (ET). They are also called ‘the Kyoto Mechanisms’ (KMs). KMs allow countries to reach their domestic Kyoto target by taking actions abroad, in countries where the cost of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is lower. The protocol stipulates that this should only be ‘supplemental to domestic action’, but it does not quantify this statement. So let’s take a look at how European countries plan to use these KMs to reach their 2012 emission targets. THE USE OF KMS IN EUROPE The Netherlands and Luxemburg are planning to bridge the gap between their current emission rate and their 2012 target entirely with KMs. That is, to say the least, a very flexible interpretation of the word ‘supplemental’. However it does speak in their favour that they are planning to go further than their compulsory contribution. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, and Spain are planning to reach a substantial part of their 2008-2012 emission reductions using KMs. Portugal will probably also join this list. For most of those countries, the emission projections are such that despite their abundant use of KMs, they are likely to miss their targets by a substantial margin. Those countries appear to have a structural problem with reaching their Kyoto contribution and KMs were clearly not conceived to solve such problems. Of all the EU-15 countries, only Sweden and the UK look like they will easily achieve their 2012 target without making any use of KMs. Germany will most probably get close to it. Finland, France, and Greece could achieve their target if they are willing to take some additional domestic measures. But they too might still decide to make use of KMs to some degree. THE PROBLEM WITH CDM But what is really wrong with the KMs? Well, nothing. In theory these are valuable systems to optimize the global cost-efficiency of the Kyoto implementation. But in practice, they have been the target of much criticism, in particular CDM and ET (see yesterday’s post by Hans Nilsson). The CDM gives industrialized countries the opportunity to invest in GHG reduction actions in developing countries. The main problem is that the additionality of such actions should be proven. In other words, CDM should not promote ‘free rides’ — actions that would have been executed anyway. Statistics from CD4CDM show that until now, about half of the CDM actions were aiming at reducing the HFC- 23 emissions of Asian chemical plants manufacturing HCFC-22 (a refrigerant). But China and other developing countries have the obligation to stabilize their HCFC-22 production by 2016 and phase it out completely by 2040. This phase-out programme could now be under pressure because of the CDM. Since they represent cheap CDM opportunities, industrialized countries are indirectly stimulating the construction of new HCFC-22 production plants in Asia. The Carbon Finance Unit of the World Bank has recently suggested that CDM projects should also help in financing Efficient Lighting Programmes (see recent blog post). It is hoped that some European countries will act upon this advice when searching for CDM projects. And hopefully other types of energy efficiency programmes will receive some CDM attention as well. REFERENCES Page 71 of 80 The report ‘Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2006’, by the European Environment Agency (graphs pages 21, 60, 61 and 62) (http://reports.eea.europa.eu/eea_report_2006_9/en) CD4CDM (http://www.cd4cdm.org/publications.htm) REVERSE AUCTION MARKET FEED-IN TARIFFS CALIFORNIA STIMULATING MIDDLE-SCALE RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS California regulators have designed a new market system for stimulating middle-scale renewable energy projects in a competitive way. The main idea is to create a reverse auction market where renewable energy companies can offer their services for green energy projects. The company that offers to sell electricity at the lowest rate wins a particular purchase agreement. Subsequently, the state will pay the developers the feed-in tariff that is sufficient to bring that particular project online. The system covers installations between 1 and 20 megawatts that can be built within 18 months. For installations between 1 and 10 MW, the local utility company is obliged to accept the new installations. But approval from the utility company is required for plants between 10 and 20 MW. Up to now, California has lacked genuine incentives for middle-scale solar energy projects. Solar energy in the Golden State is currently dominated by rooftop solar panels and large-scale solar power plants in the desert. CREATING A STABLE AND COMPETITIVE RENEWABLE ENERGY MARKET The new system has several advantages over conventional feed-in tariffs. It ensures that only companies that take good business decisions are going to get the contracts. Windfall profits at ratepayers’ expense are thus avoided. The new system will also create a much larger pool of valid data about the cost structure of renewable energy plants, which up to now was mostly hidden or merely theoretical or conjecture. And lastly, it will most probably create a more stable renewable energy market than that found in countries providing conventional feed-in tariffs. In the latter countries, including Spain and Germany, the creation, modification, and abrogation of feed-in tariffs have been provoking disturbing market shocks. The new system still has to be approved by a few stakeholders. If that occurs soon, the system could be up and running early next year. So far, the only critical comment regarding the system has come from the Chinese solar giant SunTech America. It expressed its concern over the potential for a few large solar developers to dominate the auctions and skew the results in favour of bigger projects. HYBRID SYSTEMS FOR GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES This new system proposed in California confirms once again that government stimulation of renewable energy is not a choice between ‘state controlled feed-in tariffs’ and ‘market controlled green certificates’. Many hybrid systems are possible. A feed-in tariff system can stimulate market competition just as much as a renewable energy certificate system, as this Californian example proves. And in earlier articles on LE, we have already reported that green certificates allow for market correction just as efficiently as feed-in tariffs. INCENTIVES ARE NOT E VERYTHING Page 72 of 80 The debate over which government stimulation system for renewables is the most efficient also needs to be put into perspective. Government incentives, whether feed-in tariffs or certificates, are no guarantee of the creation of a blooming renewable energy market. As Christian Kjaer, Chief Executive of the European Wind Energy Association declares, ‘You can have the highest feed-in tariff in the world. If you have other barriers, nothing will get you off the ground’. Those other barriers can be, among other things, an unnecessarily complicated procedure to receive building permits or the manner in which renewable energy projects receive access to the grid. Some countries have a well-designed system of green certificates (Belgium and Italy) or feed-in tariffs (Greece), but still have rather disappointing results in terms of the growth of renewable energy capacity. REFERENCE The New York Times article ‘A “Reverse Auction Market” Proposed to Spur California Renewables’ (http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/28/a-reverse-auction-market-proposed-to-spur- california-renewables/) The New York Times article ‘Words of Caution on a Renewable Energy Financing Idea’ (http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/13/words-of-caution-on-a-renewable-energy-financing- scheme/) HOW GREEN IS GREEN POWER? THE PROBLEM OF ADDITIONALITY Green electricity sold by utility companies is a peculiar product. It guarantees the origin of your power, just like an ethical investment fund guarantees the origin of your profit. But what’s the solid evidence for such a guarantee? Guarantees of Origin (GoO) provide official proof that a certain amount of electricity has been generated by renewable sources. However, this system of accreditation was created before various kinds of state incentives for renewable energy came into being and complicated the situation with the problem of additionality. The question of additionality is basically a question of whether the green power would have been produced anyway if the sale had not taken place. In most cases, additionality exists when the supply of electricity is generated over and above the requirement to meet existing legal obligations, or does not receive any state subsidies. According to the website of Eugene Standard, most green power labels in Europe still do not include criteria for additionality – a system they view as ‘greenwashing’. And even if additionality seems to be ensured in principle, there are still ways to escape it in practice. A SURPLUS OF GREEN POWER A good example of dubious additionality can be found with the green power is that produced by large hydro- plants in France, Switzerland, and Norway. In mountainous regions, hydro-plants are an economic way of power production and consequently do not depend on state subsidies. In Switzerland, feed-in tariffs for hydro power are only given up to hydro comprises 50% of the renewable portfolio of an electricity producer. In France no feed-in tariffs are given for large hydro, and in Norway there is no subsidy for hydro power at all, since it provides nearly 100 per cent of Norway’s power generation. Consequently, there is a large surplus of hydro power in those countries that is not used to meet legal obligations and does not receive state subsidies. Hence it fulfils the criteria for ‘additionality’ and is given Page 73 of 80 Guarantees of Origin. But in fact it is not newly constructed either, most of those power plants have already been producing for decades. The electric energy will be produced regardless, and can still be sold abroad as green electricity. Some governments, such as those in the Belgian regions, give tax reductions for this kind of imported green power. At the end of the day, it means they are supporting the profits of hydro power producers in Norway, Switzerland and France. The Belgian utility company Electrabel has recognized this issue and created the product ‘AlpEnergy’. AlpEnergy makes use of hydro energy from the French Alps but guarantees that part of the profit is reinvested in the construction of new renewable energy plants. But then again, who guarantees the additionality of those new projects? REFERENCES Web Site of Green Energy Standard Eugene (http://www.eugenestandard.org/?inc=news&id=104) ARE DECREASING SUBSIDIES A BLOW TO THE WIND INDUSTRY? SUBSIDIES UNDER DISCUSSION IN THE NETHERLANDS, THE UK, AND SPAIN On one hand, subsidies for renewable energy are meant to be a temporary measure to stimulate market integration. On the other however, such regulations require a minimum of predictability to win over investor confidence. It is no wonder then that any discussion of subsidy reforms provokes lively discussions on timing, the way it should be carried out, and what should come in its place. SPAIN CUTTING FEED-IN TARIFFS FOR WIND Spain plans to cut feed-in tariffs for wind power by 15 to 30% and use the difference to boost support for other technologies such as solar. Analysts are divided on what impact this will have on the market. According to Ben Warren of Ernst & Young, the proposed subsidy reduction will have an adverse effect on investments, but not to such a degree that market growth will come to an end. He warns however that a more balanced portfolio of renewable techniques could lead to a reduction in the total contribution of renewables. He also predicts that if subsidy reforms are applied retroactively, it will have a negative impact on the investment climate. RENEWABLE OBLIGATION CERTIFICATES UNDER DISCUSSION IN THE UK Diversification is also the main reason for proposing subsidy reforms in the UK. The current Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) have spurred investments in on-shore wind generation, but have been criticized for failing to support other technologies, since utilities usually opt for the cheapest way to meet their targets. But isn’t that what market mechanisms are all about? Analysts could have a point however when they state that the current certificates system has not primed the pump of tomorrow’s technologies in the way it was meant to. DUTCH INVESTORS IN RENEWABLES AWAIT THE SEQUEL TO MEP Page 74 of 80 The Dutch government abolished the MEP (Miliekwaliteit Elektriciteits Productie) subsidies for green electricity in August 2006. According to Minister of Economy Wijn, the goal of 9% sustainable electricity by 2010 will be reached with currently submitted projects, so there is no need for continued MEP subsidies. Although this sudden abolition of the MEP was paired with certain compensations, it placed some investors in Netherlands renewable energy in financial difficulty. One of the shortcomings of the MEP was that it was open-ended. While this clearly could not be maintained indefinitely, it was expected that the MEP would be gradually limited over time and scale, rather than being abolished outright. It has now been left to the new, recently created Dutch government to work out a new subsidy programme for green electricity. HAREBRAINED SOLUTIONS FOR THE ENERGY PROBLEM HAREBRAINED SOLUTIONS FOR THE ENERGY PROBLEM THINKING OUT OF THE BOX Surfing the Internet, one frequently comes upon articles on new inventions for harvesting energy and solving the energy problem. Last week, we reported on the concept of ‘solar highways.’ That idea is certainly not the craziest one to come along. HARVESTING SMALL NATURAL PHENOMENA A first category of crazy solutions are those aiming at harvesting energy out of natural phenomena that at first sight appear too small or too local to be of interest. Trendhunter Magazine reports on a system using piezoelectric devices for catching the energy of falling raindrops [link]. Another idea, reported by Inhabitat, is to collect the energy of lightning, not to start a camp fire like our ancestors did, but to power our homes [link]. Even more surprising is a concept to tap electricity out of trees, reported by Humacon [link]. When pounding a nail into a tree and connecting it with a pin in the ground through a copper wire, a weak electric current starts flowing. This current is caused by the difference in acidity between tree and ground. Crazy as it may sound, this concept has already found an application in supplying energy to environmental sensors in remote forest areas. And what about the idea of harvesting electricity out of our own breath, reported by Live Science [link]? CHALLENGING THE LAWS OF PHYSICS A second category of crazy inventions are the ones that try to challenge the known laws of physics. Certainly belonging to this category is a system to create room temperature superconductivity, reported by Next Energy News [link]. Clean Break reports on an invention to create ‘free’ energy by harnessing electromagnetic fields [link]. As is often the case with these kinds of topics, a lively discussion between believers and non-believers is going on in the comments pages beneath the article. ENERGY FROM OUTER SPACE A third category of harebrained energy systems are the ones that are related to outer space. Extraterrestrial solutions to earthly problems have been triggering our collective imagination since the birth of science fiction. Page 75 of 80 This is nothing new when it comes to solving today’s energy problem. One can find ample articles on the concept of constructing photovoltaic power stations in space and beaming the harvested electrical energy to the earth. Take for example a look at Energy Outlook [link], The Financial Times [link], PC World [link], or SEED Magazine [link], or watch a movie on You Tube on Space-based Solar Power [link]. Other reports suggest that the quest for energy might lead to a new race to the moon [link]. The reason is that the He3 atom, which is very rare on earth but abundant on the moon, is thought by some to be a suitable alternative material for nuclear fusion, enabling a reaction without generating radioactivity. The idea is already being pushed by several politicians, although some specialists in the nuclear domain declare it to be nonsense. Only time will tell. CRAZY IDEAS MAY BECOME ORDINARY ONE DAY It is unlikely that the ideas mentioned above are going to change the energy debate from one day to the next. Most probably, the large majority of them will always remain unfeasible. And no doubt several of the potential results which are presented are seriously stretching the truth. But as already suggested in the article on solar roads last week, providing harebrained solutions with small amounts of funding for building demonstration plants or prototypes is never a bad idea. You never know what will come out of it one day; history teaches us to be cautious with negative predictions. The first photovoltaic cell was built by Charles Fritz back in 1883 (!), and only had an efficiency of 1%. I can imagine people of that time found that idea just as crazy and useless as we judge many inventions of today. THE QUEST FOR CONCENTRATED WIND POWER LEVIATHAN ENERGY PRESENTS A NEW DESIGN CONCEPT While concentrated solar power is entering the commercialization phase, ‘concentrated wind power’ is still in the area of bold claims intended to attract research money. The idea of concentrated wind power is to build a structure that conducts the wind towards the turbine blades and in this way harvests more power. Recently, an article on CleanTechnica presented a new design of this kind created by Leviathan Energy. It consists of a screen around the base of the turbine that changes air circulation. The company claims this passive structure can increase the turbine efficiency from 30% to as much as 150% at low wind speeds (0-6 meters per second). According to Dr. Daniel Farb, CEO of Leviathan Energy, this is a breakthrough technology. Some CleanTechnica readers however dare to doubt this claim. The test model presented by Leviathan Energy shows a very small wind turbine. According to one reader, to increase the efficiency of such a turbine it is a cheaper option to simply make a higher pole and longer rotor blades — something that wind manufacturers have already been doing in recent decades. If the structure of Leviathan Energy has to be built around a 2 MW turbine, it would require a huge construction taking up a large surface of possibly arable land. Those considerations do not mean that the concept of Leviathan Energy is worthless, but rather that it would need a complete and independent economic analysis before proclaiming a technological breakthrough. I’m sure the main wind manufacturing players will quickly make such an analysis. As already mentioned above, the idea of concentrating wind power to increase the efficiency of wind turbines is not new — it already has a long history. In the summer of 2008 we reported on the ‘jet engine concept’ of the FloDesign company in the U.S. (article ‘New growth factors for wind industry’). Page 76 of 80 REFERENCES The concept of Leviathan http://cleantechnica.com/2009/04/29/wind-turbine-output-boosted-30-by-breakthrough-design/comment- page-1/#comments Wind turbine concept inspired by Jet Engines http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/wind-turbine-concept-jet-engines/ LE article ‘New growth factors for wind industry’ (http://www.leonardo-energy.org/new-growth-factors-wind- industry) SOLAR HIGHWAYS INTEGRATING ROAD NETWORKS AND POWER NETWORKS The US Department of Transportation has awarded funding for building a ‘solar highway’ prototype. A solar highway contains photovoltaic (PV) modules covered with bulletproof glass as a road surface. The surface also contains a grid of LEDs that can light the roadway, draw lines, and flash warnings that react to traffic sensors. Apart from supplying power for the LEDs and sensors, the energy generated by the PV modules will also be used to heat the highway when required. The remaining energy can be used for houses and businesses alongside the road. If this systems works as projected, it could well make power stations and power lines superfluous. According to an article on Matter Network, covering all American roads with this system would produce an annual yield of energy three times as large as the entire U.S. energy consumption in 2006. A UTOPIAN IDEA Anyone reading about such a project with a critical — or downright sceptical — mind may question the claims and even wonder how this idea ever managed to receive funding. After all, PV manufacturing companies are already hard-pressed to create PV modules that are efficient and affordable; their task will become even more complicated if those modules also have to withstand the weight of heavily loaded vehicles. And how will the cost of one square meter of this ‘intelligent highway’ ever be in the range of one square meter of simple asphalt or concrete combined with a conventional PV panel? And what about the production intermittency caused by passing cars and trucks? The idea to replace the complete system of power plants and power lines with these so-called solar roads sounds utopian. How will such a network be balanced? How will daytime production be stored at night? How will production and consumption variations over the year be flattened out? Without power cables along the road and extensive storage facilities — both of which are very costly — the whole concept appears impossible. FUNDING PROPORTIONAL TO POTENTIAL But then again, the funding by the US Department of Transportation is only $100,000. That is a small amount of funding for testing new ideas — however harebrained they may appear at first sight — that just might stimulate workable, creative innovation. One day, one of these apparently crazy ideas just might make it into the mainstream market. Page 77 of 80 And there is certainly some interesting logic in the solar highway concept. Take for instance the idea of making multipurpose use of the huge volume roadway surface that is otherwise lost for any purpose other than transport. Actually the idea of combining electricity production and distribution in one network is rather elegant. And isn’t it a fact that the large majority of energy consumers are located along roads? Moreover, if EV’s ever replace conventional petroleum powered vehicles, the idea of producing electricity ‘on the road’ becomes even more attractive. REFERENCES Article ‘Driving on Electric Glass: Solar Highway Awarded Prototype Funding’ on Matter Network / News and ideas for a sustainable world (http://featured.matternetwork.com/2009/9/driving-electric-glass-solar- highway.cfm) GEO-ENGINEERING DOES NOT OFFER AN EASY WAY OUT NO EFFECTIVE, AFFORD ABLE, LOW RISK SOLUTIONS AVAILABLE If we are able to influence the earth’s CO2 density and climate in a negative way, it is logical to assume that we are also able to influence it in a positive way. That is the basic idea behind geo-engineering solutions to climate change. Those solutions generally include such ideas as afforestation, CO2 air capture, ocean fertilization, cloud albedo using sea water spray to whiten clouds and increase cloud reflectivity, surface albedo using specifically coloured roofing and paving materials, creating stratospheric sulphur aerosols, and space solar reflectors. IS CCS GEO-ENGINEERING? A recent article on the subject in the Financial Times also includes CO2 capture at the stack (‘Carbon Capture and Storage’, CCS) among other geo-engineering solutions. This is noteworthy primarily since this solution is generally seen as more realistic. CCS already receives significant amounts of R&D funding, in contrast with the other geo-engineering solutions. NO SOLUTION SCORES HIGH ON ALL CRITERIA The Financial Times article ranks all geo-engineering solutions according to four criteria: effectiveness, affordability, timeliness, and safety (risk). Most solutions score poorly on the first two criteria. An exception is the use of stratospheric sulphur aerosols, but that is considered to be a solution with high risk. CCS scores high on safety and timeliness, but only in the medium range when it comes to affordability and effectiveness. NO EASY WAY OUT The bottom line is that we still do not know enough about the geo-engineering solutions to judge them thoroughly. However at present, it seems very unlikely that they will offer us an easy way out of the climate change problem. Instead of the logic expressed in the first sentence of this article, there is perhaps another kind of logic that prevails here, namely the one expressed in the famous Albert Einstein quote: ‘The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them’. REFERENCE Page 78 of 80 http://blogs.ft.com/energy-source/2009/09/02/the-sobering-news-about-geoengineering/ ENERGY LINKAGES MICRO-GARDENING OR SOLAR ELECTRICITY? WHAT IS THE BEST USE OF SMALL PLOTS OF URBAN LAND? Gardening is presently a hot topic in many metropolitan areas around the world. Small open spaces — from rooftops and patios to unused parking spaces and disused building sites — are actively being turned into vegetable, herb, and decorative gardens. Terms like ‘square meter gardening,’ ‘parking space gardening,’ and ‘micro-gardening’ seem to be blooming everywhere. Self-styled ‘guerrilla gardeners’ even occupy public and private strips of land to plant their greenery and vegetables. The advantages of small city gardens are obvious: they bring more green into the city, it is a pleasurable pastime for many individuals, and often provides a cheap source of produce. It is surprising in fact how much 2 food a small urban garden can produce. Proponents argue that a single 30m piece of land is enough to feed one person for one year. In Singapore, for example, one quarter of all of the vegetables consumed are products of inner-city gardens. Now suppose you are living in a large city and take the decision to stop using a privately owned vehicle and rely instead upon a shared car, public transport, or bicycling. Assuming you had off-street parking, what is the best use of your former parking space: gardening or solar electricity? If your point of view is more heavily oriented towards aesthetics and leisure activities, then the garden will probably be your preferred option. But what is the economic and ecological balance between these two options? THE ENERGY BALANCE One square meter of land in a middle European city such as Paris, London, or Brussels receives approximately 1,000 kWh of solar energy per year (1). A garden can transform about 2% of this energy into food energy (20 2 kWh/m /year). Photovoltaic (PV) panels typically have an efficiency of around 10% for turning that same level of sunlight into electrical energy. If half of the surface of the parking space is filled with PV panels, the yield will 2 be approximately 50 kWh/m /year. Consequently, from an energy and climate change point of view, the balance is in favour of solar electricity. THE ECONOMIC BALANCE 2 What about the economic balance however? Suppose PV panels do produce 50 kWh per m per year, which is 2 the equivalent of 4 kWh per m per day. With an electricity price of €0.25/kWh and €0.15/kWh in government 2 incentives, a 30m piece of land will yield €1.60 per day of solar electricity. From this figure, we still have to 2 deduct the investment cost of the PV panels. Suppose a cost of €1,000/m , of which 30% is regained by tax credits, and further suppose a life span of 40 years. This results in an investment cost of €700/40/365 = 2 €0.048/m /day. The net yield of the solar panels will be €1.55 per day. 2 This 30m is exactly the surface area required to produce a year’s supply of food for one person. If this food had come from a typical vegetable vendor, that would cost you an average of €15 per week, or €2.14 per day. Page 79 of 80 This conclusion corresponds with calculations made by the Belgian business newspaper De Tijd concluding that 2 a 40m garden yields €920 of vegetables per year (2). It follows from these figures that from an economic standpoint, a vegetable garden is a better choice than PV panels on the same piece of land. That assumes, of course, that the labour for maintaining the garden is not charged and the cost of seeds, fertilizer, and soil conditioners is minimal. SAVING ON TRANSPORT ENERGY There is also another line of reasoning that can be followed. We need both food and electricity anyhow, so the question is rather which product of these two choices is most reasonably produced locally. In other words, which requires the least energy for transport? 2 2 2 Suppose you have a 30m plot of land. PV cells could produce about 50 kWh/m /y * 30 m = 1,500 kWh/y on this surface. If we take into account the average grid losses of 7%, the annual energy savings by producing the electricity locally are 1,500 * 0.07 = 105 kWh. 2 How much transport energy do you save when you opt for growing vegetables on this 30m garden? The average food product in the US travels 1,500 miles or 2,400 kilometres (3). The energy consumption for goods travel is 0.65 MJoule/ton/km for cargo ships and 0.69 MJoule/ton/km for a heavy-duty truck (4). Suppose food travels half the way by ship and half by truck, that results in an average energy consumption of (0.43 MJ/ton/km)/(3.6 MJ/kWh) = 0.12 kWh/ton/km. An average person in the US eats 250 kg food per year (5), resulting in an annual transport energy of 0.25 ton * 2,400 km * 0.12 kWh/ton/km = 72 kWh. Conclusion: you save more transport energy by producing solar electricity than by growing vegetables. A final question regarding growing vegetables in city environments: to what extent will their nutritional and health –giving benefits be affected by the high concentrations of pollutants typical of metropolitan air quality? REFERENCES (1) Solar Electricity Handbook: http://solarelectricityhandbook.com/solar-irradiance.html (2) Netto / De Tijd: http://netto.tijd.be/budget_en_vrije_tijd/budget/Eigen_moestuin_levert_920_euro_op.7489544 -2214.art (3) http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/energy/ (4) Kristensen, H.O., CARGO TRANSPORT BY SEA AND ROAD — TECHNICAL AND ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS, MARINE TECHNOLOGY, Vol. 39, No.4, October 2002, pp. 239–249 (5) http://ambio.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1639%2F0044- 7447(2000)029[0098%3AECITFC]2.0.CO%3B2&ct=1 Page 80 of 80
"SEBlog Anthology Leonardo ENERGY"