Monday, 2 August 2010

The Oil Spill and Renewable Energy

In the same week we read of the terrible damage that oil production is doing to our world, and at the same time as the world's worst economic recession, we see hope: renewable energy. Here are some articles.

Toxicologists warn that waters that look clear of oil can be deceiving

Photos of the disaster.

Also take a look at BP Oil Spill on Youtube for an interesting view of the oil spill.

Renewable Energy at the Tipping Point

"Over the past two years, the United States and Europe have both added more power capacity from renewables than from coal, gas, and nuclear combined, according to the report. Worldwide, renewables accounted for one-third of the new generating capacity added.

Renewable energy, including hydropower, now provides 18 percent of total net electricity generation worldwide. Meanwhile, biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are making inroads in the transportation fuels market and are now equal to about 5 percent of world gasoline production. And in China, more than 150 million people heat at least some of their water using solar hot water systems.

The economic weight of the renewable energy sector is now large enough to attract many of the world's largest and most powerful companies, from GE and Siemens to unlikely players such as Samsung and Google. Renewable energy investment of $150 billion worldwide in 2009 was the equivalent of nearly 40 percent of annual investment in the upstream oil and gas industry, which topped $380 billion.

Changes in government policy are responsible for most of these advances. In 2009 alone, 10 national and state governments enacted policies giving renewable power generation access to the grid at prices set by policymakers, bringing the number of governments with such policies to 70. Altogether, the number of countries with policies to encourage renewable energy has increased from 55 in 2005 to 100 in 2010 [and South Africa is being left behind as although we have policies, we have no way to implement them. The reason for this is that we do not have power purchase agreements. Many people, including myself have asked government to simply allow "net metering" where we can efficiently connect ourselves to the grid and provide battery and generator backup for emergencies. Doing this will cost the government nothing, and will create many jobs, investment, additional taxes for the fiscus, etc, but the ANC won't allow it as they see electricity generation "being the responsibility of the state" even though private individuals wish to provide for their own energy security and are prepared to pump excess energy into the grid without a feed in tariff].

One of the forces motivating new renewable energy policies is the desire to create new industries and jobs. Employment in the renewables sector now numbers in the hundreds of thousands in several countries. In Germany, which has led renewable energy development for more than a decade, more than 300,000 people were employed in renewables industries in 2009. This figure almost equals the number of jobs in the country's largest manufacturing sector: automobiles."

Renewables 2010 Global Status Report

Note: [comments in square brackets are by David Lipschitz; the bolding is also by David Lipschitz]

• "For the second year in a row, in both the United States and Europe, more renewable power capacity was added than conventional power capacity (coal, gas, nuclear). Renewables accounted for 60 percent of newly installed power capacity in Europe in 2009, and nearly 20 percent of annual power production.

• China added 37 GW of renewable power capacity [this is almost South Africa's entire production added in one year!!], more than any other country in the world, to reach 226 GW of total renewables capacity. Globally, nearly 80 GW of renewable capacity was added, including 31 GW of hydro and 48 GW of non-hydro capacity.

• Wind power additions reached a record high of 38 GW. China was the top market, with 13.8 GW added, representing more than one-third of the world market — up from just a 2 percent market share in 2004. The United States was second, with 10 GW added. The share of wind power generation in several countries reached record highs, including 6.5 percent in Germany and 14 percent in Spain.

• Solar PV additions reached a record high of 7 GW. Germany was the top market, with 3.8 GW added, or more than half the global market [Germany has much less sun than South Africa, but look what it is doing - Renewable Energy is cheaper than any other form of fossil fuel energy if all costs are considered]. Other large markets were Italy, Japan, the United States, Czech Republic, and Belgium. Spain, the world leader in 2008, saw installations plunge to a low level in 2009 after a policy cap was exceeded."