Why should the whole world have to repeat our mistakes?
When solar farms in sub-Saharan Africa start to become more common than coal-fired power plants, it is time for the rest of the world to take notice. The clean energy revolution is happening right now under our feet.
“The rapidly unfolding energy transition is bypassing coal and going straight to low-cost renewables.”
Two centuries of burning fossil fuels brought development to much of the world, but also brought large-scale climate change and a host of severe impacts: millions of deaths from air pollution and excessive heat, lack of access to modern energy services for billions of the world’s poor and geopolitical conflicts over resources. While climate change is one of the most urgent crises of our time, extensive research indicates that the possibility of quickly switching to 100% clean, renewable energy that will mitigate these impacts is at our fingertips.
The recently signed Paris Agreement is a watershed moment for the clean energy transition. It provides the strongest market signal yet for companies and countries to double down on their renewable energy investments and to continue moving away from fossil fuels.
That change is already happening in many parts of the developing world. The rapidly unfolding energy transition is bypassing coal and going straight to low-cost renewables. As countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America seize this chance to “leapfrog” over fossil fuels and expand their clean energy capacity, they not only benefit from economic growth and cheap electricity, they also increase their security and avoid the severe damage to health and the environment that burning fossil fuels causes.
In fact, the Paris Climate Conference prompted the creation of the African Renewable Energy Initiative, a continent-wide program to massively increase Africa’s clean energy over the next 15 years while bypassing the pitfalls of fossil fuels.
As the new African Renewable Energy Initiative indicates, countries have the ability not only to leapfrog fossil fuels, but also to replace them while still keeping the lights on. Our research, conducted at Stanford University and the University of California, shows that by 2050 nearly every country in the world can transition its all-purpose energy to 100% clean, renewable wind, water and sunlight.
Africa has significant clean energy resources available that make it technically and economically feasible for 80% of the continent’s energy to be switched to renewables from fossil fuels no later than 2030.
As Africa’s current population grows from 1.1 billion to 1.6 billion by 2030, wind and solar could overtake fossil fuels as the dominant forms of energy. For example, our analysis shows that South Africa could get 56% of its electricity from utility-scale solar, Kenya 28%, and Mozambique 34%, all for lower cost than electrifying with coal. While conservative scenarios predict about half of the continent will have access to the electricity grid by 2030, this means 640 million Africans will plug into the grid for the first time thanks to renewables.
“640 million Africans will plug into the grid for the first time thanks to renewables.”
This is not just pie in the sky. Our work is based on detailed engineering and an itemized mix of technologies and costs for 139 nations, including how much land and rooftop area would be needed to add renewable technologies. Some may wonder where all of this energy will come from. The vast majority of electricity will be generated by wind and solar power: nearly a third from wind, over half from solar power (the majority utility-scale photovoltaics) and the rest via hydroelectric dams, geothermal and tidal power.
The clean energy transition will occur by electrifying everything: cars, heating, agricultural and industrial equipment can all run on electricity. Rapidly advancing battery technologyensures this power will be there when needed. Electrifying reduces power demand by about a third thanks to the efficiency of electricity over burning fossil fuels.
There is no doubt that undertaking this type of massive transformation in developing countries will be challenging. It will require sufficient financial and political support, which can be hard to come by in countries that experience political instability and low public financing. Public money will be necessary to get the ball rolling through initiatives like the public funds transfers from developed countries to developing ones, set up by the Paris Agreement. These funds will open the door for trillions of dollars of private sector investment.
The benefits of achieving this transition are global. They include eliminating 4 to 7 million premature air pollution deaths per year—similar to the annual deaths caused by smoking. It would provide steady power to four billion people that do not currently have it, and create over 20 million long-term clean energy jobs. Turbocharging the clean energy transition is also critical to tackling climate change.
Countries that choose to skip past fossil fuels in favor of renewables avoid increased healthcare costs and see stronger job growth and greater political stability. The clean energy transition will avoid air pollution costs that that are over 3% of annual world GDP, and prevent $16 to $20 trillion per year in global climate costs by 2050.
“The main barriers to a more rapid conversion are neither technical nor economic. They are social and political.”
The main barriers to a more rapid conversion are neither technical nor economic. They are social and political. As Western leaders like President Francoise Hollande of France acknowledge, there is a huge opportunity for developing countries to move immediately to new, clean energy technologies. The moment is ripe for international policymakers to leverage the Paris Agreement’s strong market signal and accelerate the current progress. The roadmaps to clean energy that we have developed give confidence to world leaders that the path to 100% renewable energy is clear and achievable. Much of the world is already heading down that path to a clean energy future. The more we support that transition, the better off we all are.
Mark Jacobson is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and director of its Atmosphere and Energy Program. Jacobson develops computer models about the effects of different energy technologies and their emissions on air pollution and climate. He is a Senior Fellow at both the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford. He’s also the co-founder of the nonprofit Solutions Project.
Climate change impacts and associated changes in water resources could lead to reductions in electricity production capacity for more than 60% of the power plants worldwide from 2040-2069, according to a new study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. Yet adaptation measures focused on making power plants more efficient and flexible could mitigate much of the decline.
“Hydropower plants and thermoelectric power plants—which are nuclear, fossil-, and biomass-fueled plants converting heat to electricity—both rely on freshwater from rivers and streams,” explains Michelle Van Vliet, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who led the study. “These power-generating technologies strongly depend on water availability, and water temperature for cooling plays in addition a critical role for thermoelectric power generation.”
Together, hydropower and thermoelectric power currently contribute to 98% of electricity production worldwide.
Model projections show that climate change will impact water resources availability and will increase water temperatures in many regions of the world. A previous study by the researchers showed that reduced summer water availability and higher water temperatures associated with climate change could result in significant reductions in thermoelectric power supply in Europe and the United States.
This new study expands the research to a global level, using data from 24,515 hydropower and 1,427 thermoelectric power plants worldwide.
“This is the first study of its kind to examine the linkages between climate change, water resources, and electricity production on a global scale. We clearly show that power plants are not only causing climate change, but they might also be affected in major ways by climate,” says IIASA Energy Program Director Keywan Riahi, a study co-author.
“In particular the United States, southern South America, southern Africa, central and southern Europe, Southeast Asia and southern Australia are vulnerable regions, because declines in mean annual streamflow are projected combined with strong increases in water temperature under changing climate. This reduces the potential for both hydropower and thermoelectric power generation in these regions,” says Van Vliet.
The study also explored the potential impact of adaptation measures such as technological developments that increase power plant efficiency, switching from coal to more efficient gas-fired plants, or switching from freshwater cooling to air cooling or to seawater cooling systems for power plants on the coasts.
“We show that technological developments with increases in power plant efficiencies and changes in cooling system types would reduce the vulnerability to water constraints in most regions. Improved cross-sectoral water management during drought periods is of course also important,” says Van Vliet. “In order to sustain water and energy security in the next decades, the electricity focus will need to increase their focus on climate change adaptation in addition to mitigation.”
South African power utility Eskom will continue to impose power cuts for the next 18 months as the company struggles with capacity shortages, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said on Thursday.
Brown, whose ministry oversees state-owned companies, said that she was concerned with Eskom’s financial sustainability and the reliability of its ageing power plants.
“Although the accelerated maintenance has increased plant capacity from 65% to 75%, I am urging Eskom to continue on this trend and increase this threshold to reach at least 80%,” Brown said in a statement after Eskom’s annual general meeting.
Eskom, which provides virtually all the electricity in Africa’s most developed economy, is facing a funding crunch as it races to bring new power plants online and is implementing power cuts to prevent the grid from being overwhelmed.
The company in March suspended its chief executive and three other senior executives to allow for an inquiry into the operations of the utility, but no wrongdoing was found by any of the officials. Some of the suspended executive left the company.
Brown said on Tuesday she had instructed the board to fill all senior management positions as it was “unacceptable that senior and middle-management positions are staying vacant for too long.”
The government still has to negotiate the price for the procurement of nuclear power in South Africa, according to the Department of Energy.
It had completed various technical studies, including in depth studies into the cost of nuclear power, funding and financing models and economic impact of localisation, among others, deputy director-general for nuclear energy Zizamele Mbambo said yesterday.
“It is important to note that government is still to negotiate the price tag in the procurement process which is why exact figures for the study cannot be made available to the public at this stage. These studies were done to ensure that South Africa is a knowledgeable customer,” Mbambo said at a press briefing in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal on the status of the country’s new build nuclear energy programme.
The procurement process would start in the second quarter and be completed by the end of the 2015 financial year with the selection of either a single or a group of strategic partners, he added.
Six to eight nuclear power plants
The first new nuclear power station would come on line in 2023. The government intended to build between six and eight nuclear power plants, and the bid invitation specification and related evaluation criteria would be finalised by the end of July, Mbambo said.
“It is important to note that government is still to negotiate the price tag in the procurement process which is why exact figures… cannot be made available to the public at this stage.”
Mbambo gave examples of the current world experience, saying the current world experience for quoted numbers for real export would indicate an overnight cost of about $5-billion per 1 200 megawatts, which is equivalent to $4 200 per kilowatt per reactor in new comer states.
“In countries with established domestic construction programmes, such as China, South Korea and India, the prices in order of $2 500 per kilowatts are being quoted. Among the 70-plus reactors in the world, there are a number of projects where because of the local market and political conditions the project costs are higher than these figures.”
The government was expected to complete its financing arrangements for the new build programme shortly.
Mixed energy plan
In March 2011, the Cabinet approved and promulgated a 20-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2010-30), which is the government’s electricity plan. It has a mixed energy agenda that puts nuclear at 23% (9 600 MW) of energy source by 2030.
The briefing followed the submission of the Inter-Government Framework Agreements on nuclear co-operation to Parliament.
These agreements laid a foundation for co-operation, trade and exchange of nuclear technology as well as procurement, according to the department.
Going forward, Mbambo said, the government planned to follow the approved procurement process that would include a competitive, transparent bidding process that was cost effective and in line with legislation.
Work already done towards the nuclear build programme was extensive. Over and above the inter-governmental agreements, the International Atomic Energy Agency has conducted an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission, which is an assessment of the country’s infrastructure as it relates to readiness to start purchasing, constructing, and operating nuclear power plants.
Of the 10 recommendations made by the panel, several have been completed; others are being reviewed. Strategies have been drawn up in line with the recommendations.
The department has also undertaken study tours to various nuclear vendor countries to learn about the technologies they use and the lessons they have learned in using nuclear energy.
Vendor parades have been held, with South Africa professionals from government departments, state-owned entities and universities interrogating the vendors’ technological offerings.
“The vendor parade workshops provided a platform for South Africa professionals to exchange views with their peers on the nuclear new build programme.”
In addition, in preparing for the nuclear new build programme, national skills development is being undertaken.
Mbambo said 50 trainees from the government, entities and industry were sent to China for Phase 1 nuclear training in April. “Plans are under way to send an additional 250 trainees to China this year. Additionally, a memorandum of agreement on skills development was entered into between Necsa [South African Nuclear Energy Corporation] and State Nuclear Power Technology Co-operation of China.”
Russia had offered 10 scholarships for Master’s degrees in nuclear technology. A memorandum of understanding had also been signed covering the training and development of 200 South Africans at Russian universities and educational organisations.
South Korea had an existing programme to train South African students for Master’s degrees in nuclear engineering; already three students had graduated.
Finally, France had put in place 14 bursaries for young people from previously disadvantaged groups to study a four-year engineering programme at various universities.
“The negotiations on Nuclear Skills Development with the French government are at an advance stage that could see an establishment of a nuclear campus in South Africa,” Mbambo added.
“Government remains committed to ensure energy security for the country, through the roll out of the nuclear new build programme as an integral part of the energy mix. Government remains committed to ensuring the provision of reliable and sustainable electricity supply, as part of mitigating the risk of carbon emissions,” he said.
The nuclear new build programme would enable the country “to create jobs, develop skills, create industries, and catapult the country into a knowledge economy”.
Finding is first step to regulating emissions from industry, allowing US to implement global carbon dioxide emissions standard.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has said greenhouse gases from aircraft endanger human health, taking the first step toward regulating emissions from the domestic aviation industry.
The EPA’s finding kicks off a process to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry, the latest sector to be regulated under the Clean Air Act after cars, trucks and large stationary sources like power plants.
The finding allows the EPA to implement domestically a global carbon dioxide emissions standard being developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The UN agency is due to release its CO2 standard for comment in February 2016 and adopt it later that year.
The EPA had been under pressure from environmental groups who first petitioned it to regulate aircraft emissions under the Clean Air Act in 2007 and sued it in 2010. A federal court ruled in favor of those green groups in 2012.
Aviation accounted for 11% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector in 2010 in the United States, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.
The airline industry has favoured a global standard over individual national standards since airlines operate all over the world and want to avoid a patchwork of rules and measures, such as taxes, charges and emissions trading programs.
“If you’re a big airline and you’re flying to 100 countries a day, then complying with all those different regimes is an administrative nightmare,” said Paul Steele, the senior vice president at the International Air Transport Association, the main global airline industry group.
But some environmental groups are concerned that the standard being discussed at ICAO will do little to change the status quo since it would only apply to new and newly designed aircraft that will not be in operation for several years.
“The stringency being discussed at ICAO is such that existing aircraft are already meeting the standard they are weighing,” said Sarah Burt, an attorney at Earthjustice, one of several groups that sued the EPA to regulate aircraft.
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Italian multinational renewable energy corporation Enel Green Power (EGP) recently announced it had begun constructing three solar photovoltaic (PV) plants in South Africa: Aurora, Paleisheuwel, and Tom Burke. The plants will be fitted with a total capacity of 231MW, capable of covering the energy needs of more than 100,000 South African households.
EGP plans to sell Solar power generated from these new PV plants to South African utility Eskom as a result of the power supply agreements EGP has been entitled to enter into with the utility.
EGP was awarded this right in the third phase of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) tender held by the South African government in October 2013. In the same tender, in addition to the three above mentioned projects, Enel Green Power was also awarded the right to build the 82.5 MW Pulida photovoltaic park, the 111 MW Gibson Bay wind farm and the 88 MW Cookhouse/ Nojoli wind farm.
Construction of all these projects is in line with the growth targets set out in Enel Green Power’s 2014-2018 business plan.
A total PV generation capacity of 231 MW will be installed in Northern Cape Province, Western Cape Province, and Limpopo Province. With an installed capacity of 82.5 MW, the Aurora photovoltaic plant, located in the Northern Cape Province, will be capable of generating more than 168 GWh of solar power per year once up and running. This output corresponds to the annual energy needs of around 53,000 South African households.
The Paleisheuwel PV plant will have an installed capacity of 82.5 MW and will be built in the Western Cape Province. Once fully operational, it will be able to generate more than 153 GWh of solar power per year, equivalent to the energy needs of around 48,000 South African households. And with an installed capacity of 66 MW, the Tom Burke photovoltaic plant, located in the Limpopo Province, will be capable of generating up to 122 GWh per year once up and running.
Construction of all these projects is in line with the growth targets set out in Enel Green Power’s 2014 – 2018 business plan, the company notes. In South Africa, Enel Green Power owns and operates the Upington solar PV plant, with an installed capacity of 10 MW.
Source: African Environment
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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A South African industry group has told the country’s energy minister that further power constraints would lead to reduced mine output and plant closures, according to minutes from the meeting seen by Reuters.
The meeting, which took place on Tuesday, was between Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and members of the Energy Intensive User Group (EIUG), an industry body that includes major mining companies operating in South Africa such as AngloGold Ashanti and BHP Billiton.
The ministry noted the meeting in a statement on Tuesday but provided few details about it.
South Africa is currently facing its worst power crisis since 2008, when rolling power outages cost the mining industry in the world’s top platinum producer billions of dollars in lost output and brought misery to retailers and households.
South Africa‘s state-run power utility Eskom [ESCJ.UL] last Friday implemented rolling blackouts in some parts of the country, the first such power cuts this year, and has warned that more are certain as demand threatens to outstrip its capacity to keep the lights on.
Minutes from Tuesday’s meeting obtained by Reuters show the minister indicated that she was exploring the idea of getting the private sector to reboot power plants mothballed in the past, such as those owned by local municipalities.
On the subject of Eskom‘s precarious financial situation, she was quoted as saying that the utility was “burning cash faster than it is making it” and that the company needed to rein in costs.
Even with a 20 billion rand ($1.7 billion) cash injection from the government and permission to raise electricity tariffs, Eskom has said it needs more funds to ensure liquidity.
The minister also said the high cost of diesel to run Eskom‘s open cycle gas turbines was unsustainable.
An Eskom spokesman said last week that if the cash-strapped utility was unable to purchase diesel supplies, it would lose 5 percent of its capacity and blackouts would then occur on an almost daily basis until the end of March.
Controlled power cuts are used to prevent a total collapse of the grid.
Source: Reuters Africa
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It takes some cooking, but turning farm waste into biofuels is now possible and makes economic sense, according to preliminary research from the University of Guelph.
Guelph researchers are studying how to make biofuels from farm waste, especially “wet” waste that is typically difficult to use. They have developed a fairly simple procedure to transport waste and produce energy from it.
Scientists have struggled to find uses for wet and green waste, including corn husks, tomato vines and manure. Dry farm waste, such as wood chips or sawdust, is easier to use for generating power. Often, wet farm waste materials break down before reaching their destination.
Researchers led by engineering professor Animesh Dutta, director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab (BRIL) at U of G, have found a solution: pressure cooking.
Cooking farm waste yields compact, easily transportable material that will not degrade and can be used in energy-producing plants.
Dutta said the research, which is published this week in the journal Applied Energy, shows that in a lab setting, biofuels can produce the same amount of energy as coal.
“What this means is that we have a resource in farm waste that is readily available, can produce energy at a similar level to burning coal, and does not require any significant start-up costs,” said Dutta.
“We are taking what is now a net-negative resource in farm waste, which farmers have to pay to remove, and providing an opportunity for them to make money and help the environment. It’s a closed-loop cycle, meaning we don’t have to worry about external costs.”
Using excess food, green and wet waste to reduce the carbon footprint is drawing a lot of interest in Europe, he said, but so far it has proven unfeasible in North America.
Coal is more readily available in North America. Biomass is highly rich in alkali and alkaline earth metals such as silicon, potassium, sodium and calcium. The presence of these metals in farm waste damages pipes at power plants during combustion.
The new biofuel product made by the BRIL researchers produces a product that has less alkali and alkaline earth metals, allowing them to be used at power plants.
“We’re able to produce small amounts of energy in our lab from these biofuels,” said Dutta.
“The next step is to take this outside of the lab. We have a number of industry partners and government ministries interested in this technology. Essentially, the agri-food sector could power the automotive industry.”
Dutta said large pressure cookers located near farms could accept and cook waste for transport to energy plants.
“We’re looking at a timeline of five to seven years, depending on the funding,” he said.
“Once we have a commercial system set up, we’ll be self-sufficient. It can reduce our energy costs and provide an environmental benefit. It’s going to change the paradigm of energy production in North America.”
Source: Science Daily
Green Business Journal 9 (2013)
Coal: currently supplying more than 40 percent of the world electricity consumption, providing an essential 70 percent input of world steel production, and representing approximately 30 percent of the global primary energy supply. Why is coal such a widely utilised resource today? It is cheap, abundant, easily accessible, widely distributed across the globe, and easy energy to transport, store and use. For these reasons, coal is predicted to be used extensively in the future. But, being a non-renewable resource, its production and use inevitably results in various issues across the value chain.
The primary mandate of the International Energy Agency (IEA) is to promote energy security amongst its member countries through collective response to physical disruptions in oil supply, and to provide authoritative research and analysis on ways to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond.
In doing so, a report was researched and created by IEA which focuses on the technology path to near-zero emissions (NZE). The phrase “21st Century Coal” was adopted by the US and China to describe the importance of strategic international partnerships to advance the development of NZE technology and the report demonstrates the reasons for confidence in coal’s ability to provide a solution to the global objectives of economic sustainability, energy security, and NZE, and is broken up into four areas of consideration.
1. Coal and the CO2 challenge
Discussed here are the benefits of and the need for coal, issues associated with coal use especially related to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as roadmaps to improve coal use and continue on a path toward zero emissions. With the increase in the global demand for energy comes the increase in the release of CO2 emissions. The IEA has found that with attempting to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the costs of achieving climate goals are significantly reduced when carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technologies are implemented. This, along with increasing the thermal efficiency, can effectively lower carbon emissions from fossil-fueled power plants. The development and deployment of advanced coal with CCS technologies that is needed to achieve substantial carbon emission reductions will require extensive research, development, and demonstration investment.
2. Evaluation of advanced coal-fuelled electricity generation technologies
The IEA report provides insights into groundbreaking technology innovations for advanced coal plants to improve efficiency and reduce emissions including CO2. The report finds that there are multiple types of coal-fueled power plant technologies that exist or are being developed, but considerable advancement still needs to take place in this regard. More advanced, future technologies are definitely capable of further improving efficiency. In particular, fuel cells hold the potential of achieving increases in efficiency of up to 60 percent.
3. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)
Focus is drawn to the potential for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to enable the economic viability of CCS, together with the need for and status of CCUS demonstrations. CCS demonstrations are needed most often on power plants as these plants play major roles in releasing carbon emissions. But, significant government support is needed for these demonstrations to be carried out. The utilisation of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) seems to be the way forward as additional streams of revenue assists the feasibility and capability of the projects. The IEA has found that methods to increase carbon storage in conjunction with EOR may further increase the capacity to store.
4. Flexibility of coal-fuelled power plants for dynamic operation and grid stability
The essential features of fossil fuelled power plants are assessed on their ability to operate dynamically on grids with intermittent wind and solar. Improving the flexibility of existing and developing coal plants can be accomplished through various strategies which involve both technical and operational improvements. These include implementing coal plant flexibility as early in the design process as possible, when it is most effective; optimising use of the capabilities of existing control systems; and collecting and using lessons learned to establish better operating practices.
It is technically possible today to incorporate equipment to capture CO2 in all types of new coal fuelled power plants. Depending on available space and other considerations, such equipment also can be retrofitted to existing coal fuelled plants. The importance of retrofit should not be underestimated based on the large number of new coal units being added.
Unfortunately, today’s CO2 capture technology is very costly. A recent review by the IEA of a variety of engineering studies conducted by a range of organisations that showed the cost of electricity from a new coal power plant with CO2 capture was estimated to be from 40 to 89 percent higher than a new coal plant without CO2 capture.
Ultimately, in order to get over the hurdle and achieve the cost reductions brought by technology maturity, it will be necessary for governments to specifically support CCS demonstration projects with capital grants as well as support for the power prices. Even if additional revenues can be obtained from the sale of CO2 for EOR, they may not be sufficient to allow full financing in all cases.
While coal use remains significant, its continued use has been challenged by growing environmental concerns, particularly related to increases in anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Adding technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions from coal (primarily by using CCS or CCUS) is possible but adds considerable cost, risk, and complexity to coal fuelled power plants, particularly at their current stages of maturity.
Coal remains an important and prevalent fuel for the production of electricity. Its low cost, abundance, and broad distribution make it attractive for power production, particularly in emerging countries such as China and India, where coal fuelled power has increased dramatically in recent years as demand for energy and the higher standard of living it brings have grown along with the population.