By: Mike Wehner
China takes a lot of flak when it comes to environmentalism. Some of the most striking images to come out of the country in recent years show cities smothered in smog and citizens wearing masks to protect themselves from the barely breathable air. But China is making some big strides in the realm of renewable energy, and its efforts to reduce its reliance on smog-producing coal in 2016 have now made it the top producer of solar energy on the planet.
As Reuters reports, China revealed that at the end of 2016 its photovoltaic capacity — which is energy generated by solar technologies — hit 77.42 gigawatts. The country plans to add a total of 110 gigawatts of capacity by 2020. Last year, China generated a total of 66.2 billion kilowatt-hours of energy from solar sources. It’s a record-breaking figure, and certainly worth a round of applause, but it actually only accounts for 1% of China’s total generated power.
When taking its population into account, China’s solar efforts still pale in comparison to the likes of the United States and a few other countries, but it has bigger ambitions. According to China’s National Energy Administration, the country hopes to increase its overall power generation from green sources to 20 percent by 2030.
Beijing in particular is hoping to drastically cut its reliance on coal, and the city’s mayor just promised to reduce its coal consumption by another 30 percent. The city also plans to overhaul its transportation systems and replace hundreds of thousands of “obsolete” vehicles with newer models that will further reduce air pollution.
By: Stephen Edelstein
At first glance, renewable-energy sources like solar power and energy-storage battery packs seem like a logical match.
Energy storage allows excess power collected by solar panels to be stored for later use, addressing the intermittent nature of solar power.
It’s a concept that has already won over policymakers, electric utilities, and some automakers.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has moved to consolidate the automaker and his SolarCity company in order to better facilitate the deployment of energy-storage-backed solar power.
Many individual homeowners also dream of being able to cut their ties to the grid by installing solar panels and battery packs.
But according to one study, the environmental reality of home energy storage may be less appealing than some of these positive predictions indicate.
Storing solar power in home battery packs actually has a somewhat higher environmental impact than connecting solar panels to the grid, according to a new University of Texas Energy Institute study.
Researchers examined energy use at the well-known Pecan Street project in Austin, Texas.
Pecan Street is a privately-run green housing development in the Texas capital city that is used to test renewable-energy and so-called smart-grid technologies.
Out of 100 houses equipped with solar panels, researchers found that those with energy-storage systems used 8 to 14 percent more electricity than those that switched to the grid at night.
Houses with energy storage consumed more energy than those with standalone solar panels in part because the storage systems consume energy whenever they charge or discharge.
That extra energy increases annual energy consumption by about 324 to 591 kilowatt-hours, researchers found.
They also found that home energy storage indirectly increases emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide through the Texas energy grid, which relies primarily on fossil fuels.
This is due to both increased energy consumption from “storage inefficiencies,” and the effect of storage on what time of the day a house draws power from the grid, researchers said.
However, “solar combined with storage is still cleaner than having no solar at all,” Robert Fares, co-author of the study, noted.
Another plus: energy storage was found to have a clearer benefit for utilities as well.
Researchers found that energy storage reduced peak grid demand by 8 to 32 percent, and reduced the magnitude of solar-power contributions to the grid by 5 to 42 percent.
This indicates utilities could reduce the amount of generation and delivery capacity they require if more buildings had local energy storage, researchers said.
So even if energy storage proves to be somewhat less efficient for individual homeowners, it may still be an important factor for the utilities that supply them with their remaining power over the grid.
By: Sidney Fussell
A report released Friday by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy found that a majority of Americans, including some Trump voters least likely to believe in manmade climate change, believe in prioritizing renewable energy over oil drilling.
Carsey school researchers surveyed 707 adults from 50 states both before and after the election. They found that three-fourths of all respondents, regardless of political affiliation, said that renewable energy should be a higher national priority than oil drilling. Broken down according to party, 93 percent of Clinton voters and 84 percent of non voters agreed. Trump voters were the only group that favored expanded oil drilling, but by a slim margin—48 percent preferred renewable energy. Disappointing, but there’s indication of a promising trend: before the election, only 39 percent of Trump supporters said the same.
The findings line up with the results of other recent polls. A Pew Survey in October, for instance, also found strong bipartisan support for green energy, leading Pew researchers to conclude that, while climate science is highly politicized, climate skepticism doesn’t transfer to all related issues:
While there are substantial party and ideological divides over increasing fossil fuel and nuclear energy sources, strong majorities of all political groups support more solar and wind production. These patterns are broadly consistent with past Center findings that climate change and fossil fuel energy issues are strongly linked with party and ideology, but political divisions have a much more modest or no relationship with public attitudes on a host of other science-related topics.
That’s especially encouraging as rural voters, overwhelmingly Trump supporters, would be most impacted by either a push for more coal mining jobs or a shift to green energy. Based on survey results, presenting green energy as a solution to climate change won’t stir up much support from this base, but the simple economic truth that coal use is on a long-term decline and green jobs are the future could matter a lot.
Unfortunately, Trump supporters aren’t budging on the issue of climate change. Only 25 percent of Trump supporters surveyed agree that man-made climate change is happening now. That’s in stark contrast to the 90 percent of Clinton supporters, 76 percent of nonvoters and 68 percent of third-party voters who have accepted the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.
Both during the campaign and after his election, Trump and his allies, particularly Environmental Protection Agency pick Scott Pruitt, have run on a campaign of “soft denial” of climate change. It’s not just that they’re ignoring the scientific consensus, they’re doing so insidiously: moving from the baldfaced absurdity of “climate change isn’t happening” to the intellectually dishonest position that scientists are still not in agreement. It’s a pivot that ignores that we’re already seeing climate change’s devastating consequences.
It’s unlikely we’ll see even moderate support for scientifically-founded environmental reform strategies in the near future, and certainly nothing in the way of corporate regulation. But as the effects of climate change become ever more apparent, it’s encouraging that we may see modest support for green energy initiatives, even amongst skeptics.
Cheaper electric vehicles and solar technology could halt growth of global demand for oil and coal by 2020, study says.
Released on Thursday, the report – co-authored by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the UK-based think-tank Carbon Tracker Initiative, showed that cheaper electric vehicles and solar technology, and their increasing use globally, could stop growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020.
The study said that growth in electric vehicles (EVs) alone could lead to two million barrels of oil per day (mbd) being displaced by 2025, which is the same volume that caused the oil price collapse in 2014-15.
“This scenario sees 16 mbd of oil demand displaced by 2040 and 25 mbd by 2050, in contrast to the continuous growth in oil demand expected by industry,” it added.
By 2035, electric vehicles could make up 35 percent of the road transport market, and two-thirds by 2050, when it could displace 25m barrels of oil per day, according to the research.
“Our scenarios assume that EVs” could be cheaper than conventional ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines) by 2020, according to the research.
Solar Power Costs Plummeting
The cost of solar has fallen 85 percent in seven years, and the report finds panels could supply 23 percent of global power generation by 2040 and 29 percent by 2050, entirely phasing out coal and leaving natural gas with just a 1 percent share.
Luke Sussams, senior researcher at Carbon Tracker, said that electric vehicles and solar power are game-changers “that the fuel industry consistently underestimates”.
James Leaton, head of research at Carbon Tracker, added: “There are a number of low-carbon technologies about to achieve critical mass decades before some companies expect.”
The power of low-carbon technology suggests that fossil fuels could lose 10 percent of market share to PV and EVs within a single decade.
“A 10 percent loss of power market share caused the collapse of the US coal mining industry and Europe’s five major utilities lost more than $100bn in value from 2008 to 2013 because they were unprepared for 8 percent in renewable power, of which solar PV was a big part,” the report highlighted.
By: Wael Mahdi
Saudi Arabia will award its first tender to build 700 megawatts of solar and wind energy in September, with the cost of power forecast to be the lowest in the world, Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said.
OPEC’s biggest oil producer plans to build 300 megawatts of solar plants in the al-Jouf area in northern Saudi Arabia and 400 megawatts of wind projects in nearby Tabuk, he said. Requests to qualify for bidding will be issued Feb. 20 and bids will be on April 17.
“The terms on renewable contracts will be motivating so that the cost of generating power from these renewable sources will be the lowest in the world,” Al-Falih said Wednesday at a press conference in Riyadh.
The kingdom plans to produce 9.5 gigawatts of power from renewable energy sources by 2023, Al-Falih said. Building more solar plants and developing a nuclear-power industry is part of a broader government plan to diversify away from crude sales as the main source of income. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest crude exporter and pumps the most oil among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
“These projects have a significant size,” Al-Falih said. “They will be the largest in the region size-wise and they are the first Saudi project that will be tendered through private-public partnership.”
The projects will be financed and operated by private investors, and international financial institutions are expected to participate, he said. In all, Saudi Arabia is planning $30 billion to $50 billion of renewables. The energy ministry has created a division to handle the tenders, Al-Falih said.