Monday, October 31, 2011

Global Renewable Energy Trends in Canberra

Greetings from the Finkel Lecture Theatre, at John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National Unviersity. Dr Dan Arvizu, US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will speak on "Global Renewable Energy Trends". The ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young, is doing the introductions, pointing out that Dan Arvizu started his career at Bell Labs. The VC poitned to the recent passing of carbon pricing legislation by the Australian Parliament. The VC also pointed out that Transform Solar is making the ANU invented sliver solar cells in the USA.

The VC then introduced Mr Simon Corbell MLA, ACT Attorney-General and Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development. He talked on "Creating a Sustainable Garden City" last week.

Dr. Arvizu started by discussing the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN). He said there was a lot of development of renewable energy happening, even despite the global financial crisis. But in relative terms we are loosing ground due to developing nations apatite for coal. He also pointed out that fossil fuel electricity generation plants are utilized only about 30% of the time, due to the premium placed on reliable delivery. Also the USA has traditionally priced electricity low. If the price of electricity in the USA increased to $1 kWhr, then renewable energy would be feasible. Dr. Arvizu claimed that ethanol for fuel was more about subsidizing US farmers, rather as a practical renewable energy source.

Dr. Arvizu suggested that energy efficiency of office buildings could be increased about 40% using existing technology. It happens that new Australian legislation for Energy efficiency Commercial Buildings Disclosure comes into force 1 November 2011.

Dr. Arvizu then discussed the design of the new energy efficient building for his research institute: Research Support Facility (RSF). It is claimed that on a good day no artificial lighting is required. Natural ventilation is also used. Perforated steel solar air heaters are used on the outside of the building. The data centre uses filtered outside air for cooling. Hydronic (water) heating is used in the building. Each occupant has an energy budget (with personal heaters and copiers banned).

Dr. Arvizu claimed the RSF building was built at a cost of $286 per square foot (about $3,000 a square metre).

SRREN Report

The SRREN Full Report is 28 Mbytes of PDF. A note on the report web site says that it has not yet been processed by a desktop publisher or an indexer, with the final, formatted version due out November 2011. In my view this illustrates a serious flaw in the communications of information about climate change by scientists. They need to invest the resources in good communication of the information, in particular on-line communications. It is a waste of time and effort to produce a large and complex report and then not bother to format it properly.

Here is an extract from the Summary for Policy Makers, the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN 2011). I have omitted the footnotes and images:
1. Introduction

The Working Group III Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) presents an assessment of the literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of the contribution of six renewable energy (RE) sources to the mitigation of climate change. It is intended to provide policy relevant information to
governments, intergovernmental processes and other interested parties. This Summary for Policymakers provides an overview of the SRREN, summarizing the essential findings.

The SRREN consists of 11 chapters. Chapter 1 sets the context for RE and climate change; Chapters 2 through 7 provide information on six RE technologies, and Chapters 8 through 11
address integrative issues (see Figure SPM.1). ...

2. Renewable energy and climate change

Demand for energy and associated services, to meet social and economic development and improve human welfare and health, is increasing. All societies require energy services to meet basic human needs (e.g., lighting, cooking, space comfort, mobility and communication) and to serve productive processes. [1.1.1, 9.3.2] Since approximately 1850, global use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) has increased to dominate energy supply, leading to a rapid growth in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions [Figure 1.6].

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the provision of energy services have contributed significantly to the historic increase in atmospheric GHG concentrations. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) concluded that “Most of the observed increase in global average temperature since the mid-20th century is very likely2 due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Recent data confirm that consumption of fossil fuels accounts for the majority of global anthropogenic GHG emissions.3 Emissions continue to grow and CO2 concentrations had increased to over 390 ppm, or 39% above preindustrial levels, by the end of 2010. [1.1.1, 1.1.3]

There are multiple options for lowering GHG emissions from the energy system while still satisfying the global demand for energy services. [1.1.3, 10.1] Some of these possible options, such as energy conservation and efficiency, fossil fuel switching, RE, nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS) were assessed in the AR4. A comprehensive evaluation of any portfolio of mitigation options would involve an evaluation of their respective mitigation potential as well as their contribution to sustainable development and all associated risks and costs. [1.1.6]

This report will concentrate on the role that the deployment of RE technologies can play within such a portfolio of mitigation options.

As well as having a large potential to mitigate climate change, RE can provide wider benefits. RE may, if implemented properly, contribute to social and economic development, energy access, a secure energy supply, and reducing negative impacts on the environment and health. [9.2, 9.3]

Under most conditions, increasing the share of RE in the energy mix will require policies to stimulate changes in the energy system. Deployment of RE technologies has increased rapidly in recent years, and their share is projected to increase substantially under most ambitious mitigation scenarios [1.1.5, 10.2]. Additional policies would be required to attract the necessary increases in investment in technologies and infrastructure [11.4.3, 11.5, 11.6.1, 11.7.5].

3. Renewable energy technologies and markets

RE comprises a heterogeneous class of technologies (Box SPM.1). Various types of RE can supply electricity, thermal energy and mechanical energy, as well as produce fuels that are able to satisfy multiple energy service needs [1.2]. Some RE technologies can be deployed at the point of use (decentralized) in rural and urban environments, whereas others are primarily deployed within large (centralized) energy networks [1.2, 8.2, 8.3, 9.3.2]. Though a growing number of RE technologies are technically mature and are being deployed at significant scale, others are in an earlier phase of technical maturity and commercial deployment or fill specialized niche markets
[1.2]. The energy output of RE technologies can be (i) variable and—to some degree— unpredictable over differing time scales (from minutes to years), (ii) variable but predictable, (iii) constant, or (iv) controllable [8.2, 8.3].

The contributions of individual anthropogenic GHGs to total emissions in 2004, reported in AR4, expressed as CO2eq were: CO2 from fossil fuels (56.6%), CO2 from deforestation, decay of biomass etc. (17.3%), CO2 from other (2.8%), methane (14.3%), nitrous oxide (7.9%) and fluorinated gases (1.1%) [Figure 1.1b, AR4, WG III, Chapter 1. For further information on sectoral emissions, including forestry, see also Figure 1.3b and associated footnotes.]

Bioenergy can be produced from a variety of biomass feedstocks, including forest, agricultural and livestock residues; short-rotation forest plantations; energy crops; the organic component of municipal solid waste; and other organic waste streams. Through a variety of processes, these feedstocks can be directly used to produce electricity or heat, or can be used to create gaseous, liquid, or solid fuels. The range of bioenergy technologies is broad and the technical maturity varies substantially. Some examples of commercially available technologies include small- and large-scale boilers, domestic pellet-based heating systems, and ethanol production from sugar and starch.

Advanced biomass integrated gasification combined-cycle power plants and lignocellulose-based transport fuels are examples of technologies that are at a pre-commercial stage, while liquid biofuel production from algae and some other biological conversion approaches are at the research and development (R&D) phase. Bioenergy technologies have applications in centralized and decentralized settings, with the traditional use of biomass in developing countries being the most widespread current application.4 Bioenergy typically offers constant or controllable output.

Bioenergy projects usually depend on local and regional fuel supply availability, but recent developments show that solid biomass and liquid biofuels are increasingly traded internationally.
[1.2, 2.1, 2.3, 2.6, 8.2, 8.3]

Direct solar energy technologies harness the energy of solar irradiance to produce electricity using photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP), to produce thermal energy (heating or cooling, either through passive or active means), to meet direct lighting needs and, potentially, to produce fuels that might be used for transport and other purposes. The technology maturity of solar applications ranges from R&D (e.g., fuels produced from solar energy), to relatively mature (e.g., CSP), to mature (e.g., passive and active solar heating, and wafer-based silicon PV). Many but not all of the technologies are modular in nature, allowing their use in both centralized and decentralized energy systems. Solar energy is variable and, to some degree, unpredictable, though the temporal profile of solar energy output in some circumstances correlates relatively well with energy demands. Thermal energy storage offers the option to improve output control for some technologies such as CSP and direct solar heating. [1.2, 3.1, 3.3, 3.5, 3.7, 8.2, 8.3]

Geothermal energy utilizes the accessible thermal energy from the Earth’s interior. Heat is extracted from geothermal reservoirs using wells or other means. Reservoirs that are naturally sufficiently hot and permeable are called hydrothermal reservoirs, whereas reservoirs that are sufficiently hot but that are improved with hydraulic stimulation are called enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). Once at the surface, fluids of various temperatures can be used to generate electricity or can be used more directly for applications that require thermal energy, including district heating or the use of lower-temperature heat from shallow wells for geothermal heat pumps used in heating or cooling applications. Hydrothermal power plants and thermal applications of geothermal energy are mature technologies, whereas EGS projects are in the demonstration and pilot phase while also undergoing R&D. When used to generate electricity, geothermal power
plants typically offer constant output. [1.2, 4.1, 4.3, 8.2, 8.3]

Hydropower harnesses the energy of water moving from higher to lower elevations, primarily to generate electricity. Hydropower projects encompass dam projects with reservoirs, run-of-river and in-stream projects and cover a continuum in project scale. This variety gives hydropower the ability to meet large centralized urban needs as well as decentralized rural needs. Hydropower technologies are mature. Hydropower projects exploit a resource that varies temporally.

However, the controllable output provided by hydropower facilities that have reservoirs can be used to meet peak electricity demands and help to balance electricity systems that have large amounts of variable RE generation. The operation of hydropower reservoirs often reflects their multiple uses, for example,
drinking water, irrigation, flood and drought control, and navigation, as well as energy supply. [1.2, 5.1, 5.3, 5.5, 5.10, 8.2]

Ocean energy derives from the potential, kinetic, thermal and chemical energy of seawater, which can be transformed to provide electricity, thermal energy, or potable water. A wide range of technologies are possible, such as barrages for tidal range, submarine turbines for tidal and ocean currents, heat exchangers for ocean thermal energy conversion, and a variety of devices to harness the energy of waves and salinity gradients. Ocean technologies, with the exception of tidal barrages, are at the demonstration and pilot project phases and many require additional R&D. Some of the technologies have variable energy output profiles with differing levels of predictability (e.g., wave, tidal range and current), while others may be capable of near-constant or even controllable operation (e.g., ocean thermal and salinity gradient). [1.2, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.6, 8.2]

Wind energy harnesses the kinetic energy of moving air. The primary application of relevance to climate change mitigation is to produce electricity from large wind turbines located on land (onshore) or in sea- or freshwater (offshore). Onshore wind energy technologies are already being manufactured and deployed on a large scale. Offshore wind energy technologies have greater potential for continued technical advancement. Wind electricity is both variable and, to some degree, unpredictable, but experience and detailed studies from many regions have shown that the integration of wind energy generally poses no insurmountable technical barriers. [1.2, 7.1, 7.3, 7.5,7.7, 8.2]

On a global basis, it is estimated that RE accounted for 12.9% of the total 492 Exajoules (EJ)5 of primary energy supply in 2008 (Box SPM.2 and Figure SPM.2). The largest RE contributor was biomass (10.2%), with the majority (roughly 60%) being traditional biomass used in cooking and heating applications in developing countries but with rapidly increasing use of modern biomass as well.6 Hydropower represented 2.3%, whereas other RE sources accounted for 0.4%. [1.1.5] In 2008, RE contributed approximately 19% of global electricity supply (16% hydropower, 3% other RE) and biofuels contributed 2% of global road transport fuel supply. Traditional biomass (17%), modern biomass (8%), solar thermal and geothermal energy (2%) together fuelled 27% of the total global demand for heat. The contribution of RE to primary energy supply varies substantially by country and region. [1.1.5, 1.3.1, 8.1]

There is no single, unambiguous accounting method for calculating primary energy from non-combustible energy sources such as non-combustible RE sources and nuclear energy. The SRREN adopts the ‘direct equivalent’ method for accounting for primary energy supply. In this method, fossil fuels and bioenergy are accounted for based on their heating value while non-combustible energy sources, including nuclear energy and all non-combustible RE, are accounted for based on the secondary energy that they produce. This may lead to an understatement of the contribution of non-combustible RE and nuclear compared to bioenergy and fossil fuels by a factor of roughly 1.2 up to 3. The selection of the accounting method also impacts the relative shares of different individual energy sources. Comparisons in the data and figures presented in the SRREN between fossil fuels and bioenergy on the one hand, and non-combustible RE and nuclear energy on the other, reflect this accounting method. [1.1.9, Annex II.4]

In addition to this 60% share of traditional biomass, there is biomass use estimated to amount to 20 to 40% not reported in official primary energy databases, such as dung, unaccounted production of charcoal, illegal logging, fuelwood gathering, and agricultural residue use. [2.1, 2.5] ...

From: Summary for Policy Makers, the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN, June 2011). Footnotes and images omitted.

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