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Monday, October 31, 2016

David Roberts concedes that the progress of wind and solar have been over hyped ...blames television.

Total Global GHG Emissions in Million Tonnes CO2 Abated by Wind and Solar

As in my previous articles, consider this one as a replacement for the missing comment field at Vox. Wind and solar (when not disrupting or displacing intact ecosystems) have a place in our grid, as does nuclear. It's only a matter of how big their respective roles will be.

Roberts found a poll that exposes how badly Americans have been misinformed when it comes to the progress of wind and solar.

The average American, at least according to this new survey from communications and PR firm Makovsky, has it at 20 percent — 11 percent from solar, 9 percent from wind.

That is … quite wrong. In reality, solar is at 1 percent and wind is at 2 percent.

Meanwhile, the average American thinks that in five years, solar will be at 20 percent and wind will be at 14 percent.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in five years, solar will still be at 1 percent and wind will have grown to a whopping 3.

I don't know where Dave got his numbers (he didn't provide a link), but the 2016 BP statistical review has wind at 4.5% and solar at 0.9% of U.S. electrical energy production for 2015, not that it matters. Could be he's talking about global values instead of U.S. values.

Coincidentally, James Conca just wrote a piece at Forbes about a poll showing how Americans ranked nuclear power as the number 1 threat to safety way back in 1987.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

IEA Renewable Energy Medium-Term Report 2016

I received an invitation from the IEA (International Energy Association) to participate in a WebEx presentation of their Renewable Energy Medium-Term Report 2016 (a five year market analysis and forecast), which was at 9:00 PM Paris time ...arrrgh, 6:00 AM my time. I also received an embargoed PDF of their report, not to be released until October 25th. The PowerPoint presentation was given by Paolo Frankl, head of the IEA Renewable Energy Division. I took several screenshots of the presentation as well.

In a nutshell:
Figure 1: Screenshot From the Presentation--Renewable Energy Capacity Additions

 Some things to note about Figure 1:
  • Most growth in renewable energy has been in wind and solar, wind in particular.
  •  Shows capacity, not actual energy production.
I tend to read between the lines of studies to ferret out what the researchers chose not to highlight. If you want to see what they chose to highlight and how they chose to do it, here's the link to it.

In the end it's energy production that counts, capacity, not so much. Installing solar panels in a cave will increase installed capacity but produce no power. Actual production for solar might be something like 10-15% of capacity and for wind, about 20-30%. A solar panel in Seattle will produce a fraction of the energy of a solar panel in a sunny place, ditto for wind. If Figure 1 were to plot actual energy produced instead of capacity, it would look very different in both magnitude and shape.

I created Figure 2 below using data from the 2016 BP statistical review and an IPCC Assessment report to put the impact of wind and solar into perspective. I wanted to put it into perspective to demonstrate that wind and solar alone are very unlikely to get us to an 80% reduction in emissions.

Keep in  mind that emissions displaced depend on energy source displaced. If hydro or nuclear were displaced, emissions actually increase. If natural gas is displaced, emissions will drop but natural gas emits a lot less carbon than coal. Wind and solar rarely displace coal because coal is primarily used for baseload. Claims that wind and solar have replaced coal are actually the result of switching from coal to gas so that it can dampen erratic wind and solar output. Typically, wind and solar serve as fuel reduction devices for natural gas power stations which limits their ability to reduce emissions, particularly from coal.

Figure 2: Total Global GHG Emissions in Million Tonnes CO2 Abated by Wind and Solar
Typically you see bar charts that paint solar and wind in a more favorable light.
  • They may show installed capacity instead of power output.
  • They may chart growth rates as opposed to percentages of emissions abated.
  • They may show power output instead of emissions abated.
  • They may only compare their abatement to emissions from electricity production as opposed all sources of emissions (deforestation, heat, transport etc).
  • The chart may not start at zero, making their contribution appear much larger, and on and on it goes.