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Environment

Getting to 100% renewable: dream or reality?

Oliver Knight's picture
© Abbie Trayler-Smith Panos Pictures UK Department for International Development via Creative Commons
​Attending the Future of Energy Summit last month, an annual event hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, I was struck – for the second year running – by the rapid pace of cost reductions and innovation happening across the clean energy spectrum. With the news that a recent solar photovoltaics tender in Dubai obtained bids at less than US6c/kWh, to major investments in electricity storage and electric vehicles, to increased interest in demand-side management at the grid and consumer level, the message is clear: clean energy has most likely reached a crucial tipping point that will start to suck in increasing levels of investment. Some commentators also noted the opportune timing: with capital investment in upstream oil production sharply curtailed due to falling global prices, there is potentially a lot of financial capital looking for a home.
 
But perhaps one of the more interesting messages was the one coming from progressive regulators here in the U.S. The head of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Picker, noted that with renewable energy already supplying 40% of the state’s electricity a few days last year, the target for 50% renewables by 2030 is “not really a challenge”. Perhaps more interesting, he seemed very relaxed on reaching 100% renewables at some point in the future, on the back of strategic generation placement, transfers to neighboring states, and embedded storage. And note that we’re not talking about large hydropower here, which supplies between 6-12% of California’s electricity and is unlikely to increase.

The energy future, as seen from Denmark

Nicholas Keyes's picture
Photo by Blue Square Thing via FlickrDriving across the Danish countryside, they cannot be missed: towering white wind turbines as far as the eye can see, their slow-turning blades providing a 21st century counterpoint against the flat landscape of fields and farmhouses.
 
Denmark has committed to renewable energy further and faster than any country in Europe.  The Scandinavian nation generates a third of its annual electricity demand from wind, and solar capacity is growing as well. For countries that want to green their energy mix, there is no better place to get a glimpse of the future than Denmark. 
 
Its pioneering spirit has brought great benefits, and international acclaim, but like all first movers, Denmark is also learning as it goes. 
 
To tap into this learning, ESMAP—the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program—organized a study tour to Energinet.dk, Denmark’s transmission system operator, as part of its work to help client countries integrate variable renewable energy into their electricity grids. Joining the study tour were 26 participants—representatives from regulators, system operators and utilities from 13 countries, including South Africa, Chile, China, Pakistan, Zambia, and Morocco.

Mining in the Congo Basin: Getting to the Heart of the Challenges

Leo Bottrill's picture

Film is a powerful tool for explaining environmental issues. I first learnt this lesson while trying to enlist local communities in northern Vietnam to help protect a strange blue faced and critically endangered primate called the Tonkin Snub Nosed Monkey. After a morning spent bombarding local leaders with facts and figures, they were polite but unmoved.

Small Island States Set Ambitious Energy Agenda for Rio+20

Vivien Foster's picture

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Lee Siebert (Smithsonian Institution) Freshwater Lake (L'Etang) lies in the moat between Micotrin lava dome and the eastern wall of the Wotten Waven caldera, partially visible in the background. The 7 x 4.5 x wide caldera is elongated in an SW-NE direction, and it extends on the SW to near the capital city of Roseau. The two coalesced lava domes of Micotrin straddle the NE rim of the caldera. Strong geothermal activity persists in the caldera, the most prominent of which lies near the village of Wotten Waven along the River Blanc and contains numerous bubbling pools and fumaroles.The Small Island Developing States, or SIDS, include 52 countries spanning the Caribbean, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as the South China and Mediterranean Seas. They range from low-income countries such as Haiti to high-income countries like Barbados and Singapore.

Despite their diversity, many of them have a challenge and irony in common.  Being small, often remotely-located,  and usually without domestic fossil fuel reserves, these countries rely on imported fossil fuels for their energy, and bear the brunt of high and volatile  oil prices.  The irony is that many of these same islands have abundant renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, hydro and geothermal. And many are at sea-level, vulnerable to sea-level rise provoked by climate change, and highly-sensitized to the urgency of making a transition to a greener economy—a transition that would reduce their exposure to petroleum price shocks and hikes.