Thursday, 30 April 2015

Move over fossil fuels, renewables take over worldwide generation installation

As Bloomberg says (see below), time is running out for fossil fuels as installation of renewable electricity generation exceeds installation of fossil fuels. Now that's not yet a lead in electricity production itself, as fossil fuel power plant usually have a higher capacity factor compared to renewables, but at the current rate of change it won't be long until the amount of new electricity production from renewables exceeds new electricity production from fossil fuel power plant. Of course, nuclear is nowhere to be seen. Indeed, as the World Nuclear Status reports indicate, nuclear power's share of global electricity production is actually falling. The are still the usual projections of significant nuclear expansion, but as usual such plans usually fail to materialise.

There is more work being done on integrating renewables, both in developing hardware such as energy storage through schemes organised by Elon Musk and others, and software work to develop more flexible systems based on decentralised despatch of energy. In fact a study by Frauhofer Institute indicates that surprisingly little amounts of energy need to be stored to service energy economies such as those existing in Germany.

Very big falls in wind and solar costs are being observed. Currently, for example, in South Africa, wind projects are being installed for less than £40 per MWh (less than 6 cents/kWh) and in the USA at around 6 cents/kWh. Yesterday Germany announced 'auction' results for ground mounted solar pv at prices of £66 per MWh.

Of course we can expect the dinosaurs to carry on fighting and twitching. In Germany the coal industry is fighting a strong rearguard action to defend its subsidies. In the UK the nuclear industry in the guise of EDF negotiated a proposed 35 year deal for premium prices and £10 billion pounds worth of loan guarantee to try and present a price of £92.50 per MWh as 'cheap'. It seems unlikely to happen, even on those terms, but the pressure for open-ended financing of nuclear power and more incentives for fossil fuels continues. So the renewables lobby and their supporters among NGOs and the green movement have to carry on pushing strongly for a decentralised renewables future.

See some sources below:

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