Energy from biomass
A new report suggests that we should be able to feed a growing population, conserve the environment and produce 20% of world energy needs from biomass by making “the best use of agricultural residues, energy crops and waste materials”.
The report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) can be downloaded from here.
I’m not sure how well they took into account the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity. They did consider an IPCC report on renewable energy (large pdf) and a study by the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU). Of the latter they said:
The WGBU08 report is arguably the most comprehensive study of the implications of growing bio-energy crops considered here. The approach uses a spatially explicit yield model for terrestrial productivity (LPjmL) driven by IPCC climate models, and scenarios. (p. 35)
You would need to go back to those studies to see what changes of weather, melting glaciers, sea penetration of river deltas etc were taken into account.
Consumption-based emissions reporting
Also on the UKERC site is an item on consumption-based emissions reporting. In the UK:
territorial-based emissions showed a 19% reduction between 1990 and 2008, but consumption-based emissions showed a 20% increase during the same period.
by 2050, only 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions will be generated within its borders, with the rest coming from imported goods and services.
The suggestion is that there should be both consumption-based and production-based emissions targets.
Arctic sea ice hockey stick
Skeptical Science reports on a study which reconstructed the Arctic sea ice extent over the last 1450 years, resulting in this graph:
The error bars are quite large for the earlier years, but the anomalous nature of recent decades is unmistakeable.
As a matter of interest the current Arctic sea ice extent is tracking 2007 very closely.
Southern Ocean warming
The Southern Ocean is storing more heat than the rest. It occupies about 22% of the area of the total ocean, yet it absorbs about 40% of the carbon dioxide that’s stored by the ocean and about half the heat.
One implication is for the Antarctic ice sheet and sea level rise. Another is that a critical threshold in relation to the corrosion of shells may be reached by 2030 instead of 2050 as previously thought, to the detriment of the food chain.
Climate change and health
The Climate Commission has just released a report on climate change and health. Here are the projections for hot days (from the Garnaut Report):
If you want to pollute your brain, read The Telegraph. Honestly, is that journalism or a partisan demolition job?
Google changes tack
The company Google is phasing out support for clean energy R&D in favour of deployment, citing the “compelling” cost reductions in solar PV. Google are actually increasing their support of renewables, contrary to some media reports.
Supersized coal exports
Here in Oz yesterday Anna Bligh was spreading the joy about the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen in North Queensland. The key metrics are an investment of $9 billion and:
Just four years ago, Abbot Point could handle 15 million tonnes of coal a year. So just four years ago it was handling 15 million tonnes – by 2017 it will be handling 385 million tonnes. This is an increase of more than 2000 per cent in the space of a decade.
That should just about be the time we should be phasing coal out
according to Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator. Not only should, but probably will.
Wu [Dacheng, vice-chairman and secretary general of the China Photovoltaic Society], told Climate Spectator in Sydney on Wednesday that solar PV is already cheaper than peaking prices in some areas of China, and will match parity with commercial and industrial supply in 2014, will reach retail parity in 2018 (households pay less for electricity in China than industrial users), and match wholesale price parity by 2021, when prices will be around 0.6 yuan/kWh.
The thought is that baseload coal will actually be in the way.
In Germany, where wind and PV capacity amounts to 45GW, Statkfraft has announced this week that it may close two gas-fired power stations, amounting to one gigawatt of capacity, because of this impact.
BTW if solar panels are imported from China do not despair. We are working on R&D, also more than half of the economic value of solar PV remains in its installation and commissioning and we still have a unique opportunity to become a solar technology hub for the Asia Pacific region. So it is said.
In another article Parkinson tells us that Germany is heading full bore down the renewable energy path. Here, mesmerised by to Big Coal, we seem to be heading for a cliff, one way or another.
China favours wind over nukes
China’s emissions should flatline from 2015. One reason is that they are upgrading the drive to wind power.
Starting in 2005, China now produces 58GW worth of wind power, contributing 128TWh to its grid, enough to power NSW and Victoria combined.
Three years ago China’s 2020 target was set at 30GW, today it’s a massive 200GW.
Last month, the National Development Reform Commission Energy Research Institute released China’s first wind development plan to 2050. A whopping 1000GW – enough to provide 17 per cent of China’s electricity needs – will be built and operating by mid-century.
Nuclear, now supplying 11GW, has had its 2020 target downgraded from 86GW to a modest 40-60GW.
How not to do policy
By contrast Australia’s policy on solar feed-in tariffs has jerked the industry around.
At the end of the article, a more measured approach in Colorado yields better results.
The world is moving to renewable energy
For the first time investment in renewable power generation has exceeded that in fossil-fuel power.
Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal.
Those who say we should wait for the rest of the world are missing the boat.