Renewable Energy Takes Second Place Spot Behind Coal

Eco Watch: “Electricity generation from renewable sources has overtaken natural gas to become the second largest source of electricity worldwide, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has announced … Since 1990, global solar photovoltaic power has been increasing at an average growth rate of 44.6 percent a year and wind at 27.1 percent.”

OECD Electricity production 20132014

“In 2014, solar photovoltaic power overtook solid biofuels—used in power plants that burn biomass—to become the second-largest source of non-hydro renewable electricity in OECD countries of Europe, with a share of 17.3 percent.”

“The IEA’s data will encourage renewable energy’s supporters, but they also show how much the world continues to rely on fossil fuels for its electricity. In 1971, coal produced about 2 TWh of global electrical power, but that figure is now almost five times higher. Replacing that much generation with clean fuels will be a huge challenge, despite the very rapidly accelerating growth of renewables.”

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  • Calbengoshi

    While the increase in the amount of energy generated by solar and wind is heartening, the fact remains that the majority of energy is generated through the use of means that create greenhouse gases. That’s the statistic that needs to be changed.

  • Lorehead

    A lot of environmentalists made up their minds about nuclear power back in the ‘70s. They really need to study fourth-generation nuclear plants and revise their opinion. With current technology, it’s a no-brainer.

    • pywaket_1

      I would agree with you, except for the issue of the waste. We’d really need to figure out what to do with that stuff. Burying it is one option, but we need to consider how to make sure that future generations are protected. How old is the oldest civilization on earth? Perhaps 1000 years? We need some way to maintain the integrity of the burial areas for 10 times that, at least. The bible is only 2000 years old, and look at what a mess that is. Conveying this information to people in the distant future will need to be dealt with if we’re going to consider that as an option.

      Here’s a good starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Interference_Task_Force

      The “radiation cats” idea is a fascinating and quite innovative way to do this.

      http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/ten-thousand-years/

      I understand the carbon implications of switching to nuke plants and have considered supporting them (worst case scenario, we *have* to do it to keep below 350ppm), but that’s been my reason for opposing them. I think continued development of technologies that we already know work (solar, wind, biomass) is a more responsible approach.

      I do definitely support the idea of pursuing fusion research, without any reservations at all.

      Solar is pretty darn good, and the prices are continuing to come down. Even in Massachusetts which isn’t the sunniest place on earth, the payback time for a panel installation on a system for our city house is 6 years, if you take advantage of the incentives. It’s still only 9 years if you don’t.

      Where I really want to see more research done is on algae-based biofuels. There’s some, but the technology looks quite promising. MIT generates all of it’s own electricity and heat in the on-campus cogen plant, and have put algae scrubbers on the stacks and have been making biodiesel from it.

      • Lorehead

        This is a good example of an argument from the ’70s that people need to update in light of modern technology. Fast-breeder reactors produce a lot less waste, and the lifespan of that waste is shorter. In fact, fourth-generation technology allows waste-burner reactors that reduce our current stockpiles of nuclear waste. Honestly, if you dumped it into a deep ocean trench, we’d never worry about it again unless we’re living in a Kaiju movie, or with enough cheap energy, we could even fire it into the sun.

        On the other hand, every feasible fusion technology we have (aneutronic He₃–He₃ fusion not being feasible outside a helium-rich star) produces a huge amount of radioactive waste from neutron bombardment of the walls of the reactor. Burning coal releases more radioactive particles into the atmosphere than nuclear power.

        And, given the choice between global climate change and dealing with nuclear waste for a long time, I’d take the nuclear waste in a heartbeat. The government wrote up a recommendation, years ago, about how to design a nuclear waste disposal site that would keep people from digging the place up even a thousand years later if they’d forgotten both physics and English—which I doubt will happen, and if it did, our descendants would have much bigger problems. The last paragraph finally pointed out: no matter what warnings we gave them, in those circumstances, people would probably ignore our message, then notice that anybody who lived there gets sick.

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