That's why I was interested when on 9 May this year, the IPCC released a special report on the role of renewable energy in mitigating climate change. In this article, which is based on an interview with Georgie Weedon and published in Nature Climate Change (Vo. 1, June 2011), we have summarised the notes which were published when he spoke to Ottmar Edenhofer, chair of the working group behind the report, about its key findings and implications.
The report was commissioned by a number of world governments who asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Global Warming to offer an evaluation of the potential role of renewables in offsetting global warming. The report investigates the role of numerous technologies like wind, biomass, solar and geothermal energy in the worldwide energy mix, and it also examines the amount to which the deployment of replenishable energy is consistent with energy security, climate policy, and also with accelerating human development, particularly in developing nations.
The main conclusions of the report are that by the middle of the century, the proportion of renewables in the worldwide energy mix may be from thirty percent to round about eighty percent. Also, though renewables will play a crucial role, there's more than one way to achieve a low-carbon economy. The report formulates alternative paths to make certain shareholders and policymakers actually understand the choices.
It proves that improving energy security and human development, and implementing climate policy are all consistent with impressively large scale deployment of renewable power. But, quite naturally it's up to our statesmen and shareholders in a large number of businesses worldwide to choose what extent they develop the potential identified.
Biomass is considered by some as of arguable benefit, due to the demand it places on land use. To what degree the usage of biomass is supportable is a contrary issue.
I suppose that most of all I was disappointed that in this discussion and presumably therefore within the report as well, there was no distinction made between anaerobic digestion of waste biomass, and biomass from food crops. It was disappointing that the point was not made that a lot of biomass would come from what have previously be considered to be waste materials such as manures and organic sludges. I fail to see what there can be any argument about the undoubted benefit from producing “renewables” from waste organic matter.
One critical element in deciding the role of biomass energy will be expectancies and the prophecies for future rural productiveness. With reasonable land-use management and with a fair increase in rural productivity we will be able to quite definitely afford a bit more biomass use without damaging biodiversity and food security.
The report is explicit about these underlying unknowns create such a wide band of predicted utilization and plans to raise the profile about how biomass may be employed in a viable way, within the stakeholder community. Currently bio-energy use is at an especially low level and it can be increased in a supportable way. For appropriate development it needs policy and reasonable management practices to be developed in the rural sector.
Only 14% of global electricity production comes from nuclear power, and many established bodies, eg the World Energy Agency and even the IPCC, say that the proportion of nuclear power for electricity production might decline over a period of time. This suggests that almost all of the electricity production will come from alternative sources like coal, oil and gas, and also from renewables. One critical point is that we've got a lot of coal, oil and gas underground, and without a price on carbon or climate policy we'll use coal. This can increase emissions around the world. This is what we are expecting and thus a mix of renewable power policy and climate policy is needed to reduce emissions and to provide secure and supportable energy.
The report implies that global warming itself can impede the capability for clean energy - by changing wind speeds, as an example.
The report covers the genuine “levelized” value of energy, and the IPCC have considered 164 eventualities to show the potential range of chances. That's due to the fact that they wanted to show more than one pathway to clean energy, to open the space for policymakers to work in.
Solar and biomass are the biggest current sources of replenishable energy. Which may or may not make them the most promising contenders in the future worldwide energy mix as the future it is completely dependent on how policy evolves. Biomass has a crucial part to play if you want to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, it's a mitigation option. But if there isn't any climate policy, the contribution of biomass would be smaller. Solar electricity has the biggest technical potential.
The largest obstructions to making the switch to replenishable energy are now diminishing. In the past, the expenses for renewable operators were huge.
Regardless of whether you remove the consequences of assistance, most green energy sources were simply not competitive during the past. The most important stumbling blocks now are the issues of integration and the expenses. Also, the deployment of renewables is dependent on having a strong climate policy. It's important to make money from capital in the market when there's a trustworthy carbon price, investment straight away becomes competitive.
The report shows that the developing countries are developing as world figureheads in renewable power generation.
The IPCC Special Report on Renewable Power Sources and Global Warming Mitigation was released in May 2011 and is obtainable from http://srren.org
Georgie Weedon is a journalist and communications specialist based in London, UK. e-mail: georgie [[@]] gingerwinkmedia.cc4