Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The time is NOW for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Oil, coal and gas industries are telling us renewable energy CAN'T meet global energy demands. They each tell us that only THEY can fuel our needs. Well, the world's top climate scientists beg to differ. Simply put, starting now we can use renewable energy to fuel our increasing energy needs, in the process mitigating many environmental problems, including global warming and urban pollution. If we just listen to the scientists and tell the oil, gas and coal advocates to shut up, we can do it.

Not seeing this reported much in the US but here are articles from British and Spanish sources.

From BBC News:

Renewables can fuel society, say world climate advisers

Renewable technologies could supply 80% of the world's energy needs by mid-century, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In a report, it says that almost half of current investment in electricity generation is going into renewables.

But growth will depend on having the right policies in place, it says...

The report analysed 164 "scenarios" of future energy development; and the ones in which renewables were most aggressively pursued resulted in a cut in global greenhouse gas emissions of about one-third compared with business-as-usual projections by 2050...

And from a Spanish organization, REVE:

Renewable energy can exceed global demand, according to IPCC

“The report clearly demonstrates that renewable technologies could supply the world with more energy than it would ever need, and at a highly competitive cost,” said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council.

The IPCC studied six renewable energy sectors – bioenergy, direct solar energy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean energy and wind energy. Renewable energy sources are expected to contribute up to 80% of global energy supply by 2050, according to a new report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Following a review of 164 scenarios, the IPCC found that renewables will play the major role in any successful plan to combat climate change...

Renewable energy sources and technologies considered in this report

Bioenergy can be produced from a variety of biomass feedstocks, including forest, agricultural and livestock residues; short-rotation forest plantations; energy crops; the organic component of municipal solid waste; and other organic waste streams. Through a variety of processes, these feedstocks can be directly used to produce electricity or heat, or can be used to create gaseous, liquid, or solid fuels. The range of bioenergy technologies is broad and the technical maturity varies substantially. Some examples of commercially available technologies include small- and large-scale boilers, domestic pellet-based heating systems, and ethanol production from sugar and starch.

Advanced biomass integrated gasification combined-cycle power plants and lignocellulose-based transport fuels are examples of technologies that are at a pre-commercial stage, while liquid biofuel production from algae and some other biological conversion approaches are at the research and development (R&D) phase. Bioenergy technologies have applications in centralized and decentralized settings, with the traditional use of biomass in developing countries being the most widespread current application.

Bioenergy typically offers constant or controllable output. Bioenergy projects usually depend on local and regional fuel supply availability, but recent developments show that solid biomass and liquid biofuels are increasingly traded internationally.

Direct solar energy technologies harness the energy of solar irradiance to produce electricity using photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP), to produce thermal energy (heating or cooling, either through passive or active means), to meet direct lighting needs and, potentially, to produce fuels that might be used for transport and other purposes. The technology maturity of solar applications ranges from R&D (e.g., fuels produced from solar energy), to relatively mature (e.g., concentrated solar energy), to mature (e.g. passive and active solar heating, and wafer-based silicon PV).

Many but not all of the technologies are modular in nature, allowing their use in both centralized and decentralized energy systems. Solar energy is variable and, to some degree, unpredictable, though the temporal profile of solar energy output in some circumstances correlates relatively well with energy demands. Thermal energy storage offers the option to improve output control for some technologies such as CSP and direct solar heating.

Geothermal energy utilizes the accessible thermal energy from the Earth’s interior. Heat is extracted from geothermal reservoirs using wells or other means. Reservoirs that are naturally sufficiently hot and permeable are called hydrothermal reservoirs, whereas reservoirs that are sufficiently hot but that are improved with hydraulic stimulation are called enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). Once at the surface, fluids of various temperatures can be used to generate electricity or can be used more directly for applications that require thermal energy, including district heating or the use of lower-temperature heat from shallow wells for geothermal heat pumps used in heating or cooling applications. Hydrothermal power plants and thermal applications of geothermal energy are mature technologies, whereas EGS projects are in the demonstration and pilot phase while also undergoing R&D. When used to generate electricity, geothermal power plants typically offer constant output.

Hydropower harnesses the energy of water moving from higher to lower elevations, primarily to generate electricity. Hydropower projects encompass dam projects with reservoirs, run-of-river and in-stream projects and cover a continuum in project scale. This variety gives hydropower the ability to meet large centralized urban needs as well as decentralized rural needs. Hydropower technologies are mature. Hydropower projects exploit a resource that varies temporally. However, the controllable output provided by hydropower facilities that have reservoirs can be used to meet peak electricity demands and help to balance electricity systems that have large amounts of variable RE drinking water, irrigation, flood and drought control, and navigation, as well as energy supply.

Ocean energy derives from the potential, kinetic, thermal and chemical energy of seawater, which can be transformed to provide electricity, thermal energy, or potable water. A wide range of technologies are possible, such as barrages for tidal range, submarine turbines for tidal and ocean currents, heat exchangers for ocean thermal energy conversion, and a variety of devices to harness the energy of waves and salinity gradients. Ocean technologies, with the exception of tidal barrages, are at the demonstration and pilot project phases and many require additional R&D. Some of the technologies have variable energy output profiles with differing levels of predictability (e.g., wave, tidal range and current), while others may be capable of near-constant or even controllable operation (e.g., ocean thermal and salinity gradient).

Wind energy harnesses the kinetic energy of moving air. The primary application of relevance to climate change mitigation is to produce electricity from large wind turbines located on land (onshore) or in sea- or freshwater (offshore). Onshore wind energy technologies are already being manufactured and deployed on a large scale. Offshore wind power technologies have greater potential for continued technical advancement. Wind electricity is both variable and, to some degree, unpredictable, but experience and detailed studies from many regions have shown that the integration of wind energy generally poses no insurmountable technical barriers.

And from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

If the full range of renewable technologies were to be deployed, levels of heat-trapping emissions could be kept to concentrations lower than 450 parts per million. This level could help keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°F from current levels, the temperature beyond which scientists have predicted would likely lead to the most serious consequences of climate change.

The report points out that the renewable energy transition is already underway. Nearly half of new electric generating capacity added globally in both 2008 and 2009 was from renewable sources. The same was true in the United States, with wind, solar, and other renewable technologies providing more than 40 percent of the new generating capacity.

"This IPCC report makes it clear that renewable energy has tremendous potential to meet our energy needs and confront the challenge of climate change. But we must do much more to scale up clean energy sources," said Rachel Cleetus, UCS climate economist. "Many renewables are already economically competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear energy, especially when you take into account all the hidden costs of conventional energy—such as public health risks, air and water pollution, global warming emissions, and security risks."

In a 2009 analysis titled “Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy,” UCS concluded that by adopting a comprehensive package of climate and clean energy policies in the U.S., renewable sources could provide 25 percent of the nation’s energy supply and 50 percent of electricity generation by 2030. When combined with investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, according to the UCS analysis, could help reduce heat-trapping emissions in 2030 by 56 percent from 2005 levels and save consumers money in every region of the country.

“To reach a low-carbon global economy by 2050 requires making smart policy choices and investments today,” said Steve Clemmer, UCS Director of Energy Research and Analysis. “Here in the U.S. we can make serious progress by building on what the states have already done and adopt strong national renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards, and a price on carbon. That’s a sure way to transition to a clean energy economy while driving down costs and significantly reducing emissions.”

One problem with the info from the coal, oil and gas industries is that they only tend to take into account two or three renewable sources. Most places can take advantage of multiple sources which complement each other, at least largely addressing the issues of variable availability of sources like solar and wind.

Now is the time. The report focuses on policy makers, and this is critical. But we, as consumers, also have to step up to the plate. YOU can make a difference and if you do it right, you can save money in the process. There are three basic actions you can take that together will greatly help the environment while saving you money.

First, get a home energy audit. This is the best way to find ways to save energy and save money. The US Department of Energy has suggestions for a do-it-yourself (cheaper but not as effective) audit as well as how to get a professional audit (costs money but will find more effective ways of saving you money in the long run).

You should also switch your light bulbs from the old, inefficient incandescent bulbs to new, cleaner, MUCH more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. When my wife and I did this our energy bill went down by 30% immediately. We saved a huge amount by making the switch. Compact fluorescents are a bit more expensive than incandescent, but they last MUCH longer and use MUCH less energy so you save a lot in the long run.

At the same time we switched to compact fluorescent bulbs, we also switched to all green energy (in our case all wind). This cost a tiny bit (a few pennies) more per kilowatt-hour of energy usage, but this was way offset by the savings using compact fluorescents. Together we went all green and saved money. You can find out about 100% Green Energy Plans or click here for other options. To see what green pricing options are available in New York through Con Ed click here.

Take these three steps to saving money and going green. You can be part of the solution, reducing pollution AND creating American jobs.

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