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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shocked the world with its forecast of glaciers melting, rising oceans, flooded cities and widespread starvation. Now it has issued a stunning report on the difficulties of creating renewable energy. It is a killer for the Obama administration’s wildly optimistic promise of a future world of renewable energies.
The 1,000-page IPCC report presents an assessment of the scientific, technical, environmental, economic, and social aspects of the contributions of six renewable energy (RE) sources to the mitigation of climate change.
“Increasing the share of RE in the energy mix will require policies to simulate changes in the energy system. Their share is projected to increase substantially under most ambitious mitigation scenarios,” said the report. But additional policies would be required to attract the necessary increases in investment in technologies and infrastructure.
More billions in federal subsidies, for instance? The Obama administration has spend at least $70 billion so far on subsidies for renewable energies of one kind or another.
On a global basis, it was estimated that RE accounted for 12.9 percent of the total primary energy supply in 2008. The largest contributor was biomass (10.2 percent) with the majority of it being used in cooking and heating in developing countries. Hydropower represented 2.3 percent. Other RE sources accounted for only 0.4 percent. Solar power was 0.1 percent, wind energy was said to be a bare 0.2 percent of energy produced worldwide.
Technical potentials indicate a limit to the contribution of some RE technologies. Factors such as “sustainability concerns, public acceptance, system integration, and infrastructure restraints or economic factors may also limit deployment of renewable energy technologies,” the report said. “The costs associated with RE integration, whether for electricity, heating, cooling, gaseous, or liquid fuels are “contextual, site-specific, and generally difficult to determine.” The number of people without access to modern energy services is expected to remain unchanged “unless relevant domestic policies are implemented, which may be supported…by international assistance as appropriate.”
Bioenergy can be produced from a variety of biomass feedstocks, including livestock residue, energy crops, and organic waste systems. “Advanced biomass integrated gasification combined-cycle power plants and lignocellulose-based transport fuels are examples of technologies that are at pre-commercial stage, while liquid fuel from algae and some other biological conversion approaches are at the research and development (R&D) phase.”
Direct solar energy technologies “harness the energy of solar irradiance to produce electricity for photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) to produce thermal energy, to meet direct lighting needs, and potentially, to produce fuels that might be used for transport and other purposes…. Solar energy is variable and, to some degree, unpredictable.”
Geothermal energy uses energy from the earth’s interior. Fluids of various temperatures can be used to generate electricity. Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) are in the demonstration and pilot stage.
Hydropower harnesses the power of water moving from higher to lower elevations. Think of the Hoover Dam.
Ocean energy comes from the potential kinetic, thermal, and chemical energy of seawater, which can be transformed to produce electricity. These projects are at a pilot project phase.
Wind energy uses the kinetic energy of moving air to produce electricity from large wind turbines located on shore and at sea.
Wind is unpredictable. But many wind farms are successful. The problem is transmission lines connecting the turbines to the power plants.
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