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The National Infrastructure Commission’s plan for a renewable UK

The National Infrastructure Commission’s plan for a renewable UK

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was launched by then-chancellor George Osborne in October 2015 to “think dispassionately and independently about Britain’s long-term infrastructure needs in areas like transport, energy, communication, flood defence and the like.” Well, the NIC has now thought dispassionately and independently about energy and has concluded that the UK can meet its 2050 decarbonization goals with either a mostly nuclear or mostly renewable generation mix, but that “wind and solar could deliver the same generating capacity as nuclear for the same price, and would be a better choice because there was less risk”. Here we take a brief look at this renewables-beats-nuclear option to see whether it might work.

The NIC study was brought to my attention in a comment by correspondent Ed T in Blowout Week 236, so a hat tip to Ed T. The data available to me consisted of the NIC report, NIC’s Power Point presentation, the source of most of the data I use, and a summary article from the Guardian. The power sector modeling work was performed by Aurora Energy Research (Aurora).

The NIC “aims to be the UK’s most credible, forward-thinking and influential voice on infrastructure policy and strategy, producing reports and analysis of the highest quality, written in plain English, independent of government and all vested interests, and making clear recommendations based on rigorous evidence; and developing an evidence base which sets a gold standard in its quality and breadth.” Its conclusions are summarized in the Guardian article:

Government advisers have told ministers to back only a single new nuclear power station after Hinkley Point C in the next few years, because renewable energy sources could prove a safer investment. Sir John Armitt, the NIC’s chairman, said: He argued that wind and solar could deliver the same generating capacity as nuclear for the same price, and would be a better choice because there was less risk.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Myth Of An Imminent Energy Transition

The Myth Of An Imminent Energy Transition

Cushing oil storage

100 million. It’s a number that drowns comprehension; it’s more jelly beans than can fit in an average-sized swimming pool.

Within a year, world oil consumption will top 100 million barrels of oil per day. Over the same time period, close to 100 million new piston-firing vehicles will be bought by petroleum-thirsty customers.

I hate to say it, but any notion of imminent “energy transition” or “decarbonization” is folly.

In fact, the percentage of fossil fuels in the world’s energy mix—coal, oil and natural gas—is still lingering well above 80 percent, a figure that has changed little in 30 years. That remains so, despite being challenged by serious environmental policies, financial pressures, viable alternative systems, public awareness and social activism.

It’s true that wind and solar are being deployed quickly, at an exponential rate in fact. But impressive as it all is, renewable energy installations are far too slow to catch the still-hardy appetite for fossil fuel consumption. Such energy obesity is not virtuous, but it’s a fact needing acknowledgement in a world of over seven billion people, each of whom are wanting for more light, heat, mobility and a panoply of mostly useless gadgetry.

Oil and gas are growing especially fast. Recently published data reminds us that we’re consuming hydrocarbons faster than ever, at robust rates on a global absolute basis (see Figure 1). Market share for oil and gas is holding steady at just under 60 percent. Related: Is Russia About To Abandon The OPEC Deal?

(Click to enlarge)

The resilience of fossil fuels is sobering, even after massive capital assault.

Over the past decade, the world has spent US$ 3.0 trillion on renewable energy, according to the International Energy Agency (Figure 2). For that expenditure, the clean cadre has taken a couple of points of share away from coal, the black stuff that seems to have nine lives (Figure 3).

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Pathways to Deep Decarbonization

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization

As energy transition proceeds we’ll need to move well beyond decarbonizing electricity generation and into transportation and space heating powered by renewables. But we’re only beginning to figure out the pathways by which we might do that, and since each region has its own particular sources of renewable energy and its own particular needs for energy, the solutions may vary quite a bit from place to place.

When do we figure out how to decarbonize space heating and transportation? What sorts of challenges will we face in adding those loads to the electricity grid? How much additional generation, transmission, distribution capacity, and storage will we need? How will we manage such a grid? And what if, once we have transferred some of those loads to the grid, it actually starts to look cheaper to not electrify everything? Our guest in this episode has studied such questions for years, and has some surprising insights into how deep decarbonization might actually evolve.

…click on the above link to listen to the show…

Can economic growth continue without fossil fuels? The IPCC thinks so — here’s why its decarbonisation models are broken

(Source: VICE)

Published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project for people and planet. Support us to keep digging where others fear to tread.

In this third contribution to our symposium, ‘Pathways to the Post-Carbon Economy’, biophysical economist Graham Palmer assesses the plausibility of conventional economic forecasts of a global energy transition away from fossil fuels.

Most forecasts paint a rosy picture of continued, unimpeded economic growth, even as the world weans itself entirely off carbon-intensive energy sources. But are such scenarios really possible?

Palmer argues that they aren’t — not when we consider how the economy is fundamentally embedded in its biophysical environment. And if it isn’t, then we need a new approach to modelling, which pays greater attention the intimate relationship between energy, our societies, and their economies.

Climate change discourse is structured around competing narratives — degrowth, pro-renewables, pro-nuclear, localism, green business, techno-optimism, and so on. The energy scenario modelling by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides a foundation for much of the discourse.

Integrated models are connected with socioeconomic and technological storylines to forecast a picture of key characteristics of future transformation pathways.

When we look at models from the most recent IPCC report (AR5), we see that that baseline scenarios project a 300% to 800% increase in GDP-per-capita by 2100. In these scenarios, strong mitigation is achieved with global consumption losses of only between 3 to 11% relative to baseline. Hence, the net-cost of decarbonising seems trivial over the long run.

From this perspective, the solution that follows is to put in place appropriate policies, support technology, remove fossil fuel subsidies and apply a modest but comprehensive carbon price.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

From Good Intentions to Deep Decarbonization

From Good Intentions to Deep Decarbonization 

NEW YORK – In the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, more than 150 governments submitted plans to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Many observers are asking whether these reductions are deep enough. But there is an even more important question: Will the chosen path to 2030 provide the basis for ending greenhouse-gas emissions later in the century?

According to the scientific consensus, climate stabilization requires full decarbonization of our energy systems and zero net greenhouse-gas emissions by around 2070. The G-7 has recognized that decarbonization – the only safe haven from disastrous climate change – is the ultimate goal this century. And many heads of state from the G-20 and other countries have publicly declared their intention to pursue this path.

Yet the countries at COP21 are not yet negotiating decarbonization. They are negotiating much more modest steps, to 2025 or 2030, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The United States’ INDC, for example, commits the US to reduce CO2 emissions by 26-28%, relative to a 2005 baseline, by 2025.

Though the fact that more than 150 INDCs have been submitted represents an important achievement of the international climate negotiations, most pundits are asking whether the sum of these commitments is enough to keep global warming below the agreed limit of 2º Celsius (3.6º Fahrenheit). They are debating, for example, whether the INDCs add up to a 25% or 30% reduction by 2030, and whether we need a 25%, 30%, or 40% reduction by then to be on track.

But the most important issue is whether countries will achieve their 2030 targets in a way that helps them to get to zero emissions by 2070 (full decarbonization). If they merely pursue measures aimed at reducing emissions in the short term, they risk locking their economies into high levels of emissions after 2030. The critical issue, in short, is not 2030, but what happens afterward.

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Zero Carbon Emissions: The New Language Of Climate Change

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

If nothing else, the G7 countries’ recent agreement to end fossil fuel use for energy by 2100 signals a shift in the way we talk and think about global warming. Previous agreements were about reducing carbon emissions from burning coal, oil and gas. This takes matters a step further by envisioning a fossil fuel–free future.

There are reasons for cynicism: the long time frame means none of the politicians involved in the commitment will even be alive, let alone held accountable, for meeting the target in 2100; Canada and Japan watered down Germany’s proposal to end fossil fuel energy by 2050; and many governments, including Canada’s, haven’t met even their current weak commitments. But in calling for deep emissions cuts by 2050 and an end to fossil fuel energy by 2100 — “decarbonization” — the non-binding pledge at least shows governments recognize the need to confront climate change.

Canada could show it takes the commitment seriously by heeding the advice of 100 scientists (including 12 Royal Society of Canada fellows, 22 U.S. National Academy of Sciences members, five Order of Canada recipients and a Nobel Prize winner, from a range of disciplines) who released a statement with 10 reasons why “No new oil sands or related infrastructure projects should proceed unless consistent with an implemented plan to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health, and respect treaty rights.”

According to Simon Fraser University energy economist and statement co-author Mark Jaccard, “Leading independent researchers show that significant expansion of the oil sands and similar unconventional oil sources is inconsistent with efforts to avoid potentially dangerous climate change.”

Another author, Northern Arizona University ecologist Tom Sisk, said it’s not just about climate: “Oil sands development is industrializing and degrading some of the wildest regions of the planet, contaminating its rivers, and transforming a landscape that stores huge amounts of carbon into one that releases it.”


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Fighting Extinction

Fighting Extinction

“This is a true challenge. If the story is told as one of avarice, private gain and exceptionalism, the human race will go extinct.”

At the G7 last week, the leading industrial nations agreed to cut greenhouse gases by phasing out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century. While that seem to many, ourselves included, as whistling past the graveyard, the mainstream press and many climate organizations are hailing the diplomatic triumph of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in bringing fossil foot-draggers Australia, Japan and Canada to a “Jesus, the climate!” moment.

On the final day of G7 talks in their Bavarian castle, and before rushing off to the secretive Bilderberg Group meeting, Merkel said the leaders had committed themselves to the need to “decarbonize the global economy in the course of this century.” They also agreed on a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to a maximum of 2°C over pre-industrial levels, oblivious of the contradiction in those two positions.

Two weeks ago, at the St. Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Chancellor Merkel called upon the overdeveloped countries to draft a roadmap of how to meet the $100 billion bribe Hillary Clinton offered underdeveloping countries to acquiesce to President Obama’s stalling strategy in Copenhagenin 2009. For five years now, Obama has declined to present such a plan, and not having one has undermined trust in both the UN process and the United States. At home, Obama’s popularity ratings are now below those of George W. Bush in his final year. The President’s legacy is likely to be that his name becomes synonymous with loss of trust. Merkel’s is likely to be associated with loss of ambition.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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