FT: The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable

A happy story for once. Isn't that nice? The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable (archive) from those commie pinkos at the FT: ...the disruptive impact of green energy on companies — and entire industries — around the world. After years of hype and false starts, the shift to clean power has begun to accelerate at a pace that has taken the most experienced experts by surprise... Wind and solar parks are being built at unprecedented rates, threatening the business models of established power companies. Electric cars that were hard to even buy eight years ago are selling at an exponential rate, in the process driving down the price of batteries that hold the key to unleashing new levels of green growth.

One should not get too carried away, because ...None of this means the problem of climate change has been solved, or that fossil fuels will vanish in the near future. Oil, gas and coal still account for about 86 per cent of the energy keeping the world’s lights on, cars running and homes warm — a share that has barely changed in 25 years. Coal and gas-fired power plants are still being built, especially in the developing world where 1.2bn people lack electricity. Modern renewables, in contrast, are growing from a tiny base and are often less dependable than dirtier power generators that do not rely on the weather. Wind and solar power accounted for a puny 4.4 per cent of global electricity in 2015, and big battery systems can only store enough power to satisfy a few seconds of global electricity demand, says the International Energy Agency. Electric vehicle sales last year were just 0.9 per cent of all vehicles sold, according to the EV-Volumes consultancy.

And then again But the emerging energy transition is already causing trouble for companies around the world, from writedowns and shrinking sales to sliding share prices and wholesale break-ups.

Aanyway, you get the point. You know all this stuff anyway. The interesting point for me is that the FT choose to splash it all over.

The other fodder is a section called "Thanks, Germany" which says When the definitive history of the energy transition is written, the taxpayers of Germany will deserve their own chapter. They bankrolled the green energy revolution known as the Energiewende, pioneering generous subsidies nearly 20 years ago that helped drive renewables up from 9 per cent of Germany’s electricity mix in 2004 to 32 per cent last year. As other European nations — and some US states — boarded the green power wagon, it kindled a wave of demand for wind turbines and solar panels that helped drive costs down worldwide. Solar’s price fall was especially steep after a Chinese manufacturing boom spurred global over-supply. So, yeah. It probably needed subsidies to kick start this stuff. It probably wasn't the most efficient way (Carbon Tax Now) but meh.

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Too little too late. See today's TNYT article on Antarctica.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 20 May 2017 #permalink

A more cynical take on Germany is that despite massive subsidies and a national effort by a nation with an excellent reputation for getting things done industry-wise, renewable electricity has only gone from 9% to 32% of supply, and a fair chunk of that is wood-burning which barely counts..

By Andrew Dodds (not verified) on 21 May 2017 #permalink

Someone over at RC pointed to Chinese pebble-bed reactors being used as heat sources replacing the coal burners in older power plants, saving all the generation and cooling parts. It's perhaps optimistic as it's been considered ill-advised to run fission piles as hot as coal burners (because that lengthens the required powered cooldown time when a problem arises and they have to shut down). But, hey, anyone who's bought anything made in China is well aware of their level of competence at quality assurance and quality control.

https://www.google.com/search?q=china+%22pebble+bed+reactor%22+coal+pla…

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 21 May 2017 #permalink

Well, there's a limit, temperature-wise:

Science and Technology of Nuclear Installations
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 589747, 13 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2011/589747

Research Article
Phenomenology of Graphite Burning in Air Ingress Accidents of HTRs
Rainer Moormann

Forschungszentrum Jülich, Central technology division (ZAT), 52425 Jülich, Germany

Received 27 May 2011; Accepted 8 September 2011

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 21 May 2017 #permalink

"... accident scenarios with severe consequences in HTRs, not existing for conventional reactors [2]: one weak point of HTRs is the small oxidation stability of graphite, the main component in the core, at high temperatures. It leads to potentially severe accidents in case of accidental air or steam ingress into the coolant circuit. This requires special attention also because most PBRs like the recently cancelled South African PBMR concept or the Chinese HTR-PM are for cost reasons not equipped with a pressure-retaining containment...."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 21 May 2017 #permalink

"big battery systems can only store enough power to satisfy a few seconds of global electricity demand,"

To paraphrase a semi-Confucian proverb, a journey of a thousand Li starts with a single part per thousand

By Russell Seitz (not verified) on 21 May 2017 #permalink