Sunday, March 09, 2014

Readers Respond Day 6: Can We Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy?

Sunday, March 09, 2014
Several countries have announced ambitious goals to be powered completely by renewable energy, while other nations set smaller, incremental goals. These high aspirations have sparked quite a debate amongst industry experts, and we here at Renewable Energy World are curious to hear what you, our readers, have to say.

So we aksed you to add your own voices to this imporant discussion:

What are the major barriers that countries face in order to reach 100 percent renewable energy — is this goal always achievable or desirable?

We received an overwhelming number of responses (thank you!), which will be updated here daily. If you didn't get a chance to share your opinion, let your voice be heard in the comments below and submit your answer to our poll.

Dr. Carl Kukkonen

Is 100 percent renewable energy achievable?

Yes, but it is easier in the Philippines than in Scotland.

100 percent renewable electricity can be economically achieved using a combination of biomass, geothermal and hydro electricity for reliable 24/7 base power (~60 percent), and intermittent sources such as solar and wind, backed up by bio diesel or biogas generators.

Dedicated biomass energy crops will play an enabling role. Biomass can also replace oil by producing biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials.

Is there enough land to grow energy crops? This key question was answered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations which determined on a global scale that sufficient “additional agricultural land could be brought into production without encroaching upon areas of high ecological or social value, once forest, protected areas and the land required to meet increased demand for food crops and livestock is excluded”.

The tropical climate in Southeast Asia, Central and South America and Africa is much better for growing biomass than in Scotland. These areas can use their natural resources of sunshine, warm weather and rainfall to grow biomass for themselves, and to export pellets or biofuels to colder regions. Many of these tropical countries are underdeveloped, and growing and processing biomass will provide employment for their people and provide electricity for their economic and social development. The monies spent will stay in their country rather than going overseas to pay for imported oil.

Colder countries like Scotland will need to obtain their extra biomass and biofuels from the warmer countries, but will benefit by having a diverse set of suppliers, and will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping the developing world without the need for charity.

Because biomass can be stored and used at any time, it plays a unique role in renewable energy.

Dr. Carl Kukkonen is CEO of VIASPACE, a U.S. renewable energy company. VIASPACE grows Giant King Grass, a high yield dedicated energy crop for electricity production and bioenergy. Previously, Dr. Kukkonen directed a research center at the NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University.

Stanley Pruss
5 Lakes Energy LLC

Not only is a complete global transition to a global clean energy economy feasible, a strong consensus is emerging that the transition is inevitable. Investment in advanced energy technologies, now over $250 billion per year, is on a trillion dollar trajectory — commensurate with the magnitude of investment necessary to enable the transition — while creating robust, sustained, market opportunities for decades to come.

New economic efficiencies for distributed generation resources, energy efficiency implementations, aggregated demand management capacity, energy storage and transactive energy will combine to largely supplant investment in baseload infrastructure.

The cost disparities between clean technologies and fossil fuel combustion, already trending sharply in opposite directions, will deepen with fuller future accounting of health and environmental externalities.

Market surveys are identifying a growing inclination for self-generation. Already over 700 U.S. businesses derive 100 percent of their energy from “green” power sources, including Intel, Kohl’s and Staples. Walmart, the largest commercial deployer of solar energy in the world, has a 100 percent clean energy target. Greater future focus on resiliency and adaptation will only yield greater interest in achieving similar goals by others. The urgency of climate change is likely to accelerate these trends.

The confluence of investment and market opportunities, technological innovation, the sheer force of economic trends and the exigencies of climate concerns constitutes a powerful impetus for high penetration of advanced energy systems.

Can it be done?

In the last two years numerous analyses of the feasibility of transitioning to clean energy have been undertaken by NREL, the International Energy Agency, the United Nations, the Rocky Mountain Institute, Stanford University, the University of Delaware, Google and others. These studies explore the requirements, barriers, resource availability, materials availability, logistics, and costs through a variety of analytical frameworks. Remarkably, they generally yield the same conclusion: A complete global transition to clean energy is both technically and economically feasible; the barriers that exist are social and political.

Stanley Pruss is a principal in 5 Lakes Energy LLC. Until August 2010, Mr. Pruss was the Director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, Michigan’s Chief Energy Officer, and Special Advisor on Renewable Energy and the Environment under Governor Jennifer Granholm.

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