Rhein on Energy and Climate

2012 has seen new records in newly installed solar and wind power capacity.

Globally installed capacity has now reached almost 400 GW, of which 300 GW wind and 100 GW solar PV.

In the last 10 years solar PV has expanded more rapidly than wind power, essentially due to a steep decline of module prices resulting from incredible productivity increases and cut-throat competition that has led to the bankruptcy of the world’s biggest manufacturer, SUNTECH, a week ago.

Add to this the economies of scale resulting from ever bigger PV power plants exceeding 300 MW in California and, of course, the strong government support through generous feed-in tariffs in Germany and Spain, loan guarantee programmes from the US Federal Government and renewable mandates in 37 US States, under which utilities have to generate a certain share of their electricity from renewables by 2015-25.

Judging from the past 10 years, solar PV might overtake wind power capacity by 2030. But due its very low capacity utilisation its share in global electricity generation will remain much lower than that of installed capacity. Wind will therefore continue to more electricity than PV.

For both wind and solar power the global rate of expansion is likely to slow down to 10 per cent or even less annually. The productivity increase will slow down and prices fall at a much slower rate. Both industries will consolidate, an overdue process.

New regions will enter the turf, notably Latin America that to have installed 46 GW of wind turbines by 2025, almost the equivalent of EU capacity two years ago. The EU share is bound to shrink.

China, USA and Japan are the rising stars of PV electricity generation. Combined they have almost quadrupled their installed capacity to 22 GW from 2010 to 2012, more than one third of that of EU last year. This shows the big potential and the extraordinary flexibility of modern utility companies.

Whatever the big jump forward by PV and wind in the last few years the sector will continue to need – gradually declining – government support, especially for research and grids, which are the linchpin of sustainable power systems.

It would be most helpful if many more countries were to demand utilities to generate specific shares of the their electricity from wind or solar.

Beyond some 50 per cent higher energy efficiency wind and solar PV will have to be the mainstays of a sustainable global energy system by the middle of the century.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels.

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Comments

  1. No matter how much taxpayers and consumers are forced to pay to support uneconomic technologies, intermittent renewable energy generation can never provide energy security until some new technology is available which can enable vast amounts of energy to be stored and released at an affordable price over a period of several days. Nothing remotely suitable is even on the horizon. In the meantime, big utility companies will continue to show ‘extraordinary flexibility’ if they are paid to do so.

  2. I recommend the following website to understand how solar power effectiveness changes with climate conditions (http://www.sma.de/en/company/pv-electricity-produced-in-germany.html). Data for Germany.

    In general, government intervention to favour renewables may lead in the future to a very polarised energy mix, with a lot of clean energy together with massive use of the dirtiest. These papers explain in more details

    “Combining Policies for Renewable Energy: Is the Whole Less than the Sum of Its Parts? ”

    http://www.rff.org/Publications/Pages/PublicationDetails.aspx?PublicationID=21041

    and

    “Green promotes the dirtiest: on the interaction between black and green quotas in energy markets”
    by Christoph Böhringer and Knut Einar Rosendahl

  3. Mr E Rhein:
    We as Tax Payers across the EU are totally fed up with this issue. Of course these areas of Electricity Producing systems are flourishing, the EU subsidises them to the hilt to build them and then adds further to the insults of subsiding them to the hilt again with huge electricity sales subsidies.
    You do not realise, Sir, that we in Italy as much as others across the EU are totally fed up with this SHAMBOLIC ATTITUDE and a FRAUDULENT USE of EUROPEAN UNION (TAX PAYERS) MONEY for BUILDING THESE FACILITIES and for THE HUGE SUBSIDIES GIVEN TO THE COMPANIES FOR SALES OF THE ELECTRICITY.

    1] The current Wind Turbines we see littering the European Union (those with the rotor blades) are so heavily subsidised that their use as a form of electrical energy generating system is a complete nonsense and an anathema to logic. The example we saw reported upon in the British Guardian Newspaper and in the Scotsman Newspaper in recent times was further talked through in the BBC (British Broad Casting) programme we listened to from Ayrshire on March 15th (two weeks ago.) These plants are subsidised in their building by the UK Government by up to 60% Grants. They are then given Corporation Tax Holidays for 5 years. Then they are given a huge subsidy for FIT (Feed-In-Tarrifs) which are payed at the rate of £00-45 per kWh for basic electricity and a further £00-50 per kWh for the FIT additions and these are paid straight from the start (even before the wind turbines are built, and they are paid as though each wind turbine is producing electricity or not.
    >>Is it no Wonder the builders of these Wind Energy Power Plants can sell them on at 6 times their basic capital development costs before they are even built?
    >>Is it not surprising therefore that the Tax Payers are so fed up with the manufacturers of wind turbines (as promoted by the Wind Energy Association across Europe) for the only losers here are the Tax Payers and the Electricity Users.
    THIS IS A SHAM AND A FRAUD THE EU COMMISSIONERS AND THE DIRECTORATES GENERAL IN ENERGY MUST STOP. YOU ARE LETTING THE CARPET-BAGGERS IN THE WIND ENERGY SECTOR DICTATE TO THE EU POLICY WHEN IT IS TOTALLY UNECESSARY AS I WILL HIGHLIGHT FURTHER DOWN IN THIS RESPONSE.

    2] The current Photo-Voltaic Cell Power Plants and the Solar Cell Power Plants we also see springing up across the European Union are also so heavily subsidised that their use as a form of electrical energy generating system is a also a complete nonsense and a total anathema to logic. The example we have seen equally reported in the Press (particularly in Spain and Italy and which was also reported in the EurActiv press) in recent times shows that these plants are subsidised even more so than the wind energy plants. They are subsidised by double counting of the energy tariffs in as much the same way and they receive the same Grants and on top of that Cheap Loans (from Government-Owned Banks) that can be off-set against losses by the promoting Companies that build them. This is on top of the Corporation Tax Holidays. Again they are given a huge subsidy for FIT (Feed-In-Tarrifs) which are payed at the rate of £00-45 per kWh for basic electricity and a further £00-50 per kWh for the FIT additions and these are paid straight from the start (even before the wind turbines are built, and they are paid as though each wind turbine is producing electricity or not.
    >>Is it no Wonder the builders of these Photo_Electric and Solar Power Plants can sell them on at 6 times their basic capital development costs before they are even built?
    >>Is it not surprising therefore that the Tax Payers are so fed up with the manufacturers of Photo_Voltaic Cells and the Solar Plants (again promoted by the Photo_Voltaic Cell and Solar Power Plants across Europe) for the only losers here are the Tax Payers and the Electricity Users.
    THIS IS ANOTHER SHAM AND A FRAUD THE EU COMMISSIONERS AND THE DIRECTORATES GENERAL IN ENERGY MUST STOP. YOU ARE LETTING THE CARPET-BAGGERS IN THE WIND ENERGY SECTOR DICTATE TO THE EU POLICY WHEN IT IS TOTALLY UNNECESSARY AS I WILL HIGHLIGHT FURTHER DOWN IN THIS RESPONSE.

    These energy production systems do not need subsidising as the Companies are busily seeking them off as quickly as they are built for huge monetary gain that occurs at the expense of the Tax Payers and Consumers. You should take note Mr E Rhein that We as the Tax Paying Public and Consumers are rebelling at this issue. we are being made a laughing stock across the World over this issue and it need not be so.

    There are some amazing developments in these areas which you are missing.

    In Wind Energy there is now a new generation of Wind Energy Turbines that costs a quarter of the current ones and which are three times as efficient in making electricity. Are yo aware of this? No because you are lobbied so heavily in the EU that blinkers are pulled down across your eyes.

    In the Photo_Voltaic energy area there is now the new system around that is a European union development which is now catching the eyes of the PRC [Peoples Republic of China] based upon Spraying a double-thin coating of membranes across surfaces (less than 3 mm thick in total) and using these two substrates to power electrical energy and further more they are able to be installed at a quarter of the costs of the current system. So what are you doing about these Sir?

    I would also like to bring to your attention another development whilst talking through this and that is the Sea Turbines development. What is happening there.

    And Sir to add fuel for thought why isn’t the EU thinking in more detail about the Inter-Connector submarine Cable link to Iceland that could provide up to 60% of all the Renewable electricity to the UK Ireland Holland at a very reasonable cost?

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