Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Renewables Outpace Nuclear All Over the World

Energy
Renewables Outpace Nuclear All Over the World

As flagship nuclear projects run into long delays and huge cost overruns, solar and wind power are falling in price. Renewables already supply twice as much power as nuclear. It's just too bad the nuclear-fixated UK government hasn't noticed. Renewables are winning out just about everywhere. They now supply over 19 percent of global primary energy and 22 percent of global electricity. Nuclear is at 11 percent and falling.

Renewables now supply 22 percent or more of global electricity. By contrast nuclear is at 11 percent and falling.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

With many of the UK's old nuclear power plants off-line due to faults and prospects for their ultimate replacement looking decidedly shaky, it is good that the renewable energy alternatives are moving ahead rapidly. In 2013 nuclear supplied around 18 percent of UK electricity but in the third quarter of 2014, nuclear output fell 16.2 percent due to outages, while renewable output, which had reached 16.8 percent of electricity in the second quarter of 2014, was up 26 percent over the previous year. Indeed, there were periods in 2014 when wind alone met up to 15 percent of UK power demand, over-taking nuclear, and it even briefly achieved 24 percent.

What next? The financial woes of French developers Areva and EDF may mean that their £24 billion 3.4 gigawatt (GW) Hinkley nuclear project—despite being heavily subsidized by British taxpayers and consumers—will get delayed or even halted, unless China or the Saudis bail it out. Meanwhile, wind has reached 11 GW with 4 GW of it offshore, and solar is at 5 GW and rising with many new projects in the pipeline. By 2020 we may have 30 GW of wind generation capacity and perhaps up to 20 GW of solar.

Renewables get cheaper, nuclear gets more expensive

It's true that this will require subsidies, but the technology is getting cheaper and by the time Hinkley is built, if it ever is, the Contact for a Difference subsidy for on-land wind—and maybe even for solar—will be lower than that offered to the Hinkley developers (£92.5 per megawatt hour).

Indeed some say solar won't need any subsidies in the 2020s. While offshore wind projects could be going ahead with the Contact for a Difference contracts below £100 per megawatt hour, and without the £10 billion loan guarantee that Hinkley has been given.

The simple message is that renewables are getting cheaper and more competitive, while nuclear remains expensive, and its cost may well rise—requiring further subsidies.

The completion of the much delayed EPR nuclear project at Flamanville, similar to the Hinkley design, has been put back by yet another year to 2017—putting it even more over-budget.

Construction on the EPR being built in Finland started in 2005 and was originally scheduled to go live in 2009, but is now not likely to be completed until late 2018. It's now almost twice over budget.

It's hardly surprising then that most of the major power companies and utilities in the European Union (EU) have backed away from nuclear, including SSE, RWE, Siemens and most recently E.ON, in favor of renewables.

Country by country, renewables are taking over the world

Looking to the future, there are scenarios for India, Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and the EU using renewables to supply most of their electricity, with Germany and Denmark, of course, already acting on them—Germany is aiming to get at least 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050, Denmark 100 percent.

Another examples comes from a World Wildlife Fund report, which argues that China could get 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050, at far less cost than relying on coal, thus enabling China to cut its carbon emissions from power generation by 90 percent without compromising the reliability of the electric grid or slowing economic growth. And with no need for new nuclear.

Although renewables are not as developed as in China, India has been pushing them quite hard, with wind at nearly 20 GW, on top of 39 GW of existing large hydro. Photovoltaics (PV) is at 2.6 GW grid-linked so far, but Bridge to India is pushing for 100 GW by 2020.

Funding problems and policy changes have bedeviled the development of renewables in India, as have weak grids, with some saying that off-grid or mini-grid community projects ought to be the focus.

The new government in India certainly faces some challenges. But World Wildlife Fund and The Energy and Resources Institute have produced an ambitious ‘near 100 percent by 2050' renewables scenario, with over 1,000 GW each of wind and solar, plus major biomass use.

The U.S. now gets nearly 15 percent of its electricity from renewables, with wind power projects booming, and Obama's policy of cutting emissions from coal plants by 30 percent by 2030 should speed that up. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab has developed scenarios showing that the U.S. could potentially generate 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050.

In Japan renewables had been given a low priority, but following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan is now pushing ahead with some ambitious offshore wind projects—using floating wind turbines and a large PV program.

Overall, Japan has given the go-ahead to over 70 GW of renewable energy projects, most of which are solar. Longer term, the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies' renewables scenario of a ‘100 percent by 2050' estimates around 50 GW of wind—much of it offshore—and 140 GW of PV.

Rapid progress is being made in South America, although less so as yet in most of Africa. But the International Renewable Energy Agency says that Africa has the potential and the ability to utilize its renewable resources to fuel the majority of its future growth.

Yet the UK remains firmly stuck in a 1950s vision of the future

Back in the UK though, we have our large nuclear program with EDF as one of the main backers. It can't build any plants in France (which is cutting nuclear back by 25 percent), but the UK seems to be willing to host several—and pay heavily for them!

Similarly, Hitachi and Toshiba stand no chance of building new plants in Japan, but the UK is offering significant long-term subsidies and loan guarantees for their proposed UK projects. That is far more government support than renewable technologies receive.

Here the main focus seems to be on why we can't afford offshore wind, or accept on-land wind, or live with large solar farms.

We struggle—now generating more than 15 percent of UK electricity from renewables, but far behind most of the rest of the EU, and especially the leaders, with some already having achieved their 2020 targets, nearly all of which were set higher than that for the UK.

In fact, despite having probably the largest potential of any EU country, we are still only beating Luxembourg and Malta.

It's embarrassing ...

David Elliott is Emeritus Professor of Technology Policy at the Open University. His latest book is Renewables: A Review of Sustainable Energy Supply Options.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Fortune 500 Companies Unite in Support of Renewable Energy

Renewables Help Push Nuclear Giants to Brink of Collapse

Anti-Nuke Activists Fight to Close Diablo Canyon

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

This image of the Santa Monica Mountains in California shows how a north-facing slope (left) can be covered in white-blooming hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius), while the south-facing slope (right) is much less sparsely covered in a completely different plant. Noah Elhardt / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.5

By Mark Mancini

If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.

Read More Show Less
Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Aug. 12, 2020 in Lake Hughes, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

Read More Show Less
Although heat waves rarely get the attention that hurricanes do, they kill far more people per year in the U.S. and abroad. greenaperture / Getty Images

By Jeff Berardelli

Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020

If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.

Read More Show Less

A film by Felix Nuhr.

Thailand has a total population of 5,000 elephants. But of that number, 3,000 live in captivity, carrying tourists on their backs and offering photo opportunities made for social media.

Read More Show Less
Scientists have found a way to use bricks as batteries, meaning that buildings may one day be used to store and generate power. Public Domain Pictures

One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.

"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."

Aerial view of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama, where a new soil study was held, on Sept. 11, 2019. LUIS ACOSTA / AFP via Getty Images

One of the concerns about a warming planet is the feedback loop that will emerge. That is, as the planet warms, it will melt permafrost, which will release trapped carbon and lead to more warming and more melting. Now, a new study has shown that the feedback loop won't only happen in the nether regions of the north and south, but in the tropics as well, according to a new paper in Nature.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods speaks during a press conference after a shooting at Forest High School on April 20, 2018 in Ocala, Florida. Gerardo Mora / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

A sheriff in Florida is under fire for deciding Tuesday to ban his deputies from wearing face masks while on the job—ignoring the advice of public health experts about the safety measures that everyone should take during the coronavirus pandemic as well as the rising Covid-19 death toll in his county and state.

Read More Show Less