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Coal companies told to get used to wind and solar

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PV Magazine

Coal and renewable energy executives at climate conference in Paris clash over future energy mix as value of storage brought to the fore.

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Leading executives from the solar and wind industries went on the offensive this week at a climate conference in Paris, telling coal executives that renewable energy is the future, and that they had better get used to it.

Responding to comments from Tony Hayward – chairman of mining company Glencore – that “solar is not the answer to broad scale industrialization”, SkyPower chief executive Kerry Adler retorted: “Solar is the new world. You’ve got to get used to it.”

The power executives were attending a Paris business summit on climate change, six months prior to November’s highly anticipated UN conference on global climate change, which is set to be represented by 200 countries.

Glencore’s Hayward told the audience that it is simply not possible to remove coal from the energy mix, particularly in growing countries such as India, which will require a steady, reliable power supply if the economy is to reach its potential. To that, SkyPower’s Adler pointed to the falling costs of storage, arguing that solar and wind could “easily supply” large amounts of cheap and reliable power to countries like India.

Adler’s stance was backed by the chief executive of Acciona group, Jose Manuel Entrencanales Domecq, who remarked that it was “absolutely possible for renewable to provide baseload electricity in emerging markets” provided electricity grids were properly integrated.

The coal industry is evidently feeling the pinch as the world continues its slow but noticeable pivot away from fossil fuels. Hayward said that coal is the best choice for meeting the power needs of countries such as China and India right now, adding that wealthier countries must help developing nations transition from polluting to clean technology.

“Unless what we deploy allows China and India to complete their industrialization in a different way to the way we industrialized then we are simply shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said.

Rachel Kyte, a climate envoy for the World Bank, revealed that China is hoping to have in place a national emissions trading system by next year – a development that could potentially prompt many other countries to follow suit.

A report by the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) published earlier this week revealed that solar PV is the largest employer within the renewables sector, with more than 2.5 million people working in the industry, and that renewables now employ 7.7 million people worldwide – an 18% increase in the space of one year.

This article was first published at PV Magazine. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • Renewable energy is the energy of the future but it is not yet ready to “cover” the electrical load for America.
    Until it can carry the load, America still needs electricity produced by fossil fuels.

    The problem with fossil fuel being used to create electricity is the exhaust of these combusted fossil fuels. They are bad for our atmosphere. This combusted exhaust is what is creating the effects of Climate Change.

    What is needed is this combusted exhaust needs to be given a purpose. It is no longer just wasted energy.
    In this combusted exhaust is a whole lot of Heat Energy. This heat energy needs to be removed / Recovered and utilized. Vent instead Cool Exhaust.
    In this combusted exhaust is a lot of CO2. This CO2 needs to be Transformed into useful – saleable products.
    In this combusted exhaust with the heat energy removed is a Lot of Water and this water needs to be Collected as it is becoming a precious commodity.

    The coal industry needs to embrace this Heat and Carbon Capture Utilization technology.
    America still needs coal to provide us with electricity if we are going to continue to live the life styles we are accustomed to.
    Remove coal and give it to natural gas, where will natural gas pricing go?
    We have so much coal yet available. It needs to be combusted so clean that there are No chimneys at these power plants.

    The exhaust has been given a purpose!

    • Mike333

      Solar will be cheaper then current electric generation in All US Cities in less then 3 years. If the coal industry doesn’t change now they might as well declare bankruptcy now.

    • Ian

      Coal is carbon. Once it is burnt, it cannot be unburnt without expending a lot more energy. Trees and algae do this for free, but the ones we have got can barely cope with all the air we breath out let alone the exhaust from coal power stations, cars, planes and ships. If you want to store or sequester carbon you have got to do that before it is burnt. In other words: leave it in the ground. You can’t begin to imagine how difficult it is to dispose of all that gas made from even one lump of coal let alone railway trucks full of it. The coal producers and power station operators have plenty of very clever people working for them to talk on their behalf without needing little people like ourselves to do that for them. The pretty little polar bears and sea corals have hardly anyone to talk for them and need all the help they can get.

    • JonathanMaddox

      The heat energy from combustion is peanuts. The real problem is the additional *solar* heat energy which will be trapped on Earth by the carbon dioxide from combustion. The amount of energy in sunlight reaching the Earth dwarfs humanity’s industrial and private energy consumption by a factor of ten thousand to one.

      The idea of using waste heat and CO₂ from power stations to grow plants is not a new one, and it *can* work for profitable horticulture (think tomato tunnels) but it’s not going to do much to sequester additional carbon dioxide. Plants already get all the CO₂ they need directly from the small concentrations in ambient air, the fertilisation effect of increased CO₂ levels in the air or in a greenhouse is basically nonexistent except in the very rare cases where carbon dioxide availability is actually the limiting factor for plant productivity (in the sense of Liebig’s minimum) for plant productivity. Usually it’s not: water, fixed nitrogen, phosphates, soil structure and pH, soil microfauna, trace minerals, sunlight, pests, competing plants and temperature are all vastly more important. In some cases where there’s an equilibrium between different types of competing plants a small change in CO₂ concentrations can tip the balance between them, but it does not significantly change overall photosynthetic productivity.

      Post-combustion carbon dioxide capture by technological rather than horticultural means is definitely possible, but it is a pure cost sink. In a few places it has been done essentially altruistically to prove the concept, as in reinjection of CO₂ which was being separated anyway from natural gas, into depleted gas fields in Algeria and in the North Sea. In a few more places where a paying commercial purpose for the carbon dioxide such as enhanced oil recovery can be found, but the consequence of EOR is increased fossil fuel production which rather negates the point of capturing the emissions. The fossil fuel industry has taken essentially no interest in reducing overall emissions and has really only paid lip service to carbon capture technology — because they know it can’t be done profitably.

      What *can* be done profitably is obtaining energy from sources other than carbon-based fossil fuels. Solar energy arrives at the Earth at ten thousand times the rate that humans consume energy industrially. Much of that energy is dissipated in the form of what we call “the weather”, driving the wind and hydrological cycles. Ultimately almost all of it leaves the Earth again, radiating away into space, but leaving us cosy and warm under our atmospheric blanket — too warm, if we add too much extra greenhouse gas to it. Tapping into a tiny fraction of that enormous flux of solar energy can provide all our industrial energy needs on Earth for the lifetime of the Earth and the Sun. Even in the relatively short term it’s easy to see that fossil fuels need provide none at all.

    • neroden

      The only reason we haven’t covered US electrical load with solar is a limit on how fast solar panels can be manufactured.