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Alternative Energy

100 Percent Wishful Thinking: The Green-Energy Cornucopia

100 Percent Wishful Thinking: The Green-Energy Cornucopia

  At the People’s Climate March back last spring, all along that vast river of people, the atmosphere was electric. But electricity was also the focus of too many of the signs and banners. Yes, here and there were solid “System Change, Not Climate Change” – themed signs and banners. But the bulk of slogans on display asserted or implied[Read More…]

India’s Coal Contradiction

India’s Coal Contradiction

The Indian economy is heavily dependent on coal. Infamous as the world’s fourth largest polluter, India’s current energy mix has an enormous proportion of coal. Close to 60 % of power supply is derived from coal fuelled power plants. Consequently, in 2016, half of the country’s emissions – 805.4 million tonnes – came from the power sector. However, for the[Read More…]

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Our Photovoltaic Future: The Metabolic Revolutions of the Earth’s History

Our Photovoltaic Future: The Metabolic Revolutions of the Earth’s History

Illustration from the recent paper by Olivia Judson on “Nature Ecology & Evolution (2017) “The Energy Expansions of Evolution”.  Olivia Judson published a very interesting paper this March on “Nature Ecology & Evolution“. It is a wonderful cavalcade along 4 billion years of the history of the Earth, seeing it in terms of five “metabolic revolutions.” It is an approach that goes in[Read More…]

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Potential For The Growth Of Renewable Energy In India

Potential For The Growth Of Renewable Energy In India

Scientists unanimously agree that massive quantities of greenhouse gases released from combustion of fossil fuels are primarily responsible for global warming and have unleashed an internecine cycle of melting polar ice and thawing permafrost which greenhouse gases and further warm up the earth’s temperature. They warn that the present fossil fuel based economy is unsustainable and if efforts are not[Read More…]

The Global Crisis and Role of So-Called Renewable Energies in Solving It

The Global Crisis and Role of So-Called Renewable Energies in Solving It

Aspects and Causes of the Crisis The climate crisis is only one aspect of the global crisis. Yet, generally speaking, Western governments, media, politicians, NGOs, and publicists have been trying to make us believe that it is the only dangerous and the only global crisis. It appears that for them all other crises in the world are only partial or regional problems of secondary[Read More…]

Does Renewables Hold The Answer To Rural?  

Does Renewables Hold The Answer To Rural?  

   “Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability”.[1] This is how ex- Secretary General Ban Ki Moon described energy in an event address at Washington DC.  This single statement reflects how access to energy can be vital in bringing positive change to lives especially for the marginalized. Studies have shown a strong correlation[Read More…]

Pankaj Rajpal's solar Rooftop in New Delhi

Why Is India Lagging Behind In Tapping Solar Power?

Two emails come in simultaneously into my email box. One almost chortling that California breaks energy record with 80% of state’s power generated using renewable methods. The Golden State generated 67% of its energy from renewables in one day. I stare at the text, truly amazed at California’s drive to get clean. Meanwhile, the second email which is a Greenpeace[Read More…]

Energy cooperative from the US, Touchstone Energy (http://www.touchstoneenergy.com/) Photo by David Ingram CC-BY-NC2.0

Is Renewable Energy A Commons?

How relocating energy in the commons helps scaling-up renewables & saving energy Is energy a mere commodity, or is it a common good? Why is this relevant in the first place? Here we look at why energy is part of our commons, from the sources to the product itself. In a second time, we will see that relocating energy in[Read More…]

Why EROEI Matters: The Role Of Net Energy In The Survival Of Civilization

Why EROEI Matters: The Role Of Net Energy In The Survival Of Civilization

A lively debate is ongoing on what should be the minimum energy return for energy invested (EROEI) in order to sustain a civilization. Clearly, one always wants the best returns for one’s investments. And, of course, investing in something that provides a return smaller than the investment is a bad idea. So, a civilization grows and prosper on the net[Read More…]

UK Wind Generated More Electricity Than Coal In 2016

UK Wind Generated More Electricity Than Coal In 2016

The milestone is a first for the UK and reflects a collapse in coal generation, which contributed just 9.2% of UK electricity last year, with 11.5% from wind. The coal decline saw its output fall to the lowest level since 1935. It also means CO2 emissions from UK power generation will have fallen by around 20% in 2016, as coal was largely[Read More…]

Carbon Capture Finally Cracked? Why You Can’t Fight Climate Change With Coke or Pepsi

Carbon Capture Finally Cracked? Why You Can’t Fight Climate Change With Coke or Pepsi

Some time ago, I found myself trying to explain to a journalist why I opposed CO2 mining in Tuscany. I said something like, “it makes no sense that the regional government spends money to reduce CO2 emissions and, at the same time, allows this company to extract CO2 that, otherwise, would stay underground.” “But”, the journalist said, “I have interviewed[Read More…]

How Have The IEA’s Renewable Forecasts Changed?

How Have The IEA’s Renewable Forecasts Changed?

Renewable energy capacity is growing more rapidly than expected, says the International Energy Agency (IEA), overtaking coal for the first time. The IEA also says it has “significantly increased” its forecasts for the growth of renewable capacity over the next five years. Yet its forecasts continue to show future growth slowing down. Carbon Brief looks at the latest IEA renewable[Read More…]

Renewables Just Passed Coal As The Largest Source Of New Electricity Worldwide

Renewables Just Passed Coal As The Largest Source Of New Electricity Worldwide

It’s been a long run, coal, but your reign is over. Renewable energy sources have passed coal as the largest new source of electricity in the world, according data released Tuesday by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The transition of the world’s energy sources is critical for avoiding a 2°C rise in global temperatures. Coal, for instance, represented about a[Read More…]

The Mother Of All Promises And How Science Failed To Maintain It

The Mother Of All Promises And How Science Failed To Maintain It

In the 1950s, during the high times of the “atomic age”, someone had the unfortunate idea of claiming that nuclear technologies would give us, one day, “energy too cheap to meter.” We might call it “the mother of all promises” and, of course, it was not maintained. But, as propaganda often does, it stuck in people’s minds and it seems[Read More…]

Demonising Wind Energy In Australia: The South Australian Blackout

Demonising Wind Energy In Australia: The South Australian Blackout

From the time when energy became a state ambition and the central, almost paranoid platform of security, its messiness became apparent.  Energy reserves needed to be controlled; corrupt regimes with access to such resources needed to be placated, or, if not, overthrown and replaced by compliant puppet governments.  The world of energy is one governed by invasion, acquisitive brutality and[Read More…]

400 ppm CO2: The Case For Renewable Energy

400 ppm CO2: The Case For Renewable Energy

Scientists have reached a near unanimous agreement that the earth has entered a new geological era – anthropocene – characterised by human induced climate change. The resulting super floods, typhoons, and heat waves have caused several thousands of deaths in the past ten to fifteen years. However, climate change not only claims its victims through the occurrence of these mega[Read More…]

Kite surfing on the IJsselmeer lake, in the Netherlands; a picture that I took a couple of weeks ago. These are not kites for airborne wind energy (AWE) but, for some reason, Holland is the country where the idea of energy kites seems to be most popular; in particular because of the work of the late Wubbo Ockels (1946 – 2014), pioneer of wind energy. The technology is promising, but there is a long way to go before it will become a commercial reality.

An AWEsome Energy Source: Where Do We Stand With Airborne Wind Energy?

I have been following the development of airborne wind energy (AWE) for more than 10 years and I keep following it. This summer, I visited the campus of the Technical University of Delft, in Holland, where I met the people of “Enevate”, the university spinoff dedicated to kite power, a field in which the university of Delft has been active[Read More…]

Exploring The Gap Between Business-As-Usual And Utter Doom

Exploring The Gap Between Business-As-Usual And Utter Doom

Predicting the future is a fool’s errand, but everybody does it. As long as we’ve had language—for tens of thousands of years, at last estimate—we’ve been able to formulate the question, “What will tomorrow bring?” The answers have ranged from idyllic to hellish, though the reality has been, more often than not, “a lot like today.” Since the Industrial Revolution,[Read More…]

The Solar Transition

The Solar Transition

Although futurists aren’t supposed to make predictions, the notion that our energy system is switching much more quickly than expected from fossil fuels to renewables, and that solar energy will be at the front of that change, suddenly doesn’t seem so controversial. Of course, the speed of the change still matters, certainly in terms of global warming outcomes. And yet[Read More…]

Clean Energy Revolution In Philadelphia: A Photo Essay

Clean Energy Revolution In Philadelphia: A Photo Essay

On Sunday, July 24, a day before the opening of the Democratic National Convention amid turmoil in Philadelphia, the U.S. climate justice movement seized the moment to convene and march in large numbers for a clean energy revolution. Despite sweltering temperatures exceeding 95 degrees (an uncomfortable irony lost on no one), as many as 10,000 people or more demanded a[Read More…]

Clean Solar Energy, Brings Light To Kenya’s Villages

Clean Solar Energy, Brings Light To Kenya’s Villages

Picture a small village somewhere in rural Kenya. Darkness has fallen and there is no light to even go to the fields to relieve yourself. The only succour are kerosene lanterns, that are proven health hazard for the people living in the home. It was several years ago when UNEP, Nairobi, took us selected journalists from around the world to[Read More…]

 Hooked! The Unyielding Grip Of Fossil Fuels On Global Life

 Hooked! The Unyielding Grip Of Fossil Fuels On Global Life

Here’s the good news: wind power, solar power, and other renewable forms of energy are expanding far more quickly than anyone expected, ensuring that these systems will provide an ever-increasing share of our future energy supply.  According to the most recent projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy, global consumption of wind, solar, hydropower,[Read More…]

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Lessons Along The Path To 100 Percent Clean Energy

Lessons Along The Path To 100 Percent Clean Energy

In early May of this year, Portugal ran on renewable electricity alone for four consecutive days. And later that same month, on May 15, Germany filled almost all its electricity needs with solar, wind, and hydro power. This is good news: it tells us we’re making progress toward a zero-carbon energy system. But it also helps us see the challenges to a full renewable[Read More…]

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Renewable Electricity: Falling Costs, Variability, And Scaling Challenges

Renewable Electricity: Falling Costs, Variability, And Scaling Challenges

Costs to utility companies from the introduction of distributed solar PV are somewhat balanced by the fact that added solar capacity helps reduce the strain on electric grids on summer days when demand soars and utilities must buy additional power at high rates. Nevertheless, as more residential and business customers install their own PV systems, revenues to the utility industry are starting to decline.[72] Industry-sponsored studies warn that the trend could eventually lead to a radical transformation of energy markets, on a scale similar to the restructuring of the telecommunications industry following the advent of the Internet and cell phones.

Photo-Voltaics Is Not An Energy Sink In Switzerland

Photo-Voltaics Is Not An Energy Sink In Switzerland

Energy Policy recently published a study conducted on the EROEI of Photo-Voltaics (PV) technologies installed in Switzerland. The end result is a remarkably low figure of 0.8:1, well below any EROEI assessments ever conducted on this energy technology. Such a figure naturally made the delight of those campaigning against renewable energy, who take at face value any hints of negative[Read More…]

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The Real EROI Of Photovoltaic Systems: Professor Charles Hall Weighs In

The Real EROI Of Photovoltaic Systems: Professor Charles Hall Weighs In

Charles Hall is known for his multiple and important contributions in the field of sustainability, and in particular for having introduced the concept of Energy Return on Energy Investment, EROI or EROEI. He is now emeritus and still active in research; among other things as chief editor of the new Springer journal: “Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality, BERQ. Here, he[Read More…]

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A 100% Renewable World Is Possible? A Poll Among Experts

A 100% Renewable World Is Possible? A Poll Among Experts

I am reporting here the results of a small survey that I carried out last week among the members of a discussion forum; mainly experts in renewable energy (*). It was a very informal poll; not meant to have statistical value. But some 70 people responded out of a total of 167 members; so I think these results have a[Read More…]

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Why Joe The Plumber Doesn’t Want Renewable Energy

Why Joe The Plumber Doesn’t Want Renewable Energy

Joe the plumber is a real person, but also an abstraction for the troubled American blue collar worker. In a previous post, I argued that a global transition to 100% renewable energy would be very expensive, but possible and that it could also be fast enough to avoid exceeding the emission targets set by the COP21. This opinion triggered the[Read More…]

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Renewable Energy

Our Renewable Future

Ed. note: This is the introduction to Richard Heinberg’s and David Fridley’s new book, Our Renewable Future, now available from Island Press. Post Carbon Institute’s companion website, ourrenewablefuture.org has also just been launched.The book is available to order and also to read on the website as a complete set of online chapters. By Richard Heinberg & David Fridley The next[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Alternative Energy, Counter Solutions
Tiptoeing Through The Renewable Energy Minefield

Tiptoeing Through The Renewable Energy Minefield

I spent the last year working with co-author David Fridley and Post Carbon Institute staff on a just-published book, Our Renewable Future. The process was a pleasure: everyone involved (including the twenty or so experts we interviewed or consulted) was delightful to work with, and I personally learned an enormous amount along the way. But we also encountered a prickly[Read More…]

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But What’s The REAL Energy Return Of Photovoltaic Energy?

But What’s The REAL Energy Return Of Photovoltaic Energy?

Some time ago, a colleague of mine told me the story of when he had been in charge of the installation ofone of the first photovoltaic plants in Italy, in 1984 (shown in the figure, on the right). He told me that, shortly after the installation, a high-ranking politician came to visit the plant. As a demonstration, my colleague connected[Read More…]

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