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Renew your energy: May 2013 Archives

I have just finished writing a new book entitled 'Renewables', which should be out later this year. It looks at the state of play around the world, drawing in part on this Blog. There is a lot of technological progress to report, and lot of inspiring plans. Some renewables are already competitive with conventional sources in some locations, and many more may well be soon. The down side is that, despite good progress, globally the climate policy picture is still grim. The use of coal is expanding, undermining emission reductions. In the absence of tight, globally agreed, emissions targets, market trading arrangements like the EU Emission Trading System are not very effective. Indeed the EU-ETS seems to be near collapse, with carbon credits trading at 2.6 euro/tonne.

Fortunately the feed in tariff approach seems to be spreading, and that is much more effective, as I report in my new book. Soon we should have 300GW of wind in use globally and we have just passed 100 GW of PV solar, with FiTs helping a lot. The retreat from nuclear in some countries is also helping, although the nuclear v renewables issue continues to rumble on, and I have covered it briefly in the new book. The simple point is that most renewables are getting cheaper, moving down their learning curves well, while nuclear is displaying a negative leaning curve,with costs rising. In parallel, the Energy Return on Energy invested (EROEI) ratio for nuclear is low (around 15:1) and is likely to fall as uranium ore grades decline (maybe to 5:1 or less) while the EROEI's for renewables are all higher and improving (pv solar up to 20:1, CSP 40:1, wind up to 80:1,hydro 200:1 or more).

Renewables do have their problems (e.g they are mostly diffuse and variable) and much of the new book looks at how they might be overcome. It covers grid integration issues, supergrid links, and so on. I hope I have managed to get the balance right, being realistic about what can be done, while still conveying a positive message.

I will be interested in reactions.

(A short blog this week, as I'm on holiday in Spain)