University of Southampton gives us an idea of the current situation through this article on Solar and wind energy sites mapped globally for the first time.
Researchers at the University of Southampton have mapped the global locations of major renewable energy sites, providing a valuable resource to help assess their potential environmental impact.
Their study, published in the Nature journal Scientific Data, shows where solar and wind farms are based around the world—demonstrating both their infrastructure density in different regions and approximate power output. It is the first ever global, open-access dataset of wind and solar power generating sites.
The estimated share of renewable energy in global electricity generation was more than 26 per cent by the end of 2018 and solar panels and wind turbines are by far the biggest drivers of a rapid increase in renewables. Despite this, until now, little has been known about the geographic spread of wind and solar farms and very little accessible data exists.
Lead researcher and Southampton Ph.D. student Sebastian Dunnett explains: “While global land planners are promising more of the planet’s limited space to wind and solar energy, governments are struggling to maintain geospatial information on the rapid expansion of renewables. Most existing studies use land suitability and socioeconomic data to estimate the geographical spread of such technologies, but we hope our study will provide more robust publicly available data.”
While bringing many environmental benefits, solar and wind energy can also have an adverse effect locally on ecology and wildlife. The researchers hope that by accurately mapping the development of farms they can provide an insight into the footprint of renewable energy on vulnerable ecosystems and help planners assess such effects.
The study authors used data from OpenStreetMap (OSM), an open-access, collaborative global mapping project. They extracted grouped data records tagged ‘solar’ or ‘wind’ and then cross-referenced these with select national datasets in order to get a best estimate of power capacity and create their own maps of solar and wind energy sites. The data show Europe, North America and East Asia’s dominance of the renewable energy sector, and results correlate extremely well with official independent statistics of the renewable energy capacity of countries.
Study supervisor, Professor Felix Eigenbrod of Geography and Environmental Science at the Southampton comments: “This study represents a real milestone in our understanding of where the global green energy revolution is occurring. It should be an invaluable resource for researchers for years to come, as we have designed it so it can be updated with the latest information at any point to allow for changes in what is a quickly expanding industry.”
Renewable electricity may be only source to withstand biggest shock in 70 years because as reported by Jillian Ambrose Energy correspondent of The Guardian of April 30, 2020, Covid-19 crisis will wipe out demand for fossil fuels, says IEA.
Renewable electricity will be the only source resilient to the biggest global energy shock in 70 years triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the world’s energy watchdog.
The International Energy Agency said the outbreak of Covid-19 would wipe out demand for fossil fuels by prompting a collapse in energy demand seven times greater than the slump caused by the global financial crisis.
The steady rise of renewable energy combined with the collapse in demand for fossil fuels means clean electricity will play its largest ever role in the global energy system this year, and help erase a decade’s growth of global carbon emissions.
Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “The plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard of slump in electricity use.”
Demand for gas is expected to fall by 5%, after a decade of uninterrupted growth. It is the steepest drop since gas became widely used as an energy source in the second half of the previous century.
Coal demand is forecast to fall by 8% compared with 2019, its largest decline since the end of the second world war.
The Paris-based energy authority used data from every country and across each energy sector to analyse the impact of the pandemic on the global system.
It found that global energy demand was likely to plummet by 6% this year, the equivalent of losing the entire energy demand of India – the world’s third largest energy consumer – or the combined energy demand of France, Germany, Italy and the UK.
The impact of the pandemic on energy use will be more keenly felt in advanced economies where demand is expected to fall by 11% across the EU and 9% across the US.
The collapse of fossil fuel demand could lead global emissions to fall by 8% compared with 2019, a drop six times larger than the record fall after the financial crisis in 2009 to lows not seen in the past decade.
Study: Middle Eastern Countries Would Save Money by Ditching Fossil Fuels in Power Mix
More renewables and transmission lines would save MENA countries money. (Credit: Total)
Abandoning fossil fuels for electricity generation by 2030 would save money for countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to new research into renewable energy in the area.
A feasibility study of 100 percent renewable electricity systems across MENA found that relinquishing fossil fuels in favor of generation based mainly on solar and wind could help cut costs by between 55 percent and 69 percent compared to a business-as-usual scenario. The study, published last month in Energy Strategy Reviews, is believed to be the first to look at how renewable energy generation might meet hourly loads across MENA.
The study looks at several scenarios, including establishing fully renewable electricity grids independently in most MENA countries, or having the whole area interconnected by high voltage DC transmission links.
A third scenario looks at the effect of adding loads from seawater desalination and the industrial gas sector onto a MENA-wide interconnected electricity system.
The researchers estimated the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) arising from fully renewable electricity systems would vary between €40.30 and €52.80 ($43.53 and $57.04) per megawatt-hour, depending on the scenario. The estimated business-as-usual LCOE is €118.60 per megawatt-hour, and that’s without including the cost of greenhouse gas emissions.
Unsurprisingly, the most expensive scenario was the one without interconnections between countries. Evening out supply and demand with a MENA-wide transmission network would cut LCOE from €52.80 down to €48.30 ($52.16) per megawatt-hour, the study found.
Importantly, though, the research also showed that coupling the desalination and industrial gas sectors to renewable energy generation could cut LCOE even further, reducing it by 17 percent compared to simply having an interconnected grid.
The integration would be achieved using power-to-gas technology, with 90 percent of electrical energy generation coming from onshore wind and large-scale PV.
“Power-to-gas technology not only functions as a seasonal storage by storing surplus electricity produced mainly from wind power and partially from solar PV but provides also the required gas for the non-energetic industrial gas sector,” said the study.
Middle East solar energy prices continue to fall
The research poses interesting questions for MENA policymakers. While the lowest LCOE can be achieved by interlinking nations and integrating their industrial operations, going down this route could be challenging in practice given the fragile geopolitics of the region.
It would also require by far the highest level of capital investment: almost €1.9 trillion ($2 trillion), compared to €908 billion ($981 billion) for a MENA-wide electrical grid and €962 billion ($1 trillion) for each country to have its own renewable energy supply.
Based on International Monetary Fund data, this investment would equate to 60 percent, 29 percent and 31 percent of total MENA gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, respectively.
However, said lead author Arman Aghahosseini, of Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology in Finland, given an average energy infrastructure lifetime of around 30 years the annual capital expenditure required under any scenario would likely be only 1 percent or 2 percent of GDP.
This “seems to be very well affordable,” said Aghahosseini. “Of course, we agree that tackling the geopolitical issues is not so easy and implementing such a project [with full integration] requires significant cooperation and solidarity between the countries.”
The study’s LCOE figures do not seem far-fetched in view of pricing seen in recent MENA solar auctions.
Four countries in the area were already seeing solar bids of less than $25 per megawatt-hour last year before Dubai attracted a $17-per-megawatt-hour bid for the next phase of its Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
And in January, Qatar claimed to have gone even lower, without disclosing figures. Despite this, some observers remain cautious about accepting studies that claim to show how regions can achieve full decarbonization of the electricity system.
Noting that many places, including a growing number of U.S. states, now have 100 percent renewable targets for the electricity sector, Menlo Energy Economics president Fereidoon Sioshansi said: “I think you start getting into problems at 50 percent.”
A study last year by Energy and Environmental Economics for Calpine Corporation in the U.S. had shown that balancing variable loads with intermittent renewable energy supplies became prohibitively challenging and expensive at penetrations beyond 85 percent, Sioshansi said.
“Moving towards 100 percent is a good idea, but getting to actual 100 percent doesn’t really make sense,” he said.
Sustainability Times in its Economic development and energy in the age of climate change elaborates on how the times are changing and all we need to do is to do away with anything that is unethical or morally ambiguous. Anthonie Cilliers, author of the article tells how.
April 25, 2020
Over the last 140 years, burning coal for electricity generation has provided the backbone of economic development, supporting industrialization and becoming the backbone of an exponential improvement in the quality of life. Just more than a 100 years ago, the discovery of oil in the Middle East has resulted in similar advances in quality of life as well as accumulation of wealth, and supports now the world economy to such an extent that seems virtually impossible to break our dependence on it.
Of course, this fossil-fuel based economic growth was made possible by the 2 to 3.5-fold increase in energy density compared to burning wood for our energy needs. Subsequent economic development has enabled people in developed countries to afford being more environmentally conscious – and that is a good thing. However, large parts of the world have been left out of this massive development: wealth gaps have grown to such an extent that countries in Africa and many in Asia will remain dependent on support from developed countries. In fact, energy poverty is the largest limiting factor to economic growth facing the developing world today.
If that was the only challenge facing the developing world today, it would have been relatively simple to overcome. But with all the advances that came from the use of fossil fuels came hefty impacts on the environment, including ocean acidification and changes in climate that have resulted in more arid regions, especially in Africa. The world needs to break its reliance on fossil fuels at the expense of the developing world – no doubt a tough pill to swallow.
How can we overcome fossil fuel reliance?
Luckily, several solutions to these problems have been developed over the last few decades. Renewable energy, spearheaded by wind and solar, have shown some promise. A drawback is that these represent a major step back in energy density, and even if harvesting the energy from wind and solar has developed into an exact science, they remain the most resource-intensive sources of energy per unit. Add to this the issue of intermittency, and we’re left with a climate conundrum – the availability of clean dispatchable energy sources to support intermittent energy sources are limited to only two: large-scale hydro, and nuclear power, neither without its own challenges.
While the use of hydropower is limited geographically to countries with large river systems that flow year-round, nuclear power is the only all-round viable low carbon dispatchable energy solution – but it’s struggling to get real momentum behind it in the drive to carbon neutrality. One of the main reasons for this are economic, given that conventional nuclear power plants (NPPs) are large in size and therefore require lots of capital to plan and construct. The significant price tag is often limiting the appetite of private capital to invest in these plants. NPP also take long to build, costing money and accumulating interest during construction.
The nuclear option
These factors are undeniable, but a singular focus on them distorts how these costs level out in the long-run, which make nuclear in fact a viable option. For example, pressurized water reactors are big, but also produce output between 1000MW to 1650MW electrical, per reactor. Important to note here is that they can sustain this output for decades, as reactor design life is typically 60 years, with an option to extend to 80 years.
As a result, the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) over the NPP’s life are in actuality quite low and very competitive. For this reason, nuclear power has been more successful within long term government programmes to support economic growth. The long plant life also means that once a large build programme, such as what happened in the US and France, is complete, new installations become few and far between.
Because of the large capital investment, and the low variable cost of operations, nuclear plants are most cost effective when they can run all the time to provide a return on the investment. Hence, plant operators now consistently achieve 92 percent capacity factor (average power produced of maximum capacity). The higher the capacity factor, the lower the cost per unit of electricity.
Unfortunately, with electricity grids utilizing more intermittent solar and wind, maintaining a high capacity factor becomes a challenge. Intermittent sources displace power produced by other sources when they come online, forcing NPPs to ramp down. The cost of that unserved energy often makes nuclear power artificially uneconomical on high penetration intermittent grids.
Considering the generally positive long-term cost calculation, a number of countries in the Middle East, North Africa region (MENA), including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, have expressed strong interest in nuclear power. These countries have been willing to (partially) support the large capital outlay required for NPPS, and either already possess or have the ability to set up the grid infrastructure to support them.
Planning is key
That leaves the planning for a cost-effective realization of the technology. Here, the correct and accurate cost assumptions are key: consistent operation at around 92% needs to be ensured, that is, their capacity should not be changed by adding intermittent power to the grid. Only then can long-term reliable electricity that reduces in cost over time in nominal terms be realised.
Finally, the cost of capital needs to be reflective of the real world. A good discount rate to assume for funding nuclear power plants is around 3 percent. This rate rewards longer plant lives and does not penalize longer construction delays. If overnight cost of $6000/kW can be secured, over 60 years at a discount rate of 3 percent, no low carbon dispatchable energy source will match the cost effectiveness of nuclear power.
Considering the massive challenges ahead of us, nuclear power deserves a seat at the clean energy table. Now that the UAE, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, China and India are in the process of building and commissioning new NPPs, we can expect to see massive drops in CO2-emissions for each unit coming online – not to mention the benefits of the socio-economic injection coming from embarking on these mega-projects. It is now time to up the game if we hope to reduce global reliance on fossil fuels.
Sustainability Times on April 15, 2020, delivered some thoughts on how MENA is pondering its energy options. A good example is that after several years of hesitation, Algeria and Germany have finally reached an agreement to promote the gigantic Desertec project, aimed at making North Africa and the Middle East full of sunshine, vast reservoirs of energy. The aim is to provide Europe with no less than 17% of its energy needs from this inexhaustible source.
Until not that long ago, the energy needs of most countries in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) were relatively modest. That’s no longer the case. Rapid economic development and robust population growth across this up-and-coming region have caused energy needs to increase greatly.
Growing demand for air conditioning and desalination, as well as industrial expansion, is especially driving local energy needs. The Arab Petroleum Investment Corporation has estimated that the MENA region will need to expand capacity at 7.4% on average annually, adding 138GW in total. Even as demand for electricity is growing, however, the region’s nations are seeking to wean themselves off fossil fuels in a bid to mitigate the effects of climate change, which is expected to have a marked impact on the environment in an already hot and arid region.
Per capita carbon emissions in Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have been among the highest in the world. Therefore, low-carbon energy sources will be vital and renewables, especially solar, could provide much of the region’s electricity thanks to the ready availability of sunshine all year round. Yet some energy experts stress that enhancing the supply and security of domestic electricity generation can’t be done with renewables alone owing to their inherently intermittent nature. Thus, the diversification of the energy sector will be key to economic stability and prosperity across the region.
Advanced nuclear technology is increasingly seen as a viable alternative to fossil fuels to complement solar and wind in the energy mix. In contrast to the low power density and unit power of renewable energy sources, nuclear offers a means to add significant capacity at speed while not compromising the dependability of supply. For nuclear to come into its own in MENA, however, local governments will need to create favorable market conditions to reap its benefits. The technology requires initial investments that are steep, yet over time nuclear power, if handled well, can be a viable investment. Studies have shown that the system costs of nuclear decrease with a higher market share whereas those of renewables tend to increase.
Still, “It would be too simplistic to pretend that you can compare all system costs and lifecycle costs for these two technologies, particularly as both renewables and nuclear have benefitted one way or another from massive government support in their early days, and both have different roles on the merit curve,” stresses Dr Leila Benali, who is a member of Morocco’s Royal Special Committee for the Development Model, as well as Chief Economist and Head of Strategy at APICORP.
“Over the next 10 years, the massive deployment of grid-scale storage solutions might totally change the current dynamic, particularly in a lower demand growth environment,” she adds.
As matters stand now, however, several nations in the MENA region are seeking to take advantage of the benefits of nuclear technology for electricity generation with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of planned investment. Turkey is leading the way by developing the country’s first nuclear power plant in Akkuyu in collaboration with Russia’s state-owned Rosatom energy company. The construction of the plant’s first unit will be finished in 2023 and Ankara is planning to install several more reactors in coming years.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates, a regional economic powerhouse, expects to meet nearly a quarter of its electricity needs with a new nuclear power plant, which is currently under construction in Abu Dhabi and will consist of four APR-1400 nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 5,600 MW. Jordan, too, is working on a commercial nuclear power plant with several helium-cooled small modular reactors, which is expected to be completed by the mid-2020s. Neighboring Saudi Arabia, which is home to a fifth of global oil reserves, is looking to build a number of reactors for energy generation. Several other nations in the region have expressed a similar desire to launch nuclear energy programs of their own.
Yet the financing of such ambitious nuclear projects in MENA will need to be done judiciously. In November 2015, Russia and Egypt signed an intergovernmental agreement to finance the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant. According to the plan Russia would cover 85% of project costs to the tune of $25 billion via a state-backed loan while Egypt would provide the rest via private investments.
A larger role for private financing behind new nuclear has been described as a potential model for the region – and not just for power generation. “It is true that private financing has historically been missed in nuclear power,” Benali says. “One interesting trend in the region could be nuclear for desalination and that could be an area where private capital could be much more active if we see a few projects developing in the region,” she explains.
Ultimately, Benali says, nuclear technology will require not only economic but some societal changes as well. “Given the large share of youth in several countries in the region where they account for more than 70 per cent of the population, the most relevant angle should be R&D-related,” Benali says. “Equally important should be the inducing of a virtuous cycle of attendant technological research related to nuclear with applications extending beyond nuclear power,” she adds. “These should include medical use and desalination projects.”
However, it is clear that the region’s countries will have their work cut out for them if they are to exploit nuclear power technology in a safe and dependable manner. “The main requirements on nuclear cooperation and safeguards on enrichment and nuclear fuel recycling are key [if the region’s countries want] to introduce nuclear,” Benali stresses.
Put simply, Asia is the main source of solar technology and demand for it seems to be however tumbling everywhere as confined resistance to the pandemic is hampering its dynamics. It remains that all renewables account for something like 26 percent of all capacity expansion in the Middle East region. As an exception amongst the most engaged would be Egypt. This emerging economy bets big on Solar as elaborated on by Oxford Business Group could be indicative of all that is happening nowadays.
This Emerging Economy Bets Big On Solar
April 06, 2020
Egypt’s total of 1173 recorded Covid-19 cases and 78 deaths, as of April 5, places Africa’s third-most populous country significantly below the global per capita averages for both counts as the pandemic continues to disrupt the global economy.
However, as a result of the sharp growth in international cases and the gradual closing of national borders, in mid-March the government decided to implement travel restrictions.
Egyptian airports were closed to international flights on March 19 for an initial period of two weeks. This shutdown has since been extended to internal flights and will last until at least April 15.
Additionally, on March 25 the government announced a two-week curfew from 7pm to 6am, while pharmacies and food shops will be the only retail establishments allowed to open on weekends and past 5pm on weekdays. Restaurants may only open for deliveries.
Pre-emptive economic stimulus
As the potential economic fallout of the pandemic began to become clear, on March 22 President Abdel Fattah El Sisi announced a comprehensive LE100bn ($6.4bn) package of measures. This included a LE22bn ($1.4bn) stimulus to support the Egyptian Exchange, which should also benefit from a 50% reduction in taxes on the dividends of listed companies.
In addition, the Central Bank of Egypt announced a 3% interest rate cut in what it described as a “pre-emptive move” to support the wider economy.
In a further bid to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on key sectors, the government has committed to support exporters by allocating LE1bn ($63.5m) for export subsidies during March and April, and will furthermore postpone tax payments for three months on facilities and properties occupied by tourism companies.
Energy prices cut
Following the country’s IMF-backed reforms beginning in 2016, energy subsidies have been gradually removed, resulting in a projected price rise for both households and businesses into 2020.
However, in a bid to offset the impact of the pandemic on industrial output, on March 17 the government announced that the price of gas for industrial providers would be reduced from $5.50 to $4.50 per 1m British thermal units.
As part of the same package of measures, the government also announced that the price of electricity would be reduced for heavy industry consumption, from LE1.10 ($0.07) to LE0.10 ($0.006) per KWh. For other industries, the price is to be kept stable for between three and five years.
Boosting solar capacity
Against the current backdrop of challenging economic circumstances, on April 1 it was announced that the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) would provide funding for six new solar power plants at Benban Solar Park in the Aswan Governorate in Upper Egypt, one of the largest such installations in Africa.
The amount is guaranteed against the risk of currency inconvertibility and transfer restriction for up to 15 years. It is part of Egypt’s solar feed-in-tariff programme, which provides long-term contracts to private energy companies with a view to generating investment in renewable sources.
“In the face of uncertainty arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, MIGA remains committed to helping drive foreign direct investment (FDI) by supporting investors who are helping Egypt achieve its long-term goals of diversifying its energy mix,” Hiroshi Matano, executive vice-president of MIGA, said in a statement.
While the pandemic has caused a number of delays for the renewables segment, notably the postponement of the construction of four solar plants by domestic firm Inter Solar Egypt, the future bodes well for the expansion of the industry.
“In the current uncertain economic environment, solar energy has become popular, as it can be produced up to 80% more cheaply than other sources,” Yaseen Abdel-Ghaffar, Managing Director of SolarizEgypt and board member of The Solar Company, told OBG. “Although it was initially difficult to secure FDI for projects, banks are becoming increasingly receptive to renewables and a growth in financing is expected after regular economic conditions are re-established.”
Solar operations and maintenance company Alectris has completed a project to automate asset management activity at a photovoltaic plant in Jordan.
Alectris implemented the initiative at the 11.5MW facility with MASE, a solar O&M provider in the Middle East.
The partnership between Alectris and MASE aims to automate and standardise asset management activity across new solar projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
As solar development has increased in the MENA region, O&M and asset management has “struggled to keep pace”, limiting long-term productivity prospects, said Alectris.
The partnership began in 2016 with MASE responsible for field operations and maintenance services on location, while Alectris provided operations and “legacy expertise” in global asset care.
“Working together, both businesses successfully improved the bankability of the project, which was financed by key development finance institutions operating across the region,” said Alectris.
The initiative involved the integration of Alectris’ ACTIS software platform for solar PV plant asset management, with all data monitoring streams gathered under the single platform to “improve oversight” into project activity.
Alectris managing director Vassilis Papaeconomou said: “Solar development in the MENA region offers a significant opportunity to invest in clean energy projects.
“But if this market momentum is to be maintained, it is imperative that operating plants offer security and stability of financial returns. By partnering with MASE, we’ve been jointly able to combine the latest in asset management software with leading experience in services activity.
“This will ensure that project owners and investors benefit from enhanced and efficient performance reporting and operational management, saving time, reducing costs and ensuring the plant delivers at its optimum. As a result, the plant delivered above expectations with an excellent performance ratio and availability close to 100% over the last three years.”
MASE chief executive Tareq Khalifeh added: “Throughout this collaboration, Alectris have proved to be reliable, dedicated and experienced with a wealth of knowledge that has been indispensable when working in an exciting but challenging market.”
An international research group has analyzed the visual impact of PV facades on buildings which include crop cultivation. Architects, PV specialists and farmers were surveyed and the results showed broad acceptance of such projects. The ‘vertical farming’ survey generated suggestions for the design of productive facades. So here is Raising crops in PV facades of buildings by Emiliano Bellini.
The researchers conducted anonymous 10-minute, multiple-choice web surveys in English with 15 questions. The group also provided images of four variants of productive facade, with respondents asked to rate their architectural quality on a scale of one to five.
The questions addressed topics including the visual impact of PV modules and crops, preferences about the arrangement of PV modules and ease of operation for owners and workers. Around 80% of the 97 respondents were architects with the remainder engineers, PV specialists, productive facade experts, horticulturalists, solar facade professionals, consultants and other professionals.
The results indicated architects and designers gave low ratings to all four of the designs presented and rated the design of PV installation poor. However, respondents with experience in horticulture, farming and PV facades showed stronger acceptance of building-integrated productive facades. “All groups of experts agree that PFs have the most positive effect on the exterior facade design and have accordingly graded them with higher marks than the designs without PV and VF [vertical farming] systems,” the paper noted.
Concerns were expressed by almost all respondents about the logistics of crop cultivation and irrigation near electronic devices such as the vertical solar modules.
“Several comments recommended exploring more creative designs,” the researchers added.
The lowest rating – 2.84 – was given to a productive facade with only PV modules visible from the inside. The highest mark – 3.9 – was scored by the image in which only plants were visible.
Tips for developers
The study also generated recommendations for the improvement of productive facade prototypes. “It should be noted that the selection of elements for practical application cannot be made based on a single isolated PF element – the entire building should be considered, especially the aesthetic elements of the building envelope, such as composition, proportion, rhythm, transparency, scale, colors and materials,” the researchers stated.
The study’s authors recommended the installation of the PV systems on north and south-facing facades, with ceiling level a preferable location.
Tilt angles of less than 20 degrees were suggested as a better aesthetic solution which would also avoid reflection onto neighboring buildings. “However, a well-designed integration of the PV modules with the planter of the above storey provides additional advantages – it improves the quality of indoor daylight and obstructs the view from inside to a lesser degree,” the study stated.
The researchers added copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) panels were preferred to crystalline silicon modules, due to their more homogeneous structure.
Emiliano joined pv magazine in March 2017. He has been reporting on solar and renewable energy since 2009.
ABU DHABI, 1st February 2020 (WAM) — Making the UAE the first Arab country to deliver safe, clean and peaceful nuclear energy, Barakah is the first major national achievement this year.
Nawah Energy Company, the subsidiary of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, ENEC, responsible for the operation and maintenance of nuclear energy plants in the UAE, has confirmed that the World Association of Nuclear Operators, WANO, has cleared Unit 1 of Barakah as ready for start-up.
After it’s fully operational, the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant’s four Units will prevent the release of 21 million tons of harmful carbon emissions every year, equivalent to removing 3.2 million cars from the country’s roads on an annual basis.
Located in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi Emirate, approximately 53km west-southwest of the city of Ruwais, the plant’s four APR-1400 design nuclear reactors will also supply up to 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity needs in compliance with the highest standards of safety, security and operational performance.
The journey started in April 2008 with the issue of the Policy of the United Arab Emirates on the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy.
The Policy focuses on six key principles, which include the UAE’s commitment to complete operational transparency, pursuing the highest standards of non-proliferation and adhering to the highest standards of safety and security.
It also includes working directly with the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and conforming to its standards when evaluating and establishing a peaceful nuclear energy programme, developing any peaceful domestic nuclear energy capability in partnership with the governments and firms of responsible nations, as well with the assistance of appropriate expert organisations, and lastly approaching any peaceful domestic nuclear energy programme in a manner that best ensures long-term sustainability. The UAE programme has since been successfully developed in line with all of these principles and continues to uphold these going forward.
In 2009, the Korea Electric Power Corporation, KEPCO, which is the largest nuclear power corporation in South Korea, was selected as ENEC’s Prime Contractor for the development of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in the UAE.
KEPCO is one of the leading nuclear energy companies in the world in terms of safety, reliability and efficiency, as classified by WANO.
The UAE selected this company after a comprehensive year-long process conducted by a team of 75 international energy experts. The evaluation focused on several factors, most notably, safety and operational excellence. The APR1400 technology selected has since been certified by the US-based Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, highlighting the design’s strong safety and reliability characteristics.
In 2010, the environmental impact assessment and licensing requests for preliminary works were submitted, and approval was obtained from the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, FANR.
In March 2012, ENEC submitted a construction license application for Barakah’s Units three and four, and in May 2013, the safety nuclear concrete was poured for Unit 2 and the installation of major components had begun at Unit 1.
In October 2016, ENEC and KEPCO signed a Joint Venture agreement for a long-term partnership and cooperation for the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy programme.
Through the Joint Venture, Nawah Energy Company was established to operate and maintain the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.
ENEC and KEPCO also announced the establishment of Barakah One Company PJSC, another independent subsidiary owned by both companies, which represents the commercial and financial interests of the Barakah project.
Under the JV, KEPCO has an 18 percent stake in Nawah Energy Company and Barakah One Company, while ENEC owns the remaining 82 percent.
In November 2016, Barakah One Company signed the first nuclear energy Power Purchase Agreement with Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company, now the Emirates Water and Electricity Company, for the purchase of the electricity to be generated at Barakah.
The agreement establishes the contractual framework between the two entities for the sale of the safe, clean, efficient and reliable electricity produced at Barakah.
In March 2018, construction was completed of Barakah Unit 1, and the first batch of Reactor Operators, ROs, and Senior Reactor Operators, SROs, were certified to operate by FANR in July 2019.
Emirati citizens account for 60 percent of the employees in ENEC and its subsidiary companies, and the total number of reactor operators is 72, including 42 Emirati ROs and SROs.
In the past decade, the UAE has welcomed the IAEA and WANO to carry out more than 40 review and inspection missions.
The success of these missions and FANR’s stringent oversight has resulted in the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy programme being recognised as a role model for the development of a new civil nuclear energy programme and a global benchmark for a new-build nuclear energy project.WAM/Hazem Hussein
We all know that the world is undergoing an energy transformation, from a system based on fossil fuels to a system based on renewable energy,in order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the most serious impacts of a changing climate. This article however realistic it appears, could be understood as some sort of justification of the ineluctable surrender of the fossil fuel to its time penalty.
Jarand Rystad Jan 25, 2020
Existing fossil fuel power plants will play a pivotal role in enabling the full transition to a near-zero-carbon electricity system in many countries. How can such a surprising and perhaps counterintuitive conclusion be reached? The key word is intermittency, in reference to the wide fluctuations of energy supply associated with solar and wind. Even if these two sources are, to some degree, complementary (with more wind at night and during winter, complemented by more sun at daytime and during the summer), the combination still carries a high degree of intermittency.
In this analysis, we have used data from Germany from 2012 to 2019, and scaled this up to a near 100% renewable system – assuming that the total capacity will be 160 GW, or three times the average consumption. In this system, there will still be 28 days where solar and wind combined produce less than 30% of the consumption. This happens typically during high-pressure weather systems during the winter months from November to February.
Moreover, there will on average be two extreme periods per year, with up to three days in a row when sun and wind will deliver less than 10% of Germany’s total energy consumption. Even with adjustments to imports and consumption levels, the country would still need some 50 GW of power to avoid blackouts (with 72 hours at 50 GW equating to 3.6 TWh). Total water pumping capacity today is 7 GW over four hours or about 30 GWh. Assume this multiplies ten-fold by 2050, and assume that 45 million cars are battery electric vehicles with surplus capacity of 20 kWh each. This would deliver about 1.2 TWh in total, meaning the system would still need 2.4 TWh of power or a continuous load of 33 GW.
During these periods, restarting old gas-fired power plants could be an economically rational way to deliver the power needed to keep the nation running as usual. The carbon footprint of this would be small – probably less than the footprint associated with constructing gigantic battery facilities for those few extreme cases. Germany presently has 263 gas power plants, with a total capacity of 25 GW.
Thus, finding a way to maintain these plants for emergency back-up capacity could be an enabler for an energy future based around solar and wind power. Capacity pricing rather than price per kWh is probably one of the commercial changes needed. This is the same pricing model that most people also have for home internet services, and should thus not be too difficult to implement.
Indeed, per the above, USD 10 trillion of fossil fuel investment must be redirected towards energy transformation by 2030.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 12 January 2020 – The share of renewables in global power should more than double by 2030 to advance the global energy transformation, achieve sustainable development goals and a pathway to climate safety, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewable electricity should supply 57 per cent of global power by the end of the decade, up from 26 per cent today.
A new booklet 10 Years: Progress to Action, published for the 10th annual Assembly of IRENA, charts recent global advances and outlines the measures still needed to scale up renewables. The Agency’s data shows that annual renewable energy investment needs to double from around USD 330 billion today, to close to USD 750 billion to deploy renewable energy at the speed required. Much of the needed investment can be met by redirecting planned fossil fuel investment. Close to USD 10 trillion of non-renewables related energy investments are planned to 2030, risking stranded assets and increasing the likelihood of exceeding the world’s 1.5 degree carbon budget this decade.
“We have entered the decade of renewable energy action, a period in which the energy system will transform at unparalleled speed,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “To ensure this happens, we must urgently address the need for stronger enabling policies and a significant increase in investment over the next 10 years. Renewables hold the key to sustainable development and should be central to energy and economic planning all over the world.”
“Renewable energy solutions are affordable, readily available and deployable at scale,” continued Mr La Camera. “To advance a low-carbon future, IRENA will further promote knowledge exchange, strengthen partnerships and work with all stakeholders, from private sector leaders to policymakers, to catalyse action on the ground. We know it is possible,” he concluded, “but we must all move faster.”
Additional investments bring significant external cost savings, including minimising significant losses caused by climate change as a result of inaction. Savings could amount to between USD 1.6 trillion and USD 3.7 trillion annually by 2030, three to seven times higher than investment costs for the energy transformation.
Falling technology costs continue to strengthen the case for renewable energy. IRENA points out that solar PV costs have fallen by almost 90 per cent over the last 10 years and onshore wind turbine prices have fallen by up half in that period. By the end of this decade, solar PV and wind costs may consistently outcompete traditional energy. The two technologies could cover over a third of global power needs.
Renewables can become a vital tool in closing the energy access gap, a key sustainable development goal. Off-grid renewables have emerged as a key solution to expand energy access and now deliver access to around 150 million people. IRENA data shows that 60 per cent of new electricity access can be met by renewables in the next decade with stand-alone and mini-grid systems providing the means for almost half of new access.
A Frenchman is credited with being the first to discover the photovoltaic effect that produces electricity from sunlight. The first solar panel was built in the US. But when Abu Dhabi decided to build the world’s largest individual solar power project, they looked east for help.
The country partnered with Chinese and Japanese companies to construct a facility, which opened this year, with a peak capacity of 1.18 gigawatts generated by 3.2 million solar panels. That’s because Asia, more than any other region on the planet, and China, more than any other nation, currently represent the future of solar energy, and are at the heart of the ensuing industrywide transformation from fossil fuels to renewable and nuclear energy.
Decarbonization is changing the face of energy and the world economy in more ways than most consumers — and even most executives — appreciate. Besides the transition from molecule to electron, as this move toward electrification suggests, it is also shifting the industry’s economic base from West to East and reconfiguring the hierarchy of companies and geographies that define energy.
Asia is the 800-pound gorilla in the energy story. First, its continued economic growth and rising standard of living will make its constituent nations pre-eminent energy consumers for the foreseeable future. A study by BP indicates that Asia, including China and India, will represent 43% of global energy demand by 2040, and through that year, the region will account for more than 50% of the growth in demand. In contrast, energy demand among the 36 nations in the OECD, which includes most big economies in the Americas and Europe, will be flat.
China’s sunny outlook
Second, places like China are already among the most important suppliers of non-fossil fuel-based energy and technology. By 2017, China owned 72% of the world’s solar photovoltaic module production; in comparison, the US has 1% and Europe 2%. Of the eight top producers, six are Asian. Not including hydropower, China has somewhere around one-third of the world’s installed renewable capacity; the EU has a little over a quarter; and the US accounts for 14%. China also leads in the generation of hydropower.
As the electrification of transportation advances and demand grows for renewable energy storage solutions, China looks likely to monopolize here, too. China produces at least two-thirds of the world’s production capacity for lithium-ion batteries, which are used in electric vehicles (EVs), mobile phones and laptop computers (some estimates put their share at closer to 70%), and it looks likely to hang on to that lead through at least 2028. And besides being the largest market for EVs, China also controls the bulk of production.
China is the third-largest miner of the primary raw material used to produce those batteries, lithium — often referred to as white petroleum because of its mounting economic importance. Chinese producers are also buying up lithium reserves in Chile, the world’s second-largest lithium miner (Australia takes the top spot).
A fundamental overhaul
Of course, climate change is forcing the energy industry to undergo an existential transformation that may eventually see the elimination of fossil fuels entirely. While most executives at oil companies will be dead or at least retired before that transition proceeds to what seems its inevitable end, the slowing of demand is already being felt.
By contrast, the demand for electricity seems insatiable. Electrification rates continue to rise across the globe, with Asia expected to be close to 100% coverage by 2030. Much of that growth in demand may be supplied by renewables and nuclear power rather than fossil fuel-generated power, although natural gas is expected to play a role for years to come. It also may be accomplished through a decentralization of generating capacity, such as recent rural electrification projects in places like Malawi and Bangladesh where farmers and villages use solar panels and small generators to provide their own electricity.
What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?
Moving to clean energy is key to combatting climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated. Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago.
Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.
Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.
Yet despite the urgency of climate concerns and the rapidly falling cost of renewable energy, the speed at which this existential energy transition will happen is uncertain, as pre- and post-tax subsidies on fossil fuels remain in place, discouraging consumers to make the change to a more environmentally beneficial and frequently cheaper source of energy. The International Monetary Fund estimates post-tax subsidies on fossil fuels like coal and petroleum — a result of unpriced externalities, such as societal costs from air pollution and global warming — totalled $5.2 trillion in 2017.
Regardless of the speed of transformation, there’s no doubt it is already well underway. That’s why places like the United Arab Emirates (of which Abu Dhabi is the largest) are building solar power and nuclear facilities, despite being the world’s eighth-largest oil producer — and making the transition with Asian partners. They see the future.
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