Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A flawed "World Energy Outlook"

It’s more important than ever that we know what our options for success are because leaving it to the “experts” can be a risky proposition to say the least.

The stakes are just to high for us not to be thinking for ourselves. (GW)

A limited world outlook

Windpower Monthly
December 2008

Last month, the head of the OECD's energy strategy advisory body, Nobuo Tanaka, spoke out on the pressing need to radically change the global electricity supply system for the sake of the economy, the climate and the future well being of society. The strong words were spoken shortly after Tanaka released the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook, an annually updated bible of facts and figures used to guide energy strategy around the globe. For the first time the report unequivocally advocates a huge reduction in the use of fossil fuel and a correspondingly huge increase in energy saving, nuclear power and the use of renewable sources of energy, wind in particular.

Coming from the International Energy Agency (IEA), an organisation born in 1974 with the primary task of guarding the world against the effects of further disruptions in oil supplies, the demand for action packs considerable punch. Tanaka believes the IEA's report "will provide a solid basis for all countries seeking to negotiate a new global climate deal."

Ironically, that is just what is worrying environmental organisations and the renewable energy industry. They argue that the report seriously underestimates the potential of renewables and overestimates the role of nuclear power and carbon capture and storage, an as yet unproven technology. Any energy strategy based on the IEA's flawed assumptions will seriously brake the current rapid growth of the renewable energy industry, they fear.

Even the IEA's most ambitious scenario limits wind power's growth to less than its current trajectory and far less than the wind industry's projections. That point is demonstrated by Windpower Monthly in a unique graphic illustration in the current issue of the magazine accompanying our concise examination of what the IEA claims and what its critics have responded with.

"The IEA has produced an example of what not to do," says Sven Teske of environmental campaign group Greenpeace. "Paying lip service to the climate change crisis, the IEA forecasts more fossil fuel consumption than the planet can handle, while promoting carbon capture (CCS) and storage and nuclear power," he says.

Greenpeace points out that there are no commercial CCS plants operating or planned, "yet the IEA believes two to three coal-fired power plants equipped with CCS will be brought online every month between now and 2030." It is "dangerous to rely on a technology for climate protection which virtually does not exist yet," it says. The projected uptake of nuclear energy in the IEA scenarios are "equally unrealistic," says Greenpeace. It points out that the grid connection of a new nuclear reactor every month until 2030 is "a volume far beyond the nuclear industry's capacity."

Greenpeace, in a just released Energy [R]evolution scenario using the same assumptions for economic growth, fuel costs and population development as the IEA, demonstrates how wind power can contribute up to 20% of global electricity by 2030, double that proposed by the IEA. That would cost just 8% more than the $13.6 trillion investment in the power sector the IEA says would be required under its business as usual scenario, but saves more than $18 trillion in fuel costs, says Teske.

From the World Wind Energy Association, Stefan Gsänger says the IEA fails to fully realise the dynamics and economics of renewable energy. "The new World Energy Outlook may, as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, mislead policy makers to make poor decisions by not putting enough focus on renewable energy and thus slowing down the renewable energy deployment rates," he warns.

For the truth about wind power's full potential, from an independent source of expert knowledge, subscribe to Windpower Monthly today. We are wedded to the principles of factual and responsible journalism. Our independence is your guarantee of accuracy.


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