A very intense debate about the future of renewable energy in Romania has started at the beginning of this year, with numerous voices claiming that it only brings cost not value to our country.
Before we decide if renewable energy is good or bad let’s first see WHY the EU ( European Union) and IEA (International Energy Association) care so much about this type of energy?
So WHY are these organizations promoting renewable energy an WHY should we believe in it ?
1. Does it bring value to the economy?
According to the debaters from our country it seems that renewable energy is only increasing the cost of energy, so economic growth is not the reason, but IEA seems to disagree, so let’s have a look at some facts about energy subsidies.
IEA (International Energy Agency) in the WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK 2011 FACTSHEET :
“ Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $409 billion in 2010 while global renewable-energy subsidies increased from $39 billion in 2007 to $66 billion in 2010, in line with rising production of biofuels and electricity from renewable sources. In a global survey covering 37 countries where subsidies exist, at least 15 have taken steps to phase them out since the start of 2010. Without further reform, the cost of fossil-fuel consumption subsidies is set to reach $660 billion in 2020, or 0.7% of global GDP while phasing them out completely by 2020 would result in savings in oil demand in 2035 of 4.4mb/d. Global primary energy demand would be cut by nearly 5% and CO2 emissions by 5.8%. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions. “
I agree that the subsidies for renewable energy are now bared by the population and that leads to an increase in the energy bill but no one speaks about the subsidies for fossil-fuel generation? As we can see from the IEA report these are far more expensive world wide then the subsidies for the renewable energy and in the long term they will only increase so we might be saving 1 Euro now but it will cost us 4 Euros in the future.
After looking at the facts it seems that one reason for investing in cleaner technology might be that it brings economic value.
2. Does it create more jobs?
According to the debaters the answer is again No. Renewable energy leads to job losses in coal industry, steel industry and does nothing in return but IRENA seems to think differently so lets again look at some facts :
According to IRENA ( International Renewable Energy Agency)”Renewable Energy Jobs: Status, Prospects & Policies” when we look at the job market for renewable energy there are 3 types of jobs:
“Direct jobs are relatively easy to measure and understand. These are jobs related to a sector’s core activities, such as feedstock conversion, manufacturing, project development (including site preparation and installation) and operations and maintenance.
Indirect jobs include all those involved in supplying the renewable energy industry. these are jobs in the industrial input sectors in the production and the operation and maintenance of renewable energy technologies. Examples might include the labour required to extract and process raw materials, such as steel for wind turbine towers as well as positions in government ministries, regulatory bodies, consultancy firms and research organisations working on renewables.
Induced jobs are created when wealth generated by the renewable energy industry, directly or indirectly, is spent elsewhere in the economy, thus stimulating demand in industries that may be entirely unrelated. Renewable energy technicians, for example, may spend part of their wages on a holiday, thus inducing jobs in the tourism industry.”
It seems that actually renewable energy creates a variety of jobs across all sectors of the economy. Also according to the same study it creates better jobs also.
“Many essential jobs in the renewable energy industry require a skilled workforce. Industry surveys in Germany have suggested that on average renewable energy jobs are relatively high-skilled, across both fuel-free and fuel-based technologies: 82% of employees in the industry have vocational qualifications and almost 40% of these have a university degree, compared to an average for the whole industrial sector of 70% and 10%, respectively (Lehr et al., 2011).”
After seeing these facts maybe the better question to ask is: Do we really want to keep doing jobs that have a low income, high accident rate and provide bad health after a few years of activity, for example coal mining, or we want to have jobs that are safer, provide more income and require more qualification?
3. Does it make us independent?
To answer the question lets look again at some facts:
In 2007, the EU was importing 82% of its oil and 57% of its gas, which then made it the world’s leading importer of these fuels.
The EU Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 legally includes solidarity in matters of energy supply and changes to the energy policy within the EU. The European Commission has proposed in its Renewable Energy Roadmap a binding target of increasing the level of renewable energy in the EU’s overall mix from less than 7% today to 20% by 2020 and a minimum target of 10% for the use of biofuels by 2020.
Romania produces now in average more then 45 % of its power from fossil fuels. If we achieve the target of 20 % renewable energy by 2020 that means we will only have space for 25 % fossil fuels left in the energy mix making us almost independent of imports from other countries.
So maybe we can become independent by using renewable energy.
4. Does it make the grid better?
At the present moment no. The wind and the sun cannot be controlled and that provides challenges to the grid. This has been the problem at the heart of many sustainable-energy systems: How to store power so it can be delivered to the grid all the time, day and night, even when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s not shining?
One example is the use of large water reservoirs that can be filled by pumping water when there is excess energy from the renewable sources, water that can be used to produce energy when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining.
Another example is the use of high capacity batteries developed at MIT, where Donald Sadoway has been working on a grid-size battery system that stores energy using a three-layer liquid-metal core.
So it is only a meter of time until the renewable energy will become also grid friendly.
5. Are we doing it to create a better, cleaner, safer world?
The EU Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 also includes some other proposal like :
A cut of up to 95% in carbon emissions from primary energy sources by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
A cut of at least 20% in greenhouse gas emissions from all primary energy sources by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels), while pushing for an international agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol aimed at achieving a 30% cut by all developed nations by 2020 this means limiting temperature increase to 2⁰ Celsius which would require the long-term atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to be limited to 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent.
IEA (International Energy Agency) states in the WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK 2011 FACTSHEET:
” If internationally co-ordinated action is not taken by 2017, we project that all permissible emissions in the 450 Scenario would come from the infrastructure then existing, so that all new infrastructure from then until 2035 would need to be zero-carbon, unless emitting infrastructure is retired before the end of its economic lifetime to make headroom for new investment. This would theoretically be possible at very high cost, but is probably not practicable politically”
So it seems that in order to not increase the global temperature with more then 2 degrees Celsius all the investments in energy from 2017 need to be 100% green.
Maybe 2 degrees Celsius does not seem like allot but think about the damages that would bring to wildlife, crops, climate and even landscape. Desertification is happening as we speak, Alan Savoy addressed the problem and provided a proven solution to reverse this, but it must be collaborated with the reduction of CO2 emissions.
Renewable energy is at a starting point, it has problems and is expensive but when we ask WHY do we believe in renewable energy and the facts lead us to answers like:
“Because it brings economic value, because it provides better jobs, because it makes us independent and because it makes the world a better place where we can actually live and not melt” maybe these are things worth paying extra for…
Spread the word and ask WHY?