GWEC: Paris, 2017, and opportunities for wind power
The Paris Agreement has officially been ratified by the 55 countries needed to bring it into force. This means there is going to be a global push to reduce global warming to less than 2° C, and ideally below 1.5° C, over the next century. Wind power is going to play a huge part in achieving this goal.
Steve Sawyer is the Secretary General of the Global Wind and Energy Council (GWEC), the international trade association for the wind power industry. Sawyer is aware that wind power is integral to reaching the global warming target but there’s a way to go yet. He says: “Renewables development, led by wind, would need to accelerate to something in line with the GWEC Advanced Scenario, which puts us at penetration of approximately 20 percent of global electricity supply by 2030.”
The GWEC Advanced Scenario is based on ambitious growth rates being maintained through until the end of the decade, and assumes big changes within the electricity sector happen quickly with the ratification of the Paris Agreement.
Full decarbonisation needs to be part of the plan to have any hopes of reaching these targets as Sawyer explains: “The economics, energy security and job/industry creation attributes of wind energy may on their own drive us to 20 percent global wind power by 2030, but that seems rather optimistic without a concerted global effort to decarbonise the power sector by 2050, which is the minimum requirement for keeping within the 2° C; and it would have to happen much sooner to get anywhere close to 1.5° C.”
While many countries are already embracing wind power, there are plenty of emerging markets that are just scratching the surface of what’s possible. One of the GWEC’s targets for 2017 is to continue to support the new markets in China, India, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico.
Sawyer explains that much of the growth for wind energy over the coming year will be in Asia, Africa and Latin America: “In volume terms, the greatest growth will be in Asia, led by China and India but also in a number of other growing markets in the region including the Philippines, Vietnam, Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan and soon, we hope, in Iran.
“In percentage terms, Africa will see the largest growth but Latin America will also see large volume of growth as other countries in the region add to the strong markets in Brazil and Mexico.”
The FOWIND project
As part of the GWEC’s support of countries developing a wind power industry, the council is backing the FOWIND project. The project facilitates offshore wind power development in India and in turn contributes to India’s transition towards use of clean technologies in the power sector.
Sawyer says: “It’s an EU supported project whose ultimate objective is to develop a roadmap for a sustainable offshore wind industry and market in India. 2017 will be the final full year of the project, which started at the end of 2013.”
The current wind power market
At the end of 2015 there were 432.8 GW (432,833 MW) of electricity being generated through wind power, a jump of 60 GW (60,000 MW) on 2014, in 2016 that number jumped another 60GW. When you consider that 432 GW of wind power can generate approximately the same amount of electricity over a year as 236 coal power plants, or 148 nuclear power plants, or 198 natural gas power plans, the power of wind is obvious.
This shows the impact wind energy has on electricity production and it’s much more efficient and cost effective than some critics may have us believe. Sawyer often points out that wind power is generally cheaper than its fossil fuel counterparts. He says: “I point to the current prices in Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Morocco, Chile, Peru as well as the United States and Canada where wind power is generally much cheaper (for new build) than the conventional alternatives.”
Many critics also call wind power inefficient, something Sawyer doesn’t understand. He says: “I never know what is meant by ‘efficiency’ in this case. What are ‘the critics’ supposed to be measuring? The effectiveness with which wind turbines extract energy from a moving stream of air? The theoretical maximum energy that can be extracted from a moving column of air is 59.3 percent, called the Betz limit. However, as the fuel is free, what is the relevance? What is relevant is the cost of the electricity that comes out the other end.”
Moving forward with the Paris Agreement
In the past, it’s been vitally important that major players in the energy market agree on these large climate promises. However, in the last 25 years, the US has been reluctant to agree and this has held back China, India, Australia and Canada. The Paris Agreement, however, seems to be different with more countries recognising its importance.
Sawyer says: “Countries seem willing to move ahead without the US, although most would welcome their participation and it’s too soon to tell what the new administration is actually going to do.
“Having said that, the participation of the world’s largest economy is obviously critical in the long term; and it would be much better if it participated in the short term as well.”
The future of wind energy
After two record breaking years in 2014 then 2015, the wind power industry doesn’t seem to be slowing in growth and with Paris Agreement now in place, many countries are looking to wind to further the goal towards decarbonisation.
Sawyer believes cost could be another driving factor, he says: “I think the precipitous drop in prices for offshore projects in the past few months is going to have a significant impact on that sector – certainly in the short term and probably in the medium term. Policymakers in other parts of the world are starting to notice; and we may have more projects like our current work in India in other markets around the world in the coming years.”
With wind being one of the most cost-effective ways for countries to meet goals for renewables and reduce the dependency on fossil fuels, there’s no doubt it’ll play a big part in the future of our planet.
Read the March 2017 edition of Energy Digital magazine
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere