23 August 2018    

Time to add a sustainable baseload – Heat Power

Climate change –  In the Paris agreement 2015, 17 Sustainability Development Goals were set. Close to all of them are to some extent dependent on energy and electricity apart from the obvious SDG #7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. To reach the goals, and not exceeding <2 degree raise in temperature, it will require major efforts and major changes.

Said that…

2016 was a step change when it comes to renewable energy. Almost two thirds of net new power capacity around the world came from renewable energy. Solar power surpassed coal in net growth for the first time and Solar became the world’s fastest growing source of power. By 2022 renewable electricity generation is expected to grow by more than a third to a total of over 8000 terawatt hours, equal to the combined total consumption of China, India and Germany.

With renewable energy continuing to break records there are several important other obstacles that needs to be solved to keep us moving towards the SDGs set for 2030

  • Subsidies – Renewable policies has been the main drivers for renewable energy which has led to a growing cost of subsidies in many countries which can limit growth in the long perspective.
  • Intermittency –  The challenge with the largest renewable energy sources today, Solar and Wind, is that they are intermittent. Energy is only produced when the sun is shining, and/or the Wind is blowing. This makes it hard to predict supply vs demand over time, and also affects the grid. There is an urgent need of a renewable baseload.
  • Grid – Integration into the grid is becoming a critical challenge for governments and societies. Many grids are under developed and across the world, 1.2 billion people live without electricity. Often because the power grid does not extend to their home.  The grid infrastructure, which was built to carry fairly consistent levels of generation will struggle to cope with the variability of Solar and Wind energy.

What can be done?

Renewable policies used to be main drivers for renewable energy – they were enablers, that is changing. Many reports suggest that subsidies discourage energy efficiency measures and the development of alternative or renewable energy sources by way of low electricity tariffs. Adjusting prices and removing subsidies could promote better energy efficiency and conservation. Trends show that renewable policies in many countries are moving from government-set tariffs to competitive auctions with long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) for utility-scale projects. Increased competition has allowed reducing remuneration levels for Solar PV and Wind projects by 30-40% in just two years in some key countries such as India, Germany and Turkey.

This competitive price discovery mechanism through tenders has squeezed costs along the entire value chain, thus becoming a more cost-effective policy option for governments. Auctions can also allow a better control of deployment, total incentives, and system integration aspects. Almost half of renewable electricity capacity expansion over 2017-22 is expected to be driven by competitive auctions with PPAs, compared to just over 20% in 2016.

The need of a sustainable baseload!

Solar and Wind power are excellent renewable energy sources, even though intermittent. To meet the need of a sustainable energy base load Heat power could be the complement to work together with Solar and/or Wind. Heat power is electricity generated from existing sources of heat. Today more than 50% of the global energy consumption is wasted as heat. Industries such as steel, aluminum and shipping generate large amounts of wasted heat. This can be utilized to produce electricity. The other part of Heat power is Geothermal energy. By drilling in the ground anywhere in the world, unlimited geothermal heat can be found and recovered, made in to clean electricity.

By using, for example, geothermal Heat power there is also a possibility to have local Heat power operators which do not require grid to any significant extent, since the energy is produced and consumed locally. This would make it possible for people in rural areas to get access to electricity, and it is profitable without subsidies. Geothermal Heat power can provide large parts of the world with clean electricity.

When using Heat power as complement to Solar and/or Wind there would be less negative impact on the grid since Heat power supplies delivery of electricity continuously, regardless of weather. It’s a nonvolatile source of energy.

It is time to take a new leap in renewable energy – time for a renewable, profitable baseload – Time for Heat Power, together with Solar and Wind.

What are your thoughts and perspectives?

//Cecilia Edling

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Sources: International Energy Agency, Greening the grid, US Energy Information Administration

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