100% Renewable Energy Primer + COP 19 100% Renewable Energy Side Event

by Zachary Shahan

COP 19
Image Credit: Solar panel, wind turbine & globe via Shutterstock

Originally published on Planetsave.

At the United Nations’ upcoming COP 19 event in Warsaw, the REN Alliance is scheduled to “introduce the theme of a 100% renewable energy future, and introduce case studies on how to attain this vision.” The side event is supposed to touch on technical integration of renewable energy resources, policies, financing, and more.

Speakers will include Ms. Jennifer McIntosh of the International Solar Energy Society (ISES), Ms. Tracy Lane of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), Ms. Karin Haara of the World Bioenergy Association (WBA), and Mr. Stefan Gsaenger of the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA). I’m sure they will give excellent presentations that are both inspirational and useful. And it is great to see that the REN Alliance has pulled together top global leaders from the four biggest renewable energy sectors.

A 100% renewable energy future is something I have written about several times. First of all, for anyone interested in the subject (and we all should be!), I think it’s worth looking at a number of large studies conducted by researchers at several different universities, governmental agencies, and organizations who have come to very promising conclusions regarding how much renewable energy the world and specific countries could develop at a competitive cost. These studies come to important findings such as:

Seriously, these are must-read summaries of excellent reports on the subject of switching to renewable energy on a large scale. And if you have the time, digging into the actual studies would be even more useful.

It’s also very useful to learn a bit about some of the countries and cities that have completely or almost completely switched to renewable energy for their electricity supply. For example, some leading examples include Iceland, which now gets 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources; Tokelau, which has hit 100% renewable energy; Denmark, which is now getting nearly 50% of its electricity from renewable energy sources and is planning to get 50% from wind power alone by 2020; Scotland, which is aiming for 100% electricity from renewable energy by 2020; Samsø, a 100% wind-powered island; and Güssing, Austria, which is also already 100% powered by clean, renewable energy.

Another thing worth noting, whether you intend to attend this COP 19 side event or not, is that projections for how much renewable energy will be installed in the coming decades vary widely, but no matter who you ask, renewable energy will grow at a very strong rate. The projections regarding how much renewable energy will be installed vary greatly based on the assumptions made by the researchers, of course, but even before the assumptions come the political goals with which the research team is going into the project – these often shape the assumptions used. No projection in this arena is perfect, and it’s very worthwhile to find out what the assumptions of a study are before referencing it.

Also, lastly, one of the key points of discussion when it comes to how much renewable energy is “possible” is the issue of renewable energy intermittency. I highly recommend reading this article about the fallacy of that intermittency concern – read it, re-read it, and be sure to share it with others. Also, the prequel to that piece was one I wrote about utility company CEO’s who tore down the renewable energy intermittency concern back in 2011 in a utility company CEO roundtable at a solar power conference. That is also a must-read, in my humble opinion.

If you will be at COP 19 and are interested in attending the REN Alliance side event, “Integrated technologies towards 100% renewables: Case studies and ex. on country and regional level,” it is scheduled for 16:45–18:15 on Monday, November 18, in room 1.

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This article, 100% Renewable Energy Primer + COP 19 100% Renewable Energy Side Event, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

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Güssing, Austria Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy

by Rocky Mountain Institute

Güssing, Austria
Güssing, Austria, goes the sustainable energy route — and saves millions of dollars on conventional energy costs, and is now the model town for sustainable development in Austria.

Originally published on the Rocky Mountain Institute website.
By Laurie Guevara-​Stone.

A small town in Austria that had no significant industry or trade business is now thriving thanks to local renewable resources. Güssing, (population: 4,000) sits in eastern Austria. In 1988, the entire region with a population of 27,000, was one of the poorest districts in the country. It relied on agriculture, there was no transportation infrastructure, unemployment was high, and 70 percent of those who did have work were commuting to Vienna, 100 miles away. The town, where two-thirds of the working population was out of work and young people were moving away, was referred to as a dying town. Due to a lack of connections to the railway network and to the Austrian Autobahn (freeway) system, energy costs were extremely high. At the time the town of Güssing was said to be hardly able to afford its $8.1 million annual fossil fuel bill.

Several of the town leaders realized that $8 million dollars going to pay for fuel oil (mostly for heating) and other fossil fuels (such as coal for electricity) from outside the region could stay in the local economy if they could produce their own energy. However, they realized if they wanted to be energy self-sufficient the first step was reducing energy use. In 1990, the town implemented an energy efficiency program, retrofitting all public buildings with new insulation and replacing all streetlights with energy-efficient bulbs, reducing energy expenditure in buildings in the town center by almost 50 percent.

With greatly improved efficiency, the town then adopted a policy calling for the complete elimination of the use of fossil fuels in all public buildings, in an attempt to keep more money in the local economy.

HEATING WITH LOCAL RESOURCES

Güssing, Austria biomass thermal power plant
Güssing, Austria. Readily accessible biomass is found in the surrounding forest, is collected and used to produce thermal heat/steam to create natural gas via a unique process.

There is not a lot of wind in Güssing, but biomass is abundant—the town is surrounded by 133 hectares (328 acres) of forest. Some local residents, realizing that wood in the forest was decomposing and not being used, started to run a district heating station for six homes. With the success of that project, more small district heating systems were built. The mayor, who was looking for a way to revitalize the town, took notice. In 1996, the heating system was expanded to the whole town and was also generating electricity, all from renewable raw materials gathered from within a five-kilometer radius through sustainable forestry practices.

Then, in 2001, with the help of the federal government, Güssing installed a biomass gasification plant, that runs off of wood chips from wood thinned from the forest and waste wood from a wooden flooring company. This was the first utility-scale power plant of its kind in the world. The plant uses steam to separate carbon and hydrogen, then recombines the molecules to make a form of natural gas which fuels the city’s power plant. It produces on average 2 megawatts of electricity and 4.5 megawatts of heat, more than enough energy for the town’s needs, while only consuming one-third of the biomass that grows every year. The town also has a plant that converts rapeseed to biodiesel, which is carried by all the fueling stations in the district.

BECOMING A MODEL COMMUNITY

In 2007 the New York Times reported Güssing was the first community in the European Union to cut carbon emissions by more than 90 percent, helping it attract a steady stream of scientists, politicians, and eco-tourists. One year later, Güssing built a research institute focusing on thermal and biological gasification and production of second-generation fuels. That same year a solar manufacturer started producing PV modules in Güssing, producing 850 megawatts of modules a year and employing 140 people. Several other photovoltaic and solar thermal companies have relocated to Güssing, installing new demonstration facilities in the district.

The little town has become a net energy producer—generating more energy from renewables than it uses. Altogether, there are more than 30 power plants using renewable energy technologies within 10 kilometers of the village. Now the goal is to take the lessons from the small town of Güssing and make the entire 27,000-person district an energy-self-sufficient net producer.

Currently around 400 people come to Güssing each week to visit the numerous demonstration plants.

Even Austria’s favorite celebrity, former California governor, and renewable energy advocate Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Güssing in 2012. “Güssing has become a green island,” he said when he spoke at the Güssing renewable energy demonstration plant. “You have built your own district heating [system]. You are generating your own electricity. You are operating a biomass power plant, produce synthetic natural gas from wood and develop new fuels at the research lab. I have seen all of this with my own eyes. Everyone should follow your example. The whole world should become Güssing.”

The town now has 60 new companies, 1,500 new jobs, and annual revenues of $17 million due to energy sales, all resulting from the growth of the renewable energy sector. The downtown has been rebuilt and young people now picture themselves staying there in the future. And other areas are following Güssing’s lead. More than 15 regions in Austria are now energy independent with regard to electricity, heating, and/or transportation. The town of Güssing has shown that not only is a high-renewables future possible, but also economically advantageous.

Schwarzenegger must agree, because when he left he said, “I’ll be back.”

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock. Second Image courtesy of Güssing Renewable Energy.

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, Güssing, Austria Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Rocky Mountain Institute Since 1982, Rocky Mountain Institute has advanced market-based solutions that transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure future. An independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank, RMI engages with businesses, communities and institutions to accelerate and scale replicable solutions that drive the cost-effective shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Please visit http://www.rmi.org for more information.

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