WWF says India could reach 100% Renewables by 2050

by Guest Contributor Emma Fitzpatrick

Originally published on RenewEconomy

When the world thinks of countries that could go 100 percent renewable, the immediate thoughts go to islands with solar and storage, hydro and geothermal rich countries such as Iceland, or even wind and wave-rich countries like Scotland.

One of the last economies imagined going fully renewable would be India, the rising economic giant that is still yet to connect several hundred million people to its mostly coal-fired grid, and is expected to have the highest growth of electricity consumption. But according to environmental group WWF, India could reach a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2050.

The study examines the possibility of a near 100% Renewable Energy Scenario (REN) for India by the middle of the century against a reference scenario (REF) in which the economy is likely to be dependent primarily on fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas.

WWF says that to get there India must make some large-scale changes to get on the right track as soon as possible. According to the report, aggressive energy efficiency improvements alone can bring in savings of up to 59 percent (by both the supply and demand sides) by mid-century.

Biofuels are set to play a large role, especially in the transport sector accounting for nearly 90 percent of the industry’s requirements.  According to WWF the third-generation biofuels in question are currently still in R&D phase and for the plan to go accordingly they must become commercially viable within the next two decades.

Overall, biofuels account for 23 percent of the total commercial energy supply,  most of the transportation needs. Solar thermal accounts for much of industry’s heating needs, and the electricity supply increases nearly 8 fold, with wind contributing the largest component.

Electricity generation by resource - Renewable Energy Scenario (REN) for India
Electricity generation by resource – Renewable Energy Scenario (REN) for India

The report says the reference scenario depicts an unsustainable, polluting and relatively inefficient energy future in 2051. The renewable scenario, on the other hand, presents a modern, cleaner and highly efficient India and shows that it is, in principle, theoretically feasible to achieve close to 90 percent penetration of renewable energy sources in the energy mix by 2051.

“However, there are still many unresolved questions in the REN scenario related to resource potentials, availability, commercial viability of alternative options, policy and finance mobilization, barriers of cultural and technological lock-ins, etc,” it says.

“Several feasibility studies are, therefore, needed to lay the basis for moving toward the REN scenario; these have not yet been carried out. There are many interventions that would be necessary to remove various barriers and to achieve higher levels of renewable energy deployment in India.”

Concentrated solar thermal technologies, many of which are currently still in the research and development phase, will take on a large chunk of the nations electricity needs as well as meeting thermal demand in industries that require temperatures below 700°C.

Wind is also set to push India towards its 100 percent goal. Currently India has no estimates of its offshore wind potential but the WWF predicts that it could have up to 170 GW installed by 2051.

Rural households will be forced to change their cooking habits, meeting their needs through improved cook stoves while urban households switch to electrical based cooking.

In 2010, fossil fuels accounted for 74 percent of India’s total energy consumed as well as being the world’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide. India’s greenhouse gas emissions have also steadily risen by 2.9 percent each year between 1994 and 2007.

Much of the rural population still relies on biomass (such as firewood and agro-residue) for much of its basic cooking needs (around 24.6 percent of the primary energy supply) as well as using kerosene for lighting purposes.

Coal currently accounts for 42.4 percent of India’s total primary energy demand in 2010, with the national rail network being the largest coal consumer before 1975 – now overtaken by the power sector (87.7 per cent of total consumption).

Electricity alone plays a crucial role in improving levels of human development and the quality of modern life – with a strong positive link between human development, economic growth and growth in energy and infrastructure.

To sustain India’s own growth it requires large amounts of energy, with little oil reserves and much of its large coal reserves being inaccessible due to technological, social or geological factors, the country has many push factors to get its renewable base up and running. Due to the low oil reserves India has a high import dependence making it more economically vulnerable and well as supply issues.

India started its National Solar Mission in 2010 and is aiming to get 20 GW of grid connected solar power by 2020. As well as this, the Mission is promoting 2,000 MW of off-grid applications; including 20 million solar lighting systems and 20 million square metres of solar thermal collector area by 2022.

In general, India has a vast potential for solar power generation, with about 58 percent of the country’s total land area receiving an annual global insolation about 5 kWh/m2/day. These areas with 5 kWh/m2/day or above can generate at least 77 W/m2 at 16 per cent efficiency.

Rooftop PV is likely to play a major role in both rural and urban areas with residential, agricultural and industrial priorities reducing the amount of available land for solar programs.

It was estimated that almost 30 percent of industrial processes in India require heat below 250°C which can be supplied with heat from solar thermal concentrators. Temperatures below 80°C can be met through solar air heaters and solar water heaters. Industries – with the exception of iron, steel, cement and fertilizer – could in theory shift to CSP based heating.

Wind energy in India currently ranks second to hydro in renewable energy’s generating electricity. With 17,700 MW of installed capacity India’s rank in harnessing wind energy is fifth in the world after USA, China, Germany and Spain. Over the period of 1992-2010 the wind energy installed capacity in India witnesses an annual growth rate of 37 percent.

According to the Centre for Wind Energy Technology, most of India’s wind energy is concentrated in five states – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The WWF estimates that India’s total wind potential in megawatts stands at 49,130 at 50 metres, when taken up to 80 metres the reading more than doubles at 102,788 MW.

Hydropower is also being considered, with estimates around 148GW of energy potential. Two rivers, Brahmaputra and Indus, have the highest potential, with only 11 and 50 per cent respectively being utilized thus far.

India’s first tidal power project, with a 3.75 MW capacity, is being set up as well as the Kapasar project which involves building a 30 km-long dam. A recent study cited in the report suggested that also tidal power generation is feasible in certain areas it may not be commercially viable due to diesel costs. Currently, The Government plans to build 7 MW of grid-connected ocean tidal power plans in its 12thfive-year plan.

India’s geothermal potential is around 10,600 MW, distributed across various states and in 2009 the country’s geothermal power capacity stood at 10.7 GW. Although geothermal power development is restricted to tectonically active regions, and seeing as India lacks volcanic activity on its mainland, it also faces issues such as costs of drilling and transmission of energy.

Comparing the REF’s and REN’s final energy demands in 2050 highlights not only a stark mix of energy uses but also efficiency levels. In 2051 the REF is approximated to have increased the countries’ energy demand up to 2,545 Mtoe when compared to the REN sitting at 1,461 Mtoe – highlighting an overall energy savings of 43 percent.

Modeling done by the WWF has estimated that the total undiscounted technology investment cost for the renewables scenario is 42 per cent more than the reference (fossil-fuel) scenario, requiring 544 trillion Indian Rupees from 2011 to 2051. Although the figure sounds quite high it is only around 10 percent higher than if India was to stick to its reference scenario.

In the renewables scenario, India will have almost a quarter more electrical generation capacity (in GW) than if it continues along the reference scenario path. Furthermore, in 2051 the renewables scenario will yield less than one billion tonnes of carbon emissions, compared to the reference scenario with almost 12 billion tonnes.

WWF highlights that although the renewables scenario is preferred it will not be easy for government to get there, recommending various policy options available including; tax holidays for renewable energy uptake, creating incentives for new projects, enhancing R&D, increasing the budgetary allocation, pricing energy and technology for efficiency and strengthening policy and regulatory set-ups.

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This article, India Could Reach 100% Renewables By Mid-Century, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

Fossil Fuels Get $550 bn Christmas Present from Taxpayers

by Zachary Shahan.

Fossil fuels have dominated the global energy market and even the global economy for a long time. You would think that such mature industries wouldn’t need government subsidies — their annual revenue and profits are mind-boggling. However, with money comes power. And that money-power has a stranglehold on governments of the world such that it convinces governments to give them even more money in subsidies.

Another recent study comes to the conclusion that the total annual subsidies fossil fuel companies get from governments in the developed world comes to about half a trillion dollars. This follows a 2010 study from the International Energy Agency that found fossil fuel industries got $550 billion in annual subsidies.

It almost sounds like a joke — some of the richest companies in the world get $500 billion in government handouts. Just picture the rich, old, white men laughing their buns off about the way they have the most powerful governments in the world wrapped around their pinkie finger… or at least wrapped around the fingers that sign checks for our politicians’ election campaigns.

The latest study on this matter, Time to change the game, finds that the average resident of the world’s richest countries donates $112 a year to fossil fuel companies in the form of subsidies.

What are those subsidies for?

Well, as a press release about the new study notes, “these subsidies create perverse incentives favouring investment in carbon-intensive energy.” Yep, we’re encouraging the use of fossil fuels that harm our health, our climate, and our environment rather than using that money to transition away from these harmful sources and towards a truly clean energy economy.

The proposal from study author Shelagh Whitley is that G20 nations phase out fossil fuel subsidies completely by 2020. Whitley states:

The rules of the game are currently biased in favour of fossil fuels.

The status quo encourages energy companies to continue burning high-carbon fossil fuels and offers no incentive to change. We’re throwing money at policies that are only going to make the problem worse in the long run by locking us into dangerous climate change.

Here are just a few of the staggering statistics from Time to change the game:

  • The average subsidy provided by rich governments for every tonne of carbon is $7. This is the same as the current cost of carbon in the EU carbon trading system – meaning the carbon price may as well not exist.
  • Domestic subsidies in rich countries outstrip international climate finance provided to help address climate change in developing countries by a ratio of 7:1.
  • In some countries – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – fossil fuel subsidies are more than double the level of spending on health services.
  • In countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco and Bangladesh, fossil fuel subsidies outweigh the national fiscal deficit.

Yep, you’ve got coal in your stocking, thanks to subsidies that have no place in a free market. Oddly, “free market idealists” never seem to complain about this matter.

Notably, G20 countries have agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, with leadership on this matter actually coming from President Obama. An agreement made in September regarding the methodology for a new peer-review process of evaluating fossil fuel subsidies. This followed a 2009 agreement to phase out such subsidies. Obviously, though, they aren’t rushing through the process… 4 years and we’ve got an agreement on a peer-review process?

For more uplifting fossil fuel info, check out: Top 10 Toxic Ingredients Used In The Fossil Fuel Industries.

All images via the Overseas Development Institute

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This article, Fossil Fuels Get Half-A-Trillion-Dollar Christmas Present From Taxpayers, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

C40 Initiative: Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Which Is the Greenest City of All?

sanfranciso_general_01
San Francisco, U.S.A. Image courtesy: C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

A growing and forward thinking organization called the C40 Initiative, promotes sustainable development for the world’s cities. C40 cities are conducting empirical research to perfect ways to lower CO2 levels and employ programmes such as ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ within city government departments and are also offered to city residents.

  • The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change.
  • Acting both locally and collaboratively, C40 Cities are having a meaningful global impact in reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks. Through a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, C40 brings together a unique set of assets and creates a shared sense of purpose.
  • C40 offers cities an effective forum where they can collaborate, share knowledge and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change.

C40 cities today comprise 58 cities as of May, 2013. These cities represent 18 percent of global GDP and 1-in-12 people worldwide live in a C40 city.

Here are some featured C40 cities with links to their successes and challenges;

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA. (Anthony Larson / Flickr)

San Francisco, United States

As one of the most sustainable cities in the U.S., San Francisco has plans to move to zero waste by 2020. The city currently recycles or composts 77% of its waste, the highest rate of any major U.S. city. For more information on San Francisco’s sustainability successes click on this link.

Sydney Harbor Opera House and skyline in Sydney, Australia. (Fuse / Getty)

Sydney, Australia

This Australian city has planned a large-scale scheme to have every resident be within a 250-metre walk of continuous green links that connect to major city parks. To read more fascinating information on the Sydney story, click here.

Sunset over Westminster and Houses of Parliament, London, UK. (Anthony Beyga / Getty)

London, United Kingdom

London’s innovative congestion charging scheme has reduced vehicle numbers in the central business district by 70,000 per day, cutting CO2 emissions in central London by 15% since 2003. Read more about their impressive progress, here.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Travlr / Flickr)

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

This African metropolis is using low-carbon building designs in an enormous construction programme that is moving a large population from unplanned ‘shanty towns’ into more formal living arrangements. The Mayor of Addis Ababa has plans to lower the city’s CO2 emissions by 75% in 2020, as compared to 2010 levels.

View of Chao Phraya River in city of Bangkok.

Bangkok, Thailand

Highly threatened by climate change, including an increase in extreme weather and heatwaves, the city has introduced a number of ambitious local public health infrastructure and education programmes. Read more about the threat of having to relocate an entire city, due to rising (global) sea levels and a slowly sinking (local conditions) city.

“Each city in the C40 is unique in its infrastructure and progress in addressing climate change. C40 works to empower cities to connect with each other and share technical expertise on best practices.” – C40

Strong advocates for the role of cities in addressing climate change.

  • C40 was created in 2005 by former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, and forged a partnership in 2006 with the Cities Program of President Clinton’s Climate Initiative (CCI) to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in large cities across the world. Under the leadership of then Mayor of Toronto David Miller, who served after Mayor Livingstone as C40 Chair, the organisation advanced programs and partnerships that drew international recognition for the role of cities as leaders in climate action.
  • The current chair of C40 is New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who leads the C40 together with the steering committee and executive leadership team.

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All information, courtesy of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

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