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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Introducing Samsø — A 100% Wind-Powered Island

Originally published on the Rocky Mountain Institute | 29/10/13
y Laurie Guevara-​Stone

On a small island off the coast of Denmark, a group of potato farmers have turned into power brokers, owning the wind turbines that have made their island a net energy producer.

In less than ten years, Samsø went from producing 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, one of the highest carbon emissions per capita in Europe, to just 4.4 tonnes (the U.S. is at 17.6), and has proven that running on 100 percent renewable electricity is possible.

Samsø Island, Denmark. A 100% Wind Powered Island
Samsø Island, Denmark. A 100% wind powered island. Image courtesy of Samso Energy Academy.

Denmark is a leader in renewable energy development

In March 2012, the Danish parliament passed a historic new energy agreement to bring the country closer to its target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

The agreement set a goal for renewables to provide 35 percent of energy consumption by 2020, and including 50 percent of electricity from wind power. The country is well on its way there—it received more than 30 percent of its electricity from wind in 2012.

[This video was not part of the original article, but is placed here by the Editor for informational purposes]

Back in 1997, Denmark’s renewable energy ambitions, coupled with an oil supply crisis, prompted the Danish Ministry of Environment and Energy to hold a renewable energy contest. Competing islands had to present a convincing plan for converting their entire energy systems to renewables within ten years, in order to study how high a percentage of renewable energy a well-defined area could achieve with no major grant funding.

All the energy being used on Samsø (population: 4,100) was imported. An engineer thought the island would make a good candidate and submitted a plan. To the island residents’ surprise, Samsø won.

The island now heats 60 percent of its homes with three district heating plants running on straw, and one which runs on a combination of wood chips and solar panels. People outside of the heating plants’ reach have replaced or supplemented their oil burner with solar panels, ground-source heat pumps, or wood pellet boilers.

Eleven onshore wind turbines provide 11 megawatts of power, enough to power the entire electrical load of the island (29,000 MWh per year). And 10 offshore wind turbines produce 23 megawatts, enough to compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the island’s transport sector. This was all accomplished within eight years, two years ahead of schedule.

The most remarkable part about the transformation on Samsø is the involvement of the residents themselves—none of the projects have been imposed by outsiders or funded by major energy companies.

Local farmers own 9 of the 11 onshore turbines. The other two are owned by local wind cooperatives. Usually the wind turbine owner/shareholder realizes the initial investment in about eight years, and then starts earning a profit. One of the four district heating plants is also divided into shares and owned by local consumers.

At first, it wasn’t easy convincing this conservative island of farmers that they could, or even should, become a renewable energy showcase. NIMBYism, especially in regards to the proposed wind farm, affected many residents, just as it does in communities around the world. But Soren Hermansen, a local farmer and environmental studies teacher, took up the cause. He spent months going to community meetings and talking up renewables.

The key, according to Hermansen, was to convince Samsingers to participate themselves.

There was a certain fear that the project was just another hippie bureaucracy project sent out by some smart Copenhagen top-down politicians and consultants, Hermansen told RMI.

My job was to tear these presumptions apart and break it down to daily things that related to everyone in one way or another.

He coined a term “commonity”— a combination of community and commons—which he referred to in his persuasive discussions with the locals to get them on board with the idea of becoming investors in local energy resources.

By owning the turbines themselves, people didn’t feel as if the technology was imposed on them, but that they were making a smart business choice. They also came to realize the benefits that the green development would bring to the island as far as new jobs, new businesses, and increased business from more visitors.

The island’s tourism website, Visit Samsø, includes a major section on Samsø as a renewable energy island.

Samsingers now export millions of kilowatt-hours of electricity from renewable sources to the rest of Denmark. The Samsø Energy Academy, opened in 2007, is a source of renewable energy research, education, and training.

The academy arranges exhibitions and workshops that attract more than 5,000 politicians, journalists, and students from around the world every year. Researchers from both Danish and foreign educational institutions are able to do energy research at the Academy and island residents can get free advice on sustainable solutions. Furthermore, it functions as a conference center where companies, researchers, and politicians discuss renewable energy, energy savings, and new technologies.

Hermansen has since been named one of TIME magazine’s Heroes of the Environment, and travels around the world telling the story of Samsø’s success. He believes that Samsø’s progress can be a lesson for other places, even though it’s a small rural community.

Scaling can not be done the same way in a city, Hermansen admits.

But the lesson learned is that it is more about people, communication, and common interest than about technology. When you realize this, it is more easy to see the scalability.


This article, Introducing Samsø, A 100% Wind-Powered Island, 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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