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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An Island (Tokelau) Powered 100% By Solar Energy

An Island (Tokelau) Powered 100% By Solar Energy

by Rocky Mountain Institute

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Tokelau Solar Power plant
Tokelau Solar Power plant. Image courtesy: PowerSmart

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

Some of the most vulnerable places in the world to live in the face of climate change are islands. Rising sea levels, contaminated ground water, and increasing severity of storms are just some of the many threats to island communities. Many island residents also pay extremely high energy prices, due to limited domestic resources and the need to import fuel long distances. Switching to renewable energy can not only decrease fuel expenditures for many island populations, but can also show the world what can be done in the face of climate change.

POWERED BY THE SUN

Tokelau (population: 1,500) is an island nation in the South Pacific, made up of three atolls whose highest point is only five meters above sea level. Even though the New Zealand protectorate’s contribution to climate change is miniscule, it faces grave threats to its very existence. In 2011, at the Durban Climate conference, Foua Toloa, the head of Tokelau, said the island would be using 100 percent renewable energy by 2012. By October of that year residents accomplished their goal, becoming the first country in the world to produce 100 percent of its electricity from the sun.

Prior to 2012, Tokelau’s residents relied on three diesel-driven power stations, burning 200 liters per day at a cost of nearly $800,000 per year. Tokelauans only had electricity 15 to 18 hours per day. They now have three solar photovoltaic systems, one on each atoll. The 4,032 solar panels (with a capacity of around one megawatt), 392 inverters, and 1,344 batteries provide 150 percent of their current electricity demand, allowing the Tokelauans to eventually expand their electricity use. In overcast weather, the generators run on local coconut oil, providing power while recharging the battery bank. The only fossil fuels used in Tokelau now are for the island nation’s three cars.

New Zealand advanced $7 million to Tokelau to install the PV systems. But with the amount of money saved on fuel imports the system will pay for itself in a relatively short time period (nine years with simple payback). The successful project even inspired a video game, Coconut Sunshine, in which the player is in charge of the nation’s finance and energy policies. The goal is to build more solar and coconut oil plants to earn money from selling excess energy in order to pay off the debt before the year is out.

SENDING A MESSAGE TO THE WORLD

While one of the main impetuses for the switch to renewables was economic—to avoid huge fuel expenses—it wasn’t the only impetus. Living with the impacts of climate change—droughts, hurricanes, and contamination of ground water—was a factor as well. In 2011 Tokelau had to import water, a first in the island’s history. Tokelauans now take workshops in rainwater collection, owing to the scarce availability of freshwater due to rising sea levels.

While the island’s renewable energy systems will only keep 950 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year, a drop in the bucket as to what is needed to combat climate change, Tokelauans are hoping the rest of the world will follow their example.

“We stand to lose the most of any country in the world due to climate change and the rising sea levels,” Toloa stated at the Durban Climate Conference, “so leading the way by making the highest per person investment in the world is a message to the world to do something.”

Islands around the world are turning to renewables to meet their energy needs. Other 100-percent-renewable-powered islands include Floreana in the Galapagos (population: 100) and El Hierro in the Canary Islands (population: 10,000+). Other islands with 100-percent-renewable-energy goals include:Cape Verde, Tuvalu, Gotland (Sweden), and all 15 of the Cook Islands. In the U.S., Hawaii is leading the way, ranking second in the nation for installed solar watts per person, with more than 1,000 megawatts of renewable projects in service, under construction, or awaiting approval.

PAVING THE WAY FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD

Many disbelievers argue that high penetrations of renewable energy aren’t practical for larger grids, and would jeopardize the reliability of our electricity system. One by one, island nations are proving the opposite is true. Generating electricity from an increasingly diverse array of sources makes their systems more reliable, not less so. While these systems require the islands to pay an upfront premium for assets like sophisticated controls and energy storage, these devices quickly pay for themselves given the high costs islands face to import diesel. This dynamic makes these hybrid microgrids practical for islands today, while the declining costs of these technologies will quickly make these technologies cost competitive on the mainland as well.

By switching to renewable energy, island nations reduce their reliance on imported fuels, keep money in the local economy, provide their residents with reliable power, and lower their carbon emissions. They can also serve as “test beds” for adoption of new technologies and models of what can happen on a larger scale.

“It’s a lot easier to implement a high penetration of renewables on a small island,” according to Peter Lilienthal, founder and CEO of HOMER Energy, a company providing software and services to the international renewable distributed energy market. “But it’s absolutely scalable. You learn how to do things on a small scale first. Doing solar and wind at high penetration levels, there’s a lot of learning that needs to happen.”

And island nations are helping us learn what needs to be done.

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This article, An Island (Tokelau) Powered 100% By Solar 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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