Renewable energy is finally coming into its own

The recent announcement by China that it will bring to the Paris summit this December a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 % by 2050 is a sign of how sentiment is finally shifting even at the highest levels, though of course it does have to be actually delivered.   But this is not an isolated straw in the wind.   In 2013, for the first time, more new renewable capacity was built than fossil fuel-burning capacity, and future projections show that this excess wind and solar capacity over oil, gas and coal will steadily grow.   Indeed, according to the International Energy Agency estimates based on current trends, renewables could supply half of the world’s electricity needs by 2050, with solar energy alone representing more than a quarter of that amount.

There are further promising signs too.   Although some huge centralised solar plants have been built, the biggest increase has been in distributed power – solar systems fixed to the roofs of buildings and homes – which now accounts for about 60% of total global solar capacity.   In addition progress has been made in remedying what is always regarded as the greatest weakness of renewables, namely their failure to work when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.   The California company Tesla has achieved a breakthrough in storage technology by constructing giant batteries capable of capturing surplus energy and feeding it into the grid to fill these gaps in supply.   Further developments in smart grid technology will also better synchronise diffuse distributed systems.   And continuing improvements in fuel efficiency standards and electric motor technology will further curtail energy use and emissions from the world’s 1.2bn vehicles.

Of course there are setbacks and all these efforts are a race against time.   At Lima in December last year the UN negotiators stated that the 2 degrees C target would now inevitably be exceeded, and with global emissions rising inexorably over the last 50 years we were now headed towards a temperature increase by the end of this century of 2.2-5.5 degrees C.   And the responsibility for this lies heavily withe the West: the top 20 energy-consuming countries account for some 80% of the world’s energy use – more than 4 times the amount of energy consumed by the other 174 countries combined.

Yet Osborne, with his unfailing knack of adopting the wrong policy (such as using austerity rather than growth to cut the budget deficit) has opted for what he likes to call a ‘shale revolution’, focused largely on hydraulic fracturing to tap 1.3 tn cubic feet of natural gas in large swathes of north-west England around the Bowland beauty spot.   There has never been a proper assessment of the risks in the UK based on actual US experience.   In particular, no attention has been given to the fact that a dozen trains loaded with volatile crude oil from the Bakken shale have gone off the rails, creating towering explosions, including the most notorious bomb-train incident in 2013 which killed 42 people and vaporised a large section of the nearby town.


16 thoughts on “Renewable energy is finally coming into its own

  1. So much of what you’ve written above is simply, (in my opinion,) factually wrong that it scarcely warrants serious comment other than that once again I would describe it all as being at best pseudoscience, basically hysterical and unsupportable speculation, embraced typically by over ardent people with almost no scientific rigor or insight and with and an almost religious zeal.

    You’d be far better indeed trying to make the dubious case for all this, clearly, empirically and critically, rather than turning it into a matter of, not even of serious scientific debate, but merely of tired political tub thumping.

    The climate, (already a changing and dynamic system that probably or as far as we can tell, does not necessarily behave in the kind of relatively simply and linear manner that you too often imply,) of the earth may indeed be changing and human activity may very well contribute to this variation, (which would be a perfectly reasonable assumption,) but to what degree is a matter that is very far indeed from being obvious, so I’m very doubtful indeed about kind of apocalyptic prognostications that are being peddled here and elsewhere and which remain largely unsupportable in terms of theory and the evidence.

    Stuff such as the major scientific impropriety, misconduct and wrongdoing that occurred at East Anglia University, “Climate-gate,” has certainly not helped you case either, nor has they shabby way that the Science and Technology Committee under Labor completely refused to address these problems adequately, at least to my satisfaction, although the behavior of your colleague Graham Stringer was exemplary in relation to this.

    The Climatic Research Unit email controversy and global warming;

    As a member of the Science and Technology Committee, Graham Stringer participated in the investigation into the Climatic Research Unit email controversy (“Climate-gate”) in March 2010, questioning Professor Jones closely on transparency and other issues;in the five-member group producing the report he voted against the other three voting members on every vote, representing a formulation more critical of the CRU and climate scientists.

    In a 2011 op-ed, Stringer criticized the British inquiries into the CRU email controversy, writing that the controversy “demanded independent and objective scrutiny of the science by independent panels. This did not happen.”

    Stringer was the only MP on the committee with a scientific background.

    So you can be as adamant and as passionate as you like about all this but since you like most of your peers lack almost all of the prerequisite scientific credentials, (and the kind of statistical analysis and modeling that underpins it is really hard to understand, I can’t stress that enough,) your enthusiasm and your, “belief,” in this are simply guesswork or hearsay so why should anyone take you or this issue too seriously?

  2. Hum volcanoes do much much more havent we been told we just came out of iceage and now for warm bit sorry weather its weather or humans is this another way to get more pennies out of the peasants I wonder see earlier post germany built more coal powered stations for their energy needs then openned opencast mines to keep em stocked up yes not only have they stuck their fingers up but made more jobs for their peasants makes you wonder hay least we forget do your bit stay off the beans gas gas gas jeff3

  3. Jeffery –
    If the climate warms by just a few more degrees the ice caps will melt resulting in the sea cooling which will stop the “conveyor belt” bringing up warm water from the gulf stream which will create yet another ice age! This could happen as quickly as in 50 years time and has already started. Do you have children/grandchildren?

  4. China has made enormous efforts to clean up it’s emissions, probably because many cities suffer from really awful pollution, and are covered in thick smogs.

    People need to know about the dangers of fracking, which are well known without having to wait for “a proper assessment of the risks.” There’s an excellent and very scary 60min film entitled “The Truth Behind the Dash for Gas” available for free on YouTube.

    “Documentary lifting the lid on fracking spin, investigating environmental and health issues associated with fracking in Australia, the US, and Lancashire and UK Methane’s plans to drill near drinking water sources in Somerset. ”

    Please search it out and share it far and wide.

    ( I once posted a link to it on here but this resulted in having to wait for approval. The system then blocked me and still won’t allow me back in if I use my usual e-mail address)!

  5. My Green MEP reckons the whole of the SW of England could be self sufficient by using renewable energy alone. It’s sunny, windy and the R. Severn has the 2nd highest tide in the world. This would also create loads of jobs!

  6. Wanda Lozinska-

    You’ll believe anything love.

    Get back to us when you can actually prove some of it.

  7. Wanda Lozinska-

    “This could happen as quickly as in 50 years time and has already started. Do you have children/grandchildren? Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah…………”

    That isn’t serious science; it’s millennialism, which is a powerful, (and I would suggest an almost religious,) element in the whole non scientific and in my view generally mistaken consensus about climate change, Scientific truth does not depend on how many people agree with it, (Galileo Galilei was threatened with the stake and Giordano Bruno went to stake for challenging one such historical consensus; they were in fact both correct in what they were saying and could prove it.)

    I’ve asked a number of people, all fervent proclaimers of the dangers of climate change to support these claims with actual evidence and on a number of occasions and all I ever get is the same kind of bunk that you’ve posted above, “everyone agrees,” or endless, ” if,/then” scenarios or most, “serious scientists,” think, (as if being, “a scientist,” as opposed to being a physicist or chemist, etc, somehow automatically makes someone an authority on all aspects of science outside their own particular and often narrow discipline,) as I say; Blah, Blah, Blah.

    I’ve posted 3 typically insightful quotations from a man I greatly admired, who won the Nobel Prize for physics for doing exactly the kind of, science, (physics,) that seems entirely missing from the whole climate science debacle.

    I hope they’ll help to sober a few people up, so to speak.

    “I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.”

    “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel Prize.”

    “Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

    Richard P. Feynman

  8. Pie in the sky read your history volcanoes put out more carbon but icecaps melts ifs happened before has we now but you shout out about renewable energy see petrol moguls they hiden so much many inventions away from us it hits their proffits yet renewable who gets to pay for it us the ninty nine percent who aint rich will yet again jobs yes there be a job for that fat cat who get those obscene wages hum its happening by me to they building a lagoon to produce electric but guess whot we get to pay for it through our green taxes then we get to pay the going rate for it twice we pay how green yet the sea were this is to be built is tidal were thousands of seabirds feed without the prawns shrimps conger ell who all live in this tidal area lovely if you the boss of the company who run this promises promises they say it supply 150’000 homes ouch how many costing billions to build not worth its salt sorry but green I think I put the kettle on the fire now thats saving me gas or electric jeff3 remember if going green stay off the beans

  9. Jeffery Davies-

    As usual you’re not wrong in fact you’ve hit the nail on the head, too many people, (all the usual suspects,) have jumped onto the taxpayer subsidized renewable energy gravy train and have turned into yet another nice little earner only made profitable by fleecing the taxpayer.

    When so many people are, for example, (Mathew Hopkins,) making a damn good living out of say; murdering witches, who is really going to stand up and say there’s no such thing as witches?

  10. For the sake of pedantry I feel obliged to add a footnote as it were, to Feynman’s comment, which I quoted above.

    “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel Prize.”

    In fact it seems to have been a source of much personal frustration, disappointment and sorrow to Feynman that he was never able to fully share the joy of his scientific discoveries with his father or to fully explain to him just what what he’d done that was so utterly brilliant and how much of the unknown universe it had illuminated.

    So in the end after Einstein, (who wrote a similar book on relativity,) he wrote a short book based on series of lectures; QED, The strange case of Light and Matter, in which he does in fact manage to convey much of the sense and significance of what he’d discovered for the benefit of the layman and without the burden of excessive and arcane mathematics.

    Which was also no mean achievement.

  11. id forgot again the chinese have put in for building this great dam of swanseas breakwater

  12. JP & Jeffrey:

    The following risk assessment on climate change was circling in a YouTube clip a while back:

    If there’s no problem and we do nothing, that’s OK.

    If there’s no problem and we do something, that’s not so bad.

    If there is a problem and we do something that’s excellent.

    If there is a problem and we do nothing – that’s terrible!!

    So, on balance, it’s best if we do take some action, whether there is a problem with climate change or not, and whether we can or can’t make a difference. We succeeded in tackling the hole in the ozone layer by banning CFCs, so we can make a difference. If we don’t take any action soon, we’ll reach a point of no return.

    Planet Earth will survive, but humans won’t. Are you really willing to risk the annihilation of the human race?

  13. “Are you really willing to risk the annihilation of the human race?”

    I guess I am since I see no indication whatsoever that that is any more, or less likely or imminent than it has been during last 2 million years, (during which climate has varied drastically as it does between different geographic locations anyway,) and Jeffery Davis is essentially correct in observing that natural phenomena such volcanic eruptions, movements in the Earths crust etc are of a magnitude that can still dwarf our best efforts to point of insignificance.

    Seriously you need to get out more, a lot more.

  14. Er, JP, I have M.E. so “getting out more” isn’t all that easy!

    I saw a TV documentary where they concluded it only took 50 years for the last ice age to develop. Got any snow boots?

  15. Dont you think culling the stock should be the way forward showing the masses whot is happening to their brothers and sisters culling the stock climate change isnt the main worry has by the time thats happened we the sick brigade will be annihilated by this culling its beyound me how we have left them get away with it but there are many mps in that house and more their shame they are allowing it to carry on they in it together they must be has decent people wouldnt allow this to happen yet we argue about climate change I think in another ten yrs there wont be many left of the sick brigade driven to their deaths jeff3

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