Saturday, March 2, 2024

Media Temporary: Addressing frequent myths round renewable energy


Clear Vitality Canada is a clear vitality assume tank on the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser College. By media briefs, we intention to supply helpful factual and contextual data associated to Canada’s clear vitality transition. Please use this as a useful resource, and tell us if there are any subjects that you simply wish to see for future media briefs. 


International renewable energy technology is rising at an unprecedented fee, pushed by  the beneficial economics of wind and photo voltaic together with vitality safety issues round oil and gasoline (largely attributable to latest wars), and emissions targets. A lot in order that new evaluation suggests world emissions from electrical energy technology could peak this 12 months as a consequence of a surge in wind and solar energy.

Canada’s hydropower-rich grid is 84% non-emitting with variable renewables (basically wind and photo voltaic) at present making up 7% of the nation’s whole electrical energy technology. Nevertheless, the Canada Vitality Regulator tasks that this might rise to between 33% and 37% of electrical energy technology in 2050 in a net-zero 2050. With research indicating that Canadian energy demand may double between now and 2050, the federal authorities just lately proposed the Clear Electrical energy Laws to assist be sure that Canada’s energy system stays each clear and inexpensive within the years forward. Renewable energy, together with variable renewables, will clearly have an enormous function to play in Canada’s vitality future, however its use has confronted criticism that’s usually primarily based on inaccurate or deceptive data.

The next transient breaks down a few of the frequent misconceptions about using variable renewable energy in Canada and world wide.

Fable 1: “Renewables can contribute solely a small share of grid electrical energy as a result of they solely work when the wind blows and the solar shines”

  • It’s true that wind and photo voltaic are variable assets that present most energy to the grid when the solar shines or the wind blows. Nevertheless, options are accessible to enrich variable assets, from stronger grids and interconnections to demand-side measures (such because the sensible charging of electrical automobiles and industrial demand response), inexpensive storage, and dispatchable energy provide. These choices can allow comparatively excessive shares of wind and photo voltaic on a grid.
  • A have a look at different international locations world wide provides loads of examples of present wind and photo voltaic shares which are a lot increased than Canada’s as we speak, with some even increased than the 33% to 37% that the Canada Vitality Regulator tasks for a Canadian net-zero future.
    • Wind and photo voltaic accounted for 61% of electrical energy generated in Denmark in 2022. Different international locations with comparatively excessive shares of wind and photo voltaic embody Uruguay (36%), Eire (34%), Germany and the Netherlands (32% every), the U.Ok. (29%), Chile (28%), and Australia (26%).
    • Regionally, the EU-wide common share of electrical energy generated from wind and photo voltaic in 2022 was 22%. In Could 2023, wind and photo voltaic produced extra electrical energy than fossil fuels within the European Union for the primary full month on report. Virtually a 3rd of the EU’s electrical energy that month was generated from wind and photo voltaic (31%), whereas fossil fuels generated a report low of 27%.
    • The common within the G7 was 15%, simply above the world common of 12%.
    • South of the border, the U.S. has a share of 15%, though with nice state-level variation. Over a 3rd of all U.S. states (18) generated greater than 20% of electrical energy from wind and photo voltaic in 2022. The U.S. states with the very best shares have been Iowa (63%) and South Dakota (55%). Others with comparatively excessive shares embody main states like California (34%) and Texas (26%).
  • A 2022 evaluation of the potential so as to add variable renewables to Canada’s electrical energy system discovered that a median renewables penetration fee of 54% may very well be realized, with even increased shares attainable underneath sure measures.

Fable 2: “Renewables are costly, and the price of vitality storage required to help renewables is prohibitive”

  • A latest Clear Vitality Canada report, A Renewables Powerhouse, discovered that electrical energy from wind and photo voltaic is already cost-competitive with pure gasoline technology in Ontario and Alberta (the 2 provinces studied), with much more value reductions on the horizon.
    • When Canada’s carbon worth can also be included, each wind and photo voltaic are considerably cheaper than pure gasoline already as we speak.
line graph showing ontario levelized cost of energy for wind, solar, and gas
line graph showing Alberta levelized cost of energy for wind, solar, and gas
  • Analyses for the U.S. from Lazard and the Vitality Info Administration present related outcomes. Each discover wind and photo voltaic to be cost-competitive with pure gas-fired electrical energy within the U.S. even with no carbon worth.
  • That mentioned, decrease prices alone are solely a part of the equation. Wind and photo voltaic are variable assets, which means they supply most energy to the grid when the solar shines or the wind blows. As prices proceed to fall, there are a variety of methods to complement the variability of wind and photo voltaic, together with vitality storage and elevated transmission capability.
  • Our latest report discovered that, even when the prices of battery storage are included, each wind and photo voltaic are cost-competitive in lots of situations within the two provinces studied.
line graph showing ontario levelized cost of renewables + energy storage
line graph showing Alberta levelized cost of energy for wind, solar, and gas
  • Once more, outcomes for the U.S. are comparable, the place estimates present that variable renewables plus storage could be cost-competitive with pure gas-fired electrical energy.
  • As vitality storage prices proceed to fall, variable renewables are anticipated to develop into much more cost-competitive with electrical energy from pure gasoline. For instance, evaluation from BloombergNEF reveals a near-80% decline in lithium-ion battery costs over the past 10 years throughout purposes starting from automobiles to stationary storage. Wanting forward, the U.S. Nationwide Renewable Vitality Laboratory tasks utility-scale lithium-ion battery storage prices to probably halve over this decade, with continued value declines by means of 2050.
bar graph showing declining battery costs (while observed costs since at least 2013 have consistently been lower than forecasted costs)
  • Aside from offering low-cost electrical energy, renewables can even assist the communities wherein they’re positioned. New evaluation discovered that some southern Alberta municipalities obtain a considerable quantity of tax revenues from wind and photo voltaic tasks, some as excessive as 50%.
  • Our latest report discovered that, even when the prices of battery storage are included, each wind and photo voltaic are cost-competitive in lots of situations within the two provinces studied.

Fable 3: “Electrical energy from renewables just isn’t clear when you think about the assets required to supply photo voltaic panels and wind generators”

  • Research by a few of the world’s most respected vitality establishments have proven that the greenhouse gasoline emissions of electrical energy technology from variable renewables like wind and photo voltaic are significantly decrease than energy from pure gasoline and coal:
    • The U.S. Nationwide Renewable Vitality Laboratory performed a complete overview of round 3,000 life-cycle evaluation research on utility-scale electrical energy technology from varied vitality sources. The Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change cited this work in a particular report on renewables, and NREL just lately up to date its overview. A full life-cycle evaluation covers all phases of electrical energy technology, from useful resource extraction and energy plant building to operation and finally decommissioning and recycling or disposal.
    • The NREL overview confirmed that whole life-cycle greenhouse gasoline emissions from photo voltaic, wind, and nuclear are significantly decrease and fewer variable than these from pure gasoline and coal. Particularly, the median whole life-cycle emissions from pure gasoline energy is sort of 40 occasions that of wind and greater than 10 occasions that of photo voltaic. Earlier overview research discovered related outcomes.
bar graph of median life cycle emissions of each technology

Fable 4: “Renewables should not clear once you account for the tools waste they generate at their finish of life”

  • Analysis that particularly checked out waste from photo voltaic panels reveals that 35 years of world projected cumulative photo voltaic panel waste is dwarfed by the waste generated by fossil gas vitality and different frequent waste streams.
    • For instance, if there was no transition to renewable vitality sources, coal ash and oily sludge waste generated from fossil gas vitality can be 300 to 800 occasions and a pair of to five occasions bigger, respectively, than photo voltaic panel waste by 2050. In different phrases, waste from photo voltaic electrical energy is considerably decrease than that from fossil fuels.
  • Though some 85% to 90% of the mass of a wind turbine and photo voltaic panel could be reused or recycled, most decommissioned photo voltaic modules and blade waste in Canada are at present directed to landfills or are being saved pending future recycling choices, based on a 2021 report.
  • Nevertheless, quite a few coverage instruments can be found to attenuate waste technology and encourage circularity of supplies from renewables tools, together with focused end-of-life laws, prolonged producer duty, eco-design laws, labelling and certification, and binding and measurable restoration and recycling targets. Certainly, some provinces, like B.C. and Alberta, have already begun advancing their photo voltaic panel recycling efforts in recent times.
  • Analysts anticipate rising vitality prices, improved recycling know-how, and authorities regulation to extend recycling charges. In actual fact, the recycling marketplace for photo voltaic panels alone is projected to be price US$2.7 billion globally by 2030, up from solely US$170 million final 12 months.

Fable 5: “Renewables know-how just isn’t prepared”

  • The Worldwide Vitality Company attests that photo voltaic and wind are “effectively established and available” as we speak. In actual fact, renewables are set to contribute 80% of recent energy capability worldwide between now and 2030 underneath present insurance policies, with photo voltaic alone accounting for greater than half.
  • Photo voltaic deployment has seen distinctive progress in recent times, with world put in capability poised to surpass that of coal by 2027. Earlier this 12 months, the Worldwide Vitality Company projected world spending on solar energy in 2023 to exceed US$380 billion, for the primary time surpassing worldwide funding in oil manufacturing (US$370 billion). On the present fee, world progress in photo voltaic technology is on observe with what’s wanted from this know-how to realize net-zero emissions by 2050, based on the Worldwide Vitality Company.
  • Onshore wind is a “confirmed, mature know-how with an intensive world provide chain,” based on the Worldwide Vitality Company. In the meantime, offshore wind is predicted to develop quickly within the coming years as deploying generators at sea takes benefit of stronger winds.
  • In actual fact, the fast deployment of photo voltaic and wind up to now few years has exceeded expectations, pushed by vitality safety issues and new world insurance policies, resulting in important upward revisions of the Worldwide Vitality Company’s renewable energy forecasts. The company’s newest world vitality outlook equally highlights how projections for photo voltaic and wind technology to 2030 have elevated considerably in successive editions of the outlook since 2019.

Fable 6: “Renewables may match elsewhere however should not suited to Canada”

  • A 2021 research analyzed the flexibility of photo voltaic and wind to satisfy electrical energy demand in over 40 international locations and ranked Canada second.
  • Earlier evaluation equally discovered important potential for variable renewables like wind and photo voltaic throughout Canada. Highlights embody on-shore wind potential in Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan, off-shore wind potential in B.C. and Ontario, and photo voltaic potential in Ontario and the Prairies.
  • Atlantic Canada is dwelling to a few of the finest wind energy assets on the planet, with a latest research declaring that “offshore wind may very well be for Atlantic Canada what oil was to Texas or hydro energy to Quebec.” 
  • Additionally based on the federal authorities, components of southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have been proven to have excessive solar energy potential.
  • In actual fact, Canada’s hydro-dominated electrical energy community is well-suited to enrich the combination of serious shares of wind and photo voltaic. Evaluation from 2022 discovered that Canada may see variable renewables attain a penetration fee of 54% throughout the nation on common, with even increased charges attainable when including demand-side measures.
  • As well as, Canada has “large potential for pumped-storage hydropower,” with greater than 8,000 GW recognized at nearly 1,200 websites, in accordance to WaterPower Canada.



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