Clean Energy Continues Surge in Europe

According to a new report by the European Wind Energy Association, renewables accounted for about 71% of all new power installations in Europe last year. As the Financial Times summarises, in total 32 GW were installed, up from 23 GW in 2010.

Solar photovoltaics accounted for 47% of all new installations, more than wind and gas, the next two biggest, taken together. Italy became the biggest market with 9 GW. In 2010, Italy had installed only 2 GW. Wind stayed flat at 9.6 GW.

How did Nobel laureate Paul Krugman put it? “Here comes solar energy!”

On the bad side, more new coal was installed than was decommissioned for the only the third time since 1998, highlighting the need for climate policy to become more ambitious.

Related Posts:

No Blackouts, Still a Net Electricity Exporter – German Nuclear Phaseout Is Working

Solar Power Prices Continue Free Fall

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  1. DiogenesNJ

     /  February 7, 2012

    “On the bad side, more new coal was installed than was decommissioned for the only the third time since 1998, highlighting the need for climate policy to become more ambitious.”

    What a surprise. What this really highlights is that closing nuclear plants means burning more coal, considering Europe as a whole. Germany is the 6th largest hard-coal importer in the world. Now its going to be closing in on number 5.

    And you don’t even get any public health benefit from it. The ExternE project assessed the total life-cycle risk of various forms of power generation, normalized as expected deaths per terawatt-hour produced (not nameplate capacity, actual production). Even including the Chernobyl accident, nuclear was 35x safer than coal, and comparable to renewables. So trading nuclear generation for coal is a net loss to public health.

    A Rational Enivronmentalist’s Guide to Nuclear Power:

    • Nice pictures of broken down wind mills in that presentation. How many people died from those breakdowns?

      The problem with nuclear is that if things go wrong, they go wrong in a really bad way. If things had gone just a little more wrong in Fukushima, Japan might have lost half the country. And while the risk of such a disaster happening at a single reactor may be negligible, multiplying this risk with the hundreds of reactors we have around the world means that we can expect a new Chernobyl or Fukushima every 25 years or so.

      Besides, coal or nuclear is a false choice. If politicians were serious about energy efficiency instead of just talking about it, Germany could save the equivalent of its nuclear fleet. And at net economic benefit to boot because the savings on the energy bills would be higher than the investment.

      And on the generation side renewables are also increasingly becoming competitive with conventional energy sources, as e.g. Krugman notes in that op-ed I linked to. Whereas nuclear is only able to stay in the game because it gets massively more subsidies than any other energy form, open and hidden. Just requiring operators to get adequate insurance coverage would immediately price nuclear out of the market.

      “Ultimately, it comes down to the question of how big a risk the society is ready to bear” that person from the German Nuclear Forum says. Well, German society has overwhelmingly decided it wants none of it.

      The argument that renewables can’t provide baseload is first of all wrong. Hydro can, geothermal can, biomass can, concentrated solar power can. And second, while solar PV and wind do indeed have a problem there, that problem disappears if you have a grid on a continental scale, as in EU-wide or US-wide. And as I noted in a previous post Germany is currently proving all the doomsayers wrong who claimed that the nuclear phaseout would inevitably lead to blackouts.

  2. DiogenesNJ

     /  February 19, 2012

    “Nice pictures of broken down wind mills in that presentation. How many people died from those breakdowns?”

    Aside from possibly being in a building or vehicle when a wind turbine falls on it (note the roof of the warehouse in one picture), or being skewered by a thrown blade 30 meters long, the risk is nicely separated from the benefit. At least, it’s nice if you live where the benefit is. The people who mostly die are in China, here:

    The link title is a bit over the top, but the report is factual. Generating the same amount of power from wind at a capacity factor of 20-30% takes 3 to 5 times as much of these critical materials as generating it from a concentrated source. It also takes more basic building materials (steel, concrete, etc.) and these things have environmental costs.

    “The problem with nuclear is that if things go wrong, they go wrong in a really bad way. ”

    The entire rest of the presentation attempts to show that this is not correct.

    Recall that Chernobyl had no airtight containment vessel, as all modern reactors have. Three Mile Island, built in the 70’s, had adequate containment which worked as designed. That disaster was financial, not human. No signifiant release of radiation occurred.

    And even then, the deaths provably associated with Chernobyl are under a hundred, comparable with many severe industrial accidents and far less than (say) Bhopal. All of the other deaths claimed by environmental groups are the result of misapplying statistical models, and the basis for those models is increasingly being challenged as invalid. I believe there will be no statistically detectable increase at all in cancer deaths from Fukushima, but of course it won’t be possible to prove this for about 15 years.

    That’s why I compare the “really bad ways” things can go wrong for other large-scale power generation — like hydro, where the Chernobyl-equvalent disaster killed more than 30 thousand outright and an estimated 170,000 total, with 11 million made homeless. Dam failures still kill a hundred or so people a year on average worldwide, the most recent handful just a month ago:

    • I note that you do not address the argument that nuclear power is in fact anything but cheap. On which technologies are causing the bigger catastrophes, the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation will soon release a report on how narrowly Japan scraped by a complete catastrophe. Apparently, the meltdown very nearly spiraled completely out of control, in which cause a huge chunk of the country including Tokyo would have been affected.

      I don’t have the opportunity at the moment to look at the radiation and cancer issue but will do so when I find the time.


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