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Renewable Energy Could Hit 36% Of Global Energy Use, But There's A Biomass Catch

Silvio Marcacci's picture
Communications Director Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC

Silvio is Energy Innovation’s Communications Director, leading media relations and strategy. He has over 15 years’ experience, and has been a bylined columnist at top media outlets. Silvio...

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Would you pay $2.50 to double sustainable energy’s share of the global energy market, reduce carbon dioxide emissions 8.6 gigatonnes (Gt), and create 900,000 new net jobs in the energy sector by 2030?

Unless you’re firmly rooted in the fossil fuel industry, the answer is probably yes, which means you’d also likely be interested in the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) REmap 2030. The report lays out a five-step roadmap for scaling renewable energy up to 36% of the world’s total final energy consumption (TFEC), cutting coal use 26% and oil/gas use 15%, and keeping atmospheric CO2 concentrations below 450 parts per million (PPM).

But there’s a catch – IRENA’s recommendations center on expanding power from biomass. It’s arguably the most controversial renewable energy source, and uncertainties about technology and reported volumes could undercut potential of the world’s sustainable energy future.

The First Study of Worldwide Renewable Energy Potential

IRENA touts REmap 2030 as the first study of worldwide renewable energy potential, and it’s nothing if not comprehensive, with in-depth analysis of 26 countries representing 74% of projected global TFEC in 2030.

map of analyzed countries

On the whole, REmap2030 makes an incredibly compelling case for converting the world’s energy system to sustainable sources. Existing renewable energy technologies have “entered into a virtuous cycle of falling costs, increasing deployment, and accelerated technological progress,” according to IRENA, citing current trends of renewable energy technologies accounting for half all new power generation capacity worldwide.

And REmap2030 wasn’t developed in a vacuum. Beyond the 26-nation analysis, 82 national experts from 42 countries contributed to IRENA’s number crunching, and the report has been presented to several international audiences (including the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties) for feedback.

Renewable Subsidies Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels

Even if the entire package of REmap2030 policy recommendations is instituted, the renewable energy sector would require $315 billion per year by 2030, a price tag that pales in comparison to the $544 billion in subsidies fossil fuels received in 2012 according to the International Monetary Fund. The bill looks even like an even better bargain after factoring in up to $740 billion in health and environmental benefits from reduced emissions by 2030.

tech cost curve

“The central policy question is this – what energy sources do we want to invest in?” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General. “Our data shows that renewable energy can help avert catastrophic climate change and save the world money if all costs are considered.”

To date, the world has chosen investing in fossil fuels. IMF’s 2012 tally of $544 billion in fossil fuel subsidies grew $135 billion since 2010, exceeding 50% of total supply costs of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.

renewable energy use

Compare the fossil fuel bill to renewable energy’s 2012 tally of $101 billion in subsidies during 2012, and the uphill climb is clear – IRENA estimates a business-as-usual approach will only take the world from renewables’ current 18% share to 21% by 2030.

That bias may also extend to official outlooks. Governments tend to underestimate the growing market share of renewable energy, according to IRENA, citing solar photovoltaics (PV) as an example. Current worldwide government projections for solar PV total less than 500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, compared to IRENA’s forecast of 1,250GW solar PV by 2030 if current market trends are coupled with enabling policies.

But What About Biomass?

Technically and financially, REmap 2030 seems to check out, with one exception – the world’s most popular renewable energy. Traditional biomass (wood, agricultural by-products, and dung) represented half of all renewable energy use in 2010, nearly 9% of all worldwide TFEC. Biomass reliance is even more significant in developing nations, where large sections of the population live in energy poverty and rely upon burning plant matter for lighting, heating, and cooking.

Under business-as-usual, IRENA expects traditional biomass to fall to 7% TFEC and 3% TFEC if all REmap 2030 policies are adopted. But far from shifting to other renewables, IRENA expects modern biomass “dominates the renewable energy portfolio” with 61% of renewable energy use.

This domination relies on converting traditional cookstoves and district heat, electricity generation, and transportation fuel to more sustainable and more efficient forms of biomass or biofuel. In addition, REmap envisions biofuels output to nearly triple, and perhaps more importantly, become a large-scale substitute for coal in thermal power plants. “Indeed significant other renewable energy potential exist in the electricity sector in mentioned countries where bioenergy plays a secondary role,” said Dolf Gielen, IRENA Director of Innovation and Technology.

But given the difficulties liquid biofuels have had scaling up, as well as biomass supply concerns, caution seems warranted. IRENA concedes if biomass supply is limited to only crop residues, overall renewables’ share drops six percentage points, and if advanced liquid biofuels don’t grow as expected overall renewables lose another four percentage points. “Continued growth of agricultural productivity is a critical factor,” said Gielen.

Other REmap 2030 strategies such as relocating power demand between countries, hydrogen and biogas production increases, and substituting electricity for heating could hedge against a failed biomass end-use sector transition, but all would increase costs and implementation time.

But even if biomass burning gets cleaner, it’s still an emissions concern. A recent Stanford University study estimates burning plant matter for heat and power represent around 18% of all human-made CO2 emissions, cause 5-10% of all worldwide air pollution mortalities, and add brown carbon to the atmosphere – all of which increase global warming. “The bottom line is that biomass burning is neither clean nor climate-neutral,” said Mark Jacobson, the report’s author.

REmap Analysis Improving Over Time

All in all, while concerns may exist for the probability of REmap 2030 to achieve its goals, it’s an important work in progress. IRENA is expanding analysis beyond the original 26 countries and expects to publish additional analysis and country work over the course of this year, raising coverage to more than 80% of TFEC. With greater analysis, REmap 2030 will likely become more accurate and its predictions more feasible.

emissions reductions

And in the end, the world must cut emissions in order to slow global warming, and IRENA’s policy recommendations follow a sound and holistic path for governments to decarbonize their power sector, even if the exact technologies may shift.

“Doubling the global share of renewables is technically feasible and affordable – and doing so would help avert catastrophic climate change,” said Gielen. “The policy scope must be broadened, with more attention given to the end-use sectors: buildings, industry, and transportation.”

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Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Aug 20, 2014

I can’t predict the future. But as a one time Biophysical Chemist turned pretend farmer, there are two things I know for sure.

The first thing is bumper crops year after year are due in part to unprecedented CO2 levels. We don’t yet know how much plant material the Earth can grow in our new environment. I don’t advocate any particular technology. I strongly advocate education in modern genetics, biochemistry, and physics, however. We need an informed leadership, first and foremost. How many Biophysicists are at meetings making decisions these days??

The second thing is how pathetic the often cited “biomass” energy technologies are. If medical or food (bio) technology was as pathetic we would not be here to discuss the environment and energy.

We can’t be, and don’t need to be ignorant about a needed new biology awareness. My skills are very dated. A lot must have happened in the last 35 years I’m not aware of, so I’ll take my own advice and look to learn more.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Aug 20, 2014

I don’t believe GM biomass could EVER compete with solar on a per land basis. These optimistic reports are baseless because they insinuate that we will still need close to 70% fossil fuels even far into the future. However, all the billions of dollars that would supposedly have to be spent on this rather trivial amount of clean energy should instead be spent building a global fleet of molten salt reactors which can truly replace fossil fuels via the already tried and true electric infrastructure with unlimited plentiful power.

The only concerns are the massive machine development of cheap batteries, heat to fuels and of course, educating the public about how much safer it is to deal with fission products (from a melt down proof reactor fleet) than it is to (not properly) deal with planet killing fossil fuels.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 21, 2014

To put some number to the biomass energy fantasy, according to D.MacKaybiofuel’s annual energy production per unit area is very poor, about 0.5W/m^2, which is 2000 per GW.

Compared to cellulosic biofuels, a given amount of land can annually yield about 5x more energy per acre when making syn-fuel from wind, and 30 times more making syn-fuel from solar (nuclear does a few orders of magnitude better than biomass).

Syn-fuel production from electricity is well understood, and will be expensive when made from renewable electricity.  It is tempting to believe that a near-term biofuel breakthrough will avoid this high cost, but biofuel will always be limited by land-use considerations.

The other seldom mentioned problem with bio-energy is how do you discourage farmers from using our limited water resources when growing energy crops?

We need to be thinking of ways to reduce our land footprint, not raise it.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Aug 22, 2014

Ocean derived biofuels only. Land is better suited for molten salt reactors (or other meltdown proof global reactor fleet).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Aug 22, 2014

Renewable share of consumed electricity is in Germany now ~30%, growing with 1.5% year.
The costs are much lower than with new gen.III+ nuclear. So I don’t see the failure of renewable.

Corrected for all subsidies, nuclear delivers electricity against a price that is >2times higher than wind & solar + storage.

Just compare Hinkley C and correct for the major subsidies such as:
– inflation corrected guaranteed FiT for all produced electricity during 35years. Based on £92.50/MWh in 2012 prices. With 2% inflation that is £115 in 2023 (=€138/MWh) +
– Major investment subsidy of £10billion, worth ~£800mln/a (=€31/MWh) +
– accident liabilitiy limitation subsidy, waste and decommission liability subsidies, etc. =~€10/MWh
So total costs in 2023: €179/MWh going up with inflation during 35years.

Compare with German wind & solar:
– Only guaranteed FIT for 15yrs(wind) or 20yrs (solar). Not inflation corrected.
Av. FiT now €90/MWh. FiT’s for new installations going down with ~4%/a.
So in 2023 average FiT ~€63/MWh while going down further…
Storage costs in 2023 ~€40/MWh. With 30% to be stored*), the av. storage addon is €12/MWh. 
So total costs in 2023 ~€75/MWh, going down further.

*) Biomass + hydro deliver ~14%, enough to fill up important part of the gaps.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Aug 22, 2014

For your 24/7 heat and electric power, and instead of waiting, why not build things like NuScale reactors into deep tunnels (figure 100 feet of rock is as good as 5 miles of distance) and use them both for electric generation and the low-pressure steam for district heating?  You can build them now, and it means that you don’t have to turn all of your natural landscapes into energy plantations.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Aug 22, 2014

The “cheap”, not terribly “renewable” biomass in Germany comes in part from the conversion of old-growth beech forests into clearcuts and wood chips.  That has to be counted as an externalized cost in any sensible accounting.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Aug 22, 2014

Denmark 2009 CO2 emissions, 8.4 tons/capita; France, 6.1.

If you think coal-chugging Denmark is any sort of model, you’re badly deluded.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Aug 23, 2014

Electricity from biomass is not cheap and needs a lot of support. Little progress regarding cost decreases, so it was decided recently to downgrade scheduled expansion towards nearly zero.

PV-solar and the battery storage program will probably fill the gap, as those show great cost decreases (their costs are already much lower than scheduled originally).  

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Aug 23, 2014

Such comparison is not correct as Denmark has a much colder climate, hence far more heating required.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Aug 23, 2014

Thanks Stewart. The September, 2014 “National Geographic Magazine” continues their fine series on global food. There is also a large reference to their efforts with Shell Oil called “Great Energy Challenge.”

What impresses me is all the very big industrial, academic, governmental groups now rising to such a daunting set of challenges. It reminds me of the days after pushing a fiber optic supernetwork to replace a copper wire relay system, and I suddenly realized a huge critical mass of industrial, academic, governmental groups were already rising fast to build a new communication grid. We are now in phase 2 of the innovation cycle. Input remains vital to good results, and National Geographic invites it (as always).

One of the articles in National Geographic describes how many people eat insects for protein, and breaks down the type of insects. So many talented people work so hard to give us so much, with so much yet to do.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Aug 23, 2014

Apologies for going off topic.

We DO need to deal with wastes no matter the mix of primary energy supplies. I believe nuclear could help such as with plasma blasters but now realize that the bio-industry is probably better suited for many aspects of it as well.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Aug 23, 2014

The industry should be used for wastes, NOT as any meaningful contribution to an energy supply, as it is not environmentally responsible to process ANY trees, plants, etc for fuel alone. These should instead be used for crops and building materials. The biofuels option has an inherently very low efficiency per land use, thus limits it to just waste processing.

Henry KB's picture
Henry KB on Aug 24, 2014

From my point of view, almost all renewable energy sources require enormous areas, a huge environmental impact when it is used on a large scale; a better option is fusion energy that is clean, safe and dense.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Aug 24, 2014

“Without the 24-7 reliable heat, power and transport and chemicals that bio-energy offers, how are we to get anywhere near the 80% plus carbon reductions needed.”
You find the answer when you read the Energiewende scenario of Germany.
Shortly; the right mix of solar, wind, hydro, pumped & battery storage, biomass & waste, geothermal, power2gas, etc.

They started in 2000 with 5%, targeting 80% in 2050.
With ~30% renewable of all consumed electricity this year, they are ahead of their transition scheme.
Next intermediate targets;  35% renewable in 2020; 45% in 2025; 55% in 2030.
With that speed they will end with ~90% renewable in 2050.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Aug 25, 2014

I see a lot of hypocrisy in “biomas”. 

If you consider that the only way we currently have to remove atmospheric carbon is by planting trees, then re-releasing said (trapped) carbon to the atmosphere is just wrong headed and hypocritical.

We should bury the wood from trees, or make it into wood products whereby the carbon remains trapped. If we keep re-releasing already trapped carbon, I cannot see an end to our CO2 problem.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Aug 25, 2014

Bas, CO2 is CO2, Coal is Coal. If denmark is afraid of a cold climate, then they should add some nuclear power.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 25, 2014

Algae energy technologies may have niche applications some day, but I don’t see how or why it would every come to dominate any energy sector.  There are two basic ways to grow algae: open ponds, or closed bioreactors.  Open ponds must have about the same poor annual energy yield per unit area and the other eco-footprint problems with all giant mono-culture farming, potentially on a scale that dwarfs food production.  It also has the added problem of high water use from evaporation. 

The closed bioreactors could have higher energy density, but are still limited by the same solar energy diffuseness as solar electric systems (about 200 W/sq.m before efficiency losses).  It is hard for me to imagine that covering a given acreage with tanks of green goo would be any cheaper than covering it with tracking mirrors; so how can this form of solar energy be cheaper than solar electricity (the cost of converting algae to liquid fuel is unlikely to be much cheaper than electricity to fuel, but in either case, gathering the diffuse sunlight is likely to be the expensive part)?

But to make matters worse, algae farms can only produce their spectacular yields when they are fed from a concentrated source of CO2.  So this scheme becomes much less practical in the very non-fossil energy system that we are striving towards.  If we do want to use waste CO2 from power-plants to make fuel, the algae approach needs to prove itself economically and environmentally compared to the available alternative sustainable power-to-fuel methods: processing CO2 with hydrogen from sustainable electricity, or thermo-chemical hydrogen from nuclear power (and by extension, why not just convert the sustainable hydrogen to liquid form via conversion to ammonia fuel and avoid the eco-footprint problems of all carbon sources?).

The power-to-fuel options involving electricity or nuclear heat have the additional advantage of being “dispatchable loads” that can be a big help in balancing supply and demand in a non-fossil electric grid.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 25, 2014

See my comments on bioenergy upthread.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Aug 25, 2014

Nathan, thanks for the link!

I’ve always wondered if it is less energy intensive to make NH3 than to compress H2…  However, I told my brother about the interesting fact that it could be delivered for probably less overall energy than that of its contituent element, hydrogen, because it takes so much more energy to pressurize or liquify the hydrogen for transport. He said “but you can’t let it come in contact with bleach”. I forgot aabout that.

That kinda killed the “spirit for ammonia” for me as there would probably be more accidents concerning hydrochloric acid and chloramine in an ammonia powered world.

I still think that problem from the CO2 free fuel is much better to deal with than simply a CO2 neutral fuel which could encourage additional, and thus relied upon, input from fossil fuels.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Aug 25, 2014

I like the idea of exponential solar and wind but do not like the idea of exponential biofuels unless harvested from the ocean.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Aug 25, 2014

~40% of Denmark’s consumed electricity is renewable now. Their plan is to increase that towards 100% before 2040. In 2020 Wind turbines will generate >50% of their electricity (new wind parks with 8MW turbines).

Furthermore they will be 100% renewable regarding all energy in 2050!
No nuclear country comes even near that scenario!

Few examples:
All new houses have to be energy neutral since 2013.
As a biker you have priority at traffic lights. They jump to green for the biker within 10seconds once he pushes the button. So the biker no longer has to wait inhaling toxic exhaust gasses of passing cars.

A nuclear plant takes >10year. In 2025 renewable generate already ~70% of Denmark’s electricity.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Aug 25, 2014

Bio-diesel is not used in their power plants at all.
They use wood which they mostly produce themselves. Nearly all woods here (in NL too) are production woods since the fifties or so. So those woods are managed such that they continue to produce (such management is a specialism you can study).

Anyway, the Germans decided not to expand biomass significantly (so they adapted the Energiewende scenario accordingly). It cannot compete against wind+solar+storage.
Chance they will decide to decrease the share of biomass after next elections (and increase the share of solar accordingly). As it will lower the EEG surcharge.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Aug 25, 2014


Since I have never seen a 100% renewable country in my life, I take it with the same probabbility as Space Aliens. Also

You may not have noticed that I don’t consider burning of trees as renewable, and I’ll be the first Man to congratulate Denmark or Germany when they stop burning coal.


Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Aug 26, 2014

If you want 100% renewable electricity without biomass, goto Iceland (nice country, was there a few weeks ago) or Norway or …

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 26, 2014

“..halving your GHG emissions per unit of energy…”

In other words, CO2 re-use is like switching from coal to natural gas?  That would be great if world energy consumption were falling, but it is going up.  A factor of 2 improvement is no where near good enough, and is not sustainable.

Regardless of what the public wants to believe, the scientists seem to be saying that CO2 from power plants, assuming it can be economically captured, can be safely an economically sequestered underground.  If the captured CO2 is instead used to make fuel whose exhaust is dumped into the atmosphere, then that fuel has the same CO2 intensity as fossil-derived gasoline.

The algae-energy industry as you’ve advocated it, is just another way to keep using fossil fuel, and keep emitting CO2.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 26, 2014

Did you know that gasoline, oil, and hydraulic fluid will all spontaneously explode when placed in contact with liquid oxygen?  

It’s true, but it doesn’t matter very much.  Our roads and highways are full of trucks carrying all of these very common chemicals, but it is ordinary traffic accidents that are the real threat we must worry about (fuel spills contribute very little to the tens of thousand of Americans who die each year in traffic accidents, and ammonia is no more dangerous than gasoline) – don’t text and drive!

By the way, ammonia fuel does not contain water, unlike the ammonia-based cleaning products that are the intent of the warning you linked, which are liquids when spilled.  Room-temperature ammonia fuel, when spilled immediately vaporizes, forming a buoyant gas, and floats away as soon as it reaches thermal equilibrium with the surrounding air.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Aug 26, 2014

Thanks for clarifying that (3rd paragraph). I should have already figured that out!

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Aug 26, 2014

I forgot to note that the waste utilization of CO2 into enhanced algae growth would lock in the “prerequisites” of continued coal combustion.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Aug 27, 2014

1, There are too many ifs, ands and buts with anything that must compete with coal. My concern with biofuels becoming a sizable fraction of the power needs for 10 billion people at high standards is that poorer quality land most probably would have to be used which means that biofuels would also have to be the source that provides (all the energy to make the) irrigation equipment, fertalizer, all employee needs, and of course, water for the deserts… which would be cool. I’m not sure if it is posssible to overcome all these energy expenses AND provide (the sizable fraction) for the 10 billion by squeezing out a little more from the same source that the ancients used, but I would think that energy crops would be better than even a quarter the amount of solar panels in any desert (they would help to capture excess CO2). Of course, this same source might have to provide for massive desalination for even more than just the crops…

2, I never said that biofuels doesn’t help prevent excess CO2. Rather, (if I said anything similar) there is an argument that goes something like this: Not enough EROEI means ever diminishing returns (and piss poor civilizations). From there, things go to hell unless an energy source with a higher EROEI is resumed. If for nothing else, it would help to capture excess CO2 as long as most all energy inputs were to be powered by any non fossil source. I say this (as opposed to saying just CO2 neutral) because of the CO2 capturing potential of the soils. The deserts would be cooler, leading to less air conditioning (energy) expense.

3. I understand that nothing is a waste of effort if there is a good enough EROEI. Many believe solar is not doable (because it takes about 2-3 years just to energy pay for itself, much less the factories and all employee needs that made it), but I believe it is possible IF it gets better efficiency, is cheaper (energy wise), but most importantly, if storage can be made for cheap (energywise, too) because much would have to be stored in order to deal with long lulls in a pre-global grid society.

4, Stark reality need not be as for real (as it was in the previous, non scientific centuries, except for phosphorus, should we let the anti- mining enviros prevent us from digging deeper for it, and if we don’t learn to prevent its run off, recycle it, learn hydroponics, etc). ALL the elements are provided for humanity to eventually become a true space based race, necessary to prevent the next major asteroid strike. Living barely within our means will simply put us back with the dinosours.

I agree that “we” waste so much energy on seemingly trivial things, like running back and forth between town to get something that could have waited till the next planned trip, how we don’t generally want to conserve (“we” want heavier cars), but most importantly, how we can not collectively come to grips on a single best high power source of energy so that we can all have a higher but more efficient standard of living. We must “set aside” some energy to achieve the collective and ambitious effort to build a larger source than FF’s, to guarantee ultimate survival (and lower population growth).

We also waste other things as well, such as helium. How dare any advanced civilization simply let its finite helium supply go up in thin air!

I know these statements I make are self evident as it is only logical that we can’t go back to a lesser amount of energy in an age of planetary development mostly because of physical resource needs. Psychological needs (such as high tech) is also forbidden in an energy constrained world.

We can’t cheat the laws of physics.

Nevertheless, we should learn to green the deserts, too!

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Aug 27, 2014

I agree entirely with your guarded support of bioenergy. And am grateful for your willingness to answer the insults. We need ideas that work, quickly, not a barrage of off-base criticism.

In the US we have seen profound success in bioenergy almost never discussed. Ethanol is NOT the fuel substitute normally discussed. However, the air quality in the US is now extraordinary. Minnesota once had emission inspection centers and all cars were required to be tested; now closed. Cars get greater mileage than ever, and last longer than ever. A hydrocarbon + carbohydrate fuel mix works.

The same for district heating. I was born in St. Paul, MN. And saw the downtown transformed by district heating that includes biofuel. The once sooty stained buildings now sparkle in this VERY cold climate. The UK must be similarly surprised seeing stone architecture stained for centuries. A hydrocarbon + carbohydrate fuel mix works.

The US has also greatly expanded our soil and water management since the Depression era dust bowl. The western US entirely depends on smart water and soil policy. Non-confrontational, enlightened environmental leadership works.

And I entirely agree that exciting transportation technologies are in development. Hybrid powertrains as well as all electric cars deserve interest. An old farmer here in northern Minnesota shared his grandpa’s stories of what a winter’s worth of “horse emissions” required in rural small towns; knee high boots, a shovel, many strong backs and weak sensitivity (whiskey).

The television just celebrated its 75th birthday; now on a wrist-watch. Please fill us in on your ideas.

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on Aug 27, 2014

I have to say most of waht is written before ” But what about biomass?” is junk as it is comparing apples and oranges. For example

Even if the entire package of REmap2030 policy recommendations is instituted, the renewable energy sector would require $315 billion per year by 2030, a price tag that pales in comparison to the $544 billion in subsidies fossil fuels received in 2012″

is not correct at all. The subsidies of $544 billion in that analysis are clearly stated to be mostly consumer subsidies and not fossil fuel subsidies. That is the price of the fuel is deliberately lowered for the consumer but overall, the amount being paid to the fossil fuel supplier remains the same (assuming no corruption) as if there were no subsidy. There is an incentive to use more fossil fuel (and thus produce more) and this helps the producer but it is not a direct subsidy. The renewables subsidies on the other hand are paid directly to the renewable supplier above and beyond the market price of the energy they supply. This leads to more being paid for the energy. 

You cannot thus under any circumstance compare them as this article does.

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