Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ethon RTFR and Is Pleased

A few days ago Ethon's food group put up a very depressing chart purporting to show the proportion of global energy consumption that comes from carbon-free sources.

Now, far be it from Eli to question other's Excel skills but one of the things the Bunny likes to do with charts is figure out why they go up or down or don't.  Looking at this one, well,  the rise from 1970 to 1985 might be an increase in nuclear, especially in France and the FSU, but the stagnation after ~1998 does not seem super likely, and with increased wind and solar, there should be a sharper rise after ~2005 or so IEHO of course.  Roger Jr. was kind enough to provide the source, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, and so the Bunny sent the little (not) birdie off to see

The summary over at BP
Global hydroelectric output grew by a below-average 2.9%. Led by China and India, the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 78% of global growth. Drought conditions reduced output in Brazil by 7% and in Finland, Norway and Sweden by a combined 14.5%. Hydroelectric output accounted for 6.7% of global energy consumption.
Renewable energy sources – in power generation as well as transport – continued to increase in 2013, reaching a record 2.7% of global energy consumption, up from 0.8% a decade ago. Renewable energy used in power generation grew by 16.3% and accounted for a record 5.3% of global power generation. China recorded the largest incremental growth in renewables, followed by the US, while growth in Europe’s leading players – Germany, Spain and Italy – was below average. Globally, wind energy (+20.7%) once again accounted for more than half of renewable power generation growth and solar power generation grew even more rapidly (+33%), but from a smaller base. 
to which one has to add nuclear as a fossil free energy source.  Anyhow this appeared a bit at odds with Roger's message
What you should take from this however is that there remains no evidence of an increase in the proportion of carbon-free energy consumption even remotely consistent with the challenge of atmospheric stabilization of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Those who claim that the world has turned a corner, soon will, or that they know what steps will get us around that corner are dreamers or fools. We don't know. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can design policies more compatible with policy learning and muddling through.
Praise be the bird, Ethon also brought back a wonderful spreadsheet with all the data, so Eli extracted the world total energy consumption by energy source and plotted the results.

Ethon is too damn fat so Eli leaves the pecking to others, but this is damn interesting.
  • First, the nuclearization of electricity generation in the 1970s is absolutely clear.  
  • Third, non-fossil, non-nuclear energy chugs along at a steady level, mostly hydro, until ~2002 when it takes off like a rocket.
  • Fourth, the small step jump in the 1970s for non-fossil, non-nuclear might be a reaction to the oil shocks and the step down in int early 1980s is a reflection in the fall in the inflation adjusted price of oil.  In a US context, Reagan's dismantling of the energy programs that Carter put in place. 
  • Fifth, without the fall off in nuclear, non fossil energy consumption might already be near or over 20% of the world total
  • Sixth, and bottom line, as any bunny might suspect, the Roger is selling a McGuffin, defined as a desired plot our hero inserts in advancing his argument with no explanation.  In this case the explanation destroys his argument  It's not that renewables are not growing, it is that nuclear is shrinking.  If Barry Brook and Jim Hansen get their way, or even more simply if Japan comes back on line, that trend reverses.
  • Seventh, the growth in non-fossil, non nuclear energy is still too slow, because there is also growth in fossil energy use.  There is a significant growth in non-carbon energy consumption, principally wind, with solar coming on, but the growth will have to accelerate.  This requires policy changes, withdrawal of subsidies for fossil fuels for sure, almost certainly cap and trade or a tax on fossil fuels.

BTW, it is interesting that the non-fossil sources show little evidence of the 2008 economic downturn and less so of other, while they are clearly marked in the fossil source consumption as seen in the figure below  In the nuclear trace, the shutting off of Japanese reactors after Fukashima shows up clearly at the end.  If non-fossil sources were more expensive than fossil sources, one might expect the opposite at first, perhaps, another marker of a turn away from fossil energy?

UPDATE:  As requested below, the breakout of the various non-fossil sources

with as fernando speculated hydro showing steady growth and an increased rate after 2000, with wind picking up in 2005 and solar after 2010.  There is room to grow on the bottom.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the last para, might the explanation be that the marginal costs of eenewables are low so that they are always used first whereas an expensive, knackered old oil burning plant will be used last. When there's a drop in demand it's that pricey fossil fuel plant that doesn't get used.


Fernando Leanme said...

I would separate the hydropower from other renewables. In recent years we saw a lot of hydropower installed in China as well as Latin America. I don't keep track of the details but intuitively I suspect the largest actual increase may have been from hydropower?

Once the morning sun stops hitting my computer screen I'll grab the BP data and plot it and let you know what it says.

Dano said...

Oil equivalent energy certainly is a good way to look at it. Another way is simply to look at total power in MW, as that is what wind, solar and hydro do - make electricity.

That is: the amount of MW in solar and wind is no longer a blip. Baby steps!



Anonymous said...


The name plate MW rating is not a good measure. You must multiply it by the capacity factor. Some rules of thumb: PV: 0.15, Wind: 0.25, Nuclear: 0.85, Hydro: it depends. These would be world averages and they can vary quite a bit in the case of renewables depending on the resource.

You can see the relative contribution to electricity production here:

robert said...

Dateline Montgomery, 1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up seat.

RPJr: Anyone who things a corner has been turned is either a dreamer or a fool...

Chris_Winter said...

RP-Jr: Those who claim that the world has turned a corner, soon will, or that they know what steps will get us around that corner are dreamers or fools. We don't know. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can design policies more compatible with policy learning and muddling through.

Current data are completely irrelevant to this statement, since it makes a prediction for something which depends in large part on social trends.

Furthermore, the claim that no one knows what policies or technologies can potentially mitigate the effects of rising CO2 concentrations is simply false.

"Behold, here cometh the dreamer. Let us -slay- defund him, and we shall see what becomes of his dreams." (strikethrough not allowed.)

J Bowers said...

Finally, our (civil) engineers get concerned.

UK public 'should be primed to expect more infrastructure failures'

Andrew said...

JB -

The thing is, if we actually had realistic climate-related planning laws in the UK - basically flood resistance, no major new infrastructure within 10m of sea level, possibly a national water grid of sorts.. it might start to focus minds on the real severity and impacts of climate change on the UK. Can't be having that..

J Bowers said...

Can't disagree with you there, Andrew. The only way I see it happening is with more Green Party legislators at the local, Parliamentary and European level, which, surprisingly, I find myself thinking isn't an impossibility as people have see through Ukip's sham.