Fast Company is saying that renewable energy is leap-frogging fossil fuels in the developing world. I think they overestimate the goodness of our hearts and underestimate our poverty. Places like Sri Lanka and India rely on hydro (water) power because we can’t afford fuel imports. It’s actually not an ideal situation and we could do with more (better) fossil fuels.
Every morning (in about an hour) the power tends to kick out at my house. Maybe the house more than the grid, but sometimes the whole neighborhood goes down. Why? Well, largely because it didn’t rain enough months ago. The reservoirs are dry and the CEB is burning diesel to sell electricity at a loss (LBO). It’s not a brilliant way to run a country.
If you look at the infographic above, Sri Lanka is about 50/50 hydro/thermal. This is a fancy way of saying water and oil. Our alternative to hydro power is to import and burn – diesel. In old jet turbines. It’s mad. We finally have coal power plant coming online thanks (?) to Chinese loans. They say coal is dirty and stuff, but the west uses it for a reason. It’s cheap and provides good value for economic growth.
Global Investments In Renewable Energy
I skimmed the UN Environment Program report (thank you Fast Company for linking!) and investment in renewable energy is still relatively small.
Investment in renewables, at $211 billion for capacity and technology, remains a small sum compared to wider economic aggregates. This was equivalent to 0.3% of world GDP in 2010, or 1.5% of world investment. It was equivalent to somewhere between the GDP of the Philippines and the GDP of Finland.
Looking at other sectors, investment in renewables was equivalent to close to the value of the global luxury goods market ($234 billion), a third of the global advertising market ($640 billion), and a quarter of the value of OECD countries’ oil imports in 2010 ($880 billion).
Still, it’s not chicken feed, especially in the electricity field. And growing.
If combined with hydro large and small, renewable power accounted for 84GW out of the 180GW of net power additions in all technologies worldwide, equivalent to 47%.
Why Hydro Is Not Renewable Energy
Why I don’t get is why they don’t include hydro as a renewable source. I mean it rains.
hydro-electric projects of more than 50MW are not included in the main figures in this report, due to the questionable social and environmental impact of some large hydro schemes.
By that they mean the flooding of land often required, I think. Also, as my dad’s research has pointed out, there’s a major disaster risk if dam’s aren’t maintained. So I guess the point is that you can only damn a river once, and at a significant risk and cost.
Plus it’s rather unsatisfactory energy. Unreliable. We’ve had ongoing interruptions for months now. Beep beep beep, you know.
If you include hydro, places like Sri Lanka are already off fossil fuels. India is close. If you don’t, however, then we’re really quite off. While it’s true that poverty has kept us off fossil fuels, as we get money we are consuming more. But, apparently, that can and perhaps is being outweighed by investment in renewable energy.
Personally, I don’t see it. Our renewable energy use is pretty low at 1%. The new Chinese funded (loaned) projects are coal. At least it’s better than burning diesel.