23 February 2015: The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) have formed a partnership in support of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative in the Americas.
That solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is poised to become a dominant energy generation technology throughout the world is of no surprise to most, but the sheer wealth of possibility being forecast throughout the middle and southern hemispheres begins to give an idea of just how prevalent the technology will be by the end of the decade.
Figures published by NPD Solarbuzz have so far predicted that several of the major Asia Pacific nations will account for 60% of solar PV demand in 2014, while being primary drivers of growth over the next several years, at the same time as the Middle East and Africa region currently has close to 12 GW of solar demand in the pipeline.
So it should really come as no surprise that NPD Solarbuzz’s recent figures show that the Latin America and Caribbean region is set to install 9 GW of solar PV over the next five years.
Latin America and Caribbean Five-Year Cumulative Demand Forecast by Project Status
“Solar PV is now starting to emerge as a preferred energy technology for Latin American and Caribbean countries,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “The region has high electricity prices and it also benefits from strong solar irradiation, which makes it a good candidate for solar PV deployment. As a result, experienced global solar PV developers are seeing strong solar PV growth potential in the region.”
NPD Solarbuzz’s Emerging PV Markets Report: Latin America and Caribbean shows that the total PV project pipeline now exceeds 22 GW of projects across all stages of development — with 1 GW of projects already under construction, and another 5 GW of projects have received the appropriate approval to proceed.
The Latin America and Caribbean region was previously home to many small-scale and off-grid solar PV applications, however governments are now looking to solar PV to address large-scale utility power requrements — specifically in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico.
“Many countries across the LAC region have the potential to develop into major solar PV markets in the future,” added Barker. “While project pipelines vary by country, there is a strong contribution from early-stage developments that have yet to finalize supply deals or find end-users to purchase the generated electricity, which presents both risks and opportunities for industry players.”
A number of countries throughout the developing and second-world countries are turning to renewable energy technologies to develop strong, future-proof, and economically efficient energy generation. Such a trend is being backed by major manufacturing companies who are focusing their efforts on these regions, hoping to increase their own profits while fulfilling renewable energy demand. More
What simple tool offers the entire world an extended energy supply, increased energy security, lower carbon emissions, cleaner air and extra time to mitigate climate change? Energy efficiency. What’s more, higher efficiency can avoid infrastructure investment, cut energy bills, improve health, increase competitiveness and enhance consumer welfare — all while more than paying for itself.
The challenge is getting governments, industry and citizens to take the first steps towards making these savings in energy and money.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has long spearheaded a global move toward improved energy efficiency policy and technology in buildings, appliances, transport and industry, as well as end-use applications such as lighting. That’s because the core of our mandate is energy security — the uninterrupted availability of energy at an affordable price. Greater efficiency is a principal way to strengthen that security: it reduces reliance on energy supply, especially imports, for economic growth; mitigates threats to energy security from climate change; and lessens the global economy’s exposure to disruptions in fossil fuel supply.
In short, energy efficiency makes sense.
In 2006, the IEA presented to the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations its 25 energy efficiency recommendations, which identify best practice and policy approaches to realize the full potential of energy efficiency for our member countries. Every two years, the Agency reports on the gains made by member countries, and today we are working with a growing number of international organizations, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and the German sustainable development cooperation services provider GIZ.
The opportunities of this “invisible fuel” are many and rich. More than half of the potential savings in industry and a whopping 80 percent of opportunities in the buildings sector worldwide remain untouched. The 25 recommendations, if adopted fully by all 28 IEA members, would save $1 trillion in annual energy costs as well as deliver incalculable security benefits in terms of energy supply and environmental protection.
Achieving even a small fraction of those gains does not require new technological breakthroughs or ruinous capital outlays: the know-how exists, and the investments generate positive returns in fuel savings and increased economic growth. What is required is foresight, patience, changed habits and the removal of the barriers to implementation of measures that are economically viable. For instance, as the World Energy Outlook 2012 demonstrates, investing less than $12 trillion in more energy-efficient technologies would not only quickly pay for itself through reduced energy costs, it would also increase cumulative economic output to 2035 by $18 trillion worldwide.
While current efforts come nowhere close to realizing the full benefits that efficiency offers, some countries are taking big steps forward. Members of the European Union have pledged to cut energy demand by 20 percent by 2020, while Japan plans to trim its electricity consumption 10 percent by 2030. China is committed to reducing the amount of energy needed for each unit of gross domestic product by 16 percent in the next two years. The United States has leaped to the forefront in transportation efficiency standards with new fuel economy rules that could more than double vehicle fuel consumption.
Such transitions entail challenges for policy, and experience shows that government and the private sector must work together to achieve the sustainability goals that societies demand, learning what works and what does not, and following the right path to optimal deployment of technology. Looking forward, energy efficiency will play a vital role in the transition to the secure and sustainable energy future that we all seek. The most secure energy is the barrel or megawatt we never have to use.
Maria van der Hoeven is the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, an autonomous organization which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond. This commentary appeared first this month in IEA Energy, the Agency’s journal.
China installed a world record amount of solar photovoltaics (PV) capacity in 2013. While this was the first time the country was the number one installer, China has led all countries in making PV for the better part of a decade.
China now accounts for 64 percent of global solar panel production—churning out 25,600 megawatts of the nearly 40,000 megawatts of PV made worldwide in 2013—according to data from GTM Research.
Five of the top 10 solar panel manufacturing firms in 2013—including Yingli at the top and runner-up Trina—were Chinese companies. Coming in third was Canadian Solar, which produces 90 percent of its modules in China. Two Japanese companies and one each from the United States and Germany rounded out the top 10. (See data.)
As demand for increasingly affordable solar power continues to climb around the world, GTM Research projects that China’s annual solar panel output will double to 51,000 megawatts by 2017, representing close to 70 percent of global production at that time. Beijing no doubt had such a quick industry ramp-up in mind when in May 2014 it announced a new national PV capacity goal: 70,000 megawatts of installed PV by 2017, up from 18,300 megawatts at the end of 2013. To put that in perspective, if it meets that goal China will add more solar electricity-generating capacity in four years than the entire world had in place in early 2011.
For more information, see the latest Solar Indicator from Earth Policy Institute, at www.earth-policy.org.
A solar thermal test plant in Newcastle, Australia, has generated “supercritical” steam at a pressure of 23.5 mpa (3400 psi) and 570°C (1,058°F).
CSIRO is claiming it as a world record, and it’s a HUGE step for solar thermal energy.
“It's like breaking the sound barrier; this step change proves solar has the potential to compete with the peak performance capabilities of fossil fuel sources,” Dr Alex Wonhas, CSIRO’s Energy Director, told Colin Jeffrey for Gizmag.
The Energy Centre uses a field of more than 600 mirrors (known as heliostats) which are all directed at two towers housing solar receivers and turbines, Gizmag reports.
This supercritical steam is used to drive the world’s most advanced power plant turbines, but previously it’s only been possible to produce it by burning fossil fuels such as coal or gas.
“Instead of relying on burning fossil fuels to produce supercritical steam, this breakthrough demonstrates that the power plants of the future could instead be using the free, zero emission energy of the sun to achieve the same result,” Dr Wonhas explained.
Currently, commercial solar thermal or concentrating solar power power plants only operate a “subcritical” levels, using less pressurised steam. This means that they’ve never been able to match the output or efficiency of the world’s best fossil fuel power plants – until now.
The commercial development of this technology is still a fair way off, but this is an important first step towards a more sustainable future. More
Watch the video to see the plant in action.
Islands around the world are heavily reliant on costly oil imports from distant locations which can burden government budgets and inhibit investment in social and economic development.
Indigenous renewable energy resources such as hydropower, wind power, solar power, geothermal power, bioenergy and wave power can reduce these expensive imports and create important business and employment opportunities.
But how should islands go about attracting the investment to put these resources to use? The case studies in this short report are meant to show that a wide variety of islands in different locations and at different levels of development can all attract investment in cost-effective renewable energy resources through a mix of four key ingredients: » Political priority to attract investment
» Market framework for investment
» Technical planning for investment
» Capacity to implement investment
Political priority to attract investment in renewable energy on an island results from a realisation by its people, its utilities and its leaders that it is paying too much money for electricity and renewable power offers a way out. To be credible and have an impact, the political priority must be clearly articulated by ministers and embodied in legislation.
An effective market framework for investment must ensure that the electricity market is open to participation by all types and sizes of players who could profit by installing renewable power facilities. These include incumbent utilities, independent power producers, and building owners. Regulations should make it profitable for utilities to invest in cost-effective renewable power options. They should also make it possible for independent power producers to invest in such options – directly or through power purchase agreements with the utilities. And they should make it profitable for building owners to install photovoltaic power systems through net metering arrangements whereby the value of electricity they provide to the grid is credited to their electric bill.
Technical planning is needed to ensure that investment in renewable power options is consistent with the economic interests of the island and does not impair the reliability of service. Some sort of integrated resource planning should be done to ensure that an optimal mix of energy options is chosen for the island, to minimise costs within the constraints of preserving the environment, promoting public health, and serving other social objectives. And grid stability analysis is needed to ensure that the grid remains stable and service remains reliable as the share of variable renewable generation grows.
Finally, human capacity building is needed for successful incorporation of renewable power options on island power grids. A variety of skills are needed to plan, finance, manage, operate and maintain the power grid effectively, safely, reliably and economically.
Looking at islands in oceans around the world, this report shows how these four factors have combined to create successful settings for renewable power investment. Download PDF
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Global renewable electricity energy capacity rose to a new record level last year — more than 1,560 gigawatts (GW), up 8% from 2012. More than 22 % of the world’s power production now comes from renewable sources. Renewables currently meet almost one-fifth of world final energy consumption.
That is one of the conclusion of the new Renewables Global Status Report published by REN21, “the global renewable energy policy multi-stakeholder network.”
The Renewables Global Status Report relies on up-to-date renewable energy data , provided by an international network of more than 500 contributors, researchers, and authors.
With developing world’spolicy support, global renewable energy generation capacity jumped to a record level; 95 emerging economies now nurture renewable energy growth through supportive policies, up six-fold from just 15 countries in 2005.
These 95 developing nations make up the vast majority of the 144 countries with renewable energy support policies and targets in place. The rise of developing world support contrasts with declining support and renewables policy uncertainty and even retroactive support reductions in some European countries and the United States.
In 2013, an estimated 6.5 million people worldwide worked directly or indirectly in the renewable energy sector. O ther important developments include:
• Renewable energy provided 19% of global final energy consumption in 2012, and continued to grow in 2013. Of this total share in 2012, modern renewables accounted for 10% with the remaining 9% coming from traditional biomass the share of which is declining.
• Heating and cooling from modern biomass, solar, and geothermal sources account for a small but gradually rising share of final global heat demand, amounting to an estimated 10%.
• Liquid biofuels provide about 2.3% of global transport fuel demand.
• Hydropower rose by 4% to approximately 1,000 GW in 2013, accounting for about one-third of renewable power capacity added during the year. Other renewables collectively grew nearly 17% to an estimated 560 GW.
• The solar PV market had a record year, adding about 39 GW in 2013 for a total of approximately 139 GW. For the first time, more solar PV than wind power capacity was added worldwide, accounting for about one-third of renewable power capacity added during the year. Even as global investment in solar PV declined nearly 22% relative to 2012, new capacity installations increased by more than 32%. China saw spectacular growth, accounting for nearly one third of global capacity added, followed by Japan and the United States.
• More than 35 GW of wind power capacity was added in 2013, totalling just more than 318 GW. However, despite several record years, the market was down nearly 10 GW compared to 2012, reflecting primarily a steep drop in the U.S. market. Offshore wind had a record year, with 1.6 GW added, almost all of it in the EU.
• China, the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Germany remained the top countries for total installed renewable power capacity. China’s new renewable power capacity surpassed new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity for the first time.
• Growing numbers of cities, states, and regions seek to transition to 100% renewable energy in either individual sectors or economy-wide. For example, Djibouti, Scotland, and the small-island state of Tuvalu aim to derive 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
• Uruguay, Mauritius, and Costa Rica were among the top countries for investment in new renewable power and fuels relative to annual GDP.
• Global new investment in renewable power and fuels was at least USD 249.4 billion in 2013 down from its record level in 2011. More
Meet 'photoswitches,' a breakthrough set of materials that act as their own batteries, absorbing energy and releasing it on demand.
The next big thing in solar energy could be microscopic.
Scientists at MIT and Harvard University have devised a way to store solar energy in molecules that can then be tapped to heat homes, water or used for cooking.
The best part: The molecules can store the heat forever and be endlessly re-used while emitting absolutely no greenhouse gases. Scientists remain a way’s off in building this perpetual heat machine but they have succeeded in the laboratory at demonstrating the viability of the phenomenon called photoswitching.
“Some molecules, known as photoswitches, can assume either of two different shapes, as if they had a hinge in the middle,” MIT researchers said in statement about the paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry. “Exposing them to sunlight causes them to absorb energy and jump from one configuration to the other, which is then stable for long periods of time.”
To liberate that energy all you have to do is expose the molecules to a small amount of light, heat or electricity and when they switch back to the other shape the emit heat. “In effect, they behave as rechargeable thermal batteries: taking in energy from the sun, storing it indefinitely, and then releasing it on demand,” the scientists said.
The researchers used a photoswitching substance called an azobenzene, attaching the molecules to substrates of carbon nanotubes. The challenge: Packing the molecules closely enough together to achieve a sufficient energy density to generate usable heat.
It appeared that the researchers had failed when they were only able to pack fewer than half the number of molecules needed as indicated by an earlier computer simulation of the experiment.
But instead of hitting a projected 30 percent increase in energy density, they saw a 200 percent increase. It turned out that the key was not so much packing azobenzene molecules tightly on individual carbon nanotubes as packing the nanotubes close together. That’s because the azobenzene molecules formed “teeth” on the carbon nanotubes, which interlocked with teeth on adjacent nanotubes. The result was the mass needed for a usable amount of energy storage.
That means different combinations of photoswitching molecules and substrates might achieve the same or greater energy storage, according to the researchers.
So how would molecular solar storage work if the technology can be commercialized? Timothy Kucharski, the paper’s lead author and a postdoc at MIT and Harvard, told The Atlantic that most likely the storage would take a liquid form, which would be easy to transport.
“It would also enable charging by flowing the material from a storage tank through a window or clear tube exposed to the sun and then to another storage tank, where the material would remain until it's needed,” Kucharski said in an email. “That way one could stockpile the charged material for use when the sun's not shining.”
The paper’s authors envision the technology could be used in countries where most people rely on burning wood or dung for cooking, which creates dangerous levels of indoor air pollution, leads to deforestation and contributes to climate change.
“For solar cooking, one would leave the device out in the sun during the day,” says Kucharski. “One design we have for such an application is purely gravity driven – the material flows from one tank to another. The flow rate is restricted so that it's exposed to the sun long enough that it gets fully charged. Then, when it's time to cook dinner, after the sun is down, the flow direction is reversed, again driven by gravity, and the opposite side of the setup is used as the cooking surface.”
“As the material flows back to the first tank, it passes by an immobilized catalyst which triggers the energy-releasing process, heating the cooking surface up,” he adds.
Other versions of such device could be used to heat buildings.
Kucharski said the MIT and Harvard team is now investigating other photoswitching molecules and substrates, “with the aim of designing a system that absorbs more of the sun's energy and also can be more practically scaled up.” More