Renewable Energy Closing In On Natural Gas As Second-Largest Source Of Electricity Worldwide

Renewable energy will soon beat out natural gas as the second-largest source of electricity worldwide, according to projections from the International Energy Agency.

Electricity from solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable sources will increase by 40 percent in the next five years, making up about 25 percent of the world’s energy sources by 2018. Renewables will provide the second-largest amount of global electricity by 2016, topped only by coal, the number one supplier of electricity around the world. Today, hydropower dominates the renewable energy mix, supplying 80 percent of the world’s renewable electricity, but IEA projects non-hydro sources of renewable energy will double over the next five years, comprising about 8 percent of the world’s energy sources by 2018.

Lower costs are a major contributor to the spike in renewable energy — in many developing countries in Africa and Asia (and some developed ones, like Australia) renewables like wind are actually cheaper than coal. These costs are helping drive higher levels of investment in renewable energy from developing countries looking to meet rising energy demands. Reports published earlier this month found developing countries invested a total of $112 billion in renewable energy in 2012, an increase of 19 percent from the year before. China led the way in this area, upping its investment to $67 billion — an increase of nearly a quarter compared to 2011. The total invested by countries in the Middle East and Africa was much smaller — about $12 billion — but compared to 2011, their investment surged upward by 228 percent.

But renewable energy investment isn’t growing everywhere — it’s actually dropping off in developed nations. The IEA notes that despite the renewable sector’s rapid growth, worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels are still six times higher than subsidies for renewables (the U.S.’s spending reflects the world’s average — in 2011, U.S. fossil fuel subsidies were $523 billion, about six times higher than the $88 billion spent on renewable energy). President Obama pledged in his climate speech Tuesday to double the country’s wind and solar energy and to allow enough private renewable energy development on public lands to powqer 6 million homes by 2020. But governments in Europe, meanwhile, are cutting renewable energy subsidies as austerity measures take hold

Obama also addressed coal’s role in the U.S. energy mix on Tuesday, announcing he would be imposing limits on carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants in the U.S., as well as stopping government financing of coal plants overseas. Despite new investments in renewables, coal still dominates the energy market in developing countries like China and India. But its hold on the market may slowly be slipping. In a draft energy strategy statement, the World Bank revealed Thursday that it would be cutting back on the number of coal plants it finances, limiting its support to “rare circumstances where there are no feasible alternatives available to meet basic energy needs and other sources of financing are absent.”

Nanotechnology material could help reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8(Nanowerk News) University of Adelaide researchers have  developed a new nanomaterial that could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions  from coal-fired power stations.
The new nanomaterial, described in the Journal of the  American Chemical Society (“Post-synthetic Structural Processing in a  Metal–Organic Framework Material as a Mechanism for Exceptional CO2/N2 Selectivity”), efficiently separates the  greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from nitrogen, the other significant component of  the waste gas released by coal-fired power stations. This would allow the carbon  dioxide to be separated before being stored, rather than released to the  atmosphere.
“A considerable amount of Australia‘s – and the world’s – carbon  dioxide emissions come from coal-fired power stations,” says Associate Professor  Christopher Sumby, project leader and ARC Future Fellow in the  University’s School of Chemistry and Physics.
“Removing CO2 from the flue gas  mixture is the focus of a lot of research. Most of Australia’s energy generation  still comes from coal. Changing to cleaner energies is not that straightforward  but, if we can clean up the emissions, we’ve got a great stop-gap technology.”
The researchers have produced a new absorbent material, called a  ‘metal-organic framework‘, which has “remarkable selectivity” for separating  CO2 from nitrogen.
“It is like a sponge but at a nanoscale,” says Associate  Professor Sumby. “The material has small pores that gas molecules can fit into –  a CO2 molecule fits but a nitrogen molecule is  slightly too big. That’s how we separate them.”
Other methods of separating CO2 from nitrogen are energy-intensive and expensive. This material has the  potential to be more energy efficient. It’s easy to regenerate (removing the  CO2) for reuse, with small changes in temperature  or pressure.
“This material could be used as it is but there are probably  smarter ways to implement the benefits,” says Associate Professor Sumby.
“One of the next steps we’re pursuing is taking the material in  powder form and dispersing it in a membrane. That may be more practical for  industrial use.”
The project is funded by the Science Industry Endowment Fund and  is a collaboration between researchers in the Centre of Advanced  Nanomaterials, in the School of Chemistry and Physics, and the CSIRO.
Source: University of Adeleide

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