Despite the hype, 'carbon-free' energy sources aren't gaining traction globally

Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. tips us to this interesting yet inconvenient graph.

The graph below shows data from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014, which was released yesterday. It shows the proportion of global energy consumption that comes from carbon-free sources. Guess what? It isn’t growing.

Pielke writes:

The proportion of carbon-free energy consumption is a far more important metric of progress with respect to the challenge of stabilizing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere than looking at carbon dioxide emissions.

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.

 

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Jimmy Haigh.

It reminds me of “the pause”…

Halleluja Chorus !!

Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy YOU freaking GENIUS – it IS THE PAUSE!!!! It must be its the right shape!!! I’m at least 97% dead sure of it.

Lank is perplexed

Just the handle of a hockey stick.

MikeUK

Looks like natural economic variability, driven by the price of oil, but no doubt the planet savers will see their influence in it somewhere.

ralphcramdo

There should be a chart of the number of permanent jobs carbon-free energy has created compared to fossil fuel jobs.

walker808

Fossil fuels are a finite resource, sooner or later all the oil, coal and gas will be used up, renewable energy is the only hope for our long term energy needs. This report is in no way “good news”.

Someone want to correlate Carbon Free energy with Temperatures? Looks like a close fit! And of course to alarmists, correlation is causation. 😉

jones

More a cricket-bat than a hockey stick…..
What?what?….

Gamecock

“The proportion of carbon-free energy consumption is a far more important metric of progress with respect to the challenge of stabilizing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere than looking at carbon dioxide emissions.”
The chart tells me that cutting emissions is the ONLY way. Twenty years of heavily subsidized development has produced no change.

Gamecock

walker808 says:
June 17, 2014 at 4:07 am
Fossil fuels are a finite resource, sooner or later all the oil, coal and gas will be used up, renewable energy is the only hope for our long term energy needs. This report is in no way “good news”.
===========
Our long term energy needs are covered. Easily. Fretting over what they are going to do in 2214, long after we are all dead, is silly.

ImranCan

Kind of ironic ….. the growth in the percentage of carbon free energy sources seems to be perfectly inversely correlated with the amount of green propaganda on global warming.

Chris Wright

Yes, there seems to be an excellent correlation. It even peaks at the time of the 1998 el nino. Ironically, this correlation looks far better than the correlation between temperature and CO2.
The conclusion is obvious: to ‘solve’ global warming, we need to build huge numbers of coal-fired power stations. The Chinese may be on the right track…
But we should be careful. If we build too many coal-fired stations, we may trigger global cooling, which, as we well know, is far worse than global warming….
Chris

Oldseadog

Maybe someone can look at the relationship between the creation of “carbon free” jobs and the losses of ordinary jobs due to high energy costs.
Spain might be a good place to look.

We will start making progress as soon as we abandon the inane “All of the Above” mantra, and substitute “All of the Sensible.”
Briefly, the definition of “Sensible” would be those sources that have scientific proof that they are a net societal benefit.

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
The graph shows that despite billions in tax incentives, and billions more in direct incentives, energy source that don’t directly produce carbon dioxide cannot compete. Cannot, that is the important point.

“It shows the proportion of global energy consumption that comes from carbon-free sources. Guess what? It isn’t growing.”
This doesn’t seem consistent with what the report actually says under “Renewable Power” (electricity):
“The share of renewable power in global power generation reached 5.3% in 2013, almost doubling in five years from 2.7% in 2008. Renewables accounted for 8% of OECD power generation in 2013, compared to 3% in the non-OECD. While the aggregate shares remain low, for some individual countries renewables now contribute a significant share of power. Eighteen countries now have a renewables share of more than 10%, up from just eight countries in 2010.”
and
“The rapid growth of renewable power generation continued in 2013. Global growth was 16.3%, slower than in 2012 but above the ten year trend rate of growth, and the tenth successive year of double-digit growth. Renewables contributed 34.6% of the growth in global power generation in 2013, representing 15.7% of world energy growth.”

Ed

Dr Helen Czerski of the BBC (recent Horizon edition) apparently thinks that battery-powered cars and aircraft are ‘carbon-free’ transport. Either she gets the fairies to charge her batteries up for her, or she’s playing dumb to keep her job with the BBC.
BBC science programmes dumbing down? As if!

I wonder if “carbon-free” includes nuclear. It’s offering has dropped in the last few years. I don’t have time to make sense of the units, scales (e.g. electricity vs all energy), but this link has a bar graph showing the recent decline of nukes.
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Nuclear-Power-in-the-World-Today/

David

Carbon-free might be stable, but carbon content is going down with the increased use of natural gas, which has lower carbon content.

Jknapp

Nick
Yes, it is consistent. The graph is about global energy consumption. You’re quote is about renewable electricity generation. Doubling renewable electricity generation from 2.7 to 5.3% will not make a noticeable blip in global energy consumption. Besides which, carbon free and renewable are not synonyms. How do they take wood pellet generation into account, for example? Renewable but not carbon free.

Jknapp says: June 17, 2014 at 5:05 am
“Doubling renewable electricity generation from 2.7 to 5.3% will not make a noticeable blip in global energy consumption.”

Well, it does. They say:
“Renewables contributed 34.6% of the growth in global power generation in 2013, representing 15.7% of world energy growth.”

Nigel Harris

If you look at the details you’ll see that since about 2002 there has been a very substantial decline in nuclear’s share of global energy consumption. Nuclear power production/consumption FELL by 7.7% from 2002 to 2013, while global primary energy consumption rose by an astonishing 32.5% over the same period. As a result, nuclear’s share fell from 6.38% in 2002 to 4.42% in 2013.
At the same time, the production of electricity from other carbon-free energy forms rose by 72%, growing faster than global consumption (over half the additional capacity coming from hydro and most of the rest from wind) and their combined share of global consumption rose from 6.68% to 8.92%.
The two changes (nuclear down, renewables up) almost exactly balance each other out.

Nigel Harris

Ric Werme says:
June 17, 2014 at 5:03 am
I wonder if “carbon-free” includes nuclear.

Indeed the figures shown on the chart are for nuclear, hydro and “other renewables”, the latter including wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and waste.

charles nelson

Nick Stokes. Comprehension fail.

Leo Smith

Th e discrepancy between the ‘rise in renewables’ and the ‘pause in carbon neutral generating fractions’ is easily explained.
The windmills and solar panels take a lot of coal produced electricity to make.
Once deployed, they do not result in any overall reduction of fossil fuel usage either. Since it is burnt more inefficiently to balance them.

jknapp

Nick Stokes,
Energy consumption is about 580 quadrillion BTU’s. It grows about 4% per year. (Let’s let carbon free and renewables be synonyms for these purposes) If carbon free is currently 13% (from chart above) and renewables make up 15.7% of the 4% growth then renewables grow from 75.4 Quad BTU to 79 Quad BTU. While non-renewables grow from 504.6 to 524 quad BTU. That is then 13.1% for carbon free. Again, your facts are still consistent with no noticeable change in the graph above.

Nigel Harris

David says:
June 17, 2014 at 5:04 am
Carbon-free might be stable, but carbon content is going down with the increased use of natural gas, which has lower carbon content.

Sadly, increased natural gas consumption is mainly in the USA. Over the last 10 years, global gas consumption is up by 29% but coal is up by 47%.
The carbon intensity of global primary energy production has been pretty flat for the last decade or so at around 23 tonnes CO2 emitted per MWh of energy consumed. Again, this is a combination of two factors: a huge growth in coal consumption, increasing carbon emissions, almost exactly offset by the growth in renewable energy.

David Smith

Does this include hydro?
Of it does and you take it out of the equation the graph may look extremely different.
(The extreme enviro-nazis hate hydro because it actually works – they don’t want us to have easy access to energy sources as they want us all living in caves)

Edgar

Given China’s success in bringing coal plants on line, “treading water” is not too shabby for the “carbon-free” industry. Given the enormous unmet energy needs of the world and the resulting human misery, I suppose we should celebrate the global “all of the above” approach’s energy supply growth especially given sensible reductions in non-carbon subsidies.

David Smith

Doh! After I typed my comment asking if hydro was included, I then saw Nigel Harris @5.28 already answering my question.
(My opinions regarding the enviro-nazis still stand)

Nigel Harris

Nigel Harris says:
June 17, 2014 at 5:39 am
… 23 tonnes CO2 emitted per MWh of energy consumed …

Sorry, that should be 0.23 tonnes of course!

Nigel Harris has the better grasp on this one. Kudos.

Dire Wolf

@Walker808
When the cost of carbon-based fuels equals the cost of solar/wind then their proportion will increase. Long before that nuclear and hydro-electric will increase.
Also, why is it people still insists that methane (natural gas) will run out when it is present on planets where there likely has never been life in any great quantity if any at all (like some moons of Saturn). Methane may be a by-product of the nuclear fission/chemical heat reactions in the core and mantle of our planet. Its production may be slower than we might wish as economies grow. At the same time it may not be a “fossil fuel”.

Coal-based energy is increasing, nuclear-based energy stagnated after Three Mile Island meltdown – plants under construction were finished, but very few more were started.
Meanwhile renewables are growing very quickly – but they started from an almost zero point. Their impact will be seen much more in the coming years.
With coal reserves limited and due for exhaustion within 50 to 60 years, the world had better start building the wind turbines.
We are going to need them.

sooner or later all the oil, coal and gas will be used up
=========
cheap oil, coal and gas has been used up. however there doesn’t appear to be any shortage of the expensive variety. they keep finding more and more of that.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar

@Nick
“Renewables contributed 34.6% of the growth in global power generation in 2013, representing 15.7% of world energy growth.””
I would like to know if the generation of electricity using water power is counted in this ‘renewables’ or not. I understand that there are extremist elements in the green movement who refuse to count water power as ‘renewable’.
Hydro power in Africa could easily increase by 10-fold the current continental output. If it is included, so what? It was going to happen anyway. If not, the ‘carbon content’ of the ‘solutions’ is really high.
When flying from Beijing to Mongolia yesterday I saw from the air the infrastructure China is building in order to erect giant windmills that look large even from an aeroplane. There is a road of perhaps 0.5-1.0 km long per windmill to reach them. Not to mention the wires strung across the land. They have to be made and maintained. I can’t see that a massive metal, plastic and epoxy construction gets to be counted as ‘zero emissions’.

Latitude

India and China are throwing off the bell curve………

coal reserves limited and due for exhaustion within 50 to 60 years
=============
if that was true there would be no worries about CO2. It would be self limiting. The big worry is that the third world will try and use coal to industrialize, the same way that the west did and that india and china are doing, because it is the only path that has been shown to work. the problem isn’t that we will run out of coal. rather the opposite, that we will not.

Rob

You can make any shape of graph you like by (re)defining what your parameters are. This graph of “non-CO2” energy consumption includes nuclear and hydro as well as renewables (solar and wind) so the levelling off is as much to do with slowing down nuclear and hydro as anything else. I wonder where biofuels are included in this?
Dr Pielke’s point is that there is no evidence of any major shift to reducing CO2 emissions in energy consumption and – as he is accepting of the link between CO2 and temperature – is pointing out the failure of mitigation policies to actually do anything.

Resourceguy

The tax credits were not an inexhaustible resource after all. Besides, they started to crowd out the other vote-buying-operations-with-borrowed-money schemes.

Pamela Gray

One btu of growth in solar or wind is not the same as one btu of growth in fossil fuels. 1 BTU/hr = 0.29307107 W. Different substances have different btu’s per unit of that substance (even different wood species have quite different btu’s per cord). The cost of bringing that one unit online would then also be different. How would you calculate the cost of bringing one btu of fossil fuel online versus bringing one btu of solar or wind online?

Robert W Turner

Hydroelectric is obviously carrying the carbon free energy market but that source is reaching full capacity. Unfortunately the graph of capital expenditure on carbon-free energy does not have the same shape.

SAMURAI

The Thoruim Age officially starts next year when China’s first Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor goes online.
There is no need for governments to waste taxpayer money on LFTR development, all that is required (unfortunately) are government rules/regs/standards to be established and to let the free market determine the pace at which this new technology is adopted over conventional/non subsidized energy sources.
Governments do an absolutely awful job at picking winners and losers and any government involvement in LFTRs will merely delay, rather than accelerate LFTR adoption.

Travis Casey

It would appear that 1990’s were the highest percentage in recorded history!

tabnumlock

Nearly all hydro and nuclear, no doubt. But why would we want to limit CO2? The earth is still in a CO2 famine. 400ppm is still too low. 1,000 would seem to be the minimum healthy level. An no, the earth will never run out of fossil fuels. They’ll just get more expensive than nuclear. Hopefully, the CO2 enrichment will stay around for a few centuries.

MattS

Does Dr. Roger Pielke Jr’s graph include nuclear power? If so, what would it look like if you excluded nuclear?

Pamela Gray

Hell folks!!! We have discovered a perfect match for the warming AND the pause!!! The cause? The growth and stalling out of renewables!! I can be all sciency about correlation being causation too. And in this case the correlation is far superior to CO2. So it must be it. Yeppers!

dccowboy

Wonder what contortions the AGW proponents will go through to deny this ‘pause’? 😉

Coal, oil and gas are also renewable. The same processes that produced these sources in the first place, are still at work producing more.

tadchem

I recognize the logistics function here. The previous paradigm prevailed until the 1960’s. Then a new factor entered and grew, with the system eventually re-equilibrating about 1995. This very closely tracks the historical data for the on-line capacity of nuclear reactors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nuclear_Power_History.png