back to article IPCC report: Renewables can never meet energy demand

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued teasers ahead of an upcoming report into renewable energy. The IPCC says that "close to 80 per cent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century". However this is derived from the most optimistic possible scenario for renewables, and …

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  1. JDX Gold badge

    Nuclear it is then

    After all the oil won't last forever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      Re: Nuclear it is then

      Is that "nuclear power for electricity generation" or "nuclear weapons to correct over population"??

      I guess either will work :)

    2. Mike Richards

      Which won't help

      Since developing nations can't afford to buy reactor technology anyway.

      1. Crofty616
        Black Helicopters

        RE: Which won't help

        Besides, even if they did we'd claim they were using it to create weapons and use it as an excuse to invade them and take their remaining oil :)

    3. Thomas 18
      Go

      Go team nuclear!

      How about we just build a few nuclear plants now and funnel all the remaining money into fusion R&D. The fact that policy is informed by the cowed public who live in irrational fear of nuclear metldowns and secret WMD hoarding is pathetic. Bring on the meritocracy and lets have the civil engineers make the decision on what to build.

    4. rciafardone
      Boffin

      You do know that nuclear is limited too.... right?

      Nuclear fuel will get us in the same problem than oil, but with a lot more troubles and for a shorter time (if we go full nuclear).

      nuclear energy is a crazy stupid solution.

    5. taxfree

      Nuclear it is then

      Actually, once the "Oil Crunch" hits, after we reach "Peak Of Production of Conventional oil", we shall be struggling to ensure the supplies of fuel needed to maintain all nuclear plants.

      However, due our personal / political inabilities and outright refusal to plan ahead for such matters:

      Our inability to then secure and maintain perpetual access to such supplies argues for a continuous repeat of accidents in nuclear plants leading to many "Chernobyl" type situations.

      "Woe!" said Pogo, "We have met the enemy and it is us!".

      To a safer, saner and more caring world.

      To Duty.

      Daniel J. Lavigne

      "The Tax Refusal"

      http://www.TaxRefusal.com

  2. Chris Procter
    Dead Vulture

    Again?

    Analysis based on a press release and not the actual data used to generate thy figure?

    Bored now!!!

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Even the press release admits defeat

      The point is that a press release, which attempts to spin it in the best possible way, still confirms that it's not possible any time soon to have a "renewable future".

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        It isn't all or nothing

        If energy demand is likely to increase, and renewables can supply most of that increased demand, we should go for it.

    2. Ian Stephenson
      FAIL

      Pot/Kettle carbon coating much?

      Flame based on your guess of the content of the article?

      Perhaps you missed the first line?

      "The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued teasers ahead of an upcoming report into renewable energy."

      Notice the word "teasers" ?

      Notice the word "ahead"?

      Notice the word "upcoming"?

      Did you follow the link and look for a full document?

      No thought not.

      0/10 could do better.

      Go froth elsewhere.

      1. Chris Procter

        Yes, I did.

        It was more interesting than the article itself.

        In summary it said it's possible, but politically hard.

        How that got turned into "it's possible, but we either have to kill loads of people or keep them poor" seems to be based upon the a figure not actually contained in the release.

        Lewis takes the actual figure reported, and says "this can't be accurate" finds another figure that is nearly double the IPCC and uses that to proclaim doom!

        Then somehow, after I get chided for supposedly not reading the release, other commenters somehow read the release as admitting it can't achieve the actual thing the first line of the release said it could.

        I would have been more impressed if Lewis had said made greater play on the fact that this was merely a release, with no varifiable data to check against - instead if going into full blown attack mode when he had nothing.

        This shows the level of unproffessionalism that gets called into play when this subject gets covered.

        1. Tom 13

          The press release says all you need to know in one line:

          that by 2050 renewables will produce 3 times the amount of energy the US produced in 2005. Anybody stupid enough to put that in a press release let alone an "official" report needs to shot post haste. They are producing to much wasted carbon and need to be removed from the production pool.

    3. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Well, of course!

      Given that the report is not being made available until the end of the month, one cannot do anything else.

      The linked press release and "Summary for policy makers"* is it until then.

      You'll notice that El Reg has looked at the raw data of other sources, and that they've used the figures given in the press release so it seems quite reasonable to note the obvious assumptions that must have been made to get the numbers they're claiming.

      *I find it disgusting that they have published the summary for policy makers before publishing the actual report itself. At best that's disingenuous - how can such policymakers check that the summary is valid and not deliberately or accidentally misleading?

  3. sabroni Silver badge

    But looking at it from the long term...

    ...by definition every finite source will run out eventually. So while in the medium term (couple of thousand years) it may make sense to look at nuclear in the real long term renewables are the only way.

    Besides which, there's nothing like necessity for driving invention. So rather than "Renewables will only ever provide above half the world's supply in some grim future where the great majority of the human race is either wiped out within a generation or remains in grinding, miserable poverty" how about "renewables will provide about half the world's supply in a happy future where technology is incredibly efficient". (This may not happen by 2050 mind....)

    1. Suboptimal Planet

      Energy technology in 3050

      "So while in the medium term (couple of thousand years) it may make sense to look at nuclear in the real long term renewables are the only way."

      I'd be disappointed if they hadn't solved the nuclear fusion problem in a thousand years' time, which would probably buy us another another hundred thousand years to figure out the "real long term" solution.

      There is no way that we should be subsidising the development of renewables today.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        @Suboptimal Planet

        "I'd be disappointed if they hadn't solved the nuclear fusion problem in a thousand years' time,"

        Me too.

        But somehow *not* surprised.

        Seriously nuclear fusion has been the "We'll have it done in 10 years or so" energy source since the 1950s.

        The test machines keep getting bigger (and *lots* more expensive) but IDK "somehow" breakeven still remains *far* away.

        And as for *collecting* that energy and generating electricity with it (which seems to be a pretty core component of an energy system) no one has seriously looked at that problem yet.

    2. Naughtyhorse
      Unhappy

      examone the ter renewables

      I think you'll find without the sun, solar, wind and geothermal(eventually) may run out too.

      World poverty is a matter of the choices we make in the west, sadly so far not enough of us choose to give a fuck.

      1. Sirius Lee

        You remind me why...

        @naughtyhorse

        ...I rarely read the comments. What an asinine comment. Government corruption/incompetence elsewhere is what keeps many parts of the world impoverished. Zimabwe was the breadbasket of southern africa which offered education for all (black and white). Now it's just basket case. It has not been a decision of the west to impoverish Zimbabwe the leaders did all by themselves (while still getting aide from those nasty westerners). And this is but one of many cases.

        Stop with the self loathing and self flagellation. Or if you must do it, do it in private and stop foisting your fetish on others.

  4. Get the puck outa here

    Renewable vs sustainable

    So non-renewable energy is going to make up a larger and larger fraction of an ever increasing demand. That's got to end well.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    So...

    The sooner we start to build, on a large scale, Tidal power plants, Solar furnaces and ocean based Seawater electrolysis plants to generate H2 the better then?

    Nuclear might be a cheap, short term option to 'fill' an 'energy gap' but it is just that - short term.

    Pollution and danger are significant components of any energy source but our fusion generator is off planet in the case of many re-newables.

    Be aware that the limiting factor in human continuation is not water, pollution, disease or food but energy. If our usage exceeds that supplied by the Sun humans, and possibly the planet, are history.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Boffin

      [email protected]:01

      "Be aware that the limiting factor in human continuation is not water, pollution, disease or food but energy. "

      Plausible assertion. Depends how that energy is used.

      If our usage exceeds that supplied by the Sun humans, and possibly the planet, are history."

      Crikey that sounds pretty dire.

      So let's see how much the sun puts out.

      1 AU (mean distance between Earth and Sun) 149,597,870.7Km.

      Solar constant 1.366Kw/m^-2 (although it's anything but constant IRL).

      4 x Pi x r^2 = 3.84 x 10^26 J

      Or *roughly* 543 *thousand* times more than the maximum figure to give *everyone* on Earth a US/European standard of living.

      Now *collecting* a substantial fraction of that won't be easy but I think it puts the problem in perspective, does it not.

      So I'd say your hand grenade is a bit of a dud.

      Perhaps you were thinking about the Earths ability to radiate *waste* heat into space was exceeded.

      1. Maurice Shakeshaft

        I guess your figure is about right.

        I understood the figure to be about 10kW/m2 at geostationary orbit with about a 95% loss in the atmosphere.

        For equilibrium we radiate what we receive less (what we use + what we store). As a planet, we're in marginal equilibrium?

        As you note, if we capture and convert a small proportion of the received energy then we're in business - so to speak - and we don't need to go down a nuclear route. However, the big issue/problem is getting governments and enterprises to take seriously the idea of solar power in its various forms. Unfortunately the nuclear lobby and fossil fuel lobby employ far more people who are 'taken seriously". They've been at it much longer....

        Why is the hand grenade a bit of a dud here.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Boffin

          @Maurice Shakeshaft

          "I understood the figure to be about 10kW/m2 at geostationary orbit with about a 95% loss in the atmosphere."

          No the figure above the atmosphere is the one I listed. In solar energy terms it's called Air Mass 0. At sea level where ground based solar operates (more or less) its' AM1 and is c976 Watts per sq metre. Your figure is grossly wrong. For rough calculations assume 1000 W/sq metre.

          "As you note, if we capture and convert a small proportion "

          Make that a *very* small proportion, a very small fraction of 1% at the mean Earth orbital radius.

          "However, the big issue/problem is getting governments and enterprises to take seriously the idea of solar power in its various forms."

          Well a Californian solar company is launching a 200Mw solar power satellite as a test. That seems pretty serious to me.

          Ground solar in the UK seems an exercise in harvesting subsidies, rather than improving energy security.

          "Why is the hand grenade a bit of a dud here."

          The claim was the human race would be in trouble if our energy usage exceeded the output of the Sun. No explanation of *what* that trouble would be. I've merely worked out the numbers to demonstrate how far away we are. I *suggested* the poster *might* have meant the Earths ability to re-radiate heat would be a problem to out energy growth, but that would was just an idea.

          As for credibility the space solar project was run at NASA in the 1970's by JPL with Ratheon as a prime contractor. They did substantial work on space antenna construction and constructing phased arrays using microwave oven magetrons (historically considered too electronically noisy to be viable phased array elements).

          Not exactly the proverbial crackpot in a garden shed.

      2. Naughtyhorse

        May i suggest

        some kind of heat sink....

        a big one

  6. Apocalypse Later

    Alright Jack

    I doubt that I will live to 2050, so no worries.

    In the meantime, the tariff for my rooftop solar photovoltaic panels has just increased to 44.8 pence per kWh (index linked), and I find that the yearly estimate the installers put on the installation was very conservative. I paid less than £200 for electricity last quarter (well down as some is coming off the roof) but they are paying me over £400 for the electricity my roof gathered (over 1000 units) in a similar quarter (overlapping but not the same period). So I am doing my bit and reaping the rewards. I hope those who of you who believe the global warming guff don't mind paying for it.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Alright Jack

      "I hope those who of you who believe the global warming guff don't mind paying for it."

      Umm, I don't think belief in the guff comes into it. The ones paying for it are firstly those who are too poor to own their own homes and so can't take advantage of the scheme, and secondly those whose consciences don't permit them to screw the first group, despite the high hopes of the last supposedly socialist government that this was what we'd all be rushing to do.

      1. John Sager
        FAIL

        I might have to join them:(

        I really hate the way that renewables get long-term subsidies like this - I really don't want to have to pay the subsidies out of my taxes/leccy bills. However, if I don't want to do that, I have to go grab the subsidies for myself:(

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is going to be interesting.

    Gah, the IPCC. Why do people keep on taking them seriously when their numbers ever seem to have such trouble adding up? But anyway.

    I'd expect that even with a "comparatively clean" solution like nuclear -- assuming new plants will be made fail-safe and result in less need-to-store-forever waste and all that -- prudence will force us to look at doing to our energy needs as we're doing for electronics and size. We need to achieve more with less.

    And if the dear transpondians want to keep on claiming to be "first" with any right, they'll have to be the first to figure out how to get by with that 2/3rds of "one european energy" equivalent, or perhaps more like a half to allow for some growth, at the same standard of living, and then not only show it can be done, but do it too.

    Get to it boys and girls. Done with the fancy "for darkest africa" prototypes. Let's make it happen at home.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are they using Joules per year...

    ...instead of the rather more standard Joules per second (i.e. Watts)?

    407 exajoules/yr = an average of 12.9 TW, I think.

    Then again, the electricity companies use kilo-joules-per-second-hours instead of joules...

    1. Prive8 Citizen
      Alert

      Energy .vs Power

      Since we are discussing the total energy used in a year, Joules is appropriate. Watts are a rate - how many Joules in a second. Interestingly, the way the power company measures electricity is in kWh - which is back to energy - not a rate. This is because they charge you for how much you use, not how fast you draw it.

      Anyway, I agree with the author, there is no way renewables will supply the majority of humanity's energy needs - unless there is a whole lot less of us, or our standard of living is greatly reduced.

  9. Lockwood

    I am always wondering

    I'm always cutrious with these stories as to exactly what the Independent Police Complaints Commission has to do with climate.

  10. mark 63 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    re nuclear

    Thats the best hope i guess, but there aint really enough time . It takes about 20 years bring a nuclear power plant online.

    Not mention converting all the lorries that bring us our pot noodles, and all the tractors that sow and reap our weetabix - to run on electricity

    any civilisation is 3 meals away from anarchy

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Nuclear

      "It takes about 20 years bring a nuclear power plant online"

      And that's just the public enquiry. *Then* you've got to train up a new generation of engineers who can build the thing.

  11. fixit_f
    Alert

    Usual solution that nobody really wants to look at

    I'm with David Attenborough and the Optimum Population lot on this one - there are a huge range of increasingly significant issues affecting the human race that could all be solved by there being less people. Ideally this would have been realised quite some time ago. A responsible, carefully managed programme of human population reduction would do this planet a world of good, it isn't completely ours after all and to keep using all of it's space and resources is a good demonstration of our arrogance as a species. If we don't start a careful voluntary programme now then there may well come a point where resources will run out, people will become desperate and then disease, war, famine and natural disasters will probably reduce our population for us in a far more unpleasant way.

    1. Ian Stephenson
      Thumb Up

      The problem with a cull

      is how do you decide who dies?

      My suggestion is get rid of all Health and Safety legislation and let Darwin sort it out.

      Let's see what sort of reduction we get with that.

      Keep the telephone sanitisers though... we know how that ends.

    2. Semaj

      It tastes the best because

      it's made of people.

    3. crowley
      Terminator

      Have a look at...

      Game Control by Lionel Schriver.

      Not the best ending, but an entertaining look around the debates.

      I can't remember the details of the artificial disease they create to enact the necessary cull, but if someone did do such a thing I'd hope it would be activated by low neural density.

      If playing god to substitute for loss of natural selection, at least choose criteria that could steer our evolution somewhere more positive than the dribbling goons voting on instruction from Murdoch, and littering maternity wards with premature, smoke/drink damaged, no-hope meat-sacks.

    4. fixit_f
      Stop

      Nobody is suggesting a "cull" or anyone "dying"

      If anything, those two are more likely outcomes of an overstretched planet eventually running out of resources. All that's being suggested is more voluntary childlessness and less stupid people creating huge families resulting in a net reduction of the human population across the world. Or as my old Geography teacher used to call it, "incentivising people to put a bit of plastic on their peckers"

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        @fixit_f

        "All that's being suggested is more voluntary childlessness and less stupid people creating huge families resulting in a net reduction of the human population across the world."

        And the incentive for the "stupid" people being?

        1. fixit_f

          incentive

          That's a real toughie. In this country it's a fairly simple question of stopping child benefits, having less large council housing to be given to families with out an of control breeding problem and better education. You could even push it in the direction that it could become expensive to have children so a parent would have to pay a "carbon tax" for their own offspring - we're probably not at that point quite yet. In less developed cultures children are seen as an asset as they can be put to work for the family so in these areas you'd struggle to reverse that perception more.

          Given that we need to hit high carbon producers first, we could start with the western world and (much like drink driving) start to help make people realise that it's socially unacceptable to produce large families anymore.

          It sounds draconian, but I honestly believe that not having children is the most beneficial thing it is possible to do for the planet. The reproductive instinct is an entirely selfish thing.

          1. Mike VandeVelde
            Alert

            fixit_f

            You don't encourage smaller families by simply making life worse for larger families. All of your solutions simply punish the children who have no choice in the matter, who will grow up to violently overthrow your perfected society.

            People should replace themselves, carry on their gene line, and leave it at that. Some people will be infertile, some people won't make to child bearing age for various reasons. If people only replace themselves, then the population will slowly start falling. Genetic diversity is a good thing, it's not selfish. If all the people who are smart/educated enough to realize population decline is a good thing just completely stop having children, I think the result for humanity is obvious.

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Confused

              "If all the people who are smart/educated enough to realize population decline is a good thing just completely stop having children, I think the result for humanity is obvious."

              Wouldn't the result be that the world is populated by the offspring of those who didn't realize that?

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        But if you notice statistics...

        ...the dumber a person, the more likely they are to have multiple children to compensate. And the inverse is also true. Also, by reasonable logic, the dumber a person, the less likely they are to follow instructions. So to be frank, leaving idiots to their own devices may simply result in the urge to breed more idiots. Under such a scenario, some form of eugenics may prove to be necessary. But that's a moral line no one wants to cross because the other side is a slippery slope.

    5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Down

      A brief note on how to lower runaway population growth.

      Family size without indoor toilets, running water, access to birth control, state welfare and decent housing 10.

      Mortality rate at 5 yrs. 50%.

      Family size wit indoor plumbing, access to birth control, state welfare and decent housing. 2

      Mortality rate at 5 yrs. 0%.

      Not a 3rd world country.

      The East End of London in the early 20th Century.

    6. Ken Hagan Gold badge
      IT Angle

      Re: solution that nobody really wants

      "A responsible, carefully managed programme of human population reduction..."

      All the historical evidence is that educating and empowering the women in society is the single most effective way of halting population growth. But yeah, the world appears to be full of fundamentalist pricks who really don't want that.

      IT angle: things like mobile phones and internet connections appear to be quite effective against such ignorance, so if you come back in 20 or 30 years time then the world might be ready to start tackling these problems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Grenade

        quite the contrary.

        If smart/concerned couples have fewer children, but morons, etc continue to have 2, 3, 5+ children, this just means that the average intelligence of the species will slowly decline*, right up until the lip of the catastrophe curve, at which point it won't matter any more.

        * Niven/Pournelle, don't remember which book, and I'm sure that I didn't quote them exactly.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Easier example.

          Watch the movie "Idiocracy." Sure, it's a comedy, but it's based on the ideas about population.

    7. Tom 13
      Flame

      Good idea. How about

      we start with all the warm-mongers.

    8. Philip Lewis
      Alert

      Here you go then !

      http://www.vhemt.org/

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WTF

    More money wasted to get a "panel" to conclude that renewables are not sufficeint to produce required engery needs.

    We knew that before hand. When will people realise, micro generation will only suppliment our energy needs. I'd love to put some solar panels and a turbine on my property. Selling energy back to the grid means cheaper bills for centrally generated supplies and a lower demand on the grid, lower CO2 emisions from my energy consumption. Multiply this by every household in the country = less centrally generated energy required. Better micro generation and enegry storage would certainly help.

    Cost is the key. Lower production costs would definately see more people take up mcro generation. The problem is most people don't have £3K+ for the initial set up. Pay back takes years, but once in place, future energy production becomes free.

    1. Conor
      Flame

      Increased efficiencies can help

      Problem is, micro generation doesn't scale. It's one thing to have a few RangeRover types putting panels on their roof, they can afford the ego trip, it's quite another thing to scale that up. By definition, mass produced energy is more efficient - compare a large combined cycle gas turbine plant to Bob and his generator.

      From my brother's experience, what the UK could do with is a really close look at their home efficiencies. While teaching over there (Southend) he rented a number of different flats, each with rattling single glazed windows and a howling gale roaring down the chimney. No matter how much the heat was on, the place was freezing. My sister's experience (London) was similar - uninsulated, damp, cold, expensive. Ireland is bad (and how! I have to live here!), but you will not sell a house here without insulation and double glazing - people would just roll around laughing.

      1. Chris Procter

        Micro generation

        Do you mean in the same way that computers continued to stay the preserve of large organisations and well off types because they are far to expensive!

        You are clearly right, technologies don't get better or cheaper. Ever, proven fact!!

        Oh wait....

        http://www.tuaw.com/2011/05/09/ipad-2-would-have-bested-1990s-era-supercomputers/

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Happy

        @Conor

        "but you will not sell a house here without insulation and double glazing - people would just roll around laughing."

        Quite so.

        But they would *rent* it to you.

        However you're right if there was a way to incentivise landlords to upgrade their properties.

        Actually it would be better if they upgraded the UK insulation regulations, which I suspect are still among the *worst* in Europe.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Yep

    Bottom line is we are going to end up with a lot less people, evenutally. If we "solve" the energy crisis by making huge amounts of energy available to everyone to waste it on a US-scale then we'll just drown in our own sewage or choke on the mountains of waste that 20bn people produce.

    Malthus: you can run, but you can't hide.

  14. strum
    FAIL

    Yawn

    Another piece of anti-science propaganda from the Reg. Why do you bother?

    1. BoldMan
      Thumb Down

      On the contrary

      This is an anti- non-science article. Most of the guff that comes out of the IPCC and climate "science" generally bears about as much relationship to "proper" science as my toe jam comes to being gourmet cheese.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    "some grim future where the great majority of the human race is wiped out within a generation"

    Ah, that'll be the kind of future that James Lovelock has been predicting anyway?

    http://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/lovelock-james

  16. Conor
    Unhappy

    Nukes and population

    Unfortunately nuclear doesn't really scale as well as one might hope. There's a limited amount of high quality ore available. 15% of current fuel comes from decommissioned nuclear warheads. That goes for everything else of course. Interestingly enough, the Chinese seem to have noticed and are busy halting exports of "stuff they might need". Like rare earth metals that are, erm, used in wind turbines. Ooops.

    The concept of reducing population failed to take into account that a significant quantity of people live off waste energy - I think it's 10% of the planet. They are all carbon negative. And which group are the Population guys targeting? You guessed it.

    Evidence seems to indicate that as you bring people out of poverty and ignorance, their populations even out. The first world's population has been dropping... Course, that takes energy...

    1. BoldMan

      Rally?

      15% really? Where does this marvellous statistic come from perchance?

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Boffin

      @Conor

      "There's a limited amount of high quality ore available. "

      You might like to look at the world price of uranium

      http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf22.html

      "15% of current fuel comes from decommissioned nuclear warheads. T"

      Source

      Looks more like 25%.

      "Evidence seems to indicate that as you bring people out of poverty and ignorance, their populations even out. The first world's population has been dropping... Course, that takes energy..."

      Perhaps that explains China's and India's interest in Thorium (which is *very* abundant) fueled nuclear reactors.

  17. RoboJ1M
    FAIL

    Build Proper Solar.

    "The total solar energy absorbed by Earth's atmosphere, oceans and land masses is approximately 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ) per year. In 2002, this was more energy in one hour than the world used in one year. Photosynthesis captures approximately 3,000 EJ per year in biomass. The amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the planet is so vast that in one year it is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from all of the Earth's non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium combined."

    The Answer looks simple to me.

    You just have to accept it's not "cost effective"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem with solar ...

      While, I completely agree with you (though other renewables can be very effective), even if we somehow manage to perfect solar technology itself, the problem is in energy storage and transmission systems:

      1. To take it to a silly extreme, there's no point having 3,000 EJ on one spot on the earth during daytime when its needed on the opposite side of the earth.

      2. Electricity in a grid system gets used currently based on an economic system. If it is not cost-effective to use that source electricity from that coal plant over there, it will be sourced dynamically from that nuclear plant over here, etc.

      3. Different types of electricity plants are categorised on their type of capacity because of their technology they generate at different designed-in efficiencies. Nuclear, coal, hdyro and geothermal, for example, are considered "baseline" capacity because their plants are optimised to run at the highest possible efficiency and to rarely turn off. Natural gas and oil, for example, are considered mainly "peaking" capacity. They are explicitly not meant to be running at the highest possible efficiency, they are there to be highly available to provide electricity at peak or beyond. Why is this all relevant? Well, how do you propose solar or mainly solar can cover both these types of capacities everywhere - or at the very least take over one or more existing fossil fuel types - without equally perfected energy storage and transmission systems?

      Unfortunately for some renewables, energy generation technology, especially from easy nuclear fission (despite the appalling lack of innovation in the current industry) is many orders of magnitude ahead of energy storage and transmission systems technology. Now if only it didn't take 10-15 years to build a damn nuclear plant, especially with crappy pressurized vessel fast spectrum solid-fuel reactors that technologically looks like something straight out of the Cold War too! Perhaps the Chinese will solve that particular problem shortly ...

  18. Chris Miller

    I think Andrew's article is a riposte to the Beeb's Richard Black

    "Renewables can fuel society, say world climate advisers":

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13337864

    That article claims: "Currently, the biggest single source, accounting for about half of the global total [of renewable energy], is the most traditional - the burning of wood for heat and cooking in developing countries. This is not always truly renewable, as new trees to replace the burned wood are not always planted." No shit, Sherlock!

    I'm surprised (not) that the IPCC may have omitted to allow for economic growth in their projections. When they want to scare us with the dire consequences of AGW, they assume substantial worldwide economic growth (and further assume that it would all require similar CO2 output levels per $ of GDP as today's economy) - most economists view this argument as a load of dingos' kidneys.

  19. Nick Pettefar

    Population

    I read somewhere recently (obviously a hard and proven fact then) that the world population is actually falling and will continue to fall. This was due to various factors but mainly female education if I recall correctly.

    Maybe and hopefully the rise in power demand will be in step with the fall in power demanders.

    Also, hopefully, we will use less power as we switch to more economical devices and services i.e. LED lights, heat reclaimers, better insulation, etc.

    I am just trying to illuminate a (small, eco-LED) light at the end of the tunnel.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Eh?!

      Don't know where you got that from. Try here:

      http://populationmatters.org/wp-content/uploads/D12Currentpopulationtrends.pdf

      "The majority of estimates predict the world population will be between 8 and 10.5 billion in 2050"

      FYI, 50 years ago it was 3 billion; 12 years ago it was 6 billion.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Tom 13

      Don't know about "recent" but I found this article from the BBC:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3560433.stm

      Given that the article points out that the peak in population growth was 40 years ago, and that current worldwide birthrate is only slightly above replacement rate, I happily conclude that Malthus continues to be as wrong as he was way back when. Lots of reasons for him being wrong, but nothing the deniers will ever accept, so I won't waste time detailing them.

  20. James Pickett

    Really?

    “So I am doing my bit and reaping the rewards”

    Since when was profiting from subsidies ‘doing your bit’? I don’t blame you for taking advantage of a bonkers government scheme, but the moral high ground it ain’t...

    1. Apocalypse Later

      Yes, really truly!!

      Once again it is demonstrated that irony is wasted on the internet. Or perhaps you are an American (they do steely and brassy very well, even tinny sometimes, but irony is beyond them).

  21. zerocred

    LEDs won't reduce energy consumption

    History tells us that /even more/ efficiency probably won't reduce overall energy consumption either...

    Improved efficiency LEDs may not reduce energy consumption:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/08/25/led_save_energy_not/

    also consider Jevons Paradox:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox

    Basically we consume way too much energy the big populations hardly consume any (until china /really/ gets going).

    Anyone who thinks switching off a few lights and unplugging their phone charger, and maybe installing insulation, double glazing etc, will be enough, is living in carbon free dreamland.

    So I'd say the next generation is fucked.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So I'd say the next generation is f*cked"

      I'd give 'em one!

      1. zerocred

        to the next generation

        I think we have already.

  22. scatter

    2/3 of European Energy Consumption?

    "All in all, it seems fair to say that human beings deserve to use, say, two-thirds as much energy as an average European of today does."

    What's this based on? Is this number, say, plucked out of thin air?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      @scatter

      "What's this based on? Is this number, say, plucked out of thin air?"

      I'd say it's more a sort of Dennis Leary argument. *

      "Yeah that's right. They *deserve* to use 2/3 of what we use cause we got the bombs,man. Nuclear f***king weapons man. "

      *Actually I think it's in the report that given their estimates of how generating capacity would grow if most of it was renewable and humans had to divide up a *slightly* bigger energy cake among a *lot* more people.

      1. scatter

        Ah I see...

        the population figure I was using was for continental Europe rather than EU-27. 46MWh per capita does make sense. But that's including all the thermal plant that throws away half the primary energy as heat. Would be interesting to see how the numbers come out in the main report when electricity is produced with non-thermal sources.

      2. scatter

        Can't spot it in the report

        In fact I can't reconstruct his calculations at all. The 'will need' link to wolfram alpha suggests that average European consumption is 46MWh per capita. IEA puts total primary energy supply at 1,816,247ktoe

        http://www.iea.org/stats/balancetable.asp?COUNTRY_CODE=18

        which is 21,123TWh. There are about 850m people in Europe so I make that 25MWh per capita.

        Something's awry...

  23. Tree & Tree = Dirty Tree

    "The day the earth stood still"

    Mediocre movie, still fun. Anyways, remember the ending? The whole world without technology, no electricity, no engines.

    Just ask yourself if we would be able to survive in such a scenario. Then look at us now, measure the gap, and use that as measure to put things into proportion.

    There is always a way, and it is on neither side of the extremes. Moderation and balance are the natural state of everything, and every exception is just a step towards it.

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