Renewable Energy. 1. restriction of demand (energy savings) De mand for energy. 2. renewable energy as much as possible

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1 Renewable Energy General information From harmful and scarce to renewable Our Irish energy supply is reliable. Reliable to such an extent that we take it for granted. Not until we have major failures does it become apparent how dependent we have become on energy: nothing works anymore and everything goes awry. If we want to maintain the quality of our present energy supply, much will have to change in the years ahead. Generating electrical power and heat has harmful effects on the environment. Due to the long-term environmental damage caused by our use of fossil fuels (such as natural gas, peat, coal and oil), a major reduction in their use is required in the future. Furthermore supplies of fossil fuels will become scarce in the long run and they will become more & more expensive. The application of renewable sources such as wind and wood energy will remove these drawbacks. Although many successful renewable energy projects have been realised here in Ireland, their contribution to total Irish energy consumption is still limited. In the decades to come that contribution will have to grow from marginally renewable to predominantly renewable. Not only for ourselves, but much more for a secure supply of clean energy for our children. The Energy Triangle To achieve an energy supply as renewable as possible, a certain sequence is used. Firstly the demand for energy (electricity and heat) should be restricted, this can happen through Renewable energy Renewable energy is energy gained from sources in the process of which few or hardly any harmful effects on the environment occur. Renewable energy is available in inexhaustible sources such as the sun, wind, water, biomass, geo-thermal and environmental heat. 2. renewable energy as much as possible 1. restriction of demand (energy savings) energy saving. Next, make use of renewable sources of energy to best generate the energy required. Our remaining energy consumption needs should be generated as efficiently as possible from fossil fuels. At the same time we need to take account of the fact that the largest part of our total demand for energy consists of heat. Hotline: Web: 1 De mand for energy 3. use fossil fuels as efficiently as possible

2 What is renewable energy? Gravity (e.g. for tidal energy), nuclear fusion in the sun (e.g. for solar energy) and radioactive decay in the earth s crust (lithosphere) (e.g. for global heat) are the three main processes which provide all sorts of renewable sources on earth. The period of time in which these processes take place is infinitely long to human comprehension; supplies of these renewable sources are inexhaustible or perpetual as far as human actions are concerned. Solar energy is the largest source of renewable energy on earth, providing us with more energy every year than all the reserves of fossil fuels combined. There are different types of renewable processes such as: * Wind; * Biomass production (cultivation of trees and plants); * Evaporation / rain; * Geothermal energy (global heat). * Tidal effects & waves; * Ocean currents; * Heating of oceans; Renewable energy is generated from these sources, for example: Flow sources: * Wind energy; * Hydro power; * Solar PV (electricity from sunlight); * Solar Thermal energy (heat from sunlight, such as solar water heaters for instance); * Tidal & wave energy; * Ocean flow energy; Hotline: Web: 2

3 Using environmental and geothermal heat * Heat pumps ( pumping up the temperature from environmental heat sources such as the ground or water); * Energy storage (seasonal storage of hot and cold water in the earth); * Geothermal heat; Energy from waste and biomass (bioenergy) * Energy from waste (the organic biomass fraction e.g. wood wastes, paper, cardboard, fruit & vegetable wastes); * Energy from biomass cultivation (wood fuel from conventional forestry and the cultivation of crops for energy production); * Landfill gas & Biogas (production of gases by rotting processes on dumping grounds or in controlled, purpose built conversion tanks using bacteria); Why renewable energy? Generating electrical power and heat from fossil fuels (coal, peat, natural gas and oil) permanently damages our environment. During the combustion of these fuels harmful gases are produced. One of them is the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), which is causing major changes in our climate. Emitted nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides cause acid rain. Furthermore supplies of fossil fuels will run out in the long run. In contrast, the The burning of fossil fuels is causing permanent damage to the environment. Changing to Renewable Energy can help lessen this damage. application of renewable sources of energy does not produce harmful emissions and will always be at our disposal. An exception to this is energy from waste and biomass. When processed thermally (e.g. during combustion) some harmful gases are produced, however just to the same extent as in other life cycle processes. Ireland is blessed with some of the best renewable energy resources in Europe we have the best wind speeds, the best growing climate for biomass and an excellent climate for heat pumps. However, we need to learn to harness our own vast renewable energy resources to maximise this enormous opportunity. Some of the many benefits of renewable energy include: 1. Major Environmental Benefits no harmful greenhouse gas emissions 2. Energy Price Stability affordable energy at long-term competitive prices 3. A Stronger Irish Economy local investment in long-term jobs rather than costly energy imports provides for stable economic growth & employment 4. Better Energy Security & Fuel Diversity Ireland is now the most import dependent economy in Europe, importing 86% of all our fuels in 2000, this impacts on our entire economy 5. Energy for Our Children renewable energy will never run out Hotline: Web: 3

4 The sooner the better There is a double, win-win, benefit in starting to develop and apply renewable energy quickly. The consumption of fossil fuels and the emission of harmful material and greenhouse gases is restricted, while at the same time essential, valuable, experience is gained in developing and making available sources of renewable energy. These development opportunities can significantly benefit Irish industry and employment. Not only are there opportunities for supplying the domestic Irish market, but also in supplying a very substantial export market for renewable energy applications. Indeed, the renewable energy business is now the fastest growing energy market in the world. Progress Not until recently have the Irish Government and the Irish energy sector taken up renewable energy as an integral theme and challenge. Because of the ample availability of cheap natural gas and the relatively clean character of this fuel, developing renewable energy in Ireland has been characterised by a very slow start. Peat 10% Renewables 2% Natural Gas 20% Oil 52% Coal 16% At the beginning of 2000 only 2% of Irish energy consumption was covered by renewable sources. However interest in renewable energy is growing rapidly; there are a growing number of initiatives for renewable energy projects. The Government intends to double this 2% contribution to 4% over the next 5 years and to move Ireland into a leading position in Europe in the longer term. Ireland s lagging position in Europe as regards renewable energy is shown in the table opposite Sweden Austria Finland Portugal Greece Denmark France Spain Italy European Union Ireland Germany Luxembourg Netherlands Belgium United Kingdom Hotline: Web: 4

5 Policy Energy policy (renewable energy included) became part of Irish energy policy in , when the world was confronted with the first oil crisis. Energy saving was one of the main themes in 1974, in which the finiteness of sources of fossil fuel played an important role. After the second oil crisis in energy saving and diversification of energy sources for electricity production were the leading themes. In the period of Irish Government support for energy saving and renewable energy decreased, particularly because of low energy prices and the discontinuation of subsidies. After this period new policy publications were issued, such as Renewable Energy A Strategy for the Future in Following publication of the EU White Paper & Action Plan for Renewable Energy Energy for the Future: Renewable Sources of Energy in 1997, the Irish Government published it s Green Paper on Sustainable Energy in This Green Paper called for a significant increase in the contribution of renewable energy to meeting Ireland s energy needs and set targets for new renewable electricity generating capacity, which would see a doubling of the contribution from renewable energy from 2% in 2000 to 4% by This 1999 Green Paper also reflected the Government s concerns about the need for the balanced development of Ireland s large renewable resources as well as the need to reduce delays in their deployment. Further Government recommendations followed in 2000, setting out an integrated approach to wind energy deployment in A Strategy for Intensifying Wind Energy Deployment. Also in 2000, the Department of Environment issued the National Climate Change Strategy which called for the significant further expansion of renewable energy to make a meaningful Irish contribution to overall EU targets. The climate change strategy also indicated that a carbon/energy tax would be introduced to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies. Targets The Irish Government aims at a 4% share for renewable energy in Ireland by the year 2005 (as a percentage of total energy consumption). Bioenergy(54%),wind energy(28%), hydro (12%) and heat pumps (6%) will contribute the most to this, see the pie chart below. Hydropower 12% Bioenergy 54% Wind energy 28% Heat Pumps 6% Hotline: Web: 5

6 Also as a consequence of the greenhouse effect the European Community has been sharpening its policy in the field of renewable energy. The EU wants to double the contribution of renewable energy as a percentage of total energy consumption to 12% (currently approx. 6%) in As part of this ambitious target the EU has also passed a renewable electricity directive which will increase the minimum share for renewable electricity in Europe from 14% to 22% by Ireland is expected to increase the share of renewables in electricity consumption from 4% in 1997 to 13% by 2010 more than a 3 fold increase. Furthermore, international agreements have been laid down in the Kyoto Protocol about reducing greenhouse gases. The industrialised countries have committed themselves to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the period 2008 to 2012, to such a degree that within this timeframe joint emissions will on average be at least 5% below the 1990 level. These reduction commitments vary from country to country, for the EU a reduction of 8% is the agreed target. Ireland is one of the few countries that were allowed an increase in emission levels, but emissions should not to exceed 13% above our 1990 levels. However, we surpassed this limit in 1998 and will exceed our 1990 emissions by some 40% unless we change to renewables in a fundamental way. These excess emissions represent over 12 million tonnes of CO2, with energy production from fossil fuels being responsible for almost all of this increase. Costs The principal costs of renewable energy equipment are the capital and the interest required to pay for the equipment. The use of renewable energy is still hampered in many situations by higher initial investment costs as compared with conventional fuel cycles (although operational fuel costs are non-existent for renewables with the exception of biomass). This is particularly the case due to the fact that energy prices for conventional fuel cycles do not currently reflect the objective full cost, including the external cost to society of environmental damage caused by their use. On a life cycle basis some renewable energy technologies are already cheaper than fossil fuels (e.g. wood heating & heat pumps), however on average renewable energy costs more than fossil energy at this time. To be able to compete with fossil energy, the cost price of renewable energy should decrease. There are some renewable energy sources, which are already competitive; cold storage in industry, geothermal heat and landfill gas. However, the contribution of these sources to the realisation of the Government target is relatively limited. Renewable energy sources approaching the life cycle cost of fossil fuels are wind energy, hydropower and bioenergy. Solar water heaters are more expensive, but could possibly become less expensive in the medium term. The most expensive renewable energy source is photo-voltaic solar energy. Nevertheless expectations for cost reductions, mainly from increased manufacturing economies of scale, run high, certainly in the medium term. Hotline: Web: 6

7 Presently, the initial cost of renewable energy equipment is more expensive than polluting fossil fuel systems because they have not received anything like the support given to the fossil fuel sector in the past. Long term, stable government support is required to increase market demand for renewable energy, consequently manufacturers will produce more and economies of scale will reduce capital costs. Public and Environmental Costs Costs that are normally included in cost price calculations for energy sources are generating costs, transport costs, investment costs for the generating plant and maintenance and management costs. Costs arising from all sorts of harmful effects to the environment and exhaustion of minerals are usually not included in the cost price of fossil fuels. Examples of those costs are: health costs, costs related to the rising sea level as a result of the greenhouse effect, such as making flood defenses higher or constructing big storm surge dams. Costs related to coping with the more extreme weather and the increasing effect of human activities on nature (floods) add up to vast amounts of money. These public & environmental costs related to production of energy from fossil fuels are many times higher that those of renewable energy. If these costs were properly charged, it would show that renewable energy is always cheaper than energy from fossil fuels. Eco or Carbon Taxes To make the Irish tax system greener the Government intends to take a first step by charging for the real cost of fossil energy. Currently the use of fossil energy in Ireland is taxed no differently than renewable energy. However a cornerstone of the Governments future strategy is to introduce financial incentives such as tax breaks for green initiatives and disincentives such as Eco or Carbon taxes for activities that pollute. Essentially, the use of energy from renewable sources, such as buying green electricity from an energy company, will be exempt from Eco taxes, making renewables more competitive. Most EU countries now have Eco taxes for fossil fuels. The revenue collected from Eco taxes is used to lower income taxes and to fund subsidies and programmes for energy from renewable sources. Hotline: Web: 7

8 The Renewable Energy Information Office The Renewable Energy Information Office is a service of Sustainable Energy Ireland. Its objective is to support the development of renewable energy in Ireland by providing independent and expert advice as well as information on related financial, environmental and technical issues. Five ways to contact us: WRITE: Renewable Energy Information Office Sustainable Energy Ireland Shinagh House Bandon, Co. Cork Ireland TELEPHONE: our hotline FAX: VISIT OUR WEBSITE: Sustainable Energy Ireland is a joint initiative of the Department of Public Enterprise and Enterprise Ireland and is supported by the EU through the Community Support Framework. I want to know more about Renewable Energy Further Reading If you have any questions, or would like to find out more, please contact the Renewable Energy Information Office, or see the references given below: Free Factsheets available Directly from Us or Our Web Site: Wind Energy Bioenergy Biomass Landfill Gas Hydropower Green Electricity Renewable Energy for Buildings & Industry: Passive Solar Design Heat Pumps for Your Home Heat Pumps for Commercial Buildings Heat Pumps for the Health Sector Solar Water Heaters How to Heat with Wood Hotline: Web: 8

9 Bi-monthly Magazines: Renewable Energy World Free - Subscribe online at New Energy Subscription Fee - Subscribe online at REFOCUS Free - Subscribe online at Websites: Renewable Energy Information Office: EU Directorate General for Energy Department of Public Enterprise Natural Resources Canada California Energy Commission US Department of Energy United Nations Framework on Climate Change Natural Resources Canada Climate Change TV Series Videos Engine Earth - a 4 Part Irish Renewable Energy TV Series available from the Renewable Energy Information Office at cost of 7 including p&p Wood from the Trees a 7 Part TV Series on Renewable Materials & Energy, available from the Renewable Energy Information Office at a cost of 7 including p&p The State We re In a 7 Part TV Series Comparing Irish & EU Environmental Issues & Performance, available at a cost of 24 (including p&p) from Time Horizon Productions, 13 Windsor Place, Dublin 2 Tel , This list is not an accreditation by the Renewable Energy Information Office of the organizations named. Hotline: Web: 9

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