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1 PAMUN XV ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE PROMOTING THE MOVEMENT TOWARDS RENEWABLE RESOURCES OF ENERGY Introduction of Topic Currently non-renewable resources make up 85% of the world's energy consumption; a major issue considering these resources are being depleted at a detrimental rate. Most of these resources consist of fossil fuels; irreplaceable resources such as coal, petroleum and natural gas that are made from hydrocarbon deposits and emit carbon dioxide when burned. The reason the majority of the world relies on fossil fuels has to do with the low cost of extraction and its reliability. Furthermore, nonrenewable resources are unaffected by weather, and can be stored and shipped very easily. Despite these advantages, fossil fuels are harmful to the environment and human health, and are becoming increasingly difficult to extract as world supply dwindles. For these reasons fossil fuels are not sustainable and there has been a global movement to shift towards renewable resources. Definitions of Key Terms Greenhouse Gas Effect The presence of the atmosphere surrounding the Earth traps solar radiation, raising the overall temperature of the planet. Background Information It is estimated that if we continue depleting our oil supply at our current rate, all known oil deposits will be dry by Though we still have an abundant supply of coal and natural gas, it is estimated that if we increased the use of these fossil fuels natural gas could run out by 2060, and coal by In addition to their limited supply, fossil fuels have severe environmental impacts. The burning of fossil fuels has increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 25% over the last 150 years. The augmentation of carbon dioxide is predicted to increase the temperature of the earth over the next century, leading to the melting of glaciers and increase of droughts. The release of gases such as carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, and nitrogen dioxide can form smog, acid rain and pose a serious threat to human health. The range of illnesses stemming from the burning of fossil fuels includes pneumonia

2 and bronchitis. Due to this the UN has been promoting the use of the following renewable energy sources: Solar Energy Solar power is highly dependent on weather. It can only be harnessed during the day and in highly sunny areas. Additionally, solar panels have low efficiency, measuring at approximately 10-15%. This means that to provide enough energy for a household that uses approximately 100 KWH, 400 meters squared of solar panels would be needed. This is not ideal as it takes up more land than convenient. There are two types of solar energy: Photovoltaic (Solar Cells): These devices change solar energy directly into electricity. They can range from many different sizes, from as small as a single cell charging a watch to large power plants covering many acres. Solar Thermal/ Electric Power Plants: These power plants generate electricity by concentrating solar energy to heat a fluid and produce steam. This steam is then used to power a generator. Wind Energy There are two types of wind turbines: horizontal axis turbines and vertical axis turbines. Horizontal axis turbines are more commonly used, as they are more efficient. Wind energy has many disadvantages as it is highly dependent on weather, inefficient, takes up a significant amount of space and is noisy. Wind turbines only work if the wind is between 10 and 50 miles per hour and only very low rates of efficiency: approximately 30%. They also require large tracts of land; a wind farm of 20 turbines would cover approximately 1 kilometer squared. The reason the turbines are so far apart is in order for them not to interfere with each other; their electric infrastructures and access roads only take up approximately 1% of this land leaving it free for farming and/ or natural habitats. Geothermal Power Plants There are three basic types of geothermal power plants: dry steam plants, flash steam plants and binary cycle power plants. Geothermal energy can only be extracted in very specific locations, specifically volcanic areas or at tectonic plate boundaries where hot rocks reserves are shallow and covered by rocks that are easily drilled through. One downside to geothermal energy is its negative environmental effects. For example water extracted must be pumped back to the heat source once the heat energy has been gathered. This is due to the fact that underground water contains salts and

3 minerals that would increase the salinity and alkalinity of soil making crop production impossible. Moreover, the extraction of geothermal energy release many toxic gases such as mercury and hydrogen sulfide that must be disposed of by being pumped back to the heat source too. Geothermal energy also cannot be stored and transported, it must be converted into electricity at its source and then provide electricity for local communities. In recent years a new heating system using geothermal energy has been installed in certain homes and buildings: geothermal heat pumps. In most places the temperature 10 feet beneath the ground is between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that it is cooler than summer temperature but colder than winter. Due to this Geothermal heat pumps can be used. These pumps use the earth's constant temperatures to heat and cool buildings. Geothermal heat pumps transfer heat from the ground into buildings during the winter and reverse the process in the summer. Biomass Biomass is organic material that comes from plants and animals. In order to harness these organic materials energy they are burned to produce heat and steam that is then used to generate electricity or heat for industries. It can also be converted into forms of energy like methane gas, or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol is produced by fermenting crops like corn and sugarcane whereas biodiesel is made from vegetable oils and animal fats. Biomass is not widely used energy source as it is rather inefficient in comparison to fossil fuels. For example ethanol, a biodiesel, often has to be mixed with gasoline in order to work properly and, in the long run, ruins engines. Biomass can be harmful to the environment as burning animal and human waste releases methane; a Greenhouse gas. Hydropower Hydroelectric This form of hydropower holds the water behind the dam forming an artificial lakes, or reservoirs. They then release the water through the dam in which there are turbines. These turbines are attached to generators that convert the mechanical energy into electricity. After passing through the turbine, the water flows back into the river on the other side of the dam. Tidal Power

4 Tidal power barrages are generally located across an inlet of an ocean bay or lagoon that forms a tidal basin. Sluice gates (gates used to control water levels and flow rates) on the barrage allow tidal basins to fill on incoming high tides and empty through a turbine system on the outgoing tide. Harnessing tidal energy is currently not cost effective; tidal power plants are extremely expensive to build and still need to undergo many technological innovations to be commercially viable. Tidal power is also not a constant source of energy; it only provides electricity during tidal surges; approximately 10 hours a day. Although nowadays, some tidal barrages are two-way systems that generate electricity from both the incoming and outgoing tides. In addition tidal power plants are harmful to the environment as their construction may obstruct fish migrations and deter marine animals ideal movement. Major Countries and Organizations Involved United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) UNESCO has a program dedicated to promoting renewable resources called The Programme. The Programme s aim, according to UNESCO is to promote the building of capacities, stimulate the sharing of scientific knowledge and best practices, promote the development of energy policies, supports pilot initiatives and provides technical assistance, when necessary. International Energy Association (IEA) The IEA is an autonomous organization with 29 member states. It four areas of focus are: energy security, economic development, environmental awareness and worldwide engagement. This association helps member states improve their distribution of energy and provides statistics on energy use. Timeline of Events Date Description of event Elihu Thomson discovers ethanol has advantages over the use of petroleum 1921 World s first geothermal plant built in California 1927 First commercial wind turbines 1935 The Hoover Dam is built, and is the largest hydroelectric power plant at the time

5 1953 First solar cell is developed at Bell laboratories 1970 Solar cells become more affordable for land use 1980 First wind farm built in New Hampshire 2007 IPCC reports that human caused climate change is occurring on a grand scale Relevant UN Treaties and Events Millennium Declaration, 8 September 2000 (55/2) Declaration that stated the Millennium Goals, one of them being the increase in use of sustainable resources. Johannesburg Declaration, September 2002 Declaration on Sustainable Developments. Kyoto Protocol, 2005 Protocol aiming to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. The Future We Want, December 2009 (64/236) Continuing commitment to sustainable development. Main Issues Expenses One of the main reasons governments are reluctant to use renewable energy resources is their cost; but in truth, they are only initially more expensive than non-renewable resources and are less costly to maintain. The graph below compares each resource s levelized cost of energy (LCOE), a measure that encompasses costs of financing, building, operating, and maintaining a power plant. LCOE is measured in dollars per megawatt-hour and offers a direct comparison between different types of renewable and nonrenewable resources. Amongst the renewable energies, onshore wind has the cheapest levelized cost (59 dollars) closely followed by photovoltaic plants (79 dollars). The cheapest non-renewable energy are gas combined cycle technologies (74 dollars) and coal (109 dollars). By dividing the areas of cost we can see that renewable technologies tend to be more expensive to set up than conventional technologies but have significantly lower fuel and operations & maintenance (O&M) costs.

6 Possible Solutions Incentives Many countries such as Germany, China and Australia have strong incentive programs installed in order to promote renewable energy sources. They use three methods of tax incentives : feed in tariffs, net-metering and production tax credits. Feed in tariffs are most commonly used and are payments per generated kwh. Net-metering is a system that allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. They are then paid for the electricity they provide. Lastly, production tax credits are similar to feed in tariffs but instead of cash payments, the investor receives tax credits per kwh. These methods are proven to increase the use of renewable energy resources as all countries that offer incentives are amongst the greenest countries in the world. Leasing In certain countries like the USA, the leasing of renewable energy equipment has become a popular practice. This system enables companies and common citizens to lease equipment to harness geothermal, wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power. Many companies that offer this service (such as Reel in the USA) also offer personalized financial plans to their customers. Leasing renewable energy equipment allows for widespread use amongst those who otherwise, could not afford it.

7 Resources to Consider This source offers great insight into the prices of renewable and nonrenewable resources with direct comparison between the two. Bibliography "Policies to Promote Renewable Energy." Index. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July < "Renewable & Non-Renewable Energy Sources - Conserve Energy Future." ConserveEnergyFuture. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July < "World Energy Use - Boundless Open Textbook." Boundless. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July < "Fossils Fuels vs. Renewable Energy Ecology Global Network." Ecology Global Network. N.p., 06 Sept Web. 04 July < "Disadvantages of Alternative Energy." Benefits of Recycling. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July < Comparing the Levelized Cost of Energy Technologies." Energy Innovation Policy and Technology. N.p., 06 Feb Web. 03 July < "KW and KWh Explained." - Understand & Convert Between Power and Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July < "Efficiency." Efficiency. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July <

8 "Ten Major Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy." All Articles RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 July < "Hydroelectric Energy Pros and Cons - Energy Informative." Energy Informative. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 July < "Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy Clean Energy Ideas." Clean Energy Ideas. N.p., 19 June Web. 08 July energy "Advantages and Disadvantages of Tidal Energy." OccupyTheory. N.p., 22 Apr Web. 08 July < "Major Agreements & Conventions.:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform." Major Agreements & Conventions.:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July < Of 2, E. 1., and U.s. Department Of Energy - Energy Efficiency A. Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydropower (n.d.): n. pag. Web. "Think Reel Green: Renewable Energy Equipment Leasing." Think Reel Green: Renewable Energy Equipment Leasing. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July < "Renewable and Alternative Energies United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization." Renewable and Alternative Energies United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July < "The End Of Fossil Fuels." - Our Green Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July < "Solar - Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy - Energy Information Administration." Solar - Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy - Energy Information Administration. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July < "Net Metering." SEIA. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July <

9 "Global Map of Incentives Renewable Energy." Global Map of Incentives Renewable Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July