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0 Jun 26 2014 @ 11:08pm by Matt Smith in Global Energy, risk management

Talkin’ ‘Bout Mo’ Generation

Just as I tweet my favorite articles so that I have a filing place for them (Twitter is awesome for so many reasons, don’t get me started…), I use my desktop to store all my favorite graphics. And it is way too cluttered. So in my quest to make it more minimal and zen, here is an assembly of images which I need to set free, all with a similar theme: that of power. Enjoy!

First up is this graphic relating to the US power generation mix, and how the top ten largest emission-emitting power plants all burn coal. There are almost 560 coal plants operating in the US, and coal accounts for the largest share of the generation mix at 39%:

The EPA’s announcement earlier this month to target a 30% cut in power plant emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2030 puts coal first in the firing line, because coal emits twice as many emissions compared to natural gas. Why is this such a big deal? Because power generation accounts for approximately 40% of total US emissions, with coal in itself accounting for most of this. Hark, the emissions breakdown, um, broken down:

Looking across the pond, Europe faces similar issues, but is tackling them in a very different way. Germany is in the process of implementing  ‘Energiewende‘, the transition to a sustainable economy via renewable energy and energy efficiency.

However, given its knee-jerk decision to eliminate nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan 2011, Germany is leaning heavily on coal, relying on it to meet approximately 45% of generation needs in the near term to (ironically) assist its transition into renewables. Nonetheless, its pursuit of renewable energy is nothing short of voracious.

Renewable energy in Germany (read: wind and solar) accounted for approximately 25% of generation in the first quarter, while targeting 45% by 2030. Meanwhile, EU data states its share of installed capacity will rise to 42% by next year. Granted, installed capacity is by no means guaranteed baseload generation; wind power contributed nothing to the grid for a week last December, while solar was little better.

That said, on weekends when factories are closed and demand is lower (and the sun is shining and the wind is a’blowin’), renewable energy can meet over half of Germany’s electricity generation needs…just as it did last weekend (solar = yellow, wind = green, fossil fuels = gray):

Which leads to my final point in this meandering monologue. While we saw over $250 billion of global investment in fossil fuel capacity last  year, the IEA’s Clean Energy Progress Report highlights that nearly the equivalent amount was invested in renewable capacity (and predominantly solar and wind). So while hydropower may currently account for the lion’s share of global renewable energy, solar and wind are taking over the baton.

As always, thanks for playing…til next time, you can find me filing stuff on Twitter – @EnergyBurrito.

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