former professor of geology and geophysics, CEO of M Vest Energy
PhD, PhD in nuclear and energy physics from the University of Oslo, blogger and professor
To reach the zero emissions goal as quickly as possible, we must consider the simple fact: renewable energy alone cannot solve energy challenges.
This is a chronicle. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.
The world eagerly awaits the outcome of the Glasgow climate summit, without any empirically valid reason for it. There have been 25 previous climate meetings, all with the same result: greenhouse gas emissions are increasing.
The transition to a low-carbon society is extremely demanding. A major challenge in the climate debate is the lack of understanding of the enormous dimensions: it is simply difficult to understand. how much energy the world uses!
Currentconsumption is only a small proportion of this. Most of the energy consumption is not electricity, but energy used for transport and heating.
Coal and natural gas come in the following places, and together they cover about half of the energy the world uses.
Solar and wind energy still constitute only a small fraction of the total.
A successful transition to a low-carbon society requires us to consider three challenges: Renewable energy sources require a lot of space, provide unstable power sources, and consume high material.
Unfortunately, renewable energy sources are not very space efficient and require a hundred to several thousand times more space than fossil and nuclear energy.
To illustrate: if a fifth of Norway’s current energy consumption is to be covered by wind power, it takes 4200 km² of available area, much more than the entire Hardangervidda.
Nuclear power would require 32 km2and gas power 16 km2.
Costs when renewables increase
Electricity must be supplied when we need it, throughout the year. To achieve this with renewable energy sources, energy storage through the use of batteries, hydroelectric power and hydrogen becomes important.
In addition, we must build international super grid (electrical network) with electrical cables that cross national borders. For example, surplus solar energy from sunny Spain can be exported to sun-poor Norway when needed.
Power plants with stable energy sources are also needed to back up when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. All of this – energy storage, construction of power grids, and stabilization of energy sources – costs money. This money is going to be compensated a significant proportion of total costs when renewables increase in scope.
Nor should the need for materials be underestimated. Due to their low energy density, renewable energies use many materials to build power plants. Batteries and electric motors use many rare metals such as cobalt, lithium, neodymium and dysprosium.
In its zero emission roadmap The International Energy Agency (IEA) adds to a five times greater need for metals and minerals. It requires tremendous mining growth with the challenges that come with it. The IEA is clear that this may not be possible and must be viewed in light of human rights and political instability.
Nuclear power has the lowest emissions
Renewable energies will undoubtedly be a key factor in the energy mix of the future. But the quickest path to zero emissions requires us to include two very relevant energy sources in the energy mix, namely nuclear power and natural gas (in the long term, of course, with carbon capture and storage). .
The EU is now considering include these in your green taxonomy (classification system), that will be an important sign.
Nuclear power is debated, but they have lower emissions of greenhouse gases. Land use is a fraction of renewable energy, material consumption is clearly lowerand the power supplies are more stable of all energy sources, in stark contrast to solar and wind power.
In terms of cost the IEA considers that The expanded operation of existing nuclear power plants provides the cheapest electricity. In addition, they believe that new nuclear power plants in 2025 will be competitive in price.
Concerns about nuclear power are often related to fear of accidents and the management of radioactive waste. One comprehensive report drawn up by the EU Panel on Science (JRC) has in particular assessed the safety and handling of hazardous waste and has concluded positively on both aspects.
The bottom line is that nuclear power has many advantages and no greater disadvantages than renewables and should therefore be incorporated into the EU taxonomy as a sustainable activity.
Lets see that total footprint In health, climate, economy, nature and environment, nuclear power is magnificently better. And to be very clear: it makes little sense for price, climate, environment and health to shut down functioning and well-managed nuclear power plants.
Gas that replaces coal
Because the world’s energy needs are so enormous, we will likely need fossil energy for decades before alternatives exist. Then natural gas is preferable, because greenhouse gas emissions are much lower than those of coal and oil.
In the long term, gas energy must be combined with carbon storage to reduce emissions. Land use for gas power is only a fraction of renewable. Natural gas is also very suitable for the production of electricity, because the energy source can be easily regulated as needed. Therefore, it works well with unstable energy sources such as solar and wind.
In the UK, the use of natural gas has increased at the expense of coal. primary reason to the sharp decline they have had in greenhouse gas emissions.
Much of the gas comes from Norway. The IEA believes so greater future potential for gas that replaces coal, it is in Europe and the United States.
Key contributors to the energy mix
One of the most important things going forward, in parallel with energy efficiency and the acceleration of renewables, is that political parties and national authorities accept both nuclear energy and natural gas as key contributors to the energy mix.
These energy sources help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while having a stable electricity supply with minimal consequences for nature and the environment.
The question is whether it is enough if the zero emissions target is to be reached on time in a sufficiently sustainable way.