About Us

Towards a Renewable and Sustainable Energy Future
Renewable Energies Working Together

8.2.04

Pierre Fortin, Executive Director, Canadian Hydropower Association (CHA)
Rob McMonagle, Executive Director, Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA)
Robert Hornung, President, Canadian Wind Energy Association

How can the world meet its 21st century energy needs while protecting the environment? This is the task before us, and only with affordable and environmentally sound energy can we maintain our quality of life and develop our economies.

This can be achieved with the implementation of energy efficiency and conservation measures, and also the sustainable development of clean and renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind energy, and hydropower.

But to achieve the transition from a largely fossil-fuel based world energy mix to a more sustainable and renewable energy scenario, we must have a comprehensive long-term renewable energy strategy. Such a strategy would take into account economic, social and environmental aspects, would look at energy needs and available potential at national and regional levels, and would build on the potential synergies of different energy sources.

For example, a comprehensive energy strategy would consider the following. As the production of electricity from intermittent sources of green power increases, the need for complementary energy storage systems will also increase. This we know. We also know that in countries like Germany and Denmark, wind power is complemented primarily by baseload production of fossil-fuel generated electricity. Given the environmental degradation caused by the burning of fossil fuels, we neither want nor need this solution for Canada. Because hydropower is low emitting, clean, and renewable, as well as uniquely flexible, it is the best source to support the development of renewables such as wind and solar.

With renewable energies working together, what might a sustainable energy future look like? In Canada today, hydropower supplies close to 60 percent of current electricity production, and wind and solar less than 1 percent -- but the potential for development is enormous. We estimate the technical potential of wind power to be approximately 50,000 MW, solar power 70,000 MW, and hydropower 118,000 MW. I think we need to rethink these potential numbers. Wind has much more than 50,000 MW of potential…..we say 50,000 because the much larger number has not been quantified and 50,000 represents about 20% of electricity supply – a level we feel an intermittent source can easily meet without imposing huge costs on the system. I would suggest that solar, as another intermittent source, needs to consider a similar constraint.

A Renewable Energy Strategy

Sustainable development, whether local or global, demands an increase in the use of all renewable energies. While it is important to set targets for the development of renewables such as wind and solar, it is equally important to recognize that hydropower, be it large or small, run-of-river or storage, is a renewable energy source. .

Canada needs to develop a formal comprehensive strategy for the future development of all renewables, addressing their needs and including appropriate incentives for each renewable source of energy.

For example, some renewable energy technologies require additional investment for more research and development before they can be commercialized. Others have been on the market for decades but are currently facing difficulties at remaining competitive due to the rising cost of environmental impact assessment requirements and very high capital costs.

A national renewable energy strategy would require all energy technologies to be evaluated on a life-cycle basis, for a better accounting of their positive and negative environmental aspects. This national strategy would also build on the synergies of renewables by including in assessments an analysis of the complementary nature of renewables. Moreover, affordability would be redefined: the hidden health, environmental and social costs of fossil-fuel based energy should be reflected in the market price.

New assessment criteria, new energy technologies, new synergies, new environmental issues, all of this calls for a central coordinating mechanism within government devoted to the development and deployment of renewable electricity sources. Such a mechanism can ensure that all renewable energy sources receive appropriate federal government support and incentives to pursue healthy development.

The development of renewable energies would not only reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, leading to fewer greenhouse gas emissions, making for cleaner air, and energy price stability, but it would also generate new jobs in a wide range of sectors such as research, manufacturing, and installation. In this way, Canada could continue its tradition of being a world leader in energy expertise. To reach this future, renewable energies, with good governance, must continue working together. So we will.

Readers Comments

Date Comment
Len Gould
8.2.04

"the hidden health, environmental and social costs of fossil-fuel based energy should be reflected in the market price."

Well, you certainly got that much right. Otherwise IMHO, a {too typically} high level discussion with no specifics with with to agree or disagree. Sure, we all like apple pie, are you offering some or what?

e.g. what percentage of Cdn Hydro gen is at present "run-of-river" with no storage facility (Niagra)? Has anyone studied what (volume of storage/storage time) is required to make a megawatt of wind gen reliable? Does it need to backup 90% for 2 weeks? Is it wort that?

Some specifics would help.

Stephen Heins
8.2.04

If "The Graduate" were being filmed today, Ben would hear the following advice from me: "Economics! "

Without it, we are stuck repeating past economic mistakes, not unlike we did with the electric car and solar house heating systems.

Ultimately, consumers and especially business customers will pay for goods and services that make sense with a real ROI. Otherwise, they are properly skeptical of anything undefined, unproven and uneconomic. Like any precious resource, money matters and should not be wasted, even for the best of causes

**** ****
8.10.04

If hydro generation is going to be the source of electricity when the wind isn't blowing, and the sun isn't shining, then it will be sufficient to meet the systems full load. Why would you bother developing wind and solar, which are respectively approxiamately 5 and 10 times more expensive then hydraulic?

If you need wind and solar because there isn't sufficient hydraulic capacity to meet system needs, then you need nuclear (assuming we forgo the evils of petro based generation) when the wind and solar don't meet the sytems needs.

Since nuclear is designed for base load requirements, not for cycling up and down, and since it is (based on current demonstrated construction costs around the world) 1/3 to 1/5 the cost of wind and solar respectively, again why bother with wind and solar?

Nothing wrong with the government funding demonstration projects and supporting research, but to suggest that wind and solar can meet more than 50% of our energy needs is disingenuous, to say the least. Technically feasible, maybe. Economically feasible, not even close.

David Katz
8.10.04

The above three repsonses show the wide divergent views about energy and the environmental and economic impacts. It is about economics, but energy is also an essential service and must be supplied and used wisely. Claims about the renewable nature of large Hydro projects given the GHG impacts, low nuclear cost estimates given the Candu cost overuns, and renewable technologies that are intermittent show the compexity of a Demand/Supply SYSTEM. Hopefully we will all recognize the need for Integrated Resource Management and Planning so that all issues of HEALTH, ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT can be part of our ENERGY agenda. Saving energy may still cost less than many of the supply options if all the life cycle cost consdierations are taken into account.

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8.10.04
Spanish Island Aims for Energy Self-Sufficiency Madrid, Spain - June 22, 2004 In one of the first examples of its kind, one of the Canary Island chain's smallest islands could soon be powered entirely by a combination of renewable energy systems. The Spanish utility Endesa has embarked on a plan to build a hybrid wind power, pumped-hydroelectric power plant on the small island of El Hierro. The Spanish-owned Canary Islands are located south-west of Spain and north-west of Africa, directly in front of the coast of Morocco. The El Hierro hydro-wind project entails an estimated investment of Euro 24 million (US$29 million). Like many islands ranging from this small island in the Canary's to the big Island of Hawaii, a vast majority of electrical needs are derived from imported sources leading to price vulnerability and transportation accidents with fossil fuels. In 2000, El Hierro, with an area of approximately 278 km(2) and a population of roughly 10,000 inhabitants, was declared a "Biosphere Reserve" by Unesco for its preservation of the island's environment and cultural values. This gave rise to the El Hierro hydro-wind project. The project entails the construction of a 9.9 MW pumped hydro power station equipped with three 3 MW Pelton turbines. It will operate as follows: the hydro plant will be located between two man-made reservoirs placed at different levels, generating power through the hydro powered turbines, leveraging the different levels between the upper and lower reservoirs. The energy obtained from the wind farm will be used to pump the water in the opposite direction. The project also includes a desalination plant, which will use water from the man-made reservoirs both to fill them up initially and for subsequent supply needs due to the evaporation caused by wind and heat. The surplus drinking water produced by the desalination plant will be used for irrigation on the island. The project has been presented to the European Commission, where it attracted a great deal of interest due to its innovative use of clean energy. Specifically, a demonstration of the project was given to the European Commission on Energy and the Environment. Also, the project was presented last week at the fourth European Conference on Sustainable Cities held in Aalborg, Denmark. It was one of the five European projects selected out of a total of 280.

a b
8.10.04
OSLO, Norway - A windblown island off Norway is being used to test ways of overcoming a big drawback of alternative energy: How to store it. Such renewable energy sources as wind, waves and solar power provide a clean alternative to climate damaging fossil fuels and potentially dangerous nuclear power. But sometimes the wind dies, the sea calms, and the sun doesn’t shine, leaving those who depend on them for power facing a blackout unless they have a backup supply. Oslo-based ***** on Tuesday presented its project to test a combination of technologies, wind power and hydrogen fuel, to overcome that problem on the island of Utsira, off Norway’s western coast. “It is the first full scale project of this type in the world,” said project manager Paal Otto Eide, whose company is leading the $5.8 million effort. 'Real customers' using technology The company built two 600-kilowatt wind turbines to use with a hydrogen generator and a fuel cell in providing all the electricity for 10 homes on Utsira, Norway’s smallest municipality with just 240 residents. “It is real customers who are going to cook... and watch TV with this electricity this summer,” said Joergen Rostrup, ****'s vice president for new energy. When it’s windy, which is usual in Utsira, about 11 miles from the mainland, the two wind turbines will produce much more electricity than needed by the 10 homes. The excess power will be used to produce hydrogen fuel so that at first a hydrogen combustion engine , to be replaced afterwards by a fuel cell make electricity at windless times. Some is also being sent to the mainland. “What is important is to store the excess energy,” said Eide. “Utsira is a demonstration of what we could imagine as a hydrogen community in the future.” Hydrogen, one of the most common elements on earth, is seen by many as a pollution-free fuel of the future, and is a key part of projects around the world, including tests of hydrogen powered cars. It can be derived from such sources as natural gas or methane, or can be made by electricity — in this case from the wind turbines, in a process known as electrolysis that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. Export idea abroad? The wind turbines and the hydrogen engine are already producing electricity on Utsira, 200 miles west of Oslo. The full switch from the traditional power grid is set for July 1 for the test, which will last two or three years. Eide said many remote areas around the world depend on costly and polluting diesel generators for electricity, which could make an alternative, such as the wind and hydrogen supply, attractive. “We want to prove that this is possible, not economically viable, but technically possible,” said Eide. The Utsira trial follows energy and metals group ****’s earlier involvement in hydrogen projects for the transport sector, including a filling station on Iceland. ***** is a major oil and natural gas producer, and like many energy companies is preparing to also meet demand for alternative fuels. The group was founded in 1905 to produce mineral fertilizers by using electricity from its hydroelectric plant, hence the **** part of its name. Norway, the world’s third largest oil exporter, produces virtually all its own electricity with hydroelectric plants. Wind power has made big strides, especially in Denmark and Germany, and is the fastest-growing part of the European power industry due to government measures to curb emissions of greenhouse gases widely blamed for global warming.

a b
8.10.04
The Canary island self reliant project costs 2400 euro/person, for a totaly independent energy supply. There are around 20 million people living on islands in europe alone, and globally, the figure is above 200 million (2/3 of the USA).

So a combination of renewable enrgy IS a technically and economically feasible solution for some area's in the world, Mr ******.

The Utsira Island project is not economically interessant right now ($500 000/house for electricity supply). However, I would be interested to see what fuel cell developments in the coming year will produce in efficiency increases (around 65% now, twice the efficiency of fossil fuel powergen plants) , while price reductions will happen.

If you don't do it, you stay stuck with nuke power and it's thousands of years of waste disposal baby siting, costing a lot of money.......

**** ****
8.10.04
8/10/04 Septimus vander Linden. Storage in any form with renewable energy is the right direction, systems do not have to be large, however bulk energy storage 50 MW to 1000's of MW's are possible. visit www.energystoragecouncil.org --In the US Pumped Hydro has virtually stopped due to environmental concerns. There is plenty of scope in Canada for such systems. The Iowa Wind Storage Project(ISEP) is one example of using aquifer storage for air and Natural gas. This project under study will accomodate 200MW of generation, and serve as a Mid Merit plant. The economics are there, so give our neighbors across our Northen border a chance to explore the synergies between Renewable Energy and Storage concepts.

Charles Hall
8.10.04

8/10/04 I like the concept of renewable energy -- who doesn't? Islands are often in good wind zones. For the rest of us windmills require huge fossil fuel investments for backups or large changes in hydro operations that environmentalists (I am one) don't like. For me a big issue is EROI or energy return on investment. I think this is one reason that fossil fuels remain financially attractive, they have very high (even now) EROI compared to most renewables. Will this ever change?

For those interested I Have an editorial in June Journal of Energy Technology called:The Myth of sustainable developmjent: Personal reflections on energy, its relation to neoclassical economics, and Stanbley Jevons.

Send mail address to chall@esf.edu if you are interested in a copy.

Charles Hall

 

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