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In previous posts I discussed the size of the challenge and messed up cost comparisons WGIII provides. Here I provide few observations on how WGIII deals with bioenergy.  The 2007 assessment report as well as the 2011 renewables report were largely uncritical of bioenergy/biofuels, but now some warnings have been added to 5th assessment report. But still… These warnings are largely to be found only in the actual report while the summary for policy makers creates, in my opinion, more positive image.

Realizing that BECCS is the route to salvation.

Realizing that BECCS is the key?

Bioenergy can play a critical role for mitigation, but there are issues to consider, such as the sustainability of practices and the efficiency of bioenergy systems  (robust evidence, medium agreement) [11.4.4, Box 11.5, 11.13.6, 11.13.7]. Barriers to large‐scale deployment of bioenergy include concerns about GHG emissions from land, food security, water resources, biodiversity conservation and livelihoods. The scientific debate about the overall climate impact related to landuse competition effects of specific bioenergy pathways remains unresolved (robust evidence, high agreement)”  WGIII Summary for policy makers

Notice how this is phrased. It starts by saying bioenergy can play a critical role (robust evidence, medium agreement) and then ends by saying that we do not actually know what climate impacts are (robust evidence, high agreement).  In my opinion, caution should be emphasized here since were are dealing with issues with very large ecological and social consequences. Summary for policy makers also seems to discuss, in practice non-existent,  bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) as some independent technology while in the real report it is quite clearly mentioned in the context of geoengineering (quite rightly of course).

Here and there the report seems very confused about bioenergy and especially serious ecological or social damage assessment is largely missing. For example, in chapter 6 (table 6.7) only water use is mentioned as an adverse effect of bioenergy! Sometimes existence some risks are mentioned, but not in such a way as to identify what action in particular is risky and how it relates to current bioenergy practices. This gives me a feeling of CMA (cover my ass) type of activity.  Without actually saying clearly what types of bioenergy schemes are counterproductive, what use is this? WGIII doesn’t say that US corn ethanol scheme would be stupid, or that maybe German biodiesel production is not the brightest of ideas, or that perhaps forestry practices in Scandinavia might leave something to be desired from climate and biodiversity perspective.

Or what do you think about this?

Bioenergy can be deployed as solid, liquid and gaseous fuels to provide transport, electricity, and heat for a wide range of uses, including cooking, and depending on how and where implemented, can lead to either beneficial or undesirable consequences for climate change mitigation (robust evidence, high agreement)…Scientific debate about the marginal emissions of most bioenergy pathways, in particular around land‐mediated equilibrium effects (such as indirect landuse change), remains unresolved (robust evidence, high agreement)” WGIII Chapter 11

So basically they say that either bioenergy is a good idea or a bad idea and are happy to announce robust agreement on this. Then later on page 27 of Chapter 11 they say ” This assessment agrees on a technical bioenergy potential of around 100 EJ, and possibly 300 EJ and higher.” What am I supposed to learn from this? If IPCC is seriously proposing 300EJ they are irresponsibly deluded. In fact, the Figure 11.20 seems to suggest that there is high agreement only about the roughly 100EJ amount (technical potential). So why are those higher numbers so casually thrown around elsewhere in the report?

Between the lines you might perhaps be able to read something. WGIII mentions several times how bioenergy schemes on degraded lands could have multiple positive impacts, but what fraction of current bioenergy schemes fall into this category? If I guess that approximately 0%, am I wrong? WGIII doesn’t tell. Reading the report I get a feeling that unsustainable bioenergy practices would only be some speculative risks in the future rather than standard operating practice of  most bioenergy schemes  today. Since no bad practices are identified, everyone can declare unsustainable practices are things done by others. The effect can be de facto promotion of those unsustainable practices today by creating a narrative for sustainable practices in the future. Furthermore, the bioenergy scenarios WGIII presents as mitigation tools seem to be on such a massive scale that I do not believe degraded lands, waste streams etc. can ever provide more than than a very small fraction of the required biomass. See for example Fig 6.20 (below) from Chapter 6.


IPCC WGIII Chapter 6 Fig.  6.20

IPCC WGIII Chapter 6 Fig. 6.20

In scenarios roughly consistent with 2℃ goal (blue dots) we are supposed to get around 300 EJ of primary energy from bioenergy and most of it equipped with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). What does this mean? Well first of all, it might mean no climate benefits, since WGIII had an agreement that this is not understood. Only ecological and social damage seems guaranteed. Second, the primary productivity of terrestrial biosphere is apparently around 56.4 Gt C/yr which means that 300EJ would amount to around 20% of all primary productivity of the continents. This is not just geoengineering. It is geoengineering on steroids. Given that one of the main drivers of extinctions is the ever increasing share of primary productivity appropriated by Homo Sapiens the idea that this extra diversion might even have some biodiversity benefits (speculated about in Chapter 6) is preposterous. In chapter 6 WGIII also gives results with different amounts of negative emissions — either more than 20Gt CO2/year or less. That 20Gt is roughly consistent with the ridiculously large bioenergy production equipped with CCS. Having presented such idiocy as a possible solution WGIII says later in Chapter 11:

Full GHG impacts, including those from feedbacks (e.g., iLUC) or leakage, are often difficult to determine (Searchinger et al., 2008).  Feedbacks between GHG reduction and other important objectives such as provision of livelihoods and sufficient food or the maintenance of ecosystem services and biodiversity are not completely understood.

Again, where is the precautionary principle when you actually need it? But let us get crazy and start thinking where we could produce that 300EJ. It amount to perhaps 10 Gt/year of carbon from the biosphere. Given that in most places where people live, they already appropriate outrageously large amount of primary productivity (see figure), we should head somewhere where our footprint isn’t quite so large.



If I have a look at the world map with primary productivity shown as well (see figure), it seems that most obvious choices are either northern wastelands, Amazon, or central Africa. Since things don’t grow that well in Siberia and there is hardly anyone there to do the work, we would be left with the unenviable task of terraforming rainforests into energy plantations. How much area would we need? With around 1kg C/m2 combined area of the Amazon rainforest and Congolian rainforest would not be quite enough. With synthetic fertilizers, irrigation etc. we could boost this, but how much energy does it take and where does the water come from? If you want to use degraded land, we will need more space since that land is presumably called degraded for a reason.

Where to grow all that biomass?

Where to grow all that biomass?

Many bioenergy schemes have a low energy return on energy invested (EROEI). In other words we spend a lot of energy in producing bioenergy compared to the amount of useful energy when the fuel is consumed. I was not entirely surprised to notice that the term EROEI did not seem to appear in the report. It is usually brushed aside since dealing seriously with it might rock the boat.

When it comes to bioenergy it must be kept in mind that large financial interests are at stake. Fossil fuel producers have not been too happy with climate science and we can rest assured that countries relying heavily on bioenergy and related schemes will not be happy if impacts of bioenergy are seriously evaluated. When WGIII report was released a high official from Finnish Ministry of employment and the economy declared that Finland can only reach 80-95% emissions reduction goal if bioenergy is counted as climate neutral. Notice that it is not a question if it really IS climate neutral, just that on paper it must be counted as such. I am certain that similar political pressures exist in many other countries on this issue. Also among environists (“enviromentalist without the mental part” Tom Blees) there has been a proliferation of renewables only energy “plans”. Most of them rely heavily on bioenergy and on assuming its beneficial climate impacts. These groups are unlikely to acknowledge easily that they got it wrong. If they do so they might have to rethink the role of nuclear power. However, opposing nuclear power is an identity issue for many environist and they will find it easier to live in denial about environmental and social impacts of bioenergy.

Update 17.5.2015: Some quotations above didn’t make it to the final report. When writing this post I was reading the Final Draft. I thank Glen Peters (@Peters_Glen) for pointing this out.

rightwrongIn an earlier post I briefly discussed the scale of the challenge. In this one I discuss briefly how the report discusses ethical issues surrounding responsibilities towards future generations, with a special focus on discounting and how it relates to cost estimates of various energy options.

The use of a temporal discount rate has a crucial impact on the evaluation of mitigation policies and measures. The social discount rate is the minimum rate of expected social return that compensates for the increased intergenerational inequalities and the potential increased collective risk that an action generates. Even with disagreement on the level of the discount rate, a consensus favours using declining risk‐free discount rates over longer time horizons (high confidence).

An appropriate social risk‐free discount rate for consumption is between one and three times the anticipated growth rate in real per capita consumption (medium confidence). This judgement is based on an application of the Ramsey rule using typical values in the literature of normative parameters in the rule. Ultimately, however, these are normative choices.” IPCC WGIII Chapter 3

 “A simple arbitrage argument favours using the interest rate as the discount rate for climate policy decisions: if one reallocates capital from a safe but marginal project (whose return must be equal to the interest rate) to a safe project with the same maturity whose return is smaller than the interest rate, the net impact is null for the current generation, and is negative for future generations. Thus, when projects are financed by a reallocation of capital rather than an increase in aggregate saving (reducing consumption), the discount rate should be equal to the shadow cost of capital.

This descriptive approach to the discount rate has many drawbacks. First, we should not expect markets to aggregate preferences efficiently when some agents are not able to trade, as is the case for future generations (Diamond, 1977). Second, current interest rates are driven by the potentially impatient attitude of current consumers towards transferring their own consumption to the future. But climate change is about transferring consumption across different people and generations, so that determining the appropriate social discount rate is mostly a normative problem. Thirdly, we do not observe safe assets with maturities similar to those of climate impacts, so the arbitrage argument cannot be applied.”  IPCC WGIII Chapter 3

This discussion on discount rates is in my opinion very important since discount rates capture lots of the ethical underpinnings of our responsibilities to future generations. Discount rates tell about our time horizons and about how patient we are in waiting for gains. If you are offered money right now and twice as much at a later date, how long are you willing to wait? If the discount rate is 10%, you might be ready to wait for about 7 years and if it is 5% you wait for 14 years. Stern review used a rate of 1.4% for climate change damages in which case you are ready to wait for 50 years. In this case the time horizon is truly inter-generational. As explained by the WGIII, how to discount is in the end of the day a normative choice. However, it is a choice whose impact should be openly discussed and a choice that should be reasonably defended. In general I found the Chapter 3 Social, Economic and Ethical Concepts and Methods” interesting and I have to read it more carefully later. I recommend that authors of WGIII Chapter 7  “Energy Systems” also read it.

WGIII gives the levelized cost of energy for different energy sources in Figure 7.7 of Chapter 7. If you look at figure 7.7 (below) carefully you will perhaps notice something funny. In the 4th assessment report at 2007 the costs were given as shown in Figure 4.27 (see copy here). It is not the most beautiful of figures, but clear enough.

Figure 7.7 from IPCC WGIII Chapter 7 (2014)

Figure 7.7 from IPCC WGIII Chapter 7 (2014)

Fig 4.27 from WGIII 2007

Fig 4.27 from WGIII 2007

It shows the results at two different discount rates with coal, gas, and nuclear as the lowest cost options. Somebody was clearly not happy with this and wanted to change the figure into Fig. 7.7 of the new report. As I glanced at the figure first I naturally choose to compare “red” bars with red bars and blue ones with blue. After all we shouldn’t compare apples and oranges. Maybe you did the same? However, I then noticed that red color assumed “high full load hours”. What does that actually mean? In order to figure out, one has to read the annex III for detailed assumptions (how many are going to do that?). For nuclear power “high full load hours” meant a capacity factor of 84 %, for onshore wind 40%, and 27% for solar PV. For nuclear power this a typical capacity factor (although many reactors do better), but for wind and solar power those capacity factors are very atypical. So the figure is constructed in such away that uninformed reader is likely to make incorrect comparisons. In fact, WGIII concludes the caption of Fig. 7.7 (its on the next page and likely to be missed) by saying “Note: The inter-comparability of LCOE is limited. For details on general methodological issues and interpretation see Annexes as mentioned above. ” Indeed. Given that comparisons cannot really be made, why was this approach chosen in the first place? If you can come up with a charitable explanation I am all ears, but to me this seems like authors of Chapter 7 were actively working to make comparisons hard.

How did the authors of Chapter 7 approach the discounting? Let us guess that economic growth in the future is around 2%. In this case the Ramsey rule mentioned by the IPCC in Chapter 3 suggests a discount rate in the range of 2-6%. What discount rate is used in chapter 7 to compare levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for different energy sources? That would be 10%! Authors of WGIII decided not only to use very high discount rate, but also not to give their results at different discount rates so that the effects of this assumption could be observed. Considering that authors of Chapter 3 specifically emphasized how crucial this issue is in evaluating mitigation policies, the approach in Chapter 7 seems indefensible. At minimum one would expect them to show results over broad range of discount rates, but this they decided not to do. Since they refused to do it,  I will quickly do it here and see what difference it makes. (Note that some results with 5% discount rate are hidden in annex III, but these are only for the high FLH case so no honest comparison is possible.) In order to make sure that I know what I am doing I try to reproduce typical LCOE figures for WGIII high FLH case. I copy typical numbers from the annex III and this is what I get.

LCOE $(2010)/MWh comparison based on WGIII high FLH case (warning: misleading comparison!):

 Technology LCOE 10% high FLH (IPCC median) My result
Nuclear 99 97
Coal PC 78 78
Wind onshore 84 85
Solar PV (rooftop) 220 220
CCS-coal-PC 130 123

OK, the numbers are not exactly the same, but close enough for me. I am not sure how WGIII defined the median here. Also, maybe there is some index inconsistency somewhere in the summations…who knows. Basic point is that I can reproduce the WGIII values reasonably well and I am on the same map as WGIII. We are ready to go! So let me then look at the things WGIII decided not to show. I will now compute typical LCOE for few technologies at 10%, 5% and 1.4% discount rates. It turns out that as discount rate is lowered the LCOE for nuclear power drops from 97$/MWh to 62$/MWh, and finally to 42$/MWh. I will summarize the rest of the results by giving the costs relative to nuclear power. The values colored green are higher than the LCOE of nuclear while red is lower.

Difference to the cost of nuclear (go right if you prefer responsible long term thinking): 

 Technology 10% discount rate 5% discount rate 1.4% discount rate
Nuclear 0% 0% 0%
Coal PC -18% +5% +34%
Wind onshore +40% +57% +77%
Solar PV (rooftop) +190% +210% +230%
CCS-coal-PC +27% +63% +110%
(Main assumptions: Most numbers are copied from annex III of WGIII and I just list the differences here.I choose the capacity factor for wind power as 25% which is higher than European or Chinese average, but somewhat less than US average. Most of the wind power capacity in the world does worse than this. I choose the wind turbine lifetime as 20 years as opposed to WGIII value of 25 years, since 20 year lifetime is given by wind turbine manufacturers. This doesn’t change anything of relevance though. I choose PV capacity factor as 15%. In good locations capacity factor can be higher than this, but for example in Germany it is around 10%. Therefore 15% seems fair. I assumed PV capital costs as 3000 $/kW which is substantially less than the WGIII median value of 4400 $/kW. You can check the calculations and assumptions from these Matlab files LCOE_IPCC.mIPCC_Compare.m, and CompareForReal.m. In combination with annex III files should be quite self-explanatory and not too difficult to translate to other number crunching tools.)

As you can see green dominates and with the possible exception of hydro power in good locations, nuclear power is the lowest cost zero carbon source of electricity no matter what discount rate was used.  At 10% discount rate it has difficulty at competing with coal, but at 5% it becomes cheaper than coal. As discount rate is lowered the cost advantage of nuclear relative to other low carbon energy sources is rapidly increased. With 1.4% discount rate and a time horizon extending across generations nuclear power is cheaper than other options by a very large margin.  These results are based on the WGIII numbers and the only changes are those listed above to mainly account for differences in capacity factors. We could make the above table all green by adding a carbon price of only around 20 $/tCO2.

Maybe this discussion on the role of discount rates is simply too radical and WGIII is just following conventions? Well, not really. It is certainly not too radical for WGIII since in its 2011 SSREN report focusing on renewables WGIII gave precisely this type of comparison with 10%, 7%, and 3% discount rates (Fig 10.29 p. 844 in Chapter 10). Some of its authors were even authors of this report. Of course from SSREN report nuclear power was purged at the outset and results which might give readers funny ideas did not have to be shown. Absurdly the discussion on discount rates in this context is far more extensive in SSREN while in this report it has been brushed aside contrary to the emphasis by the authors of Chapter 3 of WGIII. We can only speculate as to why.

To me it seems that on this issue the authors of Chapter 7 were working hard to make sure that uninformed would remain uninformed while giving a chance to say to informed ones: “We are not lying! We are open about the methodology…see annex III etc. Yeah, maybe figure 7.7 is not as clear as it could be. Thanks for the tip! Clear communication is super important and we will keep it in mind for the next assessment report! Blaah blaah blaah…” IPCC should be an expert body giving accurate evidence based material for policy discussions. Sadly in this case WGIII decided not to give this material and compromised its supposed “policy-neutrality”. In plain english, authors of Chapter 7 decided not to do their jobs since doing it would have provided facts suggesting that some mitigation policies are likely to be more effective than others. But this is what they should do! If people decide to brush the cost differences aside, that is their choice, but it is not the role of an expert to fudge figures in such a way that implications of different policy choices are hidden.

Authors of Chapter 7 did what?

Authors of Chapter 7 did what?

While the WGIII messed up the presentation of the costs that we are in a position to know fairly well, it spends a lot of time in speculating about long term costs using integrated assessment models. Since we are not able to predict the future of mankind, I do not think that these games are much more than computer generated guesses based on the preferences of whoever is doing the modeling. I think we are better of in focusing on issues that we can actually control at least to some degree. The Economists was also not very impressed about this:

The IPCC still thinks it might be possible to hit the emissions target by tripling, to 80%, the share of low-carbon energy sources, such as solar, wind and nuclear power, used in electricity generation. It reckons this would require investment in such energy to go up by $147 billion a year until 2030 (and for investment in conventional carbon-producing power generation to be cut by $30 billion a year). In total, the panel says, the world could keep carbon concentrations to the requisite level by actions that would reduce annual economic growth by a mere 0.06 percentage points in 2100.

These numbers look preposterous. Germany and Spain have gone further than most in using public subsidies to boost the share of renewable energy (though to nothing like 80%) and their bills have been enormous: 0.6% of GDP a year in Germany and 0.8% in Spain. The costs of emission-reduction measures have routinely proved much higher than expected.

Moreover, the assumptions used to calculate long-term costs in the models are, as Robert Pindyck of the National Bureau of Economic Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, put it, “completely made up”. In such circumstances, estimates of the costs and benefits of climate change in 2100 are next to useless. Of the IPCC’s three recent reports, the first two (on the natural science and on adapting to global warming) were valuable. This one isn’t.The Economist. While I think the report has some interesting things as well, when it comes to cost estimates I tend to agree with The Economists.

Finally, in my opinion the fact that companies use the short time horizons implied by 10% (or higher) discount rates is a clear indication of a market failure. Climate change requires longer term decisions and if such decisions cannot be delivered by current markets, those markets need to change. Either the state with a longer time horizon must become more active or appropriate sticks and carrots should be developed to discourage short term profit taking and promote longer term visions.

Screenshot from 2016-04-01 14:09:13
 IPCC WGIII report on mitigation is out and since it is long I suspect that it will make sense to split my commentary in small pieces. Everybody cherry picks from these reports and I will be no different. I will cherry pick from the parts that I feel are most relevant, interesting (for me), or most target rich. The report is kind of long and I have made no attempt to read every single line of it. So lets get going..

Magnitude of the challenge

To grasp the main point see the Fig. 6.18 from the report. The figure shows a large collection of fantasies of what might happen  and how the story relates to concentrations of greenhouse gases and thus to global warming. Scenarios with estimated CO2 concentrations in the range between 430-480 ppm are the blue dots and the rest imply stronger heating than the political goal of roughly 2 . Note, however, that in most scenarios concentrations actually overshoot 450 ppm and rely on negative emissions technologies to ride to the rescue in the later part of the century. (I wonder if anyone making decisions at 2050 reads are cares about reports written in 2014? I certainly wont.) On the x-axis we have the global final energy use and on the y-axis we have low-carbon (nuclear, renewables, CCS) primary energy supply.


Modified from IPCC WGIII 2014 Chapter 6 p.40 Fig. 6.18

Modified from IPCC WGIII 2014 Chapter 6 p.40 Fig. 6.18

The first thing to note is that bulk of those pretty blue dots correspond to final energy use of about 500EJ which is about 40% higher than today. Therefore, the blue dots implicitly assume a growth rate of around 0.8%. This is much lower than our recent past would suggest and if we were to use perhaps more realistic growth rate of 2%, the final energy use would grow 120% from 2010-2050 so that the final energy use would rise to almost 790 EJ, a value that is almost off-scale in the figure. This suggests that not only do most of those blue dots rely on non-existing negative emission technologies, but they also rely on very radical assumptions about consumption growth.

To illustrate the 2nd point, I added to the figure few line to make trends clearer. The green line shows estimated trend for the addition of low carbon energy 1970-2000, the red line shows the progress 2000-2010, and the blue line shows what is needed to get to those blue points. Ironically enough as public expressions of climate concerns have escalated, the actual effort to decarbonize has been reduced (see also here). Even with the low estimates of consumption growth, the current low carbon additions to energy supply are too low by more than a factor of ten.

Let me illustrate the gap between talk and substance by a simple numerical example. Wind resource is huge and can (so we are told) power the entire planet many times over. So let us just build wind turbines to cover most of that low carbon energy needs. Let us say 400EJ of wind energy by 2050 and ignore all integration, cost, and land use issues. (Since at this level wind electricity would also be transformed to other forms of energy such as heat, I will ignore the distinction between primary energy and electricity here. 1kWh of electricity is no more than 1kWh of heat. If you object you can divide the relevant numbers by about 3, but it will not change anything of relevance.) If the turbines have a 20 year lifetime and they run at 25% capacity factors we will need about 51TW of wind power capacity at 2050. Taking into account that 20 year lifetime maintaining this level requires a construction rate of around 51000GW/20 year=2500GW/year. Last year 27 GW of wind power  capacity was installed in the world. The amount needed is therefore off by about a factor of 100. (If you add that factor of three…”just” a factor of 30 or so.)

I find it troubling that in addition to supposedly avoiding telling countries what policies to pursue, IPCC also declines from comparing past policies with respect to their success at mitigating emissions. This is largely an empirical question with obvious relevance for mitigation and  responsible governments should welcome critical evaluation of their policies by outside experts. However, I guess the keyword here is “responsible” and  suspect that honest comparison cannot be made since it would be politically too inconvenient for many countries. The fact remains that to date countries most successful in reducing their GHG emissions, were countries like Sweden and France in the 80’s without any climate policies whatsoever (see here, here, and here for a Global Carbon Project presentation on page 12, for example).  The politics in the past few decades has been heavy on rhetoric and ever lighter on substance. In  conclusion I find it very unlikely that we will stay below 2 warming. The goal is too demanding and is not made any easier by the woefully inadequate response demonstrated by every single country on the planet.

IPCC:n  ilmastonmuutoksen hillintää käsittelevä osaraportti julkaistiin juuri. Helsingin Sanomien toimittajaksi naamioitunut aktivisti Heli Saavalainen otsikoi juttunsa näin

IPCC:n tuore raportti: Maailman siirryttävä nopeasti uusiutuvaan energiaan“.

Hän jatkaa reippaasti IPCC:n nimissä

IPCC:n mukaan uusiutuvan energian käyttö pitää kolmin- tai nelinkertaistaa vuoteen 2050 mennessä. Muuten maapallon keskilämpötila nousee enemmän kuin ihmiskunnan kannalta kriittisenä rajana pidetyt kaksi astetta.

Entä mitä itse lähde sanoo? Luetaan itse “Summary for policy makers” 



“At the global level, scenarios reaching 450 ppm CO2eq are
also characterized by more rapid improvements of energy efficiency,
a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero‐ and low‐carbon energy supply from renewables, nuclear energy and fossil energy with carbon dioxide capture and  storage (CCS), or bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) by the year 2050″ IPCC WGIII.

He puhuvat siis kaiken vähäpäästöisen tekniikan osuuden nopeasta kasvattamisesta. Kummasti tuo ydinvoima ja hiilentalteenotto putosivat kuitenkin toimittajan tulkinnassa pois. Miksiköhän? Minusta raportissa on paljon kommentoitavaa ja palaan asiaan joskus myöhemmin. On kuitenkin typerää julistaa omia ennakkoluulojaan median kautta mukamas jonkun “auktoriteetin” nimissä.

Joitain vuosia sitten kirjoittelin Pew Charitable Trustin julkaisemasta raportista “Who’s winning the clean energy race”. Kyseinen läpyskä on vuosittain toistuva uusiutuvan energian hehkutus ja sen rinnalla julkaistaan hyvin samanlaista “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment” raporttia Frankfurt School-UNEP:in nimissä.

Kisa maailman pelastamiseksi käy kiivaana

Kisa maailman pelastamiseksi käy kiivaana

 Se, että raportit ovat hyvin samanlaisia ei ole yllättävää, koska molemmat ovat nähtävästi koosteita yksityisen “Bloomberg New Energy Finance”:n antamista tiedoista. (YK:n rooli tuossa jälkimmäisessä raportissa on minulle epäselvää, koska se näyttää olevan lähinnä BNEF:n raportti jota Saksan liittovaltion totuusministeriö  aka “Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit ” on sponsoroinut. Toinen Lead author ja hyvin moni raportin tekemiseen osallistuneista on BNEF:n palkkalistoilla, joten hiukan kummalliselta tuo prosessi minusta vaikuttaa.) Näitä raportteja siteerattiin siellä täällä lähinnä hehkuttaen kuinka Kiina johtaa. Koska tässä genressä journalismin laatu on heikohkoa, oli tässäkin tapauksessa syytä selailla itse alkuperäisiä raportteja kokonaiskuvan saamiseksi. Kun hypetyksen sivuuttaa, niin asiaakin voi niistä löytää.

Joiltain on voinut jäädä huomaamatta, että uusiutuviin tehdyt investoinnit ovat olleet itse asiassa selvässä laskussa. Perusnarratiivissahan ala kasvaa eksponentiaalisesti ja on ilmiselvästi tulevaisuuden juttu. Viime vuonna investointeja oli kuitenkin maailmassa reilut 200 miljardia dollaria (suunnilleen Suomen BKT) eli noin 20% vähemmän kuin ennätysvuonna 2011. Uutta aurinkosähkökapasiteettia asennettiin maailmalla noin 40GW (vuonna 2012 31GW)  ja tuulivoimakapasiteettia 27 GW mikä on noin 40% vähemmän kuin vuonna 2012.

Koska eurooppalaiset olivat “edelläkävijöitä”, on hyvä tarkistaa mitä täällä on tapahtunut. Vuonna 2011 investointeja EU:ssa tehtiin alalle 115 miljardia dollaria, mutta viime vuonna enää 55 miljardia eli kyseessä on yli 50% romahdus. Entä mitä yksittäisissä EU maissa on tapahtunut? Saksan pitäisi olla kuulemma erityisen innostava esimerkki ja vuonna 2010 siellä investoitiin uusiutuviin 41.2 miljardia. Espanjassa (jo talouden romahdettua) investointeja vuonna 2010 oli vielä 4.9 miljardia. Viime vuonna Saksan investointitahti romahti 10.1 miljardiin. (Jos GW kapasiteettia maksaa noin 2 miljardia, elinikä on 25 vuotta ja kapasiteettikerroin 15%, on selvää, että Saksa ei tule tuolla tahdilla dekarbonisoimaan edes sähköntuotantoaan…not even close. ) Espanja investoi viime vuonna kokonaista 0.4 miljardia eli alle kymmenesosa muutaman vuoden takaisesta tilanteesta. Italiassa rahaa kului 3.6 miljardia mikä oli 75% vähemmän kuin vuonna 2012.

Minusta on kummallista kuinka tästä ei ole puhuttu mitään. Uusiutuvien rakennusbuumi osoittautui kuplaksi, joka lässähti kurjistuvaan talouteen ja nouseviin kustannuksiin paljon ennen kuin mainitsemisen arvoisia päästövähennyksiä aikaansaatiin. Tämä oli asia, joka olisi ollut nähtävissä jo kuplaa puhallettaessa mikäli kiinnostusta kriittiseen ajatteluun olisi ollut. Se, että asiasta näytetään vaikenevan vieläkin ei lupaa hyvää. Sen sijaan, että vahingosta viisastuttaisiin ja mietittäisiin kuinka aikaisemmat virheet voidaan välttää, ajatuksena taitaa olla uuden kuplan puhaltaminen siinä toivossa, että nyt lopputulos olisi erilainen. Jos uutta kuplaa ei enää haluta puhaltaa, syy epäonnistumiseen on tietenkin jonkun muun.




Jokin aika sitten ilmaisin epävarmuuteni siitä onko konseptissa “Cleantech” mitään varsinaista substanssia. Näytti siltä, että kyseessä on vain normaalin tehokkuuden parantamisen myyminen uudessa paketissa. Iskulause, jonka toisen luokan poliitikot ja mainostajat voivat nivoa retoriikkaansa. Hauskana “kuriositeettina” tästä teemasta on muuten pakko mainita Wattin höyrykone, joka tuotiin markkinoille 1700-luvun toisella puoliskolla. Englannissa oli jo käytetty höyrykoneita ennen tätä, mutta nämä Newcomenin koneet olivat tehottomia ja söivät valtavat määrät hiiltä. Tämä tehottomuus tarkoitti sitä, että niitä kannatti käyttää lähinnä siellä missä hiiltä oli runsaasti eli hiilikaivoksissa. 1700-luvun alkupuoliskolla hiiltä siis kyllä poltettiin mekaanisen energian tuottamiseksi, mutta vain veden pumppaamiseksi pois kaivoksista.

Enter James Watt.  Hän keksi ulkopuolisen lauhduttimen käytön ja paransi höyrykoneen polttoainetehokkuutta huimat 75%. Varsinaista Cleantechiä! On kiinnostavaa, että tänäänkin keskustellaan siitä kuinka energiayritysten intresseissä ei ole asiakkaiden energiatehokkuus, koska he tekevät tuloksensa energiaa myymällä. On keskusteltu siitä kuinka yrityksille luotaisiin kannustimet välittää asiakkaittensa energiatehokkuudesta. Tavalla tai toisella yritysten olisi saatava rahaa asiakkaiden säästämästä energiasta. “Been there, done that!” Watt&Boulton (1775).  Boultonin ja Wattin yrityksen ansaintalogiikka perustui lisenssimaksuihin, jotka perustuivat käyttäjien säästämiin polttoainekustannuksiin. Lisää progressiivista Cleantechiä!

Nykyisessä keskusteluilmapiirissä tästä puhuttaisiin hurjana energiansäästömahdollisuutena. Päästöt ja energiankulutus putoaisivat rajusti kunhan vain siirryttäisiin näihin energiatehokkaisiin koneisiin. Näin ei kuitenkaan aivan tapahtunut. Wattin mahdollistama energiatehokkuuden paraneminen alensi hyödyllisen mekaanisen energian kustannusta käyttäjille. Höyrykone ei ollutkaan enää taloudellisesti kiinnostava valinta vain hiilikaivoksessa vaan kaikkialla. Teollinen vallankumous tapahtui ja hiilen tuotanto Englannissa nousi vuoteen 1900 mennessä noin satakertaiseksi 1700-luvun alun tasosta. Uuups!

Yhteiskunta urbanisoitui ja talous suurelta osin irtosi “orgaanisen” luonnon primäärituotannon rajoittaman talouden kahleista. Positiiviset takaisinkytkennät alkoivat vaikuttamaan ilman aikaisempien aikojen jarruja ja talous on kasvanut näihin päiviin saakka. Pääosin tämä kehitys on ollut ihmisten hyvinvoinnille valtavan hyvä asia, mutta talouden moottorin ilmakehään tupruttava saaste on alkanut muodostamaan uutta jarrua.

Perustuen jo tapahtuneeseen suhtaudun suurin varauksin kuvitelmiin energiatehokkuuden päästävän meidät pahasta. Tehokkuus voi olla perusteltua taloudellisesti ja inhimillisesti, mutta on suuri vaara, että päästöjen vähentäjäksi siitä ei ole alkuunkaan siinä mittakaavassa kuin mitä moni kuvittelee. Polttamisen tehokkuuden parantaminen tekee koneen houkuttelevammaksi toimittamalla käyttäjälle enemmän hyötyenergiaa samalla polttoaineen kulutuksella kuin ennen. Tämä hyötyenergia löytää kyllä käyttäjänsä.  Ehkä omistaja päättää käyttää säästyneet varat Thaimaan matkaan tai super-eettisesti sähköä tuottavaan kuntopyörään, jonka valmistus luultavimmin vaatii enemmän energiaa kuin se määrä hyötyenergiaa mitä laitteella koskaan tuotetaan? Tai ehkä hän ostaa uusimpia My Little Pony p…sesuristimia koko rahalla? Ihmiskunnan on korkea aika luopua polttamisesta ja siirtyä lopullisesti ulos metsistä. Marginaalien hienosäätö ei enää riitä.

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