Detractors Of Renewable Energy And Future Outlooks

Renewable energy has historically had many detractors.
“Renewable energy is too expensive,” many have said over the years. “Increasing amounts of public subsidies will be required for a long time,” many have also said, or its variation, “renewable energy is only developing because there is policy support.” And many have considered renewable energy technologies relatively immature and requiring further research.
Such views persist today in the energy industry. For example, ExxonMobil, in its 2012 Outlook for Energy to 2040, said, “advances in technology will be necessary to make [renewable] fuels more practical and economic … geothermal and solar will remain relatively expensive.” ENI noted, “the technologies presently available only allow for limited production of energy at high prices.” And Chevron said, “because of major technical hurdles – such as scalability, performance, and costs—as well as marketbased barriers, broader adoption [of renewables] can’t happen
overnight.”

image thumb7 Detractors Of Renewable Energy And Future OutlooksRenewables advocates reply that conventional cost comparisons are unfair for a host of reasons, including existing public subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear, the failure to properly incorporate future fuel-price risks in comparisons, and the failure to adequately count environmental costs. (See “Great Debate 1” on next page.) They also say that some renewable technologies are already fully competitive, and that for others, policy support will not be necessary in the long run, as rapid evolution in markets, technologies, and costs, driven by past policies, are making more renewable technologies fully competitive more quickly. Most scenario projections of renewable energy show lower renewables costs in the coming decade and beyond.
Another major detraction has been the variability of renewables. Detractors have said that this variability means high costs because of the need for energy storage. “Until better technologies become
available for the storage of electricity, wind farms usually require back-up from conventional forms of base-load power generation,” said CLP Hong Kong Power. However, many utility experts
pointed to a wide range of options to manage the variability of renewable energy that do not require storage. Scenarios also exist that show high shares of renewables using mostly other balancing
options.
Detractors have also called renewables “too diffuse” to meet the needs of highly concentrated energy uses in modern industrial society. Some have also believed that, “It’s only applicable in some
countries with good renewable resources or lacking in conventional energy resources.”
The range of contemporary thinking by experts, industry players, published scenarios, and many energy companies themselves, as portrayed throughout this report, is mostly at odds with the above
thinking of detractors. Although it was not the purpose of this report to directly refute such viewpoints, one cannot help but see, after reading the entire report, that such viewpoints face diminishing validity in the future.

Last Updated On:25th June 2013

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