A fully green-powered world? Steady on!

Is it possible to have an energy system based entirely on renewable sources? That was one of the questions that speakers grappled with during a session at the Financial Times Energy Transitions Strategies conference in London, part of FT Clean Energy Week, on Wednesday last week.

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A Word About Wind
May 29, 2017
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A fully green-powered world? Steady on!

Is it possible to have an energy system based entirely on renewable sources? That was one of the questions that speakers grappled with during a session at the Financial Times Energy Transitions Strategies conference in London, part of FT Clean Energy Week, on Wednesday last week.

And the answer was a resounding: ‘Well, hold on a minute.’

Renewables including hydro make up less than 5% of the global energy mix, according to the International Energy Agency. The figure is higher is you look solely at the electricity system but, even there, renewables only make up one quarter of the mix globally. Even if you agree that a 100% renewables world is possible, focusing on interim goals makes most sense.

That is not to say we should be unambitious. Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and a group called the Energy Transitions Committee, said he was optimistic about the potential of renewables. However, he rightly added that the big hurdle would be finding renewable alternatives in areas including plane fuel and steel production.

Richard Smith, head of energy strategy and policy at National Grid, said he was excited by the challenge of even getting the UK electricity system to 100% renewable, which itself will be a big challenge. He said the UK’s ‘day without coal’ in April was a good starting point: this was the UK’s first working day without coal since the Industrial Revolution.

“The question [about 100% renewables globally] isn’t entirely bogus, and we’re making big strides towards it already,” he said. That was only one day, though. Smith said he did not know if the world could go renewables-only but engineers would embrace the challenge.

But Kingsmill Bond, new energy analyst at Trusted Sources UK, said he thought the question was “inappropriate” because energy transition takes a long time. Even moving from 90% to 100% globally would be difficult, let alone moving from the 5% now. He said the industry should focus on making marginal changes first, and concluded that he did expect to see big change in the global energy mix even though renewables are currently a minor contributor.

Ambition is good, and there is nothing wrong with aiming for a world that is powered solely by renewables. But let’s make sure that goal does not distract from what can be done now. From here, even 20% of the world’s energy mix from renewables would be a big success.

Is it possible to have an energy system based entirely on renewable sources? That was one of the questions that speakers grappled with during a session at the Financial Times Energy Transitions Strategies conference in London, part of FT Clean Energy Week, on Wednesday last week.

And the answer was a resounding: ‘Well, hold on a minute.’

Renewables including hydro make up less than 5% of the global energy mix, according to the International Energy Agency. The figure is higher is you look solely at the electricity system but, even there, renewables only make up one quarter of the mix globally. Even if you agree that a 100% renewables world is possible, focusing on interim goals makes most sense.

That is not to say we should be unambitious. Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and a group called the Energy Transitions Committee, said he was optimistic about the potential of renewables. However, he rightly added that the big hurdle would be finding renewable alternatives in areas including plane fuel and steel production.

Richard Smith, head of energy strategy and policy at National Grid, said he was excited by the challenge of even getting the UK electricity system to 100% renewable, which itself will be a big challenge. He said the UK’s ‘day without coal’ in April was a good starting point: this was the UK’s first working day without coal since the Industrial Revolution.

“The question [about 100% renewables globally] isn’t entirely bogus, and we’re making big strides towards it already,” he said. That was only one day, though. Smith said he did not know if the world could go renewables-only but engineers would embrace the challenge.

But Kingsmill Bond, new energy analyst at Trusted Sources UK, said he thought the question was “inappropriate” because energy transition takes a long time. Even moving from 90% to 100% globally would be difficult, let alone moving from the 5% now. He said the industry should focus on making marginal changes first, and concluded that he did expect to see big change in the global energy mix even though renewables are currently a minor contributor.

Ambition is good, and there is nothing wrong with aiming for a world that is powered solely by renewables. But let’s make sure that goal does not distract from what can be done now. From here, even 20% of the world’s energy mix from renewables would be a big success.

Is it possible to have an energy system based entirely on renewable sources? That was one of the questions that speakers grappled with during a session at the Financial Times Energy Transitions Strategies conference in London, part of FT Clean Energy Week, on Wednesday last week.

And the answer was a resounding: ‘Well, hold on a minute.’

Renewables including hydro make up less than 5% of the global energy mix, according to the International Energy Agency. The figure is higher is you look solely at the electricity system but, even there, renewables only make up one quarter of the mix globally. Even if you agree that a 100% renewables world is possible, focusing on interim goals makes most sense.

That is not to say we should be unambitious. Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and a group called the Energy Transitions Committee, said he was optimistic about the potential of renewables. However, he rightly added that the big hurdle would be finding renewable alternatives in areas including plane fuel and steel production.

Richard Smith, head of energy strategy and policy at National Grid, said he was excited by the challenge of even getting the UK electricity system to 100% renewable, which itself will be a big challenge. He said the UK’s ‘day without coal’ in April was a good starting point: this was the UK’s first working day without coal since the Industrial Revolution.

“The question [about 100% renewables globally] isn’t entirely bogus, and we’re making big strides towards it already,” he said. That was only one day, though. Smith said he did not know if the world could go renewables-only but engineers would embrace the challenge.

But Kingsmill Bond, new energy analyst at Trusted Sources UK, said he thought the question was “inappropriate” because energy transition takes a long time. Even moving from 90% to 100% globally would be difficult, let alone moving from the 5% now. He said the industry should focus on making marginal changes first, and concluded that he did expect to see big change in the global energy mix even though renewables are currently a minor contributor.

Ambition is good, and there is nothing wrong with aiming for a world that is powered solely by renewables. But let’s make sure that goal does not distract from what can be done now. From here, even 20% of the world’s energy mix from renewables would be a big success.

Is it possible to have an energy system based entirely on renewable sources? That was one of the questions that speakers grappled with during a session at the Financial Times Energy Transitions Strategies conference in London, part of FT Clean Energy Week, on Wednesday last week.

And the answer was a resounding: ‘Well, hold on a minute.’

Renewables including hydro make up less than 5% of the global energy mix, according to the International Energy Agency. The figure is higher is you look solely at the electricity system but, even there, renewables only make up one quarter of the mix globally. Even if you agree that a 100% renewables world is possible, focusing on interim goals makes most sense.

That is not to say we should be unambitious. Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and a group called the Energy Transitions Committee, said he was optimistic about the potential of renewables. However, he rightly added that the big hurdle would be finding renewable alternatives in areas including plane fuel and steel production.

Richard Smith, head of energy strategy and policy at National Grid, said he was excited by the challenge of even getting the UK electricity system to 100% renewable, which itself will be a big challenge. He said the UK’s ‘day without coal’ in April was a good starting point: this was the UK’s first working day without coal since the Industrial Revolution.

“The question [about 100% renewables globally] isn’t entirely bogus, and we’re making big strides towards it already,” he said. That was only one day, though. Smith said he did not know if the world could go renewables-only but engineers would embrace the challenge.

But Kingsmill Bond, new energy analyst at Trusted Sources UK, said he thought the question was “inappropriate” because energy transition takes a long time. Even moving from 90% to 100% globally would be difficult, let alone moving from the 5% now. He said the industry should focus on making marginal changes first, and concluded that he did expect to see big change in the global energy mix even though renewables are currently a minor contributor.

Ambition is good, and there is nothing wrong with aiming for a world that is powered solely by renewables. But let’s make sure that goal does not distract from what can be done now. From here, even 20% of the world’s energy mix from renewables would be a big success.

Is it possible to have an energy system based entirely on renewable sources? That was one of the questions that speakers grappled with during a session at the Financial Times Energy Transitions Strategies conference in London, part of FT Clean Energy Week, on Wednesday last week.

And the answer was a resounding: ‘Well, hold on a minute.’

Renewables including hydro make up less than 5% of the global energy mix, according to the International Energy Agency. The figure is higher is you look solely at the electricity system but, even there, renewables only make up one quarter of the mix globally. Even if you agree that a 100% renewables world is possible, focusing on interim goals makes most sense.

That is not to say we should be unambitious. Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and a group called the Energy Transitions Committee, said he was optimistic about the potential of renewables. However, he rightly added that the big hurdle would be finding renewable alternatives in areas including plane fuel and steel production.

Richard Smith, head of energy strategy and policy at National Grid, said he was excited by the challenge of even getting the UK electricity system to 100% renewable, which itself will be a big challenge. He said the UK’s ‘day without coal’ in April was a good starting point: this was the UK’s first working day without coal since the Industrial Revolution.

“The question [about 100% renewables globally] isn’t entirely bogus, and we’re making big strides towards it already,” he said. That was only one day, though. Smith said he did not know if the world could go renewables-only but engineers would embrace the challenge.

But Kingsmill Bond, new energy analyst at Trusted Sources UK, said he thought the question was “inappropriate” because energy transition takes a long time. Even moving from 90% to 100% globally would be difficult, let alone moving from the 5% now. He said the industry should focus on making marginal changes first, and concluded that he did expect to see big change in the global energy mix even though renewables are currently a minor contributor.

Ambition is good, and there is nothing wrong with aiming for a world that is powered solely by renewables. But let’s make sure that goal does not distract from what can be done now. From here, even 20% of the world’s energy mix from renewables would be a big success.

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