Type of Renewable Energy have been increasing with development in Technology and the imperative of using Alternative Energy as Fossil Fuels deplete and increase in costs. Besides Global Warming has made the benefits of Renewable Energy seem more attractive with each passing year. Note though there are many niches Renewable Energy types, the Three Major Forms of Renewable Energy are Solar Energy,Wind Energy and Biomass Energy (Biofuels).

Nuclear and Hydro Energy are not considered  as Renewable Energy according to the strict definition of Renewable Energy. However Hydro and Nuclear Energy both are responsible for more than 15% of global electricity production each. The clean energy industry saw a 30% increase in investments to $243 billion in 2010 which was another record year for Renewable Energy Capacity addition. Around 18 GW of Solar Energy and 38 GW of Wind Energy were installed with Solar Energy Capacity increasing by a whopping 150% from 2009. Wind power continued to lead at $95 billion. The solar sector is experiencing significant growth, with investments growing at 53% to $79 billion (source Pew).

Each Type of Renewable Energy has Advantages and Disadvantages which are specific to that type of Alternative Energy. For example Solar and Wind are intermittent in nature while Geothermal Energy has no such problems however Geothermal Energy suffers from a lack of good sites and takes a long time to get installed.

Main Types of Renewable Energy

Solar Energy

Solar Power has been the fastest growing energy source in the last decade showing a compounded annual growth of over 50%. In 2010 alone, solar energy demand grew by almost 150% beating the most optimistic forecasts as costs kept on declining for this renewable energy source. While Solar Power continues to be one of the most expensive forms of energy, it is also the energy source where the costs are declining rapidly. With solar costs going down by another 10% each year over the next few years, expect Solar Energy to grow at a further fast rate in the future as well after growing at 50% CAGR over the last decade.

Wind Energy

Wind Power has become the biggest source of renewable energy in the world after Nuclear and Hydro Energy (if you consider Nuclear/Hydro to be renewable energy that is). The reason for the huge increase in wind energy has been the sharply falling costs which have roughly become equivalent to Gas fired Energy. While Solar Energy costs are still falling, they are still way above the costs of fossil fuel energy. Wind Energy unlike other forms of fossil fuel energy should have much  less opposition however it is not so. Unlike Coal, Gas and Oil Energy it does not lead to increase in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and contribute to pollution. It does not lead to deaths of hundreds of miners each year nor has the danger of a catastrophic nuclear meltdown leading to death and disability of thousands. It also does not have the drawback of  massive ocean pollution leading to an ecological disaster.

Biomass Energy

Biomass Energy is the oldest source of Energy known to mankind and till the 19th century was the primary energy source. Even now Biomass Energy is used of Heating and Cooking by a large percentage of the Human Population. Biomass Energy with improving technology is being now used to construct large biomass power plants. Growing Concerns over Climate Change and soaring Coal Prices are making some Power Plants convert from Coal to Biomass as a Fuel Source. Biomass Energy has many advantages such as being Carbon Neutral, using Animal and Crop Wastes in a useful manner, being poor friendly etc. However Biomass Energy like other Renewable Energy forms of Geothermal Energy faces problems of resources.

Quasi Renewable Energy Forms

Hydro Energy

Hydroelectricity is one of the largest sources of energy accounting for roughly 20% of the worldwide demand of electricity with around 800 GW of capacity installed. There is considerable potential still left and developing countries like India and China can be expected to install another 500 GW over the coming years. Hydroelectricity is very important as it does not lead to GHG emissions and contribute to global warming. It also does not have the drawbacks like other renewable energy forms of high costs and intermittency. The advantages of hydroelectricity are substantial enough to far outweigh any disadvantages. But like nuclear energy, hydro power has some tail risks which can lead to catastrophic damage.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Power has come under assault in the aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident with Nuclear becoming a four letter word. However Nuclear Energy cannot be ignored because its benefits are unique in some applications and cannot be substituted by any other means. Nuclear Power also cannot be replaced in the short term from its most widely used application of generating Electricity. Note Nuclear Power accounts for almost 15% of the Global Electricity and in some countries is the major source of energy. For example France which has 80% of its power coming from Nuclear Fission, its impossible to think of shutting down nuclear plants like Germany which gets around 20%. Nuclear Energy has almost infinite potential but if you apply a strict definition, it is not exactly renewable in the sense that uranium fuel once used cannot be renewed to be usable again.

Minor Renewable Energy Forms

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy is regarded as a poor cousin to its more glamorous cousins Wind and Solar. Geothermal Energy Capacity has been installed and the growth rate is a pathetic 3-4% compared to the over 50% CAGR seen for solar energy and around 30% for Wind Energy. However Geothermal Energy possesses one attribute that the others do not. Its 24 hour generation capability is a massive plus compared to the intermittent nature of Wind and Solar Energy. However long project development time and large capital investments have deterred fast growth in geothermal energy in the world. However some countries like Iceland, Indonesia, Philippines and USA have a strong geothermal energy industry.

Tidal Energy

Tidal Energy is a niche form of Renewable Energy with less than 500 MW of Electricity Capacity worldwide. Tidal Energy generates less than .001% of the worldwide electricity generation as the Technology of this Alternative Energy is still quite immature. However numerous companies are researching ways to develop Tidal Energy as it offers almost unlimited potential at low costs and with no pollution. Tidal Wave Energy has not seen much commercial success except the almost 45 year old Tidal Wave Power Plant in France.

Wave Energy

Like Tidal Energy, Wave Energy is another niche Clean Energy Source. Waves are caused by the wind blowing over the surface of the ocean. In many areas of the world, the wind blows with enough consistency and force to provide continuous waves. There is tremendous energy in the ocean waves. Wave power devices extract energy directly from the surface motion of ocean waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface. Wave power varies considerably in different parts of the world, and wave energy can’t be harnessed effectively everywhere. Wave-power rich areas of the world include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Australia, and the northwestern coasts of the United States.

Summary

Besides the above mentioned Renewable Energy sources there are other clean energy forms like Fuel Cells which are not exactly Renewable Energy but come under the Clean Energy Category. Waste Energy or Energy from Methane comes under the broad heading of Biomass Energy which also encompasses Biofuel from Celluloid and non-Celluloid Sources.

South Africa the most economically developed country in the African continent is also is one of the most dependent countries on Coal Energy.Almost 90% of the country’s  requirements of Electrcity comes from GHG emitting dirty Thermal Power Plants.Sasol which is a leading energy provider in South Africa is the global leader in Coal to Liquid and Coal to Gas Technologies.In fact most of the Fuel Production in South Africa comes from Sasol plants built long time ago to take advantage of the country’s mineral rices and avoid the oil embargo placed on the country during apartheid.The country’s electricity situation is massively mismanaged with Eskom a monopoly producer and supplier of electricity hardly adding any capacity.This is due to low prices of electricity which now is being added suddenly at 25% each year.This comes after huge shortages slowing down the economy. South Africa has also come up with new Energy Plan which will largely replace Coal Energy by Nuclear and Renewable Sources of Energy.Note South Africa had been in talks to establish a massive solar plants with funding from China which would have used Suntech Solar Panels.

According to REVE,South Africa proposes to build 42 GW in new electricty capacity by 2030 and have a target of 42% from Green Energy sources.Out of the 42 GW only 15% will be new Thermal Power Plant capacity while 23% will be Nuclear Energy and the rest from Wind,Solar,Biomass and Hydro Electricity.Note South Africa has been facing major electricity shortages resulting in heavy use of high cost and high polluting diesel power.

South Africa faced massive blackouts in 2008 leading to shutting down of mines and factores.The country is facing a huge surge in electricty demand even as supply addition is limited.The country is facing the same situation again in 2010 with the country’s monopoly power supplier Eskom urging saving of electricity.There also has been a sharp price hike in electricity.

Electricity price hike in South Africa

Eskom generates about 95 percent of the electricity used in South Africa. The company has been battling with electricity shortage since January 2008, but its problems date a decade earlier and are due to lack of investment in new capacities and in updating the existing power stations. Last year, Eskom increased its tariffs by 31 percent and asked for 35 to 45 percent annual increases for three years in order to scrape together about R400 billion needed to build new power plants.

However, in February 2010 the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) approved lower increases:

  • 24.8 percent for 2010/11 financial year, which will bring the average Eskom electricity price to 41.31c per kWh;
  • 25.8 percent for 2011/12, bringing the average Eskom electricity price 51.68 c per kWh; and
  • 25.9 percent in 2012/13, making the average Eskom electricity price 65.06c per kWh.

It is expected that Eskom will sign a cogeneration agreement with other power producers in March 2010, adding about one thousand megawatts to the national power grid. According to the data from January 2008, South Africa’s peak demand has reached 36,700MW, while Eskom is able to supply 38,500MW. The provider has to have reserve energy supply. International best practice dictates that power companies must have the capacity to generate 15 percent over and above what is actually needed.

COAL

Coal is one of the most important sources of energy for mankind providing an easy way to generate energy in a cheap manner. The relative abundance and low costs of using Coal has made it the the first choice of Fuel for building Power Plants in the world. Coal has huge importance as an Energy source and  forms the most important raw material for Cement and Steel. Coal is also used in a variety of other industries like Paper, Aluminum, Chemical, Transportation and Pharma. However Coal also has huge negative consequences as it is the largest source of Carbon Emissions which happen during Coal Combustion.

Coal Mining despite two hundred years remain  as hazardous as ever resulting in thousands of deaths in India and China. Mercury, Arsenic and pollution of  other harmful substances into the environment causes diseases and many deaths as well. However for countries like India and China there  are little other alternatives and there is no conviction amongst policymakers to change their energy strategies as well. So the advantages of Coal are currently overpowering those of the Cons of Coal. This despite Coal being the dirtiest form of Energy and causing many deaths globally. The main reason for the cheapness of Coal is that the societal costs are not added on explicitly to the Price of Coal making it seem artificially cheap.

Advantages of Coal

1) Abundance – Coal is located almost universally, it can be found on every continent in over 70 countries, with the biggest reserves in the USA, Russia, China and India.

2) Continuous,Predictable,Reliable Source of Power – Coal Based Energy can be generated almost 24×7  unlike other forms of renewable energy like wind and solar that are intermittent in nature.

3) Low Capital Investment – The capital investment required for Coal based Power plants is relatively less at $1-2/watt of Thermal  Capacity. Note wind energy is slightly higher while Solar is even higher. Coal Mines are also quite cheap to build and Mine with Open Cast Mines providing Coal at a very Low Cost.

4) Low Cost – Coal is one of  the cheapest forms of energy making it the energy of choice in developing countries like India and China. In India its possible to get cheap coal at just $20/ton while international prices of coal range in the region of $100/ton. Note Coal based electricity can be produced at 2-4c/Kwh making it the cheapest electricity source.

5) High Load Factor – Thermal Power Plants have very high load factors in excess of 80%. They can generate power almost 24/7 and only require shutdown for periodic maintenance. Coal Based Plants which have become too old or have been shutdown due to environmental concerns can still be used for backup power.

6) Large  Potential compared to Oil – Coal  Energy Potential is quite large compared to other Fossil Fuels like Oil and Gas. Coal Reserves globally are estimated to be around 1 trillion tons which implies that Coal can be consumed at the current rates for another 200 years.

7) Big Industrial Base – Coal Energy has been present since the start of the Industrial Revolution with the development of the Steam Engine based on Coal. The technology and industry of the Coal Industry and Thermal Power Plants is well developed and mature. This allows a rapid deployment of Coal Power in most places in the world.

8) Coal to Liquids and Coal to Gases – Coal is now being looked upon as source of Transportation Fuels as Oil becomes scarce and increasingly costly. Coal to Liquid Plants are being constructed in India and China though the Technology is quite immature and the use of the technology is still questionable on environmental grounds.

Disadvantages of Coal

1) Greenhouse Gas Emissions – One of the biggest cons of Coal Energy is that it releases Carbon Dioxide which has been sequestered for millions of years in the dead bodies of plant and animals. This transfer the Carbon from the Earth to the Environment leading to the Global Warming Effect. Global Treaties have failed in putting a Cost on this, though individual countries are tying to account for this through Carbon Taxes and Cap and Trade.

2) Coal Mining Deaths – Coal Mining has resulted in thousands of deaths each year ever since man discovered coal. Note Coal Deaths happen not only in countries which don’t have good safety regulations like China but also in developed countries like USA and New Zealand.

3) Devastation of Earth and Scenery Near Coal Mines – Open Cast Mining of Coal has resulted in destruction of the habitat and destruction of the scenery. It leads to removal of trees and pollution of air and water in areas surrounding the mines. Coal Mine Fires have burned for hundreds of year underground and make living in those areas hazardous. Those burning underground can be difficult to locate and many cannot be extinguished. Fires can cause the ground above to subside, their combustion gases are dangerous to life, and breaking out to the surface can initiate surface fires as well.

4) Displacement of Humans due to Mining Destruction – In West Bengal,India people are being displaced in huge numbers as the hollowing of the earth due to underground coal mining has made those places unsafe as the Land Caves in without warning.

5) Emission of Harmful Substances like Sulfur Dioxide,Carbon Monoxide, Mercury, Selenium, Arsenic, Acid Rain – Thermal Plants emit harmful substances such as Mercury and Sulfur Dioxide which cause health hazards among the surrounding population and Acid Rain. While modern equipment has reduced the emission of these harmful substances, it is still very harmful to humans.


Biomass Energy is the oldest source of Energy known to mankind and till the 19th century was the primary energy source.Even now Biomass Energy is used of Heating and Cooking by a large percentage of the Human Population.Biomass Energy with improving technology is being now used to construct large biomass power plants.Growing Concerns over Climate Change and soaring Coal Prices are making some Power Plants convert from Coal to Biomass as a Fuel Source.Biomass Energy has many advantages such as being Carbon Neutral,using Animal and Crop Wastes in a useful manner,being poor friendly etc.However Biomass Energy like other Renewable Energy forms of Geothermal Energy faces problems of resources.However Biomass Energy suffers from some unique drawbacks like the problem of regular feedstock which becomes tough to acquire in times of drought etc.Biomass Energy also if not used appropriately can result in terrible air pollution as is the case with a majority of the Biomass Energy being used in the backward areas of the world today.Here is a list of the Cons of Biomass.

Biomass Cons

1) Large Biomass Plants face  NIMBY Concerns– Large Biomass Plants like the one in Scotland have run into massive protests as people think it might lead to air pollution and health hazards if constructed near their homes.These protests by local people and the consequent problems in getting clearance from regulators leads to cost and time overruns.In some cases this has led to the ultimate cancellation of the project itself

2) Black Carbon Phenomenon – If Biomass is not completely combusted it leads to Air Pollution.lack carbon is a form of particulate air pollution, produced from incomplete combustion from biomass burning, cooking with solid fuels, and diesel exhaust.Over the last few years there has been a concerted effort to address the impact of black carbon emissions on global warming. However, the knowledge and understanding about black carbon is incomplete and uncertain.India and China account for 25-35% of global black carbon emissions.

2) Costs Still Quite High – One of the biggest drawbacks of biomass energy is the problem of feedstock.The plants are forced to run at lower utilization leading to higher costs if feedstock is not available due to some reason like a drought.Except in some case where Feedstock is easily and cheaply available,Biomass Energy is quite costly to generate.

3) Good Management Required – The operations of a biomass plant requires very good management otherwise it may run into losses or even in some cases have to shut down.It requires a skill of high order to run the plant optimally and make use of alternative feedstock in case the regular one is not available

4) Limited Potential – Biomass Energy has smaller potential than compared to other forms of energy like solar,hydro etc.Note Biomass Energy has said to have huge potential but the potential to economically generate biomass energy is still not that high.

5) Water Requirement,Harmful Gases,Area Required – Biomass Energy is generated by combustion and that leads to emission of some gases such as CO,NO2 etc.Note while the process of Biomass Energy is Carbon Neutral it still does lead to generation of some GHG emissions.Though supporters would argue that these gases would be released anyway with or without Biomass Energy,critics can say that Solar and Wind Energy don’t produce such gases.Biomass Plants require a larger area to store the feedstock which occupies a large space.Biomass Plants also require large amounts of water

Coal is one of the most abundant fossil fuels available on earth and is a major supplier of energy. Coal is the largest producer of electricity in the world accounting for more than 40% of the global electricity production. This is expected to rise to 44% according to IEA. In the last decade global coal consumption has grown faster than any other fuel. Coal has many other important uses as well such as  steel production, cement manufacturing 6 billion tonnes of hard coal  and 909 million tonnes of brown coal were used with China accounting for almost 45% of the global coal consumption. Coal is also one of the largest sources of Carbon Dioxide Emissions as well responsible for double the GHG emissions from Oil. Coal is regarded as the dirtiest form of Energy due to high Carbon Emissions, Pollution, Hazardous Substances such as Mercury, Deaths due to Coal Mining etc. However the cheapness of coal,its established industrial base and abundance makes Coal indispensable in the Short Term just like Nuclear Energy. A Number of Approaches like Carbon Capture, Clean Coal Technologies are being promoted in order to make Coal more Environmentally Palatable. Here are the main Advantages of Coal.

 

Pros of Coal

1) Abundance – Coal is located almost universally,it can be found on every continent in over 70 countries, with the biggest reserves in the USA, Russia, China and India.

2) Continuous,Predictable,Reliable Source of Power – Coal Based Energy can be generated almost 24×7  unlike other forms of renewable energy like wind and solar that are intermittent in nature.

3) Low Capital Investment – The capital investment required for Coal based Power plants is relatively less at $1-2/watt of Thermal  Capacity. Note wind energy is slightly higher while Solar is even higher. Coal Mines are also quite cheap to build and Mine with Open Cast Mines providing Coal at a very Low Cost.

4) Low Cost – Coal is one of  the cheapest forms of energy making it the energy of choice in developing countries like India and China. In India its possible to get cheap coal at just $20/ton while international prices of coal range in the region of $100/ton. Note Coal based electricity can be produced at 2-4c/Kwh making it the cheapest electricity source.

5) High Load Factor – Thermal Power Plants have very high load factors in excess of 80%. They can generate power almost 24/7 and only require shutdown for periodic maintenance. Coal Based Plants which have become too old or have been shutdown due to environmental concerns can still be used for backup power.

6) Large  Potential compared to Oil – Coal  Energy Potential is quite large compared to other Fossil Fuels like Oil and Gas.Coal Reserves globally are estimated to be around 1 trillion tons which implies that Coal can be consumed at the current rates for another 200 years.

7) Big Industrial Base – Coal Energy has been present since the start of the Industrial Revolution with the development of the Steam Engine based on Coal. The technology and industry of the Coal Industry and Thermal Power Plants is well developed and mature. This allows a rapid deployment of Coal Power in most places in the world.

8) Coal to Liquids and Coal to Gases – Coal is now being looked upon as source of Transportation Fuels as Oil becomes scarce and increasingly costly. Coal to Liquid Plants are being constructed in India and China though the Technology is quite immature and the use of the technology is still questionable on environmental grounds.

Summary

Coal due to its long human use,established industrial base,cheapness and abundance is the biggest source of electricity and primary source of Energy. However its harmful effects on the environment, pollution, mining problems have made developed countries slow down thermal capacity expansion. However China and India continue to devour Coal in very large quantities importing millions of tons of coal. This has not only led to soaring coal prices but also increased Coal Mining in many parts of the world especially Australia, Africa and USA.

Phillipines is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels for its energy requirements as it lacks sufficient domestic resources of coal or oil.The country which already has a flourishing geothermal energy industry is looking to raise the alternative energy generation from other sources like biomass,hydro,solar and wind energy as well.The country’s Energy Regulator National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) has recommended a target of 830 megawatts (MW) as the total allowed capacity of the renewable energy facilities that will be put up in the country over the next three years.

The specific targets for different forms of Renewable Energy has been set as

1) 50 MW Hydropower

2) 250 MW Biomass

3) 100 MW Solar

4) 220 MW Wind

5) 10 MW Tidal,Wave

The Feed in Tariffs for Renewable Energy have been set at a high level to attract Green Investors with an equity return target of 16% for Renewable Energy Investors.Note NREB has accepted that these prices will lead to increased electricity rates as theFIT are higher than neighbouring South  East Asian Nations like Thailand and Malaysia which have set their own FIT mechanisms to promote Renewable Energy.Note Solar Energy in Thailand has been promoted by a FIT known as a Solar Adder while Malaysia has a Renewable Energy Law modeled on Germany.

FIT Rates in Philippines for different Clean Energy Sources (Solar,Wind,Hydro,Biomass)

1) Solar Energy –  P17/KwH (37c/Kwh)

2) Wind Energy – P10 /Kwh ( 22c/Kwh)

3) Biomass Energy – P 6.5/KwH ( 14c/KwH)

4) Run of River Hydro Energy – P6/Kwh ( 13c/Kwh)

FiT Allowance charges will be implemented January 2012, the conclusion of the initial period will be December 31, 2014.

Renewable energy companies hit capacity caps set by gov’t

The National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) has recommended a target of 830 megawatts (MW) as the total allowed capacity of the renewable energy facilities that will be put up in the country over the next three years.Based on the group’s recommendations, NREB head Pedro Maniego Jr. confirmed in a phone interview that only 250 MW in new installations would be allowed for hydropower facilities, 250 MW for biomass, 100 MW for solar, 220 MW for wind and 10 MW for ocean resources.However, local renewable energy developers remained “dismayed” at the recommended installation targets as these would effectively put a cap on the proposed renewable energy projects—a move that could derail the planned investments in the sector, according to Theresa Cruz-Capellan, president of the Philippine Solar Power Alliance (PSPA).