Where Do We Get Most Of Our Energy (Hint: Not Risible Renewables)

Notwithstanding the hundreds of $billions in subsidies thrown at wind and solar power, their combined contribution to world energy demand remains risible.

Present the hard numbers and talk about the unstoppable ‘rise of renewables’ (if limited to wind and solar power) sounds more deluded, by the day.

Pumped up lines about our ‘inevitable transition’ to a world run entirely on sunshine and breezes are pure nonsense: those still chanting that little mantra deserve the kind of pity once reserved for the congenitally deranged.

As Bjørn Lomborg points out below – at a measly 0.8% – the contribution from windmills and solar panels to world energy supplies is laughable, and, set against the work done by ‘evil’ fossil fuels, more like an accounting rounding error.

Where Do We Get Most Of Our Energy (Hint: Not Renewables)
Climate Change Dispatch
Bjørn Lomborg
20 February 2018

The world is mostly run on fossil fuels (81%). Nuclear makes up 5%, with 14% from renewables. Solar panels and wind turbines contribute 0.8%.

When you hear 14% renewables, you will likely think ‘wow, things are going pretty well with the switch to renewables’. But these renewables are not the ones you hear about. The biggest contributor is humanity’s oldest fuel: wood.

4.91% is known as biomass as we also burn food (ethanol) and energy forest (trees or woody shrubs) in the rich world. This is, for instance, the American forests, cut down and shipped across the Atlantic to be burnt in European power plants to be called green and CO₂ neutral – of course, that is only true when the new woods have grown up in 50-100 years.

4.93% of its use takes place in the poor world where people still use wood (dung, cardboard, etc…) to cook and keep warm. This leads to terrible indoor air pollution – it is actually the world’s deadliest environmental problem, killing some 4.3 million people each year. We should definitely hope the poor will have to use less polluting wood in the future.

The other main contributor of renewables is 2.5% hydropower. In total, that makes up 12.4%. The last 1.6% comes mostly from geothermal energy (0.57%) and wind turbines (0.61%) along with solar heaters in China, tidal power etc. (0.26%) and solar panels (0.19%).

Contrary to the weight of news stories on how solar and wind is taking over the world, solar panels and wind turbines really make up a very small part of the global energy mix. (I started out coloring solar panels yellow [see graph below], but the thin sliver at the top became invisible.)

These stats come from the latest global energy overview from the most respected institution, the International Energy Agency (the OECD for energy) in its World Energy Outlook 2017 from November 2017.

Unfortunately, the full report and much of the statistics is not free. Moreover, the split into individual renewables like wind, solar PV, etc… is not made public (though the IEA model keeps track of them all).

The data from the newest estimates of power demand for 2016 (p648). It also shows the split into individual renewables obtained from a data request to IEA Power Generation Analysis, World Energy Outlook: Energy Demand Division, Directorate of Sustainability, Technology, and Outlooks.

http://www.iea.org/weo/

You can see the split for the major renewables for 2016 and 2040, assuming the Paris promises will be kept, here:

All data is Total Primary Energy Supply, which is the International Energy Agency’s own main measure, also used in all their graphs for global energy balances.

Remember, this is very different from just electricity, which is how solar and wind is often described. Electricity makes up a smaller part of the total energy consumption, and global warming concerns go to all energy emissions, not just the smaller subset of electricity.
Climate Change Dispatch

$Trillions in subsidies, and it’s still a complete flop…

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Graeme No. 3 says:

    You may have heard Jay Weatherdill claiming that SA gets 48% from renewables and Tom Koutsantonis claiming that cheap wind electricity would flow through the interconnector to Vic.
    The first claim is for electricity GENERATED 48.4% (39.2 gas, 9.2 roof top PVsolar) but it ignores the 20.9% usage of imported VIC brown coal fired, so the % renewables in SA =38.8%. Enough to force up prices and cause blackouts.
    As for Tom exports so far are just over 1%. Still, with plans to add 3178MW of new wind capacity to the existing 1789MW as well as 1500MW of solar then we can expect far more disruptions, unless the fairy godmother is going to pay for about 50 new Tesla big batteries.

  2. Lomborg is not the first person to make such a calculation. It uses two statistical methods to achieve such a low figure: it uses old data in a fast moving field; and it directly compares the electricity generated by renewables (and nuclear), which is wholly used for end purposes, with the primary energy in fossil fuels, ignoring that usually 2/3 of that energy will end up as waste heat before its end use.

    To be fair to Lomborg, such apples and oranges comparison is the standard used by the EIA, IEA, UK government and probably most other governments, presumably for historical reasons.

    To give credit where it’s due, BP’s annual studies do gross up renewables’ & nuclear’s outputs for a more meaningful comparison with FFs, which is why they find for 2016 something like 1.8% of end energy provided by wind, and 0.8% by solar.

    To use up-to-date data: in 2018, these figures will be about 2.3% + 1.4% = 3.7%. (This compares with about 4.5% for nuclear.)

    All these figures are still tiny of course, and won’t significantly affect Lomborg’s conclusions or yours I would guess, but it’s better if the conclusions are based on the best understanding of the situation.

    • Your numbers for wind and solar are still a rounding error by comparison with fossil fuel. coal and gas will dominate power production here, for generations to come, which is our point.

  3. singletonengineer says:

    @Jackie R:
    The AEMO data is for electricity only, ie 30% or so of total primary energy.

    I expect that the aneroid energy site is similarly only interested in electricity.

    The last 2 paragraphs of the post were:
    QUOTE: “All data is Total Primary Energy Supply, which is the International Energy Agency’s own main measure, also used in all their graphs for global energy balances.

    Remember, this is very different from just electricity, which is how solar and wind is often described. Electricity makes up a smaller part of the total energy consumption, and global warming concerns go to all energy emissions, not just the smaller subset of electricity.” ENDQUOTE

    • Jackie Rovensky says:

      Yes a MW is energy, and it is a measure used to describe our energy production for electricity supply. The data from RenewE widget shows the amount of MW’s being produced from all sources, which highlights just how we rely heavily on coal production of energy for our electricity supply. Andero.id shows individual wind projects production of energy for our electricity supply. The AEMO sites shows generation as well as wind and other as well as Demand, the site is great to show how the energy is distributed and shunted around the Grid to keep the electricity supplied to customers. These 3 sites are great sources for people like me to see just how useless reliance on so called ‘renewables’ is and just how we are being pummelled with nonsense about how these ‘renewables’ are rushing ahead as suppliers of our energy/electricity requirements.
      I accept the IEA may lump everything together and that the article was relating to world figures and appear to look at all energy supplies but for us the ‘subset’ is what affects us, it is what results in high energy/electricity bills that we have to pay to ensure we can conduct our businesses and live a modern life style and what we need to ensure we actually have electricity available when we flick a switch.
      “Contrary to the weight of news stories on how solar and wind is taking over the world, solar panels and wind turbines really make up a very small part of the global energy mix.”
      Here in SA we are still being told we are ‘world leaders’ in renewable energy production – well if we are I hate to think what is happening around the world when the sun goes down and the wind doesn’t blow and everyone is in the dark, cold or too hot.

      • singletonengineer says:

        Technically, MW is power, not energy, which is measured in MWh.

        To insist on discussing electricity only is to attempt to change the subject away from total energy to something else – electrical only.

  4. Peter Pronczak says:

    “Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter…It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age.”
    – Lewis Strauss,
    Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, 1954

    So what happened?
    The destruction of that intention, that dream, was not an accident.
    Had electricity alone, become so cheap and in such abundance that every home could have year round air conditioned comfort and defence against the elements and extremes of weather, who is it that would have suffered?

    Dr Robert J Moon drew a simple Fuel and Energy Comparisons chart in 1985 depicting from wood to fusion, it might be able to be found here: http://21sci-tech.com/sample.html

  5. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Data here in Australia on what is providing our needs can be found on two sites: RenewE widget and AEMO Dashboard, for individual wind project production then there is non better than http://anero.id/energy/wind-energy.
    An example of just how useful these sites can be when looked at side by side is from today at approximately 12.05 (NEM time) and the RenewE widget. From all sources the following is the Generation (G) and Demand (D) Coal (C) in MW:
    Tas G 953 D 1162
    SA G 1543 D 1616
    VIC G 3727 D 5135 C – Brown 3727
    NSW G 7513 D 8060 C – Black 6016
    QLD G 5923 D 6376 C – Black 5923
    So what is keeping the lights on along the Eastern Grid? Not renewables that’s for sure.

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