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What Fatih Birol Forgot To Tell You

November 11, 2020
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By Paul Homewood

 

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Global renewable electricity installation will hit a record level in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency, in sharp contrast with the declines caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the fossil fuel sectors.

The IEA report published on Tuesday says almost 90% of new electricity generation in 2020 will be renewable, with just 10% powered by gas and coal. The trend puts green electricity on track to become the largest power source in 2025, displacing coal, which has dominated for the past 50 years.

“Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while others fuels struggle,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “The resilience and positive prospects of the sector are clearly reflected by continued strong appetite from investors.” Fossil fuels have had a turbulent time in 2020 as Covid-related measures caused demand from transport and other sectors to plunge.

“In 2025, renewables are set to become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide, ending coal’s five decades as the top power provider,” Birol said. “By that time, renewables are expected to supply one-third of the world’s electricity.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/10/renewable-energy-covid-19-record-growth-2020 

Fatih Birol long ago became a shill for renewables, and consequently lost any trust. And, as you might have guessed, renewable energy is not about to take over the world, as Birol would like you to believe.

 

For a start, he sneakily includes hydro in with the other renewables, even though it is traditional to keep it separate. In essence, any further increases in hydro capacity will be extremely limited, so it is only wind and solar that are relevant. He also includes biomass, which is unlikely to increase much more.

Including hydro and bio, renewables already account for 26%, so to increase this share to a third by 2030 is no great deal. However, wind and solar only account for 8%.

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BP Energy Review 2019

The Guardian also misleadingly claim that almost 90% of new electricity generation in 2020 will be renewable. This is a pretty meaningless statement, as very little new conventional generating capacity is being built in Europe and N America.

The simple fact is that new solar and wind capacity cannot even keep up with increasing demand:

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BP Energy Review 2019

Currently about 60 GW of wind and 100 GW of solar power is being added each year globally. This is enough to produce about 200 TWh annually. Yet demand increased by more than 500 TWh a year since 2010.

The IEA report reckons that wind and solar will add 187 GW a year up to 2025, so little will actually change, despite the propaganda from Birol.

As the article points out, electricity only accounts for about a fifth of total energy. I(f attempts are made to electrify cars and heating, this extra demand cannot be met from renewable energy, and will have to be supplied from fossil fuels.

In short, the world will be as dependent on fossil fuels in 2030 as it is now.

28 Comments
  1. 2hmp permalink
    November 11, 2020 6:08 pm

    The IEA is the Institute of Economic Affairs, founded in 1950, is completely trustworthy but it appears the International Energy Agency is not.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 11, 2020 7:18 pm

      The Institute of Economic Affairs was founded in 1955 (check their website) and these days is just one of many floundering think-tanks whose thinking is so flawed you wonder if they have actually thought about anything. They are home to one Shanker ‘Snake Oil’ Singham who is much-admired by the ultra-Brexit crew which tells you he knows very little about our relationship with the EU as he has demonstrated on many occasions. I think the World would not miss either version of the IEA.

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        November 12, 2020 8:49 am

        Yes I sure you know far more than Singham about trade. He studies it and is paid for his expertise whereas you are?

      • 2hmp permalink
        November 12, 2020 12:15 pm

        That nonsense is not worth commenting upon. The IEA was founded by Anthony Fisher and include all the best encomiasts as contributors including Hayek, Mises, Harris, Seldon etc.

  2. November 11, 2020 6:20 pm

    “Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while others fuels struggle,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “The resilience and positive prospects of the sector are clearly reflected by continued strong appetite from investors”.

    Who would not invest in something which because of subsidy and a totally unrealistic and unsustainable reward system is on another planet as compared to fossil fuels which have to deal with the normal rules of supply and demand, something the artificially protected renewables do not.

    • November 11, 2020 7:01 pm

      @Breathless,
      I’m ashamed ( only slightly !!! ) we jumped on the subsidy bandwagon ~ 10yrs ago & got a 4kW roof top solar…& they’ve been brilliant
      every 3 mths we get a nice injection of cash~£1,600 for bugger all electric production… did I mention the cash,

  3. Broadlands permalink
    November 11, 2020 6:32 pm

    “In 2025, renewables are set to become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide.”

    Maybe so, but except for biofuels (which are 90% fossil fuel) none of the rest is useful for transportation…moving goods and services over long distances. That’s where the real problem lies hidden for 2025, and even beyond.

  4. Graham Ellis permalink
    November 11, 2020 6:41 pm

    Bound to

    >

  5. Harry Passfield permalink
    November 11, 2020 6:42 pm

    Being a great admirer of your analyses, Paul, I do hope they are sufficiently well copyrighted.
    KBO

  6. markl permalink
    November 11, 2020 6:52 pm

    Right now fossil fuels can cover for renewables when they fail. As we add more renewables and delete fossil fuel generation that situation will change….. abruptly. And when it does the fan will spread the hype far and wide and adding more renewables will not help. Only then will the people realize they’ve been scammed.

  7. November 11, 2020 7:27 pm

    If attempts are made to electrify cars and heating, this extra demand cannot be met from renewable energy, and will have to be supplied from fossil fuels.

    Or nuclear, if the government grasps the nettle…
    https://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2020/11/11/rolls-royce-to-create-6000-uk-jobs-to-build-16-mini-nuclear-power-stations/

  8. Joe Public permalink
    November 11, 2020 7:49 pm

    From the IEA report:

    “Driven by China … net installed renewable capacity will grow by nearly 4% globally in 2020, reaching almost 200 GW. …. Solar PV growth is expected to remain stable as a faster expansion of utility-scale projects compensates for the decline in rooftop additions resulting from individuals and companies reprioritising investments. Wind and solar PV additions are set to jump by 30% in both the People’s Republic of China (“China”) …. as developers rush to complete projects before changes in policy take effect.”

    What ‘changes in policy’ could possibly cause that?

    Ah yes:

    “China’s Ministry of Finance (MOF) has determined the total subsidy for PV in 2020 to amount to about CNY1.5 billion (US$214 million). CNY500 million of this is allocated for residential rooftop PV and CNY1 billion is for bidding projects, including distributed PV and utility PV projects. Compared with last year, the subsidy budget was slashed by 50% from last year’s CNY3 billion.”

    https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/04/09/china-finalizes-2020-solar-subsidy-policy/

    So Fatih Birol lied with the excuses he made.

  9. Gamecock permalink
    November 11, 2020 7:53 pm

    ‘And, as you might have guessed, renewable energy is not about to take over the world, as Birol would like you to believe.’

    It simply can’t. Weather dependent generation can’t back itself up. If it somehow penetrates the market enough to be dominant, it will have to pay for the backup it is getting free now. It simply can’t. All claims of cheap ignore the camelopardalis in the room.

    ‘The trend puts green electricity on track to become the largest power source in 2025’

    They have to know this is literally impossible.

  10. Peter F Gill permalink
    November 11, 2020 7:56 pm

    The IEA were great in the past. Now with Birol the fallen are mighty.

    • Robin Guenier permalink
      November 12, 2020 7:53 am

      I agree. And its historical data are still useful. For example see this IEA report published earlier this year: https://www.iea.org/reports/key-world-energy-statistics-2020 As you see, in 2018, coal contributed 3838 Mtoe to world energy. Wind and solar are in the ‘other’ category which contributed 289 Mtoe. The Guardian comment that ‘The trend puts green electricity on track to become the largest power source in 2025, displacing coal’ is absurd.

      • Peter F Gill permalink
        November 12, 2020 8:54 am

        Yes Robin. The folk at Grauniad are hardly numerate and certainly don’t know about the Pareto principle either.

  11. Thomas Carr permalink
    November 11, 2020 9:39 pm

    For not more than 6 hrs today solar power added not more than 1.03 GW to the supply grid at midday when national consumption rose to about 35GW according to Gridwatch. I.E. Approx. 3% of what was needed.

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      November 12, 2020 7:28 am

      You need to allow for unmetered supply too, ie rooftop solar.
      Not a huge amount, but can be seen by the reduction in demand around midday.

      • November 12, 2020 7:57 pm

        Adam,

        most solar is unmetered and the figures on Gridwatch are an estimate.
        However the drop in gas generation can be used as a guide.

  12. Sobaken permalink
    November 11, 2020 10:18 pm

    “any further increases in hydro capacity will be extremely limited”
    That isn’t exactly true, while Europe and North America may have little available hydro sites left, and vacating the land would be nigh impossible anyway, there remains quite a lot of untapped hydro potential in the developing world, probably more than the entire current global production. Even the previous post about Chinese power plant additions illustrates that, China keeps installing more dams despite all the amazing expansion they’ve had already. If Africa starts building it at the rates similar to China, that renewable power percentage should get quite a decent boost.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      November 12, 2020 9:03 am

      Not without its problems for example Egypt and Sudan over the Nike, Turkey and Iraq over the Euphrates. Especially problematic when irrigation is involved and water is lost from the river flow, so not only does the country upstream control the flow it also reduces it. Not good for international relations

  13. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 11, 2020 10:44 pm

    I think you are slightly parsimonious in your estimate of the energy generated by 60GW of wind and 100GW of solar. At say 25% for wind and 12% for solar (it will be globally better than UK) that would be 27GW of generation or 236TWh p.a., and you could make a case for say 30% and 15% respectively, which would be 33GW, or nearly 290TWh p.a.

    On the other hand, looking at the BP data, which show global generation of 27,005TWh in 2019, of which 2,806TWh is renewables and 4,221TWh is hydro, the claim that a third our generation would be his version of renewables by 2025 is ridiculous. That would require an additional 1,974TWh with no growth in consumption at all. Or 395TWh extra per year.

    My guess is that the economic hit from the virus is going to stall a lot of green investment outside of the few places that are mad enough to try to pursue it (UK, parts of EU, US under Biden worse under Harris) – and I doubt they will have stamina for it. The trend in wind investment was a slowing growth rate anyway.

  14. November 12, 2020 2:10 am

    The other issue is that if an alternative energy technology is as competitive as claimed, it should be able to compete in the market for energy without a need for fear based climate activism as the rationale for it.

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/08/18/energy-storage/

    • November 12, 2020 11:28 am

      Renewables can only compete when the rules of the game are rewritten to favour them. That means they get paid more than conventional generators for an inferior product, including getting paid when we don’t need their product at all.

      It seems that a lot of companies now see their future as dependent on the direct subsidies or competitive advantage these rules provide, which means they end up cheerleaders for yet more nonsense. Big business and green campaigners are essentially asking for the same thing: for the government to take money from ordinary people and squander it on useless virtue signalling. In the process we are enriching the few at the expense of the many – including those very protestors. Turkeys voting for Christmas perhaps.

      • November 12, 2020 1:27 pm

        Love the turkeys voting for christmas. Thank you.

  15. A C Osborn permalink
    November 12, 2020 11:10 am

    The expansion in Renewables may be larger, but you have to divide it by at least 3 to get the increase in Output, which is the important part.

    • Robin Guenier permalink
      November 12, 2020 11:21 am

      It’s only ‘larger’ because getting from hardly anything to not very much is a big percentage increase.

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