Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

Abu Dhabi sultan decrees 7 percent renewable sources by 2020

When leader of one of the countries with the largest proven oil reserves decides to get serious about renewable energy, you have to figure it’s not because of some touchy-feely “Save the Planet” motivation. No, this is a hard-nosed, practical, business decision: The sooner oil producing countries convert a significant portion of their energy economy to renewable sources, the more oil they’ll have down the road.

Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of the state-owned future energy company Masdar, which will oversee the green drive, said at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that it was natural tomove into this new sector. By doing so Masdar would “provide a comprehensive solution to the world’s energy challenges and maintain Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading supplier of energy to the world.” The Gulf state, a part of the United Arab Emirates, also wants to differentiate itself from neighbour Dubai, and diversify its economy, believing a “green” infrastructure will help its image as a new tourist destination.

Can’t argue with any of that. In fact, many of the same reasons apply to the economic landscape in Houston, which is rapidly establishing itself as the economic hub for wind energy in this country.

Here’s my take: Although renewable sources – wind, solar, hydro, wave, etc. – are becoming more affordable, they still have two problems that need to be addressed. The first is critical to transforming renewables into an “industrial” scale power generation source: renewables will need a large-scale solution to the firming problem. (wind/sun/waves only available for certain parts of the day). Changing the significant parts of the energy economy to renewable sources will in itself be an enormous technical challenge. I want a non-polluting hydrogen powered car as much as the next greenie, but there just aren’t any. And the technical details of converting the transportation fleet to renewable energy is only going to happen when replacing the vehicles on the road today with as-of-now unavailable heavy EVs or hydrogen cell trucks makes economic sense. From where I sit, the best hope in the near term – say the next eight to ten years – would be some form of plug-in hybrid platform or biofuel vehicle (presuming a process for cellulostic ethanol can be made widely available – and affordable). Which means old-fashioned petro-fueled trucks are going to be around for a good long time.

If that’s the case, then hanging on to your limited and increasingly in-demand fossil fuel reserves for as long as possible makes extremely good financial sense.

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