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Monday 4 April 2022

RENEWABLE ENERGIES: Global Warming and the road towards Zero-Emissions by 2050

Professor Sospeter Muhongo

The main objective of the PARIS AGREEMENT of 2015 (adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015) and subsequent COP meetings, is to keep GLOBAL WARMING below 1.5 °C, mimicking the type of the atmosphere we had before the onset of the first industrial revolution (pre- industrial levels) which lasted from about 1760 to 1840.

However, scientists argue that to stay below 1.5 °C of Global Warming, emissions need to be cut by roughly 50% by 2030.

ENERGY TRANSITION is required to achieve the above goal as described by the Paris Agreement or UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

Energy Transition is the change in our (global) energy system. FOSSIL FUELS are the largest single source of CARBON EMISSIONS (greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide).

Thus, energy transition is the pathway for shifting from a system based on fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) to one dominated by clean renewable energies which will make us meet our global climate targets.

Consequently, each nation has to drastically reduce concentration of GREENHOUSE GASES in the atmosphere at levels preventing global warming above 1.5 °C.

They are called *renewable energies* because they are NOT DEPLETED during the ENERGY GENERATION process - they are inexhaustible as energy is generated continously!

In broad definition of Renewable Energies, there are 5 main types, namely,

1. Solar
2. Wind
3. Geothermal
4. Biomass
5. Hydropower

However, if the above definition is taken in sensu stricto, and considering the method used to generate energy inexhaustibly, then we have 10 main types of Renewable Energies. They are:

1. Solar
2. Wind
3. Tides & Waves
4. Geothermal
5. Biomass
6. Biogas
7. Hydro
8. Radiant
9. Nuclear
10. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

According to International Energy Agency (IEA)'s April 2021 Global Energy Review, Renewable Energies' share of *the global electricity generation mix* increased to 29% in 2020, up from 27% in 2019.

*Access to reliable and affordable electricity is vital for human wellbeing.*

According to IAE, the Global Energy demand in 2021 increased by 4.6%. Almost 70% of the projected increase was in emerging markets and developing economies.

Some energy experts have recommended hydrogen to be utilized in the global energy transition.

*HYDROGEN Energy* is considered to be of high efficiency, low polluting fuel and can be used for transportation, heating and power generation. 1 kg of hydrogen contains 33.3 kWh of usable energy, whereas for the same amount (1 kg) of petrol and diesel hold approximately 12 kWh. However, in terms of volumetric energy density, hydrogen can not compete with liquid fuels.

Oceans cover 71% of the Earth's surface.

*The wave power contains far greater energy density than wind or solar. It generates up to 24-74 kW per meter of wave.

*The world's total wave resource is estimated to be as much as 2 terawatt (2 trillion watts) of energy - equivalent of world's electricity being consumed.

*SOLAR and WIND* hit a record 10% of global electricity generation in 2021. China has the largest solar energy capacity in the world of 204.7 GW (204,700 MW), about 3.9% of China's total energy consumption.

As of June 2021, China operates 7.9 GW (7,900 MW) of *offshore* wind power. It has the world’s largest *onshore* wind farm, located in Gansu Province. The site has a capacity to generate 7,965 MW (7.97 GW) of energy.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) argue that if the world has to achieve the 1.5°C limit scenario, and complete decarbonize the global electricity sector by 2050, then the following ought to be done:

*Installed Renewable Energies capacity would need to increase to 10,770 GW by 2030, and 27,800 GW by 2050

*Solar PV will need to be scaled up to 5,200 GW by 2030

*Wind to be scaled up to over 3,300 GW by 2030.

The ongoing *RUSSIA-UKRAINE* war has compelled many nations around the world to look into their respective ENERGY MIXES, some negating much reliance on imported OIL & GAS energy sources and increasing the usage of RENEWABLE ENERGIES. Moreover, they (renewables) are clean and will make us meet our global climate targets before 2050.

Contribution by:
*Sospeter Muhongo*

*Former Vice President of the Commission of the Geological Map of the World (CGMW)

*Former Chair of the Science Programme Committee of the UN-proclaimed International Year of Planet Earth (UN-IYPE)

*Former Chair of UNESCO-IUGS-IGCP Scientific Board of International Geoscience Programme

Sunday, 3.4.2022

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