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Electricity, Global Magnitudes

Electricity, Global Magnitudes

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Published by: Thavam on Jun 22, 2013
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Electricity, Global Magnitudes
By
-June 22, 2013
is perhaps the single factor tohave transformed the world so profoundly and to have changedthe quality of our lives beyond measure. Today scientists helpreduce costs drastically and enable the benefits to reachsociety extensively. To the vast community of scientists,inventors, innovators, technologists and engineers, humanitystands beholden. A survey of the growth of electricity isinteresting. The pace of growth is amazing. Why examineglobal magnitudes? The vicissitudes from the first plant to now, point to a certainphenomenon. Whatever the excellence of a technology, the economics of it as seen bythe consumer determines choice as well as growth.Components As at 2010, global production of electricity was 21.3 trillion kilo Watt hours (kWh). Of this, two-thirds came from fossil fuels. In percentage terms coal accounted for 41, gas21 and oil 5. The balance was produced by hydro 16%, nuclear 13% and other renewables 3%. The installed capacity to produce this amount of power was 5.144million mega watts (MW). The six segments by fuel source have been changing in sizein this century. The most dramatic has been Wind and even more spectacular wasSolar and that too in the last few years.CoalEver since coal generated electricity started in 1882, it has retained its paramountplace. Thirty years ago when non-conventional energy sources made their presencefelt, it appeared that coal was approaching its demise and perhaps its exit. It willtherefore make way for more socially desirable sources was the thought. But it wasnot to be. Actuality was that globally, coal generated electricity more than tripled. In thecurrent decade it records 41%. Studies about its future prospects show a decline to35% in 2040. Even so it will account for a production volume of coal based electricitythat is higher than at present.Coal fired power plants have been cheaper to build and to operate. Despite the stigmathat it is a dirty fuel from mining, transport and burning, it has held its sway as aprimary fuel to generate electricity. Estimate of recoverable coal made in 2008, placesdeposits at 861 billion tons. All types amount to 990 billion tons, enough for 100 to 150years. This is a long term assurance for continued supply. Dispassionate studies byscientists show that by 2040, coal will continue its primacy at 35% though the declineis 6%. In the view of scientists, retrofitting existing ones to reduce atmosphericpollution will imply 20 to 30% more coal use. With capital cost of refurbishment added,response to this proposition will remain lukewarm.
S.Sivathasan
 
GasThe use of gas has been growing over the decades. As of now the cost of gasgenerated power is marginally higher at about7% compared to coal. Its ascent wasswift because it was a clean fuel. It generated 13% electricity in 1990 and 25% in2011. The share estimated for 2040 is 30%. A recent development in the gas sector is the programme for huge exploitation of shale gas with new technologies. In the US, a powerful thrust comes from PresidentObama and success in natural gas development will have its impact in the petroleumsector as well. It is likely that increasing quantities going into power generation willstimulate stiff competition in solar and wind sectors. Coal is estimated to yield 18% of its share from 1990 to 2040. Much of it will be captured by gas.HydroHydro power as the earliest among sustainables, enjoys a position of eminence. It isproduced in 150 countries. Not all the projects are for power only. A fair share is multi-purpose with irrigation and flood protection components thrown in. In such cases apart of the capital cost gets excluded from the power segment. At 16% of total installedcapacity worldwide, it is half of the non-fossil group. Though hydro as a fuel typecontributes 17.8% to electricity generation, as a type of fuel it is only 6.4%Hydro potential is not infinite and neither can prospecting for fresh sources proceedindefinitely. Economic viability is primary and there too costs comparative to other sources will decide. Sri Lanka provides a good example where economically attractiveschemes are very nearly exhausted. This explains the high % of 44 for hydro in SL asat 2010.Hydro schemes display a wide disparity in size. The largest Three Gorges in Chinahas an installed capacity of 22,500 MW. Itaipu Dam in Brazil-Paraguay has 14,000and Guri in Venezuela with 10,200. There are 53 other projects ranging in size from2000 – 8300 MW.WindHarnessing wind power for electricity has proceeded at a rapid pace in the last tenyears. There was a nine fold increase from 31,000 MW in 2002 to 283,000 MW in2012. Average annual growth rate was 25% from 2007 to 2012. Some 83 countries areengaged in wind power generation. China and US account for 60% of global market.China has a capacity of 75,564 MW and ranked first in2012. Denmark met 30% of her requirements from wind power. In India the largest wind power farm is in Muppanthalin the southernmost Kanniyakumari district of TN – the same latitude as Puttalam, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Mannar.Even though on shore wind power potential is high and only a fraction has beenexploited, forays have been made into off shore, where potential is assessed ashighest in US and China. Worldwide 13 countries have off shore turbines and 90% arein N. Europe. Global average for turbine capacity was 1.8 MW. In Germany the largest
 
was 3.1 MW. Off shore ones were 5 MW and higher and the largest is 7.5 MW.Offshore tallest one has 143 meters hub height and Siemens has unveiled the longest75 meter blade. All these innovations show the potential of technical advances to bringin higher levels of production per turbine.Solar Solar power had been in focus for quite some time. The oil crisis of 1973 stimulatedinterest in Photo Voltaics (PV). As a renewable and clean source it had greatattraction. Yet its prohibitive cost stood against its spread. With R&D and subsidies PVinstallation went up from 31 MW of installed capacity in 1994 to 318 in 1999.Leadership shifted to Japan and Germany in mid-nineties. By 2002, cumulativeproduction of PVs had risen to 2,402 MW. From that year, production doubled everytwo years averaging 48% annually. Since 2008 growth was exponential reaching40,000MW in 2010, 71,000 MW in 2011 and the milestone100,000 MW of installedcapacity in 2012.Solar is one among four renewables and along with wind is gaining ascendancy indeveloping countries. There was a marked shift of markets to the developing world in2012 with the developed world having an edge of only $20 billion. Outlays in that year were 46% of world total against 34% in 2011. It is likely that the developed will beovertaken in 2013. In terms of money committed in 2012, solar power was the leadingsector among renewables commanding 57% of total new investment. In the period2007 to 2012, the average annual growth rate for solar power was 60%. The year onyear cost reduction on PVs had a strong impact. Even over five years back, grid tiedelectrical systems were available. Besides, roof tiles with integrated PV cables werepurchasable off the shelf. From the beginning to end 2012 Germany has 1/3rd of worldtotal, Italy 1/6
th
and China 1/12
th
. All the desirable features of solar notwithstanding, it is rapidly declining cost of PVsthat account for its phenomenal growth. In this respect China’s contribution is greatboth in volume and in unit cost reduction. Solar can become the most sought after power source, only after it crosses the parity barrier. As of now it is away from ‘gridparity’ ie being not on par with conventional ones on the grid. In a few years it is likelyto be on the threshold of parity. Factors conducive to it are, research and developmenttogether with stimuli to demand, inducing economies of scale and thereby creatinggreater attractiveness. Solar with all its exponential growth in recent years yet remainsa small segment in the global power sector accounting for only about 1%.Nuclear Commercial nuclear energy began in the fifties. International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) reports that nuclear capacity in 2010 was 375,300 MW at 7.4% of world’s totalelectricity. In 2050, with retirement of obsolete ones, capacity at low projection isestimated at 560,000 MW which is 2.7% of total world capacity. After the Fukushimadisaster, IEA halved its estimate of nuclear capacity to be built by 2035. As of 2012, there were 437 nuclear power reactors in 31 countries. There were also 68

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