By Dean Matus, Lionshead Energy LLC
Recently, the World Bank completed its first global energy-use and energy projection survey, entitled The Global Tracking Framework: Sustainable Energy for All. Energy experts from fifteen international agencies evaluated the status of energy access, efficiency, consumption and sustainability in over 170 countries. The Report focused on the twenty-plus nations that account for 80% of global energy consumption; the twenty developing “high-impact” countries that require intensive intervention to assist them on the path to energy access and sustainability using renewables; and on the developing nations that require basic infrastructure for access to electricity.
As we approach 2014, we need to recognize that the U.N. had declared 2012 “The International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.” Three global objectives were declared at that time: to ensure universal access to modern energy sources; to double the current rate of energy efficiency; and to double the rate of renewable energy in the global mix, all to be accomplished by the distant year of 2030. The I.A.E. (International Energy Agency), the U.N. and the World Bank consider solar, geothermal, hydro, bioenergy, ocean/tidal, wind and waste-recycled derivative energy as renewable sources of energy. Bioenergy is primarily used in developing countries for cooking and heating, and the inefficient production of charcoal, which can lead to deforestation and greenhouse gases. Bioenergy is still the primary energy source for 14% of the globe, and under proper direction and policy, it can be guided to better energy efficiencies and sustainability, with fewer negative environmental and health effects.
The Report states that in the past twenty years, over 1.7 billion people have gained initial access to electricity; over 1.6 billion globally have secured access to less-polluting sources of solid fuels, and due to energy conservation measures and new sources of energy, the stabilization or decrease of energy prices. Nevertheless, the Report also soberly points out that due to overall global population growth and rapid economic expansion in previously under-developed areas such as Brazil, China and India, relative global improvements in energy access and use of renewables were minimal.
As owner of Lionshead Energy LLC, a regional solar energy and energy efficiency services provider, I am particularly interested in the Report’s findings relative to renewable and solar energy projections, and energy efficiency / conservation policy. Although studies in the Report indicated that about 77% of the global population now has access to electricity, only about 56% have access to non-solid, less polluting fuels, with the vast majority of these being in highly developed nations. According to the Report, Renewable Energies now account for 25.7% contribution toward overall global electricity, heating and transport, and toward 18% of total “final” electrical energy generation, with solar delivering 0.2% of that total. However, since 1990, solar energy has consistently grown by over 200% each decade, and consistently delivers more overall energy than either geothermal, biogas or waste-recycling renewable technologies.
As indicated in the Report, policymakers have latched on to renewable energy as win-win, especially regarding job creation, decreasing greenhouses gases, promoting energy independence and economic development. Globally, over 5 million jobs have been created in this industry, and incentives such as tax relief are often an inducement to go renewable as national policy world-wide. Investors have also learned that financial platforms such as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and emissions trading instruments are good for their bottom lines, especially as prices for commercial solar projects drop. BNEF (Bloomberg New Energy Finance) reported that in 2011, global investment in renewable-source power generation and fuels totaled $277 billion ($U.S.), twice the investment in 2007 and six times that of 2004. As the Report states, “Renewable energy is becoming increasingly competitive when compared to fossil-fuel based alternatives… Solar PV (cost) is on grid-parity (even) in areas with very high solar irradiance, such as North Africa, Saudi Arabia and Australia…The falling price of photovoltaic modules is making this type of technology more competitive.”
As an example of this trend nationally, as recently detailed in the NY Times, the Walgreen Company, based in Deerfield, IL, has begun construction on its first “net-zero” energy facility in Evanston, IL. The company owns 8,500 retail locations, averaging approximately 14,500 SF. Their goal is to reduce the company’s overall energy costs by 20% by 2020, by constructing facilities using renewable hybrid energy systems resulting in decreased annual use of 200,000 kW hours, while producing 250,000 kW hours. The facility in Evanston will highlight 850 solar PV panels, wind turbines and a geothermal system. The Times article mentioned that the U.S. Department of Energy was currently working on 110 energy conservation projects on the Federal level, but that this was the first net-zero commercial project that has come to their attention.
In the United States, according to the Report, total Renewable Energy use growth rate since 1990 has been about 5.6% annually, today supplying about 7.6% of our electricity, heating and transport in 2010, with solar 0.1% of that total. The upside to these numbers is the growing acceptance of solar PV as a viable, competitive source of electricity for homes and commercial facilities, the realization that conservation and energy efficiency measures have made a great difference domestically, and that solar prices continue to head downward, while systems continue to become even more efficient. Additionally, renewable energy, especially solar, continues to be recognized as a financial winner with investors and facility managers, a job creator for state and local governments, and a great source of clean, quiet energy at home and in the workplace. As we at Lionshead Energy have seen, the “educational” phase for solar energy has ended, and the implementation stage for our vision of right-priced, reliable renewables and energy efficiency has begun.
Overall, my take on the World Bank’s exhaustive study is positive. On the economic side, I know that before any projections or predictions can be made, one needs a baseline, and this Report offers hard, objective baseline data on many elements of global energy consumption, access and generation. The energy goals set for 2030 seem realistic, but too far away to create any immediate urgency, as is needed. It’s clear that the world has seen improved numerical access to universal electricity, but every traveler knows that electricity is an intermittent luxury to many, although technically the locals may count as “having access”. Most positive is my realization that the thrust toward renewables, the implementation of energy conservation measures, the promotion of energy education, and the creation of national policies everywhere incentivizing sustainable energy is a global phenomenon, not just a new-age dream.
Lionshead Energy LLC offers a full range of solar PV systems for commercial, municipal and industrial facilities in the Northeast. Lionshead Energy also offers energy efficiency services such as performance contracting, energy conservation packages, lighting and HVAC services, ESCO and Demand Response energy savings platforms, with financing available for qualified customers and projects. Contact us at www.lionsheadenergy.com Tel: 646-438-4000