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Renewables could generate 40% of power by 2050, experts say

With higher oil prices burning bigger holes in our pockets and concerns about climate change gaining momentum, government officials and investors are stepping up to the plate by supporting renewable energy technologies (e.g. wind, solar and hydro power) that could generate 40%...

With higher oil prices burning bigger holes in our pockets and concerns about climate change gaining momentum, government officials and investors are stepping up to the plate by supporting renewable energy technologies (e.g. wind, solar and hydro power) that could generate 40% of the world's electricity by 2050, research presented at the International Scientific Congress 'Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions' in Denmark reveals. According to Professor Peter Lund from the Advanced Energy Systems of the Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) in Finland, who presented the research ahead of the congress 'Renewable Energies: How Far Can They Take Us?', the findings show that 'with global political support and financial investment, previous notions that the potential for renewables was in some way limited to a negligible fraction of world demand were wrong'. Recognising and prioritising the value of renewable energy technologies would effectively fuel their potential to provide the world with the energy it needs, he remarked. Commenting on wind power, Professor Erik Lundtang Petersen from the Department of Wind Energy of Risoe Technical University of Denmark (DTU) said, 'The wind sector would be able to deliver its full potential if it concentrates on efficiently delivering, installing and connection large amounts of wind power to the grid.' The reliability, availability and accessibility of the turbines should also be considered, he added. 'We have identified specific areas of priority for the wind sector to effectively deliver the overall objective of cost reductions,' Professor Petersen explained. 'Research areas including turbine technology, wind energy integration and offshore deployment will be crucial to maximising future growth.' With respect to biofuels, Dr Jeanette Whitaker from the UK's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology found a key difference between first- and second-generation biofuels. The latter, which include ethanol from woody crops, had substantially lower energy requirements and greenhouse gas emissions compared to first-generation biofuels such as ethanol produced from sugar beet, she said. 'These findings are important and relevant, as the current biofuel debate has centred on the issue of the competing need for crops to be used for food versus fuel,' Dr Whitaker pointed out. In Europe, Britain's industry has called on the British government to shell out GBP 625 million (EUR 675 million) for renewables support, and the latest data show that EU Member States France and Germany have committed large sums of green stimulus money, especially for renewables. More specifically, Germany has more than doubled its share of renewable energy since 2000. Data also indicate that more than 240,000 people are working in the country's renewable energy sector, particularly in SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). The German government has been very supportive in strengthening renewable energy by regulating the payment for the power fed into the grid through the Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz, EEG), as well as other programmes. The Czech Republic, meanwhile, is also a major supporter of renewable energy. Its latest move has been to adopt an action plan for biomass for the period from 2009 to 2011, targeting the greater use of biomass for power generation. This would help the Czech Republic fulfil its pledge to increase twofold its renewables-generated electricity (in gross domestic power consumption), which amounted to 4% in 2008. Czech utility CEZ Group increased biomass electricity production to 327 gigawatts per hour (GWh) last year, up 33%. The industrial powerhouse also used 347,000 tonnes of biomass in the same period, up 50% year-on-year. The power generated in the period covered the needs of more than 93,000 households, company officials said.

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