Friday, September 11, 2009

Power of wind: Cost of power

Two recent reports have once again highlighted the tremendous potential of wind energy in both China and India. The two reports, prepared by two distinct teams, have come to very similar conclusions. They say that 20-25% of electricity by the year 2030 could come from wind, if the government extends appropriate incentives. While releasing the report on India, the minister for renewable energy offered to help the industry, but wanted power at a cheap rate. The report on China, estimated an investment need of $900 billion, in the next twenty years if that country is to harness fully its wind power potential. Here are a few key excerpts.
  • China produces 792.5 gigawatts per year, second only to the US, with an expected 10 percent annual increase in the future. Close to 80 percent of its power is produced through coal-making, making China and the US as the world's two largest carbon emitters.
  • A team of environmental scientists from Harvard and Tsinghua universities analyzed China's wind resources and concluded that if the nation meets 30 percent of its increase in electricity demand with wind power by 2030, it will be enough for the nation to realize a low-carbon future.
  • While wind-generated energy accounts for only 0.4 percent of China's total current electricity supply, the nation is rapidly becoming the world's fastest growing market for wind power, trailing only the US, Germany and Spain in the capacity of existing wind farms.
  • The authors said the report was fueled by the Chinese government's support for a low-carbon future after it passed the Renewable Energy Law in 2005. The law, which provides favorable tax status for alternative energy investments, has boosted the development of renewable energy, especially wind.
  • The research team evaluated the total potential for wind energy that could be realized at an affordable cost level, which would require installation of 640 GW of wind farms over the coming 20-year period. Their analysis would theoretically require China to make an investment of around $900 billion (at current prices) over the same twenty-year period.
Read the complete article, "Wind may prop China's power rush" by Lin Shujuan in China Daily on 11 Sept. 2009.

Following are the key highlights from the Indian news article, "Wind power can meet quarter of India's energy needs by 2030" in (10 Sept. 2009).
  • 'Indian Wind Energy Outlook 2009' prepared by the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association (IWTMA), says that with proper incentives, wind power can meet over 24 percent of India's energy needs by 2030.
  • The study says wind power can supply 21.2-24.2 percent of the electricity India will need in 2030, if the industry gets all the encouragement it wants. In contrast to this 'advanced' scenario in the report, it says without any extra push, it will be able to supply 2.4-2.7 percent of India's energy needs in 2030.
  • The report says that India's wind energy resource has only been partially realised due to the lack of a coherent national renewable energy policy. The promotion of renewable energy in India is mainly driven by state governments, but inconsistent implementation and the lack of a national policy is hampering genuine progress... To boost investment in renewable energy, it is essential to introduce clear, stable and long-term support policies.
This call for supportive policies, including subsidies, is surprising considering that an Indian company is among the top five in the world, manufacturing wind turbines.

If wind is abundant, and technology has been proven, given the rising demand for energy in both China and India over the next 50 years, why would the wind power industry need special treatment?

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