All the scenarios have the same result: a hundred percent renewable energy. The only difference is the time frame. That was the conclusion of Horst Rütel of the International Geothermal Association at the final session of the World Bioenergy conference.
The international conference was held in Jönköping, Sweden for three days at the end of May. A trade fair with the same name was held simultaneously and featured technology and methods for biofuel production and use.
One conclusion of the conference is that bioenergy has great potential but is not the sole solution to how the world can replace fossil fuels.
“It’s important that neither bioenergy nor other energy sources claim they can offer the whole solution,” said Tomas Kåberger, the Director General of the Swedish Energy Agency and conference moderator. “This conference has proven that the solution lies in cooperation. But together we can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy needs.”
The conference was attended by representatives of the international industry organisations for all established renewable energy sources: water, wind, solar, geothermal and bioenergy. They all collaborate via the International Renewable Energy Alliance.
Each participant had the opportunity to present the potential of his or her form of energy. In theory, several of these can supply all the energy the world needs. But in practice this would lead to suboptimisation and extremely high marginal costs – hence the comments by Tomas Kåberger.
One type of energy that doesn’t have a high profile is geothermal, but it does offer huge unexploited resources.
“Ninety-nine percent of the Earth is more than 1,000 degrees Celsius in temperature, and 99 percent of the rest is over 100 degrees,” said Horst Rütel of the International Geothermal Association.
But geothermal energy only works in some parts of the world where the source is close to the surface. In other regions the best source is wind power, bioenergy, water power or solar energy. Plus something that a number of speakers emphasised: more efficient energy usage.
In general, renewable energy sources use up a lot of space, which means they compete with other interests. For this reason work has begun on ethical guidelines within the framework of the International Renewable Energy Alliance. The responsibility lies with the World Bioenergy Association. Kent Nyström gave an account of how the work is progressing and said that showing consideration for others and revenues are linked.
“If we behave ourselves, we will gain access to greater resources and a bigger market,” he stressed.
Another important issue is how to finance such investments. Tomas Kåberger noted that the colour of the suits people are wearing has become darker at every renewable energy conference he has participated in. In other words, banks and other financiers have begun to open their eyes to alternative energy sources.
“The problem is that the calculations are different for a windpower plant and an oil-fired one,” said Stefan Gsänger of the World Wind Energy Association. “It costs more to build the former but then the fuel is free, and that doesn’t fit into the cost calculations.”
His organisation has had a positive response to their suggestion of setting up a global investment fund for renewable energy production.
The conclusion of the conference at World Bioenergy in Jönköping was very hopeful: by working together, the renewable energy sources – combined with more efficient usage – can deliver all the energy the world needs.