Clean Energy Conversion Has Been Stagnant
Roger Pielke, Jr. caused quite a stir last week with a report in Breakthrough that, despite all the brouhaha about renewable energy, the proportion of carbon-free production in the world's energy mix has remained flat since 1999. In fact 1999 represented a peak of about 13 percent that has not been achieved since.
What is more striking is the rapid rise of non-carbon sources from 6 percent to 13 percent that occurred from 1965 to 1999. How did that happen.
Pielke has a simple answer. The early rise was achieved through the development of nuclear energy, which is the only non-carbon source that has any impact. The leveling of the curve since 1999 has been the result of the lull in nuclear construction. "From 1999 to 2012 consumption of nuclear power dropped by 2 percent," he writes. "While solar has increased its contribution to consumption by a factor of 100 and wind by 25 from 1999 to 2012, these sources remain at about 1 percent of total global energy consumption, and are dwarfed by the resurgence of coal."
So all the yap-yap-yap about wind and solar output doubling and tripling is essentially meaningless since these start at such a small base and contribute so little to our energy output anyway. Only nuclear has made a dent in carbon emissions and since nuclear construction has been brought to a virtual halt - in Europe and America at least - the effort to reduce carbon emissions has stagnated.
Anybody want to go see "Pandora's Promise?"