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Introduction: Plans for Zero Carbon Societies and Irelands Future Possibilities

October 1, 2009 by admin

 Brian Hurley

Previous studies have examined the feasibility of a low carbon/zero Europe.  For example, the work of  Prof. Dr. Olav Hohmeyer, at the University of Flensburg, in Germany.(1)   Recent work for the whole of Europe with a history of more than a decade has been done by Gregor Czisch.(2).  In addition the concept of a major new additions to the electricity grid is introduced by Hughes and Hurley to facilitate very high penetration of renewable energy.(3)

The case at a country level is explored in a report which proposes how Britain can eliminate emissions from fossil fuels in 20 years and break their dependence on imported energy.(4)   It demonstrates how it can achieve this by halving energy demand and installing massive renewable energy generation. Within this report, it looks at the policy framework that can drive this rapid shift, and explore the technologies and lifestyle changes that can  be expected  in the next two decades if these policies are followed. It is confident that they can maintain high levels of well-being while staying within a strict carbon budget, eliminating their reliance on fossil fuels and providing access to energy for everyone.
‘Instead of forecasting from within existing attitudes, trends and approaches, we ‘backcasted,’ looking at where we need to be, then seeing what policies and technologies we need to get there’ CAT Development Director Paul Allen said. ‘We are confident that if Britain treated this as the serious emergency the climate science is saying it is, we could eliminate the need for fossil fuels within 20 years.’
Further work for the electricity sector has been done by Barret(3)

It is worth examining work done for Japan, because if it is technically feasible for Japan to go the 100% renewable route then the case is stronger for Ireland given our abundance of renewable resources and relatively low population density per square kilometre.  A report shows how this could be done.  The work was commissioned by Greenpeace International (Amsterdam) and Greenpeace Japan.(5)

 Sweden is to take the biggest energy step of any advanced western economy by trying to wean itself off oil completely within 15 years - without building a new generation of nuclear power stations.  The attempt by the country of 9 million people to become the world's first practically oil-free economy is being planned by a committee of industrialists, academics, farmers, car makers, civil servants and others. The intention, the Swedish government has said, is to replace all fossil fuels with renewables before climate change destroys economies and growing oil scarcity leads to huge new price rises.
"Our dependency on oil should be broken by 2020," said Mona Sahlin, minister of sustainable development. "There shall always be better alternatives to oil, which means no house should need oil for heating, and no driver should need to turn solely to gasoline."  Ms Sahlin has described oil dependency as one of the greatest problems facing the world. "A Sweden free of fossil fuels would give us enormous advantages, not least by reducing the impact from fluctuations in oil prices," she said.
A government official said: "We want to be both mentally and technically prepared for a world without oil. The plan is a response to global climate change, rising petroleum prices and warnings by some experts that the world may soon be running out of oil."   Sweden, which was badly hit by the oil price rises in the 1970s, now gets almost all its electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric power, and relies on fossil fuels mainly for transport. Almost all its heating has been converted in the past decade to schemes which distribute steam or hot water generated by geothermal energy or waste heat.

Germany has also been looking at the technical prospects for moving towards an almost 100% renewables future and testing its feasibility. More than a year ago Aloys Wobben (ENERCON), Ulrich Schmack (Schmack Biogas) and Frank Asbeck (SolarWorld) claimed they could provide electricity from 100 % renewable sources.   Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, apparently challenged them by saying: “Then show us what you can do!” Some time later the three entrepreneurs presented their answer: a hybrid renewable energy power plant. Made up of wind energy, solar energy and biogas plants as well as a pump storage power plant with a capacity of 1 MW.   It represents 1:10,000 on the German power supply scale which means it covers a demand of maximum 4.15 million kWh.  The power plants are scattered all over Germany: from Pilsum in the Northwest (6 E-40s) to Nauen (3 E-82s) and Freiberg (solar power plant) in the East, Hünxe (biomass) and Würseln (2 E-66) in the West, to Schwäbisch Hall and Pliening (both biomass power plants) in the South. “This is our response to extensive expansion in the renewable energy sector even in regions located further away from the coast. Since the plants are dispersed around the country there is more consistency for wind and solar power supply, how they could actually be integrated into future renewable energy power systems Germany-wide”, says Gerwin Dreesmann, who coordinated the project on behalf of the energy producers. In cooperation with the Institute for Solar Power Supply Technologies (ISET – Institut für Solare Energieversorgungstechnik) at the University of Kassel, an initial simulation retraced the 2006 power production of the plants included in the pool. It demonstrated that with a common regulation system decentralised plants are able to supply just like any conventional plants. (6)

Of general interest is the U. S. due to the enormous emission of carbon dioxide, although less directly relevant to a consideration of Ireland. A quite detailed analysis  and pathways to a carbon-free and nuclear-free future has been authored by Arjun Makhijani(7)


The first steps in establishing the possibilities for Ireland is to review the renewable resources available.  Summarizing work done on the resources in the table below we can see the abundance.  To establish the magnitude of the resources available they can be compared with the present consumption of electricity, which is of the order of about 25TWh.

resource approx. annual energy comments
 wind power 2000 TWhe/y  primarily onshore
wave power 100 TWhe/y   primarily offshore
 bioenergy 100 TWhth/y   primarily wood
 the rest 10 TWhe/y    tidal, PV, hydro
  10 TWhe/y    solar, waste


    ESBI/ETSU, Total Renewable Energy Resource in Ireland, 1997
    ESBI, Accessible Wave Energy Resource Atlas : Ireland : 2005
    KMM, Marine Current Resource Study for Ireland, 2004
    KMM, Assessment of Offshore Wind Energy Resources, 2003
    ESBI, Updating the Renewable Energy Resource in Ireland

1. Prof. Dr. Olav Hohmeyer,  University of Flensburg, Germany.
The time required by the European economy for the transition to renewables – some insights from the LTI project

2. Czisch , Gregor.  Low Cost but Totally Renewable Electricity Supply for a Huge Supply Area– a European/Trans-European Example.
IEE-RE, Universität Kassel, Germany.

3. Renewable Electricity and the Grid- the Challenge of Variability. Edited Godfrey Boyle. Earthscan. London. Sterling, VA. 2007.

4. Boyle, Godfrey. Zero Carbon Britain.  Director, Energy & Environment Research Unit, Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology, The Open University

5. Energy Rich Japan
Published by : Harry Lehmann
Martin Kruska; EUTech, Germany
Dennewartstraße 25-27, D-52068 Aachen, Germany
Daigo Ichiro, Mika Ohbayashi, Kae Takase, Iida Tetsunari;
Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP),
Toda Bldg. 4F, 1-21, Yotsuya, Shinjuku Tokyo 160-0004, Japan
Gary Evans, Stefan Herbergs, Harry Lehmann, Karl Mallon, Stefan Peter;
Institute for Sustainable Solutions and Innovations (ISUSI),
Römerweg 2, 52070 Aachen, Germany
Dirk Aßman;
Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment & Energy,
Döppersberg 19, 42103 Wuppertal, Germany
Copyright : Institute for Sustainable Solutions and Innovations (ISUSI) - October 2003.

6. Windblatt 03 2007 Technology

7. Makhijani, Arjun. Carbon-free and nuclear-free – A roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy. A joint project of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Aug. 2007. IEER Press, Maryland and RDR Books, Michigan.

8. Staudt. Lawrence.  Centre for Renewable Energy, Dundalk IT.  2009

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