The “green” future: the world is about to introduce new energy technologies

The pros and cons of alternative energy generation technologies and their advantages over conventional energy will be discussed in XX SPIEF. On the situation in the energy sector and its possible future – in material TASS

Today, no one knows the answer to the question of the whole picture of the energy industry in the future. It seems that advanced technologies for electric and thermal power generation based on renewable sources (RES) are gradually pushing the so-called classic generation of hydrocarbon fuels to the margins of history.

At the same time, the alternative generation still has not got rid of the problems that prevent its widespread implementation, which significantly increases the chances of continued widespread use (at least for the foreseeable future) of fossil fuels for power generation.

New ideas and new technologies have already appeared, unique projects are being implemented, which in the future not only make gas- and coal-fired power plants necessary, but also significantly reduce the use of alternative generation.

Therefore, at the moment, humanity is at the beginning of a difficult path of transformation in the energy industry, the end of which is visible only through the fog of technological perspective.

The “green” future?

At least one trait of future energy we already know today. Recently, the world discussed in Paris the most important issue of climate change on the planet, and more than 170 countries signed a new climate agreement.

According to experts, in order to achieve the goals set in the document, it is necessary to develop a “green” global generation, since energy production now accounts for two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, the future belongs to the environmentally friendly generation, and Russia can play a major global role here.

In the coming decades, human energy consumption will only grow. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that global energy demand by 2040 will rise by 37%. The structure of global consumption will also change dramatically – by this time the countries of Asia (mainly China), Africa and the Middle East will become leaders, where rapid economic growth is expected, which will require huge energy resources.

Fossil fuels will retain their dominance, served by the modern “shale penetration”, which has pushed back for several decades the threat of exhausting efficiently produced oil and gas resources.

As noted in the report of the Analytical Center of the Government of the Russian Federation, the share of oil and gas in world primary energy consumption by 2040 will remain virtually unchanged – 51.4% (53.6% in 2010).

According to forecasts of experts, by 2040, gas will become the main fuel in the energy balance of OECD countries. By 2040, global demand for coal will also increase by 15%, and China will be the main consumer of it. As is known, thermal power plants are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Coal reserves in the world are enormous, but there is no reason to hope that modern technologies will make it possible to negate greenhouse emissions from coal-fired thermal power plants.

In recent years, the use of alternative energy sources has expanded significantly. According to Anatoly Chubais, President of Rosnano, this is due to the environmental friendliness of renewable energy sources, the absence of carbon dioxide emissions during their use, and the absence of a risk of man-made accidents that could lead to environmental pollution.

In 2014, renewable energy accounted for nearly half of all new generation capacity in the electric power industry; China, the United States, Japan and Germany, which have invested $270 billion in this field, have become leaders in the development of renewable energy sources.

At present, in Russia, the capacity of all alternative generation sources in the total energy balance reaches a maximum of 1%. I must say that in the next 20 years the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation plans to increase electricity production by 10 times based on renewable sources. For example, after connecting a 110 MW solar power plant in Crimea by the end of 2017, RES will take 50% of the total power generation capacity of this Russian region.

bet on the sun

A few years ago, Berlin bet on the large-scale development of solar power generation, and decided to gradually abandon nuclear facilities to generate electricity. Germany had some success in this area in July 2015, when solar panels installed across the country produced the same amount of electricity as nuclear power plants: the generation volume for both was 5.18 TWh.

In 2014, wind, solar, biomass and water energy provided 26.2% of the total electricity produced in Germany, surpassing for the first time the leader in the traditional industry, lignite, which accounts for 25.4%.

Some experts believe that by 2030 the country can completely switch to renewable energy in the production of electricity, moving away from all fossils, as well as nuclear energy sources.

The example of Germany illustrates the consequences that a purely political decision to abandon a fixed source of energy, in this case, nuclear generation, can lead to. One of the internal consequences is the high cost of electric power for final consumers, and among the external consequences is the loss of the most important competencies in the high-tech nuclear industry, against the background of the fact that nuclear power plants are booming again in the world and more and more countries are announcing plans to create their own nuclear power generation their.

RES’ heavy reliance on state support makes “green” energy vulnerable in any economic crisis. In addition, RES has the same general drawbacks, which consist in the fact that the volume of energy production in alternative generation facilities is highly dependent on the weather, in the case of solar energy generation, also on the time of day.

To ensure the power supply for large industrial production with solar power generation, it is necessary to cover a huge area of ​​tens of square kilometers with panels. In addition, solar power generation does not work in the evening, peak hours of consumption, which means that it is necessary to accumulate huge amounts of energy received during daylight hours, which will lead to an even greater rise in the cost of photovoltaic cells, which is far from cheap.

Supporters of the alternative generation call it environmentally friendly, and critics in response emphasize several important points: the construction of large hydroelectric plants leads to flooding in large areas, destruction of flora and fauna, irreversible climate change in the region, wind farms pose a real threat to birds and cause Soil erosion due to constant vibration, and the production of panels for photovoltaic cells is not only very expensive and energy-intensive, but also highly toxic.

Investments are growing

But it is clear that all these problems are technical tasks that can be solved in the foreseeable future, especially since the flow of investments in renewable energy is gradually increasing.

Global innovation giants such as Apple and Google are actively investing in the improvement of alternative generation technologies, in particular, Apple invested more than 800 million dollars in 2015 in the development of a solar farm in San Francisco.

At the same time, EU investments in renewable energy fell last year by 21%, from $62 billion to $48.8 billion, and in other regions of the world, investments are growing. For example, countries in the Middle East and Africa increased their investments in renewable energy by 58% to reach $12.5 billion.

And this could not but affect the growth of alternative generation in the world: according to the British company BP, the share of renewables in electricity generation in 2015 had already reached 2.8% of global energy consumption.

Active development of renewable energy has not forced the European Union, which operates 131 nuclear power plants with a total capacity of about 121 gigawatts, to abandon nuclear generation. The European Union intends to invest in nuclear energy, including the development and construction of modern reactors for small nuclear power plants, the first of which is expected to be commissioned no later than 2030.

The fact is that, despite all the difficulties in using nuclear generation, it has an important advantage – the contribution of nuclear power plants to greenhouse gas emissions is close to zero. Replacing thermal generation with nuclear power plants leads to the expected reduction in CO2 emissions2.

Therefore, the gradual replacement of the old retired nuclear facilities with new nuclear power units in the countries that have long occupied the “peaceful atom”, and the entry of more and more countries into the global nuclear club is a natural trend at least for the next day. Few decades. This is due to the task of ensuring stable and reliable power supplies, and the need to operate new, environmentally friendly generation facilities.

future projects

Against the background of the “pie split” of the global energy balance between the classic generation and its young rival in the form of renewable energy, separate projects stand, which in the end can play a major role in shaping the energy of the future. Humanity is looking for a reliable, safe and cheap source of energy that not only pollutes the environment, but also solves the accumulated problems.

In this regard, attention should be paid to the International Experimental Thermonuclear Reactor (ITER), which is being built in Cadarache, France. This is the largest scientific project in the world; Practically the whole world is building a reactor in France: the European Union, Switzerland, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States are taking part. European countries contribute about 50% of the project financing, and Russia accounts for about 10% of the total amount, which will be invested in the form of high-tech equipment.

The reactor is based on domestic tokamak technology, and will be the first large-scale attempt to use a thermonuclear reaction similar to what happens in the sun to generate electricity. If ITER is successful (the world expects the appearance of the first prototype of a commercial thermonuclear power plant by the end of the century), all participants will have full access to technologies for building thermonuclear power generation facilities. The fuel reserves of such a plant on the planet are practically inexhaustible, moreover, thermonuclear power generation is environmentally safe.

Honorary President of the National Research Center “Kurchatov Institute”, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences E.B. Velikov.

Another project capable of shaping the image of the energy industry in the future is Proryv, which is being implemented by Rosatom. It provides for the creation of a new generation of nuclear energy technologies based on the closed nuclear fuel cycle using fast neutron reactors (FN). The development of nuclear generation based on BN reactors will solve the problem of accumulated radioactive waste, the fuel for such reactors should be enough for humanity for a very long time.

“The goal of the Proryv project is not only a unique result of research and development work, but also the creation of a competitive technology that will help the Russian nuclear industry not only maintain its leadership in the world market, but also strengthen it in the world market in the future. 30 years ”, – says Sergei Kirienko, General Director of Rosatom.

In the world, countries and big companies are looking not only for the future generation, but also for private investors who will invest their money in advanced projects. For example, TRI ALFA ENERGY is developing a compact fusion power plant, a potential competitor to ITER.

Bill Gates has invested in TerraPower, which is building an innovative mobile wave nuclear reactor and plans to build a prototype by 2020.

Energy storage systems are being actively improved – in 2015 Elon Musk introduced a new compact Tesla Powerwall system, capable of collecting electricity from solar panels during the day for use at night. These batteries are nothing new, but the fact that we can improve and reduce the cost of these systems so that they can be used at home is important.

Scattered outlines of future global energy can be seen in plans for the development of distributed generation, in improving energy efficiency and modernization projects of existing thermal generation facilities, as well as in decommissioning old facilities.

Today Russia enjoys a strong position in a number of energy fields, including the nuclear sector, and in the future we must certainly remain in the leading group of countries creating innovative energy generation technologies that will determine the energy future of mankind.

Andrei Rettinger, independent expert in the energy industry

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