When do you need to plant alternative energy trees?

As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next opportune moment is today. The fact is that alternative energy (wind, sun, etc.) is most directly related to this saying.

A tree of "shale" was planted 35 years ago

To begin with, it is worth mentioning the "shale" as a good example. Today, the situation with the shale is not bad. They won their own place under the sun - they reached the atomic level (which is 4% of the world’s energy) and continue to win their share with fanfare. However, I would like to plunge a little into the history of the issue. Did they have difficulties and difficulties? There were and are. But only today it became clear that, having overcome them, the United States made a tangible leap forward:

1. Thanks to the shales, the United States became the number one gas producing power, overtaking Russia;
2. In the coming years, it is completely capable of catching up with and surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia in oil production;
3. Dramatically reduced energy dependence;
4. High technologies in oil and gas production and industrial development were stimulated - mainly chemical due to cheap raw materials plus the rest due to lower electricity prices, etc.

But it is important to understand that the shales did not fall on his head like manna from heaven - let the historical shale be thorny. It’s worth starting with the fact that in the late 1970s, thanks to the famous Hubbert, it became really clear that the reserves of traditional gas are not infinite as well as oil reserves. And instead of inaction or living off imports, the United States began to solve this problem. Although a contemporary of those events in the United States could criticize in the usual manner today, they say, cut, bureaucracy, fraud, inflate the bubble.

In the early 1980s, the US Department of Energy funded a number of R&D programs to research alternative and often exotic gas sources. From gas from low permeability reservoirs to gas hydrates.

As a result, in 1980, a subsidy program was launched for the extraction of unconventional natural gas resources (Section 29 tax credit). With natural gas prices of $ 2-3 per MBT, about $ 0.5-1 per MBT was subsidized. Huge money, if in a good way. Was it unprofitable for the USA? Undoubtedly. As well as state R&D programs on the same topic. This was paid, of course, by taxpayers. But the program allowed the start of natural gas production from sources that were previously not considered at all as a resource base. This made it possible to work out the necessary production technologies, to gain enormous experience and a lot of information about the oil and gas geology of the US bowels. The program achieved its greatest success after its completion in 2002, in the form of a shale oil and gas revolution, which “shot” in 2008.

So it is safe to say that the “cut” and losses of the late 20th century are paid off handsomely in the 21st century. To such an extent that, in addition to the energy and industrial aspects, shale gas has also acquired geopolitical.

Europe is planting young shoots of alternative energy, difficulties at this stage are inevitable

It is appropriate to distract a bit and recall the first world war. It was conducted mainly by positional battles and infantry. Therefore, after its completion, France, to protect against Germany, built a very expensive and logical for its time fortification system - the Maginot line. Thus, the French generals prepared for the “previous” war. The result was predictable - by the second world paradigm it had changed and Germany calmly broke the Maginot line in six weeks. Energy, like the French generals, should look forward, not backward.

The situation in modern Europe is identical to the United States 35 years ago. Europe itself felt that the hydrocarbons are not endless and is facing the geopolitical aspect of energy (like the United States with the oil embargo of the Arab countries).

Everything is bad, yes. Nevertheless, nobody is going to sit idly by. Europe is going to solve the problem , not avoid it. Most of all, Germany is trying as the most advanced country in Europe.

Subsidies for alternative energy and R&D paid by taxpayers? Of course, where would it be at the initial stage without this. If you think instantly, then everything looks negative and unprofitable. But, as we recall, new energy industries do not fall from heaven. They need to be created with multibillion investments and R&D, for decades. Therefore, if you evaluate this short-term, it seems that Europe and Germany are doing everything wrong. And if you think about what will happen to hydrocarbon energy in 30 years? Will the necessary import of hydrocarbons be possible at all? How much will it cost? Who will have to buy? What political concessions will you have to make for them? It is obvious that the planned export of natural gas from the USA to Europe is not for beautiful eyes - there was political trade.

Gas already today is too expensive for many as fuel for power plants and all over the world they are trying to use cheaper sources of fuel, not to mention oil, which is used for power generation only in force majeure circumstances, when all other sources are unavailable. Therefore, only coal remains from hydrocarbon fuel in power generation and we need to look for something new for a future replacement. Let us look at the successes of alternative electricity generation in Europe: Over the


past 16 years, alternative energy in Europe has been developing very rapidly, even exponentially. Three more years at this pace and catch up with the atom.

A developed industrial country needs huge investments for the development of new energy: it requires the construction of generating capacities, it is necessary to lay additional power lines in those areas that are most favorable for wind (coast) or solar generation (south of the country), because far from always the best wind is near large industrial city. It is necessary to build “smart” and complex automatic systems for balancing and coordinating electric networks, including between states (which are now in some numbers). At some stage of development, capacities for energy storage will be needed. All this requires money, but not only money - often new technologies, new research, whole new industries are needed.

Alternative energy sources in the medium term will be the cheapest

The graph above shows that developed alternative energy has been a matter of more than one decade. And if alternative energy certainly does not have “momentary” advantages, then with the strategic approach its role is obvious both in issues of energy independence and economic issues, and here it is. The main issue that discusses the alternative is the cost of power generation and context, usually two: what is expensive and what is expensive today. But it is obvious that for discussion the alternative should be divided into components, and the issue should be considered instantly in the long term. The Fraunhofer Institute provides its cost analysis and forecast (within the German market):


1. Windmill in a good place (with KIUM 30%, which is not uncommon) today is cheaper than any coal generation.
2. Coal generation in Germany loses to solar panels in southern Spain in 2016, southern Germany in 2021. Large stations are meant, not home solar panels.
3. Brown coal (as the cheapest of coal generation) remains competitive for a little longer.
4. The later, the less competitive hydrocarbons.

The main problem of the alternative

But there is a problem - you can’t pour electricity into the tank, you can’t build the petrochemical industry on it - it is not a raw material for industry, such as natural gas. Here, perhaps, the main problem of the alternative. Electricity is only part of the total energy balance. If we hypothetically assume that today the alternative will reach 100% in electricity generation, then it will still be only 45% of all the primary energy of Europe:


Therefore, the energy of Europe should also be biased towards electricity. There is progress, but as always in the energy sector, it is slow. Perhaps, in many ways, the roots of electric vehicles should grow from here.

Unlucky atom of Europe

Surprisingly, atomic energy also makes us turn to the alternative. Fans of nuclear projects had to meet with cold news that one of the leading nuclear powers, France, plans to reduce the share of nuclear energy in electricity from 75% to 50%. Maybe for a moment, again, it all looks ridiculous, but strategically everything is clear - the service life of the reactors has long exceeded half a century, and therefore, when building a nuclear power plant and relying on an atomic strategy, it is necessary to plan to provide uranium with its nuclear power plants almost for a century. And the uranium mines of French companies are in central Africa - who knows what will be there in 10 years, not to mention the 50 years or the 22nd century? Simply put, France’s nuclear energy project changed for soap — a decrease in dependence on gas and coal, but an increase in dependence on African uranium. Apparently

There are more questions than answers, there are pros, cons, difficulties. But one thing can be said with certainty - in the future, alternative energy in Europe will begin to pay for itself, both economically and politically.

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