Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Renewable Energy Case Studies: Burlington Vermont and Argentina

The massive growth of renewable energies is hard to refute. Strong growth forecasts come from the combination of current day models of clean energy use and extraordinary opportunities that remain to be exploited.

Here are two renewable energy case studies from the municipal level (Burlington Vermont) to the national level (Argentina). The first illustrates a current example of functioning renewable energy systems and the second points to the potential for growth.

Countries like Germany and Norway are not the only ones transitioning to renewable energy. Scotland is destined to be a net exporter of renewable energies. In the US, the city of Burlington, Vermont is entirely powered by renewables. Through a combination of biomass, hydroelectric, solar and wind, Burlington is the first US city to get all of their energy from renewables. This switch to renewables will also save the city $20 million over the next decade. Cities like Burlington demonstrate what has already been shown in Germany, renewable energy contribute to a strong economy.

Burlington's sustainability leadership also involves an aggressive energy efficiency program that enables the city to use less electricity in 2015 than it did in 1989. The city also has nine electric charging stations, which is admirable for a city with less than 50,000 people.

The market for renewable energy is growing both in the US and around the world. Latin America stands out as a stellar opportunity. In this region it is expected that renewables will help to meet growing power demands. A 2011 Bloomberg New Energy Finance study showed that in 2010, over US$13 billion was invested in Latin America in clean energy generation, and is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 70% since 2004. That’s almost twice as fast as global investment in the industry, which in itself is among one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

While the growth of renewable energy has been curtailed somewhat by the economic slowdown in Brazil, there are a number of other countries that continue to see rapid investment growth. Argentina is particularly well positioned in this regard. Argentina’s power mix primarily comprises natural gas (over 50%) and hydropower (circa 40%). While energy demand is expected to increase domestic gas production is declining. This provides impetus for the transition to renewables.

In 2011 Argentina had only 553 megawatts (MW) of installed renewable energy, and three quarters of it is comprised of mini-hydro projects. This represents less than 2 percent of the country’s energy matrix. Furthermore, almost all of the investment pre-dates the 2006 Renewable Energy law, which requires that by 2016, fully 8 percent of the energy matrix be derived from clean energy. This represents a legal requirement to have more than 3.000 MW of renewable energy operating in the next five years and will require no less than US$5.5 billion in investment.

Argentina has abundant unexploited wind resources, especially in the southern Patagonia region . Current installed capacity stands at 32 MW, though the Government is targeting 1.2 GW by 2016.

Despite ongoing difficulties with project financing and low electricity prices, certain provinces have introduced local tax incentives. The province of Chubut has approved legislative incentives designed to spur the build-out of an estimated 2.2-GW pipeline.

Argentina’s eastern plains and north western regions are ideal for solar PV development. However, only 10 MW of solar has been installed in Argentina to date, making it a huge untapped resource. The Government has set a target of generating 3.3 GW of solar power by 2020.

The growth of renewables in Argentina and around the world will come at the expense of fossil fuel usage. This will have economic benefits and it will advance climate change mitigation efforts.

Related
Moving Towards 100% Renewables in the US
Renewable Energy in Africa and the Middle East
The ABCs of Latin American Renewable Energy (Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica)
Asian Renewable Energy (China, India Japan, South Korea)
Australia Can Go 100% Renewable Due to Falling Costs
Canada Could Get All of Its Electricity from Renewables
Europe Moving Towards 100 percent Renewable Energy
Growth of Renewable Energy in 2015 and Beyond
One of the Best Years Ever for Renewable Energy in 2014
2014 Year End Review: Renewable Energy Achievements
Economic Benefits of Renewable Energy and Efficiency

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