Critical comments on Energy (R)evolution; A Sustainable Australian Energy Outlook.    By Greenpeace, 2008.

Ted Trainer

8.8.11

(This discussion overlaps considerably with the critique of the 2011 IPCC Working Group 3 report on renewable energy.  Its Chapter 10 relies heavily on this Greenpeace document.)

This Report (see footnote re versions) aligns with a number of other recent impressive looking documents in asserting that greenhouse and energy problems can be more or less solved by shifting to renewable energy.  (e.g., ZCB, 2030, ZCA, 2010, Jacobson and Delluci, 2011a, 2011b, Solvacool and Watts, 2009,  WWF, 2010) It concludes that by 2050 70% of electricity can come from renewables, and 50% of all primary energy. 

Following is a brief indication of the reasons for concluding that this Report makes almost no useful contribution to the assessment of the potential and limits of renewable energy and is seriously misleading in claiming conclusions that have not been established. 

The fundamental fault; The conclusion is assumed not established.

The main problem is that the document does little more than state or present an imagined 2050 “scenario”. The key conclusions are not derived.  They are not conclusions which can be seen to follow from premises, via a logic that can be examined and evaluated. Almost no reasons are given to establish that the claimed 2050 pattern of energy supply can be achieved.  It is not shown how the required quantities of renewable energy could be provided, or that it is possible to provide

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Footnote on  Versions.

There are different versions of the Greenpeace report. This discussion focuses on Teske, S., et al., (2008),   Energy (R)evolution; A sustainable Energy Future, Greenpeace and European Renewable Energy Council.  This  updates a 2007 version. There is a version entitled, Advanced Energy (R)evolution; A Sustainable Energy Outlook for South Africa.  An academic version is said to update the case;   S. Teske,T. Pregger, S. Simon, T. Naegler, W. Graus, and C. Lins,  (2010),“Energy [R]evolution 2010—a sustainable world energy outlook,”  Energy Efficiency, 41 -433.  All these are presentations of the same basic same argument. 

The 2010 paper is more detailed than the popular versions, containing valuable discussion of evidence on biomass.  However its logic is quite puzzling.  After much detail on biomass it skips to global energy conclusions with no consideration of wind, PV or solar thermal resources, or any of the crucial integration and storage difficulties associated with renewable energy.

them.  Most importantly, there are several major problems involved in large scale renewable energy supply which are not considered at all.  One consequence is that the claimed costs of the transition appear to be gross underestimates.

It is not just that the Report does not contribute of significance to inquiry into the extremely important issue of the potential and limits of renewable energy.  It reinforces the overwhelmingly dominant conviction that greenhouse and energy problems can easily be solved by moving to renewables, at an easily affordable cost.  It therefore reduces the probability that consideration will be given to what I regard as the situation we are in; i.e., generating global problems can’t be solved without abandoning the quest for affluent “living standards” and economic growth.

In my view there is a substantial case that renewable energy sources cannot sustain consumer-capitalist society. (See Trainer, 2007, 2010a, 2011a,and for critical rejections of some influential claims that energy-intensive societies can be run on renewables see Trainer, 2011b, 2011c, 2011 d)  It is of the utmost importance that we try to work out whether renewable can or can’t  sustain energy-intensive societies.  If they can’t then we must face up to extreme social difficulties and changes.  This report reinforces the general failure/refusal to think about the possibility that such challenges should be considered.

 It is quite disturbing that the 2011 1000 page IPCC Working Group 3 report on renewable energy (IPCC, 2011), relies heavily on this Greenpeace report.  Chapter 10 of the IPCC report selects four studies for special attention and this is by far the most optimistic of the four, claiming renewable could provide almost twice the amount that the next most optimistic of the four claims.  The IPCC Report is being quoted as showing that renewable could provide almost 80% of world energy by 2050, when the IPCC does not show this and merely restates this Greenpeace claim. (A detailed critique of the IPCC report, similar to this one, is at .)  It is therefore important that critical attention should be given to the worth of the Greenpeace report.

Minor Problems.

Š      The report makes its task easier by assuming a relatively low “business as usual” 2050 supply target.  This quantity is considerably lower than that which the IEA 2008 and ABARE, 2009 expect, and lower than the average evident in the many studies reported in the IPCC, 2011, Chapter 1, p.10.  This is acknowledged at the end of the Report but almost no justification is given, (other than to do with mining energy where the Report’s position is reasonable although impossible to assess.) 

The GFC has complicated estimation, but rates prior to it indicate that world energy demand under business-as-usual could approximately double by 2050. (Moriarty and Honnery, 2009.)  Teske refers to the IEA (2008) estimate for 2030 BAU demand, and correctly points out that this indicates a 95% increase by 2050; i.e., virtually a doubling.   If the ABARE anticipated energy use growth rates are taken (c.2.3 p.a. now but 1/.9% p.a. in future) Australian energy consumption in 2050 would probably be over twice the present amount.  However the Energy (R)evolution assumes only a 60% increase in “business as usual” demand, to 800 EJ of primary energy. This makes the amount of energy it has to explain as being achievable from for renewable considerably lower than it seems it should be, i.e., possibly 1000 EJ/y.

Š      Then a large reduction in this supply target due to conservation and energy efficiency effort is assumed, 47%, but although relevant issues are considered it is not shown that such a reduction is plausible.

The energy literature on the issue of probable reductions due to conservation and efficiency effort seems to rule out a confident general conclusion. A one-third reduction from BAU seems to be most commonly assumed. 

I think the Report is right to assume only a one-third reduction in transport energy achieved by shifting to electric vehicles. Often 75-80% reductions are claimed, but this typically only refers to battery to wheels processes and do not include getting the energy from wind farm and into the battery, let alone embodied energy costs.  However the Report assumes that most or all vehicles can be electrified, whereas this seems plausible only for light vehicles, some 60% of transport energy.

The main problem is that their reduction is based on assumed “learning curves” and figurers for the energy intensity of the economy. (See Teske, 2010.)  This (common)  approach is at least highly challengeable, and the Greenpeace application involves a serious mistake.  The typical procedure is to take a previous, related reduction rate (“learning curve”) and apply it to the factor under discussion, and then extrapolate it far into the future, in this case 40+ years.  Greenpeace states that it has taken a higher rate than that assumed by ABARE, and while reasons are given, these do not show that the resulting rate is a sound assumption. 

There can be little confidence in the assumption that past or present rates for indices to do with energy will continue, let alone for 40 years. Some of the technologies that will be involved, such as very large scale solar thermal plant, have not been built in any form, let alone are established and subject to refinement and mass production.  The learning curve concept is more appropriately applied to relatively maturate technologies.  Many unknowns can arise in 40 years; one wonders what the expected “learning curves” were for faster-than-sound air passenger flight before Concorde settled the issue.

Most importantly, scarcities, difficulties, costs and unforeseen events regarding all aspects of energy and resource supply and ecological impacts will surely accelerate from here on, with complex negative feedback impacts and multiplying effects.  Most if not all learning curves available come from an era in which resource costs were probably at their historically lowest points. The capital costs for some renewable energy technologies have increased recently and although this trend is likely to swing back in the near future it represents the beginning of a longer term change.

The analysis also makes the mistake of assuming that the OECD decline in the “energy intensity” of the economy can be taken as indicative of the future/continued global trend. (Teske, et al., 2010.)  There are a number of reasons why the rich country figure is misleadingly low, most obviously because in recent decades these countries have moved strongly out of energy-intensive activities.  They now import energy intensive manufactures, resources, and machinery from the Third World (while criticising China for its heavy coal use), and the energy cost involved in the consumption of these goods does not appear in their energy budgets. (See further in Trainer, 2010c.)

“Technically potential” quantities of renewable energy are focused on.  Other renewable enthusiasts do this,(e.g., Jacobson and Delucci, 2011a, and the IPCC, 2011) giving the impression that the often very large numbers show that a huge renewable energy supply is available.  However these estimates are almost irrelevant.  What matters is how much of this “energy-out-there-somewhere” can be harvested, how much should be harvested when other values such as ecological impacts are taken into account, at what cost, and with what reliability given the major problem of intermittency.  For instance the “Technical potential” of PV panels is thousands of times greater than total human energy use, but for sixteen hours even on a sunny day they can provide no energy at all.  Similarly the often quoted estimate of global biomass potential, 1548 EJ/y (Smeets and Faiij, 2007) can appear to be very reassuring...until it is pointed out that this quantity is equal to the total biomass growth of the entire planet and tells us nothing about what proportion of, it we could or should take.  (Teske, et al., 2010 do discuss the fact that “technical potential” can be far greater than realisable supply, noting the huge range in estimates of achievable biomass energy.  They do not mention that Field, Campbell and Lobel, 2007, arrive at a quantity that is 2% of that given by Smeets and Faiij.)

Š      The Report says under its scenario no coal will be used after 2030.  It is not explained what will replace it.  It is claimed that by then renewable will be providing only 50% of electricity.  Greenpeace explicitly rules out use of nuclear energy.  It is not explained from where else we are going to get energy more or less equivalent to three times present world electricity production (even taking their probably too low conclusions re the amount of final energy needed.)

Major issues not considered.

Often optimistic Reports making claims re the potential of renewable energy appear to be plausible mainly because they have not discussed the difficulties.  There are a number of issues of major significance in limiting the potential of renewable energy supply that are not discussed at all in any version of the Report.

The mistake of focusing on averages.

As is also typical of optimistic pronouncements on renewable energy the Energy (R)evolution report only discusses in terms of annual or average demand and supply, whereas what matters  much more are the figures for maximum demand, e.g., peak quantities, and for minimum renewable resource availability.  Firstly, in order to meet peak demand up to 1.5 times as much generating plant might have to be built as would meet average demand.  Secondly the crucial problems for renewable supply are set by winter.  Winds are stronger then but solar resources are at their weakest.  Central receiver output at the best US sites averages around 50% of summer output (NREL, 2010.)  (For troughs the ratio is around ¼ or worse.)

More importantly still, in a winter month there is significant variation in solar radiation around the average for that month.  The climate data from NASA (2010) shows that radiation across a particular winter month can average 40% below the long term average for that month, meaning that for much of the month it would be well below 40% of average for that month.  A renewable energy supply system to meet a large fraction of demand would have to have the surplus capacity to meet peak winter demand when solar radiation was around half the winter average. Combining these two factors more than doubles the amount of capacity that appears to be required when calculations are based on average demand and average radiation levels.  This factor has huge implications for costing, because it means that a renewable system needs far more overlapping or redundant plant that might at first have been thought.  I am not aware of any optimistic reports on renewables that discuss other than in annual or average terms, or discuss the winter problem.

            The problem of the big gaps.

However there is a much bigger problem. The greatest challenges set by variability of wind and sun concerns the gaps of several days in a row when there might be no solar or wind energy available across large regions, including continents.  Following are cases from the studies documenting the magnitude and seriousness of these common events.

Š      Lenzen’s review (2009) includes impressive graphs from Oswald et al, (2008) and Soder et al., (2007).  The first shows wind energy availability over the whole of Ireland, UK and Germany for the first 300 hours of 2006, i,.e., in mid winter, the best time of the year for wind energy.  For half this time there was almost no wind input in any of these countries, with capacity factors averaging  around 6%.  For about 120 continuous hours UK capacity averaged about 3%.  During this period UK electricity demand reached its peak high for the year, at a point in time when wind input was zero.

Š      Soder et al. provide a similar plot for West Denmark in mid winter, again one of the best wind regions in the inhabited world.  For two periods, one of  2 and one of about 2.5 days, there was no wind input at all, and in all there were about 8 days with almost no contribution from wind energy. 

Š      Lenzen’s third plot is for the whole of Germany, again showing hardly any wind input for several days in a row. (See also E.On Netz, 2004.) 

Š      Davey Coppin (2003) make the same point for Australia with its much more favourable wind resources than Germany, for instance indicating that for 20% of the time a wind system integrated across 1500 km from Adelaide to Brisbane would be operating at under 8% of peak capacity. 

Š      Mackay (2008, p. 189) reports data from Ireland between Oct. 2006 and Feb. 2007, showing a 15 day lull over the whole country.  For 5 days output from wind turbines was 5% of capacity and fell to 2% on one day. 

Š      Similar documentation on lengthy gaps is given by Coelingh, 1999, Fig. 7, Sharman 2005. 

Clearly these lengthy periods of calm are not rare and of minor significance.  For several days in a winter month in good wind regions there would have to be almost total reliance on some other source.  The savage capital cost implications of having a back up system capable of substituting for just about all wind capacity (noted by Lenzen, 2009) are rarely focused on.  Note also that in the above mid winter cases there would also have been negligible solar input.

            No discussion of integration limits.

Lenzen’s review (2009, p.19) repeats the generally understood conclusion that wind cannot contribute more than 25%, probably 20% of electricity required, before integrating this highly variable source into systems which must deliver precise and relatively stable amounts of power becomes too difficult.  Lenzen believes the limit for PV might be some what higher, but this is questionable.  ( A system in which storage enabled PV to continually contribute 30% of annual demand would be generating about 150% of demand in the middle of a summer day, requiring one-third of its output to be dumped even if all other generating systems were idled, because peak PV output is about 5 times as high as its 24 hr continuous average.)

At best this means wind plus PV might contribute only 55% of electricity, i.e., only 14% of all energy.  The Report does not deal with the question of from which sources the other 86% is to come. (Economies could be radically restructured to use much more electricity, but this would probably reduce the proportion intermittent sources could contribute, and set other significant challenges, most obviously regarding storage.)

            No discussion of the storage problem.

The Report’s claims could not be achieved without very large scale capacity to store electricity.  This does not exist and the research underway does not indicate that the problem will be solved.  That can’t be ruled out but there do not seem to be options in the labs capable of being refined or scaled up to the required very great magnitudes. (For a critical evaluation of the most promising options see Trainer, 2011a, Section.)  

The capacity of solar thermal systems to store heat is sometimes claimed to be the solution.  They are being planned to have 17 hr storage but if a solar thermal power station was to be capable of maintaining supply through four cloudy days it would need 96 hour storage.  This would probably cost about as much as another power station, according to the figures from IEA, 2008, and NREL (Solar Advisory Model) 2010.  If the solar thermal sector’s storage capacity was to be large enough to meet total system electricity demand through four days in which there was no wind or PV contribution even that storage capacity would have to be multiplied several times.

The problematic biomass potential.

There is detailed discussion of biomass potential in the 2010 version, where it is concluded that 92 - 184 EJ/y might be produced.  This is a valuable review of studies but it explicitly makes the point that estimates of possible yield vary enormously, for instance as noted above with Smeets and Faiij saying 1548 EJ/y, and Field, Campbell and Lobel saying 27 EJ/y.  A great deal depends on assumptions, especially regarding acceptable impacts on land, water, biodiversity and existing uses.  If cautious assumptions are made amounts thought to be accessible are quite low. 

The upper estimate Greenpeace is below the average estimate (i.e., 250 EJ/y) reported by the IPCC, (2011), but is in my view quite challengeable for the following reasons.

Š      There is already great pressure on most of the land on the planet, and it is commonly accepted that food production will have to double.  Normal economic growth will deliver an economy in which there is four times as much  producing and consuming going on in 2050 as there is now, with corresponding increases in resource demand.  Rising energy costs will tend to move demand for structural materials from steel, aluminium and cement to timber.  Three billion more people, mostly in poor countries will greatly increase demand for land and its products.  Thus the demand for land to produce other than biomass energy will probably greatly intensify.

Š      The report notes that water is a problem for very large scale biomass production.  Large quantities would be removed from ecosystems in the biomass. 

Š      Large quantities of soil nutrients and especially carbon would be removed.  Developed countries have suffered long term deterioration in soil carbon levels.  Patzek (2007) argues that over the long run no carbon should be removed because if it is soils inevitably deteriorate.  If the answer is to capture the carbon after extracting energy and return it via biochar, we would need reliable figures on the percentage that can realistically be transported back to where it came from, at what cost, especially at what plant capital cost.

Š      The biodiversity effects are probably the most disturbing.  The holocaust of species extinction humans are now causing is primarily due to the fact that we are taking so much natural habitat.   Humans take 40% of the land NNP.  (Vitousek, 1986.) Obviously we should be returning vast areas to natural habitat, not taking more.

Š      The IPCC (2011) says that 80% of the present 50 EJ/y global harvest of biomass energy is “traditional use” by tribal and peasant people.  This is labelled “inefficient” use and the IPCC anticipates shifting this land to the much more productive ways characteristic of modern biomass energy systems.  That area is likely to correspond to 750 million ha.  But this land provides crucial services sustaining the lives, livelihoods, ecosystems and communities of the poorest billions of people on earth, the building materials, food, medicines, hunting, animal fodder, water, products to sell, traditions, social networks...  The greatest onslaught of the global economy on the poorest billion is precisely the taking of the land on which they depend for life. To move this land into modern “efficient” production would inevitably be to transfer the resource from the poor to the rich, if only because the operation would be governed by “market forces”.  When markets are allowed to determine distribution the rich get the scarce goods because they can pay more.  The economies determining the use of those lands now are “subsistence” economies, largely governed by social rules and traditions and not by market forces or profit.  To move these lands into the market would be to eliminate the processes which ensure that the poor majority benefit from them.

It is therefore anything but clear how much biomass energy we should attempt to produce, but it would seem that the figure would be a small fraction of the 250 EJ/y the IPCC reports as the average of the estimates made.  In addition the common biomass yield per ha assumption of 13 t/ha/y, made by the IPCC is unrealistic.  It is easily achieved in good conditions, such as willows on cropland, and adequate irrigation and fertilizer applications, but very large scale biomass energy will have to use large areas of marginal and/or damaged land.  World average forest growth is around 2-3 t/ha/y.  A more biomass-energy realistic yield figure might be 7 t/ha/y.  At such a yield 250 EJ/y would require 2 billion ha, an extremely unrealistic figure.

Easily overlooked is the fact that 250 EJ/y of primary biomass energy will only yield about 80-100 EJ/y of ethanol, and an even lower quantity of electrical energy. (El Bassam, 1998, reports the average efficiency of biomass electricity generation in the US at 18%.   nThe average of four estimates given by the IPCC inAnnex 111 is 28%.)  If the mid point in the Greenpeace estimate is taken, 134 EJ/y, this corresponds to only about 45 EJ/y of ethanol. Given that world energy demand is heading towards 800-1000 EJ/y by 2050, 45 EJ/y would not go far towards enabling total demand to be met by renewables, or to plug gaps left when there is no wind or sun.

Embodied energy costs.

No reference is made to the embodied energy costs of building renewable plant.  There have been few studies of this topic, and confident conclusions cannot be draw.  Lenzen points out that studies to date typically take into account only the energy cost of fabrication plus materials and do not include the “upstream” energy costs of, for instance producing the steel works that makes the steel.  The energy cost of PV modules is commonly taken as c 3-5% of lifetime output but Lenzen, Hardy and Bilek, (2006), report that when a thorough accounting is carried out the real cost is actually 30% of lifetime output.  (This issue still seems to be in urgent need of resolution.)  In general it seems that around 10% of lifetime output of renewable plant should be deducted to pay the energy cost of its production.  (Dey and Lenzen, 1999.) 

            Long distance transmission lines.

If renewable energy is to meet a large proportion of world demand there will have to be very large scale PV and solar thermal plant located in the world’s deserts, especially to meet winter demand.  (Mackay shows that Europe cannot draw heavily on renewable unless North Africa is the major source.)  This means hundreds of transmission lines running thousands of kilometres, some of them under the Mediterranean Sea.  Both their dollar and embodied energy costs need to be included in realistic cost analyses.  One line would be needed for each three 1000 MW solar thermal or PV farms.  Czisch (2004) estimates these would add 33% to solar thermal electricity supply costs. In addition perhaps 15% of energy generated would be lost in transmission not including losses in local distribution.) 

Most of the load would have to be taken by solar thermal sources as PV provides no energy for most of the sunny day.  This would impose another possibly 7% energy loss associated with the air cooling of turbines in deserts where water is scarce. (IEA, 2008.)  Adding transmission, embodied and cooling energy costs reduces energy delivered at distance to about 70% of energy generated.

The Greenpeace report does not discuss these issues.

            Costing.

If renewable energy is to provide a high proportion of world energy the load will have to be taken mostly by solar thermal sources (because of their heat storage capacity), so the estimation of its future costs is centrally important.  The reduction in future costs the Report anticipates, by 50% by 2050 for US and European projects, aligns with the IEA estimate and the three other estimates given in the review by Hearps and McConnell, (2011), but the beginning point, the 2010 cost stated does not.  It is one-third the average given by NREL (2010) for its three example central receiver cases.  The present PV cost is 60% of the cost Lenzen’s review states.  Hearps and McConnell (2011) report that Australian solar thermal capital cost will only fall by 35%, not 50%.  This means that capital cost for Australian solar thermal projects in 2050 would be 4 times as great as the Greenpeace figure.

The Report says that the investment cost for the renewable plant required (to provide half world energy) would be $14.7 trillion for the period to 2030, i.e., $735 billion pa.  (It is assumed here that this is meant to be the cost of the required system, not just that fraction of the cost incurred up to 2030.)  Following is a crude indication of why the costs are likely to be far higher than this.

Assume a 1 square metre PV panel at .15 solar-to-electricity efficiency and therefore 150 W peak, at a future cost of $3/W, (which is 43% of the present cost according to Lenzen’s review, 2009), so $450 per metre, at a site where annual (global) average solar radiation is 7.5 kWh/m2/day.  It would generate 1.125 kWh/d, corresponding to a flow of 41 W/m2, and 1.478 GJ/y.  $14.7 trillion would buy 32.7 billion square metres of these panels, and this would generate 48 EJ/y...which is only about 16% of the Greenpeace EJ/y (final) target, let alone the probably 420 EJ/y (final) business as usual target. (Taking into account their 184 EJ/y maximum biomass claim would lift the PV achievement to 41% of the Greenpeace target.

Trainer (2010) attempts to estimate the capital cost of a world energy supply from wind, PV and solar thermal from renewable sources, using expected future costs.   The ratio of annual energy investment to GDP for 2050 was found to be c. 10 times the present ratio.

Note that many significant cost factors have not been included in this indicative sketch of the magnitude of the investment cost, including the cost of the long distance transmission lines from deserts, and the operations and management costs. To maintain supply in winter, during a peak demand period, twice as much collection area would be needed.  The derivation does not take into account the fact that for a whole winter month solar energy can average 40% below the norm for that month.  Nor does the exercise deal with the need to store huge amounts of energy. (Trainer 2010 does not include the cost of the biomass component.)  Whatever cost all this comes to, the interest cost on borrowing the capital to build the plant would probably multiply the sum by 1.75. 

Even if the Greenpeace target was achieved this would not solve the greenhouse problem.

The Report claims that its proposals would reduce global CO2 emissions from 23 GT/y to 11.5 GT/y. (The claim in the Advanced Energy (R)evolution is 3.7 GT/y,  based on even bigger and more problematic assumptions, again without showing that this goal can be achieved.)  This would still leave a catastrophic greenhouse situation. 

The IPCC (2011, Chapter 1, Fig. .) shows CO2e emissions heading towards 65 Gt/y by 2050. Even if the Greenpeace goal of a 50% reduction could be achieved this would seem to leave us at over 30 Gt/y, not at 11.5 Gt/y.  In other words, it is difficult to see how even if the (disputable) Greenpeace target could be achieved we would be in anything but a catastrophic situation.

Global population is now expected to reach 10 billion. A target of 11.5 Gt/y would mean an average global per capita emission rate of 1.15 t/y, but that is about 5% of the present Australian rate.  However the report says that when its goals are achieved Australian per capita emission will fall to 4.8 t/person.   If 10 billion were to have such an emission rate global emissions would be around twice their present aggregate. 

Similarly, the Greenpeace goal of a world energy supply of 350 EJ/y would be a per capita amount of 35 GJ...which is less than 10% of the per capita amount Australians are heading for by 2050.  Clearly the focal figure should be a global target likely to provide for 10 billion living in consumer-capitalist societies, given that Australia is already close to 300 GJ/y.  Thus a plausible global target figure would be in the region of four times the 800 EJ/y this report assumes for ‘business as usual” in 2050.  Either believers such as Greenpeace should explain how perhaps 3000+ EJ/y of primary energy can be provided by renewables, or agree with the Simpler Way claim that the only sensible option is for us to move to social forms enabling enormous reduction in present rich country per capita energy consumption.

It is likely that in the near future, when previously omitted feed back mechanisms are taken into account by the IPCC, it will be generally agreed that all emissions must be eliminated by 2050.( Hansen, 2008, Meinshausen, et al, 2009.)

Conclusions.

Unless the above points can be shown to be seriously mistaken this Report must be judged as making no useful contribution to the crucial question of what the potential and limits of renewable energy supply actually are.  It does little more than assert an answer.  It does not present or argue a case which can be worked through to see whether it is valid and convincing, i.e., whether its numerical conclusions follow from its numerical assumptions and reasoning, and whether all relevant issues and difficulties have been adequately dealt with.  It does not even attempt to show that the required quantities can be provided.  The few assumptions that are made clear are in general highly challengeable.  Most importantly there are several crucial issues and problems concerning renewable that are not addressed, and the above discussion has indicated why some of these appear to contradict the report’s claims. 

Not only does the document fail to contribute to the determination of the potential and limits of renewable energy, it reinforces the generally dominant faith that renewables can sustain affluent consumer societies obsessed with limitless economic growth, and that there is no need to think about radical change.

The critical case outlined above should not be taken as an argument against shifting to dependence on renewable energy.  It is a restatement of the view that energy intensive consumer capitalist societies cannot be run on renewable.  The Simpler Way project seeks to persuade that a very satisfactory society enabling a higher quality of life for all could be based entirely on renewable energy, but only if huge and radical change from capitalist-consumer society is achieved, above all involving abandoning the quest for affluence and growth.  For the detail see Trainer, 2010b, and 2011.

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