Wärtsilä Report Urges 100% Renewables Sooner, Uruguay Proves It Can Happen Now

With the COP26 conference in Glasgow coming soon, many climate and environmental groups are calling on nations to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. A new report from Wärtsilä entitled Front Loading New Zero claims that nations can adopt 100% renewable systems faster than currently planned.

It says significant cost reductions can be achieved by pre-installing the proliferation of renewable energy sources – mostly wind and solar – and by leveraging the technologies needed to balance their inherent intermittency with energy storage and thermal production stations. The report reveals that accelerating 100% renewable energy systems unleashes significant benefits:

  • Accelerating renewable energy sources to become the main source of electricity significantly reduces fossil fuel consumption, reducing electricity spending by 50% in India by 2050, while California and Germany can reduce costs by 17% and 8% by 2040, respectively.
  • Coal – currently 70% of production in India and 33% in Germany – can certainly be replaced by renewable energy sources combined with energy storage and thermal power as early as 2040.
  • Colossal CO2 savings can be made in the short term so that national climate goals can be achieved. Germany can avoid 422 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2040 by speeding up its carbon phase, helping it reach a 65% reduction target compared to 1990 levels by 2030. In addition, renewable energy sources would allow Germany to avoid the need to import 550 TWh of electricity by speeding up the phasing out of coal.

Wärtsilä CEO Håkan Agnevall explains: “As we approach COP26, ours Front-Loading Net Zero the report should act as a wake-up call for leaders as this is our last and best chance of getting countries on the road to CO2 neutrality. Our modeling shows that it is viable for energy systems to be completely decarbonised by 2050, and that accelerating the shift to renewable energy combined with flexibility will help economies thrive.

“We have all the technologies we need to quickly switch to net-zero energy. The benefits of sustainably managed systems are cumulative and self-reinforcing — the more we have, the greater the benefits — so it’s crucial that executives and power producers come together now to frontload zero-zero this decade. ”

Sushil Purohit, Chairman of Wärtsilä Energy, adds: “There is no single solution that fits all markets, and this report highlights the different avenues and technologies that can be used. However, the ultimate goal is common to all, and that is to decarbonize energy production and take full advantage of our natural energy sources. ”

Uruguay shows the way

In 2007, Uruguay had to rely on electricity imported from neighbors such as Brazil and Argentina. That was when it decided to invest heavily in wind turbines. Within 10 years, it had 4,000 MW of installed capacity. Today, 98% of the electricity to its 3.4 million inhabitants comes from renewable energy sources, including hydropower. This is a nation that a recent former president of the United States liked to refer to as a “shit country.”

Since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Uruguay has surprised its South American neighbors with its growing list of environmental successes, including preserving native forests, protecting biodiversity, and making remarkable progress toward a 2030 CO2-neutral pledge.

To transform its energy landscape, from 2005 to 2020, the Frente Amplio, or FA, Uruguay’s ruling party recognized the reality of a country that relies on importing fossil fuels while living in an ideal location for solar, wind and hydraulic power generation. So far, the FA’s vision for an inclusive, people-oriented strategy for energy transformation has shown not only remarkable promises, but results. Throughout Uruguay, there is a strong emphasis on local energy production, especially rural solar energy, which focuses on rural schools and churches far from the grid, as well as hospitals, hotels, sports clubs and new public buildings.

With its gently undulating landscape, higher than average year-round sunshine and hundreds of miles of ocean and river coastline, Uruguay has world-class space to implement energy alternatives. In addition, the country has identified significant opportunities to produce energy from biomass produced by the agricultural industry.

Other progressive energy projects include the country’s push towards a network of “electric highways” beginning with the coastal road connecting Colonia and Punta Este, two popular tourist towns. A network of electricity charges will eventually be available throughout the country. While these projects are impressive, it is the country’s creation of major energy infrastructure changes that has had the greatest impact.

According to Earth Island Journalin the decade leading up to 2017, forward-looking policies and projects made Uruguay the world leader in wind power — along with Denmark, Ireland, and Germany — with more than a third of its electricity from wind farms. By adding hydropower production to the mix, emissions in the country have fallen about 20 percent from their peak in 2012.

How this happened is worth noting. The country’s willingness to use solar energy as an alternative is reflected in the country’s solar food mandate, established in 2009 by the Solar Thermal Act, with further provisions passed in 2011. The law says that after 2014, all new construction and renovation of public buildings, hotels, health and sports facilities , where hot water is expected to account for more than 20 percent of the building’s energy consumption, must obtain at least 50 percent of the water heat energy from solar heat energy. After 2012, heated pools were to use solar heat unless they used another renewable energy source.

“Uruguay’s energy policy has focused heavily on renewable energy with the ambitious goal of incorporating them in the short term and providing attractive tax benefits for this purpose,” said Fernanda Panizza, Biz Latin Hub’s national coordinator and corporate lawyer, advising both foreign and national business stakeholders. “Uruguay offers not only a favorable business environment,” she notes, “but also great social stability and significant fiscal investment incentives.”

A new political order

While Uruguay has made remarkable progress in expanding its renewable energy infrastructure, the country’s pioneering energy initiatives now face a new challenge from a ruling party with more conservative views and a new president, Luis Lacalle Pou.

World analyst Frida Ghitis, who has covered political and social issues in the region for over a decade, believes there is good reason to look for the continued positive path for Uruguay’s progressive energy policy. “My feeling is that Uruguay’s commitment to renewable energy is so deep that it exceeds the left / right divide,” she said. “I do not foresee that the center-right administration in Uruguay will go back to progress towards green energy.”

For more perspective on how renewable energy has been embedded in the culture of Uruguay, please take the time to review DW video below, especially with regard to concerns that wind turbines would disrupt cows and disrupt their milk production. The result? The cows were not at all aware of the mills. It would be wonderful if more people could do the same.

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