Natural gas vs renewables: is co-existence possible?

Photo: Natural gas vs renewables: is co-existence possible?  / Oil&Gas

Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 11

By Aygun Badalova - Trend:

Natural gas and renewable energy industries are often viewed as competitors. Some say that natural gas can be soon beaten out from its third place in the world energy mix. According to the International Energy Agency's (IEA), natural gas has a 21-percent share in the global primary energy mix, behind oil and coal.

Global gas demand was estimated at 3,427 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2012, up 2 percent from 2011 levels. Gas demand has increased by around 800 bcm over the last decade, or 2.8 percent per year.

Another opinion is that natural gas will keep its important role in the global energy mix for a long time and will not be replaced.

What are the main advantages of natural gas over other types of fuel? There is an assertion that it is truly an ideal energy source - besides the fact that it is abundant and increasingly accessible, it has such characteristics as one of the cleanest, safest and most useful of all energy resources.

Natural gas is traditionally consumed in the residential and commercial sectors, mostly for heating, in the industrial and power sectors. So natural gas offers significant economic and environmental benefits.

It is also a fact that natural gas offers a number of significant environmental benefits in comparison with other fossil fuels. Gas, which is a lower-carbon and the cleanest burning fuel, contributes to lowering CO2 emissions.

In spite of all these beneficial characteristics of natural gas, the world is keen to develop alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal and others. What is the reason for such interest? The word renewable - that is the main sense.

According to the IEA, the worldwide proven gas reserves are estimated at around 190 trillion cubic metres (tcm). There are also recoverable gas resources, which are the volumes that analysts are confident will be discovered or technology developed to produce them, and they are much larger, with recoverable conventional resources estimated at around 400 tcm. Altogether, this would last around 220 years, based on current rates of gas consumption, the IEA says.

Nevertheless, gas remains a non-renewable source, and in any event it is limited and will be depleted one day. That is the main problem not of the gas, but of all fossil fuels.

For the countries of the European Union the development of renewable energy is very important from several points. First, the EU is highly dependent on fossils fuel, and keeping this dependence in the future threatens the EU's "security of supply" and "sustainable energy" goals. And the second is that the strong development of renewable energy is an important condition for the EU to move towards a low-carbon economy.

In 2009 the EU adopted the Renewable Energy Directive, which sets binding targets for renewable energy and focuses on achieving a 20-percent share of renewable energy in the EU overall energy consumption by 2020.

The latest available Eurostat data suggests that the EU and most member states are currently on track to achieve the 2020 targets.

According to statistics, provided by the Energy Department of the European Commission to Trend, the EU renewable energy share was 12.7 percent in 2010.

With the progress that have been already made, the EU believes that it can expect the renewable energy industry to be a thriving, mature and globally competitive one in the lead up to 2020 and beyond.

Analyzing all characteristics of the natural gas and alternative energy sources we can say that both industries have advantages and disadvantages. Among the main disadvantages of alternative energy sources is that this industry mostly depends on weather for its source of power: hydro generators need rain, wind turbines need wind, and solar collectors need sunshine. Inappropriate weather conditions, which are unpredictable and inconsistent make impossible to make energy from these sources.

For now natural gas is available energy source, and as previously mentioned, these available volumes of gas will be sufficient, according to the forecasts, for more than 200 years, while the alternative energy industry is just developing. But the finding a balance between the usage of non-renewable natural gas and renewable alternative energy sources will be a good solution for the asfuture.

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