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08.07.2019

RENEWABLES vs NUCLEAR

On 4 July 2019 a public debate on the topic of the roles of renewable energy and nuclear power was organised by the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, in preparation of the 18th World Wind Energy Conference 2019 (WWEC2019), which would take place in Rio de Janeiro in November 2019. The pre-event has started the debate on the integration of available energy sources and how to optimise synergies. The crucial question will be how Brazil, being blessed with an abundance of renewable resources, can make best use of the technologies in its national energy mix. 

Experts from Brazil, Germany, Japan and Ukraine discussed the future energy supply system together with more than 200 participants in light of the climate crisis, environmental pollution and a strong increase in energy demand in countries like Brazil. There was broad consensus amongst all speakers and participants that wind and solar energy are today the cheapest energy sources, in particular in Brazil. This finding is also supported by recent international reports e.g. by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

A controversial discussion arose about the potential role of nuclear power. International energy experts from Japan and Ukraine reported first hand from the experience with nuclear disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima and their devastating consequences, with hundreds of thousands of victims. Andriy Konechenkov, Chairman of UWEA Board, from Ukraine highlighted the new prospects for its country thanks to the new government’s focus on renewable energy, Tetsunari Iida form Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, Japan, referred also to the public opinion in Japan with today very low approval rates for nuclear power.

The concept of baseload power was questioned as obsolete in an energy system with a high share of variable energy sources such as wind and solar, which require complementary and flexible solutions, such as storage or renewable backup solutions, including hydropower or bioenergy. Experts agreed that nuclear power is today one of the costliest energy sources which also requires long planning periods.

Everaldo Feitosa, WWEC2019 Chairperson: “The Northeast of Brazil with a population of 40 million of inhabitants will be the edge for the 100% renewable target. Today, the average wind contribution is approximately 50%, but there are times when already 100 % of the regional power demand is met by wind alone. However, the old fashioned and inappropriate concept of “base load” using thermal or nuclear is still present in people’s mind. But as the cost of wind and solar are the lowest in the world, the hidden renewable revolution is winning this struggle. The WWEC2019 in Rio will accordingly be a very productive event in showing the international positive experiences and to introduce the target of 100% renewable energy in Brazil and the whole region.”

Stefan Gsänger, WWEA Secretary General: “Brazil is blessed with renewable energy in all its forms, and has already a very high renewable share in many sectors making it easy to come to a 100% renewable energy supply which will represent the new normal around the world. However, the new paradigm of flexible generation will require new approaches, e.g. that the hydropower installations in Brazil add flexibility, at the same time making inflexible nuclear power an obsolete option. We look forward to discussing technical and socioeconomic solutions in detail during our forthcoming WWEC2019.” 

Andriy Konechenkov, WWEA Vice-President, Chairman of the UWEA Board:

The example of development of the Brazilian electricity sector based on renewable energy sources proves once again that such a large country with a population of 214.6 million people, could reach 100% renewables if it uses local, environmentally friendly resources rationally. The cheapness of wind and solar power in Brazil is resulting from strict local component requirements combined with strong financial support from the national government”.

Photos by Heudes Regis