The British appetite for renewable energy

The UK is lagging behind the rest of Europe in adopting renewable energy sources for electricity production. However, a few key players in the most active areas of wind, solar and geothermal could by entering international markets sooner rather than later could avoid the risks associated with fickle government policies and subsidies.

Ted Sarmiento of Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, working alongside Alexander Brem of Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Frank Muehlmann VEND Consulting GmbH suggest in a report published in the International Journal of Technology Marketing, that the UK is at a critical point in the development of renewable energy. Solar, wind, wave, hydroelectric, bio-energy, geothermal are a diverse group of technologies that seek to use natural phenomena to generate a sustainable electricity supply by avoiding the climate change issues of burning fossil fuels and the purported safety and public perception issues of nuclear power. Policy and market forces could ensure that the UK can guarantee energy security, meet its climate change targets on carbon emissions and prevent energy prices for consumers and industry from rising much higher.

“The current situation in the energy industry is characterised by a worldwide increase in the demand for energy,” the team explains. “At the beginning of the 20th century, worldwide energy consumption was less than 1 terawatt (1 TW equals 1 trillion Watts), while currently demand sits at around 11 TW and it is expected to rise to 28 TW by 2050.” The quadrupling of world population during that period is the main driving force, that and the industrialisation of emerging markets such as China, India and South America, as well as increasing mechanisation and the advent of consumer electronics.

As population rises and energy demands go up, the limited supply of fossil fuels is likely to be depleted within decades, the demand for renewable energy sources is reaching a critical point.

European Commission proposals published in 2008, demand that the UK achieve a 15% share of renewable energies within its overall energy use by 2020, although the UK government’s own targets are aiming for 20% by this time. However, although growth in the sector has been fairly rapid, many observers doubt that the UK will reach its renewable energy targets by 2020 without major policy changes. The planning system, for instance, repeatedly hinders the development of wind power. Nevertheless, the team’s survey of the market and companies within it suggest that wind power will be the main growth area in the UK.

The researchers’ data confirms that all sectors of renewable energies will grow, but the dynamic sectors of wind, solar and geothermal energy represent the most sensible options economically speaking because there are many issues to address with regards hydroelectric power and bioenergy.

“Marketing of new technologies: the case of renewable energies in the UK” in Int. J. Technology Marketing, 2011, 6, 162-177

The end of glaciers

A new analysis of climate change data and the effects of rising levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxides suggests that we are at the end of the period in Earth’s history during which icy glaciers form. The study further suggests that global average temperature might be as much as 5 degrees higher than it is today by the year 2100.

Writing in the International Journal of Global Warming, Wojciech Budzianowski of Wroc?aw University of Technology, in Poland, explains that the thermal response of the Earth’s climate to atmospheric greenhouse gases lags behind the rise in concentration of those gases, including carbon dioxide.

The atmospheric concentration of CO2 is increasing at the alarming rate of about 2 parts per million by volume per year. At the beginning of the industrial revolution levels were 220 ppmv, today they are around 390 ppmv, the highest they have been in Earth’s history for 15 million years. “It is likely that the increased content of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is one of the major causes of the differences between mean annual temperatures in the late 1800s and those existing today, i.e. about 0.8 degrees,” explains Budzianowski. He hopes to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms of global warming and to provide the necessary tools to usefully describe this complex phenomenon, something that is lacking in the current scientific literature.

From his analysis, Budzianowski points out that the self-oscillatory behaviour of past climates that see the periodic build-up and melting of large masses of glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic regions is no longer valid. The obvious cause being the sudden rise in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations that are a much larger thermal trigger than the reflectivity, or albedo, and heat capacity of the Earth or any fluctuations in heat and light from the sun reaching the planet. As such, there will be no build up of ice cover and glaciers in the future, so the cycle is broken.

“Earth is a dynamical system and global warming is a complex dynamical phenomenon. The current paper proposes basic directions in dynamic modelling of global warming that might be useful in projections of future climate evolution,” concludes Budzianowski.

“Time delay of global warming” in Int. J. Global Warming, 2011, 3, 3, 289-306


Bundling bandwidth wins broadband battle

Smart phones, tablet computers and mobile broadband have begun to shift the mobile communications industry into a new phase especially as global mobile data traffic had already exceed voice traffic by the end of 2009.

A new study published in the Int. J. Management and Network Economics reveals that the value of mobile spectrum, the capacity to transfer data across mobile networks, is only likely to increase as the demand for data transfer increases. However, it is only those telecommunications companies that bought up in government auctions the inexpensive licences to operate at particularly frequencies of the spectrum that will be in strong position to dominate in the consumer and enterprise markets as well as being in a position to lease bandwidth to their competitors at a high profit.

Jan Markendahl of the Royal Institute of Technology and Bengt G. Mölleryd of the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency in Stockholm have demonstrated that operators that are able to obtain more spectrum than their competitors, and pursue network sharing and spectrum aggregation have a competitive advantage as they have the lowest production cost, highest margin and highest capacity when usage takes off. Spectrum is much cheaper than the construction of new base stations, network towers, power, and site leases.

With the emergence of new radio technology that allows otherwise separate blocks of frequencies to be used as if they were a single block of bandwidth means will allow those operators who enable the so-called 3GPP standard to profit from the separate chunks of bandwidth they own. Similarly, the evolution of 4G technology and devices will also allow aggregation. Indeed, the mobile equipment manufacturers have already launched flexible radio equipment capable of handling all relevant frequencies and access technologies.

Data traffic across mobile networks in Sweden alone increased by more than 90% during 2010 compared to 2009, from 27,800 to 53,100 terabytes (TB). Similar increases are being experienced elsewhere. The figures are likely to rise even faster in coming years as more people opt for smartphones and the use of tablet computers becomes more widespread. Such operators are likely to benefit considerably from this growth.

The researchers point out that the level of data rates a company can offer will be pivotal for its marketing success in mobile broadband services. Even minor differences will be exploited to gain brand advantage and those operators who can best use the entire spectrum available to them will be able to beat their competitors on data speeds. As the technology evolves, the companies that bought up lots of separate chunks of spectrum in the cheap government sell-offs of bandwidth could gain the upper hand.

Jan Markendahl, & Bengt G. Mölleryd (2011). Mobile broadband expansion calls for more spectrum or more base stations: analysis of the value of spectrum and the role of spectrum aggregation Int. J. Management and Network Economics, 2 (2), 115-134 DOI: Mobile broadband expansion calls for more spectrum or more base stations: analysis of the value of spectrum and the role of spectrum aggregation