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Issue 12, 2018
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Historical and projected improvements in net energy performance of power generation technologies

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Abstract

Renewable energy technologies are a key lever to mitigate climate change. However, net energy analyses showing low energy returns on energy invested (EROIs) for these technologies raise the question of whether current prosperity can be maintained with an increasingly renewables-dependent energy sector. Here we argue that static net energy analyses disregard the inherent potential to improve technologies through innovation. We present energetic experience curves for power generation technologies utilizing hard coal, solar irradiation, and wind, and show that EROI of new technologies improves as more capacity is installed. By 2015, solar PV and onshore wind were already outperforming coal, with further improvements to be expected. Therefore, concerns that a large-scale transition to renewable energy sources jeopardizes societal net energy efficiency and prosperity seem unfounded.

Graphical abstract: Historical and projected improvements in net energy performance of power generation technologies

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Publication details

The article was received on 26 Apr 2018, accepted on 25 Oct 2018 and first published on 25 Oct 2018


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C8EE01231H
Citation: Energy Environ. Sci., 2018,11, 3524-3530

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    Historical and projected improvements in net energy performance of power generation technologies

    B. Steffen, D. Hischier and T. S. Schmidt, Energy Environ. Sci., 2018, 11, 3524
    DOI: 10.1039/C8EE01231H

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