The World Wind Energy Association, WWEA, has held a public debate in Recife (Brazil), prior to the world conference on wind energy to be held in Rio de Janeiro next November (WWEC2019), which has discussed the roles played by renewable energy and nuclear energy in the energy supply of the future and how to optimize synergies between different technologies.
The meeting was attended by experts from Brazil, Germany, Japan and Ukraine, who discussed the future energy supply system in light of the climate crisis, environmental pollution and a sharp increase in energy demand in countries such as Brazil. The consensus among speakers and participants (more than 200, according to WWEA) was broad: most agreed that wind and solar energy are today the cheapest sources of energy, particularly in Brazil. This conclusion is also supported by recent international reports, e.g. from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
As for the role of nuclear energy, experts from Japan and Ukraine reported first-hand on the experience of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters and their devastating consequences, with hundreds of thousands of victims. Andriy Konechenkov of Ukraine highlighted the new prospects for his country thanks to the new government’s focus on renewable energy, while Tetsunari Iida referred to Japan’s low public approval of nuclear energy.
The concept of base-load power was questioned as obsolete in an energy system with a high proportion 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 also agreed that nuclear power is today one of the most expensive sources of energy, requiring long planning periods, and has been delayed by more than ten years in some European countries.
Regarding Brazil, host country of WWEC2019, its high potential in renewables was highlighted, particularly in hydropower and bioenergy, which places the country in a very good position in the global race for leadership in renewable technology and climate change mitigation. The crucial question is, according to participants, how Brazil can best use technologies in its national energy mix.
In this sense, Everaldo Feitosa, president of WWEC2019, said that the northeast of Brazil, with a population of 40 million inhabitants, “will be the spearhead for the goal of 100% renewable. Today, the average contribution of wind energy is about 50%, but there are times when 100% of regional energy demand is covered only by wind energy.
Feitosa described the concept of “base load” through the use of thermal or nuclear energy as “antiquated and inappropriate”, but assured that it is still present in the minds of many Brazilians. However, he added, “the low cost of wind and solar energy is making the renewable revolution win this struggle in the country. “WWEC2019 in Rio will therefore be a very productive event to showcase positive international experiences and introduce the goal of 100% renewable energy not only in Brazil but throughout the region,” he concluded.
Stefan Gsänger, secretary general of WWEA, also referred to the high share of renewable energy in Brazil, although he pointed out that “the new paradigm of flexible generation will require new approaches, for example, that hydroelectric facilities add flexibility, while making inflexible nuclear energy an obsolete option. We look forward to discussing in detail the technical and socio-economic solutions during our next WWEC2019,” Gsänger concluded.