Renewable energy prospects

Renewable energies are currently considered as a mere backup solution. In the world, they represented 1513 Mtoe in 2006, i.e. 13% of the primary energy production [1].

Out of this total, biomass and waste accounted for 1186 Mtoe and hydraulic power 261 Mtoe. These two energy sources, which make the largest contribution to the renewable energy balance, have already been used for many years.

The potential for development of hydraulic power remains limited. For the last thirty years or so, the contribution of hydraulic power in worldwide energy production has stagnated in absolute value and its relative share has dropped, from 21% in 1973 to 16% in 2006. In France, construction of new sites mainly concerns mini or micro hydraulic facilities, but it is faced with numerous obstacles, not only financial but also in terms of social acceptability.

The case of biomass energy is quite different. Biomass represents a considerable potential, with a worldwide estimated figure of 2230 Mtoe, including 1600 Mtoe of forest origin [58].

The biomass energy development prospects are therefore promising, especially as regards cogeneration of electricity and heat. They will be analysed below. The case of biofuels, another important market for biomass, will also be examined in further detail below.

The main development hopes concern wind and solar power, which still only represent a minor proportion of energy production {respectively, 0.34 and 0.09Mtoe in France in 2007). The disadvantage with these energies, however, is that they are intermittent and diluted. On account of being intermittent, their contribution can only be limited unless an expensive storage system is installed.

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