Colombian economist, Lina Brand, explained why the energy transition process to renewable energies may not be as expensive, energetically speaking, as many thought.
Brand found out that the Energy Return Rate (TRE), which measures the energy return when investing an energy unit, has been miscalculated for renewable energies, putting them at disadvantage.
The expert explained that the TRE measures the investment needed to extract raw energy (primary stage) and the energy that it takes to extract, process and transport energy to its final destination (final stage).
“Like any other investment, we want higher rates,” she said.
Brand added that the TRE for renewables is estimated at 10, but these do not have ‘stages’ because the energy is produced immediately.
“We argue that the way TRE’s are calculated for renewables is like comparing apples and oranges. TREs for fossil fuels are apples, measured at the primary stage (for example, coal and crude oil). TREs for renewable energy (for example, solar and wind energy), are oranges, measured in the final stage (for example, electricity),” Brand told El Espectador.
So, to do justice to renewables, Brand and her team of researchers compared the energy return rate of gasoline, electricity and coke produced worldwide.
The experts took data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), to find out how much energy the world has produced each year.
The experts found that the highest energy levels are not those that are being produced, but those that are being invested to produce, making it a vicious circle.
“We have been getting less and less energy from our energy investments globally. Past research estimates the TRE for renewables at 10, which suggests that an energy transition to renewables may not be as expensive, energetically speaking, as many thought, and on the contrary, it may be a smarter energy investment,” she said.
Bottom-line: Brand’s study is especially important now that Colombia, and the world in general, is going through an energy transition process.
Although we do not see conventional energies going away any time soon, the investigation can help leverage opportunities in the energy market in the mid-term.