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Natural Gas – A Friend or Foe to Renewable Energy

Natural Gas Power Plant. ID 8802820 © Georg Henrik Lehnerer | Dreamstime

Dawned the Victorian era of Industrialization when steam drove the cog & wheel, the world has come a long way, but only finding itself in a quandary over climate change & environment. With growing populations, the 21st century inhabitants of the blue planet, now undeniably are fighting the consequences of their past actions in the name of sustainability and climate change while they still din over their energy security & economic growth.

IEA’s Projection of Future of Renewables

Hydrocarbons have traditionally catered to three main industries namely; Transportation, Power Generation & Petrochemical Products and Renewables for now, aim to supplant the hydrocarbon dependence in the transportation and power generation industry. Towards this, Wind & Solar photo voltaic power have picked up pace in recent years with advances in battery storage to compliment energy storage. The IEA also quotes that “Renewables will have the fastest growth in the electricity sector, providing almost 30% of power demand in 2023, up from 24% in 2017. During this period, renewables are forecast to meet more than 70% of global electricity generation growth, led by solar PV and followed by wind, hydropower, and bioenergy. Hydropower remains the largest renewable source, meeting 16% of global electricity demand by 2023, followed by wind (6%), solar PV (4%), and bioenergy (3%)” [1].

The Unseen Consequences of Wind & Solar Renewables

The downside of wind & solar power is that wind farms do not always enjoy a consistent flow of air & the sun does not always shine. Therefore this can be only be attended to by switching over a 12 hour cycle from renewables to fossil fuels which is technologically impossible unless those high efficiency power storing batteries were available in the first place. The alternative is a Fast Firing Natural Gas Power Plant with which power production can be ramped up to as much as 600 MW in 30 min to power the grid [2].

Environmental Consequences

Renewables also require vast swathes of open land that is obstruction free but leads to de-forestation with flora and fauna displacement. Whereas, Energy storing batteries, require raw materials mined from the earth & mining must continue to replace old batteries. According to Wood Mackenzie [3], “…energy storage deployments are expected to grow by more than 5x (38% annually) over the next five years, reaching 44 GWh of annual deployments globally by 2024, the majority of which will be lithium-ion based systems”.

This begs the question as to where would battery waste be disposed. The same report [3] discusses, “Disposing of EV batteries is costly, while the decommissioning of lithium-ion battery storage systems is essentially nonexistent, considering the viable recycling technology and infrastructure available at this time”. “…Supply responses are under way, but it pays to be patient as new capacities compete to produce lithium and other battery-grade chemicals that will satisfy the EV onslaught.

But until then, shipping to poorer countries that lack or possess poor infrastructure to segregate & recycle isn’t a viable option from an environmental standpoint and neither does it help burying battery waste under the earth, only for them to contaminate the water table.

In Saving the Climate you End up Messing up the Environment.

So let's say, with all those climate deals signed, a Goliath mound of cash appearing from thin air (A Herculean task for poorer nations) and the world switched over to the power equivalent of Renewables, then it will also demand the additional expense of an equivalent Fast Firing Natural Gas Infrastructure to compensate for the unavailability & erratic supply of renewables caused by natural causes. This means, the Oil Man Still Wins.

The more the world clamours for Renewables, The more number of Natural Gas Plants have to be built to compensate for erratic renewables which defeats the very purpose of venturing into a Green Future

Long Term Socio-Economic Impact of Renewables

The simple truth is, Fossil Fuels were never the enemy of the planet. It is man’s “Insatiable thirst for Consumption”, that has ripped through the fabric of society, climate and environment. Human existence exists in a limited spectrum. Too less or too much of anything is a problem. The world has traversed through the eons of time often feeling dissatisfied that, what they have is never enough, so much that strife & war has often been the final solution.

However in the 21st century, mankind under its illusory definition of self sufficiency, has taken matters into its own hands to provide themselves with an abundance of energy resources at the cost of both climate & environment. While doing so, mankind is blinded by the historical amnesia, that it is their unrefined habits of endless consumption, which will lay forth their own weapons of self destruction, waiting for history to repeat itself. Imagine a world where everybody is so independent that eventually nobody would feel obliged to listen to each other. It is at that moment when mankind has hit the dead end of progress.

Free Energy will not set mankind free but will only exacerbate the habits of Endless Consumption with no Responsibility or Accountability

Hence, a Balance is the need of the hour, between a source of endless energy that can potentially blow the lid off on consumption & a source of limited energy, which requires sweat & toil to keep reminding us the need for a sense of responsibility & accountability towards consumption. It is only then the world qualifies to ask for Renewables as the mainstay of energy security. If Not, then all that the world can look forward to, is the reality of H.G Wells’s description of Planet of the Morlocks, no matter how much mankind’s ingenuity is at play.


[1] [2] [3]

Vijay Sarathy's picture

Thank Vijay for the Post!

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 9, 2019 5:21 pm GMT

Renewables are the best friend gas ever had, Vijay. Adding renewables to the grid burns more gas than powering the grid with gas alone.

One graph is worth one thousand words.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 9, 2019 5:55 pm GMT

Here's my favorite (accurate!) graph, too: 

Obviously, there's much more correlation between gas and renewables than global temperatures and pirates, but my point is that you may say a graph says 1,000 words, but it is also quite easy to make a graph say what you want it to say. There's a lot more at play in your graph than A + B = C. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 9, 2019 6:35 pm GMT

Matt, increasing renewables on the grid has not reduced gas consumption. That is a fact. That coal shutdowns have increased gas consumption, of course, doesn't rule out the possibility solar and wind have helped. Solar advocates won't admit it, but BP is proud of solar's dependence on gas.

"Who is solar's best friend?
"Natural gas."


Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Oct 14, 2019 3:28 pm GMT

Bob - We are all aware  that much of the increased combustion of natural gas is due to the closing of coal fired plants, as well as the overall decrease in  US carbon emissions.  The cause and effect that your graph suggests might well be attributed to that, or partly so. In that case, natural gas's worst enemy is coal. Also true? Or one or the other?  The world is not binary, i.e. all nuclear or no nuclear.  We might have to get used to a plethora of variables.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 15, 2019 2:08 pm GMT

The world is not binary, i.e. all nuclear or no nuclear.  We might have to get used to a plethora of variables.

Bump to this

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 15, 2019 6:50 pm GMT

The world is binary, Mark, in the sense that there is no significant concentration of renewables on the grid that doesn't require backup/regulation by fossil fuel gas.

They're guaranteeing fossil fuel gas a place in electricity generation for the foreseeable future, and that is climate suicide.

Victoria Hudson's picture
Victoria Hudson on Oct 16, 2019 7:52 pm GMT

Just a quick question - given the following statement: what do you see as the winning solution for energy and the environment going forward? I know we've discussed nuclear - just wondered what combination you see as a win, a practical and realistic one. Thanks.

They're guaranteeing fossil fuel gas a place in electricity generation for the foreseeable future, and that is climate suicide.

Vijay Sarathy's picture
Vijay Sarathy on Oct 9, 2019 6:31 pm GMT

Ok I get the point that it could be y = x^2 too. But when did pirates find their place with renewables!!.!! 😄😄 I'am now thinking global temperatures Vs Methane emissions from Cows!!! 😄😄 (Yeah it's true. They also contribute. It's in the fodder)

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 9, 2019 9:45 pm GMT

It's not even just that it could be y = x^2, but also that we might accurately identify it as y = x^2 but not yet recognize the nuance and interconnections that are causing that relationship to exist. Correlation doesn't always equal causation, and when they are related there's often many other factors involved (especially in real-life data like the gas and renewable and other generation data)! Oversimplifying it is doing a misdeed to all 

John Gage's picture
John Gage on Oct 14, 2019 2:14 pm GMT

Driving ghg emissions down is most cheaply done using efficient market forces. Energy efficiency and pollution reduction can be incentivized by putting a price on pollution. 

This approach is preferred most economists, who overwhelmingly recommend we use a carbon fee and dividend with border adjustments solution: 

Here is the gold-standard way to do that: 

Here is the bipartisan bill Congress has written to do it: 

The only thing lacking is the political will to enable Congress to pass this legislation. That's where businesses and organizations come. They can help create the political will to enable Congress to act by endorsing the bill here: 

Citizens play a big role also, and can write Congress to show their support from here: 


Bob Nikon's picture
Bob Nikon on Oct 17, 2019 1:53 am GMT

“Insatiable thirst for Consumption”, It's not that insatiable thing, Vijay it is an entrapment for human kind...even more serious than something insatiable. There is absolutely no way out of this trap. The reason is we haven't got the right kind of energy to deal with that. All renewable methods certainly can not do. Don't tell me to hold on to the future if we go on doing the same thing. It will be the same thing forever. 

Your post solidifies the situation exactly where we live in the trap generation to generation and keep clamoring for solution but there is none in sight. Because we are trying to solve the problem at the same level of cognizance. It will require a higher one. 

Free Energy will not set mankind free but will only exacerbate the habits of             Endless Consumption with no Responsibility or Accountability

I disagree with you on that. It depends on what kind of energy you will use to set humankind free from this trap with no exacerbation. The matter of fact Mother Nature has her own plan to set us free, extricating out of this trap. What we want is out there in our surroundings. It"s the matter of our ability to decipher the puzzle or not. But being able to decipher is still not enough. We have to come up with unique gadgets to transpire the hidden festivities out to the spotlight.

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