Environmental Engineering Reference
two decades, even though the R&D budget for renewables was cut by 50%
in the 1980s and did not rebound to similar funding levels until the mid
Renewable energy is about 13% of the world's energy while fossil
fuels make up 80% and nuclear power 7%. Wind power has become a ma-
jor part of power generation in Europe, with 20 to 40% of power loads in
parts of Germany, Denmark, and Spain.
Photovoltaics has made much progress, but has had to compete with
conventional generation. Traditional electricity generation costs dropped
in the 1980s and 1990s rather than increasing, as had been projected in
the 1970s. This occurred while reducing emissions of urban air pollutants.
Utilities were also allowed to place barriers in the path of new projects
while new technologies typically received little appreciation for the con-
tributions they made in meeting power demand, reducing transmission
losses or improving the environment. However, the competition from
renewables does push the utilities to improve their performance.
A major part of the R&D conducted by DOE's office of Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy involves energy-efficient technologies
that reduce energy bills. More efficient devices include refrigerators, light
bulbs, solid-state ballasts for fluorescent lights and improved windows.
Many of these products have achieved significant market success.
The National Academy of Sciences found that they saved the U.S.
$30 billion in energy. The products that were most successful had a good
payback combined with similar or superior performance. Solid state bal-
lasts can reduce energy use in half or more while providing a high quality
light without the flicker of earlier fluorescent. They can provide a payback
of less than two years.
Wave energy is a promising renewable source in maritime countries.
As a wave travels forward in an up-and-down motion, its height is an in-
dication of its power. Ocean waves could be providing large amounts of
power for maritime countries. The energy potential has been estimated
as being as much as 4,000 gigawatts (GW). The sea also has the potential
to destroy wave-energy stations, but several nations have been designing
more rugged small-scale wave power stations.
A wave power station must be able to withstand the power of the