Working Group III: Mitigation

Other reports in this collection Ancillary Benefits Associated with Mitigation in the Electricity Industry

The ancillary benefits expected from the increased use of new generating technologies adopted to achieve GHG mitigation would be sales and employment growth for those who manufacture and construct the new generation facilities. There could also be income and employment growth in the production of fuels for this new generation. The ancillary benefits associated with use of non-fossil energy for thermal applications would be similar.

Ancillary benefits of increased use of renewable sources have been described by several experts (Brower, 1992; Johansson et al., 1993; Pimental et al., 1994; Miyamoto, 1997). These include:

  • further social and economic development, such as enhanced employment opportunities in rural areas, which can help reduce rural poverty and decrease the pressures to migrate to urban areas;
  • and restoration activities such as improvement of degraded lands and associated positive impacts on farm economics, new rural development opportunities, prevention of erosion, habitats for wildlife;
  • reduced emissions, in certain instances, of local pollutants;
  • potential for fuel diversity; and
  • elimination of the need for costly disposal of waste materials, such as crop residues and household refuse. Ancillary Costs Associated with Mitigation in the Electricity Industry

There are also ancillary costs associated with actions to mitigate GHGs in the electricity sector. The growth experienced by those who benefit from mitigation would be offset by a decline in sales and employment for those who would have produced and constructed the facilities that would have been built without the mitigation activity. Similarly, there will be a loss of income and jobs for those that would have provided the fuel for those facilities no longer being built (i.e., the coal industry). The specifics of the mitigation policy and action will effect whether the net effect of this shifting of economic activity will be positive or negative.

There are also environmental issues associated with some of the renewable technologies. For example, concern has been raised about the ecological impacts of intensive cultivation of biomass for energy, the loss of land and other negative impacts of hydro electricity development, and the noise, visual interference, and potential for killing birds associated with wind generation (Brower, 1992; Pimental et al., 1994; IEA, 1997a; Miyamoto, 1997; IEA, 1998a).

Nuclear power might be expected to increase substantially as a result of GHG mitigation policies, because power from nuclear fuel produces negligible GHGs. The construction of nuclear power stations, however, does lead to GHG emissions, but over the lifecycle of the plant these are much lower than those from comparable fossil fuel stations.

In spite of the advantages, nuclear power is not seen as the solution to the global warming problem in many countries. The main issues are (1) the high costs compared to alternative combined cycle gas turbines, (2) public concerns about operating safety and waste disposal, (3) safety of radioactive waste management and recycling of nuclear fuel, (4) the risks of nuclear fuel storage and transportation, and (5) nuclear weapon proliferation (Hagan, 1998). Whether the full potential for nuclear power development to reduce GHGs can be realized will be determined by political and public responses and safety management.

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