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Clean Energy Is Comparable to Fossil Energy Reserves, BNEF Says

Clean Energy Is Comparable to Fossil Energy Reserves, BNEF Says
A researcher checks on bottles of algae being cultivated for biofuel research in San Diego, California. Photographer: David Maung/Bloomberg

The “energy reserves” contained in wind and bioenergy projects in the U.S. and Brazil are “significant” compared to oil and gas in the countries, according to a study commissioned by BP Plc that estimates the barrels of oil equivalent for the renewable resources.

The study, based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis, found that wind and bioenergy projects in Brazil have more than two-fifths of the energy content of the country’s proven oil and gas reserves, the London-based group said in an e-mailed statement. Similar projects in the U.S. have about one-seventh the energy content of the country’s fossil fuel reserves.

The analysis provides a new methodology for comparing competing clean energy technologies and also evaluating them against fossil-based energy sources. The coal, oil and gas industries assess resources and reserves in terms of volume, and quantities are based on estimates about the chances of successful extraction, while renewable energy projects are evaluated in terms of annual production capacity, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in the statement.

“There has not been a consistent approach for describing the technical and economic maturity of renewable energy projects and the level of certainty about their energy output,” according to the statement. “This work should give investors a new way of assessing the value of the sector.”

Significant Parallels

While renewable energy resources are “infinitely replenished,” making them fundamentally different from finite fossil fuel resources, it’s possible to quantify a project’s cumulative energy output, according to the study. “This output is not infinite, but bounded by technological and economic constraints in a way that has significant parallels with fossil energy projects.”

BP is a member of the Renewable Reserves Working Group, which seeks “to quantify renewable energy, using principles of reserves assessment,” according to a presentation by Damien Gerard, BP Alternative Energy’s head of strategy, at a meeting last year in London. Other attendees included Total SA, Statoil SA, Citigroup Inc., Dupont Co. and Dong Energy A/S.

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