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On April 4th, 2012, I attended the International Congress on Energy security in Geneva. As an early promoter of renewable energies since 2003 in my role of communication specialist, I’m shared with mixed feelings about some of the trends I heard on the future of energies. Here are a few key extracts from the conference and add-ons from personal research.
ACCESS TO ENERGIES
Today 1/3 of the 7 billion world population have neither access at all to electricity (1.5 billion people) nor continuous access to it (1 billion).
“By 2030, energy should be accessible, cleaner and more efficient if we want to reduce that gap”, says a UN official.
Dr. Noé van Hulst, director of the Energy Academy Europe, precises that if demand for electricity was met by poorer countries, the impact on global energy demand would be less than 1%. This is therefore negligeable and shouldn’t hold actions to re-balance lacking countries!
WORLDWIDE GROWING ENERGY DEMAND
“Energy production doubled since 1973, electricity production tripled and nowadays the world is rapidly becoming electric”, indicates Pr. Hans B.Püttgen, director of the EPFL energy centre.
Even if the US still swallow 1/4 of the oil worldwide production, most of the energy demand’s growth comes from developing non-OECD Asian economies, China and India leading the way. Briefly speaking, energy demand is skyrocketting!
(1 quadrillion Btu=around 10 to the power of 24 kj).
By 2030, the electricity sector is the one to grow most to reach nearly 30% of the total energy consumption.
FOSSIL ENERGIES STILL PREDOMINANT
Renewable energies have never been as trendy and necessary as now, after the Fukushima energy tsunami hit Japan and all nuclear convictions.
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However geopolitical energy experts predict that in 2030/2035, 80 to 90% of energies will still be fossil resources…whether we like it or not!
We all live on the same planet and we should all steer the same boat!
Here is how experts see the energy production development:
- Oil will be substituted almost in all sectors except transportation which will absorb 90% of the growth of energy demand,
- As oil prices increase above $150 per barrel, unexploited oil and shale gas plants become profitable,
- Coal is predominant in electricity generation and will continue to grow,
- We are entering a new age for gas whose reserves of 250 years contribute to security promises,
- Nuclear is still considered as essential to the energy mix of tomorrow, especially with the yet to come fusion technology: see the ITER project.
Out of this scenario loaded with CO² emissions, there are 3 good news though:
- There will be a growth in renewables: ie. the gigantic Desertec solar power project is about to rise out of the desert sands, starting in Morocco and Tunisia to provide 15% of Europe’s electricity needs,
- China, India and surrounding countries are betting upon local and plentiful hydropower resources,
- Japan is proving that it’s possible to survive without nuclear power: out of the 54 nuclear reactors active in March 2011, there is only one plant still running and to be shut down in May 2012! Actions have been taken to reduce consumption, solar energy has been given priority, but gas and coal plants had to re-open too!
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
The business model:
One thing all experts agree upon is the sustainable need for massive investments in a sector of high capital costs and longevity of assets (75 years!). The price volatility slows down investments and drive them towards “short term” lower costs solutions such as coal or shale gas which are highly polluting industries.
Therefore it is necessary to find new business models!
The energy for transportation:
Ms Anna Korin , Co-director of the ONG Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, proposes a very tempting scenario getting rid of the OPEP hegemony and of increasing instability and conflicts. The solution lies upon using ie methanol at $0.70 per gallon and consequently at a markup price still below gasoline.
Ricardo Klatovsky, Vice-president Energy and Utilities industry IBM Europe, announces that 170 billion of kWh are wasted annually by end consumers because they don’t know how much they consume. This paves the way to smart metering and smart grid to better manage electricity networks and “gives the power” to consumers!
If none of this is done, here is the threat of an impact level 3 scenario …in images by Symbiome:
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Exhibition of “Terres d’avenir” in Geneva on April 4 th, 2012 during the International Congress on Energy Security.