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Energy is fundamental to the quality of our lives. In modern times we are totally dependent on an abundant and uninterrupted supply of energy for living and working.
It is a key ingredient in all sectors of modern economies.
We know that energy demand will increase significantly in the future. The question being raised is, how will we satisfy the huge energy requirement in an environmentally friendly way?
Energy provides us with heat and electricity daily. It powers our industry, transport and modern way of life.
Why do we need Energy?
We use it constantly in our homes, at work and for leisure. Energy maintains our standard of living and economy. In modern times we take it for granted that energy is available whenever we want it.
In previous times candles were the main source of lighting, they were used to light our homes before the industrial revolution.
Wood or coal fires provided heat for cooking food and for keeping us warm.
Walking was then the only form of transport for most people.
Since then, a vast array of energy devices and systems has been developed.
These transform energy from sources provided by nature (coal, oil, gas, wind, sun and nuclear fuels) into other forms that we can use. As the population expands so do our energy demands.
We use energy in our daily lives to provide heat and electricity:
In our homes for lighting, domestic appliances, televisions, computers, etc;
In factories to power the manufacture of the products we use everyday; and in
Transportation from cars, lorry’s ships and airplanes to transport people and goods.
Energy demand will double by the year 2050 world-wide energy demand is projected by the World Energy Council to be at least double its present level.
At the same time, we can expect further economic growth and rising living standards.
The most reliable predictions indicate that by 2050, the world's population will have nearly doubled from its present level. It will rise from around 6 billion to about 10 billion people. Most of this growth, and much of the increase in energy consumption, will occur in developing countries.
Energy supply must be sustainable and diverse. And energy needs to be used more efficiently.
A sustainable energy supply, both in the short- and the long-term, is needed for promoting both economic development and people's quality of life, as well as protecting the environment.
We also need a greater diversification of energy resources - if we are largely dependent on one fuel source, we risk price rises and supply disruptions.
Energy is a precious resource which must be conserved. Improved energy efficiency, therefore, in our homes, factories and transport needs to be strongly encouraged.
Protecting the environment
Damage to the environment is reason enough to promote alternative environmentally friendly energy sources.
A number of the global-scale environmental degradation we see today is due to the adverse effects of energy production and use. The burning of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases.
There is a growing concern about global warming, that these gases can cause. At present, fossil fuels produce most of our energy. Some energy comes from nuclear power stations and a small amount from renewable sources. Nuclear power and renewables do not produce greenhouse gases.
External energy supplies
If present trends continue, increasing demand will cause rising imports of energy.
An increased dependence on energy imports means that the cost and supply of a vital resource for our economy slips further and further out of our control.
Moreover, we may become more exposed to the results of political instability in the regions where fossil fuels are produced.
Consequences of energy dependence
The consequences are likely to be higher energy prices.
There is also likely to be more uncertainty about supplies and greater environmental risk as less easily accessible reserves of fossil fuels are exploited.
Future increases in energy demand will exert even greater pressure on our finite reserves.
Sustainable / Renewable Energies
A suitable definition for sustainable energy, then, "is energy which is replenishable within a human lifetime and which causes no long-term damages to the environment.
Renewable energies can help diversify energy supply with little adverse environmental impact.
Renewable energy sources tap naturally occurring energy flows to produce electricity, heat and fuel. Such resources are often produced on a stand-alone use close to their point of consumption.
Renewable sources are: -
Wind - harnessing the naturally occurring energy of the wind to generate electricity, both onshore and offshore.
PV projects in FP6 - using semi-conductor materials to capture the energy in sunlight and to convert it directly into electricity.
Biomass - converting organic matter such as wood, plants and agricultural waste to provide heat, produce fuel and generate electricity.
Concentrated Solar Power - concentrating the energy of the sun to generate electricity or provide heat. (As shown above)
Ocean Energy Systems - exploiting energy from the ocean such as tidal currents and waves to generate electricity.
Geothermal - using steam and hot water generated by heat from the earth's crust to produce electricity and provide heating.
Hydropower - harnessing the energy available in flowing water to generate electricity.
By being self-sustaining the energy source is in essence limitless. Solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, hydropower and biomass are all self-sustaining.
They all have sources that cannot be depleted. These energy sources allow for the conservation of other energy sources, like trees that would have been used for charcoal production. Using these "renewable" energies also encourages the protection of the environment which traditional energy sources have helped to destroy.
The use of some traditional energy sources, like oil and charcoal, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) reported "carries with it a number of environmental problems, such as water and air pollution and the contamination of soils." Utilizing sustainable energy would then lead to the conservation of the environment which would eventually lead to a development which meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
In other words, sustainable energy use leads to sustainable development.
Fuel Cells and Hydropower
Fuel cells may, in the long term, replace most current combustion systems in all energy end-use sectors, from electric vehicles to power plants. Fuel cells are expected to play a major role in the future supply of energy for both mobile and stationary applications. Such cells use hydrogen which can be derived from a number of other fuels.
Fuel cells- essentially an electrochemical energy converter that basically combines hydrogen with oxygen to produce water, electricity and heat. There is no combustion and no greenhouse gas or other polluting emissions are produced.
Hydrogen - probably the most promising alternative fuel for the future. Used in fuel cells, it can form the basis of an intrinsically clean, efficient and quiet energy supply.
Cleaner energy production from fossil fuels
With fossil fuels, the research focus is on improving efficiency while reducing costs and global and local environmental impact. Fossil fuels are the conventional energy sources that currently dominate the world's energy supply.
Fossil fuel research topics:
Coal - reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and other environmental impacts caused by solid fuel combustion, by developing cleaner technologies.
Oil - developing more efficient exploration, extraction and production technologies for hydrocarbons.
Gas - improving the energy conversion efficiency of gas combustion processes, particularly by using advanced gas turbines.
CO2- reducing greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring that the CO2 produced by electrical
Power-plants is not released into the atmosphere.
Energy storage and distribution
Research on technologies for storing and distributing all types of energy at both micro and macro scale, from electric vehicles to grid-connected power plants.
This includes technologies for improving the efficiency, stability, reliability and safety of energy storage, transmission and distribution. The technologies are applicable for both mobile and stationary applications.
Storage - providing reliable and cost-efficient energy storage technologies, including liquid natural gas, liquid petroleum gas, hydrogen and advanced (technology) batteries.
Distribution - developing technologies for improving the transmission and distribution of electricity, gas and other fuels, and heating and cooling.
Integration of renewable energy sources and distributed generation - overcoming both the technical and non-technical problems associated with integrating new distributed energy resources into energy systems
Reduced energy consumption
Reducing the energy intensity of demand and using energy much more effectively will be a major step towards achieving a sustainable energy system.
Research addresses energy conservation and use in:
Buildings - reducing EU energy requirements by 30% by 2010 and 50% in the longer term are the research aims. Currently, the built environment in the EU accounts for about 40% of the total energy requirements.
Transport - improving the energy and environmental performance of vehicles and the related infrastructure.
Industry - developing and demonstrating processes and process control technologies aimed at securing a reduction in energy demand in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
Research on all those aspects that impact on energy markets and thus on the move towards a sustainable energy supply.
This is necessary because the move towards a sustainable energy supply does not rely solely on the development of new technologies.
Such aspects include:
Socio-economic research - assessing and monitoring the impact of all energy options on society, the environment, the economy and employment. Policy-related research - studying the impact and consequences of policies and measures related to energy supply and demand, the economy and the environment.
Modelling - analysing different strategies for energy production and use, and elaborating short- and long-term scenarios to improve sustainability.
Cleaner Energy Trends & New Businesses & Products to Emerge
Due to the increase of interest and change in political over recent years from governments pressurized by people who’s concern is for the long term benefit of the planet and not their own pockets, cleaner living and helping the environment to cope with the demands from businesses and the human race, a new kind of businesses has sparked up which have made great process in promoting and energy saving products and services to the masses.
The growth in this sector has greater potential as the awareness is gaining momentum and new companies are having a positive impact on the environment and people demanding cleaner solutions.
Clean Edge - Company
The company was launched in 2001 by environmental and high-tech business pioneers Ron Pernick and Joel Makower, Clean Edge is a leading clean-tech research and consulting firm with offices in the San Francisco, Bay Area and Portland, Oregon.
They provide a variety of services including research and publishing, strategic consulting, and co-producing the annual Clean-Tech Investor Summit. Clean Edge tracks and analyzes clean-tech markets, trends, and opportunities and offers unparalleled insight and intelligence to its customers through an extensive network of partners and affiliates.
In May 2006, the company launched the NASDAQ Clean Edge US Index® which tracks US-listed clean-energy companies. For more information about Clean Edge, e-mail [email protected], or call 503.493.8681
Clean Edge – Other Linked areas
Market Research Reports including the annual Clean-Energy Trends report and other sponsored publications.
The NASDAQ® Clean Edge® U.S. Index – a benchmark index which tracks U.S.-listed clean-energy companies.
The Clean-Tech Investor Summit – the premier clean-tech conference and networking opportunity of the year. Strategic Consulting for companies ranging from start-ups to multinationals; governments to non-profits.
Retail Making A Positive Impact
There are so many amazing ethical and environmental products out in the market place making a difference creating awareness to the masses. Find below a small selection of companies with stores selling a wide range of items that is benefiting the environment.
Contemporary eco-friendly gifts and home accessories - gift ideas, clothing, linen, skincare, soft toys and much more.
All Love Eco products are either recycled, organic, fair-trade, energy-saving or sustainable.
Tel: 01223 313 409
Email: [email protected]
Mad* stands for Make a Difference - and all products promoted by Mad* are from organic, fair-trade or sustainable resources. So you can rest easy, knowing that you can make a difference - without sacrificing quality, simply by the way you spend.
Tel: 01483 418829
Email: [email protected]
The Natural Store - the definitive Online Store with a stylish mix of ingredients from fashion to interiors, beauty to food, baby-wear to garden products. 2.5 pence of every pound you spend is donated to 1 of 5 charities.
Tel: 01273 746781
Email: mailto:%[email protected]
Stylish and unique products that have been made without exploiting people, animals or the environment. 1% of all pre-tax profit goes to charity.
The online green shop that offers you a wide range of interesting and innovative environmental products.
Tel: 01453 887 547
Email: [email protected]
Novera Energy – UK Company
The average household in the UK uses around 1 kilowatt of energy each hour and generates around a tonne of waste every year. Working with industry, the government is looking for ways to reduce reliance on fossil fuels used for energy generation and to reduce landfill for disposing of household waste. Now proposals for a Sustainable Energy Facility have been accepted for East London which can address these issues.
Waste thrown away by householders in East London contains valuable energy, a proportion of which is renewable. Even after recycling, composting and further treatment, energy could be safely recovered from this waste.
Novera Energy, one of the UK’s leading renewable energy companies has been granted planning permission to develop a new Sustainable Energy Facility in Havering. The facility will take waste left after recycling and, via a thermal treatment process called gasification which produces a clean gas, use it to generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 10,000 homes.
As well as generating renewable energy now, in the future the Sustainable Energy Facility will include a demonstration facility to develop the next generation of clean fuels for vehicles.
After a trial period for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' New Technology Demonstrator Programme, Novera Energy will continue to operate the Sustainable Energy Facility, turning waste left after recycling from homes in East London into clean renewable power.
This project is part of Defra's New
Technology Demonstrator Programme
TEL: 0800 587 9949
EMAIL: mailto:[email protected]
Opinions & Comments On - Methane Hydrate – Our Long Term Energy Solution
Energy, this has been one the main focuses in human history, the promise of cheap, clean easily produced Energy.
We have had many false dawns in the promise of fuel or power, solar and nuclear to name two recently heralded saviours.
Whilst everyone agrees that Methane Hydrates are readily available and that their collection can, from a technological viewpoint be made from the ocean floor and the artic, we still do not have any idea of the impact on the planet.
Methane burns much cleaner than the other fossil fuels however what impact will its extraction have on the planet. A statement from ‘2004 Current FY Report: Review of Federal advisory Committee’
“Because of large volumes of carbon resident in hydrates and the complex interactions of methanogenic processes & Hydrocarbon seepage to Hydrates, their study is also significant to global carbon cycle modeling”.
As a cynic on the energy crisis and dwindling resources I have long believed that alternative energy research has for many years been stopped by the huge political power that the oil industry has, particularly in America. The huge wealth available from the current energy resource, OIL, has delayed research for too long.
Whilst there is much hysteria about oil price rises I have welcomed the recent difficulties and depleted reserves as it forces research into alternatives, this could prove to be the saving of our planet, as carbon emissions are still at a level where we are poisoning our planet at an alarming rate.
The strive for a new energy source must be a controlled one, we must learn from our previous mistakes and not repeat them. ‘Minutes from the Methane Hydrate Committee – April 24-25 2006 state;
In the road map there are three areas of emphasis; artic resource of hydrates, marine resource of hydrates, and hydrates and their role in the environment. Most members agreed that there is far too much concentration on the resource areas and to little spent on the environmental impact. Pg15.
Looking at the five forecasts it is difficult without the appropriate research available at present on Hydrate Methane to say positively whether it is a possible safe & clean future energy source.
Forecast one – Methane Hydrate is going to become a big business in the next 20-25 years.
If the current research shows that methane hydrate can be collected safely and it has no impact on the environment then yes this forecast is an accurate one, however to look at global impacts on the environment take many years and we will not know the full impacts within this time period.
Forecast two. - Within 10 years, all the major oil companies will be involved in methane hydrate recovery and will be competing to be the most efficient at extracting it and distributing it.
This could again prove to be true as dwindling oil supplies drive the oil companies to look at alternative fuels. This may be to short a period for Methane Hydrates but gas supplies trapped under methane hydrate pockets may be collected safely in this period and they may split their focus partially on achievable technology and partially on R&D of Methane hydrate collection.
Forecast three – exploiting methane hydrate will reduce our vulnerability to the politics of the Middle East.
This is a serious concern as the majority of fossil fuel deposits are located in an unstable region of the world, it would be a significant advantage to the industrial powers to control their own fuel supplies, therefore ensuring stability of price due to Methane Hydrates virtual unlimited availability.
Forecast four – the long-term outlook for energy will involve a mixture of technologies, in which methane hydrate plays an important role.
We must never stop looking for clean energy sources, with current technology this may be the way forward using next generation PBMR’s to produce clean fuels, however this was the original promise from nuclear reactors and we learnt from this mistake the hard way. (Chernobyl 1986)
“Good evening comrades, all of you know there has been an incredible misfortune – the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. It has painfully affected the Soviet people and shocked the International community. For the first time we confront the force of nuclear energy out of control” Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, statement about the Chernobyl nuclear power disaster.
Much of this forecast is based on future technologies PMBR’s as discussed have already had accidents however they hope the new ones prove to be safe, again we are sure of the impact on the environment with regards to nuclear power but await a safe reactor. (1985, the experimental THTR-300 PBMR on the Ruhr in Hamm-Uentrop, see www.nirs.org/factsheets/pbmrfactsheet.htm)
We all hope that this technology proves to be the turning point because if it can turn methane hydrate into hydrogen without releasing carbon then it will be the most important discovery in mankind’s history since we discovered fire.
Life does have a way of surprising us, everything is connected and sometimes we cause harm without being aware of it due to the hidden connections in our world. (Fritjof Capra, 2002)
Forecast Five – as methane hydrate comes on line people who panic over the depletion of the world’s resources will once again be proven wrong.
The quantity of methane hydrate reserves available is quite staggering, however we must first research its impact on the environment. Look at the damage we have done to the planet in recent history by using fossil fuels, compare this with the amount of methane we will be using given the population increase over the next twenty years and instead of a saviour we could have the end of life as we know it.
From the viewpoint of the construction industry a stable and readily available, cheap fuel supply like methane hydrate could cause a dramatic change in the way we approach projects and the construction methods we use.
Over the last few years’ material cost have risen dramatically driven by the volatile oil price, if you look at the London stock market copper cost has doubled in the last year. I believe that with lower material costs the overall construction cost will be lower enabling people to spend that extra money on alternative fuel sources.
The majority of expenditure in the industry is on individual housing especially with the rising population. Imagine a drop in material prices of metals which are a major factor in our industry, Air conditioning, Plumbing, Electrical cable, Windows, ironmongery etc, then look at what you put into you house, appliances, metal components again.
This share money can go into smart homes, (which is a current trend) having solar panels that give full electrical supply as well as hot water to your house with spare for the community. With more demand comes more supply comes competition, prices lower, quality improves, it becomes more affordable and the cycle continues.
This is just an example of how we can become self sufficient given the chance, there are already homes that are fully self sufficient and sell electric power back to the community as in a hybrid housing scheme currently in production in Thailand.
What we need is a catalyst to drive this change, a radical shift, and methane hydrate may prove to be this catalyst, only the future will prove if this energy source is to be another false dawn.
To summarize my feelings on energy, solar is really the way we should be looking to go in the future; it is the only safe and clean energy source available. However it has one huge drawback, ITS FREE, imagine a world of free energy, how would industry survive, living in homes paying no bills, how could the huge multi national power companies ever allow this. Many are government owned don’t forget, how can governments allow this, it must be driven by the individual, lets demand free energy. Simply put Buy solar!!!
There are so many products through technological breakthroughs making it onto the market place, from new solar energy cars, to re-chargeable portable laptop cases; it is very hard to keep up with the new inventions that are being created on a regular basis.
Governments from all over the world are making huge efforts to utilize these products, due to the increase pressure from the general public, environmental groups and high profile figures from the entertainment world, who have a massive influence over millions of people, with voting rights, which shouldn’t be forgotten. Over the past few weeks we have been informed that countries like China, who previously ignored these issues are on protecting the environment are making changes in their government policies for the benefit of the environment.
The G8 Summit is getting stronger in uniformity in fighting climate change (mainly the stronger economic countries are also making progressive steps in reducing emissions etc)
G5 Asian countries, India, China etc, these developing countries that will have a huge impact on the environment as they modernize and develop, they are preparing to help reduce climate change and reduce carbon emissions as they expand.
We also have seen the Australian energy companies working with and hiring local aborigine groups helping to reduce emissions by controlled fires methods throughout the Australian outback. Wild fires causing a lot of damage and green house omissions, controlled fires by the local aborigines using ancient traditions have reduced green house gasses by 30%.
News and updates are occurring daily with a real determined effort to make a difference, let’s hope so for the future of mankind. We have no where else to go!!!!
World Energy Council - http://ec.europa.eu/research/energy/index_en.htm
European Commission Home Page http://ec.europa.eu/energy/index_en.html
European Commission Green Paper on Energy
European Commission Energy Overview
Minutes – Methane Hydrates Advisory Committee, Washington DC
April 24-25 2006
Hidden Connections / Fritjof Capra
Harper Collins 2002
2004 Current FY Report: Review of Federal advisory Committee’
PBMR’s - Nuclear Information and Resource Service
1424 16th Street NW, #404,
Washington, DC 20036.
GREAT EDUCATORS HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN THAT LEARNING IS NOT SOMETHING THAT'S LIMITED TO THE CLASSROOMS, OR THAT SHOULD BE FORCIBLY UNDERTAKEN UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF TEACHERS.
"BEING DOES NOT MEAN ACCEPTING WHAT ONE IS; IT MEANS CREATING ANOTHER SELF THAT DOES NOT EXIST."