16-9 How Can We Make the Transition to a More Sustainable Energy Future? By:Melissa Tibbs & Nick Steen
Concept We can make the transition to a more sustainable energy future by greatly improving energy efficiency, using a mix of renewable energy resources, and including the environmental costs of energy resources in their market prices.
Choosing Energy Paths • We must develop policies with the future in mind. • Usually takes 50 years and huge investments to phase in new energy alternatives. • What questions must we answer?
Choosing Your Path • How much of the energy resource is likely to be available in the near future (the next 25 years) and in the long term (the next 50 years)? • What is the estimated net energy yield for the resource? • What are the estimated costs for developing, phasing in, and using the resource? • What government research and development subsidies and tax breaks will be needed to help develop the resource?
Choosing your Path (cont.) • How will dependence on the resource affect national and global economic and military security? • How vulnerable is the resource to terrorism? • How will extracting, transporting, and using the resource affect the environment, the earth's climate, and human health? Should we include these harmful costs in the market price of the resource through mechanisms like taxing and reducing environmentally harmful subsidies? • Does use of the resource produce hazardous, toxic, or radioactive substances that we must safely store for very long periods of time
Amory Lovins • In 1977, he published his pioneering book, Soft Energy Paths. • He outlined two different energy paths. • Hard Energy Paths- based on increasing use of nonrenewable coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy. • Soft Energy Paths- based on improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of various renewable energy resources. • Today, he is one of the most prominent energy experts.
Scientists and energy experts have evaluated energy alternatives for our future, and have come to three general conclusions. • There will likely be a gradual shift from large, centralized macropower systems to smaller, decentralized micropower systems such as wind turbines, household solar-cell panels, rooftop solar water heaters, small natural gas turbines, and eventually fuel cells for cars and stationary fuel cells for houses and commercial buildings. Good News • Such a shift would improve national and economic security, because countries would rely on diverse, dispersed, domestic, and renewable energy resources instead of on a smaller number of large power plants that are vulnerable to storm damage and sabotage.
Scientists and energy experts have evaluated energy alternatives for our future, and have come to three general conclusions. • 2. A combination of greatly improved energy efficiency and the temporary use of natural gas will be the best way to make the transition to a diverse mix of locally available renewable energy resources over the next several decades. • By using a variety of locally available renewable energy resources, we would be applying the diversity principle of sustainability and not putting all of our “energy eggs” in only one or two baskets.
Scientists and energy experts have evaluated energy alternatives for our future, and have come to three general conclusions. • 3.Fossil fuels will continue to be used in large quantities because of their abundant supplies and low prices. • This presents two major challenges: • Find ways to reduce the harmful environmental impacts. • There is a special emphasis on reducing outdoor emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. • Find ways of including the harmful environmental costs. • We need to include the harmful environmental costs of using fossil fuels in their market prices, as less environmentally harmful alternatives are implemented.
Economics, Politics, and Education • These three things hold the keys to making a shift to more sustainable energy resources. • Governments have three main strategies they can use to help help stimulate or reduce the short-term and long-term use of a particular energy resource.
Strategies (1) Governments can keep the prices of selected energy resources artificially low in order to encourage the use of those energy resources. • Possible by providing research and development subsidies, tax breaks, and loan guarantees to encourage the development of those resources, and by enacting regulations that favor them. • Creates an uneven economic playing field • Encouragesenergy waste and rapid depletion of nonrenewable resources • Discouragesimprovements in energy efficiency and the development of a variety of renewable energy resources. • Fossil fuel and nuclear power industries have immense political and financial power • They oppose the loss of their subsidies and tax breaks, as well as any significant increase in subsidies and tax breaks for energy efficiency, which would reduce the use of their resources. Also oppose subsidies for competing renewable energy sources
Strategies(2) Keep the prices of selected energy resources artificially high to discourage their use • Ways to do this: • Eliminating existing tax breaks and subsidies that favor the use of the targeted resource and enacting restrictive regulations or taxes on its use • This can increase government revenues, encourage improvements in energy efficiency, reduce dependence on imported energy, and decrease the use of energy resources that have limited supplies • Reducing income and payroll taxes and providing an energy safety net for low-income users
Strategies(3) Governments can emphasize consumer education • Even if the government offers incentives for being energy efficient people will not make investments if they are uninformed or misinformed about the availability, advantages, disadvantages, and hidden environmental costs
Germany • World's most solar-powered nation • Why does cloudy Germany have more solar power usage than sunny France and Spain?
Two Main Reasons • The German government made the public aware of the environmental benefits of these technologies. 2. The governments provided the consumers with substantial economic incentives for using these technologies.
They Didn't Raise Taxes • They allowed utilities to raise electricity rates slightly on all users to subsidize those who installed solar systems • Feed-in tariff • Users installing solar panels get a guaranteed payment for 20 years for each kilowatt of excess energy that they feed into the grid. • German home and business owners get a guaranteed 8% return on their investment. • Seventeen other nations have adopted this tariff.
Good News! • We have the creativity, wealth, and most of the technology needed to make the transition to a more sustainable energy future • Making the transition depends on; • Education • Economics • Politics • How individuals vote and influence their elected officials
Chapter's Three Big Ideas • We should evaluate energy resources on the basis of their potential supplies, how much net useful energy they provide, and the environmental impacts of using them. • Using a mix of renewable energy sources—especially solar, wind, flowing water, sustainable biofuels, and geothermal energy—can drastically reduce pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity losses. • Making the transition to a more sustainable energy future will require sharply reducing energy waste, using a mix of environmentally friendly renewable energy resources, and including the harmful environmental costs of energy resources in their market prices.