Our energy landscape abounds with missed opportunities

For my Certificate in Sustainable Energy Solutions we have had classes all year long on various topics such as renewable energy, water, waste, heat and more. Every month we have indeed been privileged to talk to guest speakers who are specialists in their respective areas.

I was reflecting during the last class that, the energy landscape in the United States – and in a certain proportion in other parts of the world – is replete with missed opportunities.

Studies for the past few years have shown time and again that the world could be powered by a 100 percent by renewable energy sources by 2050. I have been persuaded by that for a long time. We already have the technologies, all we need is the political will.

If more and more countries in Europe and around the world are waking up to their potential, the road is still long to see a world powered by solar, wind, geothermal and the likes.But renewables alone won’t solve all our problems on their own. Combining each of the following elements makes sense.

Regarding Heat, Stan Gent from Enwave Seattle explained us that combined heat and power – also known as cogeneration or district heating – can help city centers and companies alike cut costs and pollution by generating heat and electricity in the same time. This allows steam to heat closely knitted communities in Seattle and many other cities around the world like Copenhagen. Even better, our non compostable, non recyclable waste can help in that regard ( see below ).

Water is increasingly scarce and becoming a critical resource. A better management of this priceless resource on which we all depend to live is imperative for a truly sustainable development. Eliminating leaks and unwanted spillage is paramount to that. It is estimated for example that drought-stricken California wastes 10 percent of its water, or 228 billion gallons annually (more to that soon).

Waste is probably the most evident sector where we should transform the sector for something that could cut emissions and pollution will creating jobs. If Nature does not believe in waste, why should we ? Gaia uses the waste of a process to power another in a perfect cradle to cradle circular model. As our guest, Philipp Schmidt-Pathmann, explained, Germany doesn’t landfill anymore as it composts, recycles or burns all its waste…and what is burned produces heat and electricity.

Transportation is to date too car dependent. Biking is a great way to commute a few miles. Public transportation takes much less space and are cheaper than private car ownership. Promoting public transportation and biking to get around town is the best way for cities to cut congestion, air pollution and increase well-being.

As we have seen, there are countless opportunities awaiting us. A truly sustainable development is within reach, to the benefits of us all.

Image credits : Flickr, Waqas Ahmed

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